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They must have been added to and modified extensively over the period — perhaps years — before they were written down. Out of the obscurity of this early period one can still make some deductions. The nomadic herdsmen who had come in from the north learned to be farmers and town-dwellers.

A need for established law and order led to the selection of kings, who benefited from taxation — this much is evident from the myth describing how Manu, an early king, laid down quite specific percentages of produce and livestock as his own stipend. The extensive co-operative work involved in developing agriculture led on to ordered villages and eventually to towns and cities, with hints of some Prehistory and the First Indian Civilizations 21 communities that governed themselves by consensus consultation.

But there did evolve on the north Indian plain tribal groups and eventually states who fought each other ceaselessly in a struggle for land and power, but who nevertheless shared a common cultural heritage. This culture and religion — for it is both — is generally called Hinduism by Europeans, by Indians sanatan dharma. Ancient India had four major classes. The highest, the priest-teachers, or brahmins, soon came to hold authority, even over nobles, by virtue of the roles they assumed as interpreters of religion. The old gods changed, and worship became more complex.

India and South Asia: A Short History

Rituals and formality clouded what must once have been fundamentally a simple faith. The second important class were the kshatriyas, the soldier-nobles, whose duty it was to fight for the state. Some historians believe that the many successful invasions of India, often by quite small armies, were effective because it was believed that only kshatriyas could or should fight back — in contrast with Korea, for instance, where peasant and even slave guerrilla forces attacked invaders from Manchuria and Japan ferociously.

A third Indian caste of less importance were the vaishyas, the merchants. These three main classes, of lighter skin colour, had important privileges. This was regarded as a mystic second birth. The fourth main caste, the shudras, living on the fringes of society, were servants, forbidden to read, or even hear, the sacred scriptures. Most of these were the dark-skinned descendants of slaves and aborigines and were restricted to filthy and menial tasks. Once born into their class, death was the only escape from it. Generation after generation were compelled to carry out lowly and unpleasant work, nor could they marry outside their caste.

At the very bottom of the social heap are the chandals, the caste who carry out the actual work of cremations — cremation over a wood fire is the usual way of disposing of the bodies of adult Indians. The chandals use long iron rods to stir the ashes and remains, and to smash the skull and other larger bones so they will be totally consumed — this might take seven or eight hours. Although they no longer have to shout or ring bells to announce their presence, to avoid the ritual contamination of any other Indian, they are effectively cut off from the rest of society.

Higher-caste persons would be contaminated even if the shadow of a chandal should fall on them. There are caste divisions even among the dalits, a present-day minority of million people. In ascending order on the social scale are leatherworkers, lavatory cleaners and sweepers, laundrymen. This set pattern of privilege inevitably resulted in discrimination, oppression and harsh laws. The mass of the people, living in villages similar to those of today, were heavily taxed to support their masters.

A complex legal code provided sweeping discriminatory provisions covering virtually every aspect of life for the lower orders. Often taxation reached such ruinous levels as to leave the peasants destitute, and even minor weather fluctuations resulted in major famines.

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The death penalty was imposed for a multitude of offences. This era produced the great Indian classics — the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The Mahabharata, which is a collection of poems rather than a single story, is largely based on the fortunes of two rival ruling families, but its major significance is its statement of the duty of the religious, law-abiding man. The other great epic is the story of Rama, a legendary prince who, although he is the legal heir, accepts banishment for 12 years. While in exile his wife Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, the devil king of Lanka, sometimes identified as Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

Rama, going to her rescue, enlists the aid of the monkey king, who provides an army of monkeys to tear up rocks, earth and trees to build a bridge between the Indian mainland and the island. Rama crosses the causeway, kills Ravana, and rescues his wife. He is then said to have created a virtually Utopian society, of unprecedented peace and prosperity, based on his capital city of Ayudhya.

