Information about the place INDIA (Country) SOUTH ASIAN SUBCONTINENT - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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   India is the middle one of the three great land-masses that jut southward from the mainland of Asia. In shape it is somewhat like a lozenge or diamond, with land-boundaries to the north and water-boundaries to the south. The northern half is wedged in between the Himalayan and the Sulaiman ranges, which thus form respectively its northeastern and northwestern frontiers; while the southern half, tapering to a point at Cape Comorin, projects into the Indian Ocean, and is washed by the Arabian Sea on the southwest and by the Bay of Bengal on the southeast. Its area is nigh 1,500,000 square miles--that is, nearly one-half (about 5/12) that of the United States, or almost equal to that of all Europe less Russia.
    In respect of physical configuration, India may be divided into three very distinct parts: the Himalayan region; the river plains of the Indus and Ganges, or the Indo-Gangetic plain; and Peninsular India. The last is a triangular plateau which forms the southern half of the "lozenge." The Himalaya shuts off India from Central Asia by an almost impassable barrier on the north. The Indus, flowing northwest, drains the back of the western half of the range; then, turning a right angle to the left, it breaks through the mountains, and receiving the affluents which with it drain the Punjab (Persian, Panj-ab, "Five-river" land) flows in a general southwesterly direction to the Arabian Sea. The Ganges, with its feeders, drains the southern slopes of the range and flows in a general southeasterly direction into the Bay of Bengal. The watershed between the drainage basins of the Indus and the Ganges is scarce a thousand feet above sea-level, and the slope on each side is imperceptible. The "basins," therefore, form one practically continuous "plain." This Indo-Gangetic plain is a vast alluvial formation, made by deposits of rich silt brought down by the rivers, and has accordingly been the principal scene of Indic civilization.
    The home of the earliest and most primitive Indic civilization, as indicated by the geographical allusions of the Vedas, was the Punjab, the region of the middle Indus and its tributaries. Later, the scene shifts to the southeast, to the valley of the Ganges and its most important affluent, the Jumna. This is the "Middle Country" (Sanskrit, Madhya-deca), the fertile region in which occur the chief events of the great Epic period and of the rise and bloom of Buddhism.
    For the country above defined as India, there is no comprehensive name in the oldest native literature. Later books call it Jambu-dvipa, "Land of the Rose-apple;"and the great Gangetic region is named "The Bharatan"(Sanskrit, Bharata), or also Arya-avarta, "Home of the Aryans." The French take their name for Germany--Allemagne --from that of the region of the tribe--the Alemanni--nearest themselves, and then extend it to the whole country. Similarly the Greeks. Their names for India--he India, he Indike--apply properly only to the westernmost part of India, the region of the Indus. In Sanskrit, Sindhu-s (the Hindu-sh of the ancient Persians) means "stream,"and then "The Stream," that is, "The Indus, ho Indos" (incolis Sindus appellatus, says Pliny), and finally also "The region on the Indus."
    Subjoined are the names of the tributaries of the Indus in order from west to east--first the Sanskrit form, then the Greek, and then the modern name:

Vitasta Hudaspes Jehlam
Asikni ("Black") Akesines Chenab
Iravati ("Refreshing") Hudraotes Ravi
Vipac ("Unfettered") Huphasis Beas
Catadru ("Hundred-runs") Zadadres Sutlej
   The Asikni was known later as the Chandrabhaga, a name to the Macedonian ears so ominously like Sandaro-phagos ("Xander-devourer"), that Alexander changed it to Akesines ("The Healing"), with a bright play on its older name Asikni. Sandarophagos hupo Alexandrou potamos metonomasthe kai eklethe Akesines, says Hesychius.
    The names of the Ganges and its greatest tributary, the Jumna, are easily recognized in their ancient forms--Ganges and Diamouna; Sanskrit, Ganga and Yamuna. The mountain names Emodo-s (Strabo, 689) and Haemodes (Mela, i. 81) correspond closely to the vernacular form of the Sanskrit Haimavata-s, synonymous with Hima-vant, "The Snow-y" range, and with Hima-alaya, "Abode of Snow." The Hindu, in telling the points of the compass, faces the east. The Sanskrit name for Peninsular India, south of the Vindhya Mountains (to Ouindion oros) is, accordingly, Dakshina-patha, "Region to the right (dexia) or the south," Dachinabades of the Periplus ( 50), our Dekkan.
    The recent science of Comparative Grammar has proved that the ancestors of Hindus and Iranians and Greeks and of the Slavic, Germanic, Italic, and Keltic races are of one stock, called Aryan or IndoEuropean, which once had a common language and home. The Indic branch of this stock were not the aboriginal inhabitants of India; these were the dark-skinned tribes or Dasyus, whom the more gifted Aryan invaders, entering India from the extreme northwest, forced constantly to retire to the east and southeast. These non-Aryan tribes are now represented in part by the Dravidian races of the Dekkan. Of the Aryans, numerous tribes are mentioned in the Vedic literature, among them the Purus, the Bharatas, the Kuru-Panchalas; but the physical form of the Indo-Gangetic plain, free as it is from mountain barriers, is not favourable to the maintenance of tribal identity, and the floods of foreign invasion have had a similarly unfavourable tendency.
