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Textbook For
Class XI



Textbook for


'(1t4)'lI ~ ~\:JA afR IDVrafUT qRt:tCi

First Edition ISBN 81-7450-096-0
October 2002
Asvina 1924

PD 150T SU

© National Council of Educational Research and Training, 2002


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Cover and Layout



Printed on 70 GSM paper with NCERT watermark

Published at the Publication Department by the Secretary, National Council of

Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi 110 016,
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about the cover

1. Harappan terracotta figurine in yogic posture

2. Depiction of the Bull on Harrappan seal

3. Seal found from a Harappan site bearing an inscription

4.The Great Stupa at Sanchi

5. Scene depicting the marriage of Siva and Parvati; of the

time of Gurjara Pratihara

The Higher Secondary stage in education is crucial in many ways. At

. this stage, children are better placed to exercise a choice of cOlITses keeping
in view their interests, attitude, aptitude and capabilities. T~ey may
choose either a specialised academic course or job oriented vocational
courses. This is the stage of maximum challenge. Students themselves
are passing through an age-specific critical phase of their lives - transition
from adolescence to youth.
The National Curriculum Framework for School Education - 2000
(NCFSE - 2000) developed by the National Council of Educational
Research and Training takes all these factors into account. Mter nation
wide consultations, the NCERT decided to prepare new textbooks in each
area. It became essential in view of the pace of change particularly in the
last decade of the twentieth century. These changes have created visible
impacts in every field of human endeavour and activity. The NCERT
continuously attempts to perceive the learning needs of the future citizens
who would be contributing professionally in their careers.
The preparation, and teaching and learning of the new textbooks in
history are an essential part of it. The new techniques and technologies,
new excavations and explorations have resulted in fresh interpretations
of several situations in history which is one of the major electives of study
at the Higher Secondary stage. As per the recommendations of the 1988
curriculum framework of NCERT, history as a separate subject is to be
introduced only at the Higher Secondary stage. Before this stage it is
studied as an integral part of social sciences. This fact initiated the
development of a fresh set of history textbooks for Higher Secondary
classes . Globally, writing of history textbooks invariably F;tttracts
considerable attention for various reasons . The new NCERT textbooks in
history have been prepared adhering strictly to the parameter of giving
an objective account of historical events. The latest researches and
interpretations in the field have been incorporated.
The NCERT is grateful to Professor Makkhan Lal, an internationally
known historian and archaeologist for preparing the present volume. We
are also grateful to all those who have helped him in the preparation and
production of the book.
The NCERT welcomes suggestions from professional educationists
as well as from parents and students which would help to improve the

New Delhi National Council of Educational
October 2002 Research and Training


The Higher Secondary stage in education is crucial in many ways. At

. this stage, children are better placed to exercise a choice of cO!lrses keeping
in view their interests, attitude, aptitude and capabilities. Tqey may
choose either a specialised academic course or job oriented vocational
courses. This is the stage of maximum challenge. Students themselves
are passing through an age-specific critical phase of their lives - transition
from adolescence to youth.
The National Curriculum Framework for School Education - 2000
(NCFSE - 2000) developed by the National Council of Educational
Research and Training takes all these factors into account. After nation
wide consultations, the NCERT decided to prepare new textbooks in each
area. It became essential in view of the pace of change particularly in the
last decade of the twentieth century. These changes have created visible
impacts in every field of human endeavour and activity. The NCERT
continuously attempts to perceive the learning needs of the future citizens
who would be contributing professionally in their careers.
The preparation, and teaching and learning of the new textbooks in
history are an essential part of it. The new techniques and technologies,
new excavations and explorations have resulted in fresh interpretations
of several situations in history which is one of the major electives of study
at the Higher Secondary stage. As per the recommendations of the 1988
curriculum framework of NCERT, history as a separate subject is to be
introduced only at the Higher Secondary stage. Before this stage it is
studied as an integral part of social sciences. This fact initiated the
development of a fresh set of history textbooks for Higher Secondary
classes. Globally, writing of history textbooks invariably p.ttracts
considerable attention for various reasons. The new NCERT textbooks in
history have been prepared adhering strictly to the parameter of giving
an objective account of historical events. The la test researches and
interpretations in the field have been incorporated.
The NCERT is grateful to Professor Makkhan Lal, an internationally
known historian and archaeologist for preparing the present volume. We
are also grateful to all those who have helped him in the prepa ration and
production of the book.
The NCERT welcomes suggestions from professional educationists
as well as from parents and students which would help to improve the

New Delhi National Council of Educational
October 2002 Research and Training


Makkhan Lal T.P. Verma

Professor and Director Reader in Ancient History
Delhi Institute of Heritage Ancient History Culture
Research and Management and Archaeology
New Delhi Benaras Hindu University
Varanasi (U.P.)
B.B. Lal
Director General (Retd.) Meenakshi Jain
Archaeological Survey of India Reader in History
Gargi College, University of Delhi
New Delhi
New Delhi
V.D. Mishra
Veena Vyas
Professor and Head (Retd.) PGT, History
Department of Ancient D.M. School
History and Archaeology Regional Institute of Education
University of Allahabad Bhopal (M.P.)
Allahabad (U.P.)
Mithilesh Chandra Shrivastava
D.N. Tripathi Lecturer in History
Professor and Head (Retd.) B.R.P. Inter College, Jaunpur (U.P.)
Department of Ancient
History and Archaeology Jagdish Bharatiya
University of Gorakhpur ED-95, Hauz Khas Enclave
Gorakhpur (U.P.) New Delhi
"I will give you a talisman.Whenever
you are in doubt or when the self
becomes too much with you, apply
the following test :
Recall the face of the poorest and
the weakest man whom you may
have seen and ask yourself if the
step you contemplate is going to be
of any use to him. Will he gain
anything by it ? Will it restore him
to a control over his own life and
destiny ? In other words, will it lead
to Swaraj for the hungry and
spiritually starving millions? '
Then you will find your doubts and
your self melting away.'~


1. Fig. 4.1 Physical Map of India 27

2. Fig. 4.2 Annual Rainfall Zones 31
3. Fig. 5.1 Important Stone Age Sites in India 39
4. Fig. 5.2 Lower Palaeolithic Tools 43
5. Fig. 5.3 Middle Palaeolithic Tools 44
6. Fig. 5.4 Upper Palaeolithic Tools 45
7. Fig. 5.5 a. Mesolithic Tools Hafted in Wooden handle
b. Mesolithic Tools 46
8 . Fig. 5.6 Mesolithic Rock Art 47
9. Fig. 6.1 Important Neolithic Sites 51
10. Fig. 6.2 a. Neolithic Bone Tools
b. Neolithic Stone Tools 52
11. Fig. 6.3 Neolithic Pottery 53
12. Fig. 7.1 Important Chalcolithic and Copper Hoard Sites 56
13. Fig. 7.2 Chalcolithic Pottery from Navdatoli 57
14. Fig.7.3 · Reconstruction ofan Excavated
Chalco lithic Village - Ahar, Rajasthan 58
15. Fig. 7.4 Objects of Religious Beliefs
a. Stylised Bull Figurines from Kayatha
b. Terracotta Objects from Inamgaon 59
16. Fig. 7.5 Copper Hoard Objects 61
17. Fig. 7.6 Ochre Coloured Pottery 62
18. Fig. 8.1 The Extent of the Harappan Civilization and its
Important Sites 65
19. Fig. 8.2 Outlay Plan of a Harappan City
a. Mohenjodaro
b. Kalibangan I . 67
20. Fig. 8.3 Ariel View ~fExcavated Citadel Area of 69
21. Fig. 8.4 The Great Bath ofMohenjodaro 69 .
22. Fig.8.S Dockyard at Lothal 70
23. Fig. 8.6 Ornaments 71
24. Fig. 8.7 Modes of Transport
a. Bullock Cart
b. Boat Depicted On Seal 73
25. Fig. 8.8 The Plough Field Excavated at Kalibangan 73
26. Fig. 8.9 Specimen ofArt from Harappan Civilization
, a. Bronze Statue-Dancing Girl
b. Terracotta Bulls
c. Terracotta Female Figurine
d. Head of a Yogi
e. Painted Jar 75
27. Fig. 8.10 Harappan Seals with Script 76
· 28. Fig. 8.11 a. Kamandalu
b. Siva-Linga
c. Sacrificial Altar
d. Seven Human Figurines Performing Some Ritual 77
29. Fig. 8.12 a. Terracotta Yogic Figurines in Different Asanas
b. Seal Decpting a Yogi
c. Swastika 78
30. Fig. 9.1 A Teracotta Figurine of Horse from Lothal 90
31. Fig. 9.2 a. Terracotta Figurine in Namaskar Mudra
b. Pipal Tree
c. Painting Depicting the Story of Thirsty Crow
d. A Terracotta Figurine with Vermillion in the
Hair Parting 90
32. Fig. 9.3 A Row of Seven fire Altars (havan-kundas)
found at KaUbangan
33. Fig. 13.1 Map ofMahajanapadas 115
34. Fig. 13.2 Punch-Marked Coins 117
35. Fig. 13.3 Distribution of Silver Punch-Marked Coins 118
36. Fig. 14.1 Map of the Mauryan Empire 127
37. Fig.- _14.2 ~ Ashokan Edict Engraved on a Pillar 130
._--- -- ./
38. _ Fig. 14.3 Rummindei Pillar Inscription 131

39. Fig. 14.4 Ashokan Pillar with Lion Capital at
Lauriya Nandangarh 136
40. Fig. 14.S The Barabar Cave 137
41. Fig. 14.6 Yakshi Statue From Didarganj 138
42. Fig. 14.7 Pillar Capital From Rampurva 138
43. Fig. 14.8 Capital From Samath 138
44. Fig.1S.1 Tribal Coins 142
45. Fig.1S.2 Coins of Satavahanas 143
46. Fig.1S.3 Coins ofIndo-Greeks 145
47. Fig.1S.4 Coins ofKushana 147
48. Fig.1S.S Statue ofKanishka 147
49. Fig. 16.1 Different Types of Megalithic Burials 150
SO. Fig. 16.2 Megalithic Iron Tools 151
51. Fig. 16.3 SangamAge 153
52. Fig. 17.1 The Great Stupa at Sanchi 161
53. Fig. 17.2 Besnagar Pillar of Heliodorus, near Vidisa 163
54. Fig. 17.3 Gateway of Sanchi Stupa 164
55. Fig. 17.4 Karle Cave 165
56. Fig. 17.S Amaravati Stupa 167
57. Fig. 17.6 Statue ofBuddha from Mathura 167
58. Fig. 17.7 Statue ofJain Tirthankara from Mathura 168
59. Fig. 17.8 Fasting Buddha from Gandhara 168
60. Fig. 17.9 Plan of Tank excavated at Shringaverapura 168
61. Fig. 17.10 Excavated view of one of the Tanks at
Shringaverapura 169
62. Fig. 18.1 Map of the Gupta Empire 175
63. Fig. 18.2 Coins of(a,b,c} Samudragupta and
(d,e) Chandragupta 177
64. Fig. 18.3 Signature ofHarsha in his own handwriting 180
65. Fig. 18.1f Map of Harsha's Empire 181
66. Fig. 18.S Hiuen-Tsang 182
' 67. Fig. 18.6 Map of South India 184
68. Fig. 19.1 Jain Trithankara 197
69. Fig. 19.2 Depiction of Vatahava tar at Udaygiri 198
; \

...................... ... ..
70. Fig. 19.3 Bhitargaon Temple 200
71. Fig. 19.4 Remains of the Great Stupa at Nalanda 201
72. Fig.19.S a. The Rathas at Mamallapuram
b. Carving on the Rathas 202
73. Fig. 19.6 Deogarh Temple 203
74. Fig. 19.7 Shore Temple at Mamallapuram 203
75. Fig. 19.8 Dharamachakra Pravartana Mudra ofBuddha
from Sarnath 204
76. Fig. 19.9 Cave 19 at Ajanta 205
77. Fig. 19.10 Sheshashayee Vihnu, Vishnu temple, Deogarh 205
78. Fig. 19.11 Durga Temple at Aihole 206
79. Fig. 19.12 Paintings in Ajanta Cave 206
80. Fig. 19.13 Iron Pillar at Mehrauli 208
81. Fig. 22.1 Sun Temple in Rajasthan of the time of
Gurjara Pratihara 229
82. Fig. 22.2 Statue of Vishnu Visvarupa of the Time of
Gurjara Pratiha~a 230
83. Fig. 22.3 Scene Depicting Marriage of Siva and Parvati of
the time of Gurjara Pratihara 230
84. Fig. 22.4 Paharpur Stupa (now in Bangladesh)
of the time ofDharamapala 232
85. Fig. 22.S a. Bodhisattava from Nalanda, Pala Period
b. Avolokitesvara from Nalanda, Pala Period, 233
86. Fig. 22.6 Kailash Temple at Ellora 234
87. Fig. 23.1 Map ofIndia and South East Asia 238
88. Fig. 23.2 Angkorvat Temple of Cambodia 241
89. Fig. 23.3 Borobodur Stupa at Java 242
90. Fig. 23.4 A Hindu Temple in Java 243
91. Fig. 23.S A Stone Sculpture of Brahrha in the wall of
a Temple in Mayanmar 243


Indian Tradition of History Writing - Early Foreigners-
Christian Missionaries and Enlightenment-Imperialist
Historiography - Nationalist Approach - Marxist School
of History - Multi-Disciplinary Approach
Literary Sources-Foreign Accounts-Archaeological
Sources-Archaeological, Monuments, Excavations and
The Himalayas-Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra Plain-The
Deccan Plateau and Central India-Climate-The
Geography of India as Described in Ancient Indian
Literature-Influences of Geography on Indian History
Ihtroduction - Age of the Earth-Early Humans- Earliest
Palaeolithic Tools-Palaeolithic Cultures-Mesolithic
Culture-Prehistoric Rock Art
Trade and Commerce-Religious Beliefs-Technology-
. Copper Hoard Culture-OCP Culture
Town Planning-Materials Used in Buildings-Types of
Buildings-Public Buildings-Streets and Drains-Crafts
and Industries-Trade and Commerce-Weights and
Measures-Transport and Travel-Agriculture-Arts-
Script-Religion-Social Stratification and Political Setup-
Disposal of the Dead-Chronology-Decline-Late
Harappan Cultures
The Vedas - The Brahmanas-Aranyakas and
Upanishads Authorship of the Vedic Literature-Age of
RigVeda-RigVedic Geography-RigVedic States-Polity and
Administration-Society-Education-Food and Drinks-
Economic Life-Religion and Philosophy-The Question of
the Aryan Invasion-Harappan Civilization and the
Chapter 10 THE LATER VEDIC AGE 93-100
Geography and the New Political States-Polity and
Administration-Social System-Economic Life-Education-
Religion and Philosophy-8cience and Technology
Vaisesika-Nyay-Samkhya- Yoga-Mimamsa- Vedanta
Chapter 13 MAllAJANAPADAS TO NANDAS 113-123
Mahajanapadas-The Rise of Magadha-Sisunaga-Nanda
Dynasty-Foreign Invasions-Persian Conquest of Indian
Borderland-Alexander's Campaign-Alexander's Retreat-
Impact of Alexander's Campaign
Chapter 14 THE MAURYAS 124-138
Chandragupta Maurya-Bindusara-Ashoka-Kalinga War
and Its Impact-Ashoka's Dhamma-Ashoka's Place in
History-Decline of the Mauryan Empire-Polity and
Administration-City Administration-Society and
Culture- Economy-Art and Architecture
The Meghavahanas of Kalinga-Some Tribal Republics-
Satavahanas of Deccan-The Epoch of Foreign Invaders-
The Indo-Greeks-The Parthians-The Sakas-The
The Megalit~ic Phase in South India-The Early History-

Language and Literature-Sangam Literature-Social
Conditions-Family Life-Religions-Buddhism-Jainism-
Vedic Religion-Economic Condition-Art and Architecture
Sculpture-Science and Technology-India and her
relation with outside World
Chapter 18 INDIA FROM THE GUPTAS TO HARsa,. 173-187
Emergence of the Guptas-Samudragupta-
Chandragupta II-Kumaragupta II-Skandagupta-
Decline of the Guptas-North India after the Guptas-
Harsha-Deccan and South India
Polity and Administration-Language and Literature-
Tamil Literature-Foreign Accounts-Economic Condition-
Saivism-Art and Architecture-Sculptures-Paintings-:-
Science and Technology-Astronomy-Medicine-
Chapter 20 INDIA AFTER HARSHA 210-217
Gurjara Pratiharas-Palas-Rashtrakutas-
Tripartite Struggle
Chapter 21 THE HISTORY OF KAMARUPA 218-221
Language and Literature-Society-Economic Life-Religion
and Philosophy-Education-Art and Architecture


Central Asia and China-Sri Lanka-Mayanmar-South
East Asia-Art and Architecture

GLOSSARY 245-248

Part IV A

Duties of Citizens
! ~--------------------------------~

Fundamental Duties - It shall be the duty of every cttizen of India -
(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect Its Ideals and In!JtituUons.
the National Flag and the NaUonal Anthem:
(h) to chertah imd follow the noble Ideals w~lch inspired our national
_truggle for freedom:
(c) to.uphold and protect the sovereignty. unity and Integrtty of India:

(tt) to defend the cOuntry and render national service whep called upon
to do so:
(e) To promote harmony and the spirtt of common brotherhood amongat
all the people oflndla transcending rellglous. linguistic and regional
or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the
dignity of women;
(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture:

(g) to protect and Improve the natural environment including forests.

lakes. rivers. wild life and to have compassion for llvlng creatures:
(h) to develop the sctentlJlc temper. humanism and the spirit of inquiry
and reform:
(I) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;

0) to strive ~s excellence In all spheres of individual and coilectlve

activity so that the na~lon constantly rises to higher levels of
endeavour and achievement.
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"anove:rall persona11~Y "0f ~ the '.'s ociety:· EHld "the 'people.
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rh€ref{)re, " W~<D,a.$ , " s,ay " tJJ,~~':'tJ;ie 'stqdj,,Of fl'i8-,tb,r y')s
,the, :'s tud,y pflh'e,e,n,t.if~ h.umF!-4 past, ,whichgo~s Q,a ck
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A ANCIENT INDIA ...... : .......................................... . .......................•....................... .. ...........
KNOWING about one's past is natural to period of time but they differ in terms of
all of us. We are always curious to know courses they followed and the processes
as to who were our ancestors i.e. they underwent. Though they all were
grandfather, great-grandfather and so stone-age hunter-gatherers, they all
on; from where did they come, how they practised agriculture, they all began to
lived etc. This is known as the quest for use metal at one time or other, still they
knowing the h istory of an individual differ in their cultural, social, political
family, which can differ vastly within a
and religious identity. It is because
single society. But when the study is
beyond the economic realm lie people's
extended beyond the individual families,
to the society, it takes a completely ideas regarding their social system,
different shape. Then we talk about the religious practices, 'political system, art
entire society and the whole nation. This and architecture, language and
quest about knowing the past is known as literature and so on. These things are
history. I very individual to each society and
Through the study of history of a nation.
society or nation we have come to know Therefore, the study of history also
about the past of that society or nation. helps in understanding the people,
We came to know how that society or the societies and nations and finally the
nation has developed over a long period whole humanity gets a sense of identity
of time. Some of these aspects are: how and belonging. Many people, including
they started agriculture, when they
some leading scientists and statesmen,
began the use of metal and how
ask, why study history? It does not
spinning, weaving, metalworking
developed. With all these economic contribute anything economically. It
aspects, also came a whole lot of other cannot solve the' problem of poverty and
things like the development of pplitical unemployment. There is also ~
and administrative systems, evolution of perception that it only creates problems
urban life, development of science and and increases animosity among the
literature and architecture etc. The people. It may be said here that this is a
study of all this is known as history. As . very superficial view. It helps us in
you can see, the study of history does knowing people, their culture, their
not mean just the study of dates and religion, and their social systems, and
events connected with some kings or respecting them. The study of history
makes us learn lessons from the past
The various aspects that we study
for the present and future. It helps us in
form the part of an overall personality of
the society and the people. Therefore, we not repeating the mistakes which led to
can say that the study of history is the various manmade calamities and
study of the entire human past, which disasters like wars in the ,past. History
goes back to millions of years. also tells us how to igq.ore the bad things
It must be emphasised that all that created problems in society and
societies have developed over a long follow' the things which promote

........................ . .... . ............ . ............................................... THE STUDY OF INDIAN HISTORY

harmony, peace and prosperity. For been torn by internecine war.

example, more .than two thousand years In statecraft her rulers were
back Ashoka, in his Rock Edict XII, insisted cunning and unscrupulous.
on the following measures and practices Famine, flood and plague visited
to maintain harmony, peace and her from time to time, and killed
prosperity in society: millions of her people. Inequality
of birth was given religious
"(i) promotion of what constitutes the
sanction, and the lot of the
essence of all religions as their humble was generally hard. Yet,
common ground or root (mula); our overall impression is that in
(ii) cultivation of this sense of unity no other part ofthe ancient world
of all religions by the practice of were the relations of man and
vachaguti or restraint of criticism man, and of man and the state,
of {'+her religions and sects; so fair and humane. In no other
(iii) the' · .ming together (samavaya) of early civilization were slaves so
exponents of different religions in few in number, and in no other
religious assemblies; and ancient law-book are their rights
(iv) learning the texts of other religions so well protected as in the
Arlhashastra. No other ancient
so as to become bahusruta or
lawgiver proclaimed such noble
proficient in the scriptures of ideals of fair play in battle as did
different religions". Manu. In all her history of warfare
History gives people their identity. Hindu India has few tales to tell
The study of past does not mean that one of cities put to the sword or ofthe
lives in the past but one learns to live with massacre of noncombatants. The
the past. History is not something that ghastly sadism of the kings. of
we can disown. Assyria, who flayed their captives
As mentioned earlier, history gives alive, is completely without
a society or a nation an identity. On the parallel in ancient India. There
was sporadic cruelty and
basis of this study of history, British
oppression no doubt, but, in
historian A.L. Basham (1914-1986), in comparison with conditions in
his book, The Wonder That was India, other early cultures, it was mild.
writes: To us the most striking feature of
"At most periods of her history, ancient Indian civilization is its
India, though a cultural unit, has humanity" .

, ( I H)o; \t' Ot l,..· ....., APr:. l,l ~).l1l~ \o~t. · Hh.Ji .~ ;,.'\.1 ~
\ ( 1. ,f· ".d.! '"'~ ~ i. '}".i," 1 'I. , Ih~' : '\ ,tl. ,Hr " '"
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}.; ~', '. X~ , t I

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, W ,

, ,~, ill!:
'p ' (\, crror qt\~\ 1 HP,!~\\•. \ '.. fr."-f,y " \ t Ii. \)1:A\' ,,:~~.\ 'j'
i,1 \. 'iH , ,•./. I"~ ~I"' I*Hr· . 1;._ r: r.~ '-,

, \, ~ . .. ·,i'ln;:-\'~cn\ ,j--:(W · _;I~(\Av >. . 1 . 11'-\ 1\'\,'l,'-' tl~

' OW ~
af: the 'most ..intetesting ;aspect t)ftne study of
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1\ , history' is' 'knowing- the histbty of 'h±storywriting
"itself. It:: gl~es ,'Skkl ,: $"'idea\;.how ,: histPry changes:" by
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the' changing ,iuterpr~taiion..
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... . . . .............. . ............................................................... ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY WRITING c11'

Indian Tradition of History Writing The Puranic literature is very vast

One ofthe most interesting aspect of the and we have 18 main Puranas, 18
study of history is knowing the history subsidiary Puranas and a large
of history writing itself. It gives you an nu~ber of other books. It is interesting

idea how history itself can be moulded to note that in all the Puranas royal
by interpretation. How same data and genealogies are dealt with the reign of
the same evidence get .completely Parikshit, the grandson of Arjun, as a
different meaning in the hands of benchmark. All the earlier dynasties
different scholars. In this chapter, we and kings have been mentioned in past
are going to learn precisely this aspect tense. While the latter kings and
of ancient Indian history. We shall dynasties have been narrated in future
study when and how the writing of tense. This may be because of the fact
ancient Indian history began and how that the coronation of Parikshit marks
it progressed, traversing different paths the beginning of Kali Age. Many
over a long period oftime. Many foreign scholars think that this also points to
scholars opined that Indians had no the fact that perhaps the Puranas were
sense of history writing and whatever completed durjng the reign ofParikshit.
was written in the name of history is In the context of the Puranas it may
nothing more than a story without any be remembered that in ancient India,
sense. This appears to be a very harsh ltihas was looked upon as a means to
judgement. To say that Indians had no illuminate the present and future in the
consciousness about their own history light of the past. The purpose of history
and no sense of writing history is simply was to understand 'and inculcate a
incorrect. The knowledge of history was sense of duty and sacrifice by
given a very high place in ancient India. individuals to their families, by the
·It was accorded sanctity equal to a families to their clans, by the clans to
Veda. Atharvaveda, Brahmanas and their villages and by the villages to
Upanishads include ltihas-Purana as Janapada and Rashtra and ultimately
one of the branches of knowledge. to the whole humanity. History was not
Kautilya in his Arthashastra (fourth meant to be an exhaustive compendium
century B.C.) advises the king to devote of the names of the kings and dynasties
a part of his time everyday for hearing and their achievements etc. It was
the narrations of history. According to treated as a powerful vehicle of
the Puranas, following are the subject awakening of cultural and social
matters of history: sarga (evolution of consciousness. It was perhaps, for this
universe), pratisarga (involution of reason that the narration of Puranas
universe), manvantantar (recurring of were a part of the annual ritual in every
time), vamsa (genealogical list of kings village and town during the rainy
and sages), and vamsanucharita season and at the time offestivals. The
(life stories of some selected characters). Puranas may not satisfy the modern
.......................... ~.

~ .
, ANCIENT INDIA ..........................., ............................................. . .................. .. ...... .... . . . , .... .
definition of historiography: qr tpos.e wtings through various extracts if'
who wrote it may not have bee:q. aw4te. the writings of Diodorous, Strabo
of the "historian's crafts", but tijey.W,e(.Q" and Arrian. It is very clear that
fully aware of the purpose of their wor~ Megasthenese had little understanding/.
and the purpose of history itself. of Indian society and social systems.,
Many historians like F.E. Pargitar For example, he mentions that Indian!
and H.C. Raychaudhury have society comprisecsi of seven castes oatis) ~
attempted to write history.on the basis The discrepancies in Megasthenese's
of genealogies Of various dynasties works seem to be because of his lack ot
given in Puranas. The Greek knowledge ~f any Indian language and!
ambassador Megasthenese (in the court being not part of Indian society an?
of Chandragupta Maurya c. 324-300 psyche. It is surprising that intensive
B.C.) testifies the existence of a list of trade relation with India during the firJt
153 kings whose reigns had covered a few centuries of the Christian era left ·
period of about 6053 years up till then. such few traces in the IndIan litera&-
Kalhana's Rajatarangini is another tradition of the period. ' i
work of history which is indeed a Next important phase of historib- I

solitary example of its kind. It enjoys graphy begins with Al-Beruni, wljlO
great respect among the historians for was born in central Asia in A.D. 913
its approach and historical content. and died in Ghazni (present-dry
Afghanistan) in A.D. 1048 . He was ope
Early Foreigners of the greatest scholars of his time a[-a-
When we look at the writings on a contemporary of Mahmud ofGhaz i.
history of ancient India beyond the When Mahmud conquered part of
Indian frontiers, we find that earliest central Asia, he took Al-Beruni w ,th
attempts were those of Greek writers. him. Though Al-Beruni deplored his
Most notable are Herodotus, Nearchus, loss of freedom, he appreciated t~e
favourable circumstances for his wOf~'
Megasthenese, Plutarch, Arrian, Strabo,
Unlike Megast~enese, Al-BerUini
Pliny the Elder, and Ptolemy. However,
studied Sanskrit language and trie~ to
except for Megasthenese all others have
gain a precise knowledge of Indi~m
touched Indian history in the true sources. The list of works consulted!by
sense very marginally. They were him is long and impressive. Ifis
concerned mostly with the north- observations range from philosop~y,
western part of India and primarily the religion, culture, society to sciente,
areas which were either part of the literature, art and medicine. A1-Beru~i's
Persian and Greek Satrapies or work can be termed as fairly objectl've
Alexander's campaign. Megasthenese and wherever he has faltered is
wrote extensively in a bo.ok called not because of any other reason qut
'Indica' which is no longer available to his lack of proper understandi4g.
us. We know about Megasthenese's Al-Beruni can be credited to J:>e

.......... .. ..... ..... ............. ... .................. ... ........................ . ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY WRITING

comparatively free from religious or ography on India begins. Many

racial biases, we so often encounter in scholars like John Holwell, Nanthaniel
the writing of his successor Muslim Halhed, and Alexander Dow - all
and European writers. However, associated in various capacities with
sometime AI- Beruni does show his the British East India Company - wrote
annoyance when he says sarcastically, about Indian history and culture
" ... the Hindus believe that there is no proving the pre-eminence of Indian
country but theirs, no nation like civilization in the ancient world.
theirs, no kings like theirs, no religion On the basis of Puranic sources ,
like theirs, no science like theirs". they also described the immense
antiquity of human race. Holwell wrote
Christian Missionaries and that Hindu texts contained a higher
Enlightenment revelation than the Christian one and
The next phase of historiography they pre-dated the flood described in
belongs to the European interest the Old Testament and that, "the
mainly the Christian Missionaries. A 'mythology, as well as cosmogony of the
Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, were
large number of works were produced
borrowed from the doctrines of the
on India but none of them compared to
Brahmins". Halhed also critically
the works of AI-Beruni. While AI-Beruni
examined the various aspects of Indian
also possess a well defined religious
history, religion, mythology etc. He
and hermeneutics awareness, he was
discussed the vast periods of time of
essentially a scholar and not driven to
human history assigned to four Yugas
preach his faith. Most of the missionary,
and concluded that hum~ reason can
writings can hardly be said to be fair. no more reconcile to itself the idea of
They were more interested in learning Patriarchal longevity of few thousand
and writing about Indian history in years for the entire span of human race.
order to depict its flaws and prepare the Based on the huge amount of
ground for evangelical activity. Their literature produced in Europe during
con~ributions during the seventeenth the seventeenth and eighteenth
and eighteenth centuries are also century Europe, many scholars and'
affected by the religious, intelleclJlal and intellectuals who h~d never travelled to
political movements in Europe. India wrote about it. The great
However, it must be pointed out that intellectual and statesman, Voltaire
all this led not only to the accumulation viewed India as the homeland of religion
of large amount of contributions about in its oldest and purest form; and also
Indian history but also Indian history as the cradle of worldly civilizations.
became the victim of political and Voltaire was convinced of the priority
religious problems of Europe. of Indian achievement in the area of
With the coming of Enlightenment secular learning and worldly culture.
another phase of European histori~ He describes Indians as the people, "to

" ANCIENT INOlA ............................................................. . ......................... . . .. ... . ...... . . .. . . . . . .... .

whom we owe our numbers, our economic exploitation. Some of the

backgammon, our chess, our first leading intellectuals of the nineteenth
principles of geometry and fables which century trading of this path are William
have become our own." He further Jones, Max Muller, Monier Williams,
wrote, "In short I am convinced that J.S. Mill, KarIMarxandF.W. Hegel. The
everything - astronomy, astrology, most prominent among the twentieth
metaphysics, etc. - comes to us from century historians belonging to this
the bank of Ganges". school of thought was Vincent Arthur
The French naturalist and traveller Smith (1843-1920) who prepared the
Pierre de Sonnerate also believed that first systematic history of ancient India
all knowledge came from India which published in 1904.
he considered as the cradle of A large section of the European
civilizations. In 1807 the well known scholars became worried when the
metaphysician Schelling wrote, "what greatness of India's past started
is Europe really but a sterile trunk becoming popular and the Indian
which owes everything to oriental philosophy, logic and writings on such
grafts?" The great philosopher things as origin of universe, humanity
Emannual Kant also acknowledged and its age etc. started gaining
greatness of ancient Indian culture and acceptance. For well over a millennium
much of the Europe had accepted the
civilization. He wrote, "Their religion has
a great purity ... (and) one can find Old Testament as the final testament
traces of pure concept of divinity which documenting the history of human
cannot easily be found elsewhere". He race. Thomas Maurice, for example,
also declared that Indian religious was bitterly upset and wrote in 1812
about, "the daring assumptions of
thoughts were free of dogmatism and
certain sceptical French philosophers
with respect to the Age of the world ...
Imperialist Historiography argument principally founded on the
high assumptions of the Brahmins ...
We have earlier mentioned about the
(which) have a direct tendency to
missionary activities in India and their
overturn the Mosaic system, and, with
interest, in writing Indian history. it, Christianity". These people were
Besides the colonial interests the also very worried about the Bible story
establishment of Asiatic Society of of Creation. Bishop Usher had
Bengal in .1784 also contributed calculated that the whole universe
towards the Writing of Indian History was created at 9.00 a.m. on 23rd
in its own way. However, it must be October 4004 B.C. and the Great Flood
mentioned at this stage itself that took place in 2349 B.C. These dates
much of these writings reflect the and creation stories were being
contemporary debate on religious faith threatened to be wrong in the face of
and nationality and also their interests Indian mythologies which talked in
in enlarging the European colonies for terms of four Yugas and several

............................................................. . ....................... ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY WRITING

hundred million years. This threatened support of the British East India
the very foundation of the faith. Company he undertook massive jobs
However, the faithful were relieved of translation and interpretation of the
by "the fortunate arrival of... the Indian religious texts in English.
various dissertations, on the subject, of Though he achieved an unparalleled
Sir William Jones". On his own part, Sir feat of getting translated a huge mass
William Jones concern was second to of Sanskrit texts into English, thereby,
none. He wrote in 1788, "some bringing it to the knowledge of the
intelligent and virtuous persons are English speaking world, his approach
inclined to doubt the authenticity of the and intention were never free from
accounts delivered by Moses". Jones too prejudice. They were necessitated by
was very clear that, "either the first his religious belief and political
eleven chapters of Genesis ... are true requirements. Both these coloured the
or the whole fabric of our national entire approach for the writing and
religion is false, a conclusion which interpretation of Indian history.
none of us, I trust, would wish to be In 1857 Max Muller wrote to the
drawn". Duke of Argyll, "I look upon the creation
In view of the growing concern ofthe given in the Genesis as simply
faithful, Boden Professorships of historical". Therefore, in terms of time
Sanskrit at Oxford University was span all he had was 6000 years i.e. upto
endowed by Colonel Boden, specifically 4000 B.C. within which entire history
to promote the Sanskrit learning among of universe had to be fitted. It was under
the English, so as "to enable his this guiding principle William Jones,
countrymen to proceed in the Max Muller, Vincent Smith and others
conversion of the natives ofIndia to the wrote Indian history.
Christian religion". Prizes were offered Eager to settle the matter first,
to the literary works undermining William Jones undertook the
Indian tradition and religion. The first responsibility of unravelling Indian
occu pan t of the Boden Chair was chronology for the benefit and
Horace Hayman Wilson. Writing about appeasement of his disconcerted
a series of lectures he gave, Wilson colleagues , " I propose to lay before
himself noted that, "these lectures were you a concise history of Indian
written to help candidates for a prize of chronology extracted from Sanskrit
£ 200 given by John Muir. .. for the best books, attached to no system, and as
refutation of the Hindu religious much disposeq to reject Mosoick
systems". history, ifit be proved erroneous, as to
Friedrich Max Muller is considered believe it, if it be confirmed by sound
as one of the most respected Indologists reason from indubitable evidence".
of the nineteenth century. He was a Despite such assurances, Jone's own
German but spent most of his life in predispositions on this matter was
England. On the request and financial revealed in several earlier writings. For

ANCIENT INDIA ......... . ............ ... . . .. ~ ........................... . ................................. . . . ........... ... , .... .

example in 1788 he wrote, "I am

bbliged . and pleasure of Christianity. The
of course to believe the . sanctity 'of culmination of the objectives and the
venerable books [of Genesis)". In 1 790 results of the efforts of great European
Jones c'oncluded his researches by scholars of Indology is seen in private
claiming to have "traced the foundation correspondence. Max Muller, writes to
of the Indian empire above three his wife of his monumental work oj
thousand eight hundred years from editing 50 vols. of Sacred Books of thf
now", that is to say, safely within the East, " .. . this edition of mine and thl
confines of Bishop Usher's creation translation of Veda, will herein after tel
date of 4004 B.C. and, more important, a great extent on the fate of Illldia an(!
within ' the parameters of the Great on the growth of millions of souls in th8 ,
Flood, which Jones considered to have country. It .is the root of their religiOJ
occurred in 2350 B.C. Same wa~ the and to show them what the root is,
constraint with Max Muller when the feel sure, is the only way of uprootin f
question of chronology of Sanskrit all that has sprung from it during the
literature came up. Lacking any firm last three thousand years". Two year:-
basis of his own and rejecting every after this, Max Muller wrote in 1868 tt
Indian evidence, he arbitrarily dated the the Duke of Argyll, then Secretary 01
entire Sanskrit literature taking the State for India, "The ancient religion of'!
earliest i.e. Rig Veda to be of 1500 B.C., India is doomed, and if Christianity does
once again }Vithin the safe limits of not step in, whose fault will it be?"
Genesis chrdpology. Max Muller was not alone in this
Such efforts on the part of type of writing history and desiring to
European scholars, chiefly British, uproot all Indian tradition from the soil.
brought some relief and made this new Monier-Williams, famous for his
approach safe for Christianity and its Sanskrit- English and English-Sanskrit
faithful followers. Assessing the impact dictionaries, and a Boden Professor of
of such works, mainly of Jones , Sanskrit at Oxford, wrote in 1879, " ...
Trautmann writes ; } 997), "Jones in when the walls of the mighty fortress
effect showed that Sanskrit literature of Brahmanism [Hinduism] are
was not an enemy but an ally of . encircled, undermined and finally
the Bible, supplying independent stormed by the soldier of the Cross, the
corroboration of Bible's version of victory of Christianity must be single
history. Jone's chronological researches and complete".
did manage to calm the waters Thus, we can safely say that most
somewhat and effectively guaranteed of the works done on Indian history
that the new admiration for Hinduism during the eighteenth and nineteenth
would reinforce Christianity and would centuries were perforce guided by the
not work for its overthrow". preconditions imposed by the belief
1hus, the fate of Indian history in the Genesis and to counter all
now. got intertwined with the safety the writing that were projecting India's

.. •.. . . ... ', 0'...•.. : .~?} . ~.

................... . ............................................... ,,'-~ ......... . ... ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY WRITING

past in terms of great civilization and administrators and civil servants.