These epics must not be thought of as antiques without any present or future significance. The epics also play a much greater part in the lives of ordinary people in at least six Asian countries than their equivalents do among Westerners. Few people in most of mainland south-east Asia and in many parts of Indonesia, as well as the Indian continent itself, would fail to hear stories from these epics from early childhood. Ceremonies and carnivals, which often involve whole communities, annually celebrate the victory of Rama over Ravana. Art, especially painting, sculpture and the shadow theatre, uses themes from the epics extensively, as also do much of literature and drama.

Although Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country, Islam is the top layer of a succession of faiths, and Arjuna, one of the heroes of the Mahabharata, is a widely revered and loved figure. The growing complexity of Hinduism resulted in a huge variety of schools and shades of thought. The present state of the Christian religion is comparable. This belief in reincarnation became, and remains, a major theme. Perhaps its most important implication is that the present condition of an individual is not a matter of chance, but a consequence of their good or evil actions in previous lives.

Indian Culture: Hinduism and Buddhism 25 The caste system is intended to regulate this process of slow advancement through a series of lives. The whole religious concept would be meaningless if individuals could be allowed to move from the station in life to which they were born, since the Hindu faith has it they were not born into that life by accident, but by the dictate of a divine plan. The caste system then, is much more than a social order; it is deeply involved with the religious beliefs of the people — it has an inevitability that reinforces its acceptance by those who believe in it.

It also has strong associations with occupation, castes often resembling the medieval trade guilds of Europe. As the centuries passed, castes split into sub-castes, and these again into even more complicated categories. That remains the case in India today, even though caste discrimination is technically illegal. I had Indian friends in Singapore, both well educated, a doctor of medicine and a journalist, of differing castes. When this couple married they found it expedient to live outside India. Meanwhile in the India of today, dalits — untouchables — continue to be sweepers, leatherworkers, rubbish collectors, in spite of attempts by the central government to change things.

Even within the small but growing educated middle class, caste still strongly influences basic matters such as marriage alliances.

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The print media, radio and television generally operate in their own area, rather than as national networks. Political forces have the same constraints, thus perpetuating the strong regional influences already defined by history and tradition. Its inability to impose reform of the caste system is another.

In the sixth century BCE the son of an affluent kshatriya family with the clan name of Gautama wearied of the straitjacket of Hinduism, and renounced his wife, home and family to become a wanderer. The philosophy he has left is by no means the only heresy of this period, although it became the most pervasive and important.

Even though its practice varies widely from region to region in Asia, it is basically a guide to conduct oneself rather than a religious belief. It is largely based on 26 A Short History of Asia tolerance, gentleness and moderation. It seeks the abandonment of hatred, envy and anger.

Its aim is the cultivation of purity and kindness. While these sentiments are commonplace enough now, it must be recalled that Buddhism preceded Christianity by more than years, and was a tremendous step forward in a world which had, until then, generally accepted without question the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; a world in which cruelty and injustice were simply to be taken for granted. This new philosophy, born in the foothills of the Himalayas, was to become a profound influence throughout Asia. This became evident perhaps more forcibly in Tibet than anywhere else.

When Buddhism reached this arid plateau four miles above sea level in the seventh century CE its message of peace and tolerance strongly modified the warlike violence and savagery of Tibet at that time. A second major religion from this time, still important in India, is Jainism, which asserts non-violence as a major principle.

It was probably an influence on Gandhi when he advocated non-violence during the Indian struggle for independence more than years later. Jains believe everything in nature has a soul. Jains, who are mainly concentrated in Gujarat State, have always been merchants and are relatively wealthy and influential. Important things were also happening in the political sense. Towards the end of the century Seleucus Nicator traded the Indian province for elephants to a vigorous administrator of Indian birth named Chandragupta. This man welded much of north India into a single state for the first time.

The dynasty founded by Chandragupta is called Mauryan and was based on a city which, Megasthenes tells us, was sprawled along nine miles of the banks of the Ganges and as much as a mile and a half inland. He regarded it as a pleasant, well-ordered place, and his account is of a people — or rather an upper class — accustomed to grace and Indian Culture: Hinduism and Buddhism 27 beauty.

