In the II century. BC e. India broke up into many state formations, unable to repel the constant raids of the Parthians, Scythians and other nomads.
Indian history is full of surprises. To learn about one of them, let's go back a little. In 268 BC the Indian throne was occupied by the powerful ruler of the Mauryan dynasty Ashoka (“Deprived of sorrow”). He established diplomatic and trade relations with many countries of the West and East. Under him, the state became one of the largest in the East. In his youth, he was not known for his gentle nature and even earned the nickname Chanda-Ashoka ("Cruel Ashoka"). In the eighth year of his reign, he defeated the state of Kalinga (the territory of the modern Indian state of Orissa), received additional political and commercial advantages. It seemed that the great king was destined to continue to wage wars and strengthen his power.
However, Ashoka’s rock edict, left for posterity, read: “... And no matter how many people at the time when the Kalingans were subdued, killed or died, or taken away from there, even a hundredth of this number, even a thousandth of it now burdens the thought Pleasing to the gods ”(as Ashoka called himself). He repented of what he had done.
Ashoka, once merciless, in another edict instructs: "And if anyone harms, the Delightful One considers that it is necessary to spare, as much as possible to forgive." The unexpected metamorphosis of Ashoka is explained by the fact that the king became an adherent of Buddhism, a religion that arose in India in the 6th century. BC, and began to follow its rules.
India is also the birthplace of Hinduism, one of the oldest religions on earth, which originated in the 4th millennium BC. A distinctive feature of Hinduism is polytheism. The ancient Indians believed that the gods, like people, love delicious food, beautiful clothes, they are also friends and quarrel. Surya (god of the sun), Dyaus-Pitar (god of the sky), Ushas (goddess of the dawn), Parjanya (god of thunder), Sarasvati (goddess of the river of the same name), Agni (god of fire) are considered the gods of the most ancient origin. Indra was especially revered - the lord of rain, who defeated Vritra - the demon of drought. Later, the main gods of the Indians were Brahma (the beginning of all beginnings in the world), Shiva (the destroyer) and Vishnu (the guardian).
The ancient Indians imagined Vishnu as a beautiful young man reclining on the mythical snake Shesha, which swims in the waters of the cosmic ocean. Vishnu has four arms, in which he holds a conch, a wheel, a club and a lotus flower. Vishnu has the gift of transforming himself into animals and humans. Once, turning into a dwarf, Vishnu came to the demon king Bali and asked him to give him as much land as he could cover in three steps. Laughing, Bali willingly gave permission, but soon regretted it: the dwarf grew to a gigantic size and covered the sky with the first step, and the earth with the second. Seeing the horror of Bali, the magnanimous Vishnu did not take the third step.
High in the Himalayas on Mount Kailash, the god Shiva lives. His appearance is formidable - Shiva is entwined with cobras, dressed in a tiger skin, wears a necklace of skulls. He is many-sided and many-armed, on his forehead is an all-withering third eye. As the legend says, saving people, Shiva drank poison, and his neck turned blue. Therefore, it is often called "Blue-throated". Shiva has a trident in his hand, and he always performs accompanied by the bull Nandin. Shiva and his wife Parvati, which means "Goryanka", have two sons. The first is the four-armed Ganesha, an elephant-headed man riding a rat. Until now, Ganesha is revered as the god of wisdom and good luck. His brother, the war god Skanda, has six heads. He rides a huge peacock, holding a bow in one hand and arrows in the other.
The ancient Indians deified animals. The sacred cow Surabhi was especially revered, which means “Good-smelling” in translation. According to legend, this cow resides in the paradise of the god Indra. The Indians worshiped snakes - nagas. In modern India, there is a state called Nagaland - "Land of Serpents".
In ancient India, it was customary to visit holy places. It was considered a special virtue to visit Hardvar, the place where the Ganges River flows out onto the plain, and at least once in a lifetime, no matter how far a person lives, to bathe in its sacred waters.
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