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The Story of India

Video Discussion Questions


Chapter 2: The First Indians

  1. What was significant about the first settlers of India?
  2. Where is it believed the sounds of the Brahmin ceremonies originate? What is the importance of this finding?
  3. Why are scientists testing the DNA of Indian tribal groups? What is being learned?

Chapter 3: The Origins of Indian Civilization

  1. What factors led to the development of cities in India?
  2. What did archaeologists find at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro?
  3. What is one of theories about why the Indus Valley civilization disappeared?
  4. Are the characteristics found in the Indus Valley civilization similar to other ancient civilizations?

Chapter 4: The First Indian Literature

  1. What is the importance of the monsoons?
  2. Describe the importance of the Vedas to Hindus and historians.
  3. What was discovered about the relationship between Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek?
  4. What linguistic influences did the Aryans bring to India?

Chapter 5: The Secret Code of the Rig Veda

  1. What religious influences did the Aryans bring to India?
  2. Explain the connection that Michael Wood found in Turkmenistan regarding India and the Rig Vedas.

Chapter 6: The Epic of India: The Mahabharata

  1. What is the cultural significance of the Mahabharata?
  2. How did the development of Mahabharata over several hundred years become the story of India?
  3. How did the Mahabharata help define the nation of India when the country gained independence in the 20th century?


Chapter 2: Early Indian Society

  1. What was the purpose of the caste system? What is the importance of social order in India?
  2. How does this early ordering of society still affect India today?
  3. What were the significant developments in philosophy and thought during the fifth century BCE in India and around the world?

Chapter 2: The Story of the Buddha

  1. What did Buddha find in Bodhgaya?
  2. Describe the central beliefs of Buddhism. How do they contrast with Hindu beliefs?
  3. The Buddha states, "Let truth be your light." What did he mean by this?

Chapter 3: "But all things must pass."

  1. What Buddhist ideas appealed to the rising class of merchants?
  2. What aspect of Buddhism is considered a "step too far" for most Indians? Why did Buddhism decline so significantly in India in this time period?

Chapter 4: Chandragupta Maurya

  1. How did Alexander the Great and his army influence Chandragupta Maurya?
  2. What does Chandragupta’s death tell us about religion and salvation in India?

Chapter 5: Ashoka’s Political Order

  1. How did Ashoka’s character and beliefs change over the course of his reign?
  2. How did Buddhism transform Ashoka?
  3. What did Ashoka’s animal protection edicts tell us about his larger perception of the world?
  4. How did Ashoka blend religion and politics?
  5. Why did the modern Indian government place Ashoka’s Wheel of Law on its flag?


Chapter 2: On the Spice Route

  1. How did trade in India change during the days of ancient Rome?
  2. What role did the monsoon winds play in the Indian Ocean trade?
  3. Why did the Romans have so much interest in Indian goods?

Chapter 3: "The Most Splendid Province on Earth?"

  1. What does the large number of religions found in ancient Muziris indicate about India and the priorities of its people?
  2. Why was the region east of the Kerala Mountains around Madurai considered the heart of southern India?
  3. How does Madurai represent a combination of the classical and modern ages?

Chapter 4: On the Silk Road

  1. What role did Kushans play on the Silk Road?
  2. What has happened to the Buddhist history of the Kushans in Kabul and Afghanistan?
  3. How was the Greek letter inscription important to unlocking the secret history of the Kushan Empire?
  4. From what source did Kanishka claim to derive his power? Where else in history has this type of claim to a throne been seen?

Chapter 5: Peshawar: The Garden City

  1. Where did the city of Peshawar obtain its great wealth?
  2. What role did Indians play in the trade of silks?

Chapter 6: The Forgotten World of the Kushans

  1. How did the world economy expand during Kushan rule?
  2. What was the importance of the stupa built by Kanishka?
  3. The Kushan Empire was located between which other two major empires of the time? Why was this geographical location significant?
  4. As a foreign power ruling in India, how did the Kushans manage to bring peace to India?
  5. What were the long-term influences of the Kushans on India?


Chapter 2: The Story of Rama

  1. Why do the Indians consider the 5th century CE a golden age? How is India’s golden age similar to and different from other cultures' golden ages?
  2. What are the basic lessons to be gleaned from Rama and his stories?
  3. How has Rama mythology been used by Hindu extremists?