There were large and pleasant gardens, in which jasmine, hibiscus, the water-lily and the lotus were already cultivated for their beauty and perfume; lakes and bathing pools, where the air was cooled by fountains; and contrived grottos for relaxation. There was an organized civil service, whose officers specialized in the collection of taxes, inspection of irrigation works, road building and similar activities run and paid for by the state, almost entirely, it must be said, for its own financial benefit.

This elaborate bureaucracy even had a war office with specialist sections dealing with such matters as elephants, cavalry and naval activities.

India and South Asia: A Short History by David E. Ludden

Administering his empire kept him fully occupied and much of his time was devoted to intrigue and receiving the reports of the elaborate network of spies he maintained. He went in constant fear of his life, regularly shifted his abode for fear of assassins, and never went out in public without an armed escort. He travelled in a gold palanquin carried by elephants, accompanied by his guards, fan, pitcher and umbrella bearers, who seem invariably to have been women.

The route of his progress was marked off with ropes, and Megasthenes recorded that it was instant death for anyone who set foot inside them. Ashoka was a great builder, but where his forebears had used wood, he built in stone. So for the first time since Harappa, building and sculpture were constructed that have lasted into our time. Of the numerous stone columns Ashoka set up, the capital of one, with its figures of four lions, is used as the emblem of the present government of India. However, Ashoka is remembered mostly because he turned from cruel and amoral absolutism to institute quite revolutionary and remarkable reforms, unique in the world of their time.

In this war it is said , people died, with as many more captives taken. Ashoka was deeply influenced by this episode of violence and loss, and by Buddhism, which spread as a result of his missionary efforts as far as Burma and Sri Lanka. An embassy was even sent to Egypt. Ashoka was much given to setting up inscriptions of moral precepts. Thirty-five of these still exist in caves and on the monoliths previously mentioned.

A system of law and order hitherto unparalleled is attributed to him, aimed at the protection of the sick, the unarmed and the helpless and the convenience of travellers. Staged resthouses for travellers along roads — 28 A Short History of Asia still a feature of several Asian countries — were one of the public services he instituted.

He devoted a great deal of attention to the highways, planting groves of shade trees and digging wells. He also built hospitals for the care of the sick and infirm, who, until then, had died unless they were succoured by a casual charity. There was even a corps of circuit magistrates who travelled the kingdom resolving disputes. At this time Buddhism developed its most significant divergence from Hinduism, its rejection of the caste system except in Sri Lanka.

Whatever the truth of that there seems little doubt he was a man of some personal force of character, with a sense of humanitarianism rare in his time. The Mauryan empire declined rapidly after his death. Five centuries of small regional states ensued, briefly illuminated by a Bactrian Greek empire in north India under a king called Menander. Coins and statuary from this Gandharan school show unmistakable Mediterranean influence and have permanently influenced Buddhist art. This period is notable for exquisite paintings, like those in the Ajanta caves, its sophisticated sculpture and its Sanskrit drama, especially the plays of Kalidasa, a poet and dramatist who is regarded by some as comparable with Shakespeare.

So prolific and varied was this literary output there is strong evidence that it was the work of a school of writers, possibly three people. The Kama Sutra, which has remained popular around the world to this day because of its explicit expression of erotic elements of the Hindu religion, also dates from this period. This was the heyday of Buddhism in India, the time of the great teaching monasteries and universities that became famed throughout Asia. One of the great universities, Nalanda, is said to have had students in the seventh century.

Pilgrims came from as far away as China to study in them. One of these, Faxian, who spent ten years in India in the fifth century, has described a peaceful, well-organized and prosperous society with moderate laws and taxation. Although Hinduism was again the faith of the ruling house, the powerful and influential Buddhist community co-existed peaceably with them. Standards of education were high among the small lettered class and important developments in algebra and arithmetic including the decimal system of nine numbers and the zero occurred in India in the seventh century. There is also evidence that the concept of the zero, which appeared in India at this time, might have originated even farther east, perhaps in Indo-China.