    The language of the Indic Aryans shows three principal stages of development: (1) Old Indic or Sanskrit; (2) Middle Indic or Prakrit; and (3) New Indic or Bhasha. The first is represented by the Vedic, the Epic, and the Classical Sanskrit; the second, chiefly by the Pali and by the Prakrit proper, or languages respectively of the sacred books of the Southern Buddhists and of the Jains; the third, chiefly by the nine principal Aryan tongues of modern India, Mahratti, Bengali, etc.
    Of all these, as indeed of all recorded Aryan tongues, the language of the Vedas is the most ancient; and it has, on the whole, conserved the greatest number of antique features. Note, for example, the retention in Sanskrit of the primitive sibilant in su-s as compared with the cognate hu-s and English sow; in janas-as=gene(s)-os, gener-is; in as-mi, "I am"=Lesbian em-mi; in a-srava-t, "it flowed"=erree, for *e-sreWe-t, root sru=hru.
    The structure of the Sanskrit forms of derivation and inflection is so transparent as to shed much light on the corresponding forms of the allied languages. Thus it has two equivalent endings for the passive participle, -na-s and -ta-s; and likewise a root mah, "Be great," with an older form, magh--facts which, considered together, furnish an easy bond of connection for meg-a, mag-nu-s, and mac-tu-s, "Magnified." In ichami da-tu-m, "I wish to give," the infinitive is simply the accusative of a verbal noun-stem da-tu, of which various other case-forms occur. Such facts make clear the nature of the Latin supines: ire datum, "Be going to give;" lepida memoratui, "Nice for telling, nice to tell;" redire opsonatu, "Come back from marketing." Take quo-d and po-then by themselves, and the stem is obscure; but in the light of the Sanskrit ka-d, Gothic hva, English wha-t, Ionic ko-then, it is plain that the pronominal stem began originally with the k-sound, not with the p.
    An extensive Sanskrit literature has come down to us from the Hindus. Oldest and most important are the four Vedas, chiefly metrical. The Rigveda is a collection of over a thousand hymns, the most ancient of which may antedate our era by twenty centuries, and are therefore the oldest recorded documents of Aryan antiquity. Next come the Brahmanas, in prose, and containing, besides mystical discussions of the sacrifice and ritual, those theosophic speculations which culminated in the doctrines of the Upanishads, and thus became the basis of the later philosophical systems, notably of the pantheistic system of the Vedanta. In another stream from the Vedas flow the books of ceremonial, of custom, and of law. The legends of the Heroic Age are embodied in the vast epic called the Great Bharata Story (Maha-bharataakhyana, or, more briefly, the Maha-bharata); and also in the lesser epic called Ramayana. Notable, besides, are especially the drama (Kalidasa's Cakuntala) and the beast-fable (Pancha-tantra). The Pali literature embraces the legends of the life and teachings of Buddha, the books of the doctrine and order which grew therefrom, and the great collection of charming folk-stories called the Jataka, or tales of the anterior births of Gotama Buddha.
    The early Indic Aryans of the Punjab were a sturdy, life-loving race. Their religion was a primitive polytheism, whose deities were personifications of the phenomena of nature, such as the wind and the sun. Thus agnis was the element (Latin ignis), while Agnis was the fire-god, who bore aloft the sacrifice to the other gods. To Hindu, as to Greek and Roman, the sky (dyaus, Zeus, Dies-piter) was father and the earth was mother. As the Aryans advanced southeastward down the Ganges valley, the hot and humid climate wrought a profound change in their character. Their religion degenerated into a most elaborate and souldeadening ritualism. The growth of individuality and so of great and public-spirited personalities was estopped by the rigid system of caste. The belief in the transmigration of souls became general. And the institutions of monkish life and asceticism developed to a degree which astonished the Greeks beyond measure, and is perhaps without a parallel elsewhere. Religious nostrums were doubtless many in the "Middle Country" in the sixth century b.c.; and so were the religious teachers or saviours, each with his following greater or less. Of all the latter, only two have left any great mark in the world's history--namely, Nataputta the Nigantha and the great monk Gotama. Nataputta was contemporary with Gotama, but somewhat older; and he was the reformer of Jainism, or the religion of the "Conqueror" (Jina), which, since it still flourishes in India, may not unfairly be deemed the oldest Aryan sect in the world. Gotama, whose death at the age of eighty may be set at about B.C. 480, seems to be the greatest personality that India has ever produced. He taught not only a pure and gentle and noble morality, but also that all things are transitory, are misery, are unreal; and that the supreme goal is escape from the bonds of existence and rebirth. His religion, vastly modified by influences of time and locality, has spread to the Extreme Orient; and has meanwhile become displaced in India by Hinduism and the worship of the gods Vishnu and Civa.
