Uttar Pradesh in one
of the most ancient cradles of Indian culture. While it is true that no Harappa and
Mohan-Jodaro have been discovered in the State, the antiquities found in Banda
(Bundelkhand), Mirzapur and Meerut link its History to early Stone Age and Harappan era.
Chalk drawings or dark red drawings by primitive men are extensively found in the Vindhyan
ranges of Mirzapur districts. Utensils of that age have also been discovered in
Atranji-Khera, Kaushambi, Rajghat and Sonkh. Copper articles have been found in Kanpur,
Unnao, Mirzapur, Mathura and advent of the Aryans in this State. It is most probable that
snapped links between the Indus Valley and Vedic civilizations lie buried under the ruins
of ancient sites found in this State.
There is hardly any mention of the area
comprising present Uttar Pradesh in Vedic hymns. Even the sacred rivers, the Ganga and
Yamuna, appear only on the distance horizon of the land of the Aryans. In the later Vedic
age, the importance of Sapta Sindhu recedes and Brahmarshi Desh or Madhya Desh assumes
significance. The region comprising Uttar Pradesh at that time became a holy place of
India and foremost center of Vedic culture and knowledge.
The new States of Kuru-Panchal, Kashi and Kosal find mention in late-Vedic texts as
prominent centers of Vedic culture. The people of Kuru-Panchat were regarded as the best
representatives of Vedic culture. They enjoyed great respect as outstanding orators of
Sanskrit. The conduct of schools and institutions by them was laudable. The life of their
kinds was a model for other kings and their Brahmins were held in high esteem for their
piety and scholarship. The Upanishads prominently mention the Panchal Parishad. The
scholars from Kuru-Panchal were specially visited by the Videsh king on the occasion of
Ashwamedh Yajna. The Panchal king Pravahan Jaivali himself was a great thinker who was
praised even by Brahmin scholars like Shilik, Dalabhya, Shvetketu and his father Uddalak
Aruni. Ajatshatru of Kashi was another great-philosopher king whose superiority was
acknowledged by Brahmin scholars like Dripti, Valhaki, Gargya etc., Literature in various
disciplines was authored on an extensive scale during this age culminating in the
Upanishads. They signify the highest reach of human imagination. The Upanishad literature
was the product of meditation in the Ashrams of the sages, several of which were in Uttar
Pradesh, Eminent sages like Bharadwaj, Yajnavalkya, Vashishta, Valmiki and Atri have
either their Ashrams here or were otherwise connected with this State. Some Aranyans and
Upanishads were, in written in the Ashrams located in this State.
The cultural heritage of Uttar pradesh was
maintained in the period of the Ramayan and Mahabharat i.e. the epic period. The story of
Ramayan revolves round the Ikshwaku dynasty of Kosal and of Mahabharat a round the 'Kuru'
dynasty of Hastinapur. Local people firmly believe that the Ashram of Valmiki, the author
of Ramayan, was in Brahmavart (Bithoor in Kanpur District) and it was in the surroundings of Naimisharany (Nimsar-Misrikh in
Sitapur district) that Suta narrated the story of Mahabharat as he had heard it from
Vyasji. Some of the Smritis and Puranas were also written in this State.Gautam Buddha,
Mahavir, Makkhaliputta Goshal and great thinkers brought about a revolution in Uttar
Pradesh in 6th century B.C. Out of these, Makkhaliputta Goshal, who was born at Shravan
near Shravasti, was the founder of Ajivika sect.
Mahavir, the 24th Trithankar of Jains was
born in Bihar but had a large number of followers in Uttar Pradesh. He is said to have
lived twice during rainy season in this State-once in Shravasti and the second time in
Padrauna near Deoria. Pawa proved to be his last resting place. In fact, Jainism had
entrenched itself in this State even before the arrival of Mahavir. Several Tirthankars
such as Parshwanath, Sambharnath and Chandraprabha were born in different cities in this
State and attained 'Kaivalya' here. Jainism must have retained its popularity in this
State in Subsequent centuries also. this fact is borne by the ruins of several ancient
temples. buildings, etc. The remains of a magnificient Jain Stupa have been dug out near
Kankali Tila in Mathura, while Jain shrines built in early middle Age are still preserved
in Deogarh, Chanderi and other places
The founder of Buddhism, Gautam the Buddha,
was born in Lumbini in Nepal. His father, King Shuddodhan, was the ruler of a small State,
Kapilvastu (now in Siddharthnagar district). His mother, Maya, belonged to the ruling
family of another small state, Deodah (now in Deoria district).
The Buddha attained
Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya in Bihar but it was in Isipattan or Mrigdav in Sarnath in U.P.
that the preached his first sermon and laid the foundation of his Order. From this point
of view, Sarnath has the distinction of being the birth place of 'Dhamma' and 'Sangha',
the two elements of the Holy Trinity of Buddism,the third being the Buddha himself.Other
notable places in Uttar Pradesh followed by Buddha's association are Kushinara of
Kushinagar (in Deoria district) where he attained 'Mahaparinirvana, Shravasti the capital
of Kisal where he performed a great miracle, and Sankashyar Sankisa (in Etah
district) where another miracle of his life occured.The rulers of several states in the
then Uttar Pradesh were greately influenced by the teaching of Buddha.
People of the State also did not lag behind in showing love and devotion to the Tathagat,
greater part of whose monastic life was spent in Uttar Pradesh. Thus it will be no
exaggeration to describe Uttar Pradesh as the Cradle of Buddhism. Besides Buddhism and
Jainism, Pauranic Brahmanism also had deep roots in the state. Ancient images of Gods and
Goddesses of Brahmanical order, a temple of Kushan period has been found which alludes to
Brahmanism. In fact Mathura can be said to be the birthplace of Indian sculpture. Other
temples of this faith built in different periods are in Varanasi, Allahabad, Ballia,
Ghazipur. Jhansi and Kanpur.