India Unit Study: Week 3

This week, we will learn more about the different religions practiced in India. This unit also includes several writing options (including research, copywork, and storytelling), but don’t feel the need to do them all—try different methods with your child and see what they enjoy best. Finally, we will explore transportation in India with a STEM project the whole family can get involved in. Click here to download this week’s tracker for your records.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

Note: We break down our supply list by so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.

Build a Hindu temple model:

  • Minecraft, LEGO, or cardboard and glue or tape

Elephant drawing activity:

Taj Mahal drawing:

Optional hands-on math:

Build a tuk tuk:

Optional gameschooling idea:

Pakora recipe:

Lesson 1:

We’ll start our week with a closer look at the Ramayana. Read pages 58-61 from Honest History. The Indian poet Valmiki wrote Ramayana around 300 B.C. His writings have influenced Indian life for thousands of years, and have inspired religious beliefs and the arts.

Activity 1: Watch this ballet that was choreographed and performed to tell one of Valmiki’s stories. 

Activity 2: Copywork. Read a small portion of Valmiki’s works below and use it for copywork. (Choose one to two sentences.) (-)Younger children may need you to write the sentence as a model on the same paper they will write on. Older children can use a printout or the screen as their model.

***For more tips on copywork, read our expert contributor’s tips here.

Canto VIII. Sumantra’s Speech.

But splendid, just, and great of mind,
The childless king for offspring pined.
No son had he his name to grace,
Transmitter of his royal race.
Long had his anxious bosom wrought,
And as he pondered rose the thought:
“A votive steed ’twere good to slay,
So might a son the gift repay.”
Before his lords his plan he laid,
And bade them with their wisdom aid:
Then with these words Sumantra, best
Of royal counsellors, addressed:
“Hither, Vaśishṭha at their head,
Let all my priestly guides be led.”
To him Sumantra made reply:
“Hear, Sire, a tale of days gone by.
To many a sage in time of old,
Sanatkumár, the saint, foretold
How from thine ancient line, O King,
A son, when years came round, should spring.


Lesson 2:

Let’s learn more about medieval northern India.

Activity 1: Read + Discover. Read pages 264 in Usborne Encyclopedia of World History to learn about the start of Muslim influence in the region. (If your child is not familiar with Islam, this video by Discover Islam would be a good introduction.) Islam expanded into India. Sometimes entire communities would convert at once. Perhaps one reason is that unlike the Indian caste system, Islam offered equality and opportunity for people to rise in society. (Source) Despite the presence of a new religion, much of Indian culture remained unchanged.

After the decline of the Gupta Empire, there were constant wars and unrest in India for the next 700 years. Different kingdoms and rulers kept expanding and shrinking, but despite this, many great Hindu temples were built during this time. 

Activity 2: Read this post about the architectural marvel of some of the Hindu temples you find in India. The post shares photos, so take notice of the photo that labels specific parts of the architecture. Here are a few highlights from the article:

  • The temple was considered the dwelling place of a particular god (devalaya). It was, therefore, a sacred place (tirtha) where heaven and earth meet and is a god’s home.
  • The first materials used were wood and terracotta, but architects gradually moved on to brick and stone, especially sandstone, granite, schist, and marble. No mortar was used in the older temples, so precise cutting of dressed stones was required. 
  • The Hindu temple (mandir) is laid out according to the eight cardinal directions, and a god representing each one (dikpala) may sometimes be depicted in sculpture on the temple’s exterior. 
  • Temples are built on an elaborately carved platform (adhisthana).
  • Many Hindu temples, with their multiple towers, look very much like a mountain. Look at this example from the 11th century CE in Khajuraho at the Kandariya Mahadeva temple.

Try building your own structure in Minecraft, with LEGOs, or with other materials you have. Use the link above to label the parts you build.

Activity 3: Read + Discuss. In medieval India, the elephant was often used as an animal of war. Look at the picture in your Usborne book of the elephants in battle.

“Indian generals were fascinated by the elephant arm for over 2,000 years, despite repeated evidence of its weaknesses. Even the best trained elephant was liable to be panicked by the sights, smells, and sounds of battle, especially by incendiary devices, and might, joined by its companions, turn into a common enemy, trampling friend and foe alike. Several decisive battles were lost when a Hindu king’s elephant rushed in the wrong direction, leading his soldiers to draw the conclusion that he was deserting them, so that the whole host collapsed like a ruined building. Although the Muslim invaders themselves had come to power by defeating Hindu armies that relied on elephants, they in the course of time became dependent upon elephants themselves and were defeated by subsequent invaders in much the same way.” (source – see photos in source link)

Research and create a lapbook about elephants. Learn the differences and similarities between African elephants and Asian elephants. (You can do this using our printable Venn Diagram.) Watch this video to get started.

