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1. Mount Abu, Vlmala Vasahi, Sabha Mandap ceiling.

A.D. 1031. Solankiperlod
2. Fatehpur Sikri. Dlwan-l -Khas
3. Surya. Sun Temple. Konarak. Orissa
4. The Golden Temple
A Textbook for Class XI


~I<?I" ~ ~UA aIR mvrllfUT qR""

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

this stage, children are better placed to exercise a choice of courses keeping
in view their interests, attitude, aptitude and capabilities. They may
choose either a specialised academic course or job oriented vocational
courses. This is the stage of maximum c hallenge. 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
(NCF'SE - 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 c hange particularly in the
last decade of Ute twentieth century. These changes h ave created vis ible
impacts in every fie ld of human endeavour and activity. The NCERT
continuously attempts to perceive the learning needs oCthe 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 r esulted in fresh interpretations
of several situations in history which is one oCthe 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 SecondBll)' 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 hi story textbooks invariably attracts
considerable attention for various reasons . The new NCERT textbooks in
history have been prepared adhering strictly to the parameter of givin g
an objective account of his torical events. The latest researches and
interpretations in the fie ld 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 p reparation and
production of the book.
The NCERT welcomes suggestion s from professional educationis ts
as well as from parents and s tudents 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 courses keeping
in view their interests, attitude, aptitude and capabilities. They 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 Edu.cation - 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 u-esh 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 attracts
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 h ave 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 La1 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 (V. P.)
B.B. La!
Director General (Retd.) Meenakshi Jain
Reader in History
Archaeological Survey of India
Gargi College, University of Delhi
New Delhi
New Delhi
V.D. Mishra
Veena Vyas
Professor and Head (Retd.) PGT, History
Department of Ancient n.M. School
History and Archaeology Regional Institute of Education
University of Allahabad Bhopal (M.P.)
Allahabad (V.P.)
Mithilesh Chandra Shrivastava
D.N. Tripathi Lecturer in History
Professor and Head (Retd.) B.R.P. Inter College, Jaunpur (V.P.)
Department of Ancient
History and Archaeology Jagdish Bharatiya
University of Gorakhpur ED-95, Hauz Khas Enclave
Gorakhpur (V .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 Indict 27

2. FIg. 4.2 Annual RainfaUZones 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. 504 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 NeoUthic 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 Chalcolillu"c and Copper Hoard Sites 56
13. FIg. 7.2 Chalrolithic Pottery from Naudatoli 57
14. FIg. 7.3 ReconsCTUCtion ofan Excavated
Chalcolithic ViUage - Ahar, Rajasthan 58
IS. FIg. 7.4 Objects of Religious BeUefs
a . Stylised BuU Figwines from Kayatha
b. Terracotta Objects from lnamgaon 59
16. FIg. 7.5 Copper Hoard Objects 61
17. FIg. 7.6 Ochre Coloured PottenJ 62
18. FIg. 8.1 The Extent a/the Harappan Civilization and its
Important Sites 65
19. FIg. 8 .2 Outlay Plan of a Harappan City
a. Mohenjodaro
b . Kalibangan 67
20. FIg. 8 .3 Ariel VteW of Excavated Citadel Area of 69
21. FIg. 8 .4 17le Great Bath ofMo henjodaro 69
22. Fig.8.S Dockyard at Lothal 70
23. Fig. 8.6 Ornaments 71
24. Fig. 8.7 Modes a/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. Terraootta 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 . SacrificialAltar
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 Lethal 90
31. Fig. 9.2 a. Terracotta Figurine in Namaskar Mudra
b. Pipal Tree
c . Painting Depicting the Story a/Thirsty Crow
d. A Terracotta Figurine with Vermillion in the
Hair Parting 90
32. Fig. 9.3 A Row of Seuenfire Altars (hauan-kundas)
found at KaIibangan
33. Fig. 13.1 Map ofMahajanapadas 11 5
34. Fig. 13.2 Punch-Marked Coins 117
35. Fig. 13.3 Distribution of Silver Punch-Marked Coins 118
36. Fig. 14.1 Map a/the Mauryan Empire 127
37. Fig. 14.2 AsJwkan 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. 14.5 The Barahar Cave 137
41. Fig. 14.6 Yakshi Statue From Didarganj 138
42. Fig. 14. 7 Pillar Capital From Rampuroa 138
43. Fig. 14.8 GapitalFrom SamaUt 138
44. Fig. 15.1 Tribal Coins 142
45. Fig. 15.2 Coins ofSatauaht1.nas 143
46. Fig. 15.3 Coins of Indo-Greeks 145
47. Fig. 15.4 Coins of Kushana 147
48. Fig. 15.5 Statue of Kanishka 147
49. Fig. 16.1 Different Types ofMegalithic Burials ISO
50. Fig. 16.2 Megalithic Iron Tools 15 1
51. Fig. 16.3 SangamAge 153
52. Fig. 17.1 The Great Stupa at Sanchi 161
53. Fig. 17.2 Besnagar PiUar of Hf~liodontS, near Vidisa 163
54. Fig. 17.3 Gateway of Sanchi Stupa 164
55. Fig. 17.4 Karle Cave 165
56. Fig. 17.5 Amaravati Stupa 167
57. Fig. 17.6 Statue ofBuddha from Mathura 167
58. Fig. 17.7 Statue ofJain Tirthal'lkara from Mathura 168
59. Fig. 17.8 Fasting Buddha from Gandhara 168
60. Fig. 1 7. 9 Plan a/Tank excavat.ed at Shringaverapura 168
6l. Fig. 17.10 Excavated view of011'£ o/ the Tanks at
Shrillgauerapura 169
62. Fig. lll.1 Map afthe Gupta Empire 175
63. Fig. 18.2 Coins of(~b7C) Samudragupta and
(d,e) Chandragupta 177
64. Ffg.18.3 Signature of HarSM in his own handwriting 180
65. Fig. 18.• Map of Harsha's Empire 181
66. Fig. 18.5 Hiuen-Tsang 182
67. Fig. 18.6 Map of South India 184
68. Fig. 19.1 Jain Trithank.ara 197
69. Fig. 19.2 Depiction ofVatahau12tar at Udaygiri 198


70. F1g. 19.3 Bhitargaon Temple 200
71. F1g.19.4 Remains of the Great Stupa at Nalanda 201
72. F1g. 19.5 a. The Rathas a t Mamallapuram
b. Carving on the Rathas 202
73. F1g.19.6 Deogarh Temp le 203
74. F1g. 19.7 Shore Temple at MamaUapuram 203
75. F1g.19.8 Dharam.a.chakra Prauartana MudraoJ Buddha
from Samath 204
76. F1g. 19.9 Cave 19 at Ajanta 205
77. Fig. 19.10 Sheshashayee Vlhnu, Vishnu temp le, Deogarh 205
78. F1g.19.11 Durga Temple at AiJwle 206
79. F1g.19.12 Paintings in Ajanta Cave 206
so. F1g. 19.13 Iron Pillar at Mehrauli 208
81. F1g. 22.1 Sun Temple in Rajasthan a/the time of
Curjara Pratihara 229
82. F1g.22.2 Statue of Vishnu Visvarupa of the Time of
Gurjara Pratiha:a 230
83. F1g. 22.3 Scene Depicting Marriage of Siva and Parvati of
the time a/Curiam Pratihara 230
84. F1g. 22.4 Paharpur Stupa (now in Bangladesh)
of the time of Dharamapala 232
85. F1g. 22.5 a. Bodhisattava from Nalanda, Pala Period
b. Auolo1d.tesvarafromNalanda, Pala Period, 233
86. F1g. 22.6 Kailash Temple at Ellora 234
87. F1g. 23.1 Map of India and South East Asia 238
88. F1g. 23.2 Angkoroat Temple a/Cambodia 241
89. F1g. 23.3 BorobodurStupaatJaua 242
90. Fig. 23.4 A Hindu Temple in Java 243
91. Fig. 23.5 A Stone Sculpture of Brahma in the waU of
a Temple in Mayanmar 243


Chapter 1 1'Kz: STUDY OF INDIAlI' HmTORV 1-3
Chapter 2 ANcu.:NT JROIAft H18TOJI;Y WIUTINO 4-15
Indian Tradition of History Writing - Early Foreigners-
Christian Missionaries and Enlightenment-Imperialist
Historiography - Nationalist Approach - Marxist School
of History - Multi-Disciplinary Approach
Chapter 3 THI; $oURem OF AHcWf1i JtmJ.A8 HIsTORY 16-24
Literary Sources- Foreign Accoun ts-Archaeo logical
Sources-Archaeological, Monuments, Excavations and
Chapte r 4 TKI GI)O(UtAPHICAL BACKGROUrro 0,. II'mWf HtSTORV 25-36
The Himalayas-Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra Plain- The
Deccan Plateau and Central India-Cl imate- The
Geography of India as Described in Ancient Indian
Literature-Influences of Geography on Indian History
Chapter 5 THE Srog Aae CULTt1Rf:& 37-48
Introduction - Age of the Earth-Early Humans- Earliest
Palaeolithic Tools-Palaeolithic Cultures-Mesolithic
Culture-Prehistoric Rock Art
Chapter 6 THe NWlJTHJC A(lr; : TH:! B!(W(ffJffO OF SE1"t1.ED Lln 49-54
Chapter 7 THE CKA.LCourmc CULTURES Of" INDIA 55-63
Trade and Commerce-Religious Beliefs-Technology-
. Copper Hoard Culture--OCP Culture
ChapterS 1"w!: RAAAP'M' Crvu.lzAnoN 64-81
Town Planning- Materials Used in Buildings- Types of
Buildings-Public Buildings-8treets and Drains- Crafts
and Industries-Trade and Commerce-Weights and
Measures- Trans port and Travel-Agriculture-Arts-
Script-Religion-8ocial Stratification and Political Setup--
Disposal of the Dead-Chronology- Decline- Late
Harappan Cultures
Chapter 9 THE: VUUf" CWl1.11.ATIOlf 82-92
TheVedas - The Brahmanas-Aranyakas and
Upanishads Authorship of the Vedic Literature-Age of
RigVeda-RigVedic Geography-RigVedic States-Polity and
Administration-Society- Education- Food and Drinks-
Economic Life-Religion and Philosophy- The Question of
the Aryan Invasion- Harappan Civilization and the
Chapter 10 THE LAn:.R VElnC Aa& 93-100
Geography and the New Political States- Polity and
Administration-Social System- Economic Life-Education-
Religion and Philosophy-Science and Technology
Chapter 11 FRumoN all' INOlA" PHILOSOPHY 101 -1 06
Vaises ika-Nyay--Samkhya- Yoga- Mimamsa- Vedanta
Chapter 12 Tm. EVOWTfON 0' JAlJiO$M A!fD BUODtl..l.SN 107- 112
Jainis m-Buddhism
Chapter 13 113- 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 14 124 - 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 Administra tion-Society a nd
Culture- Economy- Art and Architecture
Chapter 15 TilE AGE or SUJfGM AND SATVAlt.ANAB 140- 148
The Meghavahanas of Kalinga-Some Tribal Republics-
Satavahanas of Deccan- The Epoch of Foreign lnvaders-
Th e Indo - Greeks- The Parthian s-The Sakas- The
Chapter 16 T'mt E.uu.y HI8T01{Y 0' So'STR IlfDlA 149- 155
The Megalithic Phase in South India- The Early History -

Chapter 17 SOCl£TY, EcoNOMY MD Cut:ruRt. 01JJUl'(O
TN£: SUliGM AKO TH£ SATVAHAJfAS 1 ~6- 1 72
Language and Litera ture- Sangam Literature-Social
Conditions-Family Life-Religions- Buddhism-Jainism-
Vedic Religion-Economic Condition-Art and Architecture
Sculpture-Science and Technology- India and h e r
relation with outside World
Chapter 18 Ir.o'OlA FROM 'lH& GUPTAS 10 lliARsJ~ 173- 187
Emergence of the Guptas- Samudragupta-
C h andragupta II- Kumaragupta II- Skandagupta-
Decline of the Guptas-North India after the Guptas-
Hars ha- Deccan and South India
Chapter 19 SocJ£n', Ecotm..Y AlfO Cl'LTIJltE FROM:
TfI£ GUPTAS TO 188-2 09
Polity and Administration-Language and Literature--
Tamil Literature-Foreign Accounts-Economic Condition-
Religions- Buddhism-Jainism- Hinduism-Vaishnavism-
Saivism- Art and Architecture-Sculptures-Paintings-
Science and Technology- Astronomy- Medicine-
Chapter 20 (I(DIA AFTER H.\R$RA 210-217
GUIjara Pratiharas- Palas--Rashtrakutas-
Tripartite Struggle
Chapter 21 THE RUn-ORV 0 .. ~VPA 218-221
Chapter 22 Socnmt Al'ID Cur..roR!. Of TlUt POST HARsHA htuOD 222.,235
Language and Literature-Society-Economic Life-Religion
and Philosophy-Education-Art and Architecture
Chapter 23 CUl.'l'URAL InERAcnONS wrrn TlfE: OtJ'TSTO£- WORLD
Central Asia and China-Sri Lanka- Mayanmar- South
East Asia- Art and Architecture

GlOSSAR\ 245-248
Part IV A

Duties of Citizens
Fundamental OutJet;· It ,hall be ~ duty of every elUsen of indla-
I,) to abide by the CoruUtuUon and re.tpect Ir. kleal. and IMUtuuon.,
the NaUonaJ " . . and the NaUOnal Anthem:
(bl to chertab and follow the DOble Ideala "'f\1ch m.plrcd OW" naUonal
.t:/"uIP lor freedom:
{el to uphold and protect the ~ty, unity and IntqJ1ty oC Ind.t.;
tdl to deSend the country and R!I\Ckr naUonal..ervtce whcp caaed upon
to do eo:
f~1 To promote harmony and the .ptrtt 01 common brotherhood amonpl
all the peopkoflndta tnu18cc:nd1ng relJg.Joua, 1InguJIUc and regional
or aecUonal d!venltJell; to renounce praetkel derogatory to the
dignity ofwome:n;

(f) to value IIJld ~ the rich hentage of our compoelte eultun:;

~ to prot«:t and Improve the natural envln:mmenllncilldln, I'ore8ta.

Iakea, liven, wt1d life and to have CompaHkm roc llvIn& creaturel:
(h) to develop the aclc:nunc temper. humanlam nod the splrtt oftnqulJy
and mann;
(I) to anfq;uard public property and to abjure Violence;
OJ to ItrIve to\JrIltda eu:ellence In all .pherH oftndMduai &I1d c:oIlecUve
activity 10 lbat the naUon con.tanUy rlHI to hlChcr ievea or
endeavour and achlevemcnt.

, ,
, , n



TIlE variou~ aspeGts that w~ study form thc part of
an overall personality of the society and the people,
Therefore, we can say that the S\uc!y of history is
the stud) of the entire human past. which goes back
to millions of years.
t ANCIENT lNOIA ..... . ........................................... . .................. . . .. ..................................... .

KK~G about one's past is natural ':0 period of time but they differ in tenus of
all orus. We are always curious to know courses they followed and tile processes
as to who were our ancestors i.e. they underwent. Though they aJl were
grandfather, great-grandfather and so stone-age hunter -gathere rs , they a ll
on; from where did lhey come, how they practised agriculture, they a ll began to
lived etc. This is lmown as the quest for use metal at one time or other, s till they
knowing the history of an individual differ in their cultural. social, political
family. which can differ vastly within a and religious identity. It is because
single society. Bul when the study is
beyond Ule economic realm lie people's
extended beyond the inctividual families,
id eas regarding their social system,
to the society, it takes a completely
different shape. Then we talk about the religious practices, politicaJ system , art
enti re society and the whole nation. This and arcilite cture. language and
qu.est about knowing the past is known as literature and so on, These things are
history. very individual to each socie lY an d
Through the study of history of a nation.
society or nation we have come to Imow 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 tbe societies and nafions 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
sp inning , weaving, metalworking
developed. With all these economic co ntribute anything econo mica lly. It
aspects, also came a whole lot of other cannot solve the' problem of poverty and
things Like the development of pplitlcal unemployment. There is also a
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 e tc. Tbe people. It may be said here that this is a
study of all this is known as history. As very superficial view. It helps u s 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 sociaJ systems, and
events connected with som e kings or respecting them. The study of history
dynasties. makes us learn lessons from fhe 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 igqore the bad things
It must be emphasised that all that c reated problems in society and
societies have developed over a long follow the things whic h promote

. ............ ........ . .. . .... .... . .... .... ........... .. ... . .. . . . ..... . ............... . . . . THE STUDY OF INOIAN H'STORY

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

example, more than two thousand years 1n statecraft her rulers were
back Ashoka. in his Rock Edict XlI, insisted cunning and unscrupulous.
on the following measures and practices Famine, nood and plague visited
to maintain harmony , peace and her from time to time, and killed
prosperity in society: millions of her people. InequalIty
'"(i) promotion of what constitutes the
of birth was given religious
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
(H) cultivation of this sense of unity no other part of the ancient world
of all religions by tbe practice of were the relations of man and
uachaguti or restraint of criticism man, and of man and the state,
of ...~her religions and sects; so fair and humane. In no other
(m) tht' 'ming together (samavaya) of early civili7.Ation 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
Artl1ashastra. 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
d ifferent religions". Manu. In all her history of warfare
History gives people their identity. Hindu India has few tales to tell
The shldy of past does not mean that one of cities put to the sword or of the
lives in the past but one learns to live with massacre of noncombatants. The
the past. History is not something thal 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 ide ntity. On the parallel in ancient India . There
basis of this study of history , British was sporadic cruelty and
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".

" .


ONE of the most interestln.g aspect of the study of

history is knowing the history of history writing
itself. It. gives you an idea how history changes by
the changing interpretation.
••••••• ••••• . •.•. , .. ........ , ......... ..... . ..... .. ............................... .. ANCIENT INDIAN H1STORY WRITING

Indian l'radiUon o f History Writing The Puranic literanlre is very vast

One of the m03t 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 nUll~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 complete ly Parikshit, the grandson of Arjun, as a
different meaning in the hands of benchmark. All the earlier dynasties
different scholars . In this chapter, we a nd 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 furore
study when and bow 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 difIerent paths the beginning of Kali Age . Many
over a long period of time. 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 dw:;ing the reign ofParikshit.
was written in the name of history is In the context of the Purannsit may
nothing more than a storywiLhout 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 ofwtiting history is simply was to understand and inculcate a
incorrect. The knowledge of history was se'nse of duty and sacrifice by
given a very high place in ancientlndia. individua ls to their families, by the
' it was accorded sanctity equal to a families to their clans, by the clans to
Veda. Atharoaveda, 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 achievem ents 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 o f reason that the narration of Puranas
u njverse) .. rnanvantantar (recurring of were a part of the annual ritual in every
time), uamsa (genealogical list of kings vil lage and town durin g the rainy
and sages), and vamsanucharita season and at the timeoffestivals. The
Qife stories of some selected characters). Puranas may not satisfy the modem

.... , .....................

ANCIENT I NOlA ...•......•••• •......• •... _ ... . •• .•. .. .......• .••• •......• ••••. •. • .....••...•...•• •••••••• . • .......• . . ..• .. •.

dermition of historiography or those ,writings through various extracts it1

who wrote it may not have been aW4f.e the writings of Diodorous, Strabo
of the "historian's crafts", but tQey.wete and Arrian . It is very clear that
fo.1egasthenese had little understanding

fully aware 0. the purpose of their work

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 comprised of seven castes uaUs) ,
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 of
given in Puranas. The Greek knowledge of any Indian language and
ambassador Megasthenese (in the court being not part of Indian society anl1
of Chandragupta Maurya c. 324-300 psyche. It is surprising that intensive
B.C.) testifies the existence of a list of trade relation witJl India during the fIrst
153 kings whose reigns had covered a few centuries of the Christian era left
period of about 6053 years uptill then . such few traces in the Indian literary
Kalhana's Rajatarangini is another tradition of the period.
work of history which is ind eed a Next important phase of historio-
solitary e.....ample of its kind. It enjoys graphy begins with AI-Beruni, who
was born in central Asia in A.D. 973
great respect among the historians for
and died in Ghazni (present-day
its approach and historical content.
Afghanistan) in A.D . 1048. He was ope
Early Foreigner. of the greatest scholars of his time~
When we look at the writings on a contemporary ofMahmud ofGh i.
history of ancient India beyond the When Mahmud conquered part of
Indian frontiers, we fmd that earliest central Asia, he took Al-Beruni wlth
attempts were those of Greek writers. him. Though A1 -Beruni deplored his
loss of freedom, be appreciated $e
Most notable are Herodotus, Nearchus,
favourable circumstances for his work.
Megasthenese, Plutarch, Anian, Strabo,
Unlike Megasthenese, Al·Beruni
Pliny the Elder, and Ptolemy. However,
studied Sanskrit language a nd bie~ to
except for Megasthenese all others have gain a precise knowledge of Tndian
touched Indian history in the true sources. The list of works consulted1by
sense very marginally. They were him is lon g and impressive . His
concerned mostly with th e north- observations range from philosopby,
western part of India and primarily the religion, culture, society to science,
areas which were either part of the literature, art and medicine. Al·Berunj's
Persian and Greek Satrapies or work can be telmed as fairly objective
Alexander's campaign. Megasthenese and wherever he has faltered (is
wrote extensively in a book called not because of any other reason but
'Indica' which is no longer aVailable to his lack of proper understanrurl.g.
us. We know about Megasthenese's AI - Beruni can be credited to pe
.... .................... .. .......................... ..... ................ ANCIENT lNDIAN HISTORY WRtllNG :;;.

comparatively free from religious or ography on India begins . Many

racial biases, we so often encounter in scholars like John Holwell , Nanthanie1
the writing of his successo r Muslim Halhed, and Alexander Dow - all
and European writers. However, associated in various capacities with
sometime Al-Beruni does show his the British East India Company - wrote
annoyance when he says sarcastically, about Indian history and cultu re
".. . 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 a lso described the immense
antiquity of human race. HOlwell wrote
Cb.riatian Misalonarlea 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 tbe 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
on India but none of them compared to borrowed from the doctrines of the
Brahmins". Halhed also critically
the works of Al-8eruni. While AJ-Benmi
ex.amined the various aspects of Indian
also possess a well defined religious
history, religion, mythology et c. He
and hermeneutics awareness, he was
discussed the vast periods of time of
essentially a scho lar and not driven to
human history assigned to four Yugas
preach his faith. Mostof the missionary, and concluded that human reason can
\vritings can hardly be said to be fair. no more reconcile to itself the idea of
They were more interested in learnin g 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 lite rature produced in Europe during
con!Tibutions during the seventeenth the sevent eenth and eighteen th
and eighte enth centuries are also century Europe, many scholars and
affected by the religious, intellectual and intellectuals who had 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 viE-owed 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 Ule 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 lnclians as the people, "to

"- ANCIENT I NDIA •..•.•••........•.•.•.•.•.•••••••...•.•••...••..••..•....•..•••....•.•...............••••••••••••.•••••••••..•...

