- World Geography(Telugu)
- Physics & Chemistry
- APPSC Material for Group 1
- Quiz on General Studies
- APPSC Guidance
- Junior Lecturers Prev.Papers
- Ancient History(Short Notes)
- Medieval History(Short Notes)
- Modern India(Class Notes)
- Indian Constitution(Class Notes-EM)
- Indian History
- APPSC G1 Mains Forum
- Indian Polity
- General Awareness
- Group 1 Mains - Paper 4
- World Geography
- General Geography(Class Notes-TM)
- AP Geography
- Quantitative Aptitude
- Group 1 Mains Cancellation Issue
- Andhra History(Class Notes)
- Andhra Economy
- Indian History Bits (TM)
- Chat Box
- Biology(TM) Class Notes
- Indian Constitution(TM) Class Notes
- 60+APPSC Previous Papers
- Data Interpretation
- World History
- Indian Constitution Quiz(110)
- Physics MCQ Quiz's
- Chemistry MCQ Quiz's
- Biology MCQ Quiz's
- Group 1 Previous Papers(All)
- GS Reviewer(50-Sets)
- Essays for Mains
- AEE Material
- SSC CGL Material
October 11, 2013
Sources of Indian History - General Studies for UPSC, APPSC & Competitive Exams
•A systematic and thorough study of a subject depends on the sources available for its study.
• There is abundance of source material to make a proper and scientific study of ancient History of India.
• So far as the some material of Ancient Indian History is concerned the general practice is to categorize it as follows:
i) Excavations : Excavations have brought to light the cities which the people established around 2500 B.C. in north-western India. Similarly they tell us about the material culture which was developed in the Gangetic Plains.
• They show the layout of the settlements in which people lived, the types of pottery they used, the form of houses in which they dwelt, the kind of cereals they used as food, and the type of tools and implements they handled.
• Some people in South India buried along with the dead, their tools, weapons, pottery and other belongings in the graves, which were encircled by big pieces of stone. These structures are called Megaliths, although some Megaliths do not fall in this category.
• By digging them we have come to learn of the life which people lived in the Deccan from the iron age onwards. The science which enables us to dig the old mounds in a systematic manner, in ‘successive layers and to form an idea of the material life of the people is called Archaeology.
• Material remains recovered as a result of excavation and exploration are subjected to various kinds of scientific examination. Their dates are fixed by following the method of Radiocarbon Dating. Radiocarbon or Carbon-14 (C14)is a radioactive isotope of carbon which is present in all living objects.
• It decays, like all radio-active substances, at a uniform rate. When an object is living, the process of the decay of C14 is neutralized by absorption of C14 through air and food. However, when an object ceases to be alive its C14 content continues to decay at a uniform rate but it ceases to absorb C14 from air and food. By measuring the loss of C14 content in an ancient object, its age can be determined.
• This is because, as stated earlier, the decay of’C14 takes place at a uniform rate. It is known that the half-life of C14 is 5568 years. The half-life of a radioactive material is defined as the period during which one-half of the radioactive content in an object disappears. Thus C14 content in an object which ceased to live 5568 years ago would be half of what it was when it was living.
• ii) Inscriptions: For more important inscriptions. Their study is known as Epigraphy and the study of the old writing used in inscriptions and other old records is called palaeography.
• Inscriptions were carried on seals, stone pillars, rocks, copper plates, temple walls and bricks or images.
• The earleist inscriptions were written in the Prakrit language in the 3rd country B. C.
• Sanskrit was adopted as an epigraphic medium in the second century A. D. and 2nd Century its use because wide spread in the fourth and fifth centuries.
· Most inscriptions bearing on the history of Maurya, post-Maurya and Gupta times have been published in a series of Collections called Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum.
· The earliest inscriptions are found on the seals of Harappa belonging to about 2500 B. C. They have not been deciphered so far.
· The oldest inscriptions deciphered so far were issued by Ashoka in the 3rd century B. C.
· Inscriptions recording land grants, made mainly by chiefs and princes, are very important for the study of the land system and administration in ancient India. These were mostly engraved on copper plates.
· They record the grants of lands, revenues and villages made to monks, priests, temples, monasteries, vasals and officials.
· They were written in all languages, such as Prakrit, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu.
• The study of coins is called numismatics. Ancient Indian currency was not issued in the form of paper, as is being used these days, but as metal coins.
• Ancient coins were made of metals like copper, silver, gold, or lead. Coin moulds made of burnt clay have been discovered in large numbers.
• Most of them belong to the Kushan period, i.e. the first three Christian centuries. The use of such moulds in the post-Gupta periods almost disappeared.
• Our earliest coins contain a few symbols, but the later coins mention the names of kings, gods or dates. The areas where they are found Indicate the region of their circulation.
• This has enabled us to reconstruct the history of several ruling dynasties, especially of the Indo-Greeks who came to India from north Afghanistan and ruled here in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.
• Since coins were used in various purposes such as donations, mode of payment and medium of exchange. They throw considerable light on economic history.
• Some coins were issued by the guilds of merchants and gold-smiths with the permission of the rulers.
• This shows that crafts and commerce had become important. Coins helped transactions on a large scale and contributed to trade.
• We get the largest number of coins in post- Maurya times.
• These were made of lead, potin, copper, bronze, silver and gold. The Guptas issued the largest number of gold coins.
• All this indicates that trade and commerce flourished, especially in post-Maurya and a good part of Gupta times.
• But the fact that only a few coins belonging to post-Gupta times have been found indicates the decline of trade and commerce in that period.
• Coins also portray kings and gods, and contain religious symbols and legends, all of which throw light on the art and religion of that time.