Chapter 3: The Gupta Empire

  1. How did the Chinese traveler Fa Hsien describe the Gupta Empire? Why is his outside perspective important to historians?
  2. What advancements in science and math did the Indians achieve during the Gupta empire era?

Chapter 4: The Cholans

  1. What does the Kama Sutra tell us about Indian gender relations?
  2. In what way are Cholans compared to the ancient Athenians? What other civilizations throughout history share these characteristics?
  3. How are aspects of the Cholan civilization still alive today?

Chapter 5: Rajaraja

  1. How is King Rajaraja thought about today by his descendents?
  2. What are the modern implications of Rajaraja and Tamil culture?
  3. What was revealed by the inscriptions on the great temple in Tanjore?
  4. How did the Cholans represent the Hindu gods artistically?
  5. How did King Rajaraja and the Tamil represent Shiva? What is symbolic about this portrayal?

Chapter 6: The Festival of Light

  1. Why have Tamil culture and Cholan influences remained prominent in southern India?
  2. Why did the Cholans build the Anicut Dam?
  3. What role does food and cooking play in southern India?
  4. Why are pilgrimages important in Indian life? What other religious pilgrimages can be found around the world? Is there the same frequency or number as in India? Why or why not?


Chapter 2: The Rise of Islam

  1. How did Mahmud of Ghazni use the city of Multan?
  2. What justification did Mahmud give for the invasion of India?
  3. What was the long-term effect of Mahmud’s plunders?

Chapter 3: The Sultans of Delhi

  1. How was India different from other territories conquered by Muslim armies?
  2. How did the Sufis spread Islam in India? Why did more conservative Muslims disagree with these tactics? Why were they successful?
  3. What changes in warfare accompanied the Mughal invasion? How does this reflect the greater changes in warfare then occurring throughout the world?

Chapter 4: The Tale of Akbar

  1. How did relations between Hindus and Muslims change under Akbar?
  2. What are the fundamental beliefs of the Sikhs?
  3. How did Akbar support the Sikhs? How is this reflective of his overall beliefs regarding religion?

Chapter 5: The Age of Reason

  1. How did Akbar reform the Mughal government? What characteristics make up an efficient governing system?
  2. What was Akbar’s “big idea”? Why was this so important to Akbar?
  3. How did Akbar try to resolve the vast religious differences found throughout India?
  4. What did Britain’s Queen Elizabeth I note about Akbar in her letter to him? What about this note and ruling philosophy showed that he was years ahead of his European counterparts?
  5. Why did Akbar's vision of a tolerant India disappear in the years immediately after his death?

Chapter 6: The Taj Mahal

  1. What is the great significance of the Taj Mahal?
  2. Why did the Meeting Place of the Two Oceans cost Dara Shikoh his throne?
  3. How did the Mughals create an Indo-Islamic synthesis? Does this synthesis still exist in India?


Chapter 2: The Last Empires

  1. How were Indians in Tanjore assimilating knowledge from foreign cultures before the arrival of the French and the British?
  2. How did tensions between France and Britain spill into India? How might we describe this conflict as one of the first world wars?

Chapter 3: The Legacy of the British

  1. What path did the British take into India? How did they differ from previous invaders?
  2. What did the British give India that would later shape its independence movement?

Chapter 4: The Indian Mutiny

  1. How did the Great Rebellion of 1857 begin?
  2. What attitudes and acts helped build Indian anger towards the British in 1857? How did this reflect Britain’s larger feeling towards the Indians and their other colonial subjects?
  3. What major shift occurred in India after the Great Rebellion? How did this change the relationship between the British and the Indians?

Chapter 5: Freedom Movement

  1. How did A. O. Hume begin the Indian independence movement? Why is his role surprising?
  2. Why was the management of the British Raj an amazing governmental feat?
  3. Describe the role the British played in developing the modern Indian perception of India. How is this legacy still a defining factor today?
  4. What happened at Amritsar in 1919? How did it affect the freedom movement?

Chapter 6: Gandhi and Today's India

  1. How do modern Indians view Gandhi and Nehru? What challenges did the leaders face in the independence movement?
  2. As independence approached, what distinctly Indian issues did the country's leaders have to reconcile? How was India’s past as much a burden as the British in shaping an independent nation?
  3. Why did Jinnah want a partition of India at independence? Why did Nehru and Gandhi oppose it?
  4. How were the lines of partition drawn? What was the result after the lines were revealed?
  5. How has the tale of the last 60 years been the success of democracy?
  6. How is economic development shaping the future of India?