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

ba ckgammon, our chess, our fl.rst leading intellectuals of the nineteenth
principles of geometry and fables which century trading ofmis path are William
have become our own." He further Jones, Max Muller, Monier Williams,
wrote, "In short I am convinced that J.S. Mill, Karl Marx and F.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 carne from India which published in 1904.
he considered as the cradle of A Jarge section of the European
civilizations. In 1807 the well known scholars became worried when the
metaphysician Schelling wrote, "what greatness of In dia's past star ted
is Europe reaUy but a sterile trunk becoming popular and the Indian
whi ch owes everything to oriental philosophy, logic and writings on such
g r afts?" The great philosopher things as origin of universe, humanity
Emannual Kant aJso acknowledged and its age e tc . started gain in g
greatness of ancient Indian culture and acceptance. For weU over a millennium
civilization. He wrote, "Their religion has much of the Europe had accepted the
a great purity ... (and) one can find Old Testament as the fmal 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, "th e daring assumptions of
thoughts were free of dogmatism a nd
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) h ave 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 co lonial interests the also very worried about the Bible story
establishment of Asiatic Soc iety of of Creat ion. Bi sho p Usher h ad
Bengal in 1784 also contributed calculated that the whole universe
towards the writing of Indian His tory was c reated 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 refl ect the a nd creation stories were b ei n g
contemporary debate on religious faith threatened to be wrong in the face of
and nationality and also their interests Indian mythologies which ta lk.ed in
in enlarging the European colonies for terms of four Yugas and seve ral

..................................................... . ............. ................. ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY WRll1NG

hundred miUion years. This threatened support of the Britis h East India
the very foundation of the faith. Company he und ertook massive job s
However, the faithful were relieved of translation and interpretation of th e
b y "th e fo r tu n ate arrival of... the Indian religious tex t s in Eng li sh.
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 b:ringing 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, "eith er the first h is r e li gio u s belief and po li tica l
eleven chapters of Genesis ... are true requirements. Both these coloured ti1e
or t.he who le 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 of the given in the Genesis as simply
faithful , Boden Professorships of historical"'. Therefore, in terms of lime
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 hod to be fitted. It was under
the English, so as .. to enable his thi~ guiding principle William Jones,
countrymen to proceed in the Max Muller, Vincent Smith and others
conversion of the natives of India to the wrote Indian history.
Christian religion'''. Prizes were offered Eager to settle the matter first,
lo the literary works undermining William Jones undertook the
Indian tradition and religion. The ftrst responsibility of unrave lling Indian
occupant of the Boden Chair was chronology for the benefit and
Horace Hayman Wilson. Writing about appeasement of his disconcerted
a selies of lectures he gave, Wilson colleagues, " I propose to lay before
hirnselfnoted that. "these lectures were you a concise histo r y 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 disposed to reject Mosoick
systems"'. history, if it be proved erroneous, as to
Friedrich Ma.... Muller is considered believe it, if it be confrrmed 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 obJ..iged am and pleasure of Christianity. The

of course to believe the sanctity of culmination of the objectives and the
venerable books [of GenesisJ".In 1790 results of the efforts of great European
Jones concluded his researches by scholars of Indology is seen in private
claiming to have "traced the foundation correspondence. Max Muller, writes to
of th e Indian empire above three his wife of his monumental work 01
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 th,
confmes 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 India antI
within the parameters of the Great on the growth of millions of souls in th&
Flood, which Jones considered to have country. It is the root of their reiigioJ
occurred in 2350 B. C. Same wa~ the and to show them what the root is,
constraint with Max Mulier when the feel sure, is the only way of uprootin~
question of chronology of Sanskrit all that has spnmg from it during Llli
literature came up. Lacking allY fmn last three thousand years". 1\vo yean
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. RigVeda to be of 1500 B.C., India is doomed, and if Christianity doet;
once again ~ithin the safe limits of not step in, whose fault will it be?"
Genesis chronology. Max Muller was not alone in thiE
Such efforts on the part of type of writing history and desiring to
European scholars. chiefly British, uproot all Indian u-adition from the soil.
brought some relief and made this new Monier-Williams, famous for his
approach safe for Christianity and its Sanskrir- 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 ~~ 9971 . "J ones in when the walls of the mighty fortre ss
effect showed that Sanskrit literature of Brahmanism IHindulsm! are
was not an enemy but an aUy of encircled , undermined and finall y
the Blble, supplying independen t stonned by the soldier of the Cross , the
corroborntion of Bible's version of victory of Christianity must be s ingle
history. Jone's chronological researches and complet e".
did manage to calm the waters Thus, we can s afely say that most
somewhat and effectively guaranteed of t h e works done on lndian 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 bf"lief
Thus , the fate of Indian history in the Genesi s and to counter al\
now got intertwined with the safety the writing that were projecting India's

............................................................. . ...... _.•....•••• , . , .. ANCIENT I ND1AN HI STORY WRITING
past in tenns of great civilization and ad ministrators and civll servants.
Indian philosophy and thoughts James Mill. hiS son John Stuart Mill,
indicating greatanttquity for the origins and his disciple Thomas Macauley
of universe and human beings. played a very lmportant role in shaping
As mentioned earlier, another factor the imperialist policy tn India and lhe
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.
fmd a m arked shifl in British attitude Following in the footsteps.of James
towarns India. Aller the defeat of F'rcnch Mill, V.A. Smith an ICS officer seJVing
forces in the hands of British and the British Government in India ,
weakened Maralha power, the Bl;Ush p:rf"pared the text bool{ called Early
were sure of their rule over India. History oj India in 1904. As a loyal
However, the-y 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 in[cliority complex. To accounted for almost one ~th ird of his
overcome this problem and Lo book. Smith's racia l arrogance is
inclIlcale a sense of superiority obvious when he writes. ~The
romplex among the British officers triumphant progress of Alexander from
about western cu lture 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 A:siatic annies when confronted wiih
by the Utilitarian school led by James European skill and discipline", V.A,
Mill who wrote sLx volumes on history Sm\th gives lhe lmpresslon 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 langu age. In it he divided fact is he on ly touched the north -
Indian history into three periods - first western borders ofIndia and as we shaU
f-Lindll 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 lalnd of despotism which did not
an extremely denigradlng picture of experience political unity until the
Hindu periods. He condemned every establishment of British r ule . He
institution, idea and action of the Hjndu observed . ~Autocracy is substanUally
period and held Hindus responsible for the only fonn of government. with which
all the ills of the COWlUy. This book was the historians of India are concerned".
introduced as a t ext book in th e The whole approach of Imperia)
Harleybury school In England which historians has been best summ ed up
was established to educate the young by historian R.S, Sharma. He observes,
Englishmen coming to India as "British Interpretations of Indian

AN ClENT 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 boo ks 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 id eas and institutions
incapable of governing themselves". was given by K. P. J ayaswal (1881 -
1937). To hi s book Hindu Polity ,
tlonallat Approach
published in 1924, Jayaswa! 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 a lso considered His study of literary and epigraphkal
essential for lhe healthy d evelopment sources s howed that India was not a
of th e academic world. But the despotic country as propagated by the
differen ce of opinion is quite different imperialist historians. Beside the
regarding the distortion of ones past hereditary kingship , India had the
history. The educat.ed 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 la te nineteenth century British historians , Indian polity and art
some scholars like Rajeodra La1 Mitra. of governance was far more developed
R.G . Bhandarkar, lUld V.K . Rajwade than that of any other part of
tried to look at the ancient Indian history contemporary world . His book Hindu
from th e 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 a nd Indian history.
reconstructed the social, political and H.C. Raych audh ury (1892 -1957)
economic hjstory of the area. in his book Political History of Ancient
Howe·.,Ie r, the real imp etus and India reconstructed the hi sto ry of
challenge to the im perial ist version ancient Indi a from the time o f
of tlis tary came in the firs t quarter Mahabharata war to the time of Gupta
of lhe twe ntieth centu ry. Some of em pire an d practically cleared the
the mo st n otable histori a n s of cl o ud s created b y V.A. Smith.
this period are O.R. Bhandarkar, R.e. Majumdar is cons idered as the
H.C. Raycha udhary, R.C. Majumdar, doyen among Indian his taria.ns. 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 oflndian

..•.•• •.•• .......... •..•..••.•.....•.••••••. ••.•.•••... .•.•.•.•...... .....••. • ANClENT i NDIAN" H I!:>1'ONY W RITING

His tory. He wrote a large number of Marxist School of Hiatory

books covering nle time p eriod [rom The Marxist school of historiography
Ancient India. to the freedom struggle. used to be the most influential school
The publication of H istory and Culture of his tory in the second half of the last
0/ the rndian People in eleven volumes cen tury. De spite the inh ere nt
under his general editorship is one of co ntradi ction and total failure of
the most outs tanding achievements. Marxist model of hi s tory writings it is
This multi-volume series deals with academically important to discuss it
Indian history an d civilization righ t ;;md give respect to the contribution s it
from the prehistoric times to the India's has made.
independ ence in 1947 and remains a The Marxists believe in universal
s ingular reference work. laws and stages of hi story. They believe
K.A. Nilakant Sastri (1 892- 1975) tha t all th e s ocieties pass through at
contributed immen sely towards t h e least five stages of history - (i) Prim itive
u nderstanding of South Indian history. Communism Iii) Slavery (iii) Feudalism
(iv) Capitalism and (v) Communism .
His books like A History 0/ Ancient
Tbese stages were defined by Karl
India and A H istory o/South India are
Marx and F. Engels, t he propounders
the shin in g examp les of brilliant of Communism . They clea rl y
scho lars hip . R.K. Mookerji (1886- acknowledged their intellectual debt to
1964) was p er h a p s one of most F. W. Hegel and Lewis Henry Morgan. It
outstanding writers when it cam e to must be mention ed here that the
ex p ressi n g even t h e most difficult stages of his tory proposed by Marx
subjects in s imple terms. His bool<s like and Engels was b ase d on their
Hind u Civilization, Chandrag upta understanding of European history.
Maurya, Ashoka a nd Fundamental Before we come to Indian Marxist
Unity of Indi a pu t th e cu lt ural , historiography it is important to know
econo mi c a nd politica l history of as to what Hegel a nd Marx said about
lndia n ot on ly on ftrm ground but also Indian history and civil ization.
made it accessible even to a lay rea der. G.W.F. Hegel (1 770- 1831) was a
P.V. Kane (1 880- 1972) was a great great western philosopher. Hegel was
Sanskritist. His mon u mental work not an Indologist 3Jld ma de no attempt
enti tled History of Dharma sa stra. in to learn Sanskrit or any other Indian
language. He m ade use o f translations.
five volumes running into over six
reports etc. His wri tings on India n
thous and pages is an encyclopaedia of
history a n d philosophy we r e based
social, religioll s and political laws and mainly on the writings of William J ones,
customs. James Mill and other Brit ish writers
The contributions o f all t hese great whose a pproach to ancient Indian
scholars h elped in clearing the mist history h as already been discu ssed
bu il t by the m iss ionarie s and the in detail. Th e results were ind eed
imperialist hi s torians . disastrous.

t MCIENT INDIA ••••.•••.•••••.•..••.•.••••..•.•••••••• _ •.••.... ..........•.• . •.•.....•..•.•.•...............•..•••..........••••

In the begin ning Hegel fe lt tha t no history a t all, at least no known

Ind ia, as the Orient in general, has to h istory. What we call its history, is bu t
b e excl u ded from the histo r y of history of the successive intruders who
philosophy. However , in the ligh t of founded their empires on passive basis
seve r al w ri ti n gs t hough Hegel of that unresisting and unchangi ng
reluc tan tly accep ted that India h a d a society ..."'.
philosophical system and its history The Hege lia n a n d Marx ian
h a d great ant iquity, he explicitly approach to Indian history by and large
considered it to be inrerior to that of the remained dormant for a long time. It
Gree k s and the Romans . Even his was largely non-existent d u ring the
contemporary European scholars were British rule in India After t h e
a ppauled at his conclusions about independence of India, the Marxist
Indian history and philosophy. He was school of historiography became one of
see n by "t h em as a "prototype of the most in fluential a nd dominant
schools. Following Marx's scheme, the
Weslerner" who saw western thoughts
history of India also came to be re-
as a measure of all things: -Therefore,
w ritten. Consequently, primitive
whatever he had 10 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 an d
shows ... that he ventu red on a task for Engels carne to be applied in Indian
w h ich he was not qualified ... " Despite History also. This school also, like the
s u ch s hortcom ings Hegel's in fluence is imperialist school, does not finn
not confmed 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,
Simi larly. Marx was also very according to this school, the Ku ~ha na
superficial in his knowledge about period is the golden period and not the
India and not really free from racial Satavahanas or GUptH::'. 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
newspaper articles. Marx took his lead been term ed as the "Period of
Feudalism" i.e. "Dark Age" during
fro m Hegel. Marx was a great votary of which every U' degenerated. This
India bei ng enslaved by Britis h and has been despite the fact that,
dismissed India as a backward a n d irrespective of political upheaval, there
uncivilized nation with no history. In was an all round developmenl in the
J853 he wrote, "India, then could not fields of li terature. 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
tbe history of the s u ccessive cont;;luests chronology. th ey largely follow Max
she has undergone. Indian society has Mulier and other British h istorian s.

I 4
............................................................................. .... .... ANCIENT INDIAN H'S'I'ORY WRITING

Indian Marxist histo rians lay great Union and almost the total eclipse of
emphasis on economic interpretation Marxia n polity an d economy, the
of all social and religious ideas, historians are finding it difficult to
customs and institutions. Beingallergic explain the reason s for the collapse. It
to reli gio n and spirituality their is perhaps this phenomenon which has
irreverence for saints and sages is too contributed to Ihe loss of lustre in the
obvious. However, it must be mentioned Marxist historiography.
that their writings, nevertheless, have
Mult'~lacipUnary Approach
contributed immensely towards the
understanding of various aspects of In the last ten years due to the
Indian history which had remained huge accumulalion of data from
ignored earlier. various disciplines like archaeology,
D.D. Kosambi can be called palaeontology, anthropology, astro·
the firs t among the pioneers of this nomy and space research , there has
schoolof thougbt. D.R. Chanana, R.S. been renewed interest in studying the
Sharma, Romila Thaper, Irfan Habib, ancient Indian history. Many scholars
Bipan Chandra, and Satish Chandra have broken the s hackles of the old
are some of the leading Marxist mould and have been looking at ancient
historians of India. Indian history in the light of data
[n the Marxist scheme of history obtained from different disciplines. This
Marxism is an ideal philosopby and is known as the multidisciplinary
polity find the Soviet Union was the approach, examples of which will be
ideal state. Since the break-up of Soviet seen in the foUowin g chap ters.

1. Explain the rollowing:
VamSnJUicharita. MaflflantanUlr, Sarga. Pratisarga, Yuga, Kalpa.
2. Wnte short notes on;
Ii! Impor tance of History
(iil Multi-disciplinary Approach
(Iii) Bibliwl Concept or Creal.ion
3. Desclibe the Indlall tradition of history Writing.
4. Wl'it~:l note on the foreign travellers who visited India from tile founh century
8.C 10 the tenth century A.D. and what they wrote about India?
5. What were the views of the Christian missionaries about India?
6. Dt'scribe the Imperialist school of Historiography and their approach towards
the writing of Indian history.
I. Describe Uu~ Nationalist school of Historiography. How was It different from
the Imperialist approach?
8. Defme the Marxist school of history and their approach to Indian history.




BROADLY the sources for ancient India's hIstory can

be classified under two main categories. The first is
the literary and the second archaeological. Under
the literary sources can be included Vedic, Sanskrit,
Pali, Prakrit and other literature.- beside" foreign
........................................•................................ THE SOURCES OF ANCIENT I NDIAN H,.roRY

WE hav e 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 catego ries. The flrst is the the reason why an elaborate means to
Hterary and the second archaeological. protect and preserve the mode of
Under the lit erary sources can pronun ciation of the Vedas have been
be in cluded 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 ruso can hear the original
epigraphic, numismatic and archi- tone on which these were sung
tectural remains besides archaeological ,thousands ofyears ago. It is on account
explorations and e.xcavations which of these patlws n o interpolatlOns in the
have opened great vistas of new Vedas are possible. However, we cannot
information about which we had no JUld much trace of political history in
knowledge earlier. the Vedas, but can have reliab le
glimpses of the culture and civilization
Literary Sou rCe6
of the Vedic period.
There has been much debate about the Six vedangas (limbs of Vedas) were
reliability of ancient Indian literature for (:volved for the proper understanding
the history of India. It revolves ru"ound of the Vedas. These are Siksha
the opinion that most of the ancient (phonetics) , Ka/pa (rituals ). Vyakam.a
IJterature is religious in nature. and (grammar), Nirukta (etymo lo gy).
those which are claimed to be history Ghhand.a (metrics) , and Jyotisha
by I ndians , i.e. , pu rani c and epic (astronomy). Each ved.anga has
literature, contain no definite dates for developed a credible literature around
events and kings. A large number of it which are in the $utra form i.e .•
inscriptions, coins and local chronicles precepts . This is a very precise and
do indicate an effort t.owards history exact form of e.xpression i.n prose which
writing. The rudiments of history are was developed by the ancient Indians .
preserved in t.he Puranas and epics. We Panini's AshtadhYClyi, book on
fmd genealogies of kings and sometimes gramm ar in eight c.hapters is the fmal
their achievements. But it is difficult to culmination of this excellent art of
arrange them in chronologicru order. writing in sutra (precepts) i.n which
Vedic literature, mainly the four every chapter is precisely interwoven.
Vedas Le. Rik, Yajttr. Sarna and Besides the Vedas, the Brahmanas,
Atharua Vedas. are entirely in a i:h e Arunyakas and the Upanishads
different language, which can be called 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 Uterature. The Brahmanas elaborate

I\NCIEl'IT I NOlA ...............•.... . .....................................................•......................................

