Chapter 1: The Subcontinent 1800 – 1900
Subcontinent covers a landmass equivalent to Europe.
Three distinct geographical areas:
Indo-Gangetic plain: arc of extremely fertile and hot land.
Himalayas: Highest mountain range in the world to the north.
Deccan plateau: south of the fertile plains – India interior.
Ethnic, religious and linguistic groups
Hinduism is the core religion – there are other faiths such Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism.
Each area has a separate religion and language:
The southern peoples speak languages of the Dravidian family and Buddhism is the predominant faith.
The northerners speak languages of the Indo-European family – they are lighter skinned and Islam is the majority faith.
In the Himalayan provinces, a variation of Buddhism is prominent faith and the people speak a more Tibetan language.
Language and power
Linguistically, India is very diverse – more than 200 languages.
Several attempts to impose a national language:
Persian was the official language under the Mughals
Under British rule this changed to English
At independence Hindi became the national language
Hindu religion is the basis of Indian society – status assigned at birth.
The religion is managed by through convention and consensus – no central authority.
Hinduism is polytheistic; there are many gods and goddesses – the relationship with a god/dess is less important than public behaviour (dharma).
Dharma is undertaking religious and social duties relevant to one’s religious group or caste.
Caste membership largely defined by birth determines your occupation, choice of marriage etc.
Classically, there are four castes:
Brahmins, the priests
Kshatriyas, the warriors
Vaishyas, the traders
Shudras, the peasants
The respect accord to each group remains fairly fixed but actual power varies provincially.
Persistence of castes has some bearing on the history of Indian:
The Brahmin class was a focus of…