Ancient India: Indigenous Culture & Outside Influences

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  • 0:01 India
  • 0:34 Harappa Culture
  • 0:49 Vedic Period
  • 1:41 Hinduism
  • 2:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore the history of ancient India. It will focus on the Harappan culture, their mixing with the Aryans, and the beginnings of the Hindu faith.


Although most of us may not be familiar with its history, many of us are familiar with India as the home of Hinduism, considered one of the world's oldest religions. Unlike most of our Western religions, Hinduism is without a specific founder, a prescribed theological system, or even a definite moral code. Despite this, it is the religion of most of the people of the Indian subcontinent. Today, we'll look at the history of this ancient subcontinent and its strongly bound ties to Hinduism.

Harappa Culture

With all of this in mind, let's turn to the origins of Hinduism and ancient India. Widely known as the Indus River Valley Civilization, the Harappa culture inhabited the banks of the Indus River as early as perhaps 4000 BCE. Putting it in everyday terms, the Harappas were the ancient ancestors of modern-day India.

Vedic Period

As time went on, the Harappa culture faced invasion from the outside. Like often happens, the Harappa culture soon began to take on the traits of their invaders. Speaking more specifically, the ancient Indian Harappa culture melded with a group of Indo-Europeans, also known as Aryans, who began to move into the Indian subcontinent.

The Aryans carried with them a religion known as Vedism. This Vedism meshed with the Harappa culture to give history the Vedic period. This Vedic period saw the inception of what has come to be known as Hinduism, one of the largest religions in today's world.


Doing a quick exploration into Hinduism, it is a polytheistic religion. This means it believes in more than one god. Rather than the more Western view of heaven, Hinduism holds to the concept of moksha, or the release from the cycle of life and death. Of course, it should be mentioned that this idea of moksha is not all that well defined. With its rather ambiguous beliefs and its allegiance to many gods, Hinduism is very tolerant of other belief systems.

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