Indian philosophy and thoughts J ames Mill, his son John Stuart Mill,
indicating great antiquity for the origins and his disciple Thomas Macauley
of universe and human beings. played a very imp()rtant role in shaping
As mentioned earlier, another factor . the imperialist policy in India and the
which contributed to the distortion of future of Indian education in the core
ancient Indian history was the British of which was the distorted history of
imperial interests in India. By 1804 we ancient India.
find a marked shift in British attitude Following in the footsteps. of James
towards India. After the defeat of French Mill, V.A. Smith an IeS officer serving
forces in the hands of British and the British Government in India,
weakened Maratha power, the British prepared the text book called Early
were sure of their rule over ' India. History of India in 1904. As a loyal
However, they were worried of the fact member of the civil service he
that British civilians coming to India emphasized the .role of foreigners in
were getting Brahmanised and ancient India. Alexander's invasion
developing inferiority complex. To accounted for almost one-third of his
overcome this problem and to book . Smith's racial arrogance is
inculcate a sense of superiority obvious when he writes, "The
complex among the British officers triumphant progress of Alexander from
about western culture they adopted a the Himalayas to the sea demonstrated
two pronged strategy. First and the the inherent weakness of the greatest
most important was the one initiated Asiatic armies when confronted with
by the Utilitarian school led by James European skill and discipline". V.A.
Mill who wrote six volumes on history Sm~th gives the impression as if
of India between 1806 and 1818, Alexander had conquered whole of
without ever visiting India or knowing India from Himalayas to seas while the
any Indian language. In it he divided fact is he only touched the north-
Indian history into three periods - first western borders of India and as we shall
Hindu Period, second Muslim Period see in relevant chapter, it was a virtual
and third British Period - without any non-event. Smith presented India as a
logic and justification. He presented land of despotism which did not
an extremely denigrading picture of experience political unity until the
Hindu periods. He condemned every establishment of . British rule. He
institution, idea and action of the Hindu observed, "Autocracy is substantially
period and held Hindus responsible for the only form of government with which
all the ills of the country. This book was the historians of India are concerned".
introduced as a text book in the The whole approach of Imperial
Harleybury school in England which historians has been best summed up
was established to educate the young by historian R.S. Sharma. He observes,
Englishmen coming to India as "British interpretations of Indian

ANCIENT INDIA ........ .. ..................... . . ......... .. ......... . .. : . . ..................................................... . . .

history served to denigrate Indian H.C. Ray and R.K. Mookerji.

character and achievements, and D.R. Bhandarkar (1875-1950)
justify the colonial rule ... However, reconstructed the history of ancient
the generalisations made by historians India on the basis of epigraphic and
were either false or grossly exaggerated. numismatic evidence. His books on
They could serve as good propaganda Ashoka and on ancient Indian polity
material for the perpetuation of the helped in clearing many myths created
despotic British rule .... At the heart of by imperialist historians. The biggest
all such generalisations lay the need of blow to the imperialist school in the
demonstrating that Indians were realm of political ideas and institutions
incapable of governing themselves". was given by K.P. Jayaswal (1881-
1937). In his book Hindu Polity,
tionalist Approach
published in 1924, Jayaswal effectively
The difference of opinion and different knocked down the myth that Indians
interpretations on the same evidence is had no political ideas and institutions.
not only respected but also considered His study of literary and epigraphical
essential for the healthy development sources showed that India was not a
of the academic world. But the despotic country as propagated by the
difference of opinion is quite different imperialist historians. Beside the
regarding the distortion of ones past hereditary kingship, India had the
history. The educated intelligentsia of tradition of republics right from
the nineteenth. century was horrified at RigVedic times. He also convincingly
the distortions of the ancient Indian showed that contrary to the views of
history. In the late nineteenth century British historians, Indian polity and art
some scholars like Rajendra Lal Mitra, of governance was far more developed
R.G. Bhandarkar, and V.K. Rajwade than that of any other part of
tried to look at the ancient Indian history contemporary world. His book Hindu
from the Indian point of view. Both Polity is considered as one of the most
Bhandarkar and- Rajwade worked on important book ever written on ancient
the history of Maharashtra region and Indian history.
r econstructed the social, political and H.C. Raychaudhury (1892-1957)
economic history of the area. in his book Political History of Ancient
However, the real impetus and India reconstructed the history of
challenge to the imperialist version ancien t India from the time of
of history came in the first quarter Mahabharata war to the time of Gupta
of the tw~ntieth century. Some of empire and practically cleared the
the most notable historians of clouds created by V.A. Smith .
this period are D.R. Bhandarkar, R.C. Majumdar is considered as the
H.C. Raychaudhary, R.C. Majumdar, doyen among Indian historiaps. He was
P.V. Kane, A.S . Altekar, K.P. Jayaswal, one of the most prolific writers and has
K.A. Nilakant Sastri; T.V. Mahalingam, written on almost every aspect ofIndian

...................................................................................... ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY WRITING C"
History. He wrote a large number of Marxist School of History
books covering the time period from The Marxist school of historiography
Ancient India to the freedom struggle. used to be the most influential school
The publication of History and Culture of history in the second half of the la~t
of the Indian People in eleven volumes century. Despite the inherent
under his general editorship is one of contradiction and total failure of
the most outstanding achievements. Marxist model of history writings it is
This multi-volume series deals with academically important to discuss it
Indian history and civilization right and give respect to the contributions it
from the prehistoric times to the India's has made.
independence in 1947 and remains a The Marxists believe in universal
singular reference work. laws and stages of history. They believe
K.A. Nilakant Sastri (1892-1975) that all the societies pass through at
contributed immensely towards the least five stages of history - (i) Primitive
understanding of South Indian history. Communism (ii) Slavery (iii) Feudalism
His books like A History of Ancient (iv) Capitalism and (v) Communism.
These stages were defined by Karl
India and A History of South India are
Marx and F. Engels, the propounders
the shining examples of brilliant
of Communism. They clearly
scholarship. R.K. Mookerji (1886-
acknowledged their intellectual debt to
1964) was perhaps one of most F.W. Hegel and Lewis Henry Morgan. It
outstanding writers when it came to must be mentioned here that the
expressing even the most difficult stages of history proposed "by Marx
subjects in simple terms. His books like and Engels was based on their
Hindu Civilization, Chandragupta understanding of European history.
Maurya, Ashoka and Fundamental Before we come to Indian Marxist
Unity of India put the cultural, historiography it is important to know
economic and political history of as to what Hegel and Marx said about
India not only on firm ground but also Indian history and civilization.
made it accessible even to a lay reader. G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) was a
P.V.Kane (1880-1972) was a great great western philosopher. Hegel was
Sanskritist. His monumental work not an Indologist and made no attempt
entitled History of Dharmasastra in to learn Sanskrit or any other Indian
five volumes running into over six language. He made use of translations ,
reports etc. His writings on Indian
thousand pages is an encyclopaedia of
history and philosophy were based
social, religious and political laws and
mainly on the writings of William Jones,
customs. James Mill and other British writers
The contributions of all these great whose approach to ancient Indian
scholars helped in clearing the mist history has already been discussed
built by the mis siona rie s and the in detail. The results were indeed
imperialist historians . disastrous.

~ ANCIENT INDIA ............ ........ . ...... ..... ...... .................. ............ .... ... .. ............... . .. ... .. .... .... ... ... . .

In the beginning Hegel fe lt that no history at all, at least no known

India, as the Orient in general, has to history. What we call its history, is but
be excluded from the history of history of the successive intruders who
philosophy. However, in the light of founded their empires on passive basis
several writings though Hegel of that unresisting and unchanging
reluctantly accepted that India had a society ... ".
philosophical system and its history The Hegelian and Marxian
had great antiquity , he explicitly approach to Indian history by and large
considered it to be inferior to that of the remained dormant for a long time. It
Greeks and the Romans. Even his was largely non-existent during the
contemporary European scholars were British rule in India. After the
appauled at his conclusions about independence of India, the Marxist
Indian history and philosophy. He was school of historiography became one of
seen by 'them as a "prototype of the most influential and dominant
schools. Following Marx's scheme, the
Westerner" who saw western thoughts
history of India also came to be re-
as a measure of all things: "Therefore, written. Consequently, primitive
whatever he had to say about the Indian communism, slavery, feudalism and
world, turned out to be very insufficient; capitalism i.e. the various stages of
and the result was a caricature which history propounded by Marx and
shows ... that he ventured on a task for Engels came to be applied in Indian
which he was not qualified ... " Despite History also. This school also, like the
such shortcomings Hegel's influence is imperialist school, does not find
not confined to Europe alone. In India anything good with Indian civilization.
also there is a significant tradition of Like Marx, they feel that all that is good
"Hegelianism"; "Neo-Hegelianism" and in Indian civilization is the contribution
"Anti-Hegelianism". of conquerors and that is why,
Similarly, Marx was also very according to this school, the Kushana
superficial in his knowledge about period is the golden period and not the
India and not really free from racial Satavahanas or Guptas. The period
considerations. Most of what Marx had from the Gupta's to the conquest of
to say about India is 'found in Muslims in the twelfth century A.D. has
been te rmed as the "Period of
newspaper articles. Marx took his lead
Feudalism" i.e. "Dark Age" during
from Hegel. Marx was a great votary of
which every thing degenerated. This
India being enslaved by British and has been despite the fact that,
dismissed India as a backward and irrespective of political upheaval, there
uncivilized nation with no history. In was anal1 round development in the
1853 he wrote, "India, then could not fields of literature, sciences, art,
escape being conquered, and the whole architecture, economy etc. Also when
of her past history, if it be anything, is it came to literary evidence and its
the history of the successive conCJ.uests chronology, they largely follow Max
she has undergone. Indian society has Muller and other British historians .

.. .... .. . r ... ...... .. .... .. .. .. ...... .. .......... .. ...... ................. .. .......... ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY WRITING

Indian Marxist historians lay great Union and almost the total eclipse of
emphasis on economic interpretation Marxian polity and economy, the
'o f all social and religious ideas, historians are finding it difficult to
cu stoms and institutions. Being allergic explain the reasons for the collapse. It
:to r e ligion a nd s p irituality their is perhaps this phenomenon which has
i rrever en ce for saints and sages is too contributed to the loss of lustre in the
! obvious. However, it mu st be mentioned Ma rxist historiography.
't hat their writin gs, nevertheless, h ave
Multi-disciplinary Approach
'contributed imm ensely towards the
understanding of various aspects of In t h e las t ten years due to the
Indian history which had r emained huge accumul a tio n of data from
ignored earlier. various disciplines like archaeology,
D.D. Kosambi can be called palaeontology, anthropology, astro-
the first among the pioneers of this nomy and space research, there has
s chool of thought. D .R. Chanana, R.S. been renewed interest in studying the
Sharma , Romila Thaper, Irfan Habib, ancient Indian history. Many scholars
Bipan Cha ndra, and Satish Chandra have broken the shackles of the old
a re som e of th e leading Marxist mould and have been looking at ancient
h istorians of In dia. Indian history in the light of data
In the Marxist scheme of history obtained from different disciplines. This
Marxism is a n ideal philosophy and is known as the m ultidisciplinary
polity and the Soviet Union wa s the approach, examples of which will be
ideal state. Since the break-u p of Soviet s een in the following chapters.

1. Explain the following:
Vamsanucharita, Manvanta n tar, Sarga, Pratisarga, Yuga, K a Zpa.
2. Write short notes on:
(i) Importance of HistOlY
(ii) Multi-disciplinary Approach
(iii) Biblical Concept of Creation
3. Describe the Indian tradit ion of h istory writing.
4. Write a note on the foreign travellers wh o visited India from t h e fourth century
B.C to the tenth century A.D. and what they wrote a b out India? '
5. What were the views of the Christian m issionaries a b out . India? ./
6. Describe the Imperialist school of Historiography and their approach towards
the writing of Indian -history.
7. Describe the Nationalist school of Historiography. How was it different from
the Imperialist approach?
8. Define the Marxist school of history and their approach to Indian history.

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CHAPTER d .·f H.

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.,BROADLY· the sbUrces. for anCient Tndiais history can
be' classified under two main categories. The first is
~heliter~ry and the~eczond archa,eologic.~. Ulider
1'--(( ' 1 l
the lite'rary sources can be included Vedjc, Sanskrit7
. ' • ' . '-'f": - . \ 1

J ,
Pali,' 'Prakrit and other. literature besides foreign
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......................................................................... THE SOURCES OF ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY

WE have a variety of sources for at times different in grammatical

reconstructing the history of ancient usages. It has a definite mode of
India. Broadly, the sources for ancient pronunciation in which emphasis
India's history can be classified under changes the meaning entirely. This is
two main categories. The first is the the reason why an elaborate means to
literary and the second archaeological. protect and preserve the mode of
Under the literary sources can pronunciation of the Vedas have been
be included Vedic, Sanskrit, Pali, devised. By the means of Ghana, Jata
Prakrit and other literature besides and other types of pathas we can not
foreign accounts. Under the broad only determine the meaning of the
head of archaeology we may consider mantras but also can hear the original
epigraphic, numismatic and archi- . tone on which these were sung
tectural remains besides archaeological thousands of years ago. It is on account
explorations and excavations which of these pathas no interpolations in the
have opened great vistas of new Vedas are possible. However, we cannot
information about which we had no find much trace of political history in .
knowledge earlier. the Vedas, but can have reliable
glimpses of the culture and civilization
Literary Sources
of the Vedic period.
There has been much debate about the Six vedangas (limbs of Vedas) were
reliability of ancient Indian literature for evolved for the proper understanding
the history of India. It revolves around of the Vedas. These are Siksha
the opinion that most of the ancient (phonetics), Kalpa (rituals), Vyakarna
literature is religious in nature, and (grammar), Nirukta (etymology),
those which are claimed to be history Chhanda (metrics), and Jyotisha
by Indians, i.e., puranic and epic (astronomy). Each vedanga has
literature, contain no definite dates for developed a credible literature around
events and kings. A large number of it which are in the sutra form i.e.,
inscriptions, coins and local chronicles precepts. This is a very pr~cise and
do indicate an effort towards history exact form of expression in prose which
writing. The rudiments of history are was developed by the ancient Indians.
preserved in the Puranas and epics. We Panini's Ashtadhyayi, book on
find genealogies of kings and sometimes grammar in eight chapters is the final
their achievements. But it is difficult to culmination of this excellent art of
arrange them in chronological order. writing in sutra (precepts) in which
Vedic literature , mainly the four every chapter is precisely interwoven.
Vedas i.e. Rik, Yajur, Sama and Besides the Vedas, the Brahmanas,
Atharva Vedas, are entirely in a the Aranyakas and the Upanishads
different language, which can be called are also included in the vedic literature
the Vedic language. Its vocabulary · and are known as the later vedic
contains a wide range of meaning and literature. The Brahmanas elaborate

, ANCIENT INDIA .................... . .. . ............................................ .. .... ....... .... ............................ .

vedic rituals and the Aranyakas and those portions of the puranic dynastic
the Upanishads give discourses on lists have been accepted which are
different spiritual and philosophical supplemented and supported by the
problems. Buddhist and Jaina literature. The
The Puranas, eighteen in number, Buddhist books, called, Jataka stories .
are mainly historical accounts. Five also are given some historical
branches of historical studies importance, as they are related with the
are considered to form the subject previous births of the Buddha. There
matter of the Puranas. These are are more than 550 such stories. The
(i) sarga (evolution of universe), Jaina literature also contains same
(ii) pratisarga (involution of universe), information which may help us in
(iii) manvantantra (recurring of time), reconstructing the history of different
(iv) vamsa (genealogical list of kings and regions of India.
sages), and (v) vamsanucharita (life The Dharmasutras and the Smritis,
stories of some selected characters). are rules and regulations for the general
Later on description of the tirthas public and the rulers. It can be termed
(sacred places of pilgrimage) and in the modern concept as the
their mahatmya (religious importance) constitution and the law books for the
was also included in it. The two ancient Indian polity and society. These
great epics, the Ramayana and the are also called Dharmashastras. These
Mahabharata, may also be used as a were compiled between 600 and 200
source . It is generally held that B.C. Manusmriti is prominent among
there have been constant interpolations the~. Kautilya's Arthashastra, a book
in these works. on statecraft was written in the
The Jain and the Buddhist Maurya period. The text is divided into
literature were written in Prakrit and 15 chapters known as books . Different
Pali languages. Prakrit was a form of books deal with different subject
Sanskrit language and early Jain matter concerning polity, economy and
literature is mostly written in this society. It appears that even befolfe
language. Pali can be regarded as the the final version of Arthashastra was
form of Prakrit language which was in written in the fourth century B.C. by
vogue in Magadha. Most of the early Kautilya, there appeared a tradition of
Buddhist literature is written in this writing on and teaching of statecrafts
language. With the Buddhist monks it because Kautilya acknowledges his
reached Sri Lanka, where it is a living debt to his predecessors in the field.
language. Ashokan edicts are also in Mudrarakshasha, a play wri~ten by
this language. Since the modern Vishakhadatta, also gives a glimpse of
historians have discarded most of the society and culture.
dynasties mentioned in the Puranas Kalidasa's Malavikagnimitram is
and' Mahavira and Buddha are based on some events of the reign of
considered historical personalities, only Pusyamitra Sunga, a dynasty which

....................................................................... THE SOURCES OF ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY

followed the Mauryas. Bhasa and in praise of their kings. Some kings and
Sudraka are other poets who have events are supported by inscriptions
written plays based on historical also. This literature generally describes
events. Banabhatta's Harshacharita events up to the fourth century A.D.
throws light on many historical facts
Foreign Accounts
about which we could not have known
otherwise. Vakpati wrote Gaudavaho, For a great deal of our knowledge of
based on the exploits of Yasovarman ancient Indian history we are indebted
of Kanauj. Similarly, Bilhana's to the foreigners. India figures in the
Vikramankadevacharita describes the foreign inscriptions like in those of
victories of the later Chalukya king Darius. Herodotus and Ctesian got
Vikramaditya. There are some other their information through the Persian
biographical works based on the sources. Herodotus in his "Histories"
lives of different kings. Prominent gives us much information about
among these are: Kumarapalacharita Indo-Persian relations. Arrian wrote
of J ayasimha, Kumarapalacharita a detailed account of the invasio n
or Dvayashraya Mahakavya of of India by Alexander on the
Hemachandra, Hammirakavya of basis of information from those
Nayachandra, Navasahasankacharita who accompanied the campaign.
of Padmagupta, Bhojaprabandha of Ambassadors were sent to Pataliputra
Billal, Priihvirajacharit of Chandbardai. by Greek kings. Some of them were
But the historical text, Rajatarangini Megasthenese, Deimachus and
by Kalhana is the best illustration of Dionysios. Megasthenese was in the
history writing appreciated by modern court of Chandragupta Maurya. He
historians. His critical method of wrote a book on India called Indica. The
historical research and impartial original work has been lost bu(we have
treatment of the historical facts have some idea about it from the quotations
earned him a great respect among the in the works of the later writers. An
modern historians. anonymous author, who .was a Greek,
The Sangam literature, describes settled in Egypt wrote a book Periplus
many kings and dynasties of South of the Erythrean Sea, on the basis
India. Poetic compilatiops by group of of his personal voyage of Indian coast
poets of different times patronised by in about A.D.80. He gives valuable
many chiefs and kings are, called information about the Indian coasts.
Sangama. These are, in all, 30,000 Another writer Ptolemy wrote a
lines of poetry arranged in two main geographical treatise on India in the
groups, Patinenkilkanakku and the second century A.D. Most of the Greek
Pattupattu. The former is older than the writing about India are based on
latter? The Sangam literature consists secondary sources resulting - in
of short and long poems which were numerous errors and, contradictions.
composed by a large number of poets Therefore, it is necessary to be cautious

~, ANCIENT INDIA ...................................................................... . .......................... . ............... .

when using Greek sources. They were of Mahmud of Ghazni. His observations
ignorant of the language and the are based on his knowledge of Indian
customs of the country and their society and culture which he acquired
information is full of unbelievable through literature. For this he studied
facts and fancies. The works of Sanskrit. However, he does not give any
Megasthenese and so also of those political information of his times.
who accompanied Alexander have Archaeological Sources
been lost and are available only in
fragments as quoted in later works. The utilisation of archaeological sources
Chinese travellers visited India from in reconstructing India's past is only
time to time. They came here as about two centuries old. They not only
Buddhist pilgrims and therefore their supplemented our knowledge about
accounts are somewhat tilted towards our past but have also yielded materials
Buddhism. Chinese tradition has which we could not have got otherwise.
preserved a long list of such pilgrims. It was generally held even up to the
Three of these pilgrims namely, Fa-Hien 1920s that Indian civilization was
visited India in fifth century A.D. while considered to have begun about sixth
Hiuen-Tsang and I-tsing came in century B.C. But with the excavations
seventh century. They have left fairly at Mohenjodaro, Kalibangan and
detailed accounts which have been Harappa the antiquity of Indian
translated in English. Hiuen-Tsang has civilization has gone back to about
given the most interesting and valuable 5000 B.C. The fi:nds of prehistoric
account about Harshavardhana and artifacts has shown that human
some other contemporary kings of activities had started here as early as
Northern India. Fa-Hien and Hiuen- about two million years ago.
Tsang travelled many parts of the We have been benefitted much with
country. However, they have given other branches like epigraphy and
somewhat exaggerated account of numismatics also without which our
Buddhism during the period of their knowledge about India's past would
visit. For example Hiuen-Tsang depicts have been very limited. We could not
Harsha as a follower of Buddhism while have known about most of the Indo-
in his epigraphic records Harsha Greek, Saka-Parthian and Kushana
mentions himself as a devotee of Siva. kings without numismatic sources.
But considering the fact that Indian
Similarly, Ashoka's views on dharma
rulers always have, like their subjects,
and conquests of Samudragupta, and
been multi-religious people , ~t is not
several others would have remained
difficult for a foreigner to be confused.
unknown without their epigraphs.
Some Arabs also have left their
accounts about India. Most famous ,Inscriptions: One of the most important
among these are Abu Rihan better and reliable sources of history writing
known as AI-Beruni, a contemporary are inscriptions. An inscription, being

........ , ................................................................ THE SOURCES OF ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY

a contemporary document, from Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam in

later interpolations. It comes in the form the south and Nagari, Gujarati,'Bangia,
it was composed in and engraved for etc. in the north have developed from
the first time. It is almost impossible to it. This modification in the form of
add something to it at a later stage. individual letters gave another
However, in the works written on soft advantage. It has made it roughly
materials like birch bark, palm leaf, possible to ascertain the time or the
paper etc., this can not be said to be century in which the inscription was
true because they were frequently written. A study of development of
required to be copied, since the old scripts is called palaeography.
manuscripts become fragile in course However, with the passage of time,
of time. At the time of copying, some the Indians had lost interest in their
errors tend to creep in or sometimes ancient scripts and therefore, had
even additions are made. This is not virtually forgotten a large portion of
possible with inscriptions. The study of written history. When .the epigraphic
inscriptions is called epigraphy. studies started in the late eighteenth
The script of the inscriptions also . century, inscriptions only belonging
helps the historian in many ways. The upto the tenth century A.D. could be
earliest system of writings is found in read with some difficulty. But the
the Harappan seals. However, there decipherment of earlier epigraphs
has been no success in deciphering was not easy. Some western
it. Thus, the writing system of the scholars prepared alphabetic tables
Ashokan inscriptions are considered meticulously. But credit to complete
to be the earliest. These are found the chart of Ashokan alphabets goes
written in four scripts. In his empire to James , Prinsep who did it in 1837.
in Afghanistan he used Aramaic and After this the study of epigraphs became
Greek scripts for his edicts. In the a subject in itself. India is particularly
Pakistan region Kharoshthi script was rich in epigraphic material.
used. Kharoshthi evolved on the The inscriptions of Ashoka are a
Varnamala system of the Indian class in itself. These were recorded in
languages is written from right to left. different years of his reign and are
The Brahmi script was used for the called edicts because they are in the
rest of his empire from Kalsi in the form of the king's order or desire. They
north in Uttsrranchal upto Mysore in also give a glimpse of Ashoka's image
the south. After Ashoka it was adopted and personality as a benevolent king
by the rulers of the succeeding concerned with the welfare of not only
centuries. The most interesting thing his subjects but also of the whole
about the Brahmi script is that its humanity.
individuaI letters were modified century Inscriptions of the Indo-Greeks,
after century and through this process Saka-kshatrapas and Kushanas adopt
all the scripts of India, including Tamil, Indian names within two ,0-r three

, ANCIENT INDIA ..... . ............. ..... . .......... . ............................... . .. . ......... . .. . . .. .... .. ...... ; ............... .

generations. These inscriptions show and abroad. Coins are mostly found in
them engaged in social and religious hoards most of which have b~en found
welfare activities like any other Indian. while digging field or excavating
Sanskrit also came to be used in foundation for the construction of a
inscriptions. The Junagarh Rock building, making road etc. Coins found
inscription of Rudradaman is in systematic excavations are less in
considered as an early example of number but are very valuable because
chaste Sanskrit, written in mid second their chronology and cultural context
century A.D . . can be fIxed precisely.
Sanskrit came to occupy a prime Earliest coins, called punch-
place since the Gupta period. marked, are in silver and copper. Some
The Allahabad Pillar inscription gold punch-marked coins are also
enumerates the achievements of reported to have been found, but they
Samudragupta. But for this sole are very rare and their authenticity is
inscription, this great Gupta king doubtful. Then come the Indo-Greek
would have remained unknown in the coins also in silver and copper and
history of India. Most of the Gupta rarely in gold. The Kushanas issued
epigraphs give genealogy. This became their coins mostly in gold and copper,
the practice of the subsequent rarely in silver. The imperial Guptas
dynasties. They took the opportunity issued mostly gold and silver coins but
to give an account of their conquests the gold coins are n umerous.
and achievements of their predec~ssor The punch-marked coins are the
including mythology of their origins. earliest coins of India and they bear
The Chalukya king Pulkeshin / II only symbols on them. Each symbol is
gives a dynastic genealogy and punched separately, which sometimes
achievements in his Aihole inscription.
overlap the another. These have been
Similarly, the Gwalior inscription of
found throughout the country, from
Bhoja gives full account of his
Taxila to Magadha to Mysore or even
predecessors and their achievements.
further south. They do not bear any
From the inscriptions we also came to
inscription, or legend on them.
know about the grant of land, free
The Indo-Greek coins show
from all taxes, to the learned brahmans.
beautiful artistic features on them. The
These are called Agraharas.
portrait or bust of the king on the
Coins: The branch of knowledge which observe side appear to be real portraits.
studies coins is called numismatics. On the reverse some deity is depicted.
This is considered as the second most It is through the coins alone we know
important source for reconstructing that more than forty Ind.o-Greek rulers
the history of India, the first who 'ruled in a small. north-western
being inscriptions. Several hundred region ofIndia. We know about several
thousands of coins have been found and Saka-Parthians kings about whom we
deposited in different museums ofIndia would have no information from any
. . .......... . ...........• ......... . .................. .. ..... . .... .. .. ...•. . OF ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY .~

other sources. The Kushanas issued In excavations we find a large

mostly gold coins and numerous number offigurines in stone, metal and
copper coins which are found in most terracotta which tell us about the
parts of north India up to Bihar. Indian artistic activities of the time. The
influence can be seen on them from the discovery of the cities of Mohenjodaro
very beginning. The coins of Virna and Harappa which pushed back the
Kadphises bear the figure of Siva antiquity of Indian culture and
standing beside a bull. In tbe legend civilization by two thousand years is
on these coins the king calls himself welllmown. The subsequent discovery
Mahesvara , i.e. devotee of Siva.
of sites of Kalibangan. Lothal, Dholavira,
Kanishka, Huvishka and Vasudeva etc.
Rakhigarhi etc. show the extent of this
all have this depiction on their coins.
civilization upto Gujarat, Maharashtra,
We find many Indian gods and
goddesses depicted on Kusbana coins Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar
besides many Persian and Greek Pradesh. The period between 1500 and
deities. 600 B.C. was known as the dark period
The Guptas appear to have of Indian history because not much
succeeded Kushanas in the tradition of was known about this period. The
minting coins. They completely archaeological discoveries of such
Indianised their coinage. On the observe cultures as Black-and-Red Ware,
kings are depicted engaged in activities Painted Grey Ware, Malwa and Jorwe
like hunting a lion or rhinoceros, cultures since 1950s have not only filled
holding a bow or battle-axes, playing the chronological gaps but also the
musical instrument or performing geographical extent. It is through ·
Ashvamedha yajna. archaeological discoveIies that we know
Archaeological Monuments, now that Indians domesticated sheep
Excavations and Explorations and goat and started agriculture about
8000 years ago. Also iron came in
In addition to epigraphic and regular use about 1600 B.C.
numismatic sources there are many
Archaeological excavCj.tions also
other antiquarian remains which speak
brought to light the townships of
much about our past. Temples and
Taxila, Kausambi, Kasi (Rajghat),
sculptures are found all over the
country right from the Gupta period Ayodhya , Vaisali, Bodhgaya, etc .
upto recent times. These show belonging to Buddha's time. All of
architectural and artistic history of the these places except Taxila are said to
Indians. They excavated large caves in h a ve been visited by Buddha in
the hills in Western India which are the sixth century B.C.
mostly chaityas and viharas. Large The resear ches carried out in the
temples bave been carved out of rocks field of prehistory show that the
from outside like Kailasa temple of human activities started in the
Ellora and rat has at Mamallapuram. subcontinent as early as two million

ANCIENT INDIA .................................................................................. . ................................. .

years ago. In the Kashmir and Narmada discoveries have shown that tradition
valleys such remains and tools of rock paintings in India goes back to
are reported. Also, archaeological more than twelve thousands years.

Exercises •

1. Explain the following:

Epigraphy, Numismatics, Inscriptions, Archaeology, Script, Palaeography,
Excavations, Explorations. .
2. Write short notes on:
(i) Six Vedangas
(ii) Archaeological sources of Indian history
(iii) Buddhist literature
3. Describe the literary sources for the study of the past?
4. What is an Inscription? How are they important for the study of the
political, social and economic history of India.
5. Discuss the importance of coins for the study of the past.

• Visit a museum to see the various sources of history and try to

identify them.
• Make a collage to show the various sources of history.
• Make posters of some monuments.

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" ANCIENT INDIA ......... .. ............ ....... ....... .... ....... . .. ... .. . ....... ... ....... . ... .. ....... ... ... . ... . ........... . . . . . .

INDIAN subcontinent is a well defined Koh, Sulaiman and Kirthar separate

land with natural borders. At present Iran from the Indian subcontinent. 'But
there are six countries in this area: the large stretches ofland to the west of
Afghanistan , Pakistan, Nepal, India, this line in modern Afghanistan and
Bhutan and Bangladesh. In ancient Baluchistan, like those to the south and
times this whole mass of land was east of the Hindukush, were for long
known as Bharatavarsha or Hindustan; both culturally and politically parts of
the latter is derived from the name of India'.
the river Sindhu, pronounced by the On the eastern side are the Patkoi
westerners as Hindu or Indu. India gets hills, Naga hills, the Manipur Plateau
its derivation from this. In our including the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia
constitution it is called India, that is hills. The Lushai and Chin hills are to
Bharata. the south of Manipur.
This land is ' bordered in the north The Himalayas form a formidable
by the Himalyas, the western and north- barrier against the foreign invasions
western side by Pamir pla t eau and from the north. But it is not altogether
Sulaiman Kirthar ranges, on the eastern secluded from the rest of the world.
side by the Bay of Bengal and western There are some important passes
side by the Arabian Sea. Southern through which interaction with western,
borders are bounded by Indian Ocean. central and northern Asia has been
Physically the subcontinent can be maintained since time immemorial. It
studied in three parts : (i) The Himalayas, is said that 'since early Siwalik times
(ii) The Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra there has been a more or less constant
plain (iii) The Deccan plateau. intercourse between East Africa,
Arabia, Central Asia and India
The Himalayas maintained by the migratiQns of herds
The Himalaya s are stretched from of mammals'. It is also stated that (India)
Afghanistan in the west upto Myanmar 'received large accessi~ms by migration
in the east. The Tibetan plateau forms of the larger quadrvpeds from Egypt,
the northern part of it. It is more than Arabia, Central Asia, and even from the
2,400 Kms long and about 250 to 320 distant North America by way of land
kms wide. There are about 114 peaks bridges across Alaska, Siberia and
which are more than 20,000 feet high. Mongolia'. Human migration is also
Some of the highest peaks are: Gauri- possible on these routes. In historical
Shankar or Everest (the highest times the use of the Khyber and Bolan
mountain in the world), Kanchanjanga, passes in the west is well known. Among
Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parvat and Nanda these, the use of the former was very
Devi. The Hindukush mountains, right frequent and is known as the gateway
from the Pamirs, form the natural to India.
western boundary of the Indian . Besides guarding the northern
subcontinent. The mountains of Safed frontier ofIndia from human invasions



(; A







o ()
10 I
.... 1000 o
o 200 400 600 800
":': 500 "
.--~ 200 o
:;:> "" ..... _.. _.

Fig. 4.1 Physical Map of Indta

- " ANCIENT INDIA .... . ............ . ....... . ... . .... . ................... . .................. .. .... . ......... . ........ .. . . ... ... ...... .

the Himalayas protect us from the cold river, Sutlej or Satudri was once a
Siberian winds. The great Indus, Ganga tributary of the lost river Saraswati, but
and Brahmaputra plains with most changed its course.
fertile land, natural resources and The Ganga, rising from the
perennial rivers is a gift of the Himalayas, reaches the plain at
Himalayas, for which Indians gratefully Hardwar and passes through the states
worship it as God. of Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra Plain and Bengal, then joins the Bay of
Bengal. On the west of it flows the river
To the south of the Himalayas lies the Yamuna also rising from the
great plain ofIndia which is more than Himalayas. Some Vindhyan rivers like
3200 kms long and about 240 kms to
the Chambal, the Betwa and the Ken
320 kms broad. It is formed by the solid
waste of the Himalayas brought by join the Yamuna before its confluence
hundreds of descending streams. The with the Ganga at Allahabad. Another
alluvium thus formed made the plains great Vindhyan river, the Son, joins
most fertile. the Ganga near Patna in Bihar. From
There are three great river systems, the Himalayas side, rivers like the
originating from the Himalayas, which Gomati, the Sarayu, the Gandak and
supply perennial water to this great the Kosi join the Ganga in the states
plain. These are the Indus, the Ganga of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. There are
and the Brahmaputra. But a big tract several mouths through which the
ofland to the west of Yamuna and east Ganga falls into the Bay Of Bengal. The
of Indus in this plain is devoid of any main stream is called Bhagirathi or
water system at present. This tract Hooghli on which are situated the
includes the states ofHaryana, Punjab
towns of Murshidabad, Hooghly and
and Rajasthan. Now it has been proved
that in ancient times the river Saraswati Kolkata. The eastern most mouth of
and its tributaries used to flow in this the Ganga is called the Padma.
area. The great Brahmaputra, originating
The Sindhu or Indus rises from the from the eastern part of the lake
Kailasa Manasarovar area in the Manasarovar in the Kailasa flows
Tibetan plateau, runs west and north- eastward through the .plateau of Tibet
west for about l300 Kms, between the under the name of Tsangpo. Then it
Karakoram range. Then joined by the turns south and enters in India where
Oilgit river, it turns south and reaches it assumes the name Dihang. Later,
the plains where the five rivers join it to the rivers Dihang and Luhit join and
form Panchananda desha or Punjab.
are called Brahmaputra or Lauhitya.
These five tributaries of the Sindhu
from east to west are: the Sutlej Passing through Assam and Bengal it
(Satudri), the Beas (Vipasa), the Ravi joins the eastern most mouth of the
(Parushm), the Chenab (Asikni) and the Ganga~ i.e., Padma. But before falling
Jhelum (Vitesta). The first mentioned into the Bay of Bengal another mighty

............ . ...... . .... . .................. . ......... . ..... THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY ,"

river, the Meghna, joins it. The delta thus Ganga up to the Rajmahal hills.
formed is one of the most fertile part of Between the Ganga and the Rajmahal
Bengal and is known as Sundarban is a narrow defile or a passage from
delta. Chunar in the west (i.e. Mirzapur, U.P.)
The Deccan Plateau and Central to Teliagarhi in the east. This is the only
India high road, which connects Western and
Peninsular India can be studied under Eastern India. Its strategic importance
two distinct sections. The mountain from the military point of view was fully
ranges of the Vindhyas and Satpura understood which is evident by the
run parallel to each other from east to presence of hill forts of Rohtas and
west. In between these two, flows the Chunar in the east and Kalijar and
river Narmada going towards the Gwalior in the west. It is said that the
Arabian sea. The only other river passes of Shahabad and Teliagarhi,
flowing towards west is Tapti, lying a situated at a distance of only about five
little south of the Satpura. All other kilometers from each other, served as
rivers of the Peninsula run from west the ga~eway to Bengal.
to east falling into the Bay of Bengal On the Western side of the plateau
indicating that the plateau is titled and the Thar desert is situated the rich
towards east. The northern portion of lowland of Gujarat having several low
the plateau, separated by the Vindhya- hills and watered by a number of rivers
Satpura ranges is known as the Central
like Mahi, Sabarmati, and lower
Indian plateau, while the southern
courses of Narmada and Tapti. The
portion is called the Deccan plateau.
Kathiawar peninsula and the Rann of
Central Indian Plateau Kutch are marshy and dry during the
The Central Indian plateau stretches hot season. /
from Gujarat in the west to Chhota The Deccan Plateau
Nagpur in the east. The great Indian
desert, called Thar, lies to the north As we have noted earlier, the surface of
of the Aravalli range. To the south of it the Deccan plateau slopes down from
is the Vindhyas, which rises abruptly west to east. On the western side lies a
from the Narmada side, i.e., south, and range of high cliffs running south to
has a slopy formation in the north. The north leaving a narrow strip of plain
Malwa plateau and the tablelands of between it and the sea. It is called the
Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand are Western Ghats, which rises up to 3,000
parts of this. As a result, all the rivers feet. The plateau is higher in the south
on this side flow towards north or being about 2000 feet in the Mysore
north-east to join the Yamuna and the region and about half of that in the
Ganga. The eastern stretches of the Hyderabad. The Eastern Ghats,
Vindhyas, known as the Kaimur consisting of groups of low hills, is
ranges, extend almost up to the south marked by several gaps through which
of Banaras and run parallel with the many peninsular rivers join the Bay of

::-" .
ANCIENT INDIA .............................. . ........................ . ..... ....... ....... . . . . ................................. .

Beng(l.1. The hills going southwards Coast. The rainfall in this region is very
gradually receding from the sea turn high. There are no big rivers but smaller
westward to join the Western Ghats at rivers provide easy communication
the Nilgiri. The plain between Eastern and irrigation. There are some good
Ghats and the sea is wider than that of harbours in the Konkan region and also
Western Ghats. in the Malabar. On the other hand the
Except the Narmada and the Tapti, eastern coast has a few natural
which run towards west and join the harbours but during the historical
Arabian sea, all the rivers of the period maritime activities lead to more
Peninsular India run from west to east. vigorous and fruitful contacts with the
Most of them rise from the Western south-east Asian countries.
Ghat and traversing the whole breadth The southern tip of the peninsula
of the plateau, fall in the Bay. The is known as Cape Comorin or
Mahanadi forms a broad plain known Kanyakumari. To its south-east is the
as the Chattisgarh plain in the north- island of Sri L?llka, which though not
east. It passes through Orissa before an integral part, has been closely
joining the sea. The valley of Godavari associated with India. An almost
with its tributaries, has a large flat land continuous chain of islands and shoals
in the north but it narrows in the east connect India with this island which has
been given the name of Adam's Bridge:
before meeting the sea. Further south,
The mango shaped island was known
the Krishna, with its tributaries like the
in ancient times by the name of
Tungabhadra, divide the Deccan
Tambaparni, a corrupt word from
plateau into two sections. Further Sanskrit Tambrapgrni, i.e., having a
south, the Kaveri and its tributaries look or shape of tambula or betel leaf.
form another important river system. It was also known as Simhaladvipa.
One thing should be mentioned here
that these rivers are different from those Climate
of the north India. Devoid of a perennial The Indian subcontinent is situated
water source like the Himalayas, these mostly in the tropical zone. Guarded
southern rivers are mostly dry during by the lofty Himalayas from the cold
the hot season, hence less valuable for arctic winds from Siberia, it has a
irrigation and navigation purposes. fairly warm climate throughout the
year. It has regular six ritus of two
.The Coastal Regions
months each and three seasons offour
The fertile coastal plains are important months. Roughly March through June
because they also provide is the hot season when temperature
opportunities for maritime activities goes up to 48° C or more in some
and trade. The western coastal plain regions. Then follows the rainy season
stretches from the Gulf of Cambay in for four months from July to October.
the north to Kerala ' in south. The The south-west monsoon brings rain
northern part is called the Konkan while in varying degrees throughout the
the southern one is called the Malabar country.


