The faith of reincarnation and karma has inspired some of the grandest structures ever built



Mahavira means 'great hero' in Sanskrit and this one prepared the central tenents of Jainism. Why are there no early Vedic / Hindu names? If this list had gods on it, they would be earlier than Mahavira, but it does not and actual people do not figure into the early stories very well. Mahavira established a powerful doctrine and is the earliest Indian figure of import for us.


Founder of Jainism


Siddhartha Gautama, a local prince in northern India (recall India, unlike China, has usually had a decentralized political character) went on a journey of curiousity and self-discovery which led to his becoming enlightened, reaching a state of bliss called Nirvana.


Founder of Buddhism


Began the Maurya Dynasty.


Emperor of India


Probably the most famous king in the history of India, Ashoka has had movies made about him by Bollywood, and maintains a legendary authority. As a Mauryan ruler, he centralized the country and provinces.


Emperor of India



Sides: Mauryan Allies vs. Magadhan Kingdom
Time: 305 BC
Place: Northwest India including Pakistan and Afghanistan
Action: Having allegedly met Alexander the Great and drafted some of Alexander's soldiers as mercenaries in exchange for a high place in India, Chandragupta Maurya gathered a coalition and attacked the regional kingdoms of northern India using elephants as battering rams and as shock troops. The Magadhans were defeated, and from there, he did battle to the northwest, where the Seleucids relinquished Afghanistan.
Casualties: unknown
Consequence: The Mauryan dynasty of India was born.

Sides: Mauryan India vs. Kalinga Kingdom
Time: 262 BC
Place: Eastern India
Action: Chandragupta's grandson Asoka went to extend the Mauryan realm. The Kalinga Kingdom did not submit to Mauryan demands for tribute, so Asoka attacked. His force was defeated unexpectedly by the Kalingans. With wounded pride, Asoka gathered a huge force and laid waste to the Kalingan countryside.
Casualties: Up to 100,000 Kalingas were slaughtered.
Consequence: At the moment of its greatest expansion, Asoka converted to Buddhism, gave up war, and the Mauryan dynasty began a welfare state system of state-funded infrastructure and health programs that bankrupted it. Political fragmentation resulted lasting 500 years.

Sides: Gupta Allies vs. North Indian kingdoms
Time: 330
Place: Northern and Central India
Action: The Guptas under Chandragupta (named after the Mauryan) and his son Samudragupta built the next big Indian empire by subduing their neighbor-provinces and getting them to pay tribute.
Casualties: unknown
Consequence: The Guptas are considered 'classical India,' and under them, the usually divided country was largely unified. The numerals we use 1, 2, 3 and on were written in the form they are at this time.

Sides: White Huns vs. Gupta Dynasty
Time: 457
Place:  Northwest India
Action: Mongolian nomads (probably with some Cossack blood- hence the 'white') from the northern steppes established a base in Central Asia, from which they raided Sassanian Persia and captured the king. They were quick horsemen and terrorized settled peoples. When they raided the Gupta domains, they encountered resistance from Skandagupta, but this they defeated and took the Punjab. When the emperor died, they burned Buddhist shrines all along the Ganges and destroyed the Gupta capital, Pataliputra.
Casualties: unknown
Consequence:  The White Huns collapsed the Gupta Dynasty. They set up a kingdom of their own that was destroyed 20 years later by the Persians under Chosroes I, and disappeared from history. They mingled with the locals and probably were the ancestors of the later Rajputs.



Traditional Hindu

1300s B.C.

The Rig-Veda

A book of hymns brought to the natives of the Indian subcontinent by Aryans arriving from the north, these stories are the foundation works of the Hindu faith. In about a thousand separate chapters (stories) people and gods wrestle with primordial questions of existance. Brahma, Indra, Vishnu (Krishna), Siva, and other gods. interact with humans, much like Greek gods would.



Traditional Hindu

500s B.C.

The Bhagavad Gita

A book concerning the journey of a human soul to fulfillment in life, love and light, the Bhagavad Gita is the other major work of the Hindu religion. Vishnu comes to a soldier to comfort him as he struggles with the problems of not wanting to kill and surprisingly tells him that 'action is better than inaction' and reminding him that the soul will be re-incarnated as is believed in the Hindu faith. Act wisely, for how you behave in this life-cycle determines your future as a re-incarnated soul in a new body.





India's great Hindu temple of Benares on the Ganges River



The faithful swim in the Ganges during their pilgrimage to Benares, now called Varanasai



The Amritsar Palace of India, with its famous golden building and bridge



The largest Hindu temple in the world is this, where millions visit every year







The Jagannath Hindu Temple in India



The stunningly detailed Hindu shrine at



Greatest of all India's buildings, the Taj Mahal of Agra- built as a tomb and shrine





The famous faces of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia



Buddhist Temples in Bali, Indonesia



Grand scenery of Buddhist shrines in Burma



A closer look at the shrines in Burma, one of the great religious centers of all Asia



The Burmese shrine of Bagan, one of Buddhisms holy places



The Mahabodi Buddhist Shrine in India and Nepal's equivalent, high in the Hemalaya Mts.



Afghanistan's greatest relic was this huge sculpture of Buddha, sewn into the side of a cliff.

It reminded all of a time when there was peace in the world thanks to the way of the Buddha.



Before the USA moved into Afghanistan in 2002 and dismantled its government,

the great statues were destroyed by the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban on purpose



The most famous of Buddha's sculptures, at Kamakura in Japan, has withstood many earthquakes



The great Buddhist Temple of Saigon, Vietnam (Ho Chi Min City)



A young Buddhist monk inside the Temple in Saigon



The stunning Buddhist shrine in Bangkok, Thailand almost seems from another world



Hindu temple painted in white in Calcutta, India



Famous Buddhist statue from Ceylon (Sri Lanka)- at peace and in focus



This Temple of Codai in Vietnam almost seems like an oriental cathedral!



Mandalay in Burma has a complex temple guarded by these creatures



Recently, the Cambodian Gov't and UNESCO have cleared the foliage for tourism



The great temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia has lain in the jungle untouched for centuries




In Thailand's countryside lies this Buddhist temple, part ruin and part solitary shrine



Inner Peace is the key concept in Buddhist philosophy, and here in Bangkok, Thailand



This temple in Vietnam is famous for its detail as well



At the top of the world lies Tibet, and the Buddhist shrine of the Dalai Lama at Lhasa

This is one of the world's most isolated






Next: Wonders of South Asia



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