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The Story of India

Website Discussion Questions

Agriculture

  1. What role have the monsoon winds played in Indian history?
  2. What is the importance of the Anicut Dam? What does its construction in the second century CE tell us about the Cholan Empire?
  3. While modern agriculture continues to employ 2/3 of the Indian population, it serves as only one fifth of the nation's GDP. What does this shift indicate about India's changing economy? Will agriculture diminish over time?

Allahabad

  1. How does the massive pilgrimage to Allahabad in modern times illustrate India's historical spirituality?
  2. How was Nehru's policy of non-alignment during the Cold War a reflection of India's past?
  3. What is the symbolism associated with Nehru's selection of the Lion Capital of Ashoka as the national emblem?
  4. While the Great Rebellion of 1857 attempted to rid India of the British, how did Britain subsequently change its ruling style to gain an even stronger foothold in the subcontinent?

Colonization

  1. Why did the British push the development of railroads in India? What was the practical and symbolic nature of a British controlled railroad system in India?
  2. Why is the bureaucracy the British created to control considered impressive?
  3. Why did the British allow the Indian National Congress to start meeting?
  4. Evaluate the new power of British Empire after the defeat of the French in India, North America, and Europe in 1763.

Delhi

  1. What has been the enduring importance of Delhi to Muslims in northern India?
  2. In what ways did the Delhi Sultanate begin to blend Muslim and Hindu cultures?
  3. How have Hindu-Muslim tensions shaped Indian history? How do these tensions still affect the subcontinent?

Edicts

  1. What purpose did the Ashokan pillars play during Ashoka's rule? Why do you think they would have been effective?
  2. How did the possible meeting between Alexander the Great and a young Chandragupta influence the development of the Mauryan Empire?
  3. In light of India's many religious traditions, why do you think Buddhism suffered a sharp decline in India after Ashoka?
  4. What teachings of the Buddha are most relevant in today's world?

Fatehpur Sikri

  1. What do the large number of monumental buildings tell us about the power and rule of Akbar?
  2. What aspects of Akbar's rule do we still value today?
  3. Do you think Akbar's idea of a universal religion (Din-i-Ilahi) could work in modern times? Why or why not? Why did it not grow under the rule of Akbar?
  4. Compare the achievements of Akbar and Ashoka. What attributes did they share?
  5. What led to the decline and eventual fall of the Mughal Empire?

Festivals

  1. How do Indians exhibit their very diverse religious devotions? Do we see equivalent celebrations outside of India?
  2. What are the natures of these ceremonies? Compare and contrast the ceremonies from the different religions.

Fine Arts

  1. What are the fundamental differences between Hindu and Muslim art in India?
  2. Why did so much gold flow into India during trade with the Roman Empire? How did the Indian use of gold differ from the Roman use?
  3. How has art of the Kushan Empire influenced some modern representations of the Buddha?
  4. Compare the two most recognizable forms of Indian Art, Mughal miniatures and Cholan Bronzes. How are they representative of the empires that produced them?
  5. How have Hindu festivals been integrated into aspects of everyday life in Indian?

Ganges

  1. Why did the Ganges River become such an important part of Hinduism? How do Hindus show their reverence for the Ganges River?
  2. The word Karma is often used in American popular culture. What are its Hindu origins? Is the adoption of religious concepts in a secular context disrespectful towards the original religion?
  3. How are Hinduism and the caste system connected? While India outlawed the caste system at independence, why do problems persist?

Golden Temple

  1. How do Sikhs show the importance of the Sikh holy book, the "Adi Granth"?
  2. What traits does Sikhism draw from Hinduism? Islam?
  3. Compare the basic tenets of Sikhism and Akbar’s universal religion. Can you make a connection between the two?

Indus

  1. What have archaeologists found at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro that indicate that the cities were part of an advanced civilization?
  2. While the monsoon winds are an essential part of Indian trade and agricultural history, what problems can they cause?
  3. In ancient times, climate change may have caused Indus Valley cities to have been abandoned. What changes to civilizations and cities might modern climate change bring?

Language

  1. What does the connection between Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages imply? Why was this a significant historical development in the 18th century?
  2. India's history is full of migrations and invasions from outside the subcontinent. How did the Aryan migration into India impact the region’s culture?
  3. How has the traditional process of transferring the mantras to the next generation helped maintain the caste system?

Literature

  1. How did Indians preserve their literature and customs over the centuries? In modern times, how do we ensure our records will be preserved for years to come?
  2. Despite all of India's modernizations, why will it likely be difficult to do away with all aspects of the caste system?
  3. How do Hindus differentiate between the importance of the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas?
  4. What role do the Mahabharata and the Ramayana play in Indian history? What are some other cultures' epic stories?

Non-Violence

  1. How did Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism influence India’s tradition of non-violence?
  2. How does Jainism complement Hinduism?
  3. What actions must Jains undertake to achieve Kaivalya?
  4. While non-violent, how is the implementation of satyagraha not a passive movement?
  5. In what ways did Martin Luther King, Jr. employ the satyagraha method utilized by Gandhi?

Partition

  1. In wanting to create a secular constitution, what deep challenges did Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian National Congress face?
  2. While the early Indian National Congress included members from various ethnic and religion groups, why was the organization not representative of India’s population at independence in 1947?
  3. How did Indian National Congress leaders use World War II to help India gain her independence?
  4. Why did Mohammad Ali Jinnah fight for an independent Pakistan? Based upon the violent history between India and Pakistan since independence, were Jinnah's fears justified or did the partition help create the tensions?

Performing Arts

  1. What role does dance play in Indian culture?
  2. How did the British view the devadasis? How did British and Indian views of the devadasis differ?

Peshawar

  1. What prominent roles has Peshawar, Pakistan played in Indian history?
  2. What impressive lineage did Babur bring with him to India?
  3. What has been the historical role of the Khyber Pass? Which Khyber Pass travelers have caused havoc in Indian history?

Religion

  1. Why is a secular constitution important to the stability of India? Do you think that Indian stability would have been threatened with a religion-based government?
  2. Hinduism includes thousands of different gods, each playing a different role. What does this tell us about the nature of Hinduism?
  3. Which Hindu god fascinates you the most? Why?
  4. Why are the stories of the gods so important? How do these stories compare to stories from the New and Old Testaments?

Science

  1. Why do you think yoga has become so popular outside of India?
  2. What aspects of Ayurvedic medicine are valued by many people in the United States?
  3. Why were India's advancements in mathematics important? What aspects of math taught today in school originated in India?

Taj Mahal

  1. What was the Taj Mahal built to represent?
  2. Which architectural aspect do you find most impressive?

Tamil Nadu

  1. Why did the British find the region so valuable?
  2. What did the Romans trade with Tamil Nadu?

Trade

  1. Why has India been an important center of trade?
  2. What importance did spices play in the development of trade? What eventually ended the European demand for Indian spices?
  3. What was the significance of Vasco da Gama's arrival in Calicut?
  4. Who did the British East India Company employ to assist the company in its domination of India?
  5. How might people of the United States react to a corporation being given the authority to govern another country?

Varanasi

  1. Why are pilgrimages important in India? What is the importance of the pilgrimage sites in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism?
  2. What is the role of pilgrimages in Christianity and Islam?