Before 10th Century CE: Indian sub-continent is in the grip of Dark Ages, with the influencial Brahmin class holding sway over the ruling Kshatriyas and exploiting the working class people. Ancient mythological texts like Vedas, Puranas, and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are accessible only to Sanskrit reading Brahmins, and the common man relies solely on their interpretation for all religious and spiritual guidance, as well as more practical decisions in private and public life.
Trade relations with Europe in the West, China in the North, and the Aztec and Mayan traders from the Far East keep the economy healthy, but the poor peasants living at the bottom of social hierarchy have no share in the general prosperity.
The first jolt to the status quo came with the conquest of Arabia by African tribes around 8th Century CE. The hostile new regime practically blocked the trade of precious fur, leather and Mediterranian herbs that had been thriving through the land route between Europe and Asia. Winters in the Rajputana deserts and Gangetic plains were unbearable without European fur.
It was however the conquest of Kabul towards the end of 9th Century that marked a new epoch in the Indian history.
Kabul had been the seat of ancient Buddhist learning since many centuries now. Scholars and monks well-versed in the original Indian Vedic texts, history, philosophy of the ancient saints as well as the teachings of Gautam Buddha, had thrived and prospered in this cultural hub. They ran schools and universities which through the centuries had nurtured Chinese scholars, Muslim poets and philosophers, and Indian princes. The reputation of these universities and the cosmopolitan mix of students they attracted, had given Kabul its unique identity as a cultural melting pot and a very prosperous international city.
Now, with Kabul under the grip of the hedonistic African tribes, the rich foreign students stopped pouring into the city. Consequently, the universities started crumbling and the Buddhist scholars began considering the lavish offers from Indian royal families that had long been trying to lull these masters to tutor their clans.
The return of the Buddhist scholars brought about an intellectual and cultural revolution in the decadent Indian society. These masters, rejecting the existing social hierarchy, set up educational Gurukuls in the midst of the most populous cities. These Gurukuls were open to anyone who wished to learn and was able to either pay or serve the school. Education became gradually more accessible to the masses. Sons of peasants began questioning the hitherto uncontested authority of temple Brahmins.
The Indian Renaissance had begun.