C " I H A

.;·~PAKtSTAN T I 8 E T

A R .... B I A- N

S I. A-

::;" 0 BENGAL ,.> d

$°0 ~
~ 00 ~

.s'" ,.


i. 00




150 eM.

v 0
00 Cpl.
0 200 "00 600 800
$0 eM.
0 kllOttr"ES 1
.._ _-'-1_ _--'1_ _---"'-_-"'1

l' CII. 0

Fig. 4.2 Annual Rainfall Z01J-es

~ .
•- I ANCIENT INDIA ........ .. ........................................................... .. ........................... .. ............ ..

In the Indo-Gangetic plains the The Geography of India as described

annual rainfall varies from region to in Ancient Indian Literature
region. The northern portion of the The vast subcontinent of India was
Indus region and the whole of the known in the past as Bharatavarsha,
Ganga plain receives rainfall between the land of the Bharatas, bounded on
100-200 cms per annum, While the the north by the Himalayas and by the
north -eastern part of India falls in the ocean in the south. It formed the
range of 200-400 cm. or even more. In southern part of Jambu-dvipa. The
modern times the regions of Haryana name 'India' was first applied by the
and Rajasthan induding parts of Sind Achaemenid Persians to the region
and Gujarat receive less rainfall. But the watered by the Sindhu. The Sapta-
evidence show that in ancient times it Sindhu, referring to the region of the
received higher rainfall and the seven rivers of the Saraswati (or five
Harappan civilization flourished in this streams of the Saraswati together with
region. the Ganges and the Jamuna), was the
In a major part of India, the south- term used for India in the Zend Avesta,
west monsoon brings rain which is most the sacred book of Paras is. The Greeks,
important for the Kharif crops. calling the river Sindhu 'Indos',
Similarly, the rain caused by the subsequently borrowed the term from
western disturbances in the winter the Persians. In the Mehre Yasht and
gives rise to the second crop of the year Yasna of the Persians we actually find
called the Rabi during winter season. the word Hindu in place of Hafta-
Rice is cultivated in the plains of the Hendu, indicating the extension of the
Ganga and Brahmaputra and in the name to the land beyond the territory
eastern coast upto Tamil Nadu. Wheat of the Indus. Herodotus, the famous
and barley are the main Rabi crops Greek historians, used the term 'Indos'
grown in the western and most other to the kshatrapy ofthe Persian Empire,
parts of India. but gradually it was extended to the
The third season is winter when the whole country both by Greek and
mercury comes down to 50 C or even Roman writers.
less. But it should be considered warm Since the introduction of Buddhism
as compared to the northern regions into China in the first century A.D. the
beyond the Himalayas. Chinese used the term Tien-Chu or
Thus, India is a country with vast Chuantu for India. But after Hiuen-
variety of rich vegetation and congenial Tsang the term Yin -Tu came to be in
regular weather chain. It is most suited vogue there. Hindu in Persian, Indos
for human habitat. Conditions for in Greek, Hoddu in Hebrew, Indus in
population saturation resulting in mass Latin and Tien-chu in Chinese are all
human migrations are more probable corrupt forms of Sindhu. Thus
here than in any other part of the world descendants of Bharata came to be
like central Asia or Europe. known as Indians or Hindus. "Hindu",

............................................................ THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY ..

says I-tsing, "is the name used only by indicating the country of the Bharatas
the northern tribes, and the people of of RigVeda. It engaged their deepest
India themselves do not know it". sentiments of love and service as
The first defmite mention of Bharata expressed in their literature. One of
as a region is to be found in Panini who the commonest prayers for a Hindu
lived about sixth century B.C. It is only requires him to recall and worship the
one out of 22 janapadas specified from image of his mother country as the
Kamboja to Magadha, all in Northern land of seven sacred rivers, the Ganga,
India. Buddhist literature subsequently Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati,
speaks of seven Bharata regions Narmada, Sindhu, and Kaveri, which
(Sapta-Bharatas) corresponding to the between them cover its entire area.
ancient Sapta-Sindhu. Arya-desa and Another prayer calls its image as the
Brahmarashtra were other names of land of seven sacred cities, Ayodhya,
India mentioned by I-tsing. Aryavarta Mathura, Maya (modern Hardwar),
was also another ancient name given Kasi, Kanchi (Conjeeveram), Avantika
at the time ofPatanjali (150 B.C.) to the (Ujjain), Dvaravati (Dwarka),
northern part ofIndia lying between the representing important regions of
Himalayas and the Pariyatraka or the India. The spirit of these prayers is
western part of the Vindhyas. On the further sustained by the peculiar
west it was bounded by the Adarsavali Hindu institution of pilgrimage. It
or Aravalli and on the east by the expects a Hindu to visit in his life the
Kalakavana or the Rajmahal Hills. The holy places associated with his faith.
Puranas define the term Bharatavarsha Each of the principal Hindu faiths like
as "the country that lies north of the Vaishnava, Saiva, or Sakta and other
ocean (i.e. the Indian Ocean) and south sects have their own list of holy places,
of the snowy mountains (Himalayas), and these are spread throughout the
marked by the seven main chains of length and breadth of India and not
mountains, viz. Mahendra, Malaya, confined to a single province. The
Sahya, Suktimat, RL.1{sha (mountains of different sects are at one in enjoining
Gondwana), Vindhya, and Pariyatra upon their respective votaries, a
(western Vindhyas up to the Aravallis); pilgrimage to the different and distant
where dwell the descendants of parts of India and thereby fostering in
the Bharatas, with the Kiratas living them a live sense of what constitutes
to its east, the Yavanas (Ionians or their common mother country. In the
Greeks) to its west, and its own same spirit, Sankara established his
population consisting of the Brahmans, four Mathas (religious schools) at the
Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras (i.e. four extreme points of the country viz.
the Hindus)". Jyotirmatha in the north (near Badri-
But the name Bharatavarsha is not Kedar on the Himalayas), Saradamatha
a mere geographical expression like the at Dwarka in the west, Goverdhana
term India. It has historical signillcance, matha at Puri in the east, and Sringeri

, ANCIENT INDIA ... . .. ... . .... .. ... .• ............................. . . . . ... ..... . .... ......... .......... .. .. ... .. . . . ........... ... . . .

matha in Mysore. Sectarianism is thus Rajad hi raja, or Sarvabhauma, and

an aid to nationalism in Hindu culture. such Vedic ceremonies as the Rajasuya,
In some of the sacred texts like the Vajapeya, or Ashvamedha, which were
Bhagavata Purana, or Manusmriti are prescribed for performance by a king
found passages of patriotic fervour who by his digvijaya or conquest made
describing Bharatavarsha as the land himself the king of kings. Some of the
fashioned by the Gods themselves Vedic works and later texts like the
(devan irmita sthanam) who even Mahabharata or the Puranas even
wish to be born in it as heaven on earth, contain lists of such great kings or
for the spiritual stimulus of its emperors. Apart from these prehistoric
environment, and above these as the emperors, there have been several
culminating utterance - "Mother and
such emperors in historical times, such
Mother-Country are greater than
as Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka,
Heaven!" (Janani janmabhumischa
Samudragupta, Harsha, Mihira Bhoja,
svargadapi gariyasl) .
All these prayers and passages and in later times, Akbar and
show that a Hindu has elevated Aurangzeb. Some even performed
patriotism into a religion. In the words the horse-sacrifice in declaration of
of a distinguished British critic, "the their paramount sovereignty, such ·
Hindu regards India not only as a as Pushyamitra, Samudragupta,
political unit, naturally the subject of Kumaragupta I, Adityasena and
one sovereignty - whoever holds Pulkeshin I. Thus the institution . of
that sovereignty, whether British, paramount sovereignty has had a long
Mohamedan, or Hindu - but as the history in India.
outward embodiment, as the temple - Influences of Geography on
nay, even as the Goddess mother - of Indian History
his spiritual culture ... He made India
the symbol of his culture; he filled it with In many respects geographical
this soul. In his consciousness, it was features influence man's activities and
his greater self". his interactions with nature and other
But besides religion, the political groups of men. The natural barriers of
experiences of the ancient Hindus also hills, mountains and rivers, etc., give
aided them in their conception of the him an idea of a geographical unite and
mother country. The unity of a country belonging. He develops his living
is easily grasped when it is controlled habits and mode of thinking as per his
by a single political authority. The surroundings. We have seen that Indian
ancient Hindus were familiar with subcontinent is a vast country with well
the ideal and institution of paramount defined natural barriers in the form of
sovereignty from very early times. It Himalayas in the north and coastal
is indicated by such significant boundaries on the three remaining
Vedic words as Ekarat, Samrat, sides . This gives the inhabitants a

........................................................... THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY ,;i.

feeling of oneness. They regard this as Kushanas, etc., established kingdoms

their motherland. Its vastness can be and empires but never failed to show
measured when compared to Europe their eagerness to adopt Indian ideas
and finding it almost equal except for of polity and willingness to assimilate
the former Soviet Union. Europe has themselves in the main stream ofIndian
several nations with their own history, society.
tradition, language, etc. On the Even in earlier periods these regions
. contrary, although there always had maintained their individuality despite
been many states in India but their their political ups and downs. 'The old
social and cultural setup had been kingdoms of Kosala, Magadha, Gauda,
broadly the same throughout. Sanskrit Vanga, Avanti, Lat and Saurashtra in
was the most respected language the north, and Kalinga, Andhra,
besides the local languages. States were Maharashtra, Kamataka, Chera, Chola
administered and governed on the basis and Pandya in the south, among others,
of law-books called Dharmasastras. seem to possess eternal lives. Empires
Places of worship and pilgrimage are rose and fell, they vied with each other
distributed throughout the country. very frequently, but these states under
These cultural bonds gave the Indians different names and urtder various
a sense of unity and nationality. ruling dynasties, continued their
At the same time there are distinct individual existence almost throughout
regional variations. There are several the course of history.
regions which have a distinct sense of India has a long coast line on its
regional spirit and cultural traits. Larger three sides. The people living here were
kingdoms and empires rose from these experts in maritime activities. They had
units and weakened, in due course, trade relations with other countries on
giving way to another unit to come up. both sides. No dynasty other than the
Some historians have defined it as forces Cholas in the south has even attempted
of centralisation and decentralisation to conquer lands beyond the sea. But
acting and reacting with each other. In it was not a lasting attempt.
other words, forces of integration and On the contrary we find that
disintegration were always at work. But Indians had spread in many parts of
it will be more appropriate to say that the known world, but in the South
the Indian system of polity recognised East Asia they developed a lasting
the chakravarti concept of conquest, cultural influence in countries like
where every king should aspire for Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, etc.
ruling the whole country. Thus empires These were individual efforts by
fell and new ones arose from it, but the traders and princes and not by any
tradition continued. Even the State. A distinct contrast from the
early conquerors from the north-west European colonist must be noted here.
like Indo-Greeks, Saka-Pallavas, Indians never attempted genocide or

'. ANCIENT INDIA ....................................................... ........ ............... •...•..............................

cruel suppression; they established Thus it can be said in conclusion

large kingdoms and became part of that the geographical features of India
that land. They gave their religion and not only shaped its history and culture
philosophy to them but assimilated but also the mind and thoughts of the
their religion and philosophy as well. people.

1. Explain the meaning of the following:
Aryavrata, Panchanada desa, Rabi and Khan! crops.
2. Define the physical features of India.
3. Define the climate of India.
4. Discuss the geography of India as defined in the ancient literature.
5 . How do these geographical features influence history?

• Prepare a map of India and show important rivers on it.

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~ ; ANCIENT INDIA ........................................... . ........................................................................ '

Introduction break-up of the last super-continent

Ten years is a long time in moden). was in progress.
science and a long time in the life of a The dinosaurs passed away eight
man. But in the case of our planet ten months ago and the early mammal
years is' almost nothing. It is scarcely replaced them. In the middle of last
enough to add a tenth of an inch to the week, in Africa, some manlike apes
great thickness of rocks that grow by developed into apelike man and at the
the accumulation of mud on the bed weekend mother earth began shivering
of the shallow sea. Only the most sharp with the latest series of extremely cold
eyed among us will notice how the ice-ages. Just over four hours have
earth changes in his lifetime, except elapsed since a new species Homo
in its most active zones. sapiens came into existence and in the
By ~scrutiny of fossils and of last hour it invented agriculture and
subtleties in atomic composition of settled down. Just about 30 minutes
rocks, geologists can fix dates of back the Pre-Harappan and Early
events in the earth's history with a fair Harappan cultures started developing.
amount of confidence. With the age of Just about 14 minutes back Buddha
earth estimated 4,600 million years delivered his first sermon at Saranath,
(m.y.), we can make only very and the Mauryan empire flourished
inadequate comparisons with familiar about 12 minutes back. Harsha gave
things. all, whatever he had, the religious
Age of the Earth assembly at Prayag about 7 minutes
One of the best ways to understand back, and Akbar made a pilgrimage to
the relation between the earth and all Sufi Saint Salim Chisti just about two
that exists on it is to imagine that the minutes back. India became a proud
earth is 46 years old. And when we independent nation hardly two seconds
write her life history, we find that we back. (See Tables 1 and 2)
know nothing about the first seven Another way to appreciate the age
years of her life, but the deeds of her of earth in proportion to the period
later childhood are to be seen in the during which life has existed, and even
old rocks. (See Table 1) more significant humans have existed,
Most of what we recognise on earth, is to imagine a series of photographs
including all substantial life is the put together to form a fIlm. Suppose our
product of the last six years of its life first imaginary picture was taken 500
(Le. 600 m.y.). She flowered, in her m.y. ago when the evidence of life
middle age. Her continents were quite appears in the fossiliferous rocks in the
bare of life till she was almost 42 and form of vertebrate and armoured fishes,
flowering plants did not appear until and succeeding pictures were taken
she was 45 - just a year ago. At that every 5000 years, we would have
time the great reptiles, including the 1,00,000 (one lakh) negatives and the
dinosaurs, came into existence and the film would last an hour. At least half of

... ... ... .. ... . ................ . ... . .... . ..... . ... .. .... ... ............ . .... . . .. . ... . .. .. . ....... . THE STONE AGE CULTURES



\~ ~~

• ~.

( - Rohrihi:Js Didwana

Hokra 'fr,)VIJ. ~f '-.
Thob. •
•Pushkar ~f Mahadaha

Sarai·Nahar·Rai . .
---- ~

BeianJiver :;i!es

• Bhimbetkl!

Pavagarh hill
Narmada R.

Fig. 5.1 Important Stone Age Sites in India

• ANCIENT INDIA ................................................................. .. .................... .. ........ . ... .. ............... .

~;nion }
years see chart
before opposite
600 abundant
fossils begin






3300 approximate
origin of life

.oldest known
4000 rocks

4600 origin of Earth

Table 1 Age of the Earth and the Origin of Life


years in years in
millions QUATERNARY millions
I 2
PLIOCENE Manlike apes U
;:: OLIGOCENE Monkeys and apes 0
...'""' EOCENE
PALAEOCENE First primates
64- 00
0 100
..."' First flowering plants

136 ()
~ First birds U
..,:> 0
() 0 200
;; First dinosaurs rn
:s W
First mammals ~
s: First coniferous trees

280 "'
..."''" First reptiles
z.., First insects
z0 First amphibians

"'c First bony fish 400

410 z u
Ii! First land plants 0
-' First fish with jaws N
;; 0
440 W
First vertebrates
First armoured fish
500 'z"

:s First known invertebrates

First shells
First living things
Table 2 Evolution of Life on the Earth

l\ ANCIENT I NDIA ............. .. .......................... . ..... .......... .. .. . ......... . . .. •.. .. . .... ....... . ....... ............ .. ....

the rock-forming history would have Earliest Palaeolithic Tools

already passed, during which some
The beginning of the use of tools by
51 km. thick sedimentary rocks were the humans have been a unique
laid down in the ocean and laters phenomenon and may be said to have
raised up. During the 500 million year laid the foundation of science of use of
covered by the film another 34 km. of tools and machin es for the aid of
rocks were made. When th e r eel humans in their various endeavour. The
opens, we see shells, jelly fish, crab- regular use of tools, beginning 2.6 m.y.
like creatures, and sea lilies. Phase ago in east Africa is well attested and
by phase we see fishes, then accompanies many earlier and later
amphibians and reptiles, and fmally hominid fossils. In case of Indonesia
mammals . In the last 3 seconds several hominid remains have recently
human beings appear and the been dated between 1.8 and 1.6 m.y.
civilized man appears just in the last In China the early stone tools are
tenth of a second. associated with human fossils dated
between 1.7 and 1.9 m.y.
Early Humans In India, unfortunately, no human
It is now well established that the fossils have been found associated with
earliest human fossils found in Africa Stone Age tools but we do have some
dates back to about 4.2 m.y. These idea of the antiquity of tools from the
specimens show that the earliest geological datings. The various strata
human beings were shorter in height of the Sivalik hills containing stone tools
and had a smaller brain. The humans have been dated between 2 m.y. and
evolved over a period of these 42lakhs 1,2 m.y. Another scientific date for the
years and the present form reached early stone tools came from the
about 50,000 years ago. The fossils of archaeological site of Bori in Pune
various periods and stages of human district of Maharashtra. Which is
development have been found from 1.38 m.y old. When we assess the
evidence for early human settlement in
many parts of the world like Africa,
India we fmd that it is later than that in
China, Java, Sumatra and southern
the African region, but contemporary
Europe. Unfortunately, due to the to the rest of the Asian countries.
climatic conditions, except the solitary
fmd of a hominid fossil from Hathnaura Palaeolithic Cultures
in the Narmada Valley, no early human
The Palaeolithic Age in India is divided
fossils have been found in India.
into three phases, based on tool
According to the experts the estimated technology. These phases are:
cranial capacity of this fossil is equal to
' that of homo erectus. However, some (i) Lower Palaeolithic
scholars· feel that it may belong to the Handaxe and cleaver industries
last phase of homo erectus, or an (ti) Middle Palaeolithic
'archaic' homo sapien. Tools made on flakes

·,··· 1r·· .. ·...... ·.. ·

...... . ......... .. .... .. ......................................................... .. ............. THE STONE AGE CULTUREp

(iii) Upper Palaeolithic for making these stone tools 'are of

Tools made on flakes and blades various kinds of stone, like quartzite,
Lower Palaeolithic Culture chert and sometimes even quartz and
besalt, etc. These have been found
The main tool types in this phase were covered with sand, silt, etc., ' as seen
hand axes and cleavers, along with in river sections and terraces. The
chopper-chopping tools. They were Lower Palaeolithic tools have been
made both on cores as well as flakes. found over a large area, virtually from
Lower Palaeolithic sites are of several allover India, except the plains of the
Indus, Saraswati, Brahmaputra and
Ganga where raw material in the form
of stone is not available.
Some of the important sites of Lower
Palaeolithic cultures are Pahalgam in
Kashmir, Belan valley in Allahabad
district (Uttar Pradesh) Bhimbetka and

O "

Adamgarh in Hoshangabad district,
(Madhya Pradesh), 16 Rand Singi
Talav in Nagaur district (Rajasthan),
Nevasa in Ahmadnagar district
(Maharashtra), Hunsgi in Gulburga
district (in Kanlataka) and the famous
~, '\~ site of Attirampakkam (Tamil Nadu).
The sites have been widespread in
, ',',---."'"\.;1
. 'I.'
.~ 1 Sivalik range of Kashmir and Himachal
J -,'
• •
• ~! \
Pradesh, Punjab, Belan valley in
Uttar Pradesh, Berach basin and the
hilly area of Rajasthan, and Narmada
and Sone valleys in Madhya Pradesh,
Malprabha and Ghatprabha basins
in Karnataka, several areas of
Maharashtra, areas near Chennai in
Fig. 5.2 Lower Palaeolithic Tools Tamil Nadu and Chhota Nagpur
plateau, and in areas of Orissa, West
types: habitation sites (either under Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
rock-shelters or in the open; factory Besides the early dates mentioned
sites associated with sources of raw above, other dates available from
materials; sites that combine elements the Potwar plateau, western
of both these functions; and open air Rajasthan, Saurashtra, Madhya
sites in any of these categories Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka
subsequently. The raw materials used Palaeolithic sites indicate that the

~ ANCIENT INDIA ........... .... .. ..... . ................................... .. ....... .... .. .............. ..... . ... . ..... ... ............ .

Lower Palaeolithic culture was quite concave and convex-sided. Burins are
widespread phenomenon between also found to be associated with this
6,00,000 and 60,000 B.C. industry but not as widely dist:J.ibuted
as in the later periods. .
Middle Palaeolithic Culture
Middle Palaeolithic tools have
The middle Palaeolithic tool technology mostly been found in Central India,
. is characterised basically by the flake- Deccan, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil
tool industry. The tools are made on Nadu, Karnataka and Orissa. Wherever
flakes obtained by striking them out the Middle Palaeolithic industries
from pebbles or cobbles. The tool types have developed from those of the
include small and medium-sized Lower Palaeolithic, there is an unbroken
handaxes, cleavers and various kinds continuity of occupation of the site.
of scrapers, borers, and knives. The Some of the most important sites of
tools show regional variations both in Middle Palaeolithic period are
terms of available raw materials as well Bhimbetka, Nevasa, Pushkar, Rohiri
as shapes and sizes. There are large hills of upper Sind, and Samnapur on
borers or awls , worked with steep Narmada.
retouch on thick flakes. The scrapers On the basis of scientific dates
are of several kinds, like straight, the middle Palaeolithic can be dated
between 1,50,000 B.C. and 40,000B.C.
or even slightly later.
Upper Palaeolithic Culture
The middle Palaeolithic culture slowly
evolved into the Upper Palaeolithic
c ulture. The basic technological
innovation of the Upper Palaeolithic
period is the method of producing
parallel sided blades from a carefully
prepared core. One good core of this
kind, once prepared, can yield many
parallel-sided blades with very little or
no further preparation.
The upper Palaeolithic tools have
been found in Rajasthan, parts of the
Ganga and Belan valleys, Central and
Western India, Gujarat, Andhra
Pradesh and Karnatakct. The main tool
types are scrapers, points, awls, burins,
borers, knives, etc. It appears that the
concept of composite tools start
Fig. 5.3 Middle Palaeolithic Tools
developing during this cultural period.

............................................................................................ THE STONE AGE CULTURES

excavators, ' ... there is absolutely no

doubt that the rubble platform with its
unique stone, and the chert artefacts
throughout the rest of the site, are
contemporaneous and wer~ made by a
group of final upper palaeolithic
hunter-gatherers'. A piece of natural
stone found in the center of the platform
has generated great interest. Such
stones are found on the top of the
Kaimur escarpment nearby and show
triangular or ellipsoidal laminations
which are yellowish-brown to reddish-
brown in colour. They are placed
on rubble-made platforms and
worshipped as female principle or Sakti
in the countryside, passing for one Mai
(Mother Goddess) or another. The
identical shape, size and nature of the
Upper Palaeolithic specimen, dated
Fig 5.4 Upper Palaeolithic Tools 9000-8000 BC, and the ones that are
kept in the modern village shrines is
The blade tools are comparatively large, significant.
sometimes upto to 8 cm.
Mesolithic Culture
From the scientific dates available
from the various sites in Uttar Pradesh, With the passage of time there was a
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra marked diminution in the size of stone
Pradesh and Maharashtra one may tools, reaching its culmination in the
safely say that upper Palaeolithic mesolithic period. This period is labelled
period lasted from about 45,000 to in India variously as, Late Stone Age,
10,000 B.C. Mesolithic or Microlithic period. The
One of the most remarkable microlithic tools are characterized by
discovery of the Upper Palaeolithic parallel-sided blades taken out from
period is that of a rubble built, roughly prepared cores of such fine material as
circular platform of about 85 cm in chert, chalcedony, crystal, jasper,
diameter. In the centre of this rubble carnelian, agate, etc. These tools are
platform the excavators of Allahabad generally 1 to 5 cm. long and the types
and Berkeley Universities located a . include smaller version of upper
triangular piece of natural stone Palaeolithic types such as points,
(15 cm high, 6.5 cm wide and about scrappers, burins, awls, etc., besides
6.5 cm thick). According to the some new tool-types like lunates,

ANCIENT INDIA ... .. ....... ..••.. ..................................... . ..................................................... .. ....

trapezes, triangles, arrowheads, of occupied some of these sites. From the

various shapes and sizes. Their size sites of Bagor in Rajasthan and also
makes it very obvious that they were Langhnaj in Gujarat we came to know
used as composite tools, and were that these Mesolithic communities were
hafted in wood, bones, etc. That the in touch with people of the Harappan
micro lithic industry is rooted in the and other Chalcolithic cultures and
preceding phase of the Upper traded various items with them. From
Palaeolithic industry is proved both Bagor three copper arrowheads, typical
by the continuation of the archaeo- of the Harappan Civilization, have been
logical stratigraphy from the Upper found.
Palaeolithic into the microlithic and Some of the most important and
from the physical evolution of the later extensively studied sites of Mesolithic
category from the former. culture are Bagor in Rajasthan,
The C-14 dates available for the Langhnaj in Gujarat, Sarai Nahar Rai,
Mesolithic culture from various sites in Chopani Mando, Mahdaha and
Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Damdama in Uttar Pradesh, and
Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Kerala and Bhimbetka and Adamgarh in Madhya
Andhra Pradesh show that this Pradesh.
industry began around 12,000 B.C.
and survived up to 2,000 B.C. From
sites in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar
Pradesh we come to know that these
communities were essentially hunters,
food-gatherers and fishermen, but also
practised some form of agriculture. The
evidence from several sites like
Mahadaha and Damdama in the Ganga
plains, shows th?t seasonally they

Fig. 5.5 (a) Mesolithic Tools Hafted in

Wooden Handle Fig. 5.5 (b) Mesolithic Tools

. ............... ...• ...... .•. ... •• ... . . •....... ..... . ... ... ... . .... , .......................... THE STONE AGE CULTURES

From Bagor and Adamgarh we get In the context of modern India we

the evidence of the associEl-tion of sheep know that even today for about 2-3
and goat with the Mesolithic people, months in the lean agricultural seasons
around sixth millennium B.C. This every year, the landless labourers, tribal
suggests that they may have partly people and poor people survive, at least
adopted the settled way of life. partly, by foraging for edible roots, leaves,
We must not be surprised by the seeds and fruits which grow naturally in
occurrence of Mesolithic culture and the countryside. The Mesolithic way of
advanced Harappan civHi.zation in the life in India is still far more important to
same period. We m ust recall tha t in us than we are willing to admit. Besides,
India distinct, self-contained social some of our modern cults and important
groups, at different levels of cultural cult spots may well have a Mesolithic
and technological development background or ancestry.
survived right into this century. They
Prehistoric Rock Art
include hunting and food-gathering
tribes, pastoral nomads, shifting Almost all the rock-shelters in India
cultivators, traditional settled occupied by the Upper Palaeolithic and
agriculturists, modern developed Mesolithic people, and many others as
agriculturists, and several levels of well, contain rock-paintings depicting
urban industrial society, all coexisting a variety of subjects, chiefly animals, or
and economically independent as scenes including both people and
well as interdependent. This provides animals . The distribution of these
us with the basic model for our past rock-paintings is very wide: They have
developments. been found in Chargul in north-west

Fig. 5.6 Mesolithic Rock Art

" ANCIENT INDIA ........................................ . .....................•...................................................

Pakistan to Orissa in the east, and from animals are drawn in. bold outline, and
the Kumaon hills in the north to Kerala the bodies are sometimes filled in
in the south. Some of the important completely, or partially with cross-
rock-painting sites are Murhana Pahar hatching. Examples of all the three
in Uttar Pradesh, Bhimbetka, methods can be seen among the
Adamgarh, Lakha Juar in Madhya drawings of animals in the caves or
Pradesh and Kupagallu in Kamataka. rock-shelters at Morhana Pahar in
The occurrence of haematite pieces Uttar Pradesh, and Bhimbetka and
found in the occupational debris of Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh.
Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Besides the animals, birds, fishes, etc.
periods conclusively proves that these have also been depicted.
paintings were made by the occupants Depiction of human figures in rock-
of those caves and shelters. Animals are paintings is quite common. These are
the most frequently depicted subject
in simple outline forms as well as with
either alone or in large and small groups
and shown in various poses. There are hatched body. The humans are shown
also some hunting scenes, of which the in various activities, such as dancing,
rhinoceros hunt from the Adamgarh running, hunting, playing games and
group of rock-shelters is indicative of engaged in battle. The colours used in
the joining of large number of people making these drawings are deep red,
for the hunt of bigger animals. The green, white and, yellow.

1. Explain the following:
Fossils, Homo erectus, Homo sapien, Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Rock Art.
2. Write short notes on:
(i) Earth and life on it
(ii) Early Humans
(iii) Palaeolithic tools
3. • Describe the Paleolithic cultures of India.
4. Describe the Mesolithic culture of India and write how was it different from the
Paleolithic cultures.
5. Write an essay on prehistoric rock art.

• Visit a musem and see the implements used by the early man, collect the
photographs of various types of tools and make a collage or sketches.
• Draw a map of India and plot on it some important Palaeolithic sites.

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W\R~ IN 'I He f1A..;-r J1' HfJl'S IN J~ kNOW1~O PblPl.J.' f1iEJK n:unRl:'. 1l--irT~ H:tUOlt. ' ..... , A:-.l"! 1'"'ff"El.ll. ~ -)CIAl<:i.::n.l'S . .,:";0 ({~SVf.C'rt'\'( r'Hf:~) HISTORY
ANCIENT INDIA .... . ... .. ... ....... .. .. . . .... .............................................. . . •................... ... . . ... . .........

AT the end of the Pleistocene Age, species of wild plants produced a shift
approximately 10,000 years ago, towards sedentary settlements, and
clima tic conditions more or less similar came to dominate the subsequent
to those of today were established in economic and cultural developments.
western and southern Asia. This In the Indian context, the Neolithic-
provided the setting for a number of agriculture based regions can roughly
important advances in human control be divided into four groups: (i) the
of the environment and led to a series Indus system and its western
of events which resulted ultimately in borderland; (ii) Ganga valley (iii) western
the appearance of the first urban India and the northern Deccan and
societies in both regions, some six (iv) the southern Deccan.
thousand years ago. Perhaps the most The economy of all these early
fundamental advance that has affected Neolithic cultures was based on
the course of human life was the agriculture and animal domestication.
domestication of a large number of The earliest evidence for Neolithic
animals and plants. The present culture based on agricultural economy
evidence suggests that in west Asia, comes from the north-western part of
wheat and barley were domesticated the Indo-Pakistan region - basically
by c. 7000 B.C. Rice seems to have in the Quetta valley and in the Valleys
been domesticated in India by about of Loralai and Zob rivers. The
7000 B.C., as the evidence from archaeological sites of Kile Ghul
Koldihwa in the Belan valley shows. Mohammad, Gumla, Rana Ghundai,
Evidence from several sites (especially Anjira, Mundigak, and Mehrgarh in the
Kacchi plain give evidence of a date
Aq Kupruk in Afghanistan) suggests
between c. 7000-5000 B.C. Of these,
that wild precursors of domesticated
Mehrgarh has been most extensively
sheep, goat and cattle were being
examined. The evidence shows that
exploited by man about 16,000 years the habitation here began in about
back. The continuing presence of sheep c. 7000 B.C. but in the early period no
and goat bones in good quantities in use of ceramic is seen. However, in
early phase of Neolithic culture in that about a 1000 years time i.e. around
area (dated to c. 7000-10000 B.C.) has c. 6000 B.C. earthen pots and pans
been interpreted as an indication that come in use: first handmade and then
they had already been domesticated by wheel-made. In the pre-ceramic period
that time. an irregular scatter of square or
The domestication of various rectangular houses made of mud-
species of animals produced the bricks and separated by refuse dumps
specialised pastoraIists who appear to and passage ways made up the
have continued to the modern times to first village. The houses were sub
lead a nomadic and semi-nomadic life. divided into four or more internal
On the other hand the domestication compartments, some of which may have
and successful exploitation of various been used for storage.

......... ....... . .... .................. .......... ........ THE NEOLITHIC AGE: THE BEGINNING OF SE'ITLED LIFE

Kile Gol Mohammad



5 EA


Fig. 6.1 Important Neolithic Sites

~ ANCIENT INDIA ... . . ......... ... ......................................................................... .............. .... ...... . .

The subsistence of early inhabitants also been found. The occurrence of shell
was focused primarily on hunting and bangles and pendants made of mother-
food gathering, supplemented by some of-pearl indicates long-distance trade.
agriculture and animal husbandry. The In short, the ceramic Neolithic
domestic cereals found in these levels occupation (c. 7000 B.C.) at Mehrgarh
include wheat and barley. Bones of during the early food-producing era
domesticated animals 1nclude sheep, shows a basic subsistence economy of
goat, pig and cattle. the Indus valley and beginning of trade
With the onset of the sixth and crafts. During the next 2500 years
millennium B.C. , pottery, first these communities ' developed new

Fig. 6.2 (a) Neolithic Bone Tools Fig. 6.2 (b) Neolithic Stone Tools

handmade, and then wheel-made, came technologies to produce pottery and

into use. From the bone remains, it is figurines of terracotta, elaborate
clear that humped variety of cattle also ornaments of stone and metal, tools and
came to be domesticated. The beads utensils, and architectural style.
found with burial remains show that To the east of the Indus valley, in
people used beads made oflapis lazuli, Ganga valley, Assam and the
carnelian, banded age te and white north-east region, a large number of
marine shell. A single copper bead has Neolithic sites have been found. Some

........................... . ... ....................... THE NEOLITHIC AGE: THE BEGINNING OF SETTLED LIFE ~
of the most important sites are Gufkra1
and Burzahom in Kashmir, Mahgara,
Chopani Mando and Koldihwa in Belan
va1ley in Uttar Pradesh, and Chirand
in Bihar.
Three radiocarbon dates from
Koldihwa provide the earliest evidence
for the domesticated variety of rice going
back to about c. 6500 B.C. which make t, 1----)
it the oldest evidence of rice in any part
of the world. Thus, in a11 probability
agriculture in the Belan va1ley began
around c. 6500 B.C. Besides rice,
evidence for barley cultivation is
attested at Mahgara.
The bone remains from Koldihwa
and Mahgara show that cattle, sheep
and goat were domesticated in the
region. In Mahgara, evidence of a cattle
pen has a1so been met with.
In the north-west, the early Neolithic
settlers in Burzahom lived in pit
dwellings, rather than building houses Fig. 6.3 Neolithic Pottery
over the ground.
The settlement at Chirand in Bihar the Harappan culture. Some of the
is relatively late. From Assam and most important sites in southern India
further north-east regions small are Kodekal, Utnur, Nagatjunikonda
polished Neolithic stone axes have been and Palavoy in Andhra Pradesh;
found from Cochar hills, Garo hills and Tekkalkolta, Maski, T. Narsipur,
Naga hills. Unfortunately, so far very Sangankallu, Hallur and Brahmagiri in
little cultural material has been found Karnataka and Paiyampalli in Tamil
to throw light on the life of the makers Nadu. The southern Neolithic Age is
of these axes and there is little or no dated between 2600 and 800 B.C. It
dating evidence. The excavations at has three phases. Phase I is tota1ly
Sarutaru near Guwahati revealed devoid of metal tools and in the second
shouldered celts and round-butted phase tools of copper and bronze are
axes associated with crude cord-or found in limited quantity. The evidence
basket-marked pottery. shows that people domesticated cattle,
In south India, we have the most sheep and goat and practised some
decisive evidence of new patterns of agriculture. Pottery of both handmade
subsistence, almost contemporary with as well as wheel-made variety was used.

~. ANCIENT INDIA ................... ..... ........... . ...... ...... ............................................................... ..

They built houses of wattle-and-daub, about 8,000 B.C. and soon it became a
with rammed floor, tended cow, bull, widespread phenomenon. People lived
goat, sheep, and cultivated horse gram, in mud houses, wheat and barley were
millet and ragi. In the third phase iron cultivated, and cattle , sheep and goat
has also been reported to have been were domesticated. Long-distance trade
found. for precious goods was also carried 011.
The evidence discussed above leads Almost about the same time, similar
us to draw certain broad conclusions. developments took place in the Belan
The earliest Neolithic settlements in valley also. By about 3,000 B.C.
the Indian subcontinent first developed Neolithic culture was a widespread
in the west of the Indus. Here at phenomenon and covered a large part
Mehrgarh the Neolithic culture began of the Indian subcontinent.

1. Explain the following:
Domestication of plants and animals, Food gathering.
2. Wha.t is Neolithic culture and which are the earliest sites belonging to this
3. Describe the economy of the Neolithic period. How is it different from Pa.laeolithic
and Mesolithic economies?
4. Discuss some important sites of Neolithic culture and important findings
associated with them.
5. Describe the lifestyle and religious beliefs of the Neolithi::: people.

• Make sketches of Neolithic tools and describe them.

• Make sketches of Palaeolithic tools.
• Visit a museum and note the difference between Neolithic. Palaeolithic
and Mesolithic tools.

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'. ANCIENT INDIA ................................. ... ....... . . ..... ................................................. . ............. .

THE end of the Neolithic period saw culture and other were decidedly later
very different kind of developments than Harappan. These cultures shared
in different areas. While in the certain common features. They are
Indus and Saraswati valleys there all characterised by painted ceramic,
emerged, though slowly, a full-fledged usually black-on-red, a specialised
civilization, in central India and
blade and flake industry of the silicious
Deccan a very different kind of culture
developed which, though using metal, material like chalcedony and chert, and
never reached the level of urbanisation. copper and bronze tools, though on a
This was known as Chalcolithic restricted scale. Their economy was
culture. Some of these cultures were based on subsistence agriculture,
contemporary with the Harappan stock-raising and hunting and fishing.