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 s upplemented and supported by the
problems. Buddhist and Jaina literature. The
The Pllranas. eighteen in number. Buddhist books, called, Jataka stories
are mainly historical accounts. Five a lso are given some historical
branches of historical st udies importance, as tbeyare related with the
are considered to form the s ubject previous births of the Buddha. There
matter of the Puranas. These are are more than 550 such stories. The
(i) sargo (evolution of universe), Jaina literature also contaios same
(ii) pratisarga (involution of universe), information which may help us in
(iii) manlkl.l1tantTa (recuning of time). reconstructing the history of different
(iv) uamsa (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 !.he 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 gene rally held that B.C. Manusmriti is prominent among
there have been constant interpolations them. 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 before
language. Pali can be regarded as the the final version of Arthashastra was
fonn of Prakrit language which was in written in the fourth century B.C. by
vogue in Magadha. Most of the carly Kautilya, there appeared a lradition of
Buddhist literature is written in this wriLmg on and teaching of statecrafts
language. With the Buddhist monks il 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 Mudraraksltasha, a play wri~ ten by
this language. Since the mod ern Vishakhadatta, also gives a glimpse of
historians have discarded most of the society and cultu re.
dynasties mentioned in the PUmnas Kalidrisa's Malavikagn;mitram 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 ANCOENT I NDIAN H ,smRY

followed the Mauryas. Shasa and in praiseofU1eir kings. Some kings and
Sudraka are other poets who have events are supported by inscriptions
written plays ba sed on historical also. This literature generaUy describes
events. Banabhatta's Harshachanta events upto the fourth century A.D.
t.hrows light on m any historical facts
Fcneign Accounts
ahout which we could not have known
otherwise. Vakpati wrote Gaudauaho, For a great deal of our knowledge of
based on the exploits of Yasovannan ancient Indian history we are indebted
of Kanauj. Similarly. Bilhena's t-o the foreigners. India figures in the
Vlkramunkadevacharita describes the foreign inscriptions like in those of
vicLOries of the later Chalukya king Darius. Herodotus and Ctesian got
Vikra.maditya. There are some other their infonnation through lhe Persian
biographical works based on the sources. Herodotus in his "Histories"
lives of different kings. Prominent gives us much information about
among these are: Kwnarapalacharita Indo-Persian relations. Arrian wrote
of Jayasimha, Kumarapa/acharita a detailed account of the invasion
or Duayashraya Mal1akovya of o f 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, PrithuirajacJmrit of Chandbardai. by Greek kings. Some of them were
But the historical text, Rajatarangini Megasthenese, Deimachus and
by Kalhana is the best iHustration of Dionysios. Megasthenese was in the
history writll1g appreciated by modern court of Chandragupta Maurya. He
historians. His crit ical rnt:thod of wrote a book on Jndia called Indica. 111c
historical research and impartial Oliginal work has been lost but we have
treatment of the historical facts have some idea about it from the quotations
ean1ed him a great respect among the in the works of the later writers. An
modem historians. anonymous author, who was a Greek,
The Sangam literature, describes settled in Egypt wrote a book Periplus
many kings and dynasties of South oj tile Erythrean Sea. on the basis
rndia. Poetic compilations by group of of his personal voyage of Indian coast
poets of diITerent times patronised by in about A.D.80. He gives valuable
many chiefs and kings are, called infonnation about the Indian coasts.
Sangama. These are, in all, 30,000 A nother 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 fonner 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 mnnerous errors and, contradictions.
composed by a large number of poets Therefore, it is necessary to be cautious

t AN"ENT INOlA .............. .......................... ................. ....... ........ ........... ........ ............. ...... .

when using Greek sources. They were ofMahmud ofGh azni. His observations
ignorant of the language and the are based on his knowledge of Indian
c ustom s of the coun try and t heir society and culture which h e acquired
information is full o f unb elieva ble through literature. For thls h e s tudied
fac t s and f anc ies. The works of Sans krit. However, he does not give any
Megasthenese and so also of those political infonnation ofltis times.
who accompa nied Alexander have Archaeological Sources
been lo st 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. Th ey came here as about two centuries old. They not only
Buddhist pilgrims and therefore their supplemented our knowledge about
a ccounts are s omewhat tilted towards our past but h ave also yielded materials
Buddhism . Chin ese tradition h as 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 c ivilization was
visited India in fIfth century A. D. while considered to h ave begun about sixth
Hiuen-Tsang and l ~ts ing came in cen tury B.C. But with the excavations
seven th century. They have left fairly at Mohenjodaro. Kaliban ga n and
detailed accounts which h ave been Ha r appa th e an tiquity of Indi an
translated in English. Hiuen-Tsang has civilization has go n e hack to about
given the most interesting and valuable 5000 B.C. The finds of prehistoric
acco unt about Harshavardhana and artifacts h as s hown th a t human
some ot.h er conte mporary kings of activities h ad started h ere 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_ Howeve r. they h ave given other branches like epigraphy and
so mewha t exagge r ate d account o f numismatics also without which our
Buddhism during the period of their knowledge about India's past would
visit. For example Hiuen-Tsang depicts h ave been very limited . We could not
Harsha as a follower of Buddhism while have known about most of the Ind o-
in hi s epigraphi c records Harsha Greek, Saka-Parthian and Kushana
mentions h imself as a devotee of Siva. kings without numismatic sources.
But considering the fact that Indian
Similarly, Ashoka's views on dharma
rulers a lways have, like their subjects,
and conquests of Samudragupta, and
been multi- religious people, it is not
severa l others wou ld have remained
difficult for a foreign er to be confused.
unknown without their epigraphs.
Some Arabs also h ave left their
accounts about India. Most famous Inscriptions: One of the most important
among these are Abu Riban better and reliable sources of history writing
known as A1-Beruni. a contemporruy are inscriptions. An inscription , being

... ..................................................... ................ 1'HE SOURCES OF ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY ;.-

a contemporary document, is free from Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam in

later interpolations. It comes in the form the south and Nagari, Gujarati, Bangla,
it was composed in and engraved for etc. in the north have d eveloped 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 cen tury in which the inscription was
true because they were frequenUy written. A s tudy of d evelopment 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 epigraph ic
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 ten th century A. D. could be
earliest system of writings is found in read with some difficulty. But the
the Harappan sea ls. However, there decipherment of earlier epigraphs
has been no success in deciphering was not easy. Some western
it. Thus, tJle writing system of the scholars prepared alphabetic tables
Ashokan inscriptions are considered meticulously. But credit to complete
to be the earl iest. 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 Mter 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 evo lved 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 Brahrni script was used for the called edicts because they arc in the
rest of his empire from Kalsi in th e form of the kings order or desire. They
north in Uttaranchal upto Mysore in also give a glimpse of Ashoka's image
lhe south. After Ashoka it was adopted and personality as a benevolent king
by the rulers of fhe succeeding concerned with the welfare of not only
centuries. The most interesting thing his subjects but a lso of the whole
about the Brahmi script is that its humanity.
individu8J.letters were modified century Inscriptions of the IndoMGreeks,
after century and through this process Saka-ks hatrapas and Kushanas adopt
aU the scripts oftndia, including Tamil, Indian names within two or three

ANCIENT INol" ..................................................................•............................................

generations. These inscriptions show and abroad_Coins are mostly found in

them engaged in social and religious hoards most of which have been 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
in scriptions. The Junagarh Rock building, making road etc. Coins found
in sc ript ion of Rudradaman is in systematic excavations are less in
con s idered as an early example:: of number but are very valuable because
chaste Sanskrit, written in mid second their chronology and cultural conteA1.
century A.D. can be fixed precisely.
Sanskrit came to occupy a prune Earliest co ins , ca llt=d pun ch-
place since the Gupta per iod. marked, are 10 silver and copper. Some
The Allahabad Pi llar inscrip ti on gold punch-marked coins are a lso
e num e rates th e ac hi eve men ts of reported to have been found , but they
Samudragupta But for l his so le are very rare and their authenticity is
inscription, thi s great G u pta king doubtful Then co me the In do~G reek
would have remained unknown in the coin s a lso in s ilver and copper and
history of India. Most of the Gu pta rarely in gold . The Kushanas issu ed
epigraph s give genealogy. This became their coins mostly in gold and copper,
the pra ct ice of the subseque nt rarely in silver. The imperial
dynasties. They took the opportunity issued mostly gold and silver coins but
to give an accou nt of t.heir conqut:sls the gold coins arc numerous.
and achievements of their prcdec1!ssol" The punch-mal-ked coins are the
including mythology of their otigins. ea rliest coins of fndla an d they bear
The C hal ukya k in g Pulkeshin 11 on ly symbols on thern. Each symbol is
gives a dynastic genealogy nnd punched separately, which sometI mes
achievements in his Atholt: inscript.ion. overlap the another. These have been
Sim il a rly. the Gwalior inscription of found throughout the country. from
Bhoja g ives full account of his
Taxila to Magadha to Mysore or even
predecessors and their ach ievements.
further sOllth. 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-G reek coins show
from all taxes, to the learned brahmans.
beautiful artistic features on them. Th e
These are called Agraharas.
portrait or bust of the king on the
Coins: The branch ofknowl cdge which observe side appear to be real portr81ts
studies coins is called numismatics. On the reverse some deity is d epicted.
This is considered as the second most It IS through the coins alone we know
important source for reconstructing that more than forty Indo-Greek rulers
t h e hi s tory of Indi a, th e fir st who ruled in a s maU north-wes tern
being inscdptions. Several hundred region of India. We know about several
thousands of coins have been found and Saka-Parthians kings about whom we
deposited in different museums of Inrua would have no infonnation from any

............•..... , .•.•.•...•........................................... _. THE SOURCES OF" ANCIEI\-r It-401AN HISTORY •
other sources. The Kushanas issued In excavations we fi nd 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 U1C discovery of the cities of Moh enjodaro
very beginning. The coin s of Vima and Harappa which pushed back the
Kadphi ses bear th e figure of Siva antiquity of Indian culture and
standing besid e a bull. In the legenp civilization by two thousand years is
on these coins the king calls himself well known. The subsequ ~ nt d iscovery
Mahesvara, i,e. devotee of Siva.
ofsitesofKalibangan. Lothal, Dholavira,
Kanishka, Huvishkaand Vasudeva etc.
Rakhigarhi elc. s how the extent of this
all have this depiction on their coins.
civilization upto Gujarat, Maharashtra,
We find m any Indian gods and
goddesses depicted on Kushana coins Haryana, Punjab. Raja ~thaJl 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 hi&tory because not much
succeeded Kushanas in the tradition of was known about 1his period. The
minling coins. They com pletely arcbaeological discoveries of s uch
Indianised thcircoinage. On the observe cultures as Black-and-Red Ware,
kings are depicted engaged in activities Painted Grey Ware, MaJwa and Jorwe
like hunting a lion or rhinoceros, cultures smce 1.9505 h ave not only filled
holding a bow or battle-axes, playing the chronological gaps but also the
musical instrument or performing geographical extent. It is th rough
Ashuamedha yajna. archaeologicaJ discoveries that we know
Archaeological Monuments, now that tndians domesticated sheep
t:.x~avalious and Explorations
and goat and started agriculture about
8000 year.. ago. Also iron came in
in addition to epigraphic an d
regular use about 1600 B.C.
numismatic SOllrces there are many
Archaeological exca\i&tions also
other antiquarian remains which speak
brought to light the townships of
much about our past. Temples and
Tuxila. Kausambi. KasJ (Rajghat),
sculpt ure s are found all over the
country right fmm the Gupta period AYl.ldhya Vaisali. Bodhgaya, etc.
upto recent tllnes. These show belonging fO Buddha's time. All of
archi tectural aod artistic history of the these pll:.lce<; e~...cept TiJxila are said to
Indians. Th ey e.'(co.vated large caves ill have been visited by Buddha in
the hills in Western India which arc the Si.'\:lh cemury B.C.
mostly chaityas and viharas. Large The researches can;ed out in the
temples have been carved out of rocks field of prehistory show that the
from outside like Kailusa temple of human acliviUes started in the
EBara and ralhas at Mamallapuram. subcontinent as early as two million

t MCIENT INDIA .................................................................................................................. .

years ago. In the Kashmir and Narmada d iscoveries have s hown that t radition
vall eys suc h remains and tools of rock paintings in India goes back to
are r e p o r ted. Also, a r chaeo logica l more than twelve thou sand s years.

Exercises •
1. Explain the following:
Epigraphy, Numismatics, Inscriptions, Archaeology, Script, Palaeography,
Excavation s, Explorations.
2. Write short notes on:
(i) Six Vedan.gas
(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.

• Vi!;it a museum to see t h e various sou rces o f h istory and try to

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


, .

IN a,ncient times this whole ma,$s of land was known
as Sharatavarsha or Hindustan; the latter is derived
from the name of the river Sindhu, prQnqunced by
the westerners as Hindu or lndu. lndia gets i~s
derivation from thi:;;. In our constitution it is called
India. that is Bharata.
t ANCIENT INOlA ............................ .... .. ........ . .. .... . ... ............... ......... .. ........ .. ....... ... ....... ..... ..

llmlAN subcontinen t is a well defined Koh, Sulaiman and Kirthar separate

land with natural borders. At present Iran from Ole Indian subcontinent. 'But
there are s ix countries in this area: the large stretches of land to the west of
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, this tine in modem 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 th e 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 thi s . 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 fm'm a fonnidabl e
by the Himalyas, the westem and north- barrier a gains t the foreign invasions
western side by Pamir pl a teau and from the north, But it is not altogether
Sulaiman Kirt.har ranges, on the eastem secluded from the rest of the wocJd .
side by the Bay of Bengal and western There are som e important passes
side by the Arabian Sea. Southern throngh which interaction with western,
borders are bounded by lndian Ocean. central and northern Asia has been
~ Physically the subcontinent can be maintained since time immemorial. It
studied in three parts: Ii) The Himalayas. is said th at 'since early Siwalik times
(ii) The tndo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra there has been a more or less constant
plain (ill) The Deccan plateau. intercours e between East Africa ,
Arabia , Central Asia and Indi a
Th~ Rimatayaa
maintained by the mjgratiDns of herds
The Himalaya s are stretched from of mammals', It is also stated that (India)
Afghani stan in the west upto My anmar 'received large access ions by migration
in the east. The Tibetan plateau fOl-ms of the larger quadf\.lpeds from Egypt,
the northern part ofit. 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 roules. Ln historical
Shankar or Everest (the highest times the use of the Khyber and Bolan
mountain in the world), Kanchanjanga, passes in the wes t is weU known. Among
Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parvat and Nanda these, the use of lhe former was very
Devi. The Hindukusb 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 SaSed frontier of lnclia hom hUman invasions

........................................ .............. . ...... THE GEOGRAPHICAL. BACKGROUNO OF I NDIAN HISTORY

, .
T I B£ T



B A Y OF •
•$ 6•
~o~ •z••. i0
:z: • , 0

•• • t •
• , ."

~ ."" .

, "•• I
200 400 600 800

>0. •

Fig. 4.1 Physical Map of India

• A NCIENT I NDIA •••••.•.••..•..................•••••••.....•. •• ........•••...• . ...•• •••••••••.. , . ...... ••..•.•..•...••.•••• ••

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 Brahmapulra plains with most changed its course.
fertile land , natural resources and The Ganga , rising from the
perennia l rivers is a gift of the Himalayas, reaches the plain at
Hima layas, for which Indians gratefully Hardwar and passes through the states
worship it as God. of Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
lndo·OAngeUc·Brahm6,Pufra Plain and Bengal , then joins the Bay of
Bengal. On the west of ilflows the river
To the south of the Himalayas lies the Yamuna also ris ing from the
great plain ofIndla which is more than Himalayas. Some Vindhyan rivers like
3200 kms long and about 240 lons to
the Chambal, the Betwa and the Ken
320 kIns broad. It is form ed 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 plnins great Vindhyan river, the SOD , joins
most fertile. the Ganga near Patna in Bihar. From
There are three great river systems, the Himal ayas 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 lndus, the Ganga of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. There are
and the Brahmaputra. But a big tract several mouths through which t he
of land to the west of Yamuna and east Ganga falls into the Bay of BengaJ. The
of Indus in this plain is devoid of any main s tream is called Bhagirathl or
water system at present. This tract Hooghli on which are situated the
includes the states of Haryana, Punjab
towns of Murshidaba d, Hooghly and
and Rajasthan . Now it has been proved
that in ancient times the river Saraswati Kol.kata. 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 tbe Manasarovar in the Kailasa fl ows
Tibetan plateau, runs west and north· eas tv.rard through the plateau of Tibet
west for about 1300 Kms, between the under the name of Tsangpo. Then it
Karakoram range . Then joined by the turn s south and enters in India where
Gilgit 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.
These five tributaries of the Sindhu are called Brahmaputra or Lauhltya.
from east to west are: the Sutlej Passing through Assam and Bengal it
(Satu.dri). the Beas (Vipasa). the Ravi joins the eastern most mouth of the
(Pamshru). the Chenab (Asikni) and the Ganga, i.e., Padma. But before falling
Jhelum (Vitesta). The first mentioned into the Bay of Bi!ngal another mighty

........................................................... THE G EOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF 1NOIA." H I.roRY

river, the Meghna, joins it. The delta thusGa n ga up to the Rajrnahal hills.
formed is one oftbe most fertile part of Between the Ganga and the Rajmahal
Bengal and i s known as Sundarban is a narrow defile or a passage from
delta. Chuna r in the west (i. e. Mirzapur, U.P.)
Tho Deccan Plateau and Central to Teliagarhi in the east. This is the only
India high road, which ronnects 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 hiU 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 Shababad and Teliagarhi ,
flowing towards west is Tapti, lying a situated at a distance of only about five
IilUe south of the Satpura. All other kilometers from each other, seIVed as
rivers of the Peninsula run from west the gat,eway to Bengal.
to east faUing 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
Cantnc( Indian Plateau. Kutch are mars hy and dry during the
The Central Indian plateau stretches hot season.
fTom 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 bave 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 s ide , 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 cal led 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 s ide flow towards north or being about 2000 reet in the Mysore
north-ea st to join the Yamuna and the l·egion and about half of that in the
Ganga. The eastern stretches of the H ydera bad. The Eastern Ghats,
Vindhyas , known as the Kaimur consisting of groups of low hills. is
ranges, extend almost up to the south marked by severaJ gaps through which
of Banaras and run parallel with the many peninsular rivers join the Bay of

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

Bengi1l. The hills going southwards Coast. The rainfall in this region is very
gradually receding from the sea tum 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 Ma1abar. On the other hand the
Except the Narmada and the Tapti, easte rn 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 Inrua 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 Cornori n or
Mahanadi [anns a broad plain known Kanyakumari. To its south-east is the
as the Chattisgarh plain in the north- island of Sri ~a. which though not
east. It passes through Orissa before a n integral part, has been closely
joining the sea. The valley of Godavari associated with Indi a . 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
before meeting the sea. Further south, been given the name of Adam's Bridge.
the Krishna, with its tributaries like the The mango shaped island was known
Tungabh~dra . divide the Deccan
in ancient times by the name of
Tamb a parni , a corrupt word from
plateau into two sections. Further
Sanskrit TamhraPflmi, 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 ofa 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 Si beria, it has a
irrigation and navigation purposes. fairly warm climate throughout the
The Coastal Regions year. It has regular sLx ntus of two
months each and three seasons of four
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.


• • • • , • •
,• • 0
i 0Q
,•· " ·,
• •


- ,-
))0 c o ,

LID c• .
• U

O>rlO . . . .OO ...

SO C O, '''_JOt< tt_ _ _IL_ -'_-,..LI_ _ 1
U <0 ,

Fig. 4.2 Annual Rainfall Zones

t ANC'"NT INOlA ........ . ....... .. ............. . ••. . ... . ... •.... .. . ................................................... .. . . .......

In the Indo-Gangetic plains the Tbe Geography onndla as described

annual rainfall varies from region to in Ancient JndJan LIterature
region. The northern portion of the The vast subcontinent of India was
Indus r egion 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 ems 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 0£200-400 em. or even more. In southern part of Jambu-dvipa. Th e
modem times the regions of Haryana name 'India' was ftrst applied by the
and Rajasthan including parts of Sind Achaemerud Persians to the region
and Gujaral 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 pan of India, the south- term used for India in the Zend Avesta,
west monsoon brings rain which is most the sacred book of Parasis. 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 or the Indus. Herodotus, the famous
and barley are the main Rabi crops Greek historians, used the term 'tndos'
grown in the western and most other to the kshatrapy of the 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 5" C or even Roman writers.
less. But it s hould be considered warm Since the introduction of Buddhism
as compared to th e 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 -1'u 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 lndians or Hindus. "Hindu",

............................................................ THE GEOGRAP,"C," 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 o:f RigVeda. It engaged thejr deepest
India themselves do not know it". sentiments of love and service as
The first definite 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 si-xth century B.C. It is only requires him to recall and worship the
one out of 22janapadas 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 Narmad~ Sindhu, and Kaven , 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).
northeITl part of India 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 a nd on the east by the expects a Hindu to visit in his tife the
Kalakavana or the Rajmahal Hills. The holy places associated with his faith.
PU/'anas define the tenn BhaJ'atavarsha 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 kngth and breadth of India and not
mountains, viz. Mahendra, Malaya, confined to a single province. The
Sahya, Suktimat, RL'<:sha (mountains of different sects are at one in enjoining
Gondwana), Vindhya, and Pariyatra upon their re spective votaries. a
(western Vjndhyas up to the Aravallis); pilgrimage to the different and distant
where dwell the descenden ts of p.arts of India and thereby fostering in
the Bharatas, with the Kiratas living them a live sense of what constitutes
lo its east, t he Yavanas (Ionians or tileir common mother country. In the
Greeks) to its west, and its own same s pirit, Sankara established his
population consisting of the Brahmans, four Mathas (religious schools) at the
Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras (Le. four extreme points of the country viz.
the Hindus)". Jyotinnatha 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
tenn India. It has historical significance, rnatha at Puri in the east, and Sringeri

t AN CIENT INDIA .. .. ," " " , ..... .... .................. .. ..... .. , ' , .... , ......... .. .. .. ... " .. ,', ... , . .. ......... .... ........ .. .. ..

matha in Mysore . Sectarianism is thus Rajadhiraja, or Sarvabhauma, and

an aid to nationalism in Hindu culture. such Vedic ceremonies as the Rajasuy~
In some of the sacred texts like the Vajapeya, or Ashvamedha. which were
Bhagauata Purana, or Manusmriti are prescribed for performance by a king
found passages of patriotic fervour who by his diguijaya 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
(deuanirmita sthanam) who even Mahabhara ta 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,
suargadapi gariyasi).
and in later times, Akbar and
All these prayers and passages
show that a Hindu has elevated Aurangzeb . Som e even performed
patriotism into a religion . In the words the horse-sacrifice in declaration of
of a dis tinguished 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 r. 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 - Influeocea of Geography on
nay, even as the Goddess mother - of tncltan Hi,tory
his spiritual culture ... He made India
the symbol ofrus culture; he filled it with In many respects geograp hical
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 hi s liviog
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 Hima layas in the north and coastal
is indicated by such significant bounda ries on the three remaining
Vedic words as Ekarat, Sam rat, sides. This gives the inhabitants a

... .. .. ................................. ........... .... .... THE GEOGRAPt<ICA C BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY

feeling of oneness. They regard this as

their motherland. Its vastness can be
Kushanas, etc., established kingdoms
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 In dia 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 V:anga, Avanti, Lat and Saurashtra in
was the most respected language the north , and Kalinga , Andhra,
besides the local languages . States were Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chera, Chola
administered and governed on the basis and Pandya in the south, among others,
of law-books called Dharmasastras, seem to possess etemallives. 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 under 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. bl:Jth sides. No dynas ty other than the
Some historians have defined itas 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 th ey d eveloped a lasting
the chakravarti concept of conquest, cultural influence in countries like
wher e every king shou ld aspire for Vietnam , Indonesia , Cambodia, etc.
ruling the whole country. Thus empires These were indi vidual efforts by
fell and new ones arose from it, but the traders and princes and not by any
tradition conti nued. Even the State. A distinct contrast from the
early conquerors from the north-west European colonist must be noted here.
like Indo-Greeks, Saka-PaJlavas, Indians n ever attempted genocide or
t ANeIE", 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 Khari! 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.

