India and South Asia 500 BCE
The return of urban civilization to ancient India has been followed by a creative period in its history, with the founding of Buddhism.
What is happening in India and South Asia in 500BCE
Over the past centuries, growing populations and expanding trade links with the Middle East have stimulated the rise of urban civilization again in the Aryan heartland of ancient India. A network of towns, cities and trade routes is growing up, supported by highly productive agriculture using iron tools (which have spread in from the west). A Sanskrit script – based on the Aramaic script of the Middle East – is probably in use by this date and, shortly, a system of coinage will appear. These developments point to the renewed importance of trade routes between South Asia and Western Asia.
The various Aryan tribes have coalesced into sixteen major states which now cover northern India. Most of these states are ruled by kings, but some are republics, governed by oligarchies of noblemen.
This period of Indian history is one of great intellectual achievement. The foundations of early Hinduism have long been laid, but the religious assumptions that underpin it are being challenged from various quarters. Two teachings of enduring significance emerge from the spiritual and philosophical tensions of ancient India. Buddhism has been founded by Gautama Siddharta (the Buddha), which will be one of the most influential faiths in world history, and Jainism, founded by a teacher called Mahariva.
In southern India, the Tamils are emerging as the dominant group. The peoples of the south are adopting the use of iron implements, and farming is advancing at the expense of pastoralism and hunter-gathering.