Flash Card

LAKSHYA-75 [Day-19] Static Flash Cards for IAS Prelims 2020

Mauryan empire; Drainage system of Mohenjodaro; Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha; Scripts and Weights during Harappa; Brahmi Script; Kharosthi Script; Gotra of women during the Middle and Late Vedic period; Tipitaka of Buddhism; Teachings of Buddha; Stupas;
By IASToppers
March 25, 2020



According to a which Buddhist, Asoka distributed portions of the Buddha’s relics to every important town and ordered the construction of stupas over them.

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According to a Buddhist text known as the Ashokavadana, Asoka distributed portions of the Buddha’s relics to every important town and ordered the construction of stupas over them.

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  • Relics of the Buddha such as his bodily remains or objects used by him were buried there. These were mounds known as stupas.
  • The tradition of erecting stupas may have been pre-Buddhist, but they came to be associated with Buddhism. Since they contained relics regarded as sacred, the entire stupa came to be venerated as an emblem of both the Buddha and Buddhism.
  • By the second century BCE a number of stupas, including those at Bharhut, Sanchi and Sarnath had been built.

How were stupas built:

  • Inscriptions found on the railings and pillars of stupas record donations made for building and decorating them.
  • Some donations were made by kings such as the Satavahanas; others were made by guilds, such as that of the ivory workers who financed part of one of the gateways at Sanchi.
  • Hundreds of donations were made by women and men who mention their names, sometimes adding the name of the place from where they came, as well as their occupations and names of their relatives. Bhikkhus and bhikkhunis also contributed towards building these monuments.

The structure of the stupa:

  • The stupa (a Sanskrit word meaning a heap) originated as a simple semi-circular mound of earth, later called anda.
  • It evolved into a more complex structure, balancing round and square shapes. Above the anda was the harmika, a balconylike structure that represented the abode of the gods.
  • Arising from the harmika was a mast called the yashti, often surmounted by a chhatri or umbrella. Around the mound was a railing, separating the sacred space from the secular world.
  • The early stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut were plain except for the stone railings, which resembled a bamboo or wooden fence, and the gateways, which were richly carved and installed at the four cardinal points.
  • Worshippers entered through the eastern gateway and walked around the mound in a clockwise direction keeping the mound on the right, imitating the sun’s course through the sky.
  • Later, the mound of the stupas came to be elaborately carved with niches and sculptures as at Amaravati, and Shahji-ki-Dheri in Peshawar (Pakistan)



The Buddha’s teachings have been reconstructed from stories which were found mainly in the____________. a) Sutta Pitaka OR b) Vinaya Pitaka.

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Answer: Sutta Pitaka

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Teachings of Buddha:

  • The Buddha’s teachings have been reconstructed from stories, found mainly in the Sutta Pitaka.
  • Although some stories describe his miraculous powers, others suggest that the Buddha tried to convince people through reason and persuasion rather than through displays of supernatural power.
  • These stories were narrated in the language spoken by ordinary people so that these could be easily understood.
  • According to Buddhist philosophy, the world is transient (anicca) and constantly changing; it is also soulless (anatta) as there is nothing permanent or eternal in it. Within this transient world, sorrow (dukkha) is intrinsic to human existence.
  • It is by following the path of moderation between severe penance and self-indulgence that human beings can rise above these worldly troubles. In the earliest forms of Buddhism, whether or not god existed was irrelevant.
  • The Buddha regarded the social world as the creation of humans rather than of divine origin.
  • The Buddha emphasised individual agency and righteous action as the means to escape from the cycle of rebirth and attain self-realisation and nibbana, literally the extinguishing of the ego and desire – and thus end the cycle of suffering for those who renounced the world.
  • According to Buddhist tradition, his last words to his followers were: “Be lamps unto yourselves as all of you must work out your own liberation.”



What are the three texts of the Tipitaka of Buddhism?

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The Vinaya Pitaka included rules and regulations for those who joined the sangha or monastic order; the Buddha ‘s teachings were included in the Sutta Pitaka; and the Abhidhamma Pitaka dealt with philosophical matters.

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How Buddhist text were prepared?

  • The Buddha (and other teachers) taught orally — through discussion and debate. Men and women (perhaps children as well) attended these discourses and discussed what they heard. None of the Buddha ‘s speeches were written down during his lifetime.
  • After his death (c. fifth-fourth century BCE) his teachings were compiled by his disciples at a council of “elders” or senior monks at Vesali. These compilations were known as Tipitaka — literally, three baskets to hold different types of texts.
  • They were first transmitted orally and then written and classified according to length as well as subject matter. Each pitaka comprised a number of individual texts. Later, commentaries were written on these texts by Buddhist scholars.
  • As Buddhism travelled to new regions such as Sri Lanka, other texts such as the Dipavamsa (literally, the chronicle of the island) and Mahavamsa (the great chronicle) were written, containing regional histories of Buddhism.
  • Many of these works contained biographies of the Buddha. Some of the oldest texts are in Pali, while later compositions are in Sanskrit.
  • When Buddhism spread to East Asia, pilgrims such as Fa Xian and Xuan Zang travelled all the way from China to India in search of texts. These they took back to their own country, where they were translated by scholars.
  • Indian Buddhist teachers also travelled to faraway places, carrying texts to disseminate the teachings of the Buddha.
  • Buddhist texts were preserved in manuscripts for several centuries in monasteries in different parts of Asia. Modern translations have been prepared from Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan texts.