, " ",rr"
" , • »." •,
~ ". ••
, " •"
IT ~ ~ ~ "

l \ " ~ ...

" "

.., •

.. ,

, ,
" •
II ... >1. ...
n • •
" C~ER5
" .
O/fB,of the best ways tQ understand the relation
"" between the earlh and all that exists on it is to
ima~ne that the ea:rth is 46 years old. And when
we 'writt' her life history, we find that we know
• 11bthing, about the fJIst seven yearS of her' life, but
the. d~q,s of ~e,rrater chi}.<;!hpoc\ an: t0be See!) in

... ' , ..
the old rocks .
• ,
•• ,•
- •
11 ."
" , •
" • " "
t. ANe ,"NT INDIA . .. .. .. .. ........ . .......... .. .... ................................ .. .... ...... .. .... . ...... .............. ...... ..

tnt roductioD break-up of the last super-continent

Ten years is a long time in modem 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
enou gh to add a tenth of an inch to the week, in Africa, s ome m anlike apes
great thickness of rocks that grow by developed into apeUke man and at the
the accumulation of mud on the bed weekend mother earth began s hivering
of the shallow sea. On ly the most sharp with the latest series of extremely cold
eyed among us will notice how the icc-ages. Just over four hours h a ve
earth changes in rus lifetime, except e lapsed 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, g eologists c an fix dates of back the Pre-Ha.rappan and Early
even ts in the earth's history with a fair Harappan cultures started developing.
amount of confidence. Witb the age of Just about 14 back Buddha
earth estimated 4 ,600 m illion years delivered his fIrst sermon at Saranath ,
(m.y.), we can make on ly very and the Mauryan empir e 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 m in u tes
One of tbe best ways to understand back, and Akbar made a pilgrimage to
the relation between th e earth and all Sufi Saint Salim Chisti just about two
that exists on it is to imagine that the m inutes back. lndla became a proud
earth is 46 years old. And when we independent nation hardly two seconds
write h er life history, we find that we back. (See Tables ] 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 th e 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 s eries of photograph s
including all substan tial life is the pu t together to form a film. S uppose our
product of the last six years of its life first imaginary picture was taken 500
(Le , 600 m.y.). She nowered, in her m.y. ago when the evidence of life
middle age. Her continents were quite appears in the fossi liferous rocks in the
bare of ljfe till s h e was almost 42 and form of vertebrate and armoured fishes,
flowering plants did not a ppear until and succeeding pictures were taken
she was 45 - just a year ago. At that every 5000 years, we wou ld h ave
time the great reptiles , includ ing the 1,00,000 (one lakh) negatives and the
dinosaurs, came into existence and the fllm would last an hOUf. At least half of

... . ............. . ........ . . ... .. .. . . . .. .. THE STONE A GE C ULTURES t



. ,-
Mogara •
.. Pus.hkar
Jalor •


adf9 ~.
,."'" ~~JOI8

Attira(Tll:oakl<am .
Gudiyarn CII~ .

Fig. S. J Important $tone Age Sites in. India

~ ANCIENT IN DIA ................................ .................... ................................................................ .

see chart
600 abundant
fossils begin






3300 approximale
origin of life

oldest known
4000 rocks

4600 o rigin of Earth

Table 1 Age of the Earth and the Origin of Life

........ •• THE S TONE AGE C ULTURES ...

years in years in
millions QUATERNARY millions
I 2
PLIOCENE Manlike apes U
OLIGOCENE Monkeys and apes 0
PALAEOCENE I'"irst primates (J
M~ . ~r-~~~~~------~~==~-r~
! First flowering plants

136 ~~4--------------------------------~
~ First birds
I~ ~<~+-----------------------------~

First dinosaurs
First mammals
First coniferous. trees
~ ~--+-----------------------------~

First reptiks
~ First insect s
First amphibi ans
_ First bony fi sh 400
410 C---~--------------------------------~
" First land pla nts
I First fish with ja ws

5OO ~
440 ~--+-----------------------------~

First vertebrates
First armoured fish
__ ~_~~ __________ ~


First known invertebrates
First shells
5OO ~--+-----------------------------~
First living things
Table 2 EvolutiOn oj Life on the Earth

~ ANOt:WT I NOlA .... . ...... . . . ............... . .. . .... . . ..... . .. ...... ...... ..... . ... ......... ........... . .... ...... ...... . .. ...... . . .

the rock-fanning history would have Earlle.t PalaeoUtbJc Toola

a lready passed, during which som e The beginning of the use of tools by
51 km . thick sedimentary rocks were the hum a_ns have been a unique
laid down in the ocean and lateTs 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 machines for the aid of
rocks were made. When the re el 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 Lili es. Phase ago in east Africa is well attested and
by p hase we see fi s hes , then accompanies many earlier and later
amphjbians and reptiles, nnd finally hominid fossils. In case of Indonesia
mammals. In the last 3 s econds several hominid remains have recently
human beings appea r a nd the been dated between 1.8 and 1.6 m .y.
civilized man appears jus t in the last In C hina the early stone tools are
tenth of a second. associated with human fossils dated
between 1.7 and 1.9 m.y.
£arly Human. ln India, unfortunately, no human
It is now weU established thal lhe 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 s how t hat the earlies t geological d a tings. The various strata
human beings were shorter in height of the Sivalik hills containffig stone tools
3Jld had a smaller brain. The hwnans have been dated between 2 m.y. and
evolved over a period of these 42 lakhs 1.2 m,Y. Another scientific date for the
years and the present fonn rcach ed early stone tools ca m e from the
archaeological s ite of Bori in Pune
about 50,000 years ago. The fossils of
di strict of Maharashtra. Whi c h is
various periods and stages of human
1.38 m.y old. Wh en we assess the
development h ave been found from
evidence for early human settlement in
many parts of the world like Africa, India we find that it is later than that in
Ch ina, Java, Sumatra and southern the African region, but contemporary
Europe. Unfortun a tely, due to the to the rest of the Asian countries.
climatic conditions, except the solitary
find of a hominid fossil from Ha thnaura PalaeoUthlc Culture.
in the Narmada Valley, no early human The Palaeolithic Age in India is divided
fossils h ave been found in Indi a. into three phases, based on too l
According to the experts the estimated technology. These p hases are:
cranial capacity of this fossil is equal to
(i) Lower Palaeolithic
' that of homo erectus. However, some
Handaxe and cleaver industries
scholars·feel that it may belong to the
last pha se of homo erectus, or an {til Middle Palaeolithic
'archaic' homo sapien. Tools made on flakes
...... .......................... ............................................................... THE S'IONE AGE CULTURES

(iii) Upper Palaeolithic

Tools made on flakes and blades
for making these stone tools are of
various kinds of stone, like quartzite,
Lowe r Palaeolithic Culture c hert and sometimes even quartz a nd
besalt , etc. These have been found
The main tool types in this phase were covered with sand, silt, etc., as s een
hand axes and cleavers, along with in river sections and terraces. The
choppe r-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 all over India, except the plains of the
Jndus , 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
Adamgarh in Hoshangabad district,
(Madhya Pradesh) , 16 R and Singi
Talav in Nagaur district (Rajasthan) ,
Nevasa in Ahmadnagar district
(Maharashtra), Hunsgi in Gulburga
district (in Karoataka) and the famous
site of Attirampakkam (Tamil Nadu).
The sites have been widespread in
Siva1ik range of Kashmir and Himachal
Pradesh , Punjab, Belan valley in
Uttar Pra d esh , Berach basin and the
hilly area of Rajasthan , and Narmada
and Sone valleys in Madhya Pradesh,
Malpr abha and Ghatprabha basins
in Kar natak a, s everal a reas o f
Maharas htra, areas near Chennai in
Fig. 5.2 Lower Pulaeo/ithic TooLs T amil Nadu and Chbota Nagpur
plateau, and in areas of Orissa, West
ty pes: h abitation sites (either under Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
rock-sh elters or in the open; factory Bes ides the early dates mentioned
sites associated with sources of raw above, o ther dates available from
materials; sites that com bine elemen ts the Potwar plateau, western
of both these functions; and open air Rajasthan, Saurashtra, Madhya
s ite s in any of these categories Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka
su bsequently. The raw materials used Palaeolithic sites indicate that the

- ANCIEm' I NDIA .... .... . .............. . ............................................................................................. .

Lower Palaeolithic culture was quite concave and convex-sided. Bu rins are
w id espread phenom enon between also found to be associated with this
6,00,000 and 60 ,000 B.C. industry but not as widely disbibuted
as in the later periods.
Middle PalaeoUt.bJc Culture
Middle Pa laeoli thi c tools have
The middle Palaeolithic tool technology mostly been fOWld in Central India,
is characterised basically by the nake- Deccan, Rajasthan, Maharasbtra, Tamil
tool industry. The tools are made on Nadu, Karna taka 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 Wlbroken
handaxcs, cleavers and vruious kinds continuity of occupation of the site.
of scrapers, borers, and knives. The Some of the mos t important s ites of
tools show regional variations both in Middle Pala eo lithi c period are
terms of available raw materials as well Bhimbetka, Nevasa, Pushkar, Rohin
as shapes and sizes. There are large hins of upper Sind, and Samnapur on
borers or awls, worked with steep Nannada.
retouch on thick flakes. The scrapers On the basis of scientific dates
a r e of s everal kinds, like straight, the middle Palaeolithic can be dated
between 1,50,000 B.C. and 40,000B.C.
or even s lightly later.
Upper PalaeoUthic Culture
The middle Palaeolithic culture s lowly
evolved into the Upper Pala eolith ic
c ulture. The basic technological
innova tion of the Upper Pala eolithic
period is th e method of produ cing
parallel s ided blades from a carefully
prepared core. One good core of th is
kind, once prepared, can yield m a ny
parallel-sided blades with very little or
no furth er preparation .
The upper Palaeolithic tools have
been found in Rajasthan, parts of the
Ganga and Belan valleys, Central and
Western India , Gujaral, Andhra
Pradesh and Karnataka. The main tool
types are scrapers, points, awls, burins,
borers, knives, etc. II a ppears that the
conce pt o f composite tools start
Fig. 5.3 Middle Palaeol1thic Tools
developing during this cultural period.

....................................... ,.,.,', .................. ,", ....... ,""", .. , .. ,'" 'I'm; 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 were made by a
gr·oup of final upper palaeolithic
hunter-gatherers'. A piece of natural
stone found in the center of the platfonn
has generated great interest. Such
stones are found on the top of the
Kaimur escarpment nearby and show
triangular or ellipsoidal Jaminations
which are yellowish-brown to reddish-
brown in co lour. They are placed
on rubble-made platforms an d
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 Palaeolithi c s pecimen, dated
Fig 5.4 Upper Palaeolithic Tools 9000-8000 BC, and the ones that are
kept in t.he modern village shrines is
The blade tools are comparatively large, significant.
sometimes upto to 8 em. MesoUthic Culture
From the scientific dates available
from the various s iles 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 remark ab le microlithic tools are characterized by
discovery of the Upper PaJaeolithic parallel-sided blades taken out from
period is that of a rubble built, roughly PJ~epared cores of such fine material as
c ircu lar platform of about 85 em in chert, chalcedony, crystal, j asper,
diameter. In the centre of this rubble carnelian. agate, etc. These tools are
platform the excavators of Allahabad generaJly 1 to 5 em. long and the types
a nd Berkeley Universities located a include smaller version of upper
triangular piece of natural stone Palaeolithi c types suc h as points,
(IS em high, 6.5 em wide and about scrappers, burins, awls, etc ., besides
6.5 em thick). According to the some new tool-types like lunates,

t ANe",", INDIA ................................................................................................................. .

t rapezes, 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
microlithic 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 exten sively 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 th is Pradesh.
industry began around 12,000 B.C.
and survived upto 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 fonn of agriculture. The
evi den ce from severa l sites like
Mahadaha and Damdama in the Ganga
plains, shows that seasonally they

rig. 5.5 (a) Mesolithic Thals Hafted in

Wooden Handle FIg. 5 .5 (b) Mesolithic Tools

............... ........ .... ......... .... .... . ............. .... ................ .... .......... T HE STONE AGE CULTURES

From S agar and Adamgarh we get

the evidence of the association of s h eep
In the context of modem India we
know t hat even today for about 2-3
and goat with the Mesolithic people, months in the lean agricultural seasons
a round s ixth millennium B.C. This every year, the landless labourers, tribal
s u ggests that they may h ave partly people and poor people survive, at least
adopted the settled way of We. partly, by foraging for edible roots, leaves,
We mus t 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 ch';lization in the life in India is still far more important to
s ame period. We m u s t recall tha t in us than we are willing to admit. Besides,
India di stin ct, self-contained s ocial some of our modern cults and important
groups, at different levels of cultural cult spots may well have a Mesolithic
and technologi ca l d eve lopme n t background or ancestry.
survived right into this century. They P'rehiatoric Rock Art
include hunting and food -gathering
tribes, pastoral nomads, sh ifting Almost all the rock-shelters in India
c ultivator s, tra dition a l settled occupied by the Upper Palaeolithic and
agriculturi s ts , modern d eve lop ed Mesolithic people , and many oth ers as
agriculturi s t s, and several levels of well, contain rock-paintings depicting
urban indus trial society, all coexistin g a variety of subjects, chiefly animals, or
a nd economically independent as scenes including both p eople and
well a s interde pendent . This provides a nima ls. The distribution of these
u s 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

t ANclE'" IND" ..................................................................................................................

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 fil led in
in the south. Some of the important completely or partially with cross- I

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 haemati te pieces Uttar Pradesh, and Bhimbetka and
found in the occupational debris of Adamgarh in Madhya Pradesh.
Upper Pa laeolithic 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.


I. Explain the following:

Fossils. Homo erectus, Homo SQpten, Palaeolithic, Mesolithic. Rock Art.
2. Write short notes on:
Ii) Earth and life on it
(ii) Early Humans
• (iii) Palaeolithic tools
3. Describe the Pweolithic 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 prerustoric rock art.

• Visit a musem and see the impleme nts used by the early man, collect the
photographs of various types of tools and make a collage 0:" sketches.
• Draw a. map of India. and plot on it some important Palaeolithic sites.

,to ., •
• T~... II."
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" ru, !iO<IFn n""~"" ..,
r .,'" fI ~
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f·" '11<,'''''"",,,,-'0
, I~' .... ... '''II
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'1" Ie tn'
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the most .(\mdam,ental advance that has
• aff<lpted the course of humari life was the
"" qptne.sti~aLiol\l ofalarg,e q\!mner qf anW~hL a:nd
'pUiJt't,s, .

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1+, .... ' .......... " ' ...

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f ......
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""''HI' ~I .. fl ....... "" 11' "
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t N< COENr I NDIA •••• •••. ••• ... •.... . •...• . ••.• ..•. .• .. •••••••••••••• ••• •..•• •.... •.........• ••••••••• •• .•.......•.• .•••. ..... . . ...

AT the end of the Pleistoce ne Age , species of wild plants produced a shift
approximately 10,000 years ago, towards sedentary settlements, and
climatic 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 rnwan context, the Neolithic-
provided the setting for a number of agriculture based regions can roughly
important advances in human contro l 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; (il) Ganga valley (ill) western
the appearance of the first urban India and the northern Deccan and
societies in both regions, some s ix (iv) the southern Deccan,
thousand years ago. Perhaps the most Tbe economy of al1 these early
fundamental advance that has affected Neolithic cultures was based on
the course of human life was the agriculture and animal dornes!ication.
domestication of a large number of The earlies t evidence for Neolithic
animals and plants. The present culture b ased 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 Lora lai and Zoh rivers. The
7000 B.C., as the evidence from archaeological s ites of Kite 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 b e ing
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 Le. 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 pastoralists who appear to and passage ways made up the
have continued to the modem 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 s torage.

... ..... . . ........................................ THE N EOUTHIC AGE: THE B EGINNING OF SErIl.ED LIFE *
Sarai KhQIa _
-J c: ._~Srinagar
• GU~'

• .
Kile Gol.Mohammad


1. '-
.."... A'" . -- ,

- B A Y


Fig. 6.1 Important Neolithic Sites

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

The subs istence 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 (e. 7000 B.C.) at Mehrgarh
include wheat and barley. Bones of during the early food-producing era
domesticated animals 1'nclude s hee p. 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
mill ennium B.C. , pottery. first these commun ities developed new

Fig. 6.2 (a) Neolithic Bone Tools Fig. 6,.2 (b) Neolithic Stone 7bols

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

into use. From the bone rem ains, it is figurines of terracotta , elaborate
clear tha t humped variety of cattle also ornaments of stone and metal, tools and
came to be domesticated. The bea ds utensils, and architectural style.
found with burial remains show that To the east of the Indus valley, in
people used beads made of lapis lazuli, Ganga valley, Assam and the
carnelian , banded aga1e and w hite north-east region, a large number of
marine shell. A s ingl e co pper bead has Neolithic sites have been found. Some

...................................................... ThE NOOUTIIlC AGE: THE BEGINNING OF" SETI1.ED LIFE .

of the most important sites are Gufkral

and Burzahom in Kashmir, Mahgara,
Chopanj Mando and Koldihwa in Belan
', I)
valley in Uttar Pradesh, and Chirand
in Bihar. '''-..-1.7
Three radiocarbon dates from
Koldihwa provide the earliest evidence
for the domesticated variety of rice going

? will
back lo about c. 6500 B.C. which make
it the oldest evidence of rice in any part
of the world. Thus, in all probability
agriculture in the Belan valley began
around c. 6500 B.C. Besides rice,
evidence for barley cultivation is
attested at Mahgara.
The bone remains from Koldihwa \~fT 1 7~ \
and Mahgara show that cattle, sheep

W=~~]'-/~' ~~~
and goat were domesticated in the
region. In Mahgara, evidence of a cattle
pen has also 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 cu lture. Some of the
is relatively late . From Assam and most important sites in southern India
further north-east regions small are Kodekal . Utnur, Nagarjunikonda
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, HaJiuT and Brahmagiri in
litlle cultural material has been found Karnataka and Paiyampalli in Tamil
to throw light on the life of the makers Nadu. Th e southern Neolithic Age is
of these axes and there is littJe or no dated between 2600 and 800 B.C. It
dating evidence. The excavations at has three phases. Phase 1 is totally
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 s outh 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 I NDIA .............................. . . .. .... . ... . .................................................. .

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 h ouses, wheat and barley were
millet and ragL 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 on .
The evidence discussed above leads Almost about the same time, similar
us to draw certain broad conclusions. developments took place in the Selan
The eartiest Neolithic settle ments in va lley 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 ph enomenon and covered a large part
Mehrgarh the Neolithic culture began of the Indian subcontinent.

I. Explain the following:
Domestication of plants and animals, Food gathering.
2. Wha! i.s Neolithic culture and which are the earliest sites belonging to this
3. Describe the economy of the Neolithic period. How is it differen t from Palaeolithic
and Mesolithic economies?
4. Discuss some important sites of Neolithic cu ltUJ·e and important ftndings
associated with them.
5. Describe the lifestyle and religious beliefs of the Neolithic people.

• Make sketches of Neolithic tools and describe them.

• Make sketches of Palaeolithic tooi"l.
• Visit a museum and note the difference between Neolithic, PalaeotitiJic
and Mesolithic tools.

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" ri; c~ntraJ India, atfd ' De(Xlah a , 'Ii~i'j ,§iIr~f~tiH;ip.4i·'0f

, "~'II"I
c'Ui!Ufe~fyeropetl whi,ch, thougfius!rg~fij~ful;"l'Ie\(er
t"~1 ~l~eatnletr ,'tl1e',: lervel,,',b f ' tI.tbahisa..tioh ~~1'~~l.'t':,,~:,'! ". . .~~~~~.~ "AI
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'* ANe'"", IND" ..................................................................................................................