B. Literary Sources
• Although the ancient Indians knew writing as early as 2500 B. C., our most ancient manuscripts are not older that the fourth century A. D. and have been found in Central Asia.
• In India they were written on birch bark and plam leaves, but in Central Asia where the Prakrit language had spread from Indian.
•The Literary sources are placed in two categories:
i) Religious Literature
ii) Non-Religious or Secular Literature.
Religious Literature (Facts to Remember)
• The Religious literature of the Hindus includes the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, etc.
• They throw considerable right on the social and cultural condition of Ancient times, but it is difficult to make use of them in the context of time and place.
• The Rig Veda may be assigned to circa 1500-1000 B. C., but the collections of the Atharva Veda, Yajur Veda, Samaveda, the Brahmanas, Aranyavas and the Upanishads belong to 1000-500 B. C.
• The Rig Veda mainly contains prayer, while the later Vedic texts mainly comprise not only prayers but also rituals, magic and mythological stars.
• The Upanishads contain philosophical speculations.
• 40 Chapters of Yajur Veda having 2000 ‘Mantras’ give information about religious and social life.
• Samveda is a masterpiece of lyricism.
• Atharvaveda deals with folk rites, rituals, magic and medicines.
• Brahmana texts are written in prose and give in details rituals followed by the Aryans every Veda has its over Brahman text
• Upanishad are the work of this period. The literal meaning of the word is to sit near someone. The text contains philosophical and spiritual knowledge which a pupil derived by sitting near the sage Upanishads are 108 in number.
• Aranyakas belong to later Vedic period. As the name suggests these are the works written and studies in forests (Aranya).
• Smritis are the integral part of religious literature of Aryans. These are the law books which lay down rules, regulation and laws governing the conduct of individuals and prescribing punishment for the violation of the same.
• Ramayana written by Valmiki and Mahabharat Ved Vyas are two great epics which enjoy the sanctity of religious texts.
• The Purans are 18 in number. The Purans are exclusive source of knowledge about dynasties which ruled in various parts of India before 6th century B. C.
Pitaks are important of Buddhist literature - Known as Tripitak.
a)Suttapitak - It is a source of immense value to know about sermons and religious ideas of Gautam Buddha.
b) Vinay Pitak - It described the code of conduct followed by the followers of Buddhism.
c) Abhidhamma Pitak - It throws light on philosophical ideas of Buddhism.
• The Tripitakas help in drawing a picture of social, economic and political life in the age of Gautam Buddha. These works are written in Pali language.
• Jataks are compilation of tales. They tell us about the lines of Boddhisatvas i.e. the earlier lives of Gautam Buddha.
• The Ancient Jain literature is written in Prakrit language. The Jain literature is known as Again.
• Bhagvati Sutra gives valuable information about 16 Mahajanpadas.
• Bhadravahu Charita contains information about some events and happenings of Chandra Gupta Maurya’s regime.
(ii) Non-Religious Literature
• Law-books called the Dharmasutras and Smritis which, together with their commentaries, are called Dharmasastras. The Dharmasutras were compiled in 500-200
• B. C. and the principal Smritis were codified in the first 6 centuries of the Christian era.
• They lay down the duties for different vamas as well as for kings and their officials. They provide the rules for marriages together with the laws according to which property is to be held, sold and inherited.
• They also prescribe punishments for persons guilty of theft, assault murder and adultery.
• An important law-book is the Arthashastra by Kautilya. This text was put in its final form in the beginning of the Christian era, but its earliest portions reflect the.state of society and economy in the age of the Mauryas. It provides rich material for the study of ancient Indian polity and economy.
C. Foreign Accounts: To India came the Greek, Roman and Chinese visitors, either as travellers or as religious converts and they left behind accounts of the things that they saw. It is remarkable that Alexander’s invasion finds no mention in Indian sources, and it is entirely on the basis of the Greek sources that we have to reconstruct the history of his Indian exploits.
• The Greek writers mention Sandrokottas, a contemporary of Alexander Great who invaded India in 326 B.C. Prince Sandrokottas is Identified with Chandragupta Maurya, whose date of accession is fixed at 322 B.C.
• The Indika of Megasthenes, who came to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, has been preserved only in fragments quoted by subsequent classical writers. The Indika is not free from credulity and exaggerations, which is true of many other ancient accounts.
• The Periplus of the Erytheran Sea and Ptolemy’s Geography, both written in Greek, provide valuable data for the study of ancient geography and commerce. The date ascribed to the first ranges between A.D. 80 and 115, while the second is attributed to about A.D. 150. The Periplus of the Erytheran Sea which was written by an anonymous writer describes the Roman trade in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Pliny’s Naturalis Historia, which belongs to the first century A.D., was written in Latin, and tells us about trade between India and Italy.
• Chinese travellers mention may be made of Fa-hsien and Huan Tsang. The first came in the beginning of the fifth century A.D. and the second in the second quarter of the seventh century A.D. Fa-hien describes the social, religious and economic conditions of India in the age of the Guptas, and Huan Tsang gives a similar account of India in the age of Harsha.
• The Arabs started to write about India from 8th century onwards. Sulaiman visited India in 9th the century. He had written about Pal and Pratihar rulers of his time.
• Al-Masudi stayed in India for two years, i.e. from 941 to 943 A. D. he had written Rashtra Kutas.
• Alberuni is the most famous Arabs writing about India. A contemporary of Mahmud of a Gharani, he accompanied the Mahmud Ghazni to India. He stayed in India for a long period learnt Sanskrit and studied Indian literature. He had left a ecographic, objective and unbiased description of India and its people in his outstanding work Tahkik-ul- Hind.