Buddhism entered something of a decline towards the end of the era — instead there was a renewal of the influence and authority of the brahmin Hindu caste. Invaders from the north — the same Huns who were such a cause of concern to the Chinese — successfully attacked the Gupta state, which had fragmented into a number of smaller units by the middle of the sixth century. Meanwhile Hindu power and culture had permeated only slowly to the south of India. This area of dense tropical jungle, steamy heat, and dangerous wildlife such as tigers and giant snakes, had little appeal to the predatory invaders from the hills.

However, independent societies were evolving in the south. Two of these were located on the island of Sri Lanka Ceylon. Basic to an understanding of Sri Lanka is the fact that two separate migrations from the mainland occurred: the first of people who called themselves the Sinhalese — People of the Lion — in the sixth century BCE; and a second, smaller one, of Indian Tamils, from about years later. The Sinhalese displaced an aboriginal, hunting people called the Vedda, who have now virtually disappeared as a separate identity due to displacement and extensive intermarriage — which also had a major ethnic influence on the invaders.

Recent research has also indicated a migration, which must have been by sea, of south-east Asian people, well before the entry of the Sinhalese and Tamils. The Sinhalese appear to have come not from neighbouring south India, but from the north-west, and their migration southwards may have coincided with the Aryan occupation of northern India. Little more is known about their origins, but they knew and worked iron, used advanced irrigation techniques to grow rice, and quite quickly developed a sophisticated urban society based on their first capital, Anuradhapura. It was important as early as the third century BCE when, according to legend, Prince Mahinda, either a brother or a son of Ashoka, visited Sri Lanka and converted its king to Buddhism.

Possession of this tooth became important to establish the legitimacy of kings. Now it is kept in the pink Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, where a replica of the tooth is ceremonially carried about on elephant-back each August. This procession, the Perahera, takes place every night for two weeks.


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The advent of a line of kings over the next thousand years who at times 30 A Short History of Asia resembled Ashoka in their attitudes and achievements is an indication of the power of Buddhism to influence societies at that time. There was a strong accent on efficient agriculture and huge irrigation works, among the largest and most technically-advanced in the world. These were based on stone-walled dams and artificial lakes, which made two and sometimes three rice crops a year possible. Meanwhile the Tamils in the north became stronger as a result of a steady trickle of migrants from the mainland over the centuries.

By the twelfth century they had evolved a separate northern state on the dry, flat Jaffna Peninsula. The Tamils have important racial and language differences from the Sinhalese. They are traditionally enterprising and energetic — qualities forced on them by centuries of farming the arid north of the island. In the tenth century the south Indian Chola empire invaded Sri Lanka, occupying much of the north and central plains. Thousands of Tamil migrants came in at that time, and as many more in the fourteenth century, when a disastrous and extended civil war developed between rival generals and claimants for the Sinhalese throne.

These Sinhalese factions recruited large numbers of Tamil mercenaries. The Tamils gained control of more territory in the north, including the valuable and world-renowned pearl fishery. The decaying Sinhalese state was pushed southwards to a new capital at Kotte, near Colombo. The great irrigation works in the centre of the country were destroyed by rival armies or fell into disrepair, leaving an arid zone between the Tamil and Sinhalese kingdoms. Huge tracts of previously cultivated country reverted to dense jungle.

It may have been Anopheles mosquitoes breeding in the reservoirs and subsequent epidemics of malaria that hastened this process. Lavish pagoda building, at huge public cost, impoverished the Sinhalese kingdom, forcing it further into decline. A new kingdom grew up at Kandy, resulting in three rival authorities controlling the island. Such was the situation when the Portuguese arrived in Colombo in , attracted by the trade in cinnamon and pepper, which were Sinhalese royal monopolies.

The lack of any central authority over the island gave the Portuguese the opportunity for intrigue, and eventually conquest. They had taken over the country by the end of the century, except for the fabled kingdom of Kandy deep in the jungle-clad hills of central Sri Lanka, jungles Indian Culture: Hinduism and Buddhism 31 that were later to give place to tea plantations.