THE end of the Neolithic period saw culture and other were decid edly later
very different kind of developments than Harappan. These cultures s hared
in different areas. Wh ile in the certain common features. They are
Indu s and Saraswati valleys there all characterised by painted ceramic,
emerged, though s lowly, a full-fledged usually black -an-red, a specialised
c ivili zation, in central In di a and blade and flake industry of the silicious
Deccan a very different kind of culture
matcriallike chalcedony and chert, and
developed which, though u s ing metal,
never reached the level of urbanisation. copper and bronze tools, though on a
This was known as Cha!co lithic restricted scale. Their economy was
culture. Some of these cultures were based on s ub s is t en ce agriculture ,
contemporary with the Harappan stock-raising and hunting and fishing.

;;~.. ,
I' .....

.' .'


Fig. 7.1 Important ChalcoUthic and Copper Hoard Sites

...................................................... . ..................... . .. . THE CHALCOUTHIC CUL.lURES OF INDIA

Some important Chalcolithic cultures

Ahar culture 0.2800-1500 B.C
Kayatha culture 0. 2450-1700 B.C.
Malwa culture c. 1900-1400 B.C.
Savalda culture c. 2300-2000 B.C.
Jonve cui ture 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 ChaJcolithic cultures is their
d istinct painted pottery. The Kayatha
culture is charact.erized by a sturdy
red-slipped ware painted with designs
in chocolate colour, a red painted buff
ware and a combed 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, Madhya 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

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

relatively small in size and the biggest .! ;,.o.~

may be not over two hectares. In
contrast 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
hou ses and other structures.
Excavations reveal that Balat hel was a
well fortified settlemen t. The people o f
Malwa culture settled mostly on the
Nannada and Its tributaries. Navdatou,
Eran and Nagada are the three bes t
known settlements of Malwa c ulture . Fig. 7.3 Reconstruction of all Excavated
Navdatoli measures almost 10 hectares Chaloolit.hic Village-Ahar; Rajasthart
and is one of the largest Cha1colithk were made of rammed clay and huts
settJements in the country. ft has been were used fur sto rage also. People
seen that som e of these sites were raised cattle as well as cult iva ted both
fortified and Nagada had even a bastion kharif and mbicrops in rotation. Wheat
of mud-bricks. Eran similarly had a and barley were grown in the area of
fortification W 111 with a moat. Malwa. Rice is reported to have been
Unfortunately not more than half a found from Inamgaon and Ahar. These
dozen settlements of Prabhas culture people also cultivated jowar and bajra
are known . The Rangpur culture sites and so also kuUh, mg~ green peas, lentil
are located mo s tly on Gh e lo and and green and black grams.
Kalubhar rivers in GUjarat. The JOl'Vle Almost a ll t h ese Chalcolithic
settlements nre comparatively larger in cultures flourished in the black cotton
number. More than 200 settlements are soil zone. T his 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
c ul ture . The largest of t h ese 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 Chalco lithic 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 Chalco lithic communities traded and

.....•.••. ••.•.•.•••••••••.•• •••••••••••••.•••••• •.•••.•.• ....•••.•.••• •••• •• THE CHALCOLrrHlC CUL1URES OF I NOlA

exchanged materials with oth e r

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 a ppears that
Ahar people, settled close to the copper
source , supplied copper tools and
obj ects to other contemporary
communities in Malwa and Gujarat.
It has been s u ggested that most of (b)
the copper axes found in Malwa,
Jorwe and Prabhas cultures bear
some identification marks, which are
almost identica l, suggesting that
they m ay be the trademarks of the
smiths who m ad e th em. Conch s hell
for ba n gles were traded from th e
Saurashtra coast to various othcr parts
of th e Chalcolithic region s. Similarly,
gold and ivory may have come from
Tekkalkotta (K arnat aka) to Jorwe
people wh o in tum traded these to their
contemporaries . The semiprecious
ston es may have been t r a ded to
various parts from Rajpipla (Gujarat). Fig. 7.4 Objects of Religious Beliefs
(a) Stylised BuU Figurines from KayatJuz,
It is interesting to n ote that th e Jorwe (b) Terraootta Objects from lruungaon
people t raded even the pottery to
distant places, as ln amgaon pottery
has been foun d at several sites located R4!UgioU8 BeUer.
away from it. This reminds us of Reli g ion wa s an as p ec t whic h
Northern Black Polished Ware being interlinked all the Chalcolithic cultures.
exported with the trade from the plain The wors hip of mother goddess and the
Gangetic to far off regions, in the early bull was in vogue. The bull cult seems
histori cal p eriod. Wheeled bullock to have b een predominant in Malwa
carts, drawings of wh ich h ave been during the Ahar period . A large number
fou nd on pots, were used for long- of these both n aturalistic as well as
distance trade, besides the river s~ylised lingas h ave been found from
transport. most of the sites. The n aturalistic ones

t M etE'" INo" ................................ ....................................................................... .... ..

may have served as votive offerings, but The Chalcolithic cultures flourished
the small stylised ones may h ave been du rin g the th ird millennium a nd
hung around the neck as the Lingayats second millennium B.C . A large
do today. number of settlements like Kaya tha,
The Mother Goddess is depicted on Prabhas. Ahar, Balathal, Prakash and
a huge s torage jar of Malwa culture in Nevasa were deserted , to be reoccupied
an applique d esign . Sh e is flanked by after four to six centuries later. [t 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 h ard for the agricul tura l
fiddle-shaped figurines prob ~ bly communities to sus rain .
resem bling sriuatsa, the symbol o f
Laks hmi, the Goddess of wealth in Technology
historical period represent a mother Th e ChalcoUthic farmers had made
Goddess. considerable progress in ceramic as
In a painted design on a pot, a deity weU as metal technology. The painted
is shown with dishevelled hair, recalling pottery was well made and well fired in
the Rudra o f later 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 s urrounded by animals and birds we find axes, chisels, bangles, beads,
s u ch as tigers and peacocks. Some h ooks, etc. which were m ostly made
scholars compar e it with the 'Siva of copper. The copper was obtained,
Pashupali' d epicted on a seal from
perh aps, from the Khetri m ines of
Rajasthan , Gold ornaments were
Two figurines from inamgaon,
belonging to late Jonve culture, have extremely rare and h ave been found
been identified as proto ~Ganes h , who on ly in th e Jonve c ulture. An ear
is worshipped fo r s u ccess before ornament h as been found fr o m
embarking on an undertaking. Several Prabhas also. The find of crucibles and
headless figurine s found at Inamgaon pairs of tongs of copper at lnarngaon
h ave been co mpa red with Goddess shows t h e wo rkin g of gold s mith s.
Visira o f the Mahabharata. Fire- Chalcedony drills were u sed for
worship seem s to have been a very p e rforatin g b eads of semiprecious
widespread phenomenon among the stones. Lime was prepared out of
Ch alcolithic people. Fire-altars have Kankar and used for various purposes
bee n found from a large number of like painting h ouses and lining the
Chalcolithic s ites during the course of s torage bins. etc.
excavations. Copper' Hoard Culture
The occurence of pots and other
funer ary objects found along with the Since the frrst reported discovery of a
burials of the Malwa and Jorwe people copper harpoon from Bithur in Kanpur
indicate tha t people had a belief in life district in 1822, nearly one thousand
after death. copper objects have been found from

............... . .. . ....... . ............................... . ................. . . . THE CHALCOLrrHIC CULTURES 0' I NOlA

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

of Ind ia. As these copper objects Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and
have m ostly been found in hoards, Maharashtra. Scientific analysis of
th ey 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 confmed The Copper Hoards include
to Uttar Pradesh while various kinds of weapons and tools as well a s 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 ldnds of celts
and a'l(es may have been used as tools.

Bar celts appear to have been used for
mining ores. The anthropomorphs,
weighing quite a few kilos and
.. • measuring upto 45 cm. in length and
, •
43 cm. in width, were possibly objects

, of worship. Even today all over northern
India tiny anthropomorphs of the
size of 4-10 cm. are worshipped as
Shani deuata.
It is difficult to say as to who were
the authors of these Copper Hoards.
I '" In the Gangetic plains a few pieces of
I1 ~W«& these copper hoards have been found
a.ssociated with Ochre Coloured
Pottery (OCP), discussed below.
C)CP Culture
Almost contemporary to the later half
of the Mature Harappan civilization,
Fig. 7.5 Copper Hoard Objects
1. Anthropomarph, 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

ft ANCIENT INO'" ............................................................................ .

"'\ I (
1W ffi \;

~ E-
1 [t' ([)
\ )
Q] Fig. 7.6 Ochre Coloured Pottery

and painted in black. This pottery has the OCP i1as 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 DCP
in the region it has been found that the people, in daah. But their cultural
sites yielding this pottery have suffered association in Bih a r , Bengal and
from extensive floods. Many scholars Orissa is not clear. As m entioned in
think that the entire upper Gangetic previous section on Chalcolithic
plains was for some length of time cultures, some of th e copper h oard
sub merged under water. The OCP types, mainly celts, h ave been found
people used copper tools and cultivated. associated with Ch alcolithic 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, Nas irpur (Hard war)
Copper Hoard objects were found in Rajpur - Parsu (M eerut) Bisauli
association with DCP deposit at Saipai, (Badaun) a nd Baheria (Shahjahanpur)
in District Etah. Also, from almost all from where copper hoards were found
the places in Ganga-Yamuna doab from earlier also yielded OCP sherds in
where Copper Hoards have been foun d , subsequent explorations.

............................................................................... 1)~E CHALCOLITHIC CUL1tJRES OF I NDIA
1. Explain the following:
Chalcolithic, OCP, Anthropomorphs, Copper Hoards.
2. Write short notes on:
(i) Chalcolithic technology
(ii) lmportant 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.





AT the time of partitior, "f India in 1947, barely 40

settlements belonging to this civilization were
known. Rt'~earches carried out during the last 50
years h2vE' altered the plCture completely.
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 RD. 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


• ,
• •


N o A

o 200 I\OOKM
. .1.1_--'-'

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

t ANCIENT INOlA ••.•.•.....•...•.•.••••.•.•.••••.••••.••.••.•.••.••.••....•.•.•..•..•.••..•.•.•••••.•.•••.••.•••••••••••••.•••••

is also known as the Harappan and its tributaries and (ii) as many as
civilization. At the time of partition of1,100 (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 settle ments
picture completely. Now about 1400 are found in India beyond the Saraswati
settlements belonging to the different river system a number or them in
phases of this culture are known from Gujarat, and a rew in Maharashtra.
parts of India. I n terms of political It is clear rrom the above
boundaries of today, of these 1400 sites distribution pattern or settlem ents that
nearly 925 settlements are in India and the focus of Harappan civilization was
475 in Pak istan. This ancient not the Indus but t he 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
arits present day political boundaries. because or this reason that some
The geographical distribution should scholars cal l it Indus-Saraswati
be its basis. c ivilization. and few prerer tbe
The 1400 settlements, discovered so nomenclature Saraswati civilization.
far are distributed over a velY wide Most of the 1400 settlements
geographical area. Its known e.x"tenl in belonging to this c ivilization can be
the west is upto Sutkagendor in classified as small villages (which woe
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, orthe settlements like Mohenjodaro (+ 250
Maharashtra) in south; and Manda hectares), Harappa (+ 150 hectares).
(Akhnoor District. Jammu and Ganawariwa la (+80 hectares) and
Kashmir) in the north, covering an Rakhigarhi (+80 hectares), Kalibangan
area or almost 1600 km. east-west (+100 hectares). and Oholavira (+100
and 1400 km. north-south. The total hectares) can easily be c las sed as
geograp hi ca l a rea over which this large cities. The first five are inland
civilization flourished is more than 20 centres located approximately at an
times ort.he area of Egyptian aJld more equidistance in a zigzag pattern that
than 12 times or the area or Egyptian covers Indus and Saraswati river plain.
and Mesopotamian civilizations The last two are Iocat.ed in Rann of
combined. It covers an area or about Kachchha.
12,50,000 sq. Ipn. These settlements Each of th ese cities were
are mostly located on river banks. surrounded by vast agricultural lands,
When we look at Ule wstribution rivers and forest that were inhabited by
pattern of these settlements in terms or scattered rarming and pastoral
rivers, we find that (i) only 40 communities and bands or 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, Lathal , 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. ofWs 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 lndus- communities, with the cra ft s
Saraswati cities is djstinguished 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 ftrst large cities but 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 Kat Diji, Kalibangan, different direction. Mohenjodaro,
Harappa, Rahman Dhen, Nausharo etc. Harappa and Kalibangan have a high
The basic layout at all these settlements rectangular mound on the west and


Fllg. B.2 Outlay Pian o/a Harappan City

ra) Mohenjodaro (b) Kaiibangan

ANClENT INOLA ........... ......... .... .... . ..................... . ......... .

extensive mound to the north, south SIZe viz. lOx20x40 em. 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 limes, the thickness.
divided into three or four walled sectors. The doors windows were made of
The excavations at tJ1e Harappan wood and mats. The floors of houses
city sites like Mohenjodaro. Harappa, were generally hard-pac ked 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 frred 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
Type. of BuUdinCI
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
s ignboard would have been visible from at both large and small settlements.
a long distance. Most of the architecture can be grouped
into three categories, with some
MateriA11I uaed in BUJ1d.iUII'5 variations: (i) private houses, {iiI 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
construcLion. 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 s ide
and in Saurashtra, where stone is lanes. The view into the house was
common ly 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 LI:. x 15x30 em. the activities in the central courtyard
but for the construction of fortification from the view of passers-by. This
walls the size of the brick was of bigger pattern is still maintained in

" ....... ,... .

. ... . .•. ... . ... Till': HARAPPAN CIVlUZATION /-

t"adl tlo n OoJ houses th rnughout the show that ropes were used to lift the
Tndr· ·Oang('tlc plains. \· . . ater up. probably with leather or
Mnny houses wen.: n l least two wooden buckets.
:;;tm Ird and dome scholu."':;; tlnnk lhat
l~bUc Building.
som!' of the houses may have been
ti1rf'C s toried ~ f'(I.nh~ were commonly In several cities some large and distinct
fou ud in the fOC'ms \Imost every house structures have been found . Their
hud a h."li hnmm, and ill som e cases narurtO is seen in their plan
there 1:- CVldf" :ce o f bathrooms on the
first floor. 1b e doors were- made with
wooden frames and a brick socket set
in the threshold served as door Pl\·ot.
Some of I he doors seem to have been
paint ed and possibly c arved wilh
simple o rnamentation The windows
were small a.t first and "econd srorie-s.
The adjacent houses were sepa rated by
a n arrow s pace Qf -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 of Mohenjodaro
and in thetr construction. Here we s h all
confine ourselves only to a few
Perhaps the most rem arkabl e
feature of the cita del mound at
Mohenjodaro is the Great Bath. This
finely built brick structure measures
12 m by 7m, and is nearly 3m deep
fmm the su rrounding 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
umer and outer brick Ilyers. Water was
evidently suppHed by 31 larg~ well in an
adjacent room , and an outlt!t from one
comer of the bath Jed to a high corbelled
Fig. 8.3 Anel View oJ Excavated Ciradel Area drain disgorging (In the west s ide of the
of Mohenjodaro mound. Surroupding the bath were

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

porticos and sets of rooms, while a centre o f one of these circular brick
s tairway led to an upper storey. It has plat form s. 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 m easuring 223 m. in length ,
Immediately to the west of the 35 rn . in width and 8 m . in depth,
Greal Bath at Mohenjodaro is a group provided with an inlet channel (12.30
of 27 blocks of bri ckwork 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. Somewh at similar m. long and 21. 6 m wide wharf. Most
structures have been found a t
scholars have identified this structure
Harappa, Kaliban gan a nd Lothal.
These structures have been identified as a dockyard where ships and boats
as gr anaries which were used for came for loading and unloading of
s toring 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,
platform s. Durin g the course of scholars think that Lothal was a m ajor
excavation, impression of a large trad in g centre o f the Harappan
wooden mortar was foun d placed in the civilization .

Fig. 8. 5 Dockyard at Lothal

...... ....................................................... ................ .............. .. 'J)" HAIW'PAN C>VIUZAT>ON ;

Streets and Drains m ostly unalloyed copper was used for

Well laid-out streets and side lanes m anufactu rin g artefacts, and only
equipped with drains are the most rarely tin was alloyed in copper to make
outstanding features of the I-Jarappan bronze. Tools and weapons were simple
civilization. in foml. They included nat-axes, chisels,
The towns were weU planned and arrowhead, s pearheads, knives, saws,
the s treets cut each other on the right razors , and fi s h -hooks. People also
angles. Even the width of these streets made copper and b ronze vessels. They
were in aset ratio. lfthe narrowest lane made small pla tes and weights ofiead,
was one unit in width, the other streets and gold and silve r jewelle ry 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 du ring the knives of ch ert blades a lso. Some of
h ey-d ay of the civilization, no these chert blades are the finest
encroachment on the streets was to be examples known from any early cu1rure.
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 sto n e
nineteenth century London and Paris. beads and weights. Long barrel shaped
Even smaller towns and villages had cornelian beads (upto 10 cm. long) are
im pressive drainage syst ems. This tine fmest 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 con nected with use in making faience (a form of glass)
bathing platforms and latrines of is pru·ticularly noteworthy. In t his
private houses joined the medium-
material bead s, amulets , seal ings and
s ized drains in the side streets. These
even animal models have been found.
drains ran into larger sewers in the
main streets which were covered with In the Harappan civilization, gold
bricks or dressed stone blocks . objects occur in the form of beads,
Corbelled-arch drains have also been pendants, amulets, brooches, ann
found. One of them is almost 6 ft. deep
which functioned as main drain taking
al l the waste water out of the town. At
regular intervals along the main sewage
drains were rectangular sump pits for
co ll ecting 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

7 'l
t AHaENT I NDIA ....... ..... ...................................................................................................... .

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

gold is of light colour incticating high of commun icatio n and strong
s ilver content. On the basis of alloys, economy. tn this, inten sive agricultural
it has been suggested that gold may production a n d large-scale trade
have come from Kamataka. Silver was played significant roles . In the
relatively more common tban 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 anotller, and later external trade also
objects. developed. Agricultural produce.
Mature Harappan poltery 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 semi-
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 a lso 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 ofRajasilian , chert blades
designs, plants, animals. and a few from Rohri hills of Sindh , c arnelian
paintings seem t.o depict scenes [rom beads from Gujarat and Sindh, lead
stoties. from sou th India. lapis-lazu li from
More than 2500 seals have been Kashmir and Afghanistan, turquoise
found. 'l1lese are made of steabtc. They and jade from central Asia o r Iran,
mostly d e pict a single animal- unicorn amethyst from Maharashtra , and agale,
bull, elephant, rhinoceros etc .- but chalcedony. and carnelian from
s ome also depict trees, semi -human Saurashtra.
and human figurines , in some cases The occurrence of ma t ure
participating in a ceremony. Harappan seals and other artefacts
Shell working was a nother in co ntemporary Mesopotamian
nourishing industry . Artisans, civilization . and some of the
settlements c lose to the sea Mesopotainian aJld Egyptian objects in
manufactured s h ell ornaments like Harappan civilization, and the
pendants, rings. bracelets, inlays, evidence of Mesopotamian documents,
beads etc., beside objects as bowls, establish that the Harappans h ad
ladles and gamesmen. trading relationship with that land.
Trade And Commerce Weights and MeuW'Q.
In the Harappan civilization , th e The trade, both long as weU as short
e laborate soc ial structure and the distance , implies a regulation of
sta ndard of living must have been exchange and of weights and measures.