    The customs of the ancient Hindus may be learned with much fulness from the treatises of household usages called Grihya-sutras; and, when studied in the light of the corresponding classical or Germanic customs, will form a most important and interesting chapter of Aryan comparative philology. Since birth, reproduction, and death are the three great facts of human existence, the marriage and funeral customs naturally take a prominent place in these pictures of ancient life. The joining of right hands was the most significant feature of the nuptial ceremonies; and this was not lacking with the Romans (dextrarum iunctio). The walking about the altar with the right side towards it (epidexia), or the sunwise circumambulation, finds its analogies among other Aryan races: compare the Roman dextratio and the Gaelic "walking the deasil" The confarreatio and the pellis lanata may be traced to India. At a funeral the circumambulation was reversed, in Italy (Statius, Theb. vi. 215) as well as on the Ganges. The above may serve as examples of coincidences of usage. It is likely that a considerable body of these customs go back to Aryan antiquity.    Ancient India has no history, in the ordinary acceptation of the word. If all things are transitory, are misery--why fix the thoughts on them? The events of its past do not show the working of noble and mighty personalities. Its loftiest souls are absorbed in religious and philosophical speculation. The history of India is a history of thought, of religion. The Vedas and the Epics yield us abundant and invaluable evidence concerning the life and civilization of the times to which they belong; but for any records of events in orderly sequence and with fixed chronology we look in vain.
    Yet two great events--the appearance of Buddha and the invasion of Alexander--are exceptions. The one was of profoundest importance to India; the other, of great importance for our knowledge of India. Indeed, it is to foreign invaders and pilgrims that we owe some of our most valuable knowledge about India. Darius (521- 485), on an inscription at Persepolis, mentions the Indus region among his conquered provinces. Nearly two centuries later, B.C. 326, Alexander the Great crossed the Indus and the Hydaspes; and, after defeating the Indian king Porus, advanced to the Hyphasis. On the bank of this Indian stream the worldconqueror was forced to turn back; and, without even entering the Gangetic plain, he set out for Persis.
    After his death (June, 323), one of his great generals, Seleucus Nicator, invaded India again (about 305), and made a treaty with the famous Sandrokottos (or Sandrokuptos, Sanskrit Chandra-gupta), the founder of the Mauryan dynasty of Magadha. The Magadhan empire extended from Lower Bengal to the Indus, and its capital was Palibothra (Sanskrit Pataliputra), on the Ganges at the old confluence of the Sone. The Pali books call him Chandagutta the Moriya (Morieus); and there is no other ancient Hindu about whom there is so much concurrent evidence from Indian and classical sources. It was to his court that Seleucus sent his friend Megasthenes as ambassador. Megasthenes was a careful observer, and had a most unusual opportunity for observing; so that the book which he wrote was probably the most valuable work of antiquity on India. As if to show how deplorable is its loss, considerable excerpts from it have been preserved by Strabo, Arrian, and others.
    Chandragupta's grandson Acoka (B.C. 259-222) was the greatest monarch of ancient India. Many rock-inscriptions containing his edicts are still extant, and are of priceless worth, as being the oldest of their kind. Some of them are especially interesting because they mention the Greeks, for example,"Antiyoka, king of the Yonas," and "Antikina." The former is Antiochus II., and the latter Antigonus Gonatas. The Yonas or Yavanas are of course the Iones or Iaones, that is, the Greeks. The rock-cut edicts are found in Orissa, Gujarat, and the extreme north of the Punjab--places so wide apart as to show that Acoka's empire embraced the whole Indo-Gangetic region. Perhaps the most notable event of his reign was his conversion to Buddhism. He was mild and tolerant, but zealous withal for the promotion of the faith.
    The century from B.C. 326 to 222, accordingly-- including, as it does, Alexander's invasion and death, the reigns of Chandragupta and Acoka, and the culmination of the Magadhan empire--is the most notable one of Indian antiquity. It includes also the rise of the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom, from which Hellenic kings made repeated conquests of parts of Western India. There followed the GraecoIndian sovereigns, chief of whom was Menander (Pali Milinda), about B.C. 100. Some fifteen years later the dynasty was overthrown by the Cakas or Scythians, and the power of the Greeks put to an end. The greatest of the Caka kings was Kanishka; and it is probably his consecration in A.D. 78 that forms the starting-point of the Caka era, which is still in use.
    The Imperial Gupta dynasty, beginning A.D. 320 and lasting till about 480, deserves mention as bearing a national Indian character. It gave to India a respite from the inroads of the northern barbarians and an excellent administration of government. Among regents of the sixth century, Harsha of Ujjain, with the title Vikramaditya, is famous because of the traditional connection of his name with that of the greatest of all Hindu poets, Kalidasa. In the seventh century, Ciladitya of Kanauj became very powerful; and it was during his long reign that the illustrious Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hiuen Tsiang, made his travels in India (A.D. 629-645). The history of modern India begins with the invasion made by Mahmud of Ghazni, A.D. 1000, and embraces the period of the Mohammedan conquerors and that of British rule.

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