Next, draw an elephant freehand or with the help of this tutorial. Add your picture to your lapbook.

Activity 4: Creative writing assignment. Have you ever read a book or story where an animal is the main character? Let’s write our own story today. Pretend that you were a peaceful elephant in a battle trying to escape the war. Describe the scene of your story. Describe the colors of your war clothes and how they are decorated. Describe the jewelry that is put on you. Talk about the people who ride upon your back. Now, tell a story of how you escape.

Alternatively, make a comic book that tells the same story using fewer words and more pictures or draw a single picture that depicts an elephant in war time.

Lesson 3:

Today, we will learn about one of the most beautiful architectural structures in the world, the Taj Mahal.

Activity 1: Read + Discover. Start by reading page 300 of the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History or (+) The Story of Buildings page 50-51 and watch this video to learn about the Taj Mahal. The Moguls, who built it, built amazing mosques, forts, and palaces, and the Taj Mahal is one of the world’s most famous mausoleum.

Activity 2: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could take a trip to the Taj Mahal? We think so, too! But this virtual tour will have to do for now. Move around the tour to see all the parts of this world-famous building. You can go inside and outside the tomb as well as tour the grounds. Discuss your favorite parts!

Activity 3: The Taj Mahal was built in near-perfect symmetry. Read this post to learn about the symmetry of this ancient architectural masterpiece. 

Next, read this explanation about lines of symmetry and then play the game at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, if you have tangram manipulatives, play with symmetry and create different pictures.

Activity 4: Symmetry art. Create your own perfectly symmetrical Taj Mahal by copying this drawing using graph paper

Lesson 4:

Get ready to hit the road today with a look at some unique transportation found in India!

Activity 1: Read + Discover. Let’s learn more about the forms of transportation popular in India. Read pages 18 and 19 of Honest History.

Activity 2: Tuk-Tuks (or auto rickshaws) can be seen all over India. Read this post to learn more about this clever mode of transportation. Next, build your own tuk-tuk with the directions and video we provide below. (Or you can purchase this LEGO Tuk Tuk set.)

Start by watching this video that demonstrates how to make a cardboard tuk tuk. It unfortunately doesn’t come with measurements or a supply list, but here is how we made ours: 


To make the wheels:

For the back wheels, cut and glue a straw piece onto the bottom of the car. Run the skewer through the straw.

Attach the wheels to the skewer, one on each side. Glue on a small piece of straw to the ends of the skewer to keep the wheels attached and free spinning. Cut off the excess skewer stick from each side.

For the front wheel, push a piece of skewer through the front wheel. Cut two pieces of cardboard for wheel arms and glue to the skewer. Attach two small straw pieces to keep the wheel free spinning and the cardboard in place. Attach the other end of the cardboard to the front of the tuk tuk.

Here’s a picture of our tuk tuk:

Activity 3: Read + Discover. The history of trains in India is impressive. Read this post and watch the video to learn all about it. 

Optional gameschooling idea: Game time! Play Ticket to Ride India Board Game.

Activity 4: Read Finders Keepers to take a ride on a bus in India.

Lesson 5:

Ready for a more Indian food?

Activity 1: What are pakoras?

Pakoras are savory vegetable fritters, fried in oil. They originate from India, and are often enjoyed as a snack or appetizer. They’re served with chutneys, which are a dipping sauce. A mint chutney is especially popular if the Pakora is spicy! (source)

Let’s make our own pakoras! Prepare this recipe.

Activity 2: Science application. There’s a lot going on when we fry—a lot of chemistry! Watch this video to learn more about it. (We also watched this video in the Ancient China Unit, so it might be a review.) Next, let’s learn more about fats! Read pages 67-68 the book Science Experiments You Can Eat to learn about fats and oils. Alternatively, if you weren’t able to get that book you can read this article to learn about fat facts. Finally, watch this video

(+) Watch this video from Food Network’s Alton Brown, host of Good Eats, to learn about the chemical makeup of fats. 

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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