......... ...... ...• . ......... .............•..................••..••.... .• ••..••..•..••.• THE H AR.mAN C,V,LIZATION

Harappan weights and measures were pottery resemble the ones used today
c ubical 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 wejghts proceed in a series, first s hips and boats. For the overland
doubling, from 1,2,4,8 , to 64 , then transport bullock -ca rts and p ac k
go ing ' to 160; and from then on in animals like bull, camel, ass etc. were
decimal multiples of sixteen, 320, 640, used. The"terracotta models of bullock-
]600, 6400 (1600 x 4), 8000 (1600 x 5) cart and cart tracks found on roads
and ]28 , 000 (i .e. 16000 x 8). Irom various sites indicate that carts
InterestingLy, the tradition of 16 or its Llsed in those days were in s ize and
multiples continued in India till 1950s. s,hape practicaJly like the present d ay
Sixteen chhatank made a ser; and ] 6 ones.
annas made one rupee. The m easures
of length was based upon a foot of Il&Jiculture
37.6cm. and a cubitof5L8 to 53. 6em. The granaries at some Harappan cities
clearly sugges t that ce reals were
Transport and Travel produced in such large quantities that
Representation s of ships and boats not only were aU the immediate needs
a re found on some seals a nd as
graffiti an pottery [rom H arappa and
Mohenjodaro. A tcrr8cotta model of a

fa) Bullock cart

Fig. 8.B l'he Plough Field Excavaled at

ofl 'ople duly met wi th, but there was
on seaL..
(b) Boat depICted
also enough reserve to fa ce any future
Fig, 8.7 Modes o!1'ransport
e mergency.
ship or a boat , with s tick-im pressed The principal cereals seem to have
socket for the mast and eyeholes for been wheat and barley. Rice, though
fIxing oars h as been foun d from Lothal . known , was a favoured grain. S ix
The boats depicte d on sea ls and varieties o f millets including ragi,

ANCIENT I NDIA .... ............................ .. . .......................................................................... ...... .

kodon, sanwa, a...nd jowar were were all domesticated. A large number
cultivated, as also peas and beans. of animal h ave been de picted on the
Remains of rice have been found seals. Th ese incl ude sheep, goat,
mainly from Gujarat an d Haryana humped bull, buffalo, elephant, etc.
·areas. Other c rops include dates, Bones of wild animals like spotted deer.
varieties of legum es, sesame and sambhar deer, hog deer, wild pig, etc.
mustard. Fragments of cotton cloth are also fOWld which evidenUy were
found at Mohenjodaro and other sites hunted for food. Several types of birds
s how that cotton was also grown . as we.U as fish es 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 o ther 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 d e piction 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 0 : ' wooden ploughshare from Harappa. Bronzes are rare, the
was used. l'erracotta models of most famous being a smal l fem a le
the plough J ave been found at statue of about 11.5 cm. in height
Mohenjodaro ~lJ j Banawali. Harvesting identifie d as dancin g 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 wa.x m ethod of
hafted in wood. casting. Daimabad bronze animals
The range of animals domesticated workmanship most probably belong to
by the Harapp3..Il people is quite large. Harappan period. The red sandstone
Bones of several animals have been torso found at Harappa is made of
fou nd in excavations. Skeletal remains detachable limbs and head and the grey
inclu de sheep , goat , bull , buffalo , stone torso perhaps s hows a dancing
"I~phant , 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 num ber of seals depict
Harappan period . unicorn. But the m ost a rti stic
Harappan people produced a large depictions are the figures of humped
number of terracotta figurines which bull. Othe r animals are elephants,
were handmade. The figurines include tigers, r h inoceros, ram, etc. Humans
humans, animals, birds, monkeys, me also occasionally d epicted.

Fig . 8.9 Specimen of Artfrom

Harappan Civilization
(a) BroTlze statue· 'Dancing Girl'
(b) Termcotta Bulls (e) Terracotta
Female Figurine (d) Head of a Yogi
(e) Painted Ja r

t. ANe,"NT INDIA ..•.• ..••• ..•.... . •.•••..• ....•.. ..•• ••. .•. .•••

As for the evidence of paintings We'" A few bear only one smgle hign The
.•....•.••.. .. ..•• . .•..• •

have it only on pottery. Unfortunately Harapp311 script has 400 to 500 signs
no wall paintings, even if there were and its is getlcra Uy agreed that it is 110t
any, have SUrvlVed. an alphabetic f01m of writing. Some
sc holars opine th<:tl Harappan
Script inscriptions present.,.. logosyllablic
The lan guage of Harappans is at writing system. where a sequcm"f' . oft.~o
present still unknown and must remain or more signs would repre~ent either a
so until the Harappan script is read. complet e word, a syllable or a sou nd
Though several attempts have been and sometimes even n sentenc'c of
mad e but none has been convincing several words and grammaUcal
and acceptable to all. Some scholars indicators. The script was written from
connect it to Dravidian languages and right to left. When the inscription WRS
others to Indo-Aryan and Sanskrit. of more than one line it couJd be- fir:it
There are nearly 400 specimens of line from right to left and s.e1.:'Ond from
Harappan signs on seals and other left to right.
materials such as copper tablets, axes, "-eUgion
and pottery. Most of the inscriptions
on seals are small, a group of few letters. There are generally two aspect~ of
religion: o ne conceptual or philoso-
phical , and the other, practical or
ntuRlistic . The fonncr is enshrined in
metaphysical texts while the laller IS
reflected in the materiall"emains Sin<..'C
we have not been a ble to decipher the
s cript it is difficult to talk about th\'
metaphysical aspect, but du e to
abundance of material re mains we
have some idea about the other aspect
of the Ilarappan religion.
From the available evidence we may
say that the religion of tile Indus people
compnsed: (I) the wo rship of th e
Mother Goddess Iii} the worship of a
male deity, probably of Siva: (iiil worship
of animals . natural, semi -human or
fabulous : (iv) worship of trees in thei r
natural s tate or of their indwelling
:g. 8.10 fa) Seal popularily known as Siua spirils; (v) worship of in ani male stones
Pasupati (bJ and Ie) Other seals witll or otht'r objects, of linga and yorti
HaroppunScript symbo l';;, (vi) chremlltheism as

..••••••. ..• .• ...... •.••.•.....•••.........•••••......•.•....•. •.• .. ....••.•... . .......... TH E HARAPPAN CIVILIZATION -

Fig. 8.11 (a) Kamandalu

(b) Siua-Imga (c) Sacrificial Altar (d)
SePt>,. Human Figurines Performing
some Ricua/

illustrated in the worship of the sacred animals on each side - elephant and
"incense-burners"; jv ii) faith in tiger on right and r hmoceros and buffalo
amulets and charms indicative of on left. and two deer standing under
demoTlophobia: and (viii) practi ce of the throne. The depiction shows Siva
yoga.. These characteristics suggest thal a::; Pasupati. There is also the last
this religion was mainly of an characteristic ofthe 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
o f terracotta have been discovered. The the same posture of a Yoga, with a Naga
accep ted view is that these are kneeling in prayer to him with uplifted
representations of the Great Mother hands on eIther side of him.
Godde ss . A striking oblong seating Some linga and yon.i like objects
found at Harappa represents the Earth have been found. Some scholars opined
or Mother Goddess , with a plant that these were not lingQ and YOllis but
growing from her womb. Also depicted gamesmen. However, the find of a
are a man with a knife in hand , and a terracotta pi ece from Kalibangan
woman with raised hands. having lingaand y oni 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 lingo and yoni mea nt
with three faces, seated on a low throne for worship. Whether they ,ere
in the typical postureofa Yogi, with two worshipped independently o r

- 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,
Ther e is also evidence of tree- faience, and stone figurines. Firstly.
worship in two forms. In one, the tree there are mythical and composite
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-
A remarkable seal found at human semi-bovine creatures. The
Mohenjodaro represents a deity, most common depiction an seal is
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 , {iiI the gaur
indicated by a line of seven human or Indian bison, (ill) the Indian humped
figures and by the figure of a half- bull or zebu, (iv) the rhinoceros, (v) a
kneeling suppliant with lon g hai.r, short-horned humpless buB (vi) th e
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 Yakshis as Dryads. buffalo of Yama, the elephant of lndra.
A large number of 'fire-altars'
have been found from sites in
Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana. At
Kalibangan, Lothal, and Banawali a
number of <fire-altars' have been
found which seem to have been used
as sacrificial altars. Besides tl1ese the
Swastika, a sacred symbol with Hindus,
Buddhists and Jaina has been depicted
• , • 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
fe) SUXJstika been divided into three sections, viz. an

............ . . . ............... ... , . ......................... .... ..... ..... .. . .... ,.......... THE H ARAPPAN C,V,L,ZAT<ON

elite c lass associated with the Citadel ,

a well-ta-do middle class, and a
proved by many cinerary urns or other
receptacles containing calcined human
relatively weaker section, occupying bones and ashes together with vessel
the lower town which were generally offerings for the llse 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 skele tons were pJaced in an
based purely on economic factors or extended position with the head
had a socia-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 perionned rituals on tire body was buried with ornaments.
altars in t1le lower part of it. Cl'11onoJogy
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
adm in jstered from one capital, with a KilSh in Mesopotamia. On that basis
few regional adminis trative centres o r Marshall suggested th at Harappan
provincial capitals. However, it is also civWzation flourished between
possible that there were several
3250 and 2750 B.C. Wheeler dated
independent states or kingdoms each
with c ities like Mohenjodaro in Sindh, it to 2500 - 1500 B.C. Since then radio-
Harappa in Punjab. KaUbangan 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 carbo n dating of this c iv ili zation
the first millennium B.C. though following chronology emerges:
tbe archaeological culture all over
Early Harappan Phase : c. 3500 - 2600 B.C.
northern India was almost the same,
Mature Harappa,n 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 Ilarappan
period, 700 YCaIS is an extremely long
Diapoaal 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 e ven 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
settl emen ts and the population that contemporary Egypt and Meso-
may have lived on them. Obviously, potamia many 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 s tru c tures, civi c
John Marshait and many other amenities, etc. also declined ove r a
'3cholars. on the basis of evidence period of time.
available from the sites along the Indus However, it must be emphasised
river, relt that this civilization declined that Harappan civilizat ion did not
due to environmental degradation. The disa ppear suddenly. Archaeological
cutting of forests for agricultural land evidence shows that the decline was
and timber for fuel and over- gra dual and slow which is witnessed
exploitation of resources , etc. res ulted 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 Lhis, flood,
drought and famine must have become Late Harappan Cultures
a recurring feature which fmally led to Once the decline of the Harappan
it s decline. Wheeler who dated the civilization set in what we see is the
Harappan civilizal ion between 2500 gradual disappearance of haUmarks of
and 1500 B.C. opined that it was urban phase of this civ ilization .
destroyed by the 'barabarian' Aryans Features such as town-planning, grid-
who came to India in a bout 1500 RC. patterns, drainage system , s tandard
Later researches proved that Wheeler's weights and measures etc. slowly
thesis of Aryan being destroyers of the disappear a nd a kind of nualisation
Harappan civilization was 1;1 myth. In takes place with distin ctive regional
fact, there is no fJ.rchaeo logi ca l 01' vari a ti ons. Three reg io ns can be
biological evidence for invaslOn or mass broadly d etected - (i) north Indian late
rnigration from west or central As ia to Harappan cu lture which mcludes the
the Indus or Saraswati valleys between areas of Punjab, Harayana, western
soon and 800 B .C. All skeletons found Uttar Prades h , Raja st han, and
during this period be long to the same Pakistan part of Punja b ; (ii) Gujarat
group of people. and Maharashtra and (iii) Baluchistan.
Th e Harap p an civilization was These cultures interacted with the then
spread over a large area, and the causes e:<isting Chalcotithk cultures of different
of its decline in all the region s can not regions.
be one and the same. Whil e in the In all these three areas certain
Saraswati region it declined m ainly due residual features like some shapes of
to shifting of river channels, along the pottery , bronze tools, beads and other
Indus it declin e d largely due to smaller objects provide their link with
recuning floods. The rainfall declined Harappan civilization. Though th e


Hara ppan civilization disappeared by be seen as a part or our daily cultural

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

I. Discuss the extent and settlements of the Harappan civilization. Why is it
cal led the Harappan civili7.ation?
2. Describe the characleristic features of town planning of th e Harappan
3. Describe the developments in the field of c rafts and industries during the
Harappan period.
4. Write a note on the contact of Harappans with contemponlly civilizations.
5. Discuss the economy of the Hilrappans.
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 Harappun religion which are still continuing.
8. What were the causes for the decline of the Harappan civilization?
9. Write ShOii notes on:
(i) Chronology of the Harappan civilization
{iiI Late Harappan culture
(iii) Harappan weights and measures
(iv) Harappan script

• On an Outline Map show the extent of the liarappan dvilization with

some important sites.
• Collect photographs of seals and make ~ chart of signs and figures of these

8 I

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'Utul '"
1~ /I:

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l''''''ua "~,I
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rn "-""..' """

~. ,n ".n.lli
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u ItAI
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n', -ttl TII""',\JIU I 'IoCl'k~'l'''~f . ''n",''' .
)UJN ""." ~T .......... ( .. ,. .... u " ......... "1.~
f1l tl~ , ....... ,n', ',,0fI ',' ,,,.. "
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"'''Y "til
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nltl' otT

~ 'VfligS'an: {wither any lndivid1,lid religious work

, nor a colll'Ctiot:l 9f d.eJinite" l1uri).ber of books <;OII\pi\ed
ata parfic,Ililrtime. The VediC l,i terah.ire. had grown
in the course· of many centuri"1s and was handed
down from generation to getleration by word of
,. .
'" ,< "
, . "

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

BEFORE we proceed to discuss the Vedic 3. Aranya kas and Upanisha d s :

civilization it will be useful to have some
These are partly included in the
idea about its source - the Vedic Bmhmal1as 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, t h e Aranyakas
compiled at a particular time. TIle 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
AuthorshJp 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 s tiU exist, but many have stress upon their divine origin. Thus,
been completely lost for ever. These the Vedas are called apaurusll.eya (nol
three classes are : created by man) and nilya (existing in
a U eternity) while the rishis are known
L The Vedas ,' A collection of hymns,
as inspired seers wh o received the
prayer s, charms, litan ies a nd
m.afltras from the Supreme d eity.
sacrificial fannulae. There are four
Vedas, namely: Age of RigVedo.
(i) RigVeda - a collection of The date of Rig Veda and Ve<Hc literature
hymns formed th e subject of keen and
(ii) Samueda - a collection of pTotracted controversy. Max Muller,
songs mostly taken from who first dealt with the question,
Rig Veda began with the age of Buddha and
(iii) Yajuroeda - a collection of arbitrarily assigned 200 years to
sacrificial fonn ulae til.e development of each of the three
(iv) Atharvaueda - a collection of stages of Vedic literature and thus
spells and charms came to the conclusion that RigVeda
The Vedas formed the ea rh est mllst have been composed around
seg ment of Vedic literature and 1200-1000 B.C. When questioned and
amongst the Vedas , RigVeda is t h e criticised by his contemporaries like
oldest. W.D. Whltney for his totally arbitrary,
2. The Brahmanas : These are prose unscientific and unacademic method,
texts which contain details about the Max Muller co nfes sed that he was
meani n g of Vedi c hymns , th e ir merely speculating and stated:
application s, stories of their origins, etc. "w hether the Vedi c hymns were
fn a way these contain details about compose d 1000,1500 or 2000 or
rituals and philosophies. 3000 B.C., no power on earth will ever


t ANC'E" INDIA ... ....... ............................. . ......................... ..... ... ....................... ...... .

detenninc". It may. til passin g be stated RJgVedic Geography: From the

that Max Muller as a true Chlistian names of rivers, mountains and regions
believed in the genesis stories of the mentioned in RigVeda we have a clear
Bible and tha t the world was created in idea of the geographica l area in which
4004 B.C. We have seen in Chapter 5 RigVedic people, who called themselves
that the origin of tl1e earth goe~ back to Aryans, lived. The Nadisukta hymn of
about 4600 million years and the origin the Rig Veda mentions 21 rivers whk h
of hum ans themselves goes back to include the Ganga in the east and the
abou t 4. 2 million years. Kubha (Kabu l) in the west. All r ivers
S imil arly. on the analogy of the like the Yamuna, Saraswati, Sutlej,
language of A vesta, some scholars Ravi , Jhelum an d rndu s located
opined that the date of RigVeda may between the Ganga and Kabul rivers
be 1000 B.C. But the fa ct th at some of are m entioned n ot arbitrarily but
the Vedic gods namely lndra, Varuna, serially beginning from the east i. e.
Mitra and the two Nasatyas are Ganga to the west Le . Kubha. In the
mentioned in Boghaz- Koi (Asia Minor) north , the RigVeda mention s the
inscription o f 1400 B.C. prove that Himalayas and Mujavant mountains .
RigVeda musl have come into existence It aJso mentions ocean (samudra) in
muc h before that date. The Boghaz- connection with rivers Sindhu and
Kai inscription records a treaty between Saraswati falling into ocean. The ocean
the Hittite and the Mitanni Kings and is also mentioned in th e context of
these gods are cited as witness to this foreign trade. The RigVedic geography,
treaty, exactly the way even toda.y oath therefore, covers present-day western
is taken in the courts and on Uttar Pradesh . Harya na, Punjab .
a ssumption of a public offic e in the Rajasthan , Gujarat. whole of Pakistan
n a me of god. dnd south Afghanistan.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak. on , ~. 'c .iI ·S. The territory
aslron omicaJ grounds, dated RigVeda known to Vedic people was divided into
to 6000 B.C. Accord ing to Harmon a numbe r of states-republics a nd
Jacobi VediC' civili zation flourished monarchical. The battle of ten kings,
between 4500 B.C. and 2500 B.C. and gives na mes of ten kin gs who
the Samhitas were composed in the participa ted in a war against Sud as
la tter half of the period . Famo u s who was Bharata king of Tritsus family.
Sanskritist, WinterntlZ felt that the Th e ten kings were of the states of
RigVeda w as probably com posed in the Puru s, Yadu s, Turvasas, Anus a nd
th ird millen nium B.C. R.K Mookerjee Oruhyus along with five others viz
opined that "on a modest computation , Alinas . Pakhtas, Bh a lanas , Sib is
we should comt! to 250(1 B C as the and Vishanins . The battle was fought
lim e of J?rgV'~da~ (- _. PtUlde a lso on the bank of Parushani (Ravi) and
favour s .). d:"lt uf ';to'hJ B.C. or even Sudas emerged victorious. In the
earlieJ context of another battle o f Sudas,
1'u},.; VI:.IlIC CrvU.17.Al10N

Righ 'da Ol l'ntions J>POple and kings culled the- protecTor ..,f r he jarw. or
like Aiias. Sigrus. Yakshu'i etc The l'X'opie. ,'bove' the j(utU was rashtra,
nharu1as. who g:;.ve their name to the i ~ th~ cOl~nlry.
whok f'ountry '3..<': Bharawarsltd, are The hrrt.'{jitary I'nonarchy was the
the most importan l people of the normal form vf Govenlmenl but 3n
Rig Veda. They were settled in the elected king also finds mention . We also
region between the Saraswati and hear of chiefs, democraLJcally clt..'Cted by
Yamuna. Similarly the RigVeda gives the assembly of people Uana).
the location of other people like the The kingdoms (rashtra) were
?urus in the reg.on 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 some of them must have
west of Indus upto Kabul river and had bigger kingdoms and enjoyed
so on. position of greater aulhority and
The struggle for supremacy dignity, markedly difTerent from others.
among different kings and republics The king administered justice with the
cruefs was a part of the evolutionary assistance of purohita and other
process towards the formation of a olTIcials. For his services the king was
larger political entity. pajd bali (voluntary gift or tribute). The
Pr Ut)' 'lOti. -''''min tU.lhlil The bali came to the king from his own
political structure of RigVedic India pt..'"Ople 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.
(ti) The Village (gmma) Among the important royal officials,
(iii) The Clan (vis) were the purohita (chief priest and
(iv) The People Uana) lTIinister). sen ani (army chief) and
Iv) The Country (rashtra) gratnini (head of viUage). We hear also
of dutas (envoys) and spies (spas) .
Kula (family) was the smaJlesl unit. There must have been many others,
It included all the people living under who are not. mentioned in the literawre.
the same roof (griha). An aggregate of Great prominence is given in the
several families made up the grwnalikl' NigVeda to two popular assemblies
today, and its headman was called called sabho and sumiti which seem to
graminL The next larger formation was nave formed fm esse-tluaJ feature of the
called the vis, under the head called government We possess no definite
vispati. L..9.rger than vis was jano. information about the composition of
Regarding jana we get mention of the either, or the distinction between the
panchajarwh a nd of people called two. Most probably the samili., which
Yadus, (Yadva:ianaha) and Bharatas mainly dealt with policy decisions and
(Bharatajanaha). The king is also poUtical business, included common

AflCl£NT INDIA ............................................................................................................. ..

people while the sabIJa, less political freedom of choice in marriage. A widow
in character, was a more select body of cou ld marry the younger brother of her
the Elders or Nobles. deceased husband. The wife was
It was through these two assembl ies husband's partner in all religious and
that the will of the people on important social ceremon ies. The fath er's
matters of the rashtra was expressed. property was inherited by son. The
Soc:lety: The RigVedlc society daughter could inhent It only if she
t:omprised four varnas, namely was the only child of her parents.
Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Right to property was known in
Sudra. This classification of society was moveable things like cattle, horse. gold
based on the occupation of individuaJs. and ornament and so also 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 tlley become latcr 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 which
the RigVeda (Lx.l L2). In this hymn a
saved a huge mass of Vedic literature.
Food and Drink.: Milk and its
person says.
products - curd, butter and ghee-
1 am a singer; fanned an important part of tlle diet.
my father is a physician, There is also mention gntin cooked with
my mother is a grinder of corn; milk' (kshira-pakamodanamJ.Bread
having various occupations, fchappatl) of wheaL and barley waS
desiring riches we remain (in the eaten mixed with ghec. Not only were
world) like cattle {ir! the stalls}. fish, birds, wild animals like boar,
antelopes, and buffalo (gaw), etc. eaLen
It is , therefore, clear that there was but on ceremonial occasions 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 occupations was eaten. The cow was already deemed
not envisaged in the society. aghnya "not to be killed". The Vedas
The unit of society was family, prescribe a penalty of death or
primari ly monogamous and pat ri- expulsion from the kingdom to those
achicaJ. 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,

....... .... ... .......... . .. .. . ... . ... .......... . ...... . ..... . . .. .. . . ... ........ ........... .... 1 'lT1o: V E;OIC CIVIL1?.A'rlON f.!

