Teacher's Guide for CALLIOPE: India's Gupta Dynasty
Teacher's guide was prepared by Lisa Greenberg.
Before using this issue, brainstorm with the whole class what defines an "empire." Then divide students into groups of four or five and ask them to agree on and write a definition of the term "empire." Post each definition on a bulletin board or poster.
For homework, ask students to discuss with their families, perhaps at dinner, what is essential in a civilization and what makes a civilization die or fall apart. Encourage them to ask their family members for concrete examples in history of reasons why civilizations such as the Roman grew or declined in strength. Share these in class and ask students, "What is the relationship between an empire and a civilization?" Encourage student groups to refine their definitions of empire now and during the week.
While using the magazine, pick and choose from the following activities and questions.
Tributary, influence, edict, Sanskrit, patron, Veda, ritual, corporal punishment, distillery, sacrifice, preserver, caste.
These words and phrases are important for understanding the text. You may wish to have students define them, use them in sentences, create crossword puzzles or word plays with them, or quiz each other on their meanings.
Draw or trace the map of the Gupta Empire. As you read through the magazine, note why each city on the map is important. Estimate how much the Kingdom grew under each new Emperor. What problems might come with extending the boundaries of the empire?
On a world map, have students choose a country and research what historical events happened and technological progress was made during the time of the Gupta. Post this information on the map or in a separate chart.
Groups of students can
Vedic Horse Sacrifice Ritual:
- create a mural of the Shakuntala story;
- research the Sanskrit poet Kalidasa and present findings in a poster or paper;
- compare the Indian comic book excerpts in this issue and American comic books;
- discuss what is the moral or lesson of the Shakuntala story.
Challenge students to divide themselves into three groups, each taking a different point of view, and write a fictional story about the Vedic horse sacrifice. The three points of view are that of the horse which is loosed and allowed to roam and then recaptured and sacrificed, the warriors who must protect the horse, and the kings and chieftains who try to capture or kill the horse in order to protect their territory and wealth. Have the students compare the Vedic horse ritual as a method of taxation with the present method of taxation in their home country.
An Inscription Tells All & The Dynasty Continues:
Legends or stories about a ruler can describe the qualities that citizens think are important. What can you tell about Samudra from the pillar in Allahabad? What qualities are described in the legends about Chandra Gupta II? How do these qualities of Smudra and Chadra Gupta II compare with those described in American legends about George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Other presidents?
Examine the stylized horse on page 12. Create a similarly stylized sculpture of another animal in clay.
Religion in Gupta India
- What three religions were followed in Gupta India? (p. 20)
- Who were the most important Hindu gods and goddesses and what did they stand for? (p. 21)
- How is a puja or Hindu devotional ritural conducted? (p. 22)
- Define the concept of dharma and give an example. (p. 22)
- What were the dharmas of the four castes: Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras? (p. 22) Note that there was another category of citizen, the "untouchable."
- Describe the stages of the ideal Hindu life. (p.23)
- Why does the author believe that the modern reformer Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi was trusted and revered by the Indian people? (p.23)
Field Trip / Community Outreach:
- Research the three religions current in India during the Gupta Dynasty: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism. What are the three most important teachings in each religion? Create a chart that shows the differences and similarities.
- Choose one aspect of religion in Gupta India and create a poster to explain it.
- Encourage a small group to create a model of a cave sanctuary with shrines, meeting places, and monk cells. Ask them what distinguishes a Buddhist sanctuary from a Hindu or Jain sanctuary and choose just one to illustrate. Encourage students to use the Internet and the magazine's resources to find images they can use to decorate.
- Create an Indian style cartoon or skit in which a character proceeds through his or her life stages: student, householder, sage / hermit, wandering holy man.
Visit a Hindu or Buddhist temple or invite a parent of one of these faiths to visit the class and answer student questions.
The Royals in Action & A Keen Observer
Creative Writing / Art:
- Why did Faxian travel from China to India? (p.27)
- Why was the trip difficult? (p.27)
- Why was Faxian honored in India? (p.27)
- What impressed Faxian about the Gupta court and what disturbed him? (p. 28)
- What was Faxian's overall impression of the Gupta Court? (p.29)
- How did daily life differ in China and India, according to Faxian? (p.30)
- What did Faxian note about the untouchables? (p 32)
Imagine you are Faxian on his trip to the courts of India: write an entry in his journal or a letter back to his home.
Pretend you are an untouchable in Gupta India. Write and illustrate a scene from your life.
Illustrate Faxian's description of an religious procession in Pataliputra. (p. 33)
An Advanced Society
- How did the Guptas enhance learning at the university of Nalanda? (p. 35)
- What astronomical and mathematical discoveries were made during the Gupta dynasty? (p. 36)
- What innovations were made in medicine and surgery? (p. 36-37)
- How did these academic steps forward affect Gupta society? (p.37)
- What advances were made in astronomy by Varahamihira? (p.38)