Spirited resistance came from the Tamils of the north, who were not subdued until As elsewhere in Asia, the Portuguese intermarried freely with the local people. There is a profusion of Portuguese names in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was occupied by British forces during the Napoleonic Wars and became a British colony in , largely on the insistence of the East India Company. The ancient kingdom of Kandy, involved in a series of rebellions, was subdued in Thereafter the colony faced considerable economic difficulties. When coffee was planted there the Sinhalese refused to carry out the hard and ill-paid work involved.

The planters brought in Tamil labourers from India, and with them a further cause of the communal problems to come. Later in the century tea and rubber proved to be more viable industries. The early twentieth century saw the establishment of state schools and a university college. Hence, when the country was granted independence as a single state in , an educated middle class existed to carry out the tasks of government. However, the largely Sinhalese government refused citizenship to almost a million Tamils, and later attempted to impose Sinhalese as the national language. This, and severe communal disturbances in , exacerbated traditional tensions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, leading to the bitter and protracted armed struggle that has continued until the present time.

During two decades of civil war more than 50, people have been killed. The Sri Lankan political scene has alternated between government by the socialist Freedom Party, which has nationalized major industries, such as the tea, coffee and rubber plantations and banks, and the conservative National Party, which favours foreign investment and close relations with the United States.

Following nationalization of the petroleum industry in and the subsequent cessation of US aid, Sri Lanka came close to bankruptcy. After the most recent elections in the Freedom Party formed government, winning 45 per cent of the vote as against 37 per cent for the National Party. It is still highly dependent on foreign aid, but the economy has improved modestly in the new millennium with a considerable growth in service industries, which account for 54 per cent of GDP. There is a significant export of plantation products — rice, tea, rubber and spices — garments and leather goods, and a growing income from tourism.

However, a major setback came when the tsunami devastated the east coast, killing 30, people and destroying the infrastructure in areas controlled by the Colombo government and the Tamil Tigers. It seems likely that as early as BCE fishing boats had evolved into small ocean-going ships, engaged in trade as far afield as Burma and Malaysia. Kingdoms of consequence arose, like that of the Tamil Cholas, which dominated much of peninsular India in the eleventh century, and which became a maritime power with considerable influence in south-east Asia.

The Chola state appears to have been relatively enlightened and advanced, with a system of village self-government, efficient revenue-raising, major irrigation works, and a distinctive Tamil literature and architecture. The huge pyramidal temple they built in honour of the god Shiva is still a major landmark in the city of Tanjore, and inscriptions on its walls are a major source of information — or probable information — about the Cholas.

Chola certainly seems to have been the largest and most influential state in India around the end of the first millennium, especially during the long eleventh-century reign of King Rajendra. But the most consequential export was the Indian cultural and architectural influence still so evident in much of south-east Asia. Their early acquaintance with south-east Asia must have been due not so much to enterprise as the facts of geography.

When the first Indian argosies left the coast, they were forced to go where the wind took them. On the outward passage, between the months of June and November, that wind is the south-west monsoon, which blows with remarkable steadiness, day after day, week after week. It still propels many a sailing craft across those waters. Simply by proceeding before and slightly off the wind, a ship would naturally make her landfall on the tip of Sumatra or the Malaysian peninsula.

Having arrived, the earliest Indian adventurers found it difficult to get back, since the wind persists from the south-west until the months December to May, when it blows with equal steadiness from the north-east. Hence the Indian merchant-adventurers went prepared to stay wherever they made a landfall until the monsoon changed. It was probably in this way that their customs, religion and art began to spread eastward, as far as the China Sea coast of Vietnam. It would be seriously to underrate the south-east Asian peoples to make the simple assumption that Indian ways were grafted on to primitive societies.

The point probably was that rulers or would-be rulers saw advantage in a religion and culture that would advance their own interests, and which possessed an efficient, if Machiavellian, statecraft. The Indian merchants and priest-missionaries were in fact providing ambitious rajahs with a blueprint for societies in which elites could control and use the ordinary people.