Fig. 7.1 Important Cha1colithic and Copper Hoard Sites

........................................... ..................................... THE CHALCOLITHIC CULTURES OF INDIA

Some important Chalcolithic cultures

Ahar culture c.2800-1500 B.C
Kayatha culture c. 2450- i 700 B.C.
Malwa culture c. 1900-1400 B.C.
Savalda culture c. 2300-2000 B.C.
Jorwe culture c. 1500 -900 B.C.
Prabhas culture c. 2000-1400 B.C.
Rangpur culture c. 1700-1400 B.G.
The most distinguishing feature of
these Cha1colithic cultures is their
distinct painted pottery. The Kayatha
culture is characterized by a sturdy
red-slipped ware paint~d with designs
in chocolate colour, a red painted buff
ware and a com bed ware bearing
incised patterns. The Ahar people
made a distinctive black-and-red ware
decorated with white designs. The
Malwa ware is rather coarse in fabric,
but has a thick buff surface over which
designs are made either in red or black.
The Prabhas and Rangpur wares are
both derived from the Harappan, but
have a glossy surface due to which they
are also called Lustrous Red Ware.
Jorwe ware too is painted black-on-red
but has a .matt surface treated with a
wash. Some of the most well-known
pottery forms are dishes-on-stand,
spouted vases, stemmed cups,
pedestalled bowls, big storage jars, and
spouted basins and bowls .
Most of these Chalcolithic cultures
flourished in semi-arid regions of
Rajasthan, Mad hya Pradesh, Gujarat
and Maharashtra. The settlements of
Kayatha culture are only a few in
number, mostly located on the
Chambal and its tributaries. They are

~i ANCIENT I NDIA . ... . ..... .... .. . . . ..... . . . . . .. ..... . . ... . . . .. ..... . .... .. ... .. . .. . .. . . ... . ............ .. ... . ... . . .. .. .. ... .. ... .. .

relatively small in size and the biggest

may be not over two hectares. In
contras t to small Kayatha culture
settlements those of Ahar Culture are
big. At least three of them namely Ahar,
Balathal and Gilund are of several
hectares. Stone, mud bricks, and mud
were used for the construction of
house s and other stru cture s .
Excavations reveal th at Bala thal wa s a
well fortified settlement. Th e people of
Malwa cu lture settled mostly on the
Narma da and its tributaries. Navdatoli,
Eran a nd Nagada are the three best
known settlements of Malwa culture . Fig. 7.3 Recon..struction of an Excavated
Navdatoli measures almost 10 hectares Chalco lithic Village - Aha r, Raj asthan
and is on e of th e largest Cha1colithic were m ade of rammed clay and huts
settlements in the coun try. It has been were used for storage a lso. People
seen th at some of these sites were raised cattle as well a s cultiva ted both
fortified and Nagada had even a bastion khari! and rabi crops in rotation. Wheat
of mud-bricks. Eran similarly had a and barley were grown in the area of
fortification w 'll1 with a m oat. Malwa. Rice is reported to h ave been
Unfortu n ately not more than h alf a fou nd from Inamgaon and Ahar. These
dozen settlements of Prabhas culture people also cultivatedjowar and bajra
are known. The Rangpur culture sites and so also kulth, ragi, green peas , lentil
are located mostly on Ghe lo and and green and black grams.
Kalubhar rivers in Guj arat. Th e Jorwe Almost all these Chalco lithic
settlements are comparatively larger in cultures flourished in the black cotton
number. More than 200 settlements are soil zone. This clearly represents an
known from Maharashtra. Prakash, ecological adaptation dictated by
Daimabad and Inamgaon are some of available technology, knowledge and
the best known settlements of this means. An analogy with present-day
culture . The largest of these is agricultural methods in these regions
Daimabad which measured almost 20 leads to the supposition that we are
hectares. • dealing here with a system of dry
The Chalcolithic people built farming, dependent on moisture-
rectangular and circular houses of mud retentive soils.
wattle-and-daub. The circular houses
were mostly in clusters. These houses Trade and Commerce
and huts had roofs of straw supported There is evidence to show that the
on bamboo and wooden rafters. Floors Chalcolithic communities traded and

......... •.. . ... . ......... . . . .•... . ...•...... . ...• . .. . ...•..•........ . ... . ... THE CHALCOLITHIC CULTURES OF INDIA

exchanged materials with other

contemporary communities. Large (a)
settlements like Ahar, Gilund, Nagada,
Navdatoli, Eran, Prabhas, Rangpur,
Prakash, Daimabad and Inamgaon
would have served as major centres
of trade and exchange. It appears that
Ahar people, settled close to the copper
source , supplied copper tools and
objects to other contemporary
communities in Malwa and Gujarat. IwewwtI
eMS .
: I .

It has been suggested that most of (b)

the copper a..xes found in Malwa,
Jorwe and Prabhas cultures bear
some identification marks, which are
almost identical, suggesting that
they may be the trademarks of the
smiths who made them. Conch shell
for bangles were traded from the
Saurashtra coast to various other parts
of the Chalcolithic regions. Similarly,
gold and ivory may have come from
Tekkalkotta (Karnataka) to Jorwe
people who in tum traded these to their
contemporaries. The semiprecious
stones may have been traded to
various parts from Rajpipla (Gujarat). Fig. 7.4 Objects ofReligious Beliefs
(a) Stylised Bull Figurines from Kayatha,
It is interesting to note that the Jorwe
(b) Terracotta Objects from lnamgaon
people traded even the pottery to
distant places, as Inamgaon pottery
has been found at several sites located Religious Beliefs
away from it. This reminds us of Religion was an aspect which
Northern Black Polished Ware being interlinked all the Chalcolithic cultures.
exported with the trade from the plain The worship of mother goddess and the
Gangetic to far off regions, in the early bull was in vogue. The bull cult seems
historical period. Wheeled bullock to have been predominant in Malwa
carts, drawings of which have been during the Ahar period. A large number
found on pots, were used for long- of these both naturalistic as well as
distance trade, besides the river stylised lingas have been found from
transport. most of the sites. The naturalistic ones

. " ANCIENT INDIA ............. . ....... . ........ . .......... . . . ............... .. ......................... •. . ....... . .. .. ... . .......

may have served as votive offerings, but The Chalcolithic cultures flourished
the small stylised ones may h.ave been during the third millennium and
hung around the neck as the Lingayats second millennium B.C. A large
do today. number of settlements like Kayatha,
The Mother Goddess is depicted on Prabhas, Ahar, Balathal, Prakash and
a huge storage jar of Malwa culture in Nevasa were deserted, to be reoccupied
an applique design. She is flanked by after four to six centuries later. It has
a woman on the right and a crocodile been postulated that these cultures
on the left, by the side of which is declined due to decline in rainfall which
represented the shrine. Likewise the made it hard for the agricult ural
fiddle-shaped figurines prob~bly communities to sustain.
resembling srivatsa, the symbol of
Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth in Technology
historical period represent a mother The Chalcolithic farmers had made
Goddess. considerable progress in ceramic as
In a painted design on a pot, a deity well as metal technology. The painted
is shown with dishevelled hair, recalling pottery was well made and well fired in
the Rudra oflater period. A painting on kiln. It was fired at a temperature
a jar found from Daimabad; shows a between 500-700° C. In metal tools
deity surrounded by animals and birds we find axes, chisels, bangles, beads,
such as tigers and peacocks. Some hooks, etc. which were mostly made
scholars compare it with the 'Siva of copper. The copper was obtained,
Pashupati' depicted on a seal from
perhaps , from the Khetri mines of
Rajasthan . Gold ornaments were
Two figurines from Inamgaon,
extremely rare and have been found
belonging to late Jorwe culture, have
been identified as proto-Ganesh, who only in the Jorwe culture. An ear
is worshipped for success before ornament has been found from
embarking on an undertaking. Several Prabhas also. The fmd of crucibles and
headless figurines found at Inamgaon pairs of tongs of copper at Inamgaon
have been compared with Goddess shows the working of goldsmiths.
Visira of the Mahabharata. Fire- Chalcedony drills were used for
worship seems to have been a very perforating beads of semiprecious
widespread phenomenon among the stones. . Lime was prepared out of
Chalcolithic people. Fire-altars have Kankar and used for various purposes
been found from a large number of like painting houses and lining the
Chalcolithic sites during the course of storage bins, etc.
excavations. Copper Hoard Culture
The occurence of pots and other
funerary objects found along with the Since the first reported discovery of a
burials of the Malwa and Jorwe people copper harpoon from Bithur in Kanpur
indicate that people had a belief in life district in 1822, nearly one thousand
after death. copper objects have been found from

......................................................... . ...................... THE CHALCOLITHIC CULTURES OF INDIA

almost 90 localities in various parts areas as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya

of India. As these copper objects Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and
have mostly been found in hoards, Maharashtra. Scientific analysis of
they are known as Copper Hoards. these copper objects show that they
The largest hoard from Gungeria were made in open or closed moulds.
(Madhya Pradesh) comprises 424 These are generally made of pure
pieces of copper objects and 102 copper, although very insignificant
thin sheets of silver. The main types quantities of alloys have been noticed
of objects are various kinds of celts, in some. The source of metal for these
harpoons, antennae swords, rings copper hoards appears to the Khetri
and anthropomorphs. We find that copper mines as well as hilly regions of
harpoons, antennae swords and Almora District in Uttaranchal.
anthropomorphs are basically confined The Copper Hoards include
to Uttar Pradesh while various kinds of weapons and tools as well as objects of
celts, rings and other objects are worship. The harpoons and antennae
found from such diverse geographical swords are likely to have been used as
weapons, while various kinds of celts
and axes may have been used as tools.

~~. Bar celts appear to have been used for

mining ores. The anthropomorphs,
4 •
weighing quite a few kilos and
measuring upto 45 cm. in length and
43 cm. in width, were possibly objects
3 .
-·0 6
of worship. Even today all over northern
India tiny anthropomorphs of the
size of 4-10 cm. are worshipped as
Shani devata.
It is difficult to say as to who were
10 the authors of these Copper Hoards.
In the Gangetic plains a few pieces of
these copper hoards have been found
• associated with Ochre Coloured
1391' HW ee Pottery (OCP), discussed below . .
Almost contemporary to the later half
of the Mature Harappan civilization,
Fig. 7.S Copper Hoard Objects
1. Anthropomorph, 2-3. Antennae Swords, there flourished a culture in the upper
4-5, 7 Harpoons, 6, Ring, 8-11, Celts, Gangetic plains which is identified by
12-13 Bar Celts the use of pottery with bright red slip

, ANCIENT INDIA .... •..............................................................................................................

\. I (

JB ffi \ ..

7=H ~ -,rr' 'W
\. )
QJ Fig. 7.6 Ochre Coloured Pottery

and painted in black. This pottery has the OCP ~as also been found. Due to
been found all over upper Gangetic this, some scholars think that the
plains. During the course of excavation Copper Hoards are associated with OCP
in the region it has been found that the people, in doab. But their cultural
sites yielding this pottery have suffered association in Bihar, Bengal and
from extensive floods. Many scholars Orissa is not clear. As mentioned in
think that the entire upper Gangetic previous section on Chalcolithic
plains was for some length of time cultures, some of the copper hoard
submerged under water. The OCP types, mainly celts, have been found
people used copper tools and cultivated associated with Cha1colithic people
rice, barley, gram and khaseri. The OCP also.
shares many shapes with the Harappan Besides, there are some other sites
ware. of the upper Ganga valley like
During the course of excavations, Bahadarabad, Nasirpur (Hardwar)
Copper Hoard objects were found in Rajpur-Parsu (Meerut) Bisauli
association with OCP deposit at Saipai, (Badaun) and Baheria (Shahjahanpur)
in District Etah. Also, from almost all from where copper hoards were found
the places in Ganga-Yamuna doabfrom earlier also yielded OCP sherds in
where Copper Hoards have been found, subsequent explorations.

.... . .... .. ................ .. ........................ .. ..... .. ......... .. .. .... THE C HALCO LITHIC CULTURES OF INDIA

1. Explain the following:
Chalcolithic, OCP, Anthropomorphs, Copper Hoards.
2. Write short notes on:
(i) Chalcolithic technology
(ii) Important Chalcolithic cultures
(iii) Copper Hoards
3. How is the Chalcolithic culture different from the Neolithic culture?
4. Describe the religious beliefs of Chalcolithic people.

• Locate on the outline map of India some important Chalcolithic sites.

• Draw on your sketch book some vessels like glass , cups and vase.

l"~'" '(
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'Ar the time of partition, at lnelia in 1947i , bftr~ly 40

< '

,, settlerrlents belonging to this, ,civilizgtion were


known. ,Researches, carried, out during the ' ,last 50


, 'K

!, '\~yars have altered the picture completely.

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............................................. . ............................................. THE HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION

THE Harappan civilization was Indus valley, it came to be known also

discovered in 1920-21 following as the Indus civilization. A culture may
the excavations by R.D. Banerjee at also be named after the site from where
Mohenjodaro and by D.R. Salini at it came to be known for the first time.
Harappa. Since at that time the remains Since, it was at Harappa that the relics
of the civilization were found only in the of this civilization were first noticed, it

. Shof tVQhol

11 Q / .P.rla no


N o A

o 200 400KM ------~ GOdavari
I" " I I

Fig. 8.1 The Extent of the Harappan Civilization and its Important Sites

ANCIENT INDIA ................................................................................................................ .

is also known as the Harappan and its tributaries and (ii) as many as
civilization. At the time of partition of 1,100 (80%) settlements are located on
India in 1947, barely 40 settlements the vast plain between the Indus and
belonging to this civilization were the Ganga, comprising mainly the
known. Researches carried out during Saraswati river system which is dry
the last 50 years have altered the today, and (iii) about 250 settlements
picture completely. Now about 1400 are found in India beyond the Saraswati
settlements belonging to the different river system a number of them in
phases of this culture are known from Gujarat, and a few in Maharashtra.
parts of India. In terms of political It is clear from the above
boundaries of today, ofthese 1400 sites distribution pattern of settlements that
nearly 925 settlements are in India and the focus of Harappan civilization was
475 in Pakistfln. This ancient not the Indus but the Saraswati
civilization of India, like any other, river and its tributaries which flowed
cannot properly be studied on the basis between the Indus and the Ganga. It is
of its present day political boundaries. because of this reason that some
The geographical distribution should scholars call it Indus-Saraswati
be its basis. civilization, and few prefer the
The 1400 settlements, discovered so nomenclature Saraswati civilization.
far are distributed over a very wide Most of the 1400 settlements
geographical area. Its known extent in belonging to this civilization can be
the west is upto Sutkagendor in classified as small villages (which are
Baluchistan; Alamgirpur in Meerut upto 10 hectares), a few larger towns
District (Uttar Pradesh) in the east; and small cities (10 to 50 hectares). Some
Daimabad (Ahmadnagar District, of the settlements like Moherijodaro (+ 250
Maharashtra) in south; and Manda hectares), Harappa (+150 hectares),
(Akhnoor District, Jammu and Ganawariwala (+80 hectares) and
Kashmir) in the north, covering an Rakhigarhi (+80 hectares), Kalibangan
area of almost 1600 km. east-west (+100 hectares), and Dholavira (+100
and 1400 km. north-south. The total hectares) can easily be classed as
geographical area over which this large cities. The first five are inland
civilization flourished is more than 20 centres located approximately at an
times of the area of Egyptian and more equidistance in a zigzag pattern that
than 12 times of the area of Egyptian covers Indus and Saraswati river plain.
and Mesopotamian civilizations The last two are located in Rann of
combined. It covers an area of about Kachchha.
12,50,000 sq. lpn. These settlements Each of these cities were
are mostly located on river banks. surrounded by vast agricultural lands,
When we look at the distribution rivers and forest that were inhabited by
pattern of these settlements in terms of scattered farming and pastoral
rivers, we find that (i) only 40 communities and bands of hunters
settlements are located on the Indus food-gatherers.

................................................................................... . .. ...... THE HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION

Major excavations undertaken at was established along a grid that was

the sites of Mohenjodaro, Harappa defined by large streets running north-
Kalibangan, Lothal, Surkotada, south and east-west and fortification all
Dholavira etc. have given us a fair idea around.
about the various aspects like town Earlier it was thought that all cities
planning, economy, technology, religion were having a standard division into a
etc. of this civilization. high western citadel and a lower town
to the east reflecting the division of the
Town Planning
cities into rulers and the service
The overall layout of the Indus- communities, with the crafts
Saraswati cities is distinguished by the workshops located in the lower city.
orientation of streets and buildings, But this interpretation is not correct
according to the cardinal directions - because large public buildings, market
east-west, and north-south. The idea areas, large and small private houses
of settlement planning did not appear as well as crafts workshops have been
suddenly with the first large cities but found in all areas.
was already well established in earlier Each city comprised a series of
period as has been revealed from the walled sectors or mounds, oriented in
excavations at Kot Diji, Kalibangan, different direction. Mohenjodaro,
Harappa, Rahman Dheri, Nausharo etc. Harappa and Kalibangan have a high
The basic layout at all these settlements rectangular 'mound on the west and

(a) (b)

.______-- _____
'--'-"'~ ~N~ .6: o,r "'1"£<9

(HI 'tl4L $rFIJCTVR£)

Fig. B.2 Outlay Plan of a Harappan City

(a) Mohenjodaro (b) Kalibangan

ANCIENT INDIA ............ . .............. . ... .. ... . . . .... . .... . ..... . . ... . .. . . ... . ..... . ... . . ............................ .... . .

extensive mound to the north, south size viz. 10x20x40 cm. Both sizes of
and the east. But at the sites like bricks have identical proportions 1 :2:4,
Dholavira and Banavali there was only that the width is double the thickness
a single walled mound internally and the length four times, the thickness.
divided into three or four walled sectors. The doors windows were made of
The excavations at the Harappan wood and mats. The floors of houses
city sites like Mohenjodaro, Harappa, were generally hard-packed earth that
Kalibangan, Surkotada show that there was often plastered. Bathing areas and
were large gateways at various entry drains were made with baked bricks or
points of the city. These gateways are stone. Some rooms were paved with
seen even in the inner fortification areas bricks or fired terracotta cakes. Very
also. At Dholavira a large inscription, few actual roof fragments have been
possibly a fallen signboard, was found recovered. They were probably made
close to the main gateway. The letters of wooden beams covered with reeds
of the inscription are the largest and packed clay. In rare instances
example of writing ever discovered from timber also seems to have formed a
any Harappan city, is made from white semi-structural frame or lacing for
gypsum paste inlay set into a wooden brickwork.
plank. Ten symbols each measuring
Types of Bulldings
approximately 37 cm. high and 25 to
27 cm. wide proclaimed some name Excavations have uncovered many
or title. Mounted above the gateway the types of houses and public buildings
signboard would have been visible from at both large and small settlements.
a long distance. Most ofthe architecture can be grouped
into three categories, with some
Materials used in Buildings variations: (i) private houses, (ii) large
The houses built by people usually houses surrounded by smaller units,
show considerable variation in the raw and (iii) large public structures.
materials used and the style of Considerable variation is seen in the
construction. The most common size of dwellings, which range from
building materials in the alluvial plains, single roomed tenements to houses
where most settlements are located, with courtyards having up to
were mud-bricks and kiln-fired-bricks, dozen rooms of varying sizes.
wood and reeds. However, in rocky Doorways and windows rarely opened
foothills and on the Islands of Kutch out into the main street, but faced side
and in Saurashtra, where stone is lanes. The view into the house was
commonly available, dressed stone blocked by a wall or a room around
replaced bricks. The average size of brick the front door. This was done to protect
used for houses was 7 lh x 15x30 cm. the activities in the central courtyard
but for the construction offortification from the view of passers-by. This
walls the size of the brick was of bigger pattern is still maintained in

... .. . . .. ..... . ............ ..... ........... ............... .... .... . . ..... .... . ........ ... ... THE HARAPPAN CIVlLIZATION

traditional houses throughout the show that ropes were used to lift the
Indo .. Gangetlc plains. water up, probably with leather or
Many houses were at least two wooden buckets.
stoned and some schola :-~; think that
Public Buildings
some of the houses may have been
three storied . Hf':1rths were commonly In several cities some large and distinct
found h"'1 the n)(lms. \111'1ost every house structures have been found. Their
had a bathn)om, and In some cases special nature is seen in their plan
there i~ evidence of bathrooms on the
fIrst floor. Th e doors were made with
wooden frames and a brick socket set
in the threshold served as door pivot.
Some of the doors seem to have been
painted and possibly carved with
simple ornamentation The windows
were small at first and second stories.
The adjacent houses were separated by
a n arrow space of "no man's land".
Almost all the big houses had a well
within their courtyard. Deep grooves
on the bricks at the top edge of the well Fig. 8.4 The Great Bath ofMohenjodaro
and in their construction. Here we shall
confine ourselves only to a few
Perhaps the most remarkable
feature of the citadel mound at
Mohenjodaro is the Great Bath. This
fInely built brick structure measures
12 m by 7m, and is nearly 3m deep
from the surrounding pavement. It
is approached at either end by flights
of steps. The floor of the bath was
constructed of sawn bricks set on edge
in gypsum mortar, with a layer of
bitumen sandwiched between the
inner and outer brick l:tyers. Water was
evidently supplied by 3. large well in an
adjacent room, and an outlet from one
corner of the bath Jed to a high corbelled
Fig. 8.3 Ariel View of Excavated Citadel Area drain disgorging on the west side of the
of Mohenjodaro mound. Surroupding the bath were

" ANCIENT INDIA ..... ... .... . .............. . ........ . ... ........ . . ... .. ........ . .. ... ... .. .... ........ ...... ... . . ............. . .. . . .

porticos and sets of rooms, while a centre of one of these circular brick
stairway led to an upper storey. It has platforms. Such wooden mortars are
been generally agreed that this bath used in many parts of the world to
was linked with some sort of ritual remove the husk from the grain.
bathing which has been very common An important structure is the
in Indian life right from the ancient dockyard found at Lothal. It is a large
times till today. structure measuring 223 m. in length,
Immediately to the west of the 35 m. in width and 8 m. in depth,
Great Bath at Mohenjodaro is a group provided with an inlet channel (12.30
of 27 blocks of brickwork criss- m. wide) in the eastern wall and a
crossed by narrow lanes. Overall it spillway. The inlet channel was
measures 50 m. east-west and 27 m. connected to a river. By its side is a 240
north-south. Somewhat similar m. long and 21.6 m wide wharf. Most
structures have been found at
scholars have identified this structure
Harappa, Kalibangan and Lothal.
These structures have been identified as a dockyard where ships and boats
as granaries · which were used for came for loading and unloading of
storing grains. To the south of granaries goods . In view of the fact that a large
at Harappa lay working platforms number of seals have been found in a
consisting of the rows of circular brick warehouse close to the dockyard,
platforms. During the course of scholars think that Lothal was a major
excavation, impression of a large trading centre of the Harapp a n
wooden mortar was found placed in the civilization.

Fig. 8.5 Docky ard at Lothal

· ............................................ .. .. ... ...... .. ................... . .. .. ........... THE HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION

Streets and Drains mostly unalloyed copper was used for

Well laid-out streets and side lanes manufacturing artefacts, and only
equipped with drains are the most rarely tin was alloyed in copper to make
outstanding features of the Harappan bronze. Tools and weapons were simple
civilization. in form. They included flat -axes, chisels,
The towns were well planned and arrowhead, spearheads, knives, saws,
the streets cut each other on the right . razors, and fish-hooks. People also
angles . Even the width of these streets made copper and bronze vessels. They
were in a set ratio. If the narrowest lane made small plates and weights oflead,
was one unit in width, the other streets and gold and silver jewellery of
were twice, thrice and so on in width. considerable sophistication.
Further, the civic sense of people in this The Harappans continued to use
civilization was such that during the knives of chert blades also. Some of
hey-day of the civilization , no these chert blades are the finest
encroachment on the streets was to be examples known from any early culture.
seen. According to scholars, such town- A great skill and expertise is seen in
planning was not seen even in the precious and semi-precious stone
nineteenth century London and Paris. beads and weights. Long barrel shaped
Even smaller towns and villages had cornelian beads (upto 10 cm. long) are
impressive drainage systems. This the finest examples of craftsmanship.
indicates that people had a great civic Steatite was used for making a
sense of sanitation and care for health variety of objects like seals, beads,
and hygiene. Small drains made of bracelets, buttons, vessels, etc. but its
burnt bricks were connected with use in making faience (a form of glass)
bathing platforms and latrines of is particularly noteworthy. In this
private houses joined the medium-
material beads, amulets, sealings and
sized drains in the side streets. These
even animal models have been found.
drains ran into larger sewers in the
In the Harappan civilization, . gold
main streets which were covered with
objects occur in the form of beads,
bricks or dressed stone blocks.
Corbelled-arch drains have also been pendants, amulets, brooches, and
found. One of them is almost 6 ft. deep
which functioned as main drain taking
all the waste water out of the town. At
regular intervals along the main sewage
drains were rectangular sump pits for
collecting waste and these were
regularly cleaned.
Crafts and Industries
Although the Harappan civilization is
referred to as a bronze age civilization, Fig. 8.6 Ornaments

'. ANCIENT INDIA ............................................................................. ........ ... .. ............ ... . . .... . .. .. .

other small ornaments. The Harappan achieved by a highly developed system

gold is of light colour indicating high of communication and strong
silver content. On the basis of alloys, economy. In this, intensive agricultural
it has been suggested that gold may production and large-scale trade
have come from Karnataka. Silver was played significant roles. In the
relatively more common than gold beginning, trade must have been
which is indicated by the occurrence of internal, i.e. between one zone and
a number of large vessels and other another, and later external trade also
objects. developed. Agricultural produce,
Mature Harappan pottery industrial raw material, like copper
represents a blend of the ceramic ores, stone, semi precious shells, etc.
tradition of the pre-Harappan culture were traded. Besides the raw material,
of both west of the Indus region as finished products of metals (pots and
well as of the Saraswati area. The pans, weapon, etc.), precious and senri-
pottery technology was quite advanced. precious stones (beads, pendants,
Most of the pots were wheel-made. Big amulets etc.) ornaments of gold and
storage jars were also produced. Pots silver were also traded to various areas.
were beautifully painted in black on the Copper may have been procured from
bright red surface with geometric Khetri mines of Rajasthan, chert blades
designs , plants, animals, and a few from Rohri hills of Sindh, carnelian
paintings seem to depict scenes from beads from Gujarat and Sindh, lead
stories. from south India, lapis-lazuli from
More than 2500 seals have been Kashmir and Afghanistan, turquoise
found. These are made of steatite. They and jade from central Asia or Iran,
mostly depict a single animal-unicorn amethyst from Maharashtra, and agate,
bull, elephant, rhinoceros etc.-but chalcedony, and carnelian from
some also depict trees, semi-human Saurashtra.
and human figurines,in some cases The occurrence of mature
participating in a ceremony. Harappan seals and other artefacts
Shell working was another in contemporary Mesopotamian
flourishing industry. Artisans, civilization, and some of the
settlements close to the sea MesopotaIman and Egyptian objects in
manufactured shell ornaments like Harappan civilization, and the
pendants, rings, bracelets, inlays, evidence of Mesopotamian documents,
beads etc., beside objects as bowls, establish that the Harappans had
ladles and gamesmen. trading relationship with that land.
Trade and Commerce Weights and Measures
In the Harappan civilization, the The trade, both long as well as short
elaborate social sttucture and the distance , implies a regulation of
standard of living must have been exchange and of weights and measures.

........... . ...... ... .... .......... ............................................................ THE HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION

Harappan weights and measures were pottery resemble the ones used today
cubical and spherical in shape and in Sindh and Punjab areas. Travel and
were made of chert, jasper and agate. transport were carried on through
The weights proceed in a series, first ships and boats. For the overland
doubling, from 1,2,4,8, to 64, then transport bullock-carts and pack
going'to 160; and from then on in animals like bull, camel, ass etc. w~re
decimal multiples of sixteen, 320, 640, used. The"terracotta models of bullock-
1600, 6400 (1600 x 4), 8000 (1600 x 5) cart and cart tracks found on roads
and 128,000 (i.e . 16000 x 8). from various sites indicate that carts
Interestingly, the tradition of 16 or its used in those days were in size and
multiples continued in India till 1950s. shape practically Jike the present day
Sixteen chhatank made a ser, and 16 ones.
annas made one rupee. The measures
of length was based upon a foot of Agriculture
37.6 cm. and a cubit of51.8 to 53.6 cm. The granaries at some Harappan cities
clearly suggest that cereals were
Transport and Travel
produced in such large quantities that
Representations of ships and boats not only were all the immediate needs
are found on some seals and as
graffiti an pottery from Harappa and
Mohenjodaro. A terracotta model of a

(a) Bullock cart

Fig. 8.8 The Plough Field Excavated at


of 1" 'ople duly met with, but there was

(b) Boat depicted on seals
also enough reserve to face any future
Fig. 8.7 Modes oJTransport
ship or a boat, with stick-impressed The principal cereals seem to have
socket for the mast and eyeholes for been wheat and barley. Rice, though
fixing oars has been found from Lothal. known , was a favoured grain. Six
The boats depicted on seals and varieties of millets including ragi,


, ANCIENT INDIA ........ . ................. .. ........ . .... . ....... . ... . ........... . .......... . .... . ... . ........... . ...... . ........... .

kodon, sanwa, and jowar were were all domesticated. A large number
cultivated, as also peas and beans. of animal have been depicted on the
Remains of rice have been found seals. These include sheep, goat,
!llainly from Gujarat and Haryana humped bull, buffalo, elephant, etc.
·areas. Other crops include dates, Bones of wild animals like spotted deer,
varieties of legumes, sesame and sambhar deer, hog deer, wild pig, etc.
mustard. Fragments of cotton cloth are also found which evidently were
found at Mohenjodaro and other sites hunted for food. Several types of birds
show that cotton was also grown. as well as fishes were also hunted for
Cotton has been found at Mehrgarh at food.
least 2000 years before the mature The bones of camels have been
phase of the Civilization. This is the found in large number from various
oldest evidence of cotton in the world. sites but the animal is not depicted
. Agriculture was generally practised on seals. Bones of horses have been
along the river banks most of which reported from Lothal, Surkotada,
were flooded during the summer and Kalibangan and several other sites.
monsoons. The flood deposited every Terracotta figurines of the horse have
year fresh alluvial silt which is highly been found at Nausharo and Lothal.
productive and for which no major But no unambiguous depiction of
furrowing and certainly no manures this animal on seal has so far been
and irrigation are required. The found.
cultivated field excavated at Kalibangan
(period I) shows crisscross furrow-
marks indicating that two crops were A large variety of objects such as seals,
grown simultaneously. This method is stone statues, terracotta, etc. are
followed even today in the Rajasthan, superb examples of art activities. The
Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. most outstanding pieces are a yogi from
For tilling fields, wooden plough Mohenjodaro and two small figurines
with a copper o~· wooden ploughshare from Harappa. Bronzes are rare, the
was used. Terracotta models of most famous being a small fem a le
the plough J ave been found at statue of about 11.5 cm. in height
Mohenjodaro cu j Banawali. Harvesting identified as dancing girl, from
of crops would have been done with Mohenjodaro. Significantly, this has
copper sickles as well as stone blades been made by the lost wax method of
hafted in wood. casting. Daimabad bronze animals
The range of animals domesticated workmanship most probably belong to
by the Harappan people is quite large. Harappan period. The red sandstone
Bones of several animals have been torso found at Harappa is made of
found in excavations. Skeletal remains detachable limbs and head and the grey
in clude sheep, goat, bull, buffalo , stone torso perhaps shows a dancing
I' leph ant, camel, pig, dog and cat, which figure. Both these are so realistic

......... . ......... . .... . ............... . .............. .. ... ... ....... . , ....................... THE HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION

that had they not been found in dogs, sheep and cattle. Figurines of both
archaeological excavations none would humped and humpless bulls are found.
believe that they belong to the The largest number of seals depict
Harappan period. unicorn. But the most artistic
Harappan people produced a large depictions are the figures of humped
number of terracotta figurines which bull. Other animals are elephants,
were handmade. The figurines include tigers, rhinoceros, ram, etc. Humans
humans, animals, birds, monkeys, are also occasionally depicted.

Fig. 8.9 Specimen of Arlfrom

Harappan Civilization
(a) Bronze statue - 'Dancing Girl'
(b) Terracotta Bulls (c) Terracotta
Female Figurine (d) Head of a Yogi
(e) Painted Jar

ANCIENT INDIA ...................... . .................. ... ........... .. ................... .. ... ..... .. .. .... .... . ..... ... .. . ... . .

As for the evidence of paintings we A few bear only one single sign. The
have it only on pottery. Unfortunately Harappa.."1. script has 400 to 500 signs
no wall paintings, even if there were and its is generally agreed that it is not
any, have survived. an alphabetic form of writing. Some
Script scholars opine that Harappan
inscriptions present 3 logosyllablic
The language of Harappans is at writing system, where a sequenc..'C of two
present still unknown and must remain or more signs would represent either a
so until the Harappan script is read. complete word, a syllable or a sound
Though several attempts have been and sometimes even a sentence of
made but none has been convincing several words and grammatical
and acceptable to all. Some scholars indicators. The script was written from
connect it to Dravidian languages and right to left. When the inscription was
others to Indo-Aryan and Sanskrit. of more than one line it could be first
There are nearly 400 specimens of line from right to left and second from
Harappan signs on seals and other left to right.
materials such as copper tablets, axes,
and pottery. Most of the inscriptions
on seals are small, a group of few letters. There are generally two aspects of
religion: one conceptual or philoso-
phical, and the other, practical or
ritualistic. The former is enshrined in
metaphysical texts while the latter is
reflected in the material remains. Since
we have not been able to decipher the
script it is difficult to talk abou t the
metaphysical aspect, but due to
abundance of material r emains we
have some idea about the other aspect
of the Harappan religion.
From the available evidence we may
say that the religion of the Indus people
comprised : (i) the worship of the
Mother Goddess (ij) the worship of a
male deity, probably of Siva: (iii) worship
of animals, natural, semi .. human, or
fabulous; (iv) worship of trees in their
natural state or of their indwelling
.'19. 8.10 (a) Seal popularily known as Siva spirits; (v) worship of inanimate stones
Pasupati (b) and (c) Other seals with or other objects, of linga and yoni
Haroppan Script symboh; (vi) chrematheism as

................... ... ............................................. ... ...................... THE HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION

Fig. B.11 (a) Kamandalu

(b) Siva-Linga (c) Sacrificial Altar (d)
Seven Human Figurines Performing
some Ritual

illustrated in the worship of the sacred animals on each side - elephant and
"incense-burners"; (vii) faith in tiger on right and rhinoceros and buffalo
amulets and charms indicative of on left, and two deer standing under
demonophobia: and (viii) practice of the throne. The depiction shows Siva
yoga. These characteristics suggest that as Pasupati. There is also the last
this religion was mainly of an characteristic of the historic Siva in this
indigenous growth and "the lineal figure, a pair of horns crowning his
progenitor of Hinduism", which is head with a central bump which
characterised by most of these features. appears like the trisula or trident of the
A large number of female figurines Saivas. Another seal depicts a deity in
of terracotta have been discovered. The the same posture of a Yoga, with a Naga
accepted view is that these are kneeling in prayer to him with uplifted
representations of the Great Mother hands on either side of him.
Goddess. A striking oblong sealing Some linga and yoni like objects
found at Harappa represents the Earth have been found. Some scholars opined
or Mother Goddess, with a plant that these were not linga and yonis but
growing from her womb. Also depicted gamesmen. However, the find of a
are a man with a knife in hand, and a terracotta piece from Kalibangan
woman with raised hands. having linga and yoni in one piece, like
A male deity, "the prototype of the the ones in the historical period, show
historic Siva," is portrayed on a seal that these were linga and yoni meant
with three faces, seated on a low throne for worship. Whether they we re
in the typical posture of a Yogi, with two worshipped independently o r are

~ ANCIENT INDIA .................... . ........... . ...................................... . ... . .................... ............... . .

symbolic representation of Siva and Evidence of animal worship is also

Sakti respectively , cannot be found in the animals represented on
ascertained. seals and sealings, or in terracotta,
There is also evidence of tree- faience, and stone figurines. Firstly,
worship in two forms. In one, the tree there are mythical and c.o mposite
was worshipped in its natural form . In creatures; e.g. human faced goat or
the other, what was worshipped was not part ram or goat, part bull and part
the tree but its indwelling spirit. elephant, three-headed chimeras, semi-
human semi-bovine creatures. The
A remarkable seal found at
most common depiction an seal is
Mohenjodaro represents a deity,
unicorn, which is perhaps mythical.
standing between two branches of a
Thirdly, there are the natural animals,
pipal tree. The worship of the deity is such as (i) the water buffalo, (ii) the gaur
indicated by a line of seven human or Indian bison, (iii) the Indian humped
figures and by the figure of a half- bull or zebu, (iv) the rhinoceros, (v) a
kneeling suppliant with long hair, short-horned humpless bull (vi) the
behind whom is a goat, with a human tiger, and (vii) the Indian elephant. In
face. The continuance of this religious later period some of these animal figure
tradition is found in the sculptures as the vehicles of Hindu deities, e.g. the
of Bharhut and Sanchi showing bull of Siva, the lion of Durga, and the
the Yaks his as Dryads. buffalo of Yama, the elephant of Indra.

A large number of 'fire-altars'
have been found from sites in
(a) Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana. At
. ~.
Kalibangan, Lothal, and Banawali a
'. ' . I
number of 'fire-altars' have been
found which seem to have been used
as sacrificial altars. Besides these the
Swastika, a sacred symbol with Hindus,
Buddhists and Jaina has been depicted
5 6 on seals, painting and graffiti, etc.
There is yet another aspect of the
Harappan people that needs
consideration. A large number of
terracotta figurines depict the
individuals in various yogic postures
(asanas) indicating thereby that the
Harappans practised yoga.
Social Stratification and Political
Fig. 8.12 (a) Terracotta Yogic Figurines in
different Asanas (b) Seal Depicting a Yogi The Harappan society seems to have
(c) Swastika been divided into three sections, viz. an

.. ....................................... . ............... . ... . .............................. THE HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION

elite class associated with the Citadel, proved by many cinerary urns or other
a well-to-do middle class, and a receptacles containing calcined human
relatively weaker section, occupying bones and ashes together with vessel
the lower town which were generally offerings for the use of dead person
fortified. Some of the craftsmen and in the next life . Only certain groups
labourers resided outside the fortified practised burials. The general practice
area. Whether these divisions were was that skeletons were placed in an
based purely on economic factors or extended position with the head
had a socio-religious basis we cannot towards the north. Earthen pots
say. At Kalibangan it appears that the containing food grains, etc. were placed
priests resided in the upper part of the in the grave and, in some cases, the
citadel and performed rituals on fire body was buried with ornaments.
altars in the lower part of it. Chronology
It is difficult to be sure of the kind
of political setup that prevailed at the When the Harappan civilization was
time of the Harappan civilization. An first recognised in 1920s the dating
Indus empire is often talked about, was done mainly on the basis of the
implying that the entire area was findings of Harappan seals in Ur and
administered from one capital, with a Kish in Mesopotamia. On that basis
few regional administrative centres or Marshall suggested that Harappan
provincial capitals. However, it is also
civilization flourished between
possible that there were several
independent states or kingdoms each 3250 and 2750 B.C. Wheeler dated
with cities like Mohenjodaro in Sindh, it to 2500-1500 B.C. Since then radio-
Harappa in Punjab, Kalibangan in carbon dating method has been
Rajasthan, Lothal in Gujarat as their invented and on the basis of radio-
capitals. It may be recalled that during carbon dating of this civilization
the first millennium B.C. though following chronology emerges:
the archaeological culture all over
Early Harappan Phase : c. 3500 - 2600 B.C.
northern India was almost the same,
Mature Harappan Phase: c. 2600 -1900 B.C.
yet the area was divided into sixteen Late Harappan Phase : c. 1900 - 1300 B.C.
Mahajanapadas each independent
with its own capital. Speaking of the Mature Harappan
period, 700 years is an extremely long
Disposal of
the Dead
time, spanning nearly 30 generations.
Scattered burials, as well as discreet Many changes in social organisation,
cemeteries, have been found at many politics, language and even religion
major sites. The skeletal remains are would have taken place during
few in comparison to the size of this long period. We know that in
settlements and the population that contemporary Egypt and Meso-
may have lived on them. Obviously, potamia mahy kingdoms rose and
cremation was also practised. This is fell within a period of even 100 years.

~'. ANCIENT INDIA ............................................. ................... .... ...... ..................................... ..