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

condemned because of its intoxicating also koown . 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
Eeol1omJe LLrei The economic principle. The sea is mentioned in the
life of the RigVedic people centered context of trade and ocean wealth, like
around agricu ltu re, cattle rearing and pec:trls and shells.
trade and commerce. Oxen were used ReUgion 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, buffaJos etc. classified into three categories, namely
The RigVeda attached gr eat terrestrial (Prithivisthana) , aerial or
importance to agriculture. The plough intermediate (anlarikshasth.anal . and
was drawn by the oxen at times in celestial (c1yusth.ana). Prithivi, Agni,
teams of six, eight or even twelve. The SOma, Brihaspati and rivers belong to
grains were harvested with sickles. the first category; Inclra, Apam-napat,
The manure was also used. From Rudra, Vayu -Vata, PaJjanya, and Apah
variou s references in the RigVeda it (water) to the second and Oyaus,
appears that irrigation was a lso 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 , lndra and Varona
The grains are coUectively called Yaua (the supreme cosmic and moral cuter)
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 a nd the
metal working, leather-working etc, are heaven . Further, Agni is the o nJy God
most not.eworthy. During the RigVedic who is regarded as present among aU
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 a s aniroaJs, e.g. Oyaus as
respectively. bu.ll and Sun as a swift horse. The food
The trade and traders (!Janik) 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 ofrered in the sacrifice. On the whole,
cows were quoted as the price for an the gods are benevolent, some of them
image of lndra. The conception of money also had malevolent traits, like Rudra
can be traced in the mention of a gift and Maruta. Splendour, strength,

t ANCOE'" INDIA ..••........•...•..•..••.••••••••••••••••....•••.••.•••••••••......••••.•.••••••.••••••••••••.•.•.•.•...••

knowledge, possession and truth are and Greek. La te r it was further

common attributes of the deities. elaborated by Sir Will,i am Jones and
Prayers and offering to these Gods many other scholars who were in lhe
were made for material gains, also for service of East India Company. To
enlightenment and knowledge. For account for sim ilari t ies between
example, the most popularnnd famous European and India n languages, some
Gayatri Mantra is recited daily by the scholars postulated that the ancestors
pious Hindus even today_ of Indians and Europeans must af one
Besides the ritualisti c 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 thei r common homeland as the
universe is asserted as the c reation of Indo-European homeland . Scholars do
one Ood to whom different designations not agree about many of these linguistic
appUcd. The creation is deemed AS the propoMtions. However, the problem
outcome of the sacrifice made by the with the original homeland of the
Virarpurusha or of evolution from non- Aryans is still a matter of debate and
being manifc::;led in the form of water. there is a great divergence of opinjon.
It is said that Hiranyagarbha arose Various scholars have propounded
from the great waters, pervading th e dirf"erenl homelands like Stepp" of
universe, and thus cre~ted the waves central ASIa, southern Russia,
oul of eterna1Jy pre-existing maltCT southern Europe, Germany, ChiOl..!lif'
This hymn devoted to Visvakarman Turkistan or even Mediterranean area
tells us that the waters rontained the like Palestine and Israel. aJmost where
primordial genn - the noahng world- except India when' the Vedic language
egg from which arises Visvakarman , and jt<;:, literature found the full
the ftrst born in the univcrne - the expresSIOn and endured the longest.
creator and makf"T ot the world It is R,...hdms do not agree also regarding
now confirmed by science thaI hfe first th{' time of then migration 10 Vi1r1OU",
develOped in waler. OtlC'ofthe RigVedic .areas like India. Eurnsia. wt:~lem ASlo
hymns pointedl)' Stlys, .. There is onc and Furope. Somt' thlllk that th£
reality (ekarn sat) whom the 'iUI.!C.s A;-yru16 ::;pread dJong With th[ spread
speak of in many ways calling II A.f;.U of Netllithic (agri("ulturc about 9000
Yarna or Matarisvan-. yf"af'S ago) while others link it with fh"
spread of Bron7£ Age.
Tbe Queation of the Aryan lnvasian The oldest survivin::,.; records 01 the
The Florentine merchant Filippo Aryans is the RigVedu. The RigVeda
Sassetti. who lived in Goa for five years does not give even an mklmg of any
from A.D. 1583 to 1588, was stmek hy mjgratlOn of ArvAn<:: from any other
similarities between Sanskrit and areo. It dof'''. not (.-ven hove a faint
European languages, especially Latin memory of •• ny such migration. It docs

.................................. .. ........ . .. .... . ................... . . ....... .. .......... ..... THE VEDIC CIVlUZr\T10N

not have any knowledge even of the Harappan civili7..ation represents the
geography beyond the known Vedic civilization, but the paucity 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 RC. 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 RigVed a wiJIiead 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 no1 corne from outside. It has foutteenth century B.C. would indicate
been argued by such scholars that there that the RigVedaex:ist.ed earlier and the
is no a r chaeo logical or biological culture migrated from India to Asia
evidence which could establish the Minor in that early age. As has been
arriva1 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 aU there was a ny be placed not later than about 3,000
migration of Alyans or for that matter B.c. In the following pages we shall look
of a ny, other people, in india, it may at the similarities and dUferences
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 rhere is no evidence. The geographical distribution of the
FUrther, the skeletal remains fOWld J-Iarappan sites can be seen in the light
from various Harappan sites resemble of RigVedic geography also. As we have
the skeltons of the modern popu lation seen in the previous section, the
of the same gt'ographicaJ area. RigVedic geography extended from
Atlshanistan in the north to Gujarat in
Harappao CivtJJa:ation and
the south, Ganga in the east to Kubba
the RigVeda (Kabul) Pakistan in the west. Among
Since the discove ry of the Harappan aU the rivers in the RigVeda the
civiliY..ation many scholars have tried to SaIaswati is considered to be the most
identify this wiLh the long literary and important and sacred and the areas
cultural tradition of India 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 earUer, the main area
historians andarchaeologis~s thought of Harappan civilizal ion is the

t ANCIENT I NOlA ..................•.•••.•.• . •..... .•... ................. .. . ..... .........• .. ..... . ..•.. •. ... .. ..........•...•.•

Saraswati valley where more than 80% of which are also familiar to the Indus
of the Harappan settlements are people. Horse was an important a nimal
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 RigVeda refers to hundreds of some Harappan sites.
cities, towns and forts , which are broad
(PrithVl) and wide (unn), full of kine
(gomatI), of 100 pillars (satabhujt) built
of ston e (asmamaYl). and to autumnal
(saradi) forts as refuge against
inundations . Indra is known as
Puran dara "Lord of cities". The
RigVedaalso mentions of business and
mercantile people to whom it calls
uanikand panis respectively and refers
to the Vedic people such as Tur....asa
and Yadu, as hailing from the sea. Fig. 9.1 A 1"erracotta Figurine of
Most of the animals known to the Horse from Lothal
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 were antelopes, boars, trees, bull, Siva-lingas is seen in the
buffaIos (gaur), lions. and elephants most Harappan civilization. The knmandalu,

• I ~ j
! • ' ! (>I

L.!:--'--'----'~ •
(a) (b) (e) (d)

Fig. 9 .2 (a) A Terracottn. Figurine in Namaskar Mudra (b) Pipal Tree (e) Painting Depicting the
Story of 'Thirsty Crow" (d) A Terracotta Figurine with. Vennillioll in the Hair Parting

.................................................................... _......................... ThE VEDIC CIVIliZATION

which is seen in the modem days as These areeanings, necklaces, bracelets,

one of the most auspicious possessions anldets, garlands and jewels for the
of asetics, is also found in the neck. We h ave 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
an d sac red symbo l of married in Atharvaueda 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 Seuen Fire Altars (haf)(ma-kllfldasj found at Kalibangan

The stories of the "cunning fox" and denotes co pper. Th e Rig Veda also
"th irsty crow" are found painted on mentions implements of stone, such as
Hara ppan vases. The swastika, the stone pulley Le .• s ling-stones.
sacred symbol of the Hindus. is found The treatment of hair by the men
on s eals as well as in pa intings. The and women as mentioned in the
fire-altars serving as havana-kundas RigVeda also bears some resemblance
a re 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

t. /V,c,,,., IN Dt<.. ..

hair in coils, and grew beards, which is Anthropologi{'(zl Approad!es he wrote,

all visible in the telTncotta ligurines of ··Why do <;cnous schnl'U"S persist in
the Hamppan clvili7.atlon. believing in the Arvun Illvasion? (_.. )
The RiqVeda refers to the weaver Why IS Uus sort of thing attnu:tive?
and to his loom , the shuttle, the warp Who fmds it attractive? Why has the
and the woof for weaving a cloth development of early Sanskrit come
Remains of cloth have been found in to be so dogmaticaUy a<;sociated wilh
certain Harappan sites and some an Aryan invasion? ( .J Tne details of
figures are shown as wearing a cloth. this theory fit in with this racist
The above simi1&.nties, and many framework t... ) The origin myth of
others found between the RigVedic and British Colomal imperialism helped
Ha r;J ppan civilization have Jed a t he elite admimstrators in the Indian
Civil Service to see themselves as
number of scholars to conclude that the
bringing 'pure' civilizaUon to a country
Harappan civilization is the same as the
in which civilization of the most
Vedic civiltzation and the Aryans did not sophislicuted kind was already nearly
come to India from outside. However, 6000 years old. Here, 1 will only remark
there are other scholars who consider 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 aner
The whole question of the Aryan the death of Hitler and 43 years aner
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 millenruum
LeachofCambrid',c Uruversity . In 1990 Be are still treated as if they were an
in his ramous arttcle 'Aryan Invasions eSlablished fact of history (... J The
over Four Millennia' published in Aryan IIlvaS lons never happencnd
the book, Culture Through Time; at aU".

Explain the following .
Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas Upanishads, Gmmini, Ball. Sabha, Samiti,

Hiranyagarbha. Kula. Rashtra.

2. Describe the Vedic literature.
3. Describe the RigVedic geography with reference to rivers and mountains.
4. Dc5Cribe 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 eVldence pointmg towards similarities between the Hardppan
and RigVl!clic cultures.
8. Discuss the question of Aryan migration and the age of RigVeda.



THE lour Ved,. .11<;' ' .\\'< .t. S, .lhmanas,

the Aranyakas lnd the Up",
.;I. ANCIErfl' JNDIA ... , ........................................................... .......................... ................... .... .

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 on e another The four Vedas to Ganga whic h now occupies the
were followed by Ule Bmhnwnas, the proud place of the m ost revered and
Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The sacred river of India. This progress was
Brahmanas, the earliest of the Aryan's accompanied by another remarkable
prose literature, explain in detail development and t h at is gradual
various Vedic sacrificial ceremonies and expansion and consolidation of vis.
[heir origins. Aranyakas are the The earlier known juno. li ke Bh aratas,
concluding portions of the Brahm.ana.s ?urns, 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
Lheir contents required that they should rrom the scene. In a way gradu al
be studied in the solitude of the aranya consolidation and expansion of some
or forest. The Aranyakas form a of the states started taking p lace.
tradition that culminates in the Relatively minor janas of RigVedic
Upanishads, the last phase of the Vedk times like Purus became more powerfuJ
literature. The RigVeda broadly dea1s and began to play more dominant role.
with ritualistic (Karmakanda) and We no longer hear or the Anus ,
philosophical aspects, The ritualistic Druhyus, Turvasas, tbe Krivis, etc.
aspect is elaborated in the Bmlvnanas Besides these, in the eastern Uttar
and the philosophic aspecl is Pradesh and Bihar areas ruso such
elaborated in the Upcmishrtds. states as Kasi, KosaJa, 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 men tioned. The political life became
obtained from mundane existence more vivid and the struggle for
through rhe absorption of the supremacy among different states was
II1dividual soul (Atman) in the of frequent occurrence. The ideal or
world·soul. (Bmhma). The two oldest universal empire loomed large.
and most important o f the The expansion of people towards the
Upanishads w'e Ine Chhandogya and east is indicated in a legend of Satapathn
Brihadaranyaka. Other important Bmhmarla - how Videgh Madhav
Upanislwds include Kathak. [So., llligrated from Saraswati region . the land
Munclaka. Prasna. etc. of Vedtc Culture, crossed Sadan ira
Geography and the New PoUticat (modem Gandak river), the eastern
States ! We have already seen that the boundary ofKosala and came to the land
main settlement of the RigVedic people of Videha (modern Tirbutl. The texts
was the region of Indus and Saraswati testify the growth of three kingdoms,
Valleys. During the period represented namely, Kosala, KasiandVideha. It may
by the later Samhitas and Brahmal1as be noted that till J 950 no archaeological
the settlements covered vlIlually the evidence could take the antiquity of

....... ....... . .......................... ...................... ... ...... .. ..... ....... ... ...... .... T"E L'fER VED,C AOE

cultures in the Ganga valley prior to emerging. Kingship was consolidating

the sixth century B.C. Thereafter. itself as the nonnal 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 s tatus of divine origin. There was
B.C. onwards. The recent excavations al so emerging the concep t of a king of
at Raja-Nal-ka -Tila in Sonbhadra k i ngs . Expressions like adhiraJ,
district a nd other s ites have ta ken raJadhiraJa, samrat and ekrat are
back the date for u se of iron in used in most of the t exts . Th e
adj oining Varanasi district , ancient Atharuaveda defines ekmt to be the
Kasi, to c. 1500 B.C. Some characteristic p a r a mount sovereign . Ther e also
pottery of post Harappan period are d(!veloped special ceremonies for t h e
Ochre Coloured Po ttery (D.C .P.) anointment of kings, s u ch as the
(c. 2000- 1500) Black a nd Red ware, Vc'J}peya, 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 Polis h ed (N .B.P.) ware absolute but limited in severa] 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\ Th e 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 p rosperity. The Panchala counc il of his ministers; and the
assemblies of people, sabhaand samiti,
king PravahanaJaivali is mentioned as
as check upon king's absolutism.
daily attending the Panchalaparishad.
Under no circumstances was the
The texts t.estify the three kingdoms of kLng con sidered the sole owner of the
Kosala, Kasi and Videha as sea ts of kingdom with absolute power over the
Vedic culture. Magadha and Anga are objects and subjects. The kin g was
also mentioned as distant lands in the supposed to be only a tnlstee a nd the
Atharvaueda. The RigVedic Kikatas kimgdom as a trust. The condition of
have b een 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 (Maharas htra) is Besides, the m in isters and officials,
mentioned . Madra was located in the sobha and samin played important role
Punjab regio n, fur the r west is in the administrat ion. The sabha
associated with Bahlikas. Kesins, functioned as a parliament for disposal
Kekayas and Kamboja. of public business by d ebate and_
PoUty and Admlnhltration : Side by cUscussion. The Chief of the sabha
s ide with the growth oflarger states, we was called sabhapdti, the keepers as
find th at detailed politi cal and sa.bhapala. a nd th e m embers as
ad mini strative structure was also sabheya, sabhasad or sabhasina.

ANCIENT I NDIA . .... •. " ...... "" •...•.• . . .. •.•••....•..•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• . .....

There were rules which governed weak impartia lly and fai rly. Strive
the debate in sabha a nd Vajsaneyi unceasingly to do good to the people
Samhita mentions lhat erring mem bers and above all protect the country from
were 'rebuked'. Sabha also seems to all calamities".
have fun ctioned as a court ofjustice. It We find that legal institutions were
is said that, "one who attends the sabr.a also coming into s harper focus. The
sits as a law court to dispense dharma king administered justice and wielded
ljustice)" . the rod of punishment. Among the
The s amitiwas d ifferent 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, slay in g of
also 1i.mctioned as the lower court, while brahmana, drinking intoxicating liquor,
the samiti was the larger General treache ry, 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 vo ice of vis (peop le) , w h ich is was more important than informer. The
ex plain ed by the fact that in one punishments for crim e were rather
ins tance it is the samin. which chooses severe. The law was also very clear on
the king a nd 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 s he was the only child or there
duly reflected in th e enlarged entourage were no male issues.
of the state. We hear of new officials such Social System: The gradual political
as S lUG (charioteer), sangrahitri evolution was by no means the most
(treasurer). bhagadugha (collector of important factor in the his tory of
ta xes), gramini (head of village), Vedic period. Changes of far
sthapati (chief judge), takshan greater significan ce were gradually
(carpenter). kshatri (chamberlain) and taking place in the society and religion .
several others whose exact fun ction In the RigVedic period society
can not be ascertained. Everything comprised four varnas depending on
indicates that the administrative one's profession and within a family ,
machinery was highly organised and membe rs could follow the professions
became an efficient instrument for of different varnas. In later Vedic period,
ruling ove r a large kingdom . vamas came to b e birth-based rather
The IiberaJ s pirit of th e age is than profession-based. The proliference
ref1ected in the following advice which, of professions gave rise to jads. But the
accord ing to the Yajurveda, w as jan 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 som ewhere in the middle of
this day onwards, judge the strong and flexibl e RigVedic society and rigid

........ .... ...................................................................... ................ THE LATER VEDIC A OE

society of the Sutra period. Emergence and sesame. Their seasons are also
of jad was very unusual but perhaps mentioned: barley sown in winter,
not impossible in that age. The RigVeda ripened in s ummer; 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 vatious operations of agriculture such
find that rigidity in terms of jati is as ploughing, sowing, reaping and
coming up. The position offowth 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 creatu r es that
sacred texts and of even holding landed harmed the tender s h oots. The
property. The most glaring evil of the Atharoaveda mentions that drought
jati system. namely. the concept of and excess rain s threatened
untouchability had not yet reared its agriculture. Cattle wea l th 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 Atharoaueda 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·d ining, inter- also known. Niskaand satamana were
marriage and determination ofvama by the units of currency. There is no
descen t, were yet established on a rigid evidence of the use of coins with specific
basis. weight, size and device during the time
Economlc nfe: The growth of economic under discussion . Haggling in the
prosperity is indica ted in many prayers mm'ket was known from RigVedic times
contained in the Atharoaveda for itself. Sea-borne trade was well known
the success of farm ers, shepherds, and Aitareya Brahmal1a speaks of the
mercbants and so on. There are prayers "inexhaustible sea" and "th e sea as
for ploughing, sowing, rains, increase encircling the earth".
in cattle, wealth and exorcism against Bali, which was earlier on ly a
beasts, wild animals and robbers and voluntary gifl 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

t /\Ne«NT INDIA .............................................................................................................. ..

fishermen, 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, pupil s
jewels, baskets, ropes, dyes, chariots, studied at the homes of their teachers
bows, smelters, sm iths, potters etc. where they lived as family members and
Merchants, long distance caravans participated in the house hold works
and sea trade are mentioned . Guilds of also. Beside these . there were small
craftsmen also came into existence. sc hools of learning run by a n
The word s reshthi, head of guild, finds individual teacher who would choose
mention in several teA1:s. his own pupils. There we re other
During the period of RigVeda we means of education . The educated
find the mention of only ayaswhich 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 terms syam ayas distinguished- sages and learn ed
(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 u sed for another. There were also parishads in
making weapons and other objects differen t janapadas patronjsed by
like nail-parers , hammers. clamps, kings. Bes ide s these residential
ploughshares etc. The copper was used schools, academies for advan ce d
for making vessels. Silver (rajat) and stu dy and circles of philosophical
Gold were used for making ornaments, di scussions, 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 J anak 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 Yajnavalkya, UddaJaka
ceremony which was considered as Aruni, Sakalya, Gargi and a number
second birth of the child and that is why of other sc holars . The detail s of
after this ceremony he came to be this conference and various topics
known as dvija. The aim of learning di scussed 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 thal
comprehended s u ccess in both worldly Yajnavalkya , after completing bi s
as weU as spiritual life. The duties of education with Uddalaka Amni, wen t
pupils were well defined. to Janaka (a king and kshatriya) to

................... .. .................................................... . .... ... ......... ...... . . '!'HE L ATER VEDIC AOE

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

However, in the Janaka's conference cer·emonies required seventeen
Yajnavalkya defeated all the priests. There were domestic rites and
participants in discussion s and was sacraments which embraced the entire
declared as the most leamed 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 ksha,triyas in the Soon the idea of penance and meditation
intellectual pursuit. Janaka, the king took the precedence. Men took to
of Videha, Pravahana Jaivali, the king ascetic practices under the belief that
of Pan chala, Asvapati Kaikeya the they would not only gain heaven but
king of Kasi - all kshatriyas, were well aJS() develop "mystic, extraordinary and
known scho lars to whom even the superhuman faculties".
learned brahmans came to for On one hand e labor ate rites,
further instructions. ceremonies and ascetic practices were
The texts mention the subjects taking the place of s imple religious
of study at the time. The Chhandogya wo:rship 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 Craits, 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
a ll these subjects of study under between rituals and knowledge was
Aparauidya. It reserves the term recognised by the Vedas. But it is only
Parauidya for the highest knowledge, towards the later phase of the Vedic
the knowledge of atman, which involves peJiod where it was elaborated upon.
knowledge of life, death, God etc. The genera l body of early
Religion a n d Phil o8o p hy r The philosophica l treatises is known
Brahmanas record the growth of by the name o f Upanishad. The
ritualism and ceremoniaJ religion and numb er 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 RigVed.a concerning God, man and the universe
knows of only seven priests and two etc . The Upanishads are justly regarded

ANCIENT iNolA ...... . .. ........ . . ................... ........ ... . .......................... . ...... . , ...... . .. .. .... ........ ..