These, characteristically, were wet rice farmers or fishermen — and very good ones at that, who already had quite advanced systems of local selfgovernment. Archaeological sites in north-east Thailand give evidence of agricultural 33 34 A Short History of Asia bronze-using societies as advanced as those in other parts of the world as early as BCE. A six-acre mound rising from ricefields at Non Nok Tha has revealed evidence of rice-growing and bronze-casting — a factory making adzes in split sandstone moulds — from around that date.

Iron objects have been dated back to BCE. Three hundred years later beautifully worked bronze ceremonial drums made at Dong-son, in what is now Vietnam, were in use in many parts of south-east Asia. The archaeology of south-east Asia is still in its early stages, so there can be little doubt that eventually more discoveries will be made there which will reveal a clearer picture. The wide dispersal of the Dong-son drums indicates a thriving maritime trade before the Christian era. From this early maritime experience quite large trading vessels evolved — up to tons, with two to four masts and carvel hulls built without nails or screws.

I have seen new ships very much along these lines, using wooden dowels to edge-fasten each plank, under construction along the Pattaya coast of the Gulf of Thailand, as recently as Indonesian handcrafts, like the complex creation of batik fabrics, are also believed to have predated Indian influence. Since what written sources there are almost always deal with those kings and states, and are more concerned with eulogy than fact, it is difficult indeed to trace the development and history of the ordinary people. Nevertheless, it is worth trying to do so.

This can be attempted through a study of the south-east Asian village societies as they are today — their legends, beliefs and customs, and the evidence of archaeological remains. Deduction from these is assisted by a reasonable assumption that these societies show all the signs of having been stable and largely unchanging for very long periods of time, possibly thousands of years.

They are also societies in which a complex and formal pattern of personal relationships seems to have existed for a long time. This in itself would have tended to make the Indian cultural influence acceptable, and even welcome. The extraordinary profusion of carved scenes on the massive Javanese temple-mountain, the Borobadur, created more than years ago, depict fishing, market, craft, and agricultural scenes very similar to what can be seen in daily life today. Prehistoric south-east Asia gives evidence of a considerable diversity of occupation by tool-using primitive societies going back at least 30, years.

It could be assumed that these were ancestors of indigenous Early South-east Asia: Ships from India 35 Figure 2 These thatched houses, with their high-peaked roofs, are much the same as those going back many thousands of years throughout tropical Asia. However, the local materials in them are now often being replaced by concrete blocks and corrugated iron Australoid peoples, the remnants of whom may be the short-statured, shy, hunting peoples, classed as negritos, who are still found in remote jungle areas of Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Others moved on to New Guinea and Australia. By the time of the first contacts with India, however, the islands and coastlines had long been settled by people who are Malay in type. Basically Mongoloid, they came from south-western China, through a gradual process of cultural osmosis that must have occupied many centuries. The first Indian contacts were probably with Malay villagers close to the sea on estuaries or creeks.

They made beautifully finished and polished tools from very hard stone, were excellent navigators with some knowledge of astronomy and then as now sailed long, narrow and graceful sailing-craft with considerable skill. This maritime tradition is still very important. Some, like the Bugis, spend their entire life on their ships. People living in villages often build their houses on stilts on mudflats, so they are completely surrounded by water at high tide. Most are fishermen. Otherwise for food they depend very much on the coconut, which thrives along the beaches and on the many islands of this region.

This estuary culture is found particularly in places where the soil is poor, like much of the Malaysian peninsula and Kalimantan Borneo. Loosely organized principalities at the river mouths were regarded as the personal bailiwicks, and the tax revenues the personal property, of the ruler and the clique supporting him. Pre-colonial Malay history is mostly a tedious and repetitive chronicle of the feuds, wars and disputes of these petty princelings. Often these principalities resulted from pirate alliances which preyed on passing merchant shipping — something that has persisted into modern times.

Indeed, so old is this cultivation of irrigated rice that in some parts of south-east Asia the most suitable land was devoted to it, and expanding populations seem to have been forced into hilly regions, as much as years ago. In the mountains of northern Luzon, the main island of the Philippines, is an engineered complex of terraced ricefields and irrigation canals that is intricate in design and so large it has transformed whole mountainsides.

