Spread of Civilization in Eastern India: RS Sharma Notes
The spread of civilization in Eastern India was a gradual process that took place over several centuries, as ancient Indian societies and cultures expanded eastward from their early centres in the northern and northwestern regions. Eastern India, comprising present-day states like Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, and parts of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, witnessed the emergence and influence of various dynasties, empires, and cultural traditions. Here’s an overview of the spread of civilization in Eastern India:
1. Magadha and the Mahajanapadas: Magadha, located in present-day Bihar, played a crucial role in the early spread of civilization in Eastern India. It was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas (large kingdoms) that emerged in ancient India. The Magadha region saw the rise of powerful dynasties like the Haryanka and later, the Nanda dynasty, which laid the foundation for the Mauryan Empire.
2. Mauryan Empire: The Mauryan Empire, established by Chandragupta Maurya in the 4th century BCE, expanded its territories to cover much of Eastern India. The empire’s capital, Pataliputra (modern-day Patna), became a major center of administration, trade, and culture.
3. Buddhist Centers: Eastern India holds immense significance in the history of Buddhism. Bodh Gaya, located in Bihar, is where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. Nalanda, in present-day Bihar, was a renowned Buddhist center of learning and one of the earliest universities in the world.
4. Kalinga: The region of Kalinga, corresponding to present-day Odisha, was an important center of culture and trade in ancient times. The Kalinga War, fought by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, led to the spread of Buddhist teachings and the transformation of Ashoka’s reign into a period of religious tolerance.
5. Gupta Empire: The Gupta Empire, which flourished in the 4th and 5th centuries CE, extended its influence to Eastern India. The Gupta rulers patronized art, literature, and religion, contributing to the cultural growth of the region.
6. Ganges Civilization: The Ganges River, which flows through Eastern India, played a significant role in the region’s civilization. The fertile plains along the Ganges supported agriculture, leading to the growth of urban centres and trade.
7. Temple Architecture: Eastern India saw the development of distinctive temple architecture, with exquisite examples in Bhubaneswar, Puri, and Konark in Odisha. The Kalinga School of Temple Architecture became renowned for its distinctive style.
8. Cultural Interactions: Eastern India’s strategic location facilitated cultural interactions with Southeast Asia and other regions, leading to the exchange of ideas, art, and religious practices.
Over time, the spread of civilization in Eastern India led to the development of unique cultural identities and regional traditions. The region’s historical significance, vibrant cultural heritage, and contributions to art, religion, and education continue to be celebrated and cherished today.