Think, Learn & Perform (TLP): Synopsis – [Day 5]

  • IASbaba
  • September 5, 2015
  • 11
TLP Mains 2015
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Day – Ancient and Medieval History – GS 1




Q.1) Critically analyze the contributions of Buddha to the religion and philosophy of India. What were his main principles and how did he manage to have such a large following?

One should read the questions very carefully. This question specifically asks for the “contribution of Buddha” to the religion and philosophy, and not Buddhism. Also, it asks for a critical analysis. So, the first 100 words should take care of pros and cons of his contributions.

Then, his philosophy should not take more than 50 words. The basic tenets like 8 fold-path, compassion etc. Here in second part one should not try to present all the principles. Question asks for ‘Main Principles’. So do focus on such key words and frame your answers accordingly. Moving on, the last part of the question should deal with the psychological aspects of crowd-pulling. One should explain why exactly did he have such a large following throughout the world.

If one answers each sub-question systematically, the structure would also be brilliant.

Today’s Top Answer is by – Pooja

Ans) Buddha emerged as a spiritual leader during 6th century BCE and was the contemporary of Mahavira. He had profound influence in the religion and philosophy on India :

Religion :
1. Buddha gave rise to a new religion Buddhism
2. Rejected the dominance of Brahmans and opened the gates of his religion to all people.
3. Preached Nirvana that is freedom from the cycle of births and death.
4. Attacked idolatry.
5. Later, due to internal problems the buddhist sect in India broke and this was filled in by the Bhakti movement.

Philosophy :
1. He gave the doctrine of Ahimsa. Which was followed by great leader like Mahatma Gandhi to achieve independence.
2. Promoted the middle path.
3. He taught tolerance, compassion and equality.

Buddhism as a religion rose alongwith Jainism , however, Buddhism is more widespread in other Asian countries other than India because the Hinduism was already prevalent in India and because other regions did not have a well formed religion.

He managed to have such a large following mostly in Eastern Asia :
1. It had patrons like the Ashoka and Kanishka who promoted Buddhism both in India and surrounding regions.
2. The simplistic nature of the religion appealed to the masses.
3. Use of language like Pali and Prakrit popularised it.
4. The kstariyas and the vaishayas were averse to the dominance of the brahmanas ,hence, supported Buddhism with huge patronage.
5. Gave a better social standing to the Shudras.

Q.2) How does Abul Fazl describe the socio-economic and religious life of Medieval India? Are there any inconsistencies in his analysis?

This question is a disguise for “What are the contributions of Akbar or How was the life during Akbar’s time”. So watch out for such tricky questions in UPSC. Most of you have written good answers point-wise, so we have concentrated on the structure and the way you have written for giving marks.

A very simple question to answer, once you know who Abul Fazl is and what his contributions were.

Today’s Top Answer is by – Somesh

Ans) Abul Fazal’s Ain-e-Akbari has a vivid account of the socio-economic and religious life in medieval India. Salient points are discussed below

Socio-Economic life:
1. Caste system was prevalent and 16 different sub-castes arose from intermarriages
2. Choice of occupation was still limited by caste credentials
3. Land was the major source of revenue. Raja Todarmal’s lad measurement and assessment improved tax collection
4. Literature,music, art and architecture commanded royal patronage

1. Religious discrimination was ended by Akbar as Jaziya and Pilgrim Tax were abolished.
2. There was greater religious freedom. Akbar’s Din-e-Ilahi tried bringing people of different faith together.
3. Abul Fazal’s attempt at finding common ground between Hindu practices and Islamic beliefs betrays the existing differences.
4. Hindus were tried under Hindu laws.

Abul Fazl enjoyed royal patronage of Akbar so one can imagine he was under obligation to eulogize about the emperor. In such an attempt, he bestowed occult powers upon Akbar. Eg. he said Akbar could control rain at will. On the other hand Fazal emphasizes on the need of rationality. This was a major inconsistency.

Despite its shortcomings, Abul Fazl’s profound scholarship gives a great insight into the history of medieval India.

Q.3) Give an account of the impact of Islam on the Indian Culture in respect of society, religion and fine arts.

Another simple question to write. Any straight-forward answer would get good marks. Just ensure that you are not writing anything controversial or political.

The Top Answer for this question is by – Nishant

Ans) Islam had a great impact on all major aspects of Indian Culture. It can be understood under the following sub-headings:

Social Life
Brought visible changes to ceremonies, dresses, mannerism etc. For eg. Purdah System became widespread among upper caste women, marriages became extravagant. New interests like perfumes and scents were introduced. New fabrics from Persia were picked up by Hindu rulers and elites. Urdu as a common language became popular

Islam and Sufism introduced elements of love, brotherhood and equality. These assimilated into the Bhakti Movement later popularized by Kabir, Guru Nanak etc. Sikhism can be considered a direct offshoot of Islam. Though against Hindu caste system, Islam couldn’t break it down completely.

Fine Art
A new culture that gave lavish patronage to artisans. Musicians like Tansen became courtmen and new styles such Ghazal and Tarana were introduced giving Hindustani music a different flavor. Glazed pottery made Indian potters world renowned. Miniature paintings synonymous with Mughal period later spread to different regions.

Added a distinct Persian touch through new features like Arch and Dome style, ‘Jali Work’ for lighting inside halls, Chaar Bagh construction style later picked up by the British. Polished stone like marble or sandstone was used for the first time. Intricate geometrical design replaced human figures.

An influence to begin with, Islam soon assimilated completely into the India culture and co-exists till date.

Q.4) “Harsha governed his empire on the same lines as the Guptas did, except that his administration had become more feudal and decentralized.” Narrate the spectacular rise and imminent fall of the rule of Harsha.

Many of you have asked whether the quote is anyway related to the question asked. Well, the answer should have the following structure.

The first 100 words should introduce Harsha and talk about his phenomenal rise and how he went on to become one of the greatest rulers in Medieval India. Then, use the quote given and comment on the administration falls. From which, one should start writing an answer on his sudden fall which was rooted in some administrative inconsistencies.

If you know your history well, this is an excellent question to attempt.

Today’s Top Answer is written by – Somesh

Ans) Harsha is credited for bringing peace and stability after post-Gupta chaos that gripped India. His ascension to the thrones at Thanesar and Kannauj was amidst tragic circumstances but he turned out to be a great conqueror.

He formed alliance with Varmans of Kamarup and defeated Shashanka of Gauda (Bengal). In the following six years he extended the boundaries from Kashmir to Narmada river and Gujarat to Assam valley by forming alliances and relations.

The administration of Harsha modelled on the lines of Gupta ensured that his rule lasted over four decades. However, to facilitate his conquest he needed to raise a large army that was not possible to do centrally. Thus many feudal lords emerged with their own army battalions. Paid with land grants, they became even more powerful. Also, Harsha failed to leave a worthy successor. These reasons led to the imminent fall of his dynasty.

In his long reign, Harsha successfully brought peace and stability in the region. He also patronized art and culture of the Ancient India and uplifted the status of Shudras, bringing social change.

Q.5) Though not very useful from the point of view of a connected political history of South India, the Sangam literature portrays the social and economic conditions of its time with remarkable vividness. Comment.

Sangam literature was a very important phase in understanding the contemporary society, but not in understanding the political scenario. This brilliant question was asked in 2013 Mains, so we dont think that it will be repeated in the 2015 Mains. But, do ensure you know the basics of Sangam and also ensure that you know how to handle such questions.

The Top Answer is written by – Sepoy No 1446

Ans) Sangam literature refers to a body of classical Tamil literature that developed in Ancient south India.The works like Tolkappiyam, Pottupottu, Silappathikaram and Manimekalai are examples of Sangam literature.

Though the sanagams were held under political patronage, the literature was never meant to glorify any one kingdom or ruler. These were free expression and hence major focus was on depiction of culture,society,economy and life of people.But in doing so,it also provided some references to the polity of the region.One can find references of chola,pandya,chera kingdom but no detailed description was there. The description was not a chronological and continuous historical accounts and its utility should be seen only in that context.

On the other hand, Sangam literature provided a more detailed description of socio-economic structure:

-The five fold division of land mentioned in Tolkappiyam describes associated occupations also.For example:On kurinji land(hilly tracks) people followed honey collection and hunting,on Marudam (Agricultural land) people followed agriculture etc
-The four castes mentioned in Tolkaappiyam describes social stratification.
-Agriculture was the chief occupation and rice the principle crop.
-Cotton clothes has been compared as slough of snake,indicating weaving as an occupation.
-Handicrafts,ship-building was prevalent.
-Trade was practiced with Roman empire.

Thus there is more clarity and vividness in depiction of socio-economic system of the region,as compared to depiction of political system.

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