After about 1900 B.C. the in general which affected the

uniformity of the Harappan civilization agriculture, the main economic
weakened and regional variations resource. With the decline in economic
started emerging. conditions all other institutions like
trade and commerce, administrative
Decline and political structures, CIVIC
John Marshall and many other amenities, etc. also declined over a
scholars, on the basis of evidence period of time.
available from the sites along the Indus However, it must be emphasised
river, felt that this civilization declined that Harappan civilization did not
due to environmental degradation. The disappear suddenly. Archaeological
cutting of forests for agricultural land evidence shows that the decline was
and timber for fuel and over- gradual and slow which is witnessed
exploitation of resources, etc. resulted over a period of almost six hundred
in the land to become barren and in the years from c. 1900-1300 B.C.
silting of rivers. Due to all this, flood,
drought and famine must have become Late Harappan Cultures
a recurring feature which finally led to Once the decline of the Harappan
its decline. Wheeler who dated the civilization set in what we see is the
Harappan civilization between 2500 gradual disappearance of hallmarks of
and 1500 B.C. opined that it was urban phase of this civilization.
destroyed by the 'barabarian' Aryans Features such as town-planning, grid-
who came to India in about 1500 B.C. patterns, drainage system, standard
Later researches proved that Wheeler's weights and measures etc. slowly
thesis of Aryan being destroyers of the disappear and a kind of ruralisation
Harappan civilization was a myth. In takes place with distinctive regional
fact, there is no a rch a eological or variations. Three regions can be
biological evidence for invasion or mass broadly detected - (i) north Indian late
migration from west or central Asia to Harappan culture which includes the
the Indus or Saraswati valleys between areas of Punjab, Harayana, western
5000 and 800 B.C. All skeletons found Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and
during thj.s period belong to the same Pakistan part of Punjab; (ii) Gujarat
group of people. and Maharashtra and (iii) Baluchistan.
The Harappan civilization was These cultures interacted with the then
spread over a large area, and the causes existing Chalcolithic cultures of different
of its decline in all the regions can not regions.
be one and the same. While in the In all these three areas certain
Saraswati region it declined mainly due residual features like some shapes of
to shifting of river channels , along the pottery, bronze tools, beads and other
Indus it declined largely due to smaller objects provide their link with
recurring floods. The rainfall declined Harappan civilization. Though the

.............................................................................................. THE H ARAPPAN CIVILIZATION

Harappan civilization disappeared by be seen as a part of our daily cultural

about 1300 B.C., number of cultural and material Hfe, as we shall see in the
traits developed in this civilization can next chapter.

1. Discuss the extent and settlements of the Harappan civilization. Why is it
called the Harappan civilization?
2. Describe the characteristic features of town planning of the Harappan
3. Describe the developments in the field of crafts and industries during the
Harappan period.
4. Write a note on the contact of Harappans with contemporary civilizations.
5. Discuss the economy of the Harappans.
6. Describe the art and architecture during the Harappan period.
7. Describe the religious beliefs of the Harappan people. Mention some of the
characteristic features of Harappan religion which are still continuing.
8. What wer e the causes for the decline of the Harappan civilization?
9. Write short notes on:
(i) Chronology of the Harappan civilization
(ii) Late Harappan culture
(iii) Harappan weights and measures
(iv) Harappan script

• On an Outline Map show the extent of the Harappan civilization with

some important sites.
• Collect photographs of seals and make a c hart of signs and figures of these

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............... . ................................ . ... . ..... . ....................................... THE VEDIC CIVILIZATION

BEFORE we proceed to discuss the Vedic 3. Aranyakas and Upanishads:

civilization it will be useful to have some These are partly included in the
idea about its source - the Vedic Brahmanas or attached there to, and
literature. The most important partly exist as separate works. They
source are the Vedas. Veda means embody philosophical meditations of
"knowledge". The Vedas are neither the hermits and ascetics on soul, god,
any individual religious work nor a world etc.
collection of definite number of books The Brahmanas, the Aranyakas
compiled at a particular time. The Vedic and the Upanishads are attached to
literature had grown in the course of one or the other of the four Vedas.
many centuries and was handed down
Authorship of the Vedic Literature
from generation to generation by word
of mouth. It consists of three Although the hymns are attributed to
successive classes of literary creations. rishis, pious Hindus have always laid
Some of these still exist, but many have stress upon their divine origin. Thus,
been completely lost for ever. These the Vedas are called apaurusheya (not
three classes are : created by man) and nitya (existing in
all eternity) while the rishis are known
1. The Vedas: A collection of hymns,
as inspired seers who received the
prayers, charms, litanies and
mantras from the Supreme deity.
sacrificial formulae. There are four
Vedas, namely: Age of RigVeda
(i) RigVeda - a collection of The date of Rig Veda and Vedic literature
hymns has formed the subject of keen a nd
(ii) Samveda - a collection of protracted controversy. Max Muller,
songs mostly taken from who first dealt with the question,
Rig Veda began with the age of Buddha a nd
(iii) Yajurveda - a collection of arbitrarily assigned 200 years to
sacrificial formulae the development of each of the three
(iv) Atharvaveda - a collection of stages of Vedic literature and thus
spells and charms came to the conclusion that RigVeda
The Vedas formed the earliest mus t have been composed around
segment of Vedic literature and 1200- 1000 B. C. When questioned and
amongst the Vedas, RigVeda is the criticised by his contemporaries like
oldest. W.D. Whitney for his totally arbitrary,
2. The Brahmanas : These are prose 'unscientific and unacademic method,
texts which contain details about the Max Muller confessed that he was
meanipg of Vedic hymns, their merely speculating and stated:
applications, stories of their origins, etc. "whether the Vedic hymns were
In a way these contain details about composed 1000,1500 or 2000 or
rituals and philosophies. 3000 B.C., no power on earth will ever

-:. ANCIENT INDIA .................................................................................................................. .

determine". It may, in passing be stated RigVedic Geography: From the

that Max Muller as a true Christian names of rivers, mountains and regions
believed in the genesis stories of the mentioned in RigVeda we have a clear
Bible and that the world was created in idea of the geographical area in which
4004 B.C. We have seen in Chapter 5 RigVedic people, who called themselves
that the origin of the earth goes back to Aryans, lived. The Nadisukta hymn of
about 4600 million years and the origin the RigVeda mentions 21 rivers which
. of humans themselves goes back to include the Ganga in the east and the
about 4.2 million years. Kubha (Kabul) in the west. All rivers
Similarly, on the analogy of the like the Yamuna, Saraswati, Sutlej,
language of Avesta, some scholars Ravi , Jhelum and Indus located
opined that the date of RigVeda may between the Ganga and Kabul rivers
be 1000 B.C. But the fact that some of are mentioned not arbitrarily but
the Vedic gods namely Indra, Varuna, serially beginning from the east i.e.
Mitra and the two Nasatyas are Ganga to the west i.e. Kubha. In the
mentioned in Boghaz-Koi (Asia Minor) north, the RigVeda mentions the
inscription of 1400 B.C. prove that Himalayas and Mujavant mountains.
Rig Veda must have come into existence It also mentions ocean (samudra) in
much before that date. The Boghaz- connection with rivers Sindhu and
Koi inscription records a treaty between Saraswati falling into ocean. The ocean
the Hittite and the Mitanni Kings and is also mentioned in the context of
these gods are cited as witness to this foreign trade. The RigVedic geography,
treaty, exactly the way even today oath therefore, covers present-day western
is taken in the courts and on Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab,
assumption of a public office in the Rajasthan, Gujarat, whole of Pakistan
name of god. and south Afghanistan.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, on ~ ,. t es· The territory
astronomical grounds, dated RigVeda known to Vedic people was divided into
to .6000 B.C. According to Harmon a number of states-republics and
Jacobi Vedic civilization flourish ed monarchical. The battle of ten kings,
between 4500 B.C. and 2500 B.C. and gives names of ten kings who
the Samhitas were composed in the participated in a war against Sudas
latter half of the period. Famous who was Bharata king ofTritsus family.
Sanskritist , Winternitz felt that the The ten kings were of the states of
Rig Veda was probably composed in the Purus , Yadus, Turvasas, Anus and
third millennium B.C. R.K. Mookerjee Druhyus along with five others viz
opined that "on a modest computation, Alinas, Pakhtas, Bhalanas, Sibis
we should come to 2500 B.C. as the and Vishanins. The battle was fought
time of Rig Veda" . G . C . Pande also on the bank of Parushani (Ravi) and
favours a dal e of 3 00u B.C. or even Sudas emerged victorious. In the
earlier. context of another battle of Sudas,

.. . .... . .... . . .. ............ ... .... . .. . ......... .. ........ . ...... . .... . . . .... . .... . . . ... ........... THE VEDlC CiViLIZATION ;.t

Rig 'Veda m entions people and kings called the protector of t he jana or
like Ajias, Sigrus, Yaksh us etc. The people. Above the jana was rashtra,
8 haratas , who gave their name to the i.e . th~ country.
whole country as 'Bharatvarshd, are The hereditary n10narchy was t he
the most importan t people of the normal form of Government but an
Rig Veda . They were settled in the elected king also fmds mention. We also
region between the Saraswati and hear of chiefs, democratically elected by
Yamuna. Similarly the Rig Veda gives the assembly of people Uana).
the location of other people like the The kingdoms (rashtra) w ere
Purus in the region of Kurukshetra; generally small states ruled by kings
the Tritsus east of Ravi; the Alinas, the(rajana) but the word samrat does
Pakhtas, the Bhalanas and the Sibis indicate that s ome of them must have
west of Indus upto Kabul river and had bigger kingdoms and enjoyed
so on. position of greater authority and
The struggle for supremacy dignity, markedly different from others.
among different kings and republics The king administered justice with the
chiefs was a part of the evolutionary assistance of purohita and other
process towards the formation of a officials. For his services the king was
larger political entity. paid bali (voluntary gift or tribute). The
Polity and Administration : The bali came to the king from his own
political structure of RigVedic India people and also from defeated people.
Theft, burglary, robbery, and cattle
may be traced in the following
lifting were the principal crimes which
ascending order:
were strongly dealt with by the
(i) The Family (kula) administration.
(ii) The Village (grama) Among the important royal officials,
(iii) The Clan (vis) were the purohita (chief priest and
(iv) The People Uana) minister), senani (army chief) and
(v) The Country (rashtra) gramini (head of village). We hear also
of dutas (envoys) and spies (spas).
Kula (family) was the smallest unit. There must have been many others,
It included all the people living under who are not mentioned in the literature.
the same roof (griha). An aggregate of Great prominence is given in the
several families made up the grama lilce RigVeda to two popular assemblies
today, and its headman was called ca lled sabha and samiti which seem to
gramini. The next larger formation was have formed an essential feature of the
called t.he vis, under the head called government. We possess no definite
vispati. Larger than vis was jana. information about the composition of
Regarding jana we get mention of the either, or the distinction between the
panchajanah and of people called two. Most probably the samiti, which
Yadus, (Yadva-janaha) and Bharatas mainly dealt with policy decisions and
(Bharata-janaha). The king is also political business, included common

ANCIENT INDIA ......................................................................... . . . ..................... . .. . ......... . . .

people while the sabha, less political freedom of ch oice in m arriage. A widow
in character, was a more select body of could marry the younger brother of her
the Elders or Nobles. deceased husband. Th e wife was
It was through these two assemblies husband's partner in all religious and
that the will of the people on important social ceremonies . The father ' s
matters of the rashtra was expressed. property was inherited by son. The
Society: The RigVedic society daughter could inherit it only if she
comprised four varnas, namely was the only child of her parents.
B rahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Righ t to property was known in
Sudra. This classification of society was moveable things like cattle, horse, gold
based on the occupation of individuals. and ornament and so a lso in
The teacher and priests were called immoveable property like land and
Brahmanas; rulers and administrators house.
kshatriyas; farmers, merchants and Education: The home of the teacher
bankers vaisyas; and artisan and was the school where he taught the
labourers as sudras. These vocations particular sacred texts. The texts were
were followed by persons according to in the first instance learnt by pupils
their ability and liking, and the repeating the words taught by
occupations had not become hereditary their teacher. A great importance
as they become later on. Members of was attached to enunciation and
the same family took to different pronunciation. Intense training was
professions and belonged to different given to students in oral tradition. It
varnas is well illustrated by a hymn of was this training and learning wh ich
the RigVeda (ix.1l2). In this hymn a saved a huge mass of Vedic literature.
p erson says:
Food and Drinks: Milk and its
products - curd, butter and ghee-
I am a singer; formed an important part of the diet.
my father is a physician, There is also mention grain cooked with
my mother is a grinder of corn; milk' (kshira-pakamodanam).Bread
having various occupations, {chappatl) of wheat and barley was
desiring riches we remain (in the eaten mixed with ghee. Not only were
world) like cattle (in the stalls). fish, birds, wild animals like boar,
antelopes, and buffalo (gawl, etc. eaten
It is, therefore, clear that there was but on ceremonial occasion s the meat
freedom and mobility for the adoption of animals which were sacrificed, such
of a profession and the idea of as sheep, goat and buffalo etc. was also
hereditary trades and occu pations was eaten. The cow was already deemed
not envisaged in t h e society. aghnya "not to be killed". The Vedas
The unit of s ociety was family, pre scribe a penalty of death or
primar ily monoga mous a n d patri- expUlsion from t he kingdom to those
achical. Child marriage was not in who kill or injure cows. Alcoholic drinks,
vogue. There are a few references to the sura and soma were also consumed,

... .... ..... ..... ... .. .


. .. .. ... .. .... .. ................................... . ..................... . ...................... THE VEDIC CIVILIZATION

though their consumption has been of 100 nishkas. Money-lending was

condemned because of its intoxicating also known. There is a mention of an
effect, which sometimes gave rise to eighth or a sixteenth part of one being
broils in the Sabha. paid either as an interest or part of the
Economic Life: The economic principle. The sea is mentioned in the
life of the RigVedic people centered context of trade and ocean wealth, like
around agriculture, cattle rearing and pearls and shells.
trade and commerce. Oxen were used Religion and Philosophy: During
for ploughing and drawing carts and the RigVedic time the gods worshipped
horses for drawing the chariots. Other are generally the personified powers
domestic animals were cows, sheep, of nature. The Vedic gods can be
goats, asses, dogs, buffalos etc. classified into three categories, namely
The RigVeda attached great terrestrial (prithivisthana) , aerial or
importance to agriculture. The plough intermediate (antarikshasthana) , and
was drawn by the oxen at times in . celestial (dyusthana). Prithivi, Agni,
teams of six, eight or even twelve. The Soma, Brihaspati and rivers belong to
grains were harvested with sickles. the first category; Indra, Apam-napat,
The manure was also used. From Rudra, Vayu-Vata, Prujanya, andApah
various references in the RigVeda it (water) to the second and Dyaus,
appears that irrigation was also Varuna, Mitra, Surya, Savitri, Pushan,
practised; excess of rains and drought Vishnu, the Adityas, Ushas and the
is mentioned as damaging the crops. Asvins to the third. Indra and Varuna
The grains are collectively called Yava (the supreme cosmic and moral ruler)
and dhanya. The later Vedic texts stand out, in that order, pre-eminent
mention ten cultivated kinds of grains. above the rest. Agni and Soma were also
Among the other occupations, popular deities. Agni was revered as the
pottery-making, weaving, carpentry, messenger between the earth and the
metal working, leather-working etc. are heaven. Further, Agni is the only God
most noteworthy. During the RigVedic who is regarded as present among all
period only copper was used for which the categories of Gods.
the general term - 'ayas' has been The Gods are described as born, yet
used. In a later period when iron came they are immortal. In appearance they
into use, copper and iron came to be are humans, though sometimes they are
known as lohit ayas and syam ayas conceived as animals, e.g. Dyaus as
respectively. bull and Sun as a swift horse. The food
The trade and traders (vanik) were of men such as milk, grain, flesh, etc.
known in the RigVedic era. Barter was becomes the food of Gods when
in vogue. It has been found that ten offered in the sacrifice. On the whole,
cows were quoted as the price for an the gods are benevolent, some of them
image ofIndra. The conception of money also had malevolent traits, like Rudra
can be traced in the mention of a gift and Maruta. Splendour, strength,

;... ANCIENT INDIA ..................... . ..........•..... •...... •..... •..•. .•.•...•. . ..•.•..•.•.• •••. . •.•.• . .... ............•.......

knowledge, possession and tnlth are and Greek. Later it was further
common attributes of the deities. elaborated by Sir William Jones and
Prayers and offering to these Gods many other scholars who were in the
were made for material gains, also for service of East India Company. To
enlightenmen t and knowledge. For account for similarities between
example, the most popular and famous European and Indian languages, some
Gayatri Mantra is recited daily by the scholars postulated that the ancestors
pious Hindus even today. of Indians and Europeans must at one
Besides the ritualistic aspect of time have lived in the same region and
religion, there is profound philosophy. spoken the same language . They
The multiplicity of gods is openly called this Indo-European language,
questioned and the ultimate unity of and their common homeland as the
universe is asserted as the creation of Indo-European homeland. Scholars do
one God to whom different designations not agree about many of these linguistic
applied. The creation is deemed as the propositions. However, the problem
outcome of the sacrifice made by the with the original homeland of the
Vzratpurusha or of evolution from non- Aryans is still a matter of debate and
being manifested in the form of water. there is a great divergence of opinion.
It is said that Hiranyagarbha arose Various scholars have propounded
from the great waters, pervading the different homelands like Steppe of
universe, and thus created the waves centra] Asia, southern Russia ,
out of eternally pre-existing matter. southern Europe, Germany, Chinese
This hymn devoted to Visvakarman Turkistan or even Mediterranean area
tells us that the waters contained the like Palestine and Israel, almost where
primordial germ -- the floating world- except India where the Vedic language
egg from which arises Visvakarman , and its literature found the full
the first born in the universe - the expreSSIOn and endured the longest.
creator and maker of the world. It is Schclars do not agree also regarding
now confirmed by science that life first the time of their migration to various
developed in water. One of the RigVedic areas like India, Eurasia, western Asia
hymns pointedly says, " There is one and Europe. Some think that the
reality (ekarn sat} whom the sages Aryans spread along with the spread
speak of in many ways, calling it Agni, of Neolithic (agriculture about 9000
Yama or Matarisvan". years ago) while others link it with the
spread of Bronze Age.
The Question of the Aryan Invasion The oldest surviving records of the
The Florentine merchant Filippo Aryans is the Rig Veda. The RigVeda
Sassetti, who lived in Goa for five years does not give even an inkling of any
from A.D. 1583 to 1588, was struck by migration of AryclT)s from any other
similarities between Sanskrit and area. It does not even have a faint
European languages, especially Latin memory of any such migration. It does

....... . .... . ... . .................. . .......................................... .. ... .. ............ THE VEDIC CIVILIZATION

not have any knowledge even of the Harappan civilization represents the
geography beyond the known Vedic civilization, but the pau city of
boundaries of Ancient India. Some evidence became the main argument
scholars think that Aryans came to of the opponents of the theory. The
India around 1500 B.C. Max Muller researches carried out over a period of
thought that even 1200 or 1000 B.C. last 50 years have added a new
date could be assigned to this event. evidences and have altered the picture
This was because Max Muller as a true considerably.
Christian believed in Bible according to A critical consideration of the
which the world was created on 23rd evidence of the Rig Veda will lead to the
October 4004 B.C. and thus the entire conclusion that references it contains
human history has to be fitted within about people and their civilization may
the 6000 years. be taken to refer to the Harappan
Many scholars think that the Aryans civilization. The reference to RigVedic
were originally inhabitants of India deities in Boghaz-Koi inscription of
and did not come from outside. It has fourteenth century B.C. would indicate
been argued by such scholars that there that the Rig Veda existed earlier and the
is no archaeological or biological culture migr ated from India to Asia
evidence which could establish the Minor in that early age. As has been
arrival of any new people from outside explained in the chapter earlier, the age
between 5000 B.C. and 800 B.C. This of the RigVeda in its fmal form should
would mean that if at all there was any be placed not later than about 3,000
migration of Aryans or for that matter B.C. In the following pages we shall look
of any, other people, in India, it may at the s imilarit ies and differences
have taken place at least eight or nine between the RigVedic and Harappan
thousand years ago or after 800 B.C. civilizations.
to both of which there is no evidence. The geographical distribution of the
Further, the skeletal remains found Harappan sites can be se~n in the light
from various Harappan s ites resemble of RigVedic geography also. As we have
the skeltons of the modern popu lation seen in t he previous section, the
of the same geographical area. RigVedic geography extended from
Mghanistan in the north to Gujarat in
Harappan Civilization and
the south, Ganga in the east to Kubha
the RigVeda
(Kabul) Pakistan in the west. Among
Since the discovery of the Harappan a ll t he rivers in the RigVeda the
civilization many scholars have tried to Saraswati is considered to be the most
identify this with the long literary and importa nt and sacred and the areas
cultural tradition of In dia on the one around the Saraswati and its
hand and the Aryans on the other. In tributaries were the core culture areas.
the very first decade of its discovery some As we have seen earlier, the main area
historians and archaeologists thought of Harappan civilization is the

ANCIENT INDIA .... .. .. . .. . . .• .......•...•.. . . . ............ . ... . .... . ..... . ............... . .. .... . .. ... . ..................... . .

Saraswati valley where more than 80% of which are also familiar to the Indus
of the Harappan settlements are people. Horse was an important animal
located. Thus the RigVedic and the in the vedic period. Horse bones and
Harappan geography are the same. terracotta figurines have been found at
The Rig Veda refers to hundreds of some Harappan sites.
cities, towns and forts, which are broad
(prithvi) and wide (urui) , full of kine
(gomaa), of 100 pillars (satabhujl) built
of stone (asmamaYl), and to autumnal
(saradi) forts as refuge against
inundations. Indra is known as
Purandara "Lord of cities". The
RigVeda also mentions of business and
mercantile people to whom it calls
vanik and panis respectively and refers
to the Vedic people such as Turvasa
and Yadu, as hailing from the sea. Fig. 9.1 A Terracotta Figurine of
Horse from Lothal
Most of the animals known to the
Indus people are also known to the Some of the religious practices of
RigVeda, such as sheep, dog, buffalo, the Harappan people are followed by
bull, etc. The animals hunted by the the modern Hindus. Worship of pipal
RigVedic people vere antelopes, boars, trees, bull, Siva-lingas is seen in the
buffalos (gaur), lions, and elephants most Harappan civilization. The kamandalu,

I-L--'--;-"---'-'-...I eM

(a) (b) (c) (d)

Fig. 9.2 (a) A Terracotta Figurine in Namaskar M udra (b) Pipal Tree (c) Painting Depicting the
Story of "Thirsty Crow" (d) A Terracotta Figurine with. Vermillion in the Hair Parting

........................... . ...................... . .. . .............. . ....................... . . .. THE VEDIC CIVILIZATION

which is seen in the modern days as These are earrings, necklaces, bracelets,
one of the most auspicious possessions anklets, garlands and jewels for the
of asetics, is also found in the neck. We have seen that most of these
Harappan civilization. A large number ornaments were also in use by the
of figurines in various yogic postures Harappan people.
have also been found. Some terracotta Besides gold, the RigVeda mentions
figurines of women found at Nausharo another metal called ayas, of which
still have vermillion in their vessels were made. In RigVeda, ayas
hair-parting. This is the most precious is used as a general term for metal. but
and sacred symbol of married in Atharvaveda we find the mention of
Hindu women. A terracotta tablet lohit ayas and syam ayas meaning
from Harappa depicts the scene of copper and iron respectively. Scholars
Mahisa sacrifice, reminding us of agree that in RigVedic times only copper
Mahisasuramardini. was known and so the term ayas

Fig. 9.3 A row of Seven Fire Altars (havana-kundas) found at Kalibangan

The stories of the "cunning fox" and denotes copper. The RigVeda also
"thirsty crow" are found painted on mentions implements of stone, such as
Harappan vases. The swastika, the stone pulley i.e., sling-stones.
sacred symbol of the Hindus, is found The treatment of hair by the men
on seals as well as in paintings. The and women as mentioned in the
fire -altars serving as havana-kundas RigVeda also bears some resemblance
are also very much a part of the to Harappan practice. The hair was
Harappan civilization. combed and oiled. There is a mention
As regards metals, the RigVeda of a maiden wearing her hair in four
knows ornaments of gold (hiranya). plaits. Men also sometimes styled their

A NCIENT INDIA .. . • .. . . .• . ....................................... . .. .. . ...... .. ........ ... .. .. . .... . .. .................... ..

hair in coils, and grew beards, which is Anthropological Approaches he wrote,

all visible in the teITacotta figurines of "Why do serious scholars persist in
the Harappan civilization. believing in the Aryan invasion? (... )
The Rig Veda refers to the weaver Why is this sort of thing attractive?
and to his loom, the shuttle, the warp Who finds it attractive? Why has the
and the woof for weaving a doth . development of early Sanskrit come
Remains of cloth have been found in to be so dogmatically associated with
certain Harappan sites and some an Aryan Invasion? (...) The details of
figures are shown as wearing a cloth. this theory fit in with this racist
The above similarities, and many framework (... ) The origin myth of
others found between the RigVedic and British Colonial imperialism helped
the elite administrators in the Indian
Harappan civilization have le d a
Civil Service to see themselves as
number of scholars to conclude that the
bringing 'pure' civilization to a country
Harappan civilization is the same as the
in which civilization of the most
Vedic civili.7..a.tion and the Aryans did not
sophisticated kind was already nearly
come to India from outside. However, 6000 years old. Here, I will only remark
there are other scholars who consid~r that the hold if this myth on the
Vedic culture as different from that of British middle class imagination is so
the Harappan civilization. strong that even today, 44 years after
The whole question of the Aryan the death of HitJer and 43 years after
invasion theory has most aptly the creation of an independent India
been summed up by the famous and independent Pakistan, the Aryan
anthropologist , Professor Edmund invasions of the second millennium
Leach ofCambrid.-;e University. In 1990 BC are still treated as if they were an
in his famous arucle 'Aryan Invasions established fact of history (... ) The
over Four Millennia' published in Aryan invasions never happenend
the book, Culture Through Time: at all".

1. .E xplain the following :
Vedas, Brahmana..<;, Aranyakas, Upanishads, Gramini, Bali, Sabha, Samiti,
Hiranyagarbh.a, Kula, Rash.tra.
2. Describe the Vedic literature.
3. Describe the RigVedic geography with reference to rivers and mountains.
4. Describe the RigVedic states and their political structure.
5. Discuss the society and economy of the RigVedic people.
6. Discuss the religion and philosophy of the RigVedic period.
7. Discuss the evidence pointing towards similarities between the Harappan
and RigVediccultures.
8. Discuss the question of Aryan migration and the age of RigVeda.



,.'-' J (


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1 THE ,four,"Vedas were. fOllow(
f ,. , .... '
t'e Brahrrianas,
'~ '!he 'AranyC{kas artd the Upar

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1 '

"T tV: ':.j,t\'"'}1 \ {' \,

l"J!'" II rt .\ .... t,
L l'k:til i \1" \ 0, .. f ...

~ " ANCIENT INDIA ................................................................................................................. .

WE have seen earlier how different whole of northern India. The centre of
branches of Vedic literature had grown civilization now shifted from Saraswati
out of one another. The four Vedas to Ganga which now occupies the
were followed by the Brahmanas, the proud place of the most revered and
Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The sacred river ofIndia. This progress was
Brahmanas, the earliest of the Aryan's accompanied by another remarkable
prose literature, explain in detail development and that is gradual
various Vedic sacrificial ceremonies and expansion and consolidation of vis.
their origins. Aranyakas are the The earlier known jana like Bharatas,
concluding portions of the Brahmanas Purus, Tritsus, and Turvasas of the
and are called so because the RigVedic period slowly were merging
philosophical and mystical character of with other janas and disappearing
their contents required that they should from the scene. In a way gradual
be studied in the solitude ofthe aranya consolidation and expansion of some
or forest. The Aranyakas form a of the states started taking place.
tradition that culminates in the Relatively minor janas of RigVedic
Upanishads, the last phase ofthe Vedic times like Purus became more powerful
literature. The RigVeda broadly deals and began to play more dominant role.
with ritualistic (Karmakanda) and We no longer hear of the Anus,
philosophical aspects. The ritualistic Druhyus, Turvasas, the Krivis, etc.
aspect is elaborated in the Brahmanas Besides these, in the eastern Uttar
and the philosophic aspect is Pradesh and Bihar areas also such
elaborated in the Upanishads. states as Kasi, Kosala, Videha, Magadha
Upanishads do not believe in the and Anga developed. However, the areas
sacrificial acquiring ceremonies but in of south India are not clearly
knowledge by which deliverance is mentioned. The political life became
obtained from mundane existence more vivid and the struggle for
through the absorption of the supremacy among different states was
individual soul (Atman) in the of frequent occurrence. The ideal of
world-soul. (Brahma). The two oldest universal empire loomed large.
and most important of the The expansion of people towards the
Upanishads are the Chhandogya and east is indicated in a legend of Satapatha
Brihadaranyaka. Other important Brahmana - how Videgh Madhav
Upanishads include Kathak, [sa, migrated from Saraswati region, the land
Mundaka, Prasna, etc. of Vedic Culture, crossed Sadanira
Geography and the New Political (modern Gandak river), the eastern
States : We have already seen that the boundary of Kosala and came to the land
main settlement of the RigVedic people of Videha (modern Tirhut). The texts
was the region of Indus and Saraswati testify the growth of three kingdoms,
Valleys. During the period represented namely, Kosala, Kasi and Videha. It may
by the later Samhitas and Brahmanas be noted that ti111950 no archaeological
the settlements covered virtually the evidence could take the antiquity of

,...................................................................... . ..... . . . ..................... THE LATER VEDIC AGE A
cultures in the Ganga valley prior to emerging. Kingship was consolidating
the sixth century B.C. Thereafter, itself as the normal form of government
the excavations at Hastinapur, with the states growing both in number
Atranjikhera, and many other sites have and size. The kingship was being given
revealed cultures ranging from 2000 the status of divine origin. There was
B.C. onwards. The recent excavations also emerging the concept of a king of
at Raja-Nal-ka-Tila in Sonbhadra kings. Expressions like adhiraj,
district and other sites have taken rajadhiraja, samrat and ekrat are
back the date for use of iron in used in most of the texts. The
adjoining Varanasi district, ancient Atharvaveda defines ekrat to be the
Kasi, to c. 1500 B.C. Some characteristic paramount sovereign . There also
pottery of post Harappan period are developed special ceremonies for the
Ochre Coloured Pottery (O.C.P.) anointment of kings, such as the
(c. 2000-1500) Black and Red ware, Vajpeya, Rajsuya and Ashvamedha.
Painted Grey Ware (c. 1200-600 B.C.) Though the monarchy established
etc. By about seventh century B.C., itself on firm foundations, it was not
Northern Black Polished (N.B.P.) ware absolute but limited in several ways.
came to be manufactured. Within the framework of kingship, there
Kuru-Panchala appears to be the were operating certain democratic
same geographical region as modern elements. These were: (i) The people's
western and central Uttar Pradesh. In right in choosing their king; (ii) the
the Upanishads the Kuru-Panchala conditions imposed on king's rights and
region is mentioned as the seat of duties; (iii) the kings dependence on the
culture and prosperity. The Panchala council of his ministers; and the
assemblies of people, sabha and samiti,
king Pravahana Jaivali is mentioned as
as check upon king's absolutism.
daily attending the Panchala parishad.
Under no circumstances was the
The texts testify the three kingdoms of king considered the sole owner of the
Kosala, Kasi and Videha as seats of kingdom with absolute power over the
Vedic culture. Magadha and Anga are objects and subjects. The king was
also mentioned as distant lands in the supposed to be only a trustee and the
Atharvaveda. The RigVedic Kikatas kingdom as a trust. The condition of
have been identified with Magadha. his holding it was, "the promotion of the
Matsya janapada also gets mentioned. people's well being and progress".
In south, Vidarbha (Maharashtra) is Besides, the ministers and officials,
mentioned. Madra was located in the sabha and samiti played important role
Punjab region, further west is in the administration. The sabha
associated with Bahlikas, Kesins, functioned as a parliament for disposal
Kekayas and Kamboja. of public business by debate and
Polity and Administration : Side by discussion. The Chief of the sabha
side with the growth oflarger states, we was called sabhapati, the keepers as
find that detailed political and sabhapala and the members as
administrative structure was also sabheya, sabhasad or sabhasina.

, ANCIENT INDIA ....... . .. . . .. .. ..... . ........................................... . .. . ... . ... . ............ . .... . ...... . ...... .. ..... .

There were rules which governed weak impartially and fairly. Strive
the debate in sabha and Vajsaneyi unceasingly to do good to the people
Samhita mentions that erring members and above all protect the country from
were 'rebuked'. Sabha also seems to all calamities".
have functioned as a court of justice. It We find that legal institutions were
is said that, "one who attends the sabha also coming into sharper focus . The
sits as a law court to dispense dharma king administered justice and wielded
Uustice)". the rod of punishment. Among the
The samitiwas different than sabha crimes enumerated are theft, robbery,
in the function and composition. The adultery, incest, abduction, killing of
sabha was a smaller select body and man. Killing of cow, slaying of
also functioned as the lower court, while brahmana, drinking intoxicating liquor,
the samiti was the larger General treachery, etc. were punishable by
Assembly of the people. Accordingly, death. Petty offences were left to "village
the latter is referred to as expressing judges". For evidence, the eye-witness
the voice of vis (people), which is was more important than informer. The
explained by the fact that in one punishments for crime were rather
instance it is the samiti which chooses severe. The law was also very clear on
the king and in another it withdraws the question of inheritance of property,
that choice for the king's misdeeds and ownership of land, etc. The father's
tyranny. property was to be inherited by sons
However, the increase in complexity alone. The daughters could inherit it
in the society and political structure is only if she was the only child or there
duly reflected in the enlarged entourage were no male issues.
of the state. We hear of new officials such Social System : The gradual political
as suta (charioteer), sangrahitri evolution was by no means the most
(treasurer), bhagadugha (collector of important factor in the history of
taxes) , gramini (head of village), later Vedic period. Changes of far
sthapati (chief judge), takshan greater significance were gradually
(carpenter), kshatri (chamberlain) and taking place in the society and religion.
several others whose exact function In the RigVedic period society
cannot be ascertained. Everything comprised four varnas depending on
indicates that the administrative one's profession and within a family,
machinery was highly organised and members could follow the professions
became an efficient instrument for of different varnas. In later Vedic period,
ruling over a large kingdom. varnas came to be birth-based rather
The liberal spirit of the age is than profession-based. The proliference
reflected in the following advice which, of professions gave rise to jatis. But the
according to the Yajurveda, was jati system was not yet as rigid as it
tendered by the priest to the king at the became during the period of the sutras.
coronation ceremony: "As a ruler, from It was somewhere in the middle of
this day onwards, judge the strong and flexible RigVedic society and rigid

............................................. . . ................................ .... .. ........ .... .. THE LATER VEDIC AGE , -

society of the Sutra period. Emergence and sesame. Their seasons are also
of jati was very unusual but perhaps mentioned: barley sown in winter,
not impossible in that age. The RigVeda ripened in summer; rice sown in the
describes Vishvamitra as a rishi but rains, reaped in autumn. The
Aitareya Brahmana mentions him as Satapatha Brahmana enumerates
kshatriya. In the same Brahmana we various operations of agriculture such
find that rigidity in terms of jati is as ploughing, sowing, reaping and
coming up. The position offourth varna, threshing.
i.e. sudra was made miserable by Agriculture suffered from the
depriving them of the rights of usual pests - the moles that destroyed
performing sacrifices, learning the the seed and other creatures that
sacred texts and of even holding landed harmed the tender shoots . The
property. The most glaring evil of the Atharvaveda mentions that drought
jati system, namely, the concept of and excess rains threatened
untouchability had not yet reared its agriculture. Cattle wealth was
ugly head. There are instances of considered to be of great significance
individuals such as Kavasha, Vatsa and and a fairly long hymn in the
Satyakama Jabala who were born in Atharvaveda shows reverence to cow
non-brahman jatis but came to be and the death penalty prescribed for
known as great brahmans. On the cow -killing.
whole, jati had not yet become a rigid Rich merchants have been often
system, and none of the three factors referred to. Moneylending was in vogue.
which characterised it later viz. Specific weight and measure-units were
prohibition of inter-dining, inter- also known. Niska and satamana were
marriage and determination of varna by the units of currency. There is no
descent, were yet established on a rigid evidence of the use of coins with specific
basis. weight, size and device during the time
Economic life: The growth of economic under discussion. Haggling in the
prosperity is indicated in many prayers market was known from RigVedic times
contained in the Atharvaveda for itself. Sea-borne trade was well known
the success of farmers, shepherds, and Aitareya Brahmana speaks of the
merchants and so on. There are prayers "inexhaustible sea" and "the sea as
for ploughing, sowing, rains, increase encircling the earth".
in cattle, wealth and exorcism against Bali, which was earlier only a
beasts, wild animals and robbers and voluntary gift to chief, had now
the likes. The plough was known as become a regular tax and was collected
sira and the furrow sita. Cow dung to maintain the political and
was used as manure. There is mention administrative structure.
of six, eight and even twenty-four oxen There has been a striking develop-
yoked to a plough. Many kinds of grains ment in industry and occupations.
were grown such as rice, barley, beans During this period, we hear of

- ANCIENT INDIA ... •. . ............ . . . ............................. .... .. .. . . .... . . . ........................................ . ....

fishennen, fire and rangers, washennen, During this period under

barbers, butchers, elephant-keepers, discussion there were three stages of
footmen, messengers, makers of studies. In the first stage, pupils
jewels, baskets, ropes, dyes, chariots, studied at the homes of their teachers
bows, smelters, smiths, potters etc. where they lived as family members and
Merchants, long distance caravans participated in the household works
and sea trade are mentioned. Guilds of also. Beside these, there were small
craftsmen also came into existence. schools of learning run by an
The word sreshthi, head of guild, finds individual teacher who would choose
mention in several texts. his own pupils. There were other
During the period of Rig Veda we means of education. The educated
find the mention of only ayas which has men even as a householder carried on
been taken as copper/bronze. With the their quest of knowledge by mutual
introduction of a new metal i.e. , iron discussions and regularly visiting the
in this age we get the tenns syam ayas distinguished--sages and learned
(iron) and lohit ayas (copper). Besides scholars at different centres or while
these, gold, lead and tin are also they were moving from one place to
referred to. While the iron was used for another. There were also parishads in
making weapons and other objects different janapadas patronised by
like nail-parers, hammers, clamps, kings. Besides these residential
ploughshares etc. The copper was used schools, academies for advanced
for making vessels. Silver (rajat) and study and circles of philosophical
Gold were used for making ornaments, discussions, a great impetus to
dishes etc. learning came from the assemblies of
Education: This period witnessed the learned men, gathered together by
growth of a vast and varied literature. kings. A typical example of these was
The Upanishads, being the highest the conference of the learned organised
level of intellectual attainments , which by king Janak of Videha, which is
was no doubt the outcome of mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka
intellectual pursuits of the time. Upanishad. The participants in this
Education began with the Upanayana conference were Yajnavaikya, Uddalaka
ceremony which was considered as Aruni, Sakalya, Gargi and a number
second birth of the child and that is why of other scholars. The details of
after this ceremony he came to be this conference and various topics
known as dvija. The aim of learning discussed there are given in
was faith, retention of knowledge Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Learning
acquired, progeny, wealth, longevity was sought from those who were
and immortality. They, thus , knowledgeable. We learn that
comprehended success in both worldly Yajnavalkya, after completing his
as well as spiritual life. The duties of education with Uddalaka Aruni, went
pupils were well defined. to Janaka (a king and kshatriya) to

.......................... . ............................................................. .. ........ THE LATER VEDIC AGE

study philosophy and other subjects. chief priests, now a large-scale

However, in the Janaka's conference ceremonies required seventeen
Yajnavalkya defeated all the priests. There were domestic rites and
participants in discussions and was sacraments which embraced the entire
declared as the most learned and wise. life span of a man - from his birth to
Significantly, an active part was death, or rather beyond it, as
taken in intellectual pursuit by women. ceremonies were also performed for the
Gargi and Maitreyi are the great departed souls.
examples. The RigVeda refers to a These rites and ceremonies were not
number of women who composed the only means of attaining success in
hymns. An important feature of the time life in this world, or the bliss in heaven.
is the part taken by kshatriyas in the Soon the idea of penance and meditation
intellectual pursuit. Janaka, the king took the precedence. Men took to
of Videha, Pravahana J aivali, the king ascetic practices under the belief that
of Panchala, Asvapati Kaikeya the they would not only gain heaven but
king of Kasi - all kshatriyas, were well also develop "mystic, extraordinary and
known scholars to whom even the superhuman faculties".
learned brahmans came to for On one hand elaborate rites,
further instructions. ceremonies and ascetic practices were
The texts mention the subjects taking the place of simple religious
of study at the time. The Chhandogya worship of the RigVedic period, on the
Upanishad mentions such subjects as other, the intellectual pursuit of the
the study of Vedas, Mathematics, people continued with the conviction
Mineralogy, Logic, Ethics, Military that salvation was attainable only
Science, Astronomy, Science dealing through true knowledge. Thus, was laid
with poisons, Fine Arts and Crafts, down the doctrine: "he who knows
Music, and Medical Sciences. God, attains God, nay, he is God". As
The Mundaka Upanishad classifies explained earlier, the distinction
all these subjects of study under between rituals and knowledge was
Aparavidya. It reserves the term recognised by the Vedas. But it is only
Paravidya for the highest knowledge, towards the later phase of the Vedic
the knowledge of atman, which involves period where it was elaborated upon.
knowledge of life, death, God etc. The general body of early
Religion and Philosophy: The philosophical treatises is known
Brahmanas record the growth of by the name of Upanishad. The
ritualIsm and ceremonial religion and number of Upanishads is about
the consequent growth of priesthood. 200. The oldest among these are the
From simple sacrifices occupying just Brihadaranyaka and Chhandogya
one day or a couple of days, there were which contain bold speculations about
now many, lasting from twelve days to the eternal problems of human thought
a year or even more. While the Rig Veda concerning God, man and the universe
knows of only seven priests and two etc. The Upanishads are justly regarded

~ J ANCIENT INDIA ............ ... ...................................................................... . ............ .. ... . ...... .

as the most important contribution of Vedic people knew the methods of

India towards the world's stock of making squares equal in area to
spiritual thought. The great triangles, circles and calculate the sums
philosopher Schoperhaur, after reading and differences of squares. The Zero was
the Latin translation of the Persian known in RigVedic times itself and due
translation of Upanishads wrote: to this, large numbers could also be
"From every sentence deep, original and recorded. Also the positional value of
sublime thoughts arise, and the whole each number with its absolute value
is pervaded by a high and holy and was known. Cubes, cuberoots,
earnest spirit. Indian air surrounds us, squareroots and underroots were also
and original thoughts of kindred known and used.
spirits". Even Max Muller held that, "the In the Vedic period, astronomy was
earliest of these philosophical treatises well developed. They knew the
will always maintain a place in the movement of heavenly bodies and
literature of the world, among the most calculated about their positions at
astounding productions of the human different times. It helped them in
mind in any age and in any country". preparing accurate calendars and
predicting the time of solar and lunar
Science and Technology eclipses. They also knew that the earth
Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads moved on its own axis and around the
give enough idea about sciences during sun. The Moon moved around the
this period. Mathematics has been earth. They also tried to calculate the
called by the general name ganita which time period taken for revolution and
includes Arithmetic (anka ganita), distances among heavenly bodies from
Geometry (rekha ganita) , Algebra (bija the sun. The results of these
ganita) , Astronomy and Astrology calculations are almost the same as
Uyotisa). the ones done by modern methods.