What were the rules regarding the Gotra of women during the Middle and Late Vedic period?

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Two rules about gotra were: women were expected to give up their father’s gotra and adopt that of their husband on marriage and members of the same gotra could not marry.

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Gotra of women:

  • One Brahmanical practice, evident from c. 1000 BCE onwards, was to classify people (especially Brahmanas) in terms of gotras. Each gotra was named after a Vedic seer, and all those who belonged to the same gotra were regarded as his descendants.
  • One way to find out whether this was commonly followed is to consider the names of men and women, which were sometimes derived from gotra names.
  • These names are available for powerful ruling lineages such as the Satavahanas who ruled over parts of western India and the Deccan (c. second century BCE-second century CE).
  • Some of the Satavahana rulers were polygynous (more than one wife). An examination of the names of women who married Satavahana rulers indicates that many of them had names derived from gotras such as Gotama and Vasistha, their father’s gotras.
  • They evidently retained these names instead of adopting names derived from their husband’s gotra name as they were required to do according to the Brahmanical rules.
  • Brahmanical texts exemplified an alternative practice, that of endogamy or marriage within the kin group, which was (and is) prevalent amongst several communities in south India. Such marriages amongst kinfolk (such as cousins) ensured a close-knit community.



Name the script which was a sister script and contemporary of Brahmi script.

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Kharosthi Script was a sister script and contemporary of Brahmi script.

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Brahmi Script:

  • Brahmi script is the earliest writing system developed in India after the Indus script.
  • All modern Indian scripts and several hundred scripts found in Southeast and East Asia are derived from Brahmi.
  • Rather than representing individual consonant (C) and vowel (V) sounds, its basic writing units represent syllables of various kinds (e.g. CV, CCV, CCCV, CVC, VC). 
  • It is classified as an alpha-syllabic writing system.
  • In the late 19th century, Georg Buhler advanced the idea that Brahmi was derived from the Semitic scriptand adapted by the Brahman scholars to suit the phonetic of Sanskrit and Prakrit.
  • India became exposed to Semitic writing during the 6th century BCE when the Achaemenid empiretook control of the Indus Valley.

Kharosthi Script:

  • It is an ancient Indian script written from right to left, which was used in the present-day area of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • It is also known as Gandhari Script. It was deciphered by James Prinsep.
  • The script is linked to the Kushan Empire, Mauryan Empire and among others. It was used along the ancient Silk Road too.
  • Ashokan Edicts in the northwestern region were inscribed in Kharosthi script.



According to Sanskrit legal texts, women were not supposed to have independent access to resources such as land. True OR False.

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Answer: True.

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Land grants and new rural elites:

  • From the early centuries of the Common Era, there were grants of land being made, many of which were recorded in inscriptions.
  • Some of these inscriptions were on stone, but most were on copper plates which were probably given as a record of the transaction to those who received the land.
  • The records that have survived are generally about grants to religious institutions or to Brahmanas. Most inscriptions were in Sanskrit.
  • In some cases, and especially from the seventh century onwards, part of the inscription was in Sanskrit, while the rest was in a local language such as Tamil or Telugu.
  • Prabhavati Gupta was the daughter of the Chandragupta II. She was married into another important ruling family, that of the Vakatakas, who were powerful in the Deccan. The inscription indicates that Prabhavati had access to land, which she then granted.
  • The inscription also gives an idea about rural populations – these included Brahmanas and peasants, as well as others who were expected to provide a range of produce to the king or his representatives.
  • According to the inscription, they would have to obey the new lord of the village, and perhaps pay him all these dues.
  • There were regional variations in the sizes of land donated – ranging from small plots to vast stretches of uncultivated land – and the rights given to donees (the recipients of the grant).



Which city was a gateway to the northwest including Central Asia in the Mauryan empire?

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Taxila was a gateway to the northwest including Central Asia in the Mauryan empire.

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Mauryan empire:

  • The Mauryan empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya, more than 2300 years ago.
  • Chandragupta was supported by a wise man named Chanakya or Kautilya.
  • Many of Chanakya’s ideas were written down in a book called the
  • There were several cities in the empire such as Taxila, Pataliputra, Ujjain. Taxila was a gateway to the northwest, including Central Asia, while Ujjain lay on the route from north to south India.
  • People in different parts of the empire spoke different People in different parts of the empire spoke different languages.
  • The area around Pataliputra was under the direct control of the emperor.
  • The officials were appointed to collect taxes from farmers, herders, craftspersons and traders, who lived in villages and towns in the area. These officials (not all) were given salaries.
  • Messengers went to and from and spies kept a watch on the officialsand they both were supervised by the emperor.
  • There were also the forested regions and people living in these areas were more or less independent, but may have been expected to provide elephants, timber, honey and wax to Mauryan officials.