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 t h e
will always maintain a place in the movement of heavenly bod ies and
literature of the world, among the most calculated about their positions at
astounding productions oftbe 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 revolu tion and
includes Arithmetic (anka ganita) , distances among heavenly bodies from
Geometry (rekhaganital , 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, Saramana, Ekmt, Samrat, Blwgadugha, Ashuamedha, VaJpeya,
2. DCSClibe the sources for the history of the Later Vedic Age.
3. Discuss the Later Vedic geography with refe rence to its poUtical states.
4. Describe the social system during the Later Vedic period.. How was it differenl
from the RigVedic period?
5. Describe the following during Late r Vedic period.
(i) The development in the field of economy.
(ii) The political and adminiSb'ative sys tem .
(iii) The religion and philosophy.
(iv) The learning and education .

10 0


philosophh with a distinctive character of its

own, originated in the speculations of Vedic sages
and r<;ached its fruition in the Aduaita Vedanta of

• <

, •
;) ANCIF.N'T INOlA •• ••• •. ••• .. .•..•• ••••.•.•. • . •.•.• .•. •.•.• ••.. . •.• •.•• •.•••••••••• •••• •••.••• ••••.••..••... . •. •••.•..•.... •••••. •.

INDIAN phi losophy, with a distinctive Iii) The Ultimate ReaJjty in and beyond
character of its own, originated in the the objective world is call ed
speculations of Vedic sages and Brahrna. It is from Bmhma tilat the
reached its fruition in the Aduaita entire world originates: it is in
Vedanta of Sankara. Brahma that it e>dsts; alld it is in
In the Vedic age, the forces of Nature that it merges. Brahmo
were personified as gods , as living on is rcal, infinite and blissful
the earth, in the sky and in the heaven. Consciousness.
Men offered oblation s to the gods and (iii) The pure Atman a nd Brahma are
asked for cattle, crops, wealth, one. An jndividual would be right
prosperity, health, longevity. progeny, in saying ~l am Brahmd'.
victory, p eace and happiness here, and
heaven after death. Some Vedic seers (iv) The one appears as many, on
however believed that there was an account of Its wonderfu l power
Ultimate Being which manifested Itself Maya.
as the various gods. Iv) All unhappiness and sufferings of
The famous Nasadiya hymn of man are due to ign orance of the
RigVeda speculates: "'He from whom fact that man is tbeAtman 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 Atrnan with Brah ma is called
tile highest heaven, he forsooth 1010ws, Moksha, which liberates on e from
or does even he not know?" the chain of birth and death and is
There were speculations about the therefore t h e achievement of
nature of the Ultimate Reality, the highest goal.
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, tbe h jghest Value onife and the objects, purify one's inteUect, and
Right Way of living. Al l this resulted in live a righteou s life.
a large number of books called
These doctrines bave been echoed
Upanishads. Though , the number of
Upanishads is large, but only eleven
and re-ecboed t h roughout Indian
are cons idered to be of g r eat history. Ramkrish na Paramah amsa,
importance. They are: Iso,. Karhak, Swami Vivekananda, Swami
Kena Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Ramatirtha, Aurobindo, and other
Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chh andogya, great thinkers of modem age have also
Brhadaranyaka. and Suetasuatara. dwelt u pon Upanisha d ic philosophy.
There seems to be a general agreement The · an d the
among all on the following: Mahabharata, also contain ethical and
Ii' The Ulti m a t e, Enduring, and philosophical precepts. The Ramayana
Unitary Reality in the individual is makes Rama the embodim ent of the
A'man (seJq. highest ethical ideals.

. . . .................... .... .. .................. ................................... .... FRUITION OF' INDIAN PHILOSOPHY '"

The BhagatlO.t.l·Gita ('mbocHes the in the authority of the Vedas and the
teach ings of Lord Krishn1.. It is highly God, while all others are astika, i.e .
valued all over IlIrlia and the world, and bel ieve in the Vedas and the God.
has been tran,:;hu.ed into a number of The C/Iaruaka system (also called
languages. It says .me should remain Lolcayata) believes only in materialism .
balanced both in happiness and sorrow, The physi cal body composed of
in profit and loss and in victory and material elements is the only essence of
defeat. (t tells that Atman is man. Death only is the end of man ;
indestructible, n either weapons can and enjoyment of pleasures are the only
pierce it nor fire can bum 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 anoLher body as its abode. karma', and no rebirth. The Charuaka
The god incarnates himself with a view sys.tem docs 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 (kanna) without caring a nd affini ty between Nyaya and
for reward. Vaises ika, Sarnkhya and Yoga, and
According to the doctrine of kanna Mimamsa and Vedanta. The Mimamsa
one's present birth and condition is recognises the Vedas as the final
dete rmin ed by the karma of his authority in detennining 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 Karmakanda 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 t'l distinguish between
rational mind set. The important the various kinds \"If ultimate things and
systems are Ch.aroaka, Jaina, Buddha, to classify all th(: 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 Prakrili that all things
combine, and when they disintegrate, like a ir, water, ether (akasa) ,
the world comes to an end. Vaisesika, intelligence (blUidhl), self conciousness.
thus postulates a dualjsm of the matter sight, touch, hearing, speech. etc.
and soul, and declares that salvation develop. One of the most importan t
depends on fully recognising the atomic tattva in all this is Pu.n~sa, 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
and Purusa is not dependent on Prakriti
nor Prakriti is dependent on Purusa. Yet
The Nyaya system a cce pts aU the a is involved in some way in the
categories recognised by the Vaisesika Prakritii.c. the matter and salvation lies
system and adds one Abhaua in recogn.ising their differences.
(negation). It also accepts all the A ve r y important feature of
substances admitted by the Vaises ika 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 (Satwa) , passion (Rajas) and duUness
(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 prese nt in all
operates independently of Him , In the beings in equilibrium, but a s they
state of pralaya (cosmk dissolution) evolve, one or other of these three gunas
and Apavarga (moksha) or freedom come to dominate. The Sattvagww
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 D detailed study fierceness, activeness, violence. energy
oftbe sources of knowledge (pramana). and ; while the Tamas is darkness,
According to Nyaya school there are fooli shness, gloomy, unhappy etc.
four pramanas, namely perception However, the distinction between
(pratyaksha) , infer ence (anumana), the Pun.~sa (soul) and Prakriti (matter)
compa rison (upamana) Dnd verbal was modified in Tantricism which
testimony Le. "words"jsabda). d eveloped in later days. In Tantricism
Purusa ca me to signify "man " and
Prakriti "woman".
The Samkhya is the oldest of all six
systems of philosophy. It teaches the
existence oftwent:y~five basic plinciples Yoga is probably the best known Hindu
(tattoo). Of these twenty~fi ve tattuas, philosophical system in the world. In
fir s t i s Prakriti i .e . ·~ matter·'. The this system the self-contro1 and sclf-
Samkh.ya system believes that the mortification is s upreme. Anyone who
evolution of universe is nol due to God has mastered the various aspedofthis

............................. ........................................................ . FNu moN OF INDIAN PH1LOSOPHY

doctrine is known as yogi. According lviii) 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 lon g period without suffering
(i) Yama (self-control): yanw. means injury, can control the rhythm of rus
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 (obser vance): complete
soul gets relea sed from the life cycIeand
and regular obser vance of five joins the exalted sou l Le. the God.
more moral rules which are purity,
contentment, austerity, study of MimamsQ
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 portion s of Vedas. The
are known as yogasanas. The Mimamsasys tem recognises the Vedas
most famous is Padmasa'na in as the final authority in determining
which gods and sages are
the duties of man , and the Vedantists
commonly depicted.
in gaining th.e true knowled~e about
(iv) PranaywlIa (control of breath): the
mat1 and Universe. It recogruses two
control of breath at will iR another
paths of salVation. One is concemed
step in this doctrine . This is
with the karmakanda (ritualism) and
considered to be of great physica1
and s piritual value. other with thejnanakanda (pursuit of
(v) Pratyahara (restrain): in which the knowledge) of the Vedas Le . the
sense organs are trained in such a Samhitas, Bfahmanas. and the
way that lhey do not take notice of Upanishads respectively.
their own perceptions and feelings. Vedanta
(vi) Dharan.a (steadying the mind) :
The ancient Indian thought s on
concentrating on a single object
philosophy reacht!d its peak in the
such as tip of the nose or a sacred
philosophy of Vedanta. Sankara' s
commentaries on Upanishads,
(vii) Dltyana (meditation): by
conce ntration the mind can be Brahmasutra and BhaglJada-Gita are
fLIled only by that object on which important for understanding th e
concentration is being made and Vedanta Philosophy. Sankara held
completely emptit!d 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 Aduaita Vedanta. The Soul) with which the individual soul is
Brahma has an infinite number of identical. The saJvation of the individu..-l1
powers (sakti) and the creative power soul is possible only by merging it with
(Maya) is one ofthem. 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 doctrines of all the
and in a ll 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
destruc tion, God (lsuara) assumes
others. There was a great developmenl
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 diffe red
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
figm ent of imagination. Ultimately, the Upanishads, Brahmasu/ras and
whole Universe is unreal, i.e. Maya. The Bhagavad-Gita.

1. Explain the following:
Moksha, Atmall, Maya, Karmakanda, Jnanakanda, Astika, Nastika
2. What is the aim of Indian philosophy? What are the chamcteristic
features of it?
3. Describe the six schools of Indian Philosophy.
4. Write s.hort notes on:
(i) Blw.gauada-Oila
(ii) Yo:z
(iii) N! lya
(iv) Ve. anla

• Find a teacher who teaches yogasanus and practice t hem III home.
• Find out the merits of these yogasanas and discuss them in class.

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TilE brooding over the ills and sorrows of life, a

passionate desJn' to remove tDem by finding out
new mode of salvation became the concern of tbe
- ANCIENT I NDIA .............................................................................................................. .. ..

TlfE SIXTH century B.C. m ay be regarded Ni''9ro.nthas discuss ns man y as

as an important land m ark in the s ixty-two syst.ems of d octrines before
history of Indi an cult ure. The old Buddhism arose. Some Jain works like
ritua listic Vedic tradition had gradually Su.tra ~Kritanga gives their number as
ce ased to be a stro n g force . The 363. Some of th ese were AjilJikas,
Upanishads had initiated freedom of Nirgmnthas, Jatilakas. etc. Some of the
s p eculation into lhe funda m e n tal prominent teachers of these sects were
problem of life. The brooding over the PUrana Kassapa. Makkh a li Gosal.
ills and sorrows of life, a passionate Ajitkeshakambalin. Nigantha Natpulta
desire to remove them by f mding OUt and Sanjaya Belatthaputta.
new mode of salva ti on became the
co n ce rn of' the learn ed. It cre ated Jainl.m
a ferment of n ew id eas a nd philo- J a.i nism has great a nt iquity. Th e
so phi c prin cip les, lead in g t o the names of two 'Nrthankaras namely,
establishment of numerous religious Rishabhanath a nd Aristhanemia find
sects, which h ad never occurred in mention in RigVeda. Vayu. Purana and
India before or siDce. We com e to know Bhagwat Purana mention Rishabha as
of about 62 s u ch 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 a t Ha ra ppa belongs t.o some
which may be regarded as direct or Tlrth anak ara. The Jain tradition
indjrect products of thought currents traces Jainism to a remote antiquity
of this period, we s hall djsc u ss mainly r e pr esen t e d by a suc cess ion of
two sects which have greatly influenced twenty-four Tirthankaras. Th e fir st
lhe society and culrure of In dia. These Tirthankara was Ris habhnath. We do
are Jainism and Buddhism. not know much a bout him except that
It may be m entioned that 'bot h the traditions say that h e was a king
Jain j sm and Buddhism take their an d r enO llnced the kingd o m in
s tand on certain aspects o f th e pre- favo u r of his so n , Bhara ta , a nd
existing sys tem. Both SJ'C organised as became a n ascetic. Some Puranjc
asce tic orders an d broth e rh oods. tr a diti ons say that name
Asceticis m in fact, has its origin in the Bhamtauarsha is after 'Bharata', tlle son
Vedic thought and h as been directly of Ri shabh a n a lh. We know a little
more about the twenty-third
encouraged by the Upa nishads. The
Tirthankara, Parsva, who was the son
Arany akas are the prod u cts o f
of lkshvaku king Asvasena of Kasi and
hermitages of the forests while the was b orn to the dau ghte r of
Upanishads recom mend retirem ent t o Narava nm an, king of Kausasthala. He
fore sts as essential to those who seek ren ou n ced the world at the age of
the hjghest knowledge. Both Jainism thirty and attained perfe ct
and Buddhi sm can b e seen and knowledge afrer nearly three monlhs
understood b etter in this ligh t. of inte n s e m editation and spent the

10 8
.•.. . .•.. ••.•••.•••.• .•.•••••••••••• .• •.. .•••.... . ... •... . . •.. .. .. . . . THE

remaining life as a religious teacher, doctrines Mahavira added a futh one,

till his death at the age of hundred. namely. celibacy. As an example of
He is said t.o 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 Jains did not deny the
Vardhamana Mahavira is the last existence of God, they simply ignored
1'irthankara. 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 s ister of It's existence is divided into cycles of
Chetaka, an eminent Lichchhavi noble progress jutsarpini) and declines
of Vaisali. Chetaka's daughter was (av(lsarpini) . The universe functions
married to Bimbisara, the king of through the interaction of living souls
Uivn) 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 .
like animal s a nd plants but also in
During the next twelve years he
practised most rigorous asceticism. At ston es. rocks , water etc. The soul
the age of 42, he attained kaivalya Le. whi ch has finally set itself free rises at
the supreme kn owledge and final onc e 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 Jams is Nirvana.
conqueror. His followers came to be According to Jainism salvation is
known as Jainas. Originally they were po s sible o nly by abandoning a ll
designated as Nirgranthas, i. e. free from possessions , a long course of fasting,
fetters. Mabavira spent the remaining self'mortification, study and meditation.
thirty years of his life in preaching. He Hence, the monastic life is essential for
passed away at Pawapuri, 'i n 468 B.C. salvation.
at the age of seventy two. Chandragupta Maurya is said to
Vardhaman Mahavira accepted four have patronised Jainism. According to
doctrines of Parsva namely (i) noo- the Jaina tradition, Chandragupta not
injury to living beings, (ii) speaking the only accepted Jaina religion, but had
truth, (ill) non possession of property, actually abdicated the throne and died
and (iv) not stealing. To these four as a Jaina Bhikshu in southern India.

t ANCIENT INDI A ........................................................................ . .............. .. ...................... .

It is said that about two hundred his birth. The popular legend has it that
year s after the death of Mahavira an astrologer predicted that Gautama
a terrible famine broke out in Magadha. would either be a great chakrauartin
At that time Chandragupta Maurya samrat or a great sanyasin. Fearing his
was the king. and the Thera son's reflective cast of mind, father
married him at an early age to beautiful
Bhadrabahu was the chief of the Jama
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 Jainas person, a dead body, and then being
that remained in Magadha. attracted by the saintly appearance of
Bhadrabahu convoked a council at an asceti c. One night h e 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 of Mahavira, while the monks the Buddha Le. the enlightened one.
in Magadha began to put on white The fundamental principl e of
clothes. Thus arose the two sects, the Buddha's teachings are represented by
Suetambams (those who put on wrote the Four Noble Truth s (Arya~Satyas)
robes) and the Digambaras (those who viz : (i) that the world is full of sorrow
were stark naked) . It must be (Dukkhal. (iiI 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 (Suetambaras) or not 11.irodhal . and (iv) path leading to
keeping even a small peice of cloth on cessation of sorrow (Dukkha nirodl1a ~
themselves or remaining completely gamini-pratipacla). Accordin g to
nude (Digambarasl. The followe rs 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, Buddhis m was also suffering. One could get out of this
founded by an illustrious kshatriya. H e chain of suffering and achieve the
was born in 566 B.C. Hi s family name fmal salvation (Niroana) by followin g
was Gautama who was born in Sakya the e ight fold path. (Ashtangika~
clan. His father, Suddhodhan, was the marga). These eight fo ld paths are :
king of Sakya republi c. His molJlcr was (i) righl s peech, (ii) right action. (ill) right
Mayadevi who died after seven days of means oflivelihood, (iv) right exertion,

...................................... ............. ................. THE

(v) right mindfulness. (vi) right

meditation, (vii) right resolution, and

word and deed. Buddhism denied the

effica.cyofVedic rituals and practices for
(viii) right view. The ultimate aim of life the purpo se of salvatio n , an d the
is to attai n nirvana, the etemaJ state of superiori ty assum ed by the brahmans.
peace and bliss, which means freedom, T he followers of t h e Buddha fell
from further birth and death . In some into two categories: the Upasakas or
places Buddha is said to have the lay foUowers, who lived with family;
s ummarised the whole process in three and the Bhikshus (monks) who
words viz. SUa (Right conduct), renounced the world and led the life of
Samadhi (Ri ght concentra tion) and an a.scetic . They lived as a commune
Prnjna (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 niroanaor liberation from the in Sangha and were known as
cycle of birth an d death. Buddha Bhi1cshunis. All the members in
advocated "The Middle Path" in whkh Buddhism e nj oye d e qual ri ghts
extremes are avoided. irrespective of their vama and jati.
After en li ghten ment Buddha F'unher, Buddha discou rsed in the
journeyed to the Deer Park (modern language of common people. For eight
Samath) Kasi and gave his first sermon months Buddha and his followers
which is also known as "Set in Motion would traveJ from place to place,
Ule 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
Goel or Gods.lfhe does good deed in hjs cremation, the ashes of Buddha were
life. he will be reborn in a higher life and disuibuted among his followers. Th ese
so on till he attains salvation or the final ashes were kept in caskets and stu pas
emancipation from the evils of birth. On were built over them. Sanchi Stupa is
the other hand , eviJ deeds are sure to be one such example.
punished and the man will be reborn into Mahavira was a contemporary of
lower a nd lower life, each life taking him Gautama Buddha, and there are
further away from nirvana. Man should strildng resemblances in the doctrines
avo id both extremes , viz. a life of of these two leachers. Both started
comforts and luxury, and a life of severe with a frank recognition of the fact that
asceticisrn- 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 bis
codes such as truthfulness, charity, deliverance from the eternal chain of
purity a nd control over passions, birth and death; both derived their
Buddhism laid great stress on love, basic principJes from the Upanishads.
compass ion , 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

t ANCIENT INDIA ........................................................... . ............................ ............... . .

and moral life, specially non-injury to Buddha decried it, and asked his
living beings, both emphasised the disciples to follow the midd le 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 r igorous asceticis m 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
encou raged 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 co nceptions hundred years Buddha spread far and
about salvation and certain other wide in different parts of the world.
matters which cannot be explained However, Jainism never spread beyond
away as later additions. The Jaina the boundaries of India. On the other
conception of soul, for example, is hand , while Buddhis m declined
radically different from th at of a considerably in the land of its birth
Buddhist. Again, Jainism laid gr eat Jainis m is stilI 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) Gauta m a Buddha
[iii) Ajivikas
6. Describe the s imilarities and differences between Jainism and Buddhis m .

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

Jainism ond Buddhis.m. Describe the events associated with these

" ," ,,


By the time of the sixlh century B.C., Panini

mentions as many AS 22 different Jallapadas, of
which three were cOllsidered very 1fI port ant. These
were Magadha, Kosala 3'1d Vats3.
ANcr£NT INDIA ........................ " . .. . ........................................................ .......................... ..

Mahajanapadas F'aizabad, Gonda, Bahraich etc.) , with

IN the later Vedic period itself we start its capital at Sravasti, (vii) Vatse
hearing of m any Janapadas and (covering the modern districts
M~anapadas. The names of at least
Allahabad, Mirzapur etc.), with its
nine Janapadas h ave been given in capital at K.ausambi (viii) C h edi,
Vedic literature beside such people as (coveri.n g the mod ern Bundelkhand
the Andhras, Pulindas, Sabaras and area wiLh its capital at Shuktimati),
Pundaras. However, by the time of the (ix) Kuru (covering the modern
sixth century B.C. Panini mentions as Haryana a nd 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) h ala (covering the area o f
KosaJa and Vatsa. A clearer pichue westcm Uttar Pradesh up to the east o r
emerges from the early Buddhis t and river Yamuna upto the Kosaia
Jain literature. They present a list of Janapada) with its cap ital at
sixteen Mahajanapadas with minor Ahichhatra, (xi) Surasena. (covering
variation of names in different works. Brij Manda! with its capital atMathura),
Though the number is the same, tht' (xii) Matsya (covering t he area of Alwar,
names in the lists cUffer. Perhaps they Bharatpur and Jaipur in RajastJu!in)
s ho w the political conditions at (xiii) Avanti (mod e rn Malawa) with
different times and the geographical its capital at Uijayini and Mahishmati,
nearness or knowledge of the autbor. (XlV) Ashmaka (between the rivers
According to Anguttara Nik-aya there N31mada'and Godavari) with its capitaJ
were following Mahajanapadas: at Potana, (xv) Gandhara (area covering
(i) Anga (including the modern tJ)C westeITl part of Pakistan and eastem
districts of Monghyr and Bhagalpