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Invitation to World Literature


Map & Timeline

This map shows the modern borders of India and its neighboring states. At the time The Bhagavad Gita was written as part of a massive epic (400 BCE – 400 CE), Kurukshetra was a powerful kingdom in a region with no dominating power or empire, a land up for grabs. The price of maintaining peace and establishing a dynasty is questioned by Arjuna, the hero of the Gita. People for centuries after the time of the story fought for control of this land, until the British Empire overcame local powers in the late 1700s. The nation of India would emerge from that empire in the 1940s.

This timeline shows both the history of the written story of The Bhagavad Gita and the history of Indian politics and religion that influenced that story.

3300 BCE
The Indus Valley civilization develops.

3120 BCE
According to legend, the great war described in the Mahabarata takes place.

3000 BCE The proto-Indo-European language develops in Central Asia.

2800-2600 BCE
The Indus script is developed.

2600 BCE
Anchored by the great cities of Harappa, Lothal, Kalibangan and Mohenjo-daro, Harappan civilization flourishes in the areas that includes today's Pakistan, northwestern and western India, and parts of Afghanistan and Iran.

1700 BCE The Indus Valley civilization ends, and Indo-Aryans fill the gap by invading India from the West.

1500-800 BCE
The early Vedic period, named for the four Vedas (oral religious texts) written down in Sanskrit during this time.

1000 BCE
The Rig Veda is written down in Sanskrit.

800-500 BCE
The Upanishads are written down in Sanskrit.

750 BCE Indo-Aryans rule over the 16 mahajanapadas or "great states" in northern India, from the Indus River to the Ganges River.

700 BCE
The Hindu caste system emerges.

563 BCE
Siddhartha Gautama, inspiration for the founding of Buddhism, is born to the ruler of the Shakya tribe in what is now northern Bihar and southern Nepal (dies ca. 483).

538 BCE Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, conquers northwestern parts of the Indian sub-continent.

517-509 BCE
The Persian emperor Darius conquers the Indus Valley region and rules it as a province of his empire.

400 BCE - 400 CE
The Mahabharata is composed; the Gita is a part of this larger work.

333 BCE
Parts of India ruled by Persia fall into Greek hands as Alexander the Great defeats Darius III.

327-326 BCE Alexander the Great visits the Indus Valley.

323 BCE
Before its fall in 184, the Mauryan empire will comprise almost all of the Indian subcontinent and today's Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and parts of China.

273-232 BCE
Ashoka the Great, the greatest of the Mauryan emperors, reigns.

184 BCE
The Maurya dynasty ends when its last ruler is assassinated; the Sunga dynasty follows.

First century CE
The Bhagavata Gita is composed.

1785 CE
The first English translation of The Bhagavad Gita is published by Charles Wilkins.

© 2010 Map Resources, All rights reserved.
Modern borders of India and its neighboring states, with the region of Kurukshetra highlighted.
Indus civilization carvings
Image ©Valery Shanin, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Warriors from the great war of the Mahabharata
Examples of Indus script
Image ©RCH, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Harappan city architecture
Image ©Igor Plotnikov, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Illustration from the Vedic era
Page from a 1902 publication of the Rig Veda
A page from the Upanishads
Image of Hindu gods
Image ©Hung Chung Chih, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Statue of the Buddha
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
Darius I
Image ©Valery Shanin, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Carving depicting warriors from the Mahabharata
Image ©vlas2000, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Statue of Alexander the Great
Image ©RCH, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Mauryan tower
Image ©Kaetana, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Architecture from the reign of Ashoka the Great
Peter Willi / Indian School / Getty Images
Sunga dynasty bas relief
Library of Congress
A page from the Gita
Frontispiece of Charles Wilkins' translation