1. Explain the following:
Varna, Jati, Niska, Satamana, Ekrat, Samrat, Bhagadugha, Ashvamedha, Vajpeya,
2. Describe the sources for the history of the Later Vedic Age.
3. Discuss the Later Vedic geography with reference to its political states.
4. Describe the social system during the Later Vedic period. How was it different
from the RigVedic period?
5. Describe the following during Later Vedic period.
(i) The development in the field of economy.
(ii) The political and administrative system.
(iii) The religion and philosophy.
(iv) The learning and education.

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"", ANCIENT INDIA ....... . ... . . . ...................... . .........................................•.... . .. . ............ , ............. .

INDIAN philosophy, with a distinctive (ii) The UltimateReality in and beyond

character of its own, originated in the the objective world is called
speculations of Vedic sages and Brahma. It is from Brahma that the
reached its fruition in the Advaita entire world originates: it is in
Vedanta of Sankara. Brahma that it exists; and it is in
In the Vedic age, the forces of Nature Brahma that it merges. Brahma
were personified as gods, as living on is real, infinite and blissful
the earth, in the sky and in the heaven. Consciousness.
Men offered oblations to the gods and (iii) The pure Atman and Brahma are
asked for cattle, crops, wealth, one. An individual would be right
prosperity, health, longevity, progeny, in saying "I am Brahma".
victory, peace and happiness here, and
(iv) The one appears as many, on
heaven after death. Some Vedic seers
account of Its wonderful power
however believed that there was an
Ultimate Being which manifested Itself
as the various gods. (v) All unhappiness and sufferings of
The famous Nasadiya hymn of man are due to ignorance of the
RigVeda speculates: "He from whom fact that man is the Atman which is
this creation arose, whether He made it the same as the Brahma. The union
or did not make it, the highest seer in of Atman with Brahma is called
the highest heaven, he forsooth knows, Moksha, which liberates one from
or does even he not know?" the chain of birth and death and is
There were speculations about the therefore the achievement of
nature of the Ultimate Reality, the highest g0al.
process of Creation, the nature of the (vi) To realise the Atman one has to give
Self and its relation with the Ultimate up all desires for worldly and finite
Reality, the highest Value of life and the objects, purify one's intellect, and
Right Way of living. All this resulted in live a righteous life.
a large number of books called
These doctrines have been echoed
Upanishads. Though, the number of
and re-echoed throughout Indian
Upanishads is large, but only eleven
are considered to be of great history. Ramkrishna Paramahamsa,
importance. They are: [sa, Kathak, Swami Vivekananda, Swami
Keno. Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Ramatirtha, Aurobindo, and other
Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chhandogya, great thinkers of modern age have also
Brhadaranyaka and Svetasvatara. dwelt upon Upanishadic philosophy.
There seems to be a general agreement The Ramayana 'and the
among all on the following: Mahabharata, also contain ethical and
(i) The Ultimate, Enduring, and philosophical precepts~ The Ramayana
Unitary Reality in the individual is makes Rama the embodiment of the
Atman (self). highest ethical ideals.

............... . . .. .......... .. ................... .. .. ...... .......................... FRUITION OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY (~

The Bhagavad-Gita embodies the in the authority of the Vedas and the
teachings of Lord Krishna. It is highly God, while all others are astika, i.e.
valued all over India and the world, and believe in the Vedas and the God.
has been translated into a number of The Charvaka system (also called
languages. It says one should remain Lokayata) believes only in materialism.
balanced both in happiness and sorrow, The physical body composed of
in profit and loss and in victory and material elements is the only essence of
defeat. It tells that Atman is man. Death only is the end of man ;
indestructible, neither weapons can and enjoyment of pleasures are the only
pierce it nor fire can burn it. Death is objects in life. There is no life beyond
always that of body and not of Atman death, no h eaven or hell, no 'Law of
which takes another body as its abode. karma, and no rebirth. The Charvaka
The god incarnates himself with a view system does not believe in soul, god, or
to punish the wicked and protect the any other life beyond the present one.
good people. About the other two in this category
One can attain moksha in three i.e. Jainism and Buddhism you will
ways - by acquiring highest knowledge learn in detail in the next chapter.
(Janan) , by devotion to God (bhaktl) Among the remaining six systems
and by action, i.e. selfless performance of philosophy there is some similarity
of one's duties (karma) without caring and affinity between Nyaya and
for reward. Vaisesika, Samkhya and Yoga, and
According to the doctrine of karma Mimamsa and Vedanta. The Mimamsa
one's present birth and condition is recognises the Vedas as the final
determined by the karma of his authority in determining the duties of
previous birth. Belief in karma does not man, and the Vedantists in gaining true
necessarily involve fatalism. Most knowledge about Man and the
thinkers have said that though our Universe. One is concerned with the
present condition is due to karma in Kar,makanda and the other with the
previous birth, but by our Jnanakanda of the Vedas, that is, the
foresightedness and righteous deeds in Samhitas and the Brahmanas, and the
the present life we can change these Upanishads respectively.
The continuous quest by the sages
gave birth to great philosophical The Vaisesika system is a realistic,
systems, which looked upon man and analytic, and objective philosophy of
the universe with an unbiased, free and the world. It tries to distinguish between
rational mindset. The important the various kinds nfultimate things and
systems are Charvaka, Jaina, Buddha, to classify all the objects under five
Vaisesika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, elements - Earth Water, Air, Fire, and
Mimamsa and Vedanta. The first three Ether - existing in the form of Atom,
systems are nastika i.e. do not believe Time, Space, Minds and Self. The


" ANCIENT INDIA ...................... . . .. ................ . ..... . ........ . .... . ....................... ... .. . .. . .. . .......... . ... .

creation of the world begins when the but due to the inherent nature of the
atoms of these five elements start to Prakriti. It is from Prakriti that all things
combine, and when they disintegrate, like air, water, ether (akasa),
the world comes to an end. Vaisesika, intelligence (buddhl), self conciousness,
thus postulates a dualism of the matter sight, touch, hea ring, speech, etc.
and soul, and declares that salvation develop. One of the most important
depends on fully recognising the atomic tattva in all this is Purusa, the "soul".
nature of the universe, and its difference As in Jainism the Samkhya believes
with the soul. that there are infinite number of souls
Nyaya and Purusa is not dependent on Prakriti
nor Prakritiis dependent on Purusa. Yet
The Nyaya system accepts all the Purusa is involved in some way in the
categories recognised by the Vaisesika Prakritii.e. the matter and salvation lies
system and adds one Abhava in recognising their differences.
(negation). It also accepts all the A very important feature of
substapces admitted by the Vaisesika Samkhya is the doctrine of three
system, and considers God to be the qualities (guna). These are virtue
creator of the world. He is a soul (Sattva), passion (Rajas) and dullness
(atman) free from the 'Law of karma' (Tamas). It is said that in the beginning
and rebirth. The 'Law of karma' these three gunas are present in · all
operates independently of Him. In the beings in equilibrium, but as they
state of praZaya (cosmic dissolution) evolve, one or other of these three gunas
and Apavarga (moksha) or freedom come to dominate. The Sattvaguna
from the life of samsara (birth and represents the truth, wisdom, beauty
death) there is no consciousness in the and goodness; the Rajas signifies
soul. Nyaya makes a detailed study fierceness, activeness, violence, energy
of the sources of knowledge (pramana). and; while the Tamas is darkness,
According to Nyaya school there are foolishness, gloomy, unhappy etc.
four pramanas, namely perception However, the distinction between
(pratyaksha) , inference (anumana) , the Purusa (soul) and Prakriti (matter)
comparison (upamana) and verbal was modified in Tantricism which
testimony i.e. "words" (sabda). developed in later days. In Tantricism
Purusa came to signify "man" and
Prakriti "woman".
The Samkhya is the oldest of all SLX
systems of philosophy. It teaches the Yoga
existence of twenty-five basic principles Yoga is probably the best known Hindu
(tattva). Of these twenty-five tattvas, philosophical system in the world. In
first is Prakriti i.e. "matter". The this system the self-control and self-
Samkhya system believes that the mortification is supreme. Anyone who
evolution of universe is not due to God has mastered the various aspect of this

....................................................................................... FRUITION OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY ,-

doctrine is known as yogi. According (viii) Samadhi (deep meditation): in

to yoga the god is not the creator but which it is only the soul which
an exalted soul which has existed all remains and the whole personality
through without ever having merged is temporarily disolved.
with the matter. The salvation in this A person who has mastered yoga
system is by practicing the following can live a very long life, hold his breath
eight things: for a long period without suffering
(i) Yama (self-control): yama means injury, can control the rhythm of his
the practice of five moral rules own heartbeat and can withstand
which are truth, non-violence, extremes of heat and cold.
chastity, not stealing and no greed. In yoga, it is through Samadhi the
(ii) Niyama (observance): complete soul gets released from the life cycle and
and regular observance of five
joins the exalted soul i.e. the God.
more moral rules which are purity,
contentment, austerity, study of Mimamsa
Vedas and devotion to God. The Mimamsa system is a philosophy
(iii) Asanas (postures): sitting in of interpretation, application and use
certain prescribed postures which of the texts of the Samhita and
are an essential part of yoga. These Brahmana portions of Vedas. The
are known as yogasanas. The Mimamsa system recognises the Vedas
most famous is Padmasa'na in as the final authority in determining
wh ich gods and sages are
the duties of man, and the Vedantists
commonly depicted.
in gaining the true knowledge about
(iv) Pranayama (control of breath): the
man and universe. It recognises two
control of breath at will is another
paths of salvation. One is concerned
step in this doctrine. This is
with the karmakanda (ritualism) and
considered to be of great physical
other with the jnanakanda (pursuit of
and spiritual value.
(v) Pratyahara (restrain): in which the knowledge) of the Vedas i.e. the
sense organs are trained in such a Samhitas, Bfahmanas, and the
way that they do not take notice of Upanishads respectively.
their own perceptions and feelings. Vedanta
(vi) Dharana (steadying the mind):
The ancient Indian thoughts on
concentrating on a single object
philosophy reached its peak in the
such as tip of the nose or a sacred
philosophy of Vedanta. Sankara's
commentaries on Upanishads,
(vii) Dhyana (meditation): by
concentration the mind can be Brahmasutra and Bhaguada- Gita are
filled only by that object on which important for understanding the
concentration is being made and Vedanta Philosophy. Sankara held
completely emptied of all other that all works teach the Ultimate Reality
things. i.e. Brahma is One. The Vedanta

~ .
- " ANCIENT INDIA ................ . ..... .. ........ ... .......................... . .......... •........ •.. ... .... ... .... ....... ... .. .. ..

philosophy expanded by Sankara is only reality is Brahma (the Universal

known as Advaita Vedanta. The Soul) with which the individual soul is
Brahma has an infinite number of identical. The salvation of the individual
powers (sakti) and the creative power soul is possible only by merging it with
(Maya) is one of them. The power is not Brahma.
separate from the powerful and hence The post-Sankara period saw the
there is no duality. The world as a whole elaboration of the doctTines of all the
and in all its parts has purpose. above mentioned schools of thoughts,
For the purpose of carrying out the and the evolution of each system in its
work of creation, preservation and own way in the light of criticism by
destruction, God (Isvara) assumes
others. There was a great development
three distinct names and forms, namely,
of dialectics in each school which led
Brahma, Visnu and Rudra (also known
as Siva or Mahesha). to highly technical and systematic
The doctrine clearly recognises that works being written by thinkers.
the highest level of truth is that the One of the great sages who differed
whole world and all that exists is Maya with Sankara was Ramanuja, who
- an illusion, a dream, a mirage and a wrote his own commentaries on the
figment of imagination. Ultimately, the Upanishads, Brahmasutras and
whole Universe is unreal, i.e. Maya. The Bhagavad-Gita.

1. Explain the following :
2. What is the aim of Indian philosophy? What are the characteristic
features of it?
3. Describe the six schools of Indian Philosophy.
4. Write short notes on:
(i) Bhugavada-Gita
(ii) YOI:l
(iii) N! rya
(iv) VE. .:anta

• Find a teacher who teaches yogasanas and practice t hem at home.

• Find out the merits of these yogasanas and discuss them in class.

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'~", ANCIENT INDIA ....... . ................ . ........... . ......... . . . ..... . . ..... . ....... . . . . ... ..... . . . ............ .......... .... .. .. .

THE SIXTH century B.C. may be regarded Nirgranthas discuss as many as

as an important landmark in the sixty-two systems of doctrines before
history of Indian culture. The old Buddhism arose. Some Jain works like
ritualistic Vedic tradition had gradually Sutra-Kritanga gives their number as
ceased to be a strong force. The 363. Some of these were Ajivikas,
Upanishads had initiated freedom of Nirgranthas, Jatilakas, etc. Some of the
speculation into the fundamental prominent teachers of these sects were
problem of life . The brooding over the Purana Kas sapa, Makkhali Gosal,
ills and sorrows of life, a passionate Ajitkeshakambalin, Nigantha Natputta
desire to remove them by finding out and Sanjaya Belatthaputta.
new mode of salvation became the
concern of "the learned. It created Jainism
a ferment of new ideas and philo- Jainism has great antiquity. The
sophic principles, leading to the names of two Tirthankaras namely,
establishment of numerous religious Rishabhanath and Aristhanemia find
sects, which had never occurred in mention in RigVeda: Vayu Purana and
India before or since. We come to know Bhagwat Purana mention Rishabha as
of about 62 such religious sects, many the incarnation of Narayana. A few
of which were based on local customs scholars believe that the nude torso
and rituals. Of these religious sects, found at Harappa belongs to some
which may be regarded as direct or Tirthanakara. The Jain tradition
indirect products of thought currents traces Jainism to a remote antiquity
of this period, we shall discuss mainly represented by a succession of
two sects which have greatly influenced twenty-four Tirthankaras. The first
the society and culture of India. These Tirthankara was Rishabhnath. We do
are Jainism and Buddhism. not know much about him except that
It may be mentioned that 'both the traditions say that he was a king
J ainism and Buddhism take their and renounced the kingdom in
stand on certain aspects of the pre- favour of his son, Bharata, and
existing system. Both are organised as became an ascetic. Some Puranic
ascetic orders and brotherhoods. traditions say that name
Bharatavarsha is after 'Bharata', the son
Asceticism in fact, has its origin in the
of Rishabhanath. We know a little
Vedic thought and has been directly
more about the twenty-third
encouraged by the Upanishads. The
Tirthankara, Parsva, who was the son
Aranyakas are the products of of Ikshvaku king Asvasena of Kasi and
hermitages of the forests while the was born to the daughter of
Upanishads recommend retirement to Naravanman, king of Kausasthala. He
forests as essential to those who seek renounced the world at the age of
the highest knowledge. Both Jainism t hirty and attained perfect
and Buddhism can be seen and knowledge after nearly three months
understood better in this light. of intense meditation and spent the

........................................................... .. ... . .... THE EVOLUTION OF JAINISM AND BUDDHISM C:
remaining life as a religious teacher, doctrines Mahavira added a fifth one,
till his death at the age of hundred. namely, celibacy. As an example of
He is said to have flourished 250 complete renunciation and free from
years before Mahavira, the twenty- any possessions Mahavira asked his
fourth Tirthankara. He, thus, lived in followers to discard even their clothes.
the eighth century B.C. Though the J ains did not deny the
Vardhamana Mahavira is the last existence of God, they simply ignored
Tirthankara. He was born in the village him. The world for Jains is not created,
Kundagrama near Vaisali about 540 maintained or destroyed by a God but
B.C. His father Siddhartha was the head functions through a universal or
of famous kshatriya Jnatrika clan and eternal law. The universe is eternal.
his mother Trisala was the sister of It's existence is divided into cycles of
Chetaka, an eminent Lichchhavi noble progress (utsarpini) and declines
of Vaisali. Chetaka's daughter was (avasarpim). The universe functions
married to Bimbisara, the king of through the interaction of living souls
Magadha. Uiva) and everything in the universe
According to some Jain traditions. has a soul. The purification of the soul
Mahavira was married to Yasoda and
is the purpose of living, for it is only
lived a life of a householder. He had a
the pure soul after being released from
daughter also. After the death of his
the body that resides in bliss. The souls
parents, Vardhamana left his home, and
are found not only in the living beings
became an ascetic at the age of thirty.
During the next twelve years he like animals and plants but also in
practised most rigorous asceticism. At stones, rocks, water etc. The soul
the age of 42, he attained kaivalya i.e. which has finally set itselffree rises at
the supreme knowledge and final once to the top of the universe, above
deliverance from the bonds of pleasure the highest heaven, where it remains
and pain. Henceforth, he came to be in an inactive omniscient bliss through
known as Mahavira and Jina or the eternity. This for the Jains is Nirvana.
conqueror. His followers came to be According to J ainism salvation is
known as Jainas. Originally they were possible only by abandoning ,all
designated as Nirgranthas, i.e. free from possessions, a long course of fasting,
fetters. Mahavira spent the remaining self-mortification, study and meditation.
thirty years of his life in preaching. He Hence, the monastic life is essentialf~r
passed away at Pawapuri, in 468 B.C. salvation.
at the age of seventy twQ. Chandragupta Maurya is said to
Vardhaman Mahavira accepted four have patronised Jainism. According to
doctrines of Parsva .namely (i) non- the Jaina tradition, Chandragupta not
injury to living beings, (ii) speaking the only accepted Jaina religion, but had
truth, (iii) non possession of property, actually abdicated the throne and died
and (iv) not stealing. To these four as a Jaina Bhikshu in southern India.

ANCIENT INDIA ......................................................... . ............. .. ... . .. : ........... . .................... .

It is said that about two hundred his birth. The popular legend has it that
years after the death of Mahavira an astrologer predicted that Gautama
a terrible famine broke out in Magadha. would either be a great chakravartin
At that time Chandragupta Maurya sam rat or a great sanyasin. Fearing his
was the king, and the Thera son's reflective cast of mind, his father
Bhadrabahu was the chief of the Jaina married him at an early age to beautiful
Yasodhara from whom he had a son,
community. These two, with their
Rahul. However, Gautama was horrified
followers, went to Karanataka, leaving
at the sight of an old. man, a diseased
Sthulabhadra incharge of the J ainas person, a dead body, and then being
that remained in Magadha. attracted by the saintly appearance of
Bhadrabahu convoked a council at an ascetic. One night he left his home,
Patliputra, in which the Jaina canon wife and son and renounced the worldly
was arranged. Later in the fifth century life. He studied for some time in the
A.D. it was further rearranged. philosophical schools of two renowned
When the Jainas returned from teachers. Thereafter, six years of
south India, they held that complete profound meditation led to the
nudity be an essential part of the discovery of truths. Gautama became
teachings ofMahavira, while the monks the Buddha i.e. the enlightened one.
in Magadha began to put on white The fundamental principle of
clothes. Thus arose the two sects, the Buddha's teachings are represented by
Svetambaras (those who put on white the Four Noble Truths (Arya-Satyas)
robes) and the Digambaras (those who viz : (i) that the world is full of sorrow
were stark naked). It must be (Dukkha), (ii) that there are causes of
remembered that it is the munis who sorrow (Dukkha Samuddaya), (iii) that
follow the strict code like wearing this sorrow can be stopped (dukkha
white clothes (Svetambaras) or not nirodha) , and (iv) path leading to
keeping even a small peice of cloth on cessation of sorrow (Dukkha nirodha-
themselves or remaining completely gamini-pratipada). According to
nude (Digambaras). The followers of Buddha, root of all human misery was
both the sects live alike i.e. wearing 'desire' and its annihilation was the
clothes etc. surest way of ending unhappiness. He
held that death was no escape from it,
as it lead to rebirth and further
Like Jainism, Buddhism was also suffering. One could get out of this
founded by an illustrious kshatriya. He chain of suffering and achieve the
was born in 566 B.C. His family name final salvation (Nirvana) by following
was Gautama who was born in Sakya the eight fold path. (Ashtangika-
clan. His father, Suddhodhan, was the marga). These eight fold paths are:
king of Sakya republic. His mother was (i) right speech, (ii) right action, (iii) right
Mayadevi who died after seven days of means of livelihood, (iv) right exertion,

............ :........................................................ THE EVOLUTION OF JAINISM AND BUDDHISM

(V) right mindfulness, (vi) right word and deed. Buddhism denied the
meditation, (vii) right resolution, and efficacy of Vedic rituals and practices for
(viii) right view. The ultimate aim oflife the purpose of salvation, and the
is to attain nirvana, the eternal state of superiority assumed by the brahmans.
peace and bliss, which means freedom , The followers of the Buddha fell
from further birth and death. In some into two categories: the Upasakas or
places Buddha is said to have the lay followers, who lived with family;
summarised the whole process in three and the Bhikshus (monks) who
words viz. Sila (Right conduct), renounced the world and led the life of
Samadhi (Right concentration) and an ascetic. They lived as a commune
Prajna (Right knowledge). The first two called Sangha founded by Buddha
lead to the last one which is the direct himself. The women were also admitted
cause of nirvana or liberation from the in Sangha and were known as
cycle of birth and death. Buddha Bhikshunis. All the members in
advocated "The Middle Path" in which Buddhism enjoyed equal rights
extremes are avoided. irrespective of their varna and jati.
After enlightenment Buddha Further, Buddha discoursed in the
journeyed to the Deer Park (modern language of common people. For eight
Sarnath) Kasi and gave his first sermon months Buddha and his followers
which is also known as "Set in Motion would travel from place to place,
the Wheel of Law". preaching and four months during the
The moral doctrines preached. by rainy season they stayed at one place.
Buddha were quite simple. Man is Buddha died at the age of 80 in the
arbiter of his own destiny and not any year 486 B.C. at Kushinagar. After the
God or Gods. Ifhe does good deed in his cremation, the ashes of Buddha were
life, he will be reborn in a higher life and distributed among his followers. These
so on till he attains salvation or the final ashes were kept in caskets and stupas
emancipation from the evils of birth. On were built over them. Sanchi Stupa is
the other hand, evil deeds are sure to be one such example.
punished and the man will be reborn into Mahavira was a contemporary of
lower and lower life, each life taking him Gautama Buddha, and there are
further away from nirvana. Man should striking resemblances in the doctrines
avoid both extremes, viz. a life of of these two teachers. Both started
comforts and luxury, and a life of severe with a frank recognition of the fact that
asceticism- the middle path was the the world is full of sorrows and the
best. In addition to the ordinary moral salvation of a man means his
codes such as truthfulness, charity, deliverance from the eternal chain of
purity and control over passions, birth and death; both derived their
Buddhism laid great stress on love, basic principles from the Upanishads.
compassion, equanimity and non- Both did not accept the idea of God;
injury to the living creatures in thought, both, laid great stress upon a pure

, ANCIENT INDIA ................. ..... ........................................................................................ ..

and moral life, specially non-injury to Buddha decried it, and asked his
living beings, both emphasised the disciples to follow the middle path
effects of good and bad deeds upon a between a life of ease and luxury on
man's future births and ultimate one hand, and rigorous asceticism on
salvation; both decried caste; both the other. Besides, Buddha denounced
preached their religion in the common the practice of going out naked, and
language of the people, and lastly, both the Jaina attitude of non-injury to
encouraged the idea of giving up animals was carried to far greater
the world, and organised a church excesses than was ever contemplated
of monks and nuns. We can trace by Buddhism.
distinct historic origins of the two, they It may be said that within five
differ in fundamental conceptions hundred years Buddha spread far and
about salvation and certain other wide in different parts of the world.
matters which cannot be explained However, J ainism never spread beyond
away as later additions. The Jaina the boundaries of India. On the other
conception of soul, for example, is hand, while Buddhism declined
radically different from that of a considerably in the land of its birth
Buddhist. Again, Jainism laid great Jainism is still a living force in India,
stress upon asceticism and practised and has got a stronghold upon a large
it in a very rigorous manner, whereas, and influential section of the people.

1. Explain the following:
Tirthankara, Nirvana, Jina, Ashtangika-marga, Sangha, Bhikshu.
2. Why the sixth century B.C. is called the landmark in the history of India?
3. Describe the Jain Tirthankaras. What are their main teachings?
4. Describe the main teachings of Buddhism.
5. Write short notes on:
(i) Vardhamana Mahavira
(ii) Gautama Buddha
(iii) Ajivikas
6. Describe the similarities and differences between Jainism and Buddhism.

• On the outline map of India locate important places associated with

Jainism and Buddhism. Describe the events associated with these

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,'By (he 'ti,rne.' ()f the sixth century -B.C., Panini

me'ntio'ns as many as 22 different J'anapadas, of
\.vhjcp three;w~re ,considered very lHlportant. These
wer'e'Magadh8; Kosala and Vatsa,
\' "

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'. ANCIENT INDIA ..... . ............................................................................................................ .

Mahajanapadas Faizabad, Gonda, Bahraich etc.), with

IN the later Vedic period itself we start its capital at Sravasti, (vii) Vatsa
hearing of many J anapadas and (covering the modern districts
Mahajanapadas. The names of at least Allahabad, Mirzapur etc.), with its
nine Janapadas have been given in capital at Kausambi (viii) Chedi,
Vedic literature beside such people as (covering the modern Bundelkhand
the Andhras, Pulindas, Sabaras and area with its capital at Shuktimati),
Pundaras. However, by the time of the (ix) Kuru (covering the modern
sixth century B.C. Panini mentions as Haryana and Delhi area to the west
many as 22 different Janapadas of of river Yamuna) with its capital
which three were considered very at Indraprastha (modern Delhi),
important. These were Magadha, (x) Panchala (covering the area of
Kosala and Vatsa. A clearer picture western Uttar Pradesh up to the east of
emerges from the early Buddhist and river Yamuna up to the Kosala
Jain literature. They present a list of Janapada) with its capital at
sixteen Mahajanapadas with minor Ahichhatra, (xi) Surasena, (covering
variation of names in different works. Brij Mandal with its capital at Mathura),
Though the number is the same, the (xii) Matsya (covering the area of Alwar,
names in the lists differ. Perhaps they Bharatpur and Jaipur in Rajasthan)
show the political conditions at (xiii) Avanti (modern Malawa) with
different times and the geographical its capital at Ujjayini and Mahishmati,
nearness or knowledge of the author. (xiv) Ashmaka (between the rivers
According to Anguttara Nikaya there Narmada'and Godavari) with its capital
were following Mahajanapadas: at Potana, (xv) Gandhara (area covering
(i) Anga (including the modern the western part of Pakistan and eastern
districts of Monghyr and Bhagalpur Afghanistan) with its capitals at Taxila
in Bihar) with its capital of Champa, and Pushkalavati, and (xvi) Kamboja
(ii) Magadha (covering the districts of (identified with modern district of
Patna, Gaya and parts of Shahabad) Hazara disricts of Pakistan).
with its earlier capital at Rajgriha or Obviously this list of sixteen
Girivraj, (iii) Vajji (a confederacy of eight Mahajanapadas covers India only from
republican clans, situated to the north Bihar in the east to Afghanistan in the
of the river Ganga in Bihar) with its west, and Hindukush in the north to
capital, VaisaJi, (iv) Malla (also a river Godavari in the south. It leaves out
republican confederacy covering the vast areas of Bengal and eastern
modern districts of Deoria, Basti, India and practically the whole of south
Gorakhpur and Siddharthnagar in India. But these very Buddhist texts
eastern Uttar Pradesh) with two show familiarity with whole of India.
capitals at Kusinara and Pawa, (v) Kasi Mahagovinda Sutta of Digha Nikaya
with its capital at Varanasi, (vi) Kosala describe the shape of India as
(covering the pres ent districts of rectangular in the north and triangular


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Fig. 13.1 Map of Mahajanapa das

ANCIENT INDIA .......... . ......... ... .. . . . . ....... . . . . . . .. ... ... .... ... ... . . . . . . . .... .. . .. . ....... . ..... .. ... . ... . . . ... ..... .. .... .

in the south, just like a bullock cart. Chandragupta Maurya (fourth century
The Buddhist Nikayas mention the five B.C.) has left on record that he saw a
fold division of India into Uttarapatha royal genealogy of 151 generations
north-western), Madhyadesha (central), covering a time period of about 6051
Prachi (eastern), Dakshinapath (south) , (or 6015) years. During this time,
and Apranta (western), which confrrms Magadha experimented in the
that the geographical unity of republican system thrice. This extract
India had been visualised much from Megasthenese's Indica is in
before the sixth century B.C. Ifwe study conformity with the post-Mahabharata
the lists of Janapadas preserved in war royal genealogy preserved in the
the Jain texts Bhagvatisutra, and Puranas.
Sutrakntang, great Grammarian Along with the list of Mahajanapadas
Panini's Ashtadhyayi (sixth century 'we also find the names of many famous
B. C.), Baudhayandharmasutra cities during the time of Buddha. Some
(seventh century B.C.), and the of these w ere Champa , Rajagriha,
Janapada list available in the Srava sti, Saket, Kausambi and Kasi.
Mahabharata, the whole of India These were mostly the capital cities of
from Himalayas in the north to Mahajanapadas.
Kanyakumari in the south, from There were also non-monarchical
Gandhara in the west to Bengal and states which can be called republics or
Assam in the east are covered by these ganasanghas. Buddhist texts revea l
Janapadas. Kautilya (fourth century that during the time of the Buddha
B.C.) clearly visualises the goal of t h e r e were many such republican
political unity of the whole land states. Some of the important ones
under a Chakravarti ruler, and clearly were:
defines the Chakravarti kshetra from (i) Mallas of Kusinara
the Himalayas in the north to the (ii) Mallas of Pava
ocean in the south. The distribution of (iii) Sakyas of Kapilavastu
punch-marked coins, which were in (iv) Koliyas of Ramagrama
circulation from sixth century B.C. to (v) Moriyas of Pipphalivana
second century B.C. shows that by the (vi) Bulis of Alakappa
fourth century B.C. there was only one (vii) Kalamas of Kesaputta
currency for the whole ofIndia. It shows (viii) Bhaggas of Sumsumaragiri
political and economic unification for (ix) Lichchhavis ofVaisali
the entire territory. The Buddhist texts also speak of
The Buddhist literature shows that nine ganas of the Mallas and nine of
some Janapadas followed the Kasi. These helped the Vajjis against the
monarchical system. Each Janapada aggression of Magadha. The Mallas of
has its own independent dynasty Kusinagara and Pava were the
of rulers. Megasthenese, the kshatriyas of the Ikshvaku dynasty.
Greek ambass ador in the court of According to Divyavadana, perhaps at

. . ... ..... ....•.. . . ..... . ...... .. .. ... .. .. .. .... . .. . ... .... ..... .. . . ... ........ . . ... ... . . . .... . M AHAJANAPADAS TO NANDAS ,~

the time of Buddha, the Mallas were The Moriyas of the Pippha-
divided into two b ranches, namely livana a lso claimed to be a
Kusinara (Kusinaga ra) and Pava in ksha triya. According to Mahavamsa,
eastern Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps they Chandragupta Maurya belonged to this
also fonn ed a sangha of nine republican kshatriya clan.
states. We do not have much information
The Sakyas ofKa pilavastu, modern about the Bulis of Allakappa, Kalamas
Piparahwa in the Siddharthanagar of Kesaputta and Bhaggas of
district of Uttar Pradesh on the Nepal Sumsumaragiri.
border, were also Ikshvaku kshatriyas. The Vaiiis were the most important
Gautama Buddha was born in the republican state during the period of
Sakya family and Suddhodana was the Buddha. They were settled on the
'King' of the Sakyas. The Koliyas of
northern side of the Ganga, while
Ramagrama were eastern neighbours of
Magadha was on the south. Vajji
was a confederation of eight ganas
among which the Lichchhavis were
most prominent. These were called
astakulika (eight families). Vajjis,
Lichchhavis, Videhas and Jnatrika were
important families. Mahavira, the
twenty-fourth Jaina Tirthankara was
born in the last mentioned family.
During the time of Buddha, the
Lichchhavis, under the leadership of
Chetaka, were the most prominent
gana in the Vaiii sangha. They are also
called kshatriyas.The Vajjis were
defeated and assimilated in the
Magadha empire by Ajatasattu.
The Rise of Magadha
The four important royal dynasties that
stand out prominently in the sixth
century B.C . are the Haryankas of
Magadha, the Ikshvakus of Kosala, the
Pauravas of Vats a and the Pradyotas
of Avanti. Haryanka is the name of a
new dynasty founded in Magadha by
Bimbisara after overthrowing the
Brihadrathas. The Pradyotas are so .
Fig. 13.2 Punch-marked Coins called after the founder Pradyota . The

ANCIENT INDIA ............................................. .... ..... . ............................ . ............... . ................ .

other two are old royal dynasties. It is There were matrimonial alliances
interesting to note that the kingdom of between the kings of many of these
Kuru-Panchala, Kasi and Matsya, states, but that did not prevent the
celebrated in the Mahabharata, outbreak of hostility among them. Each
continued in this period, although of the four important royal dynasties,
they ranked as minor powers. mentioned a bove, tried to establish its

o Shay lind of punctlmarilltd



• AI11tuavab . .

Fig. 13.3 Distribution of Silver Punch-marked Coins

......... . .......... . ..................................................................•.. . .. . .. MAHAJANAPADAS TO NANDAS ~ ...

supremacy, and aggrandise itself at the district, served as the capital of the
cost of minor States. We hear, for Magadha kingdom. While Ajatasatru
example, that Pradyota, king of Avanti, was ftghting against the Lichchhavis, he
fought with Udayana, king of built, as a defensive measure, a fortress
Kausambi, although the latter was his at Pataligrama, a village at the junction
son-in··law, and at another time he of the Ganga and the Son. In course of
threatened Rajagriha, the capital of time, the strategic importance of the
Magadha. Prasenajit, king of Kosala, place must have attracted the attention
was already the master of Kasi, and his of the statesmen of Magadha, and
son afterwards conquered the Sakya Udayi evidently thought it a more
state of Kapilavastu. Again, Bimbisara, suitable capital for his kingdom, which
king of Magadha, annexed Anga, and had extended its boundaries in all
his son Ajatasatru conquered the directions by then.
Lichchhavis ofVaisali. All these kings -
Pradyota, Udayana, Bimbisara and Sisunaga
Prasenajit - flourished in the second According to the Buddhist tradition
half of the sixth century B.C. Udayi and his three successors were all
At the beginning of the ftfth century unworthy to rule. So the people got
B.C., the Pauravas and the Pradyotas disgusted and elected Sisunaga as the
seem to have retired from the contest king, the minister of the last king. The
Puranas, however, take Sisunaga to be
for supremacy, which was thus left to
the founder of the royal line to which
be fought out between the Haryankas
Bimbisara belonged, and hence calls it
of Magadha, and the Ikshvakus of
the Sisunaga Dynasty.
Kosala. A fterce and protracted struggle
ensued between Prasenajit and Nanda Dynasty
Ajatasatru, and although the results Kalasoka, the son and the successor
were indecisive for a long time, victory of Sisunaga, was succeeded by a
ultimately went to the Magadha barber (according to some accounts)
kingdom. Henceforth, Magadha stands named Mahapadma Nanda, who
out as the supreme power in northern founded a new dynasty known as the
India, which ftnally culminated into one Nandas. Mahapadma seems to have
of the greatest empires that had ever been a great military genius. He
been seen. Ajatasatru, became the defeated and destroyed the far-famed
founder of Magadhan supramacy. He kshatriya families, such as the
died about - 475 B.C. and was Pauravas, the Ikshvakus, and the
succeeded by Udayi, to whom tradition Pradyotas, who were ruling in
ascribes the foundation ofPataliputra, Kausambi, Kosala and Avanti, and
the new capital of the Magadha established an empire which included
kingdom. As described in epic the greater part of northern India. Thus,
literature, Rajagriha, now represented the task begun by Bimbisara and
by the ruins at Rajgir in the Patna Ajatasatru made triumphant progress.

.: ANCIENT INDIA ............ . ........ . .. ..... ... .... .... . ......... . . .. .............. . ........... . ........... .. . . .... ... ............. .

