Standards: 2A, 2C
TOPIC: Empires of India
MAJOR IDEA: The Maurya and Gupta Dynasties each made significant contributions to the development of India and helped to unify much of the subcontinent. These powerful rulers of these dynasties also carried out building campaigns designed to bring glory to their empire and to serve the people of India. The temple complex at Kujuraho is an example of one such building project.
Who was Asoka and why was he so well-loved by his people?
Who were the Guptas? How did they maintain peace and prosperity in India?
What were the cultural contributions of the Gupta Dynasty?
What are the basic pillars of Indian life?
Have students review the story of Asoka. What was the horrifying event that lead him to promote religious tolerance during his reign? How did his style of government fit with his new ideas of tolerance? What physical features did he construct all across India promising his people a righteous government? Ask students to write about a time when they have been outraged by an injustice or surprised by their own actions. How has this outrage or surprise affected their actions? What changes would students like to make in their lives to promote tolerance and righteousness as Asoka did?
India is made up of hundreds of different groups of people, all speaking different languages and maintaining different cultural practices. Ask students to design a new governmental system for the classroom, which attempts to take into account the differences of each person and is respectful of everyone’s point of view. With only 30 students in the class this task is difficult enough, imagine how difficult it would have been for the great rulers of India to unify all the people of India. Think of the “tricks” that your teacher and the school’s administration fall back on to maintain order in the school and the classroom. How are these strategies similar to the behavior of dynastic rulers? How does the construction of the temple complex at Kujuraho figure into a ruler’s strategy for controlling his people? Why would a ruler want to create a complex of impressive buildings? Why would a ruler want this to be a religious complex? What would you design if you were the ruler of your class to make the rest of your classmates follow you? Illustrate your design.
All of the cultural developments which came about under the Gupta Dynasty are illustrated in the temple complex at Kujuraho. Using a map or drawing of the complex, add annotations to explain the use of the decimal system, architectural developments, stone carving, and writing in the construction of the Kujuraho complex.
Create a caste system in your class for one day. Give each group of students specific tasks to carry out and rules about the way they can interact with other members of the class and the teacher. At the end of the exercise, ask students to write about their experience of being confined by such strict social rules. What did the students find the most challenging about the experience? How does this social structure limit our human potential? Ask students to hypothesize some reasons for the creation of the caste system and probable reasons that it has now been made illegal.
The caste system has been formally outlawed in India, but it is still practiced in some way by most Indians. How does this discrepancy illustrate the difference between government and religion? Why do we, in this country, believe that the two should be separate? How does the construction of the Vishvanatha Temple and other temples at Kujuraho show the interconnectedness of government and religion in India? Ask students to write a position paper on the separation of church and state. Should religion and government be kept separate? Why or why not?
Ask students to research the role of women in Indian society. How is this different or the same from the role of women in America? Students might interview an Indian woman who lives in the United States to get her opinions on the differences.
Spend some time exploring the neighborhood around your school or home looking for the evidence of Indian immigrants. What do you find? What are the ways that new immigrant groups impact their environment? What are some of the ways that your cultural or ethnic group has had an impact on the place you live? Are there any cultural contributions from India that have become an integrated part of our culture?