What was called chert during Harappa?

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Exchanges were regulated by a precise system of weights, usually made of a stone called chert during Harappa.

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Scripts and Weights during Harappa:

An enigmatic script:

  • Harappan seals usually have a line of writing, probably containing the name and title of the owner.
  • The motif (generally an animal) conveyed a meaning to those who could not read. Most inscriptions are short, the longest containing about 26 signs.
  • Although the script remains undeciphered to date, it was evidently not alphabetical (where each sign stands for a vowel or a consonant) as it has just too many signs – somewhere between 375 and 400.
  • It is apparent that the script was written from right to left as some seals show a wider spacing on the right and cramping on the left, as if the engraver began working from the right and then ran out of space.
  • The variety of objects on which writing has been found: seals, copper tools, rims of jars, copper and terracotta tablets, jewellery, bone rods. There may have been writing on perishable materials too.


  • Exchanges were regulated by a precise system of weights, usually made of a stone called chert and generally cubical.
  • The lower denominations of weights were binary, while the higher denominations followed the decimal system.
  • The smaller weights were probably used for weighing jewellery and beads. Metal scale-pans have also been found.



________________texts mention contacts with regions named Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha, during Harappa. a) Ancient Greek OR b) Mesopotamian

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Answer: Mesopotamian texts

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Strategies for procuring materials during Harappa:

  • While some such as clay were locally available, many such as stone, timber and metal had to be procured from outside the alluvial plain.
  • Terracotta toy models of bullock carts suggest that this was one important means of transporting goods and people across land routes.
  • Riverine routes along the Indus and its tributaries, as well as coastal routes were also probably used.

Materials from the subcontinent:

  • The Harappans established settlements such as Nageshwar and Balakot in areas where shell was available.
  • Other such sites were Shortughai, in far-off Afghanistan, near the best source of lapis lazuli, a blue stone that was apparently very highly valued, and Lothal which was near sources of carnelian (from Bharuch in Gujarat), steatite (from south Rajasthan and north Gujarat) and metal (from Rajasthan).
  • Another strategy for procuring raw materials may have been to send expeditions to areas such as the Khetri region of Rajasthan (for copper) and south India (for gold). These expeditions established communication with local communities.
  • Occasional finds of Harappan artefacts such as steatite micro beads in these areas are indications of such contact.
  • There is evidence in the Khetri area for what archaeologists call the Ganeshwar-Jodhpura culture, with its distinctive non-Harappan pottery and an unusual wealth of copper objects. It is possible that the inhabitants of this region supplied copper to the Harappans.

Contact with distant lands:

  • Copper was also probably brought from Oman, on the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Chemical analyses have shown that both the Omani copper and Harappan artefacts have traces of nickel, suggesting a common origin.
  • A distinctive type of vessel, a large Harappan jar coated with a thick layer of black clay has been found at Omani sites. Such thick coatings prevent the percolation of liquids.
  • Mesopotamian texts datable to the third millennium BCE refer to copper coming from a region called Magan, perhaps a name for Oman, and interestingly enough copper found at Mesopotamian sites also contains traces of nickel.
  • Other archaeological finds suggestive of longdistance contacts include Harappan seals, weights, dice and beads.
  • Mesopotamian texts mention the products from Meluhha: carnelian, lapis lazuli, copper, gold, and varieties of wood.
  • A Mesopotamian myth says of Meluhha: “May your bird be the haja-bird, may its call be heard in the royal palace.” Some archaeologists think the haja-bird was the peacock.
  • It is likely that communication with Oman, Bahrain or Mesopotamia was by sea. Mesopotamian texts refer to Meluhha as a land of seafarers.



The upper town at Mohenjodaro provides examples of residential buildings. True OR False.

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False. The Lower Town at Mohenjodaro provides examples of residential buildings.

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Drainage system of Mohenjodaro:

  • One of the most distinctive features of Harappan cities was the carefully planned drainage system.
  • At the plan of the Lower Town, roads and streets were laid out along an approximate “grid” pattern, intersecting at right angles.
  • It seems that streets with drains were laid out first and then houses built along them.
  • If domestic waste water had to flow into the street drains, every house needed to have at least one wall along a street.

Domestic architecture:

  • Residential buildings were centred on a courtyard, with rooms on all sides.
  • The courtyard was probably the centre of activities such as cooking and weaving, particularly during hot and dry weather.
  • There is an apparent concern for privacy: there are no windows in the walls along the ground level. Besides, the main entrance does not give a direct view of the interior or the courtyard.
  • Every house had its own bathroom paved with bricks, with drains connected through the wall to the street drains.
  • Some houses have remains of staircases to reach a second storey or the roof. Many houses had wells, often in a room that could be reached from the outside and perhaps used by passers-by.
  • The total number of wells in Mohenjodaro was about 700.
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