Foreign Invasions that the Indian soldiers formed part of

the Achaemenian army that conquered
Persian conquest of Indian Greece in the time of Xerxes (486-465
Borderland B.C.) and fought against Alexander at
The western borderland of India Gaugamela in 330 B.C. But this is by
comprising the Punjab, Sindh and no means a sure conclusion, as the
Afghanistan did not have any strong Indians might have been a part of the
political power during this period. Of army.
the sixteen Mahajanapadas mentioned
Alexander's Campaign
in the literature, only two, Kamboja and
Gandhara, may be placed in this In the fourth century B.C. the Greeks
outlying region. It appears to have been and Persian fought with each other for
divided into a large number of the supremacy over western Asia. The
independent principalities which were defeat of Achaemenian king Da rius III
frequently at war with one another, and in the hands of Alexander became a
thus an easy prey to foreign invaders. turning point. Alexander dismantled
The powerful Achaemenian kings of the Persian empire, conquered most of
Persia naturally cast their eyes towards the western Asia including Iraq and
this region, and perhaps Cyrus (558- Iran. He then turned his attention to
530 B.C.) subjugated a number of India. After the conquest of the Persian
principalities living to the south of the empire Alexander marched to India
through the Khyber pass in 326 B.C.
Hindukush mountains. It was in the
It is interesting to know that the
reign of Darius (522-486 I3.C.) that we
history of Alexander's campaign of
have positive evidence of the extension
India is reconstructed on the basis of
of Achaemenian rule in the north-
accounts available in Greek and Roman
western part ofIndia. Two inscriptions
sources. Surprisingly, no Indian source
of this monarch mention "Hi(n)du" as a
mentions anything about Alexander or
part of his dominion. The exact
his campaign.
connotation of this term is not known, It is also surprising that while Greek
but it certainly comprised some sources give a very detailed account of
territory to the east of the Sindhu, which Alexander's campaign to India, they are
Darius must have conquered about completely silent about Kautilya .
518 B.C. Herodotus, the Greek However, the identification of
historian, tells us that in 517 B.C. Sandrocottas or Androcottas of Greek
Darius sent a naval expedition to sources with that of Chandragupta
explore the valley of the Sindhu river. Maurya and fixing 326 B.C. as the date
How long the Persian domination of Chandragupta's accession to the
lasted in India is not definitely known. throne has become the sheet anchor of
Its continuance up to about 330 B.C. the chronological framework of Indian
is generally presumed on the ground history.


""."" ......... "" ... .. .. . ... .... .. . ............................... .... ... . ......... .. ....... MAHAJANAPADAS TO NANDAS "

Once Alexander reached the Indian which Alexander had himself

soil, the king ofTakshasila (Taxila, near concluded with them. But in the night
Rawalpindi in Punjab) offered to help they were surrounded and slaughtered
Alexander. Only a couple of Indian mercilessly by him and his soldiers.
princes followed the ignoble example of This massacre has been condemned
Taxila. Most of the numerous kings and even by the Greek writers.
republican Chiefs in Afghanistan, After defeating Assakenoi and
Punjab and Sindh offered brave others Alexander joined his other
resistance, though in vain. Despite the division of army. A bridge was
fact that petty chieftains were no match constructed on the Indus river at Ohind
for the seasoned troops of Alexander about 24 km. above Attock. After
and knew that they had no chance of crossing the Indus Alexander proceeded
success, they refused to submit without towards Taxila. When he was about
a fight. The Greek writers have paid 7 km. from Taxila, Ambhi came forward
glowing tributes to the bravery and to great Alexander and recognised him
patriotism of a large number of them. as his sovereign.
After crossing the Hindukush, However, the most powerful among
Alexander divided his army into two the north-western Indian was the ruler
parts. One part was kept under his own of a kingdom between the Jhelum and
command and the other under the two the Chenab whom the Greeks call
of his best Generals. Alexander himself Porus , probably a corruption of
undertook the task of conquering the Paurava. When he was summoned by
north -western part of India. The Greeks Alexander's envoys he proudly replied
had to face a strong resistance from that he would undoubtedly do so,
Hasti, a tribal chief whose capital was but at his own frontiers and with
Pushkalavati. He stood the Greek siege arms. Alexander made elaborate
for full 30 days till he fell fighting. These preparations to fight him. It must be
local people fought the invader to the remembered that Porus was a ruler of
last man. When the king of Assakenoi a small state, perhaps not bigger than
fell fighting, his army was led by the a modern district in the Punjab. Porus
queen. They "resolved to defend their fought bravely and with nine wounds
country to the last extremity". So great on his body, was led a captive before
was the enthusiasm for the defence of Alexander. The latter asked him how he
the country that even women took part would like to be treated. "Like a King"
in fighting. Even the mercenaries came the proud and prompt reply.
"preferred a glorious death to a life with Alexander secured the alliance of this
dishonour". After a brave resistance of brave king by restoring his kingdom
several days, Massaga, the capital city, and adding to it the territories of "15
was captured by Alexander. The republican states with their 5000 cities
mercenary army of 7000 were granted and villages without number". In
their lives by a special agreement course of his advance to the next river,

~ . ANCIENT INDIA .................................. . ........................ . .. . .......................... . .. .. ..................... .

Beas, Alexander had to fight hard with died fighting and only a few being taken
the Kathaioi (Kathas) whose casualties prisoners. While taking another town
amounted to 17,000 killed and 70,000 by assault Alexander was severely
captured. wounded, and when it was captured,
Alexander's Retreat his infuriated soldiers killed everybody
they found irrespective of age and sex.
Alexander's advance was arrested on Another ganasanghas, the Agalassoi
the bank of the Beas, for his soldiers (Arjunayanas) also fought with great
mutinied and refused to proceed further valour, and when one of their towns was
(end of July 326 B.C.). It is difficult to captured by Alexander all the citizens,
say whether this insubordination of the
numoering 20,000; after a heroic
soldiers was due to merely war-
resistance, threw themselves into the
weariness, as represented by the Greek
fire with their wives and children. There
writers, or partly to the fear inspired by
is a long list of such sagas of bravery,
the mighty empire of the Nandas which
patriotism and sacrifice. In September
lay beyond the river. But it is interesting
to note that in course of their reply to 325 B. C. Alexander reached Patala, and
Alexander's pleading to go on further, began his homeward journey. He
the troops laid great stress on the proceeded with his army by land, but
calamity that would befall the whole sent the ships under Nearchus.
army if Alexander met with an accident Alexander reached Susa in Persia in 324
in course of the campaign. While saying B.C. and died there the next year. Before
this the heroic resistance and patriotic leaving India, he had put several
spirit displayed by the whole kshtrapas incharge of different parts of
population of the tiny republics must the conquered territories. But some
have loomed large over the soldiers. conquered ganasanghas rebelled and
Many ancient Greek historians have there were other troubles even before
recorded that the retreat was because he left India. After his death the Greek
of the terror of mighty powers of the edifice collapsed within a short time.
Nanda empire.
Impact of Alexander's Campaign
Whatever may be the real reason,
Alexander had to bow to the decision The invasion of Alexander the Great has
of his mutinous soldiers and decided been recorded in minute details by the
to return. Near the confluence of the Greek historians who naturally felt
Jhelum with the Chenab he had to fight elated at the triumphant progress of their
with a confederacy of republican states hero. It is a great puzzle that why Indian
led by the Malloi (Malavas) and the tradition should have remained silent
Oxydrakai (Kshudrakas) . All the towns over such an event. Was it because
of the Malavas became citadels of Alexander only touched the western
resistance. In one of them, 5000 border of the then India and returned
brahmans left the pen for the sword and without leaving any lasting impact on

.................. . ............................................ .. ............................... MAHAJANAPADAS TO NANDAS ,

Indian people. His campaign can hardly do not certainly favour the hypothesis
be called a great military success as the that he could have faced the might of
only military achievement to his credit Nandas with ease. Further, whatever
was the conquest of petty little he could conquer in this campaign
ganasanghas and small states. The was lost within three months of his
exertion ,he and his army had to make departure, as most of the conquered
against Porus, the ruler of a small state, areas asserted their independence.

. Exercises .
L Describe the political condition of India in the sixth century B.C. with
reference to the rise of Mahajanpadas.
2, Describe the ganasanghas (Republics) in the sixth century B.C.
3. Discuss' the rise of Magadha. What were the methods adopted by
Magadhan kings of various dynasties for the expansion of Magadha ?
4. Who was Alexander? Discuss his invasion of north-west India.

• Draw the map of India and locate Mahajanpadas with their capitals.

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.................................................................................................................... THE MAURYAS ,..

THE MAURYAN empire was the first and Buddhist sources like Mahavamsa and
one of the greatest empires that were Dipavamsa describe Chandragupta
established on Indian soil. The vast Maurya as a scion of the Kshatriya
Mauryan empire stretching from the clan of the Moriyas branch of Sakyas
valley of the Oxus to the delta of Kaveri who lived in Pipphalivana, in eastern
was given a well-knit, common Uttar Pradesh. The Mudrarakshasa, a
administration. Chandragupta Maurya play written by Vishakha Datta,
was the first ruler who unified entire
India under one political unit. About
uses the terms like Vrishala and
Kulahina, for Chandragupta which
Mauryan rulers we have epigraphical mean a person of humble origin.
sources, literary sources, foreign Justin, a Greek writer, also says
accounts and materials obtained that Chandragupta was "born in
from archaeological excavations. humble life".
The Arthashastra gives us detailed According to Buddhist sources
information about the administrative Chandragupta's father was killed in a
system of the Mauryan empire. The battle and he was brought up by his
work was written by Kautilya who is maternal uncle . Chanakya, finding
also known as Chanakya. Some the signs of royalty in the child
scholars think that Kautilya was the Chandragupta, took him as his
real architect of the Mauryan empire pupil, and educated him at Taxila
and was also the Prime Minister of which was then a great centre of
Chandragupta Maurya. Megasthenese, learning. Chandragupta's early life and
the Greek ambassador from the court education at Taxila is indirectly proved
of Seleucus to that of Chandragupta by the fact that the Greek sources tell
Maurya, wrote accounts of India and us that he had seen Alexander in
Indian people. His book Indica is lost course of the latter's campaign of
but some fragments of it are known to Punjab.
us in the form of quotations in the The details of Chandragupta's
works of the later Greek writers. conquests and empire building process
Despite some discrepancies and are not available to us. From the Greek
inaccuracies in the information and Jain sources it seems that
provided by Megasthenese it is, Chandragupta took advantage of the
nevertheless, an useful source. disturbances caused by the invasion
However, the most important and of Alexander and his sudden death
authentic source for the history of in 323 B.C. in Babylon. He, with the
Mauryan period is provided by the help of Kautilya raised a large army
inscriptions of Ashoka. and launched campaigns. He first
overthrew the Greek kshatrapas ruling
Chandragupta Maurya (324-300 B.C.) in the region of north-western India.
Not much is known about the early life Justin writes, "India after the death of
and ancestry of Chandragupta. The Alexander, had shaken, as it were, the

ANCIENT INDIA .................................................................................................................. .

yoke of servitude from its neck and put not known to have made conquest in
his Governors to death. The architect south India, it can be said that it was
of this liberation was Sandrocottas". conquered by Chandragupta. This
Sandrocottas of Greek writers has been conclusion is further strengthened
identified with Chandragupta Maurya. by the Jain tradition which says
After liberating north-western that in his old age Chandragupta
india from the Greek rule, abdicated the throne and retired to
Chandragupta turned his attentiQn to Sravanbelgola in Karnataka with his
the conquest of Magadha from the teacher, the Jain ascetic Bhadrabahu.
Nandas. The details of this conquest Local inscriptions of later period refer
is not known to us. The Jain text, to his giving up life as a devout Jaina
Parisistha Parvam, describes that with by fast unto death at that place. There
the help of Chanakya, Chandragupta is a hill nearby called Chandragiri,
defeated the Nanda king and which seems to be named after him.
captured him. After defeating Nanda, Chandra~upta defeated the
Chandragupta became the ruler of invading army of the Greek Kshatrapa
. Magadha empire. . Seleucus who had succeeded
Chandragupta's western and Alexander in the eastern part of his
southern Indian conquests are known empire. This victory was achieved
to us through indirect evidences. in about 305 B.C. The Greek writers
The Junagarh rock inscription of do not give details of the war but
Rudradaman says that a dam on the state that a treaty was concluded in
Sudarshana lake for irrigation was which Seleucus conceded the territories
constructed by Pushyagupta, ·a of Kandahar, Kabul,Herat and
provincial governor of Chandragupta Baluchistan and Chandragupta
Maurya. Later, Yavanaraja Tushapha presented him 500 elephants. It is
excavated canals for irrigation during also stated that this also led to
Ashoka's reign. Similarly, the find of the matrimonial alliance between the
Ashokan inscriptions at Girnar hills in two - perhaps Seleucus married his
Junagarh district (in Gujarat) and at daughter to Chandragupta Maurya or
Sopara (Thane district, 'Maharashtra) to his son Bindusara. Seleucus sent
shows that these areas formed part of Megasthenese as his ambassador to
Mauryan empire. the court of Chandragupta. Plutarch
Ashoka's inscriptions have been writes, "Sandrocottas who had by that
found at Maski, Yerragudi and time mounted the throne overran and
Chitaldurga in Karnataka. Rock subdued the whole of India with an
Edict II and XIII of Ashoka mentions army of 6,00,000".
that his immediate neighbouring Thus, Chandragupta established a
states were those of Cholas, 'Pandyas, vast empire which with the exception
Satyaputras and Keralaputras. Since of Kalinga, extended from Afghanistan
Ashoka and his father Bindusara are in the west to Assam in the east and

................................................................................................................... THE MAURYAS


~ ..

u . \./ .,- '

, - - - - - ...... - - . - . . .- - - - " '... La hman~
~ I e...
Shahbazgarhi ""sJ"r. ~
" •
" Taks sila
~~ (Ta.xHa)
r ~~~
~ He/mand


... -1//., Sarn~th Barabar
. "'?"'6 ....
~ Rupnath


Rock Edicts

Pillar Edicts
Boundaries of
Mauryan Empire

Fig. 14.1 Map afthe Mauryan Empire

. . ANCIENT INDIA .. . ......... . . .. . . ......... . .. ..... .. .. .......... . ............................. . ... . ...... . ........ . . . .... . ..... . .

from Kashmir in north to Karnataka in traditional accounts. According to the

south. This is indirectly proved by the Buddhist sources his mother was
find spots of the edicts of his grandson, Janapada Kalyani or Subhadrangi. As
Ashoka. Ashoka is said to have added a prince he served as a viceroy, first at
only Kalinga to the Mauryan empire, Ujjain and then at Taxila.
and there is no definite evidence that According to the Buddhist
his father Bindusara made any tradition, Ashoka was very cruel in his
conquests at all. Chandragupta early life and captured the throne after
Maurya is said to have ruled for 24 killing his 99 brothers. But this does
years i.e. from 324 B.C. to 300 B.C. not appear to be correct. Not only
because of the exaggerated figure of
Bindusara (300-273 B.C.)
99 , but also because Ashoka himself
Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded speaks affectionately about his
by his son Bindusara. We know brothers, sisters and relatives in his
little about this king. The Jain edicts.
scholar Hemachandra and Tibetan Ashoka is the first king in the Indian
historian Taranath say that Chanakya history who has left his records
outlived Chandragupta and continued engra ved on stones. The history of
as a minister of Bindusara. From Ashoka and his reign can be
Divyavadana we came to know that reconstructed with the help of these
Bindusara appointed his eldest son inscriptions and some other literary
Sumana (also named Susima) as his sources. The inscriptions on rocks are
viceroy at Taxila and Ashoka at Ujjain. called Rock Edicts, and those on Pillars,
It also tells us that a revolt broke out at Pillar Edicts. The Ashokan inscriptions
Taxila and when it could not be are found in India, Nepal, Pakistan and
suppressed by Susima, Ashoka was Afghanistan. Altogether, they appear at
sent to restore peace. Some scholars 47 places. However, the name of Ashoka
give the credit of south Indian conquest occurs only in copies of Minor Rock
to Bindusara, but most scholars believe Edict I found at three places in
that this was done by his father Karnataka and one in Madhya
Chandragupta Maurya. Pradesh. All other inscriptions refer to
Bindusara continued the policy of him as devanampiya (beloved of the
friendly relations with Hellenic gods) and piyadasi. These inscriptions
world. Pliny mentions that Ptolemy are generally located on ancient
Philadelphus of Egypt sent Dionysius h ighways.
as his ambassador to his court. The inscriptions of Ashoka were
written in four different scripts. In
Ashoka (273-232 B.C.) Afghanistan area they were written in
After the death of Bindusara in 273 B.C. Greek and Aramaic languages and
Ashoka succeeded to the throne. On the scripts, and in Pakistan area, in Prakrit
early life of Ashoka we have only language and Kharosthi script.

.....................................•.....•....................................•................................. THE MAURYAS

Inscriptions from all other areas are in with the erring. He did not pursue the
Prakrit language, written in Brahmi policy of peace for the sake of peace
script. and under all conditions. Within the
Kalinga War and Its Impact empire he appointed a class of officers
known as rajjukas who were vested with
The earliest event of Ashoka's reign the authority of not only rewarding
recorded in his inscriptions is his people but also punishing them if
conquest of Kalinga (modern Orissa required.
and probably some adjoining areas) in
the eighth year of his reign. This turned Ashoka's Dhamma
ou t to be the first and also the last There is no doubt that Ashoka's
battle fought by him. The Rock Edict personal religion was Buddhism. In his
XIII describes vividly the horrors and Bhabru edict he says he had full faith
miseries of this war and its impact on in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
Ashoka. According to this edict, one Though Ashoka accepted Buddhism
lakh people were killed in this war, as his main faith, it would be wrong to
severallakhs perished and a lakh and think that he forced Buddhist ideals on
a half were taken prisoners. These his subjects. He showed respect to all
numbers may be exaggerated but one sects and faiths and believed in unity
fact comes out clearly that this war among ethical and moral values of all
had a devastating affect on the people sects. In Rock Edict VII he says, "All
of Kalinga. The horrors of war sects desire both self control and purity
completely changed the personality of of mind". In Rock Edict XII he
Ashoka. He felt great remorse for the pronounces his policy of equal respect
atrocities the war brought in its wake. to all religious sects more clearly. He
He thus abandoned the policy of says, that he "honours all sects and
aggression and tried to conquer the both ascetics and laymen, with gifts and
hearts of the people. The 'drums various forms of recognition".
declaring wars were replaced by the After the Kalinga war, the greatest
drums announcing ethical and moral ideal and objective before Ashoka was
principles with dhammaghosa. He took the propagation of Dhamma. The
steps for the welfare of people and Dhamma, as explained in Ashoka's
animals. He sent ambassadors of peace edicts is not a religion or a religious
to the Greek kingdoms in west Asia and system but a 'Moral Law', a 'Common
several other countries. Code of Conduct' or an 'Ethical Order'.
But this did not mean that he In Pillar Edict II Ashoka himself puts
became a weak hearted pacifist. the question: "What is Dhamma?" Then
Contrary to this he warned people that he enumerates the two basic attributes
these good measures may not be taken or constituents of Dhamma : less evil
as a sign of weakness. If need be, he and many good deeds. He says such
would not hesitate in dealing severely evils as rage, cruelty, anger, pride and

A"<CIENT INDIA ... .. ...... . . . ................. . ............................ . ... .. . ............ ............. ............ . . ....... .

envy a re to be avoided. and many good (ii) Respect towards teachers .

deeds like kindness, liberality, (iii) Proper treatment towards
truthfulness, gentleness, self control, ascetics, relations, slaves,
purity of heart, attachment to morality, servants and dependents, the
inner and outer purity etc. - are to be poor and miserable, friends,
pursued vigorously. acquaintances and companions.
Ashoka, in Rock Edict XII and (iv) Liberality towards ascetics,
many other edicts prescribes the friends, comrades, relatives and
following codes to be followed: the aged.
(i) Obedience to mother and father, (v) Abstention from killing of living
elders , teac hers and other beings.
respectable persons. (vi) Non-injury to all living creatures.
(vii) Spending little and accumulating
little wealth.
(viii) Mildness in case of all living
(ix) Truthfulness .
(x) Attachment to morality.
(xi) Purity of heart.
Thus, Ashoka tried to instill moral
law (Dhamma) as the governing
principle and forced in every sphere of
life. Dhamma of Ashoka, thus, is a code
for moral and virtuous life. He never
discussed god or soul or religion as
such. He asked people to have control
over their passion, to cultivate purity
of life and character in innermost
thoughts , to be tolerant to other
religions , to abstain from killing or
injuring animals and to have regard for
them, to be ch aritable to all, to be
respectful to parents, teachers,
relatives, friends, and ascetics, to treat
slaves and servant kindly and above all
to tell the truth.
Ashoka not only preached but also
practiced these principles. He gave up
hunting and killing of animals. He
Fig. 14.2 Ashokan Edict established hospitals for humans and
Engraved on a Pillar animals and made liberal donations to

.................. . ......... . ............................. . ..................................... . .................. THE MAURYAS it!

daught er Sanghamitra to propagate

Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Ashoka's Place in History
Ashoka was one of the greatest kings
in the history of the world. His reign
constitutes one of the "rare and lighting
epochs in the annals of nations". The
most remarkable thing about Ashoka
is that his faith in Buddhism never
made him to neglect his duties as a king
Fig. 14.3 Rummindei Pillar Inscription and impose it on his subjects. His
greatness lay in his realisation of the
the brahmans and ascetics of different values of life. His conception of duties
religious sects. He erected rest-houses, and responsibilities of a king, the zeal
caused wells to be dug and trees to be with which he succeeded in giving effect
planted along the roads. to them are shining examples of his
After the Kalinga war Ashoka greatness. Probably no ruler has ever
adopted Buddhism, one of whose expressed the relation between a king
cardinal doctrines was non-violence and his subjects in such a simple and
and non-injury to living beings. Ashoka noble language. He declared, "All men
took for the propagation of Buddhism. are my children and just as I desire for
He conducted Dharmayatras and my children that they may enjoy every
instructed his officials to do the same. kind of prosperity and happiness, in
He appointed special class of officials both this world and the next, so also I
called Dharmamahamatras whose sole desire the same for all men".
responsibility was to propagate Ashoka is the only king in the
Dhamma among the people. history of human kind who apologised
Ashoka sent missions to foreign to his conquered subject for having
countries also to propagate dhamma. waged war against them and caused
His missionaries went to western Asia, them misery and sufferings. The Rock
Egypt and Eastern Europe. Of the Edict XIII is a moving document which
foreign kings, whose kingdoms thus could have been written only by a
received the message of Buddhism; five . human being as noble and as great as
are mentioned in the inscriptions of Ashoka.
Ashoka, namely, Antiochus Theos, of
Syria and western Asia, Ptolemy Decline of the Mauryan Empire
Philadelphus of Egypt, Antigonus Ashoka ruled for over forty years and
Gonatas of Macedonia, Megas of met with his death in 232 B.C. the
Cyrene and Alexander of Epirus. The decline set in and soon after the empire
king even sent his son Mahendra and broke up. Seven kings followed Ashoka

ANCIENT INDIA ............. .. ............................................... . ............. ...... ................................ .

in succession in a period of about 50 for it. Most of the historians agree that
years. 't is impossible to construct a after Ashoka, his successors were weak
continuous history of the empire after who could not control the unrest and
Ashoka. Perhaps, after the death of revolt in various parts of the empire.
Ashoka, the empire was divided into Consequently the north-western and
an eastern and an western part. The southern portions were the first to go
western part was governed by Kunala, out. Some historians hold Ashoka
Samprati and others and the eastern responsible for this decline. Ashoka's
part with southern India, with its pacifist policies weakened the empire
capital at Pataliputra, by six later in terms of wars and military strength.
Mauryan kings from Dasarath to The centralised empire needs very
Brihadratha. The revolt of the Andhras strong willed rulers which was not the
in the south and victorious raids of case with Ashoka's successors. Some
Greek king in the west gave a blow to historians think that Ashoka's welfare
the power and prestige of the Mauryan measures must have eaten away a large
empire. Apparently due to concern for chunk of income and over all income
the empire and total disillusionment must have been very inadequate to
on kings unworthiness, Pushyamitra, main tain the army and the
the commander-in-chief killed the administrative machinery. This must
king Brihadratha while he was have weakened the entire edifice of
reviewing the army. Too little is known the empire. But weak economy does
of the actual circumstances leading to not appear to be the case, as the
such an act. However, what is very clear excavations of Mauryan settlements
is that the king was killed in full view of and also other evidence point to an
the public, and that too in the presence expending and flourishing economy.
of his army, this shows that he neither
Polity and Administration
enjoyed the loyality of his own army nor
the sympathy of the people. This is the The Mauryan empire was one of the
only recorded and undisputed incident largest in the whole of the ancient
in the history of India till the twelfth world. It ushered in a centralised form
century A.D. where the king was of government. From the Arthashastra,
murdered and replaced. Though Ashokan inscriptions and from
Pushyamitra, ascended the throne, the fragments available from
curiously enough, he retained the title Megasthenese's accounts, we have a
of the Senapati. He did not adopt any fairly good idea about the various
title declaring himself as the king. aspects of administration, economy,
There is something very dramatic in society and religion of the people.
the way in which Mauryan empire The king was head of the state. He
declined and disappeared just in 50 had judicial, legislative and executive
years after the death of Ashoka. powers. The king issued what were
Historians have given various reasons known as sasana or ordinances. The

....... . ............ . ......................... . .................................................................. THE MAURYAS

edicts of Ashoka are examples of those Saurashtra (Kathiawar) was governed

sasanas. But king could not do by vaisya Pushyagupta at the time of
whatever he liked. He had to follow the Chandragupta Maurya and by
law of the country given by law givers yavana-raia Tushaspa at the time of
and had to govern according to the Ashoka, both provincial governors.
customs of the land. The king was Provinces were subdivided into the
assisted in administration by a districts, each of these were further
Council of Ministers (Mantriparishad). divided into groups of villages and the
Besides, there were some officers known final unit of administration was the
as Adhyakshas (superintendents). village. A group of officials worked in
Kautilya refers to a large number of each district. The pradeshika was the
superintendent like those of gold, store head of district administration who
houses, commerce, agriculture, ships, toured the entire district every five years
cows, horses, elephants, chariots, to inspect the administration of areas
infantry, passports, the city, etc. under his control. The rajjuka was
In the Mauryan administration responsible for surveying and assessing
there was an officer called yukta who
the land, fixing its rent and record
was perhaps the subordinate / officer
keeping beside judicial functions
incharge of the revenues of the king.
The rajjukas were officers responsible enumerated above. The duties of Yukta
for land measurement and fixing their largely comprised secretarial work,
boundaries. They were also given collection and accounting of revenue
power to punish the guilty and set etc. There were an intermediate levels
free the innocents. Another officer of of administration between district and
the Mauryan administration was that of village. This unit comprised five
Pradeshikas. Some scholars think that to ten or more villages.
he was responsible for the collection The village was the smallest unit of
of revenue while others think that he administration. The head of the village
was the provincial governer. was called gramika who was assisted
The Mauryan empire was divided in village administration by "village
into provinces. We do not know about elders". It is difficult to say whether the
the number of provinces during the gramika was a paid servant, or was
reign of Chandragupta and Bindusara. elected by the village people. The
But we know that during the reign of
villages enjoyed considerable
Bindusara, Ashoka was posted at
autonomy. MQst of the disputes of the
Uiiain as Governor of the Avanti region
while his brother Susima was posted village were settled by gramika with the
at Taxila as the Governor of the north- help of village assembly. The
western provinces. The important Arlhashastra mentions a wide range
provinces were directly under Kumaras of scales in salary, the highest being
(princes). According to the Junagarh 48,000 panas and the lowest 60
rock inscription of Rudradaman, panas.

ANCIENT INDIA ..... .. . . ..... . . . ................... ...... .. . .. .... ...... . ......... .. ............... . ............. . .. . ......... . .

City Administration educational institutions, sanitation,

A number of cities such as Pataliputra, water supplies, harbors etc. The officer
Taxila, Ujjain, Tosali, Suvarnagiri, incharge of the city was known as
Samapa, Isila, and Kausambi are Nagaraka.
mentioned in the edicts of Ashoka. The The administrative machinery
Arthashashtra has a full chapter of the Mauryan state was fairly
on the administration of cities. developed and well organised.
Megasthenese has described in detail Numerous departments regulated and
the administration of Pataliputra and controlled the activities of the state.
it can be safely presumed that similar Several important departments that
administrative system was followed in Kautilya mentions are accounts,
most of the Mauryan cities. revenue, mines and minerals, chariots,
Megasthenese tells us that the city customs and taxation. The state was
of Pataliputra was administered by conceived as a complex of activities of
a city council comprising 30 members . its various departments which covered
These thirty members were divided almost every sphere of the state's affairs.
into a board of five members Sooiety and Culture
each. Each of these boards had
Megasthenese speaks of Mauryan
specific responsibilities towards the
society as comprising seven castes -
administration of city. For example, first
philosophers, farmers, soldiers ,
board was concerned with the
herdsmen, artisans, magistrates and
industrial and artistic produce. Its
councillors. Megasthenese could not
duties included fixing of wages, check
properly comprehend the Indian society
the adulteration etc. The second board
and failed to distinguish between jati,
dealt" with the affairs of the visitors, varna and the occupation. The
especially foreigners who came to chaturvarna . system continued to
Pataliputra. The third board was govern the society. But the craftsmen,
concerned with the registration of irrespective ofjatienjoyed a high place
birth and death. The fourth board in the society. The material growth
regulated trade and commerce, kept mellowed the jati restrictions and gave
a vigil on the manufactured goods and p~ople prosperity and respectibility.
sales of commodities. The fifth board The urban way of life developed. The
was responsible for the supervision of residential accommodation, its wealth
manufacture of goods. The sixth board etc. were entered into official records
collected taxes as per the value of sold and rules and regulation were well
goods. The tax was normally one-tenth defined and strictly implemented.
of the sold goods. The Education was fairly wide
The city council appointed officers spread. Teaching continued to be th e
who looked after the public welfare main job of the brahmans. But
such as maintenance and repairs of Buddhist monasteries also acted as
roads, markets , hospitals, temples, educational institutions. Taxila, Uiiayini

. . ............................................................................................................... THE MAURYAS

and Varanasi were famous educational great impetus to economic development

centres. The technical education was during the period. The vastness of
generally provided through guilds, India's agricultural and mineral
where pupils learnt the crafts from early resources and the extraordinary skill
age. of her craftsmen have been mentioned
In the domestic life, the joint family with admiration by Megasthenese and
system was the norm. A married other Greek writers.
woman had her own property in the The large part of the population was
form of bride-gift (stree-dhana) , and agriculturists and lived in villages. New
jewels. These were at her disposal in areas were brought under cultivation
case of widowhood. The widows had a after cleaning the forest. The state
very honourable place in the society. helped people in this endeavour.
There are frequent references to women Certain types of forests were protected
enjoying freedom and engaged in by law. People were encouraged to
gainful occupation. Offences against settle down in new areas. Among the
women were severely dealt with. crops, rice of different varieties, coarse
Kautilya laid down penalties against grains (kodrava), sesame, pepper and
officials, in charge of workshops and saffron, pulses, wheat, linseed,
prisons who misbehaved with women. mustard, vegetable and fruits of various
Megasthenese has stated that kinds and sugarcane were grown.
slavery did not exist in India. However, The state also owned agricultural
forced labour and bonded labour did farms, cattle farms, dairy farms etc.
exist on a very limited scale but were Irrigation was given due importance.
not treated so harshly as the slaves in Water reservoirs and dams were
the western world. built and water for irrigation was
About one and a half century of distributed and measured. The
Mauryan rule witnessed the growth of famous inscription of Rudradaman
economy, art and architecture, found at Junagarh mentions that
education, etc. which made India into one of Chandragupta's governors,
a great civilization and one of the Pushyagupta, was responsible for
greatest countries in the contemporary building a dam on Sudarshana lake
world. near Girnar in Kathiawad. From an
inscription of Skandagupta we came to
Economy know that this very dam was repaired
The Mauryan state created a machinery during his reign, almost 800 years after
which governed vast areas directly and it was built.
to enforce the rules and regulations in Industry was organised in various
respect of agriculture, industry, guilds. The chief industries were
commerce, animal husbandry, etc. The textile, mining and metallurgy, ship
measures taken by the Mauryan state building, jewellery making, metal
for the promotion of the economy gave working, pot making etc. Some other

ANCIENT INDIA ......................................................... . ................................... . .......... . ...... .

industries were, manufacturing dyes,

gums, drugs, perfumes, etc. The trade
was regulated by the state. India
supplied the western countries with
indigo, various medicinal substances,
cotton and silk. Foreign trade was
carried on by land as well as by sea.
Special arrangements were made for the
protection of trade-routes. Provisions of
warehouses, godowns and transport
arrangements were also made. The
traderhad to get a license to trade. The
state controlled and regulated the
weights and measures. The artisans
and craftsmen were specially protected
by the state and offences against them
were severely punished.
The guilds were powerful
institutions. It gave craftsmen great
economic, pblitical and judicial powers
and protection. The chief of a guild was
called Jesthaka. The guilds settled the
disputes of their members. A few guilds
issued theIr own coins. The guilds also
made donations to educational
institutions, learned brahmans and to
the destitute. This can be understood
by later inscriptional evidences. The
Sanchi stupa inscription mentions that
one of the carved gateways was donated
by the guilds of ivory workers.
Similarly, the Nasik cave inscription
mentions that two weaver's guilds gave
permanent endowments for the
maintenance of a temple.
Kautilya says, "A full treasury is a Fig. 14.4 Ashokan Pillar with Lion
Capital at Lauriya Nandangarh
guarantee of the prosperity of the
state" and it is the most important duty in cash and in kind and were collected
of the king to keep the treasury full at by local officers. The chief source of
all the times for all works. During the revenue was land tax and the tax levied
Mauryan period, taxes were levied both on trade etc. The land tax was one-

............ . ........................ . •... •. . ... .• . •. . . ..... •• ......... •......... . .. . ........ . .. . .. . . ... ... .. .... THE MAURYAS A
fourth to one-sixth of the produce. Toll found in the writings of Strabo, Arrian
tax was levied on all items which were and other Greek Writers. It stretched
brought for sale in the market. Tax along the river Ganga in the form of a
was also levied on all manufactured parallelogram. It was enclosed by a
goods. Those who could not pay the tax wooden wall and had 64 gates.
in cash or kind were to contribute their . Excavations have brought to light
dues in the form of labour. Strabo remains of palaces and the wooden
mentions that craftsmen, herdsmen, palisade. Arrian described the palace
traders, farmers, all paid taxes. The in these terms, "where the greatest of
Arthashashtra describes revenue at all kings" ofIndia resided, "was a marvel
great length. This was furth,er of workmanship with which neither
augmented by income from mines, Memnomian Susa with all its costly
forests, pasture lands, trade, forts etc. splendour, nor Ekbatana with all its
The income from the king's own land magnificence, can vie". The Mauryan
or estate was known as sita. wooden palace survived for about 700
Brahmans, children, and years because, at the end of the fourth
handicapped people were exempted century A.D. when Fa-Hien saw it, it
from paying taxes . Also no tax was was astounding. The palace and also
levied in areas where new trade routes the wooden palisade seems to have been
or new irrigation projects or new destroyed by fire. The burnt wooden
agricultural land were being developed. structure and ashes have been found
Tax evasion was considered a very from Kumrahar. .
serious crime and offenders were Seven rock-cut caves in the Barabar
severely punished. and Nagarjuni hills show that the
Art and Architecture
During the Mauryan period we notice
a great development in the field of art
and architecture. The main examples
of the Mauryan art and architecture
that have survived are:
.(i) Remains of the royal palace and the
dty of Pataliputra
(ii) Ashokan pillars and capitals
(iii) Rock cut Chaitya caves in the
Barabar and Nagarjuni hills
(iv) Individual Mauryan sculptures and
terracotta figurines
The famous city of Pataliputra
(modern Patna) was described in detail
by Megasthenese, reference of which are Fig. 14.5 The Barabar Cave

13 7
ANCIENT INDIA ................................................ . ................................... . ........................ . .... .

considered to be one of the most unique

historical record. It gives a biographical
account of the king's life and his
achievements, not in general terms but
year-wise. The inscription, for example,
says that after having received his
training in writing, mathematics, law
and finance, necessary for a crown-
prince, Kharvela ascended the throne
in his twenty fourth year. He spent the
first year in rebuilding the capital of
Kalinga. In the second year, he defied
the might of Satakarni and attacked
and destroyed the city of Mushika; in
the fourth year he subduded Rathiras
and Bhojakas ofBerar. In the fifth year Fig. 15.1 Tribal Coins
he extended the old canal which was
built by the Nandas about 300 years smaller states. We know about these
earlier and had fallen in disuse. republics through their coins on
Kharavela invaded the kingdom of which their names are found. Some of
Magadha in the eighth and twelfth years these were Arjunayanas, Malavas,
of his reign. During the second Audumbaras, Kunindas, Yaudheyas
campaign, Kharavela carried home an etc. Most of these, later on became
image of the Jain tirthankara from tributaries of the Guptas and vanished
Magadha which had been previously altogether after the fourth century A.D.
taken away from Kalinga to Magadha.
Satavahanas of Deccan
The wealth he got during this campaign
was used to built a magnificent temple Before the emergence of the
at Bhubaneswar. In the thirteenth year Satavahanas in Maharashtra and
of his reign he undertook many public Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas in
welfare schemes and also subduded the southern India the region was settled
Pandya rulers. by megalithic people.
The inscription mentions the While northern India was reeling
achievements only upto the thirteenth under turmoil after the fall of Mauryas
year of Kharavela's reign. Nothing is a very powerful kingdom was
heard of him or his successors, if any. established by the Satavahanas, also
known as Andhras, in Deccan covering
Some Ganasanghas parts of Andhra Pradesh and
Apart from some important dynasties Maharashtra. The Andhras are an
ruling in post-Mauryan north India we ancient people and are mentioned in
have a number of republics ruling over the Aitareya Brahmana also. The Greek


.~ .. .
............................................................................. THE AGE OF SUNGAS AND SATAVAHANAS '

writer Pliny mentions that the Andhras referred to as the lord of Dakshinapatha.
were powerful people who possessed a His name also occurs on one of the
large number of villages and thirty gateways of Sanchi stupa. It is well
towns, an army of one lakh infantry, known that substantial donations were
two thousand cavalry and one made by the Satavahanas for the
thousand elephants. During the renovation and decoration of Sanchi
Mauryan age they were part of the stupas and monasteries.
Mauryan empire but it appears that The next important king was
immediately after the fall of the Gautamiputra Satakarni. In between,
dynasty, the Andhras declared three kings ruled, of whom
themselves free. Satakarni II ruled for about 56 years.
The founder of this dynasty is He wrested Malwa from the Sungas.
known as Simuka and he ruled from After Satakarni II, the expansion of
Satavahana empire received a set
back and Nahapana seems to have
conquered part ofSatavahana territory.
A large number of coins of Nahapana
has been found in Nasik area. /
The Satavahanas became powerful
again during the reign of Gautamiputra
Satakarni. His achievements are
recorded in glowing terms in the Nasik
inscription of Queen-mother, Gautami
Balasri. This inscription was engraved
after his death and in the nineteenth
year of the reign of his son and
successor Pulmavi II. In this inscription
he has been described as one who
destroyed the Sakas, Yavanas and
Pahlavas. He overthrew Nahapana and
Fig. 15.2 Coins of Satavahanas restruct large number of his silver
coins. He also recovered northern
235 B.C. to 21.3 B.C. He was succeeded Maharasthra, Konkan, Vidarbha,
by his brother Krishna. The third king Saurashtra and Malwa from the Sakas.
was Satakarni I who seems to have made Satakarni dedicated a cave in Nasik in
extensive conquests and performed two the eighteenth year of his reign and
Ac hvamedhayajna. His achievements granted some land to ascetics in the
a" e described in detail in the Nanaghat twenty fourth year. Gautamiputra
ir~scription. It appears that he Satakarni is the first king bearing
cO'.lquered western Malwa, Vidarbha matronym and this practice was
and Anupa (Narmada Valley). He is also followed by nearly all his successors.

- ANCIENT INDIA ..................................... . ............................................................. . .. ............ .