Its construction, which is thought to have commenced more than years ago, occupied many generations. It is not known why these people, the Ifugao, decided to leave the plains and commence the staggering task of terracing such huge areas of mountains. It is possible they did it to escape malaria, since the sluggish Anopheles mosquito which carries that fever is seldom found higher than feet above sea level.

However, the cultural history of the Ifugao in recent times indicates that building the terraces and growing rice in them is central to the social structure and religion. It seems likely that building the terraces was to the Ifugao what temple or pyramid construction was to other peoples. But whatever the reason, the Ifugao were remarkably determined and resourceful people. If these terraces were laid end to end, they would extend 12, miles. First, a stone wall was built as high as 50 feet and the land behind it excavated.

The trench so made was lined with impervious clay so that it would hold water, then levelled with sand and soil. Another such terrace was built above and below this, until entire hillsides were covered with parallel terraces like giant flights of steps, engineered to follow the Early South-east Asia: Ships from India 37 contour lines.

Coupled with this skilful engineering the Ifugao showed a considerable knowledge of hydraulics. The waterfalls and torrents of the hillsides were harnessed, bamboo pipes being used to provide a water supply to the rice terraces.

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Forest growth was controlled on the divides to prevent flash flooding and erosion. While these Ifugao structures are of special interest because of their age and their extent, terraced ricefields like them can be found almost everywhere in south-east Asia, and are indicative of highly skilled and co-operative societies. The culture of padi rice is in itself an expert and demanding business. Without doubt the art of selecting the best-producing varieties must have begun a long time ago, and the custom of growing first in seedbeds and then transplanting the young plants must be almost as old.

There is evidence that this work was in some cases carried out under the supervision of a central authority. This was the case in the great Khmer empire of Cambodia. But in most cases it appears to have been undertaken by villagers for their own benefit. This required a considerable degree of cooperation between families, especially in negotiating the allocation of water resources, and indeed in building the elaborate irrigation systems so often used.

It is also how complex systems of relationships must have developed, providing a stable, continuing ethical framework necessary for harmony in close-settled societies. There were definite social hierarchies, favouring the old and presumably wise. Decisions, when necessary, were made by these councils of elders on a basis of discussion until consensus was reached — not on a majority vote, which would be regarded as socially crude.

There has always been a strong tradition of joint responsibility for all members of a group. People who are ill are looked after by their neighbours. Care of children extends outside nuclear families to many other people and especially to the extended family, in which the bonds are very close.

With coverage not only of India, but also of Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, this book surveys nearly years, from the e Combining factual information with a critical approach which probes the nature of culture and identity, this concise yet authoritative account paints a graphic picture of an area stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Himalayan mountains. With coverage not only of India, but also of Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, this book surveys nearly years, from the early settlers of prehistory to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and the Tamil Tiger conflicts.

Particular emphasis is placed on the last years, while the key theme of shifting regional identities underpins the author's insights in to the social, economic and spiritual past of this fascinating region. This is an account of the colonial influences, political intrigues and religious differences that constitute the history of India and South Asia; it should interest historians, general readers and travellers alike.

Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about India and South Asia , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details.

More filters. Sort order. Feb 02, Aishani Gupta rated it liked it. Not a bad book at all. However, this is a "general overview" only if you have prior knowledge of South Asian history. Also, because Ludden writes a history spanning three millennia, he makes a few factual errors, and also several stereotypical statements. I guess that latter help him crystallize everything together, but the fact is such statements remain problematic and basically undo much of recent nuanced discourse on South Asia.

Jan 30, Cody rated it really liked it Shelves: graduate-books. This is a rather broad, though good, treatment of South Asian history from the beginning of recorded history into the modern day. Ludden provides a very broad description of mostly political history for ancient and classical society, though does offer a more detailed description of medieval society. Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Overview Combining factual information with a critical approach, which probes the nature of culture and identity, this concise yet authoritative account paints a graphic picture of an area stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Himalayan mountains.

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