Gautamiputra was succeeded by invasion of Yavanas from the

his son Vasisthiputra Sri Pulmavi in west. Patanjali, a contemporary of
about A.D. 130 and ruled for about Pushyamitra, mentions this invasion.
twenty four years. The coins and Kalidasa also mentions about
inscription of Pulmavi have been found Vasumitra's conflict with Yavanas, in his
in Andhra Pradesh. This shows that Malavikagnimitram. It may be
Andhra had become a part of mentioned that the word Yavana
Satavahana empire in the second originally meant Ionian Greeks, but
century A.D. Perhaps in order to save later it came to denote, all people of
the Satavahana empire from the Greek nationality. The Yavanas were the
onslaught of the Sakas, Pulmavi first ones to establish foreign supremacy
married the daughter of Saka ruler on Indian soil; they were succeeded by
Rudradaman. But this Saka king several central Asian tribes who
defeated the next Satavahana ruler invaded India and established their
twice and took from him Aparant political authority. Some of them are
(Konkan) and Anupa (Narmada valley).
being discussed here.
Sri Yajna Satakarni (A.D. 165-195)
was perhaps the last of the great The Indo-Greeks
Satavahana rulers. His inscriptions The advent of the Yavanas, also known
have been found in Andhra Pradesh, as Indo-Greeks, in India was the result
Maharashtra -and Madhya Pradesh. of incidents on the western border of
From the distribution of his coins it
India. After Alexander a large part of
appears that he ruled over a large
his empire came under the rule of his
kingdom extending from bay of Bengal
Generals. The two main areas were
in east to Arabian sea in the west. Thus
he regained the land that the Sakas had Bactria and the adjoining areas of Iran
conquered from his predecessors. known as Parthia. About 250 B.C.
Maritime trade and activities during his Diodotus, the governor of Bactria
reign are indicated by depiction of ship revolted against the Greeks and
with a fish and conch on his coins. proclaimed his independence. Some
The successors ofYajna were weak important Indo-Greek kings were
and unworthy to govern such a large Euthydemus, Demetrius, Eucratides
empire. They ruled over small and Menander.
territories. The Satavahana empire Among all the Indo-Greek rulers,
. collapsed when Abhiras seized Menander (165-145 B.C.), was the most
Maharashtra and Ikshvakus and illustrious. He ruled for almost twenty
Pallavas appropriated the eastern years. His capital was Sakala (modern
provinces. Sialkot) in Pakistan. Gree~ writers tell
us that he was a great ruler and his
The Epoch of Foreign Invaders territory exfended from Afghanistan to
One of the most important events of the Uttar Pradesh in east and Gujarat in
reign of Pushyamitra Sunga was the the west. Menander was converted to

144 '
. ... . . .... . .. .. ... . ........ . .......... .. ..... .. ..... .. . . ..... . ....... . . . ..... THE AGE OF SUNGAS AND SATAVAHANAS '

king of kings". Vonones was succeeded

by Spalirises. Gondophernes was the
greatest of the Parthian rulers. He ruled
from A.D. 19 - 45. It appears that for a
very brief period he was master of the
Saka-Pahalva area both in eastern Iran
and north-western India. Soon after
Gondopher nes, the Pahlava rule in
India ended and the Kushanas moved
in . Excavations at Begram in
Afghanistan have brought to light a
large number of coins of Gondophernes
but none of his successors .
The Sakas
Fig. 15.3 Coins of Indo-Greeks The Indo-Greek rule in north-wes tern
India was destroyed by the Sakas who
Buddhism by Buddhist monk are also known as the Scythians. The
Nagasena. Menander asked Nagasena Sakas or Scythians were nomadic tribes
many questions related to philosophy who b elonged to central Asia. In about
and Buddhism, which together with 165 B.C. they were turned out of their
Nagasena's answers are recorded in original home by the Yueh-chi, later
Milindapanho or the Questions of came to be known as Kushanas , who
Milinda. in turn were als o pushed out of their
In the history of India, the Indo- land and came to India. The in-roads
Greek rulers are the first ones whose made by the central Asian tribes was
coins carried the portraits of kings and the result of the prevailing situations
their names. Before this, the coins in in central Asia and adjoining north-
India did not carry names or portraits western China. After the construction
of the kings. Also they were the first of the great wall of China in the third
rulers who issued gold coins. The Indo- century B.C. the tribes like Hiung-nu,
Greek coins are known for the depiction Wu -sun and Yueh -chi had no option
of realistic and artistic portraits. but to move towards south and west.
The first migrants were Yueh-chi, who
The Parthians displaced Sakas, who in turn, invaded
The Parthians also known as Pahlavas Bactria and Parthia and then entered
were Iranian people. Their history is India through the Bolan Pass. The
obscure. But a few facts may be gleaned Sakas were divided in five branches and
from coins and inscriptions. The earliest established themselves in various parts
king of this dynasty was Vonones, who of north-western and northern India.
captured power in Arachosia and One branch settled in Afghanistan. The
Seistan and adopted the title of "great second branch settled in 'Punjab with

- ANCIENT INDIA . ..... . ...... . ............................................ .. ................... . ................................. .

Taxila as its capital. The third branch on north-western border of China. In

settled in Mathura. The fourth in the year 165 B.C., they came in conflict
Maharashtra and Saurashtra and the with a neighbouring tribe known as
fifth in central India with Ujjain as its Hiung-nu. The Yueh-chi were defeated
capital. The Sakas ruled in different and forced to move out of their land.
areas from the first century B.C. to They could not move towards the east,
about fourth century A.D. since the China Wall had become a
Although the Sakas ruled in barrier. They had no alternative but to
different parts of the country, only those move west and south. While moving
who ruled in central and western India westwards the Yueh-chi came in conflict
rose to prominence. The most with another tribe called Wu-sun whom
prominent ruler of western India was they defeated easily. At about this time
Nahapana whose reference is found in the Yueh-chi were divided into two
various inscriptions found in groups - Little Yueh-chi which migrated
Maharashtra and in the records of the to Tibet and great Yueh-chi which
Satavahanas. Of the central Indian finally came to India. After Wu -sun the
branch, the most illustrious ruler was next people, the Yueh-chi, met were the
Rudradaman who ruled from about Sakas who occupied the territory of
A.D. 130-150. From the Junagarh rock Bactria. The Saka's were forced to
inscription of Rudradaman, it appears leave their land and they came to
that his rule extended ' over a vast India and the Yueh-chi settled down
territory including the areas of Gujarat, in the land of the Sakas. It is here that
Sindh, Saurashtra, north Konkan, they gave up their nomadic life and
Malwa and parts of Rajasthan. He adopted an agricultural and a settled
undertook the repairs of the Sudarsan way of life. Further, perhaps its in this
lake dam that had been built by the area great Yueh-chi were divided into
provincial governer Chandragupta five branches.
Maurya, in Kathiawad when it was According to Chinese sources, the
damaged by heavy rains. first great Yueh-chi king was Kujula
Ujjayini, the capital of Rudradaman Kadphises, also known as Kadphises I
became a centre of culture and who united all the five groups and
education. Many scholars think that established his authority over
Saka Era was founded by Sakas. The Afghanistan. He called himself 'great
dynasty came to an end with the defeat king'. He is also called dharma thida
of the last king in the hands of and sachadharmathida (steadfast in
Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty, true faith), which is taken to suggest
in about A.D. 390. that he was a Buddhist.
Kadphises I was succeeded by his
The Kushanas son We rna Kadphises or Kadphises II
The Chinese historians tell us that the who extended Kushana territory upto
Yueh-chi were a nomadic tribe settled Punjab, or perhaps even in the Ganga-

............................................................................. THE AGE OF SUNGAS AND SATAVAHANAS ,6

Fig. 15.4 Coins of Kushana Fig. 15.5 Statue of Kanishka

Yamuna doab. He issued gold and Kanishka was a follower of

copper coins and is referred to as great Buddhism. The fourth Buddhist
king and a devotee of Siva. On some of council was held during Kanishka's
his coins Siva holding a trident and bull reign. Kanishka's court was adorned by
are shown. the presence of such scholars as Parsva,
Kadphises II was succeeded by Vasumitra, Ashvaghosha, Charaka,
Kanishka, the most well known and and Nagarjuna. ' During his reign
greatest of all the Kushana kings. Taxila and Mathura emerged as great
Kanishka seems to have come to throne centres of art and culture.
in A.D. 78 and some historians think Kaniskha ruled from A.D. 78-101.
that Kanishka founded the Saka era. After him came Vasishka, Huvishka,
At its peak, Kanishka's empire Vasudeva and others. The last name is
extended from Khotan in the north- purely Indian and suggests the
west to Benaras in the east and complete Indianisation of Kushana.
Kashmir in north to Saurashtra and Though his name is after the Vaishnava
Malwa in the south. The capital of this deity, he was a Saiva. The decline of
vast empire of Kanishka was ' Kushana power set in after Vasishka,
Purushapur i.e. modern Peshawar. though the Kushanas continued to rule
Coins of Kanishka had been found up to the fourth century A.D. over small
from almost all over the above principalities, independently under
mentioned area. some sovereign rulers.

ANCIENT INDIA .................................. . .. ..... ................................................. . . ................... . .

1. Describe the political condition of India after Mauryans.
2. Who were the Satavahanas? Describe their political achievements.
3. Who were Indo-Greek and how do we know about them?
4. Who were Kushanas? Describe their political history.
5. Write short notes on:
(i) Sakas
(ii) Kanishka
(iii) Parthians
(iv) Kharvela

• Collect some pictures of the coins found in different dynasties. Try

and find out their value in terms of Rupees.

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.. ANCIENT INDIA ............ . ..... . ................................................................................................ .

WE have seen in an earlier chapter that Age. The following are the main
southern India, mainly the present Megalithic burial types.
states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, were (i) Pit Circle graves: The body was first
inhabitated by megalithic people in the excarnated and then interred. Grave
first millennium B. C. In this chapter we goods included pots and iron
shall learn about the history of south artifacts. A stone circle is erected
India from the Megalithic period to around the pit.
about A.D. 300.
(ii) Cists: These graves have a variety
The Megalithic Phase in South India of forms. Cists are made out of
The megalithic culture is mostly known granite slabs with one or more
for its burials, which have been capstones, with or without port
generically termed megaliths (lit. = big holes. Cists are fully buried, half
stones), even when the big stones are buried, or even on the bare rocks.
not associated. These burials are They may contain single or multiple
marked by an abundance of iron tools burials. A single or multiple stone
and a Black-and-Red pottery. It circle surrounds the cists.
appears that there was an abrupt (iii) Laterite chambers: In Malabar,
change from the Neolithic stage into instead of granite slabs, there are
the Iron Age, without any significant, grave-chambers excavated into
intermediate Chalcolithic or Bronze laterite.

Fig. 16.1 Different Types of Megalithic


................ . .... . . ...... . .............. . ...................... . ............ . . THE EARLY HISTORY OF SOUTH INDIA

(iv) Alignments: In Gulbarga district past. They are marked by capstones

and south of Hyderabad, a large or stone circles. Their main
number of standing stones concentration is on the eastern coast.
(menhirs) arranged in squares or There is no doubt about the variety
diagonals have been found, their in Megalithic construction, but the
height ranging from 2 to 6 m . In common denominator is provided by a
Kashmir, menhirs are however Black-and -Red ware and typical iron
arranged in a semi-circle. tools. They have a surprising uniformity
(v) Sacrophagi: These legged urns of all over the peninsula. In the pottery
terracotta sometimes have animal shapes conical or looped lids , carinated
heads and are not very common. vases, pedestalled bowls , spouted
(vi) Urns: The practice of burying dishes etc. are quite characteristic. Of
excarnated bones in urns seems to the iron implements the main 1:'"jpes are
be a ' hangover from the Neolithic axes with crossed straps, sickles,
tripods, tridents, spearheads , swords,
lamp hangers, arrowheads and lamps.
Horse-harness bits and bells are also
commol) finds. Occasionally, beads of
etched carnelian, gold ornaments and
sundry objects of copper or stone are
associated with the megaliths.
These Megalithic monuments,
whatever their external shape and
contents , seem in our present
knowledge to herald not only the Iron
Age, that is a period of India's history
when the use of iron for tools and
weapons became common, but also a
time when dated literature begins to be
available. Thus, in a sense with
Megaliths, prehistory ends and history
begins . Though this is largely true, we
still know v ery little as how the
Megalithic people lived, because no
such site has been excavated. Naturally,
the builders of t hese Megaliths remain
unknown. No reference to these
monuments has been traced in Sanskrit
or Prakrit literature, though the early
Tamil literature does contain
Fig. 16.2 Megalithic Iron Tools descriptions of these burial practices.

ANCIENT INDIA .......................................................................................... . ......................... .

The Early History there has been a lot of cultural

The earliest references that we find interactions between the southern and
about the people and kingdoms northern India. With the regular settled
life, development of strong sedentary
of the area are preserved in three forms
communities and a strong economy,
- Ashokan inscriptions, Sangam
three states, namely, Cholas, Cheras
literature and Megasthenese's
and Pandya emerged. The Sangam
accounts. The Rock Edict II and
literature believes that the dynasties of
XIII of .Ashoka mentions the
Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas belong to
southern kingdoms of Chola, Pandya,
Satyaputra, Keralaputra and immemorial antiquity.
Tambapanni. All these lay outside Cholas
the Ashokan empire but Ashoka's
The. Cholas occupied the delta of the
benevolence to these neighbouring
states is very much attested by the fact Kaveri river and the adjoining region.
that he made provisions for medicines The region of Kanchi was also part of
and food items etc. for animals their kingdom. It was also called
and humans of these kingdoms. Cholamandalam in early medieval
Megasthenese also mentions these times. It was situated towards the
states. In the Hathigumpha inscription north-east of Pandya kingdom.
of Kharvela, he is credited for defeating Earlier its capital was Uraiyur in
a confederacy of Tamil states. Tiruchirapalli but subsequently it was
The first detailed description of shifted to Puhar which came to be
south Indian states is found in Sangam known as Kaveripattanam. In the
literature belonging to the first four middle of the second century B.C. it
centuries of the Christian era. It may seems that a Chola king known as Elara
be mentioned that Tamil is the oldest conquered Sri Lanka and ruled over it
among the spoken and literary for about 50 years.
languages of south India and the The most distinguished of the early
earliest literature of this language is Chola kings was Karikala. His two great
known as Sangam literature. This achievements seem to be the crushing
literature represents the collection of defeat he inflicted upon the joint forces
odes, lyrics and idylls which were of Chera and Pandya kings and
composed by poets and scholars for the
successful invasion of Sri Lanka.
presentation in three successive
It appears that Karikala defeated,
literary assemblies called "Sangam",
established by the Pandyan kings. The in a great battle at Venni, near Tanjore,
Sangam literature preserves folk a confederacy of about a dozen rulers
memory about the society and life in headed by Chera and Pandya kings
south India between the third Century and established his supremacy over
B.C. and third Century A.D. the whole of Tamil land. Karikala
From the Ashokan inscriptions, maintained a powerful navy and
Meganthenese's accounts, Sanskrit conquered Sri Lanka. He is credited
Sangam literature, it is clear that to have built big irrigation channels by

-, 152
................................................................... . ................ THE EARLY HISTORY OF SOUTH INDIA .-




(;~ • Gongaikondacholapuram

Kaveripattinam (Puhar)

:---:~~~t.l Nagapattinam


Fig. 16.3 Sangam Age

means of building a 160 km. long religion and performed many Vedic
embankment along the river Kaveri. He sacrifices.
fortified the town, the famous sea part After Karikala, the Chola kingdom
of Puhar, at the mouth of the Kaveri. faced confusion and chaos. The
These two great works were chiefly done successors were quite weak and family
by 12,000 people brought as prisoners members squabbled for power and
of war from Sri Lanka. All this lead to position. The only other king, after
the growth of agriculture, trade, Karikala, who is known as a great king
commerce, arts and craft etc. He wa~ is Illanjetcenni who captured two
a great patron of literature and fortresses from the Cheras. But the fact
education. He was a follower of Vedic remains that after Karikala, the Chola

,~ ANCIENT I NDIA . ... . . . . ..... .. . . . . ........ . ... . .. . . . .. . . . . . .. . .......... . ... . ... . . . . .. . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . ..... . ..... . ..... . ..... . .... . .

empire declined and the Cheras and area of the kingdom included the
Pandyas extended their territories at narrow strip of land between the s ea
the cost ofthe Chola kingdom. After the and the mountains of Konkan range.
defeat at the hands of the Pallavas, the Like the Pandyas and the Cholas, the
Cholas were reduced to a small ruling Chera rulers also occupy high position
family from about the fourth to the in the history of south India. The Chera
ninth century A.D. ruler Nedunjeral Adan conquered the
Pandyas Kadambas with their capital at Vanavasi
(near Goa). He also fought a battle with
The Pandya kingdom occupied roughly the father of the Chola king Karikala.
the region of the modern districts of In this battle both the kings were killed .
. Tirunelveli, Ramnad and Madurai in He is said to have defeated the Yavanas
Tamil Nadu. The capital of the kingdom also. Probably, the reference is to the
was Madurai. The Sangam literature Greeks and Romans who came in large
gives some disjointed information and number as traders and set up large
names of a few kings. Nedunjeliyan is colonies in south India. According to
mentioned as a great Pandya king. The the Chera tradition, the greatest king
Chera, Chola and five other minor states of the Chera dynasty was Sengutturan.
combined against him and advanced He is said to have subjugated the Chola
against him at Madura i. But he
and the Pandya kings.
defeated the combined forces . This great
It is interesting to note that some
victory was remembered for long and
kings of all the three kingdoms claim
has even been mentioned in a tenth
that their rulers lead victorious
century A.D. inscription. He is also said
expeditions to the north, as far as
to have performed seve ral Vedic
Himalayas. The Chera king Nedunjeral
sacrifices . He may be taken to have
Adan is called Imayavaramban i.e. "he
ruled around A. D. 210.
who had the Himalaya mountains as
Under the Pandyas, the capital
the boundary of his kingdom" . But
Madurai and port city Korkai were great
clearly all this was exaggeration. At the
centres of trade and commerce. The
Pandyan kingdom was very wealthy end of the third century A.D. the Chera
and prosperous. The traders profited power declined and we hear about them
from trade with the Roman empire. again in the eighth century A.D.
Pandya kings even sent embassies to However, one important fact about
the Roman emperor Augustus qnd these three early kingdoms of south
Trojan. India is that they constantly fought with
each other and made new alliances
Cheras against the ones who became powerful,
The Cheras, also known as irrespective of past friendship and
Keralaputras, were situated to the west alliances. They also fought regularly
and north of the Pandya kingdom. The with Sri Lanka.

..... . ........................................ . .................................. THE EARLY HISTORY OF SOUTH INDIA


1. Discuss the Megalithic culture in south India.

2. Describe the economy of the Megalithic people.
3. Describe the political history of Cheras, Pandyas and Cholas.

• Collect photographs of the Megalithic burials and tools and show it

in the classroom.
• Draw the map of India and show the locations of the kingdom of
Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras.

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centuries that passed between the .fall of
" ::.' ;,1, ny1)e Mautya.s,and the rise of the Guptas witnessed a
K ~' +,. " ' l~t of politic;l:ll instability, and upheaval, but ~uring
'\} ~he, ,same p~rioa thete had been. alat of progress in
,' the 'a~easl t?f liteTafurel ,,· ~cienceJ art, architecture,
U t
etc. r <
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.................... . ................ SOCIETY, ECONOMY AND DURING AND SATAVAHANAS ,.

THE five centuries that passed between follow almost immediately afterwards
the fall of the Mauryas and the rise of and continues for almost eight hundred
the Guptas witnessed a lot of political years or even more.
instability and upheaval, but during The Manava Dharmasastra or
the same period there had been a lot of Manusmriti is not only the oldest work
progress in the areas of literature, of this class, but is also the most well
science, art, architecture, etc. Many new known and has its hold even today all
avenues in the field of the sciences and over India. This was composed in about
arts were opened which provided the the first century B.C. Some other
base for future developments. Also, important smritis are Naradasmriti,
during this period, there were close Vishnusmriti, Yajnavalkyasmriti,
cultural and economic relations with Brihaspatismriti and Katyayanasmriti.
foreign countries. India had benefited They are all very important sources of
by these foreign contacts. law and social customs of the
contemporary society. These smritis
Language and Literature
were declared to be of divine origin.
In the field of language and literature The most outstanding work in the
this period is characterised by the field of grammar, Mahabhasya written
development of manifold literarY by Patanjali in the second century B.C.,
activities both in north and south India. is a commentary on Panini's
It saw the development of Dravidian Asthadhyayi. After Patanjali, the centre
languages and literature in the South. of Sanskrit grammar learning shifted to
In the north there was progress in the the Deccan where the Katantra school
Sanskrit language and literature, and flourished in the first century A.D.
various forms of Prakrit with a Sarvavarman, a scholar of great repute
distinctive literature of its own. in the court of the Satavahana King
The most remarkable compilations Hala, composed the grammar of
of the period are the two great Epics, Katantra. This work was short and
the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. handy which helped the learning
Some of the Dharmasastra works were of Sanskrit in about six months.
also composed in this period. Hala wrote a great poetical work
The smritis have played a very Gathasaptasati in Prakrit.
important role in Hindu life during the An important literary figure of the
last two thousand years. These smritis period was Asvaghosha. He was not
define the religious duties, usage, laws only a play writer and a poet but a great
and social customs. In general, the Buddhist philosopher. He wrote
smritis may be regarded as the Saundarananda, Buddhacharita,
expanded and contemporary version of Vajrasuchi and a number of other
the Dharmasutras which covered the works. Buddhacharita is a complete life
period from about sixth century to third of Buddha written in the form of
century B.C. The works on the smritis Mahakavya. ,This work has been

ANCIENT INDIA ..• .... ... . ... .. . ............... . .. . . . . .. . .. . . .. .... . ............... . ................ . ... . ... . ................ . ..

translated into many languages of the century B.C. to third century A.D., and
world. Fragments of Asvaghosha's a good deal of literature was compiled
plays have been recovered from Turfan, later on.
in central Asia. Bhasa's Svapna- Tirukkural or Kural, of
vasavadatta is another famous Tiruvalluvar is the best of the minor
Sanskrit play of the period. didactic poems, and its teachings have
The art of dance and drama had been described as an eternal inspiration
already been codified by Panini's time and guide to the Tamilians.
and mentioned by Kautilya and Silappadikaram and Manimekhalali
Patanjali. All these early forms of art are the two Tamil epics which occupy a
contributed to the development of high place in Tamil literature and
Natyashastra written by Bharata. are important sources for the
The important Pali work of the construction of the early history of
period was Milindapanho, which south India.
explains the Buddhist doctrines in the
Social Conditions
form of a dialogue between Milinda
(who is generally identified with the During this period varna and ashrama
Indo-Greek king Menander) and systems continued to govern the
his teacher, the great Buddhist society. Society comprised four varnas
philosopher, Nagasena. i.e., Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and
.. " Sudra. The duties, status, and
Sangam Literature occupations of these varnas are
Tamil is the oldest among spoken enumerated in the Dharmasastras.
literary languages of south India. The The most significant development in the
earliest known phase of this literature varna system is the increase in the
is associated with the three Sangams number of mixed jatis. According to
i.e., academies or societies of learned Manusmriti the origin of the numerous
men, all of which flourished in the mixed (sankara) varnas is in the
Pandya kingdom. Each Sangam marriage between different varnas.
consisted of a number of distinguished These were called anuloma i.e.,
poets and erudite scholars who selected marriage between the male of higher
the best ones from amongst the works varna and female of lower varna, or
submitted to them and set their seal of pratiloma - marriage between male of
approval. lower varna and female of higher
It is believed that the .Sangam varna. The social status of a person
literature produced by these born of anuloma was higher than
assemblies, was compiled between partiloma and they followed their
A.D. 300 and 600. On the whole corpus father's occupation. Buddhist texts and
of literature, Ettuttogai (the eight other evidence also leave no doubt that
anthologies) collection is considered to the so called mixed castes really resulted
be the earliest one belonging to c. third from organisations like guilds of people

...... . . ....... .. .... . ..... .. ......... SOCIETY, ECONOMY AND CULTURE DURING SUNGAS AND SATAVAHANAS

following different arts and crafts. The individual was divided into four stages.
general theory of intermarriages It may be pointed out that this four fold
leading to the birth of different mixed division of life dates back to the vedic
jatis appears superficial and handy. age and we get a fairly comprehensive
The Buddhist texts also show thatjatis account of it in the Dharmasutras.
was not rigidly tied to craft in those These four stages of an individual life
days. They tell of a kshatriya working are:
successively as a potter, basket-maker, (i) Brahmacharya : In this ashrama,
reed-worker, garland-maker, and cook, after the investiture with the sacred
also of a Setthi (Vaisya) working as a thread, a person lead a celibate life as a
tailor and a potter, without loss of student at the home of his teacher.
prestige in both cases. We find (ii) Grihastha : Having mastered the
kshatriyas of the Sakya and Koliya Vedas or part of them, a person returns
clans cultivating their fields. The to his parental home, gets married and
Vasettha Sutta refers to brahmans becomes a householder (grihastha).
working as cultivators, craftsmen, Grihastha has manifold duties broadly
messengers, sacrificers and landlords. marked out as (i) yajna (ii) adhyayana,
The fragment on Silas mentions and (iii) dana and has to release himself
brahmans following many diverse from three debts: debt to Gods, by
occupations as physicians, sorcerers, yajna; to pitris (ancestors) by
architects, story-tellers, cattle-breeders, offsprings; and to rishis (teachers) by
farmers and the like. The Jatakas refer continuing learning and leading a
to brahmans pursuing tillage, tending
religious life.
cattle, trade , hunting, carpentry ,
weaving, policing of caravans, archery, (iii) Vanaprastha: When well advanced
driving of carriages, and even snake- in middle age and a Pef-son has seen
charming. The Jatakas hold up a his grandchildren, he leaves home for
brahman peasant as a supremely pious the forest to become a hermit. As a
man and even a Bodhisattva. hermit he must not have any
One of the most important possessions, abstain from movement in
development of this period was the rains, going from village to village for
gradual absorption of foreigners the exclusive purpose of begging,
like Indo-Greek, Sakas, Yavanas, wearing only loin-cloth or old rags duly
Kushanas, Parthians etc. into Indian washed, to cover nakedness, not
society. These foreigners came to India staying in the same village for the
as conquerors but adopted Indian second night and not destroying seeds
culture and way of life so completely for the purposes of food (e.g. by
that no trace was left of their pounding rice by a pestle) but
individuality or separate existence as a depending on cooked food if given as
community. alms,
Ashramas : Just as society comprised (iv) Sanyas : In sanyas by meditation
four varnas, so too the life of an and penance one frees his soul from

~ ANCIENT INDIA .......... . . . . . ...... . ............... . ........................ . ................. . ............................. . . .

material things, leaves hermitage and students are mentioned - Brahmavadin

becomes a homeless wanderer, and or lifelong students of sacred texts and
thus earthly ties are broken. This Sadyodvaha who pursued their
fourth ashrama is the one when person studies till their marriage. They also
abandons, truth and falsehood, received training in fine arts like music,
pleasure and pain, the vedas, this dancing and painting. From the
world and the next, seeks only atman. description of Megasthenese and
The scheme of the four ashramas Kautilya it appears that some of them
was designed to give a wide scope to went for militaiy and administrative
individuals in the choice of a vocation trainings also. The ideal marriages were
in life which was best suited to their those where the father and guardian of
intellectual capacity and mental the girls selected the bridegroom on
inclinations. It was not absolutely account of his qualifications. The
necessary that one should strictly follow women enjoyed honourable place in the
the four stages one after another. The society. Sometimes they reached high
choice was left to every individual. The eminence in various branches of arts
family included parents, c hildren, and science and administration as
grandchildren, uncles and their revealed from the literature of the period.
·descendents, servants etc. Even the class of courtesans enjoyed a
social status not accorded to them
Family Life anywhere else in the world. The theme
The joint family system characterised of several dramas of the period revolved
the society. Family rather than the around courtesans. We find the
individual was considered as the unit reference to the practice of sati also. In
of the social system. Obedience to the family property, all the sons had
parents and elders was held as the equal share. Unfortunately, a large
highest duty for childre n. Marriage number of Dharmasastras reject the
between the members of the same right of women to inherit, but
jatis was also preferred, though Yajnavalkya lays down a list of priority
intermarriage between different jatis in inheritance, which places wife ,
was prevalent. The marriage in the same followed by the daughters, immediately
gotra and pravara is restricted. Eight after sons. The right of a wife to inherit,
forms of marriage are mentioned in the if no sons were living, has been
Dharmasastras. These are-brahma, accepted by most of the ancient Indian
daiva, arsha, prajapatya, asura, authorities. However, she was allowed
gandharva, rakshasa, and paisacha. some personal property (stree-dhana)
Among these the last one is condemned in the form of jewellery, clothing etc. The
by al the Dharmasatras. Women not Arthashastra allows her to own money
only got good education but also held upto 2,000 silver panas, and amount
honourable position in the society and above this could be held by her
household. Two classes of women husband in trust on her behalf.

. ... .................... .. .. . ........ . S OCIETY , E CONOMY AND CULTURE DURING SUNGAS AND SATAVAHANAS

Religions tradition, as raja Milinda. But by far

The period witnessed an efflorescence of the greatest name among the foreign
new ideas leading to th e rise of new patrons of Buddhism is that of
philosophica l sch ools and religious Kanishka. His fame in the Buddhist
sects, which~ modified the outlook of world is only second to that of Ashoka.
society and are visible in all four major During his time Buddhism spread to
religious sects of the p eriod i.e . , central Asia, Chin a , South East Asia
Vaishnavism, Saivism, Buddhism and and West . Lik e Ashoka, Kanishka
Jainism. called a Buddhist council - the fourth
Buddhism council in Kash mir under the joint
presidents hip of Vasumitra and
During the reign of Ashoka , Buddhis m
Ashvaghosha. The convening of this
became one of the leading religions of
council led to the division of Buddhism
India. The group of foreign invaders
that appeared on Indian soil from the into two broad sects - the Hinayana
firs t century B.C. onwards were and the Mahayana. While the
attracted by its lib e rali ty ahd Hinayana followed the older order
simplicity and accepted Buddhism in and philosophy of Buddhism, the
large numbers. One of these, the Greek Mahayana introduced many new
king Menander, lived in the Buddhist elements in the older order.

Fig. 17.1 The Great Stupa at Sanchi

ANCIENT INDIA .................... . . . ...... : .............................................................. . ................... .

Some new features that were was in Karnataka and in Tamil Nadu.
introduced in the older order were: Sravanbelagola in modern Karnataka
(i) The introduction of a belief in the became the great centre of Jainism.
Bodhisttavas, being those "who Despite the divisions, Jain
were in the process of obtaining, but communities remained more faithful to
had not yet obtained, Buddha- its original teaching hence the number
hood". of its adherents has remained fairly
(ii) ~uddha began to be worshipped in constant.
the icon form with elaborate rituals Vedic Religion
instead of symbols. To Hinayanists,
Buddha was a great teacher and the Vedic religion did not remain
Mahayanists considered him as unchanged through all these centuries.
God. Some of the Vedic Gods had quietly
(iii) Hinayanists believed in the passed into oblivion and some were
salvation of individual as the goal reborn as new Gods with additional
of life while Mahayanaists believed attributes. This was the time when the
in the salvation of all beings. Vedic religion assumed features which
(iv) Sanskrit was adopted as the today are recognised as Hinduism. This
language of the religious literature, new religious development was based
and a new cannon was developed on the philosophy of the Upanishads
differing from the old in many with its concept of the absolute or
essential respects. universal soul. This concept also helped
The development of Mahayana to develop the idea of the Trinity of
phjlosophyis ascribed to Nagarjuna, a Gods at this time - Brahma as the
contemporary of Kanishka. He creator, Vishnu as the preserver, and
propounded madhyamika ,school of Siva (also known as Rudra and
Buddhist philosophy popularly known Mahesh) as the God who eventually
as sunyavada. destroys the universe when it is evil
ridden. Of the three Gods, the cult of
Jainism Vishnu and Siva, sometime associated
Jainism also flourished during this with Sakti cult became more popular.
period along with Buddhism and One form of Vaishnavism is
enjoyed patronage of kings and wealthy Bhagavatism. The supreme deity of
people. The group of Jain monks began Bhagavatism was Vasudeva Krishna,
to settle in different parts of the country. son of Devaki, of the Vrishni family.
One group from Magadha moved - By the second century B.C. this new
towards west and settled in sect had spread in a large area
Saurashtra, while the other group as inscriptional evidence shows.
settled in Kalinga where it enjoyed royal The famous Besnagar (district
patronage under king Kharvela. In Vidisa, Madhya ' Pradesh) inscription
south India their main concentration mentions that Heliodorus, the Greek

.... .. .. .... ... .. ... . ...... . . .. .. ... . . . . S OCIE1Y, E CONOMY AND CULTURE DURING SUNGAS AND S ATAVAHANAS "

ambass ador of King Antialcidas, called that a completely personal relationship

him self Bhagavata and erected a between God and the devotee was
Garudadhavja, in honour of Vasudeva, possible. This relationship wa s the one
at B e sna gar. It is thus apparent where God could bestow his grace on
that Bhagavat is m like Buddhism the devotee, and the degree of devotion
was popular e nough to attract or bhakti varied from person to person.
the foreigners . The philosophy of This idea of personal devotion or bhakti
Bhagvatism is described in was to became the dynamic force oflater
the Bhagavad-Gita. Other early Hinduism.
inscriptions related to Bhagavatism It was in the first century A.D. that
came from Ghosundi (Rajasthan), Christianity was introduced in India by
Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) and Nasik the traders from the west. The coming
(Maharashtra) .
Saivism seems to have evolved from
the Vedic God Rudra and the Harappan
deity known as Pasupati. The worship
of Siva incorporated a number of
fertility cults such as those of phallic
emblem (lingam), the bull (NandI) etc.
and was also associated with Sakti cult.
The most common cult object of the
Saivas is lingam, the earliest specimens
of which have been found in the I

Harappan period. One of the important I

s chools of Saivism was Pasupata sect

funded by Lakulin or Lakulisa around
s econd century B .C. Saivism also
a ttracted the foreigners . . Wema
Kadphises the second king of the
Kushana dynasty was a Saiva. The
reverse of some of his coins depict the
figures of Siva, with a long trident and
bull, and the legend refers to him as
devotee of Siva.
In addition to Vaishnavism and
Saivism, other minor sect that became
popular during this period were those
related to Sakti, Ganapati, Skanda,
Surya etc. The characteristics features
of all these sects were a gradual shift Fig. 17.2 Besnagar Pillar of
in emphasis from rituals to the view Heliodorus, near Vidisa

j ANCIENT INDIA . ... . .. ....... . . . . . . .. .. ..................................................... . .. . . ... . . ........ ... ....... . .... . .. . .

of Christianity is associated with the referred to in literature and epigraphic

legend of st. Thomas, who according records, but also r epresented in the
to the Catholic Church of Edessa, came sculptures. The literature refers to
twice on mission to India . eighteen types of guilds. Guilds became
an important i ns titution in the
Economic Condition
economy. The guild s implemented well
The period witnessed all round defined rules of work and controlled the
development in the field of agriculture, quality of the finished product and its
industry and trade. Agriculture was the prices to safeguard both the artisans
main occupation of a large section of and the customers. The behaviour of
the people. Outside the grama lay the the guild members was controlled
arable land of the village, the grama- through a guild court. The guilds also
kshetra which was protected by fences acted as a banker, financier and a
and field-watchmen against pests like trustee. These functions were carried
birds and beasts. Land was held by out by a different category of merchants
individuals as well as by the state. known as sresthies in north India anL.
Sometimes the land holdings were big chettis in south India. Guilds also
consisting of u pto 1,000 acres. Usually carried out benevolent a nd welfare
holdings were small enough that could works such as ivory workers guild at
be cultivated by the individual family.
Beyond the arable land of the village lay
its pastures , which were common for
the grazing of cattle, arid also those
belonging to the state. Kautilya gives a
complete scheme of village plan. The
land of the village wa s divided into -
. cultiva ted, uncultivated, grove, forest,
pastures etc. Among the crops, rice of
different varieties, coarse grains,
sesame, saffron, pulses, wheat, linseed,
sugarcane, mustard and large number
of vegetables.and fruits were grown. On
the boundary of the village was
generally a forest. The village had
artisans like carpenter, potter,
b lacksmith, barber, rope maker,
washerman etc.
Remarkable progress in trade and
industry is noticeable during this
period . A la rge number of arts and
cra fts and occupations are not only Fig. 17.3 The Gate way of Sanchi Stupa


Vidisa carved the stone sculptures on and external trade was vigorous in most
the gateways and railings surrounding parts ofIndia. All the internal cities and
the stupa at Sanchi. Mining and metal ports were interconnected with a well
industry had grown very important. knit road system. A large number of
Markets and streets were established modern national highways were
in cities for different goods. Markets for developed during this period including
perishable foods were located outside Grand Trunk road which was very
the town at their gates. Loans were given much a part ofUttarapath and was later
on security of gold and other things. developed by Chandragupta Maurya.
Money was lent for interest on The same road was further maintained
promising rates to be renewed every and developed by Sher Shah Suri. The
year. The Nasik cave inscription refers discovery of monsoon winds in the first
to the interest rates on money deposited century facilitated to reduce the
to guilds. The usual rate of interest was distance between the western ports of
between 12% and 15% per annum. India to the ports of Alexanderia in
Trade is the natural corollary of Egypt. With the help of monsoon winds
industry and it is the main channel of the whole distance could be covered in
distribution of industrial products. forty days or so. India's trade with Rome
From the Mauryan period, both internal increased enormously by sea as well

Fig. 17.4 Kar le Cave

ANCIENT INDIA ................... ...... .... ......... ....... ..... .................... ...... ..................................

as by land route which is generally Art and Architecture

known as the silk route. This connected The excavation of the Taxila, Sakala,
the world from China to Rome and Bhita, Kausambi, Ahichchhatra,
served as a transmitter of not only the Patliputra, Nagrujunkonda, Amaravati,
trading commodity but the culture, Kaveripattanam and the description of
ideas and religion etc. some of these cities in the literature
About the trading commodities the depict that these cities were well
author of Periplus of Erythean Sea, planned, protected by fortification walls
accounts of Roman historians like Pliny,
and moats. Beautiful and large
Ptolemy etc. Indian literature, both in
gateways were erected with lofty towers.
Tamil and Sanskrit, refer to the trading
The houses were big and beautiful.
establishments and items of trade like
In the field of architecture the
Indian spices, sandalwood and other I
new activities were witnessed. Some
variety of woods, pearls, textiles of
scholars think the Sunga period
various types, sea products, metals,
represents the Brahmanical reaction
semi-precious stones and animals.
against Buddhism. But the art and
Arikamedu was an important Roman
architectural activities reflect totally a
settlement and trading station. It was
located close to a port and was a contradictory story. Sanchi,
excavated in 1945. The Romans paid Amaravati, Bharhut and Sarnath
for the goods mainly in gold currency. stupas are the best examples of
The number of hoards of Roman coins . Buddhist art and architecture that
found in the Deccan and south India flourished during this period. The
indicate the. volume of this trade in stupa is a hemispherical dome or
favour of India. 'The Roman historian mound built over sacred relics either of
Pliny laments that Indian trade was a the Buddha himself or of a sanctified
serious drain on the wealth of Rome, monk or a sacred text. The relics were
when 550 million sesterces went to generally kept in a casket in a smaller
India each year on luxury items. One chamber in the centre of the base ofthe
of the lasting results of this contact was stupa. The stupa has a fenced path
the fairly detailed reference made about called pradakshinapatha. At the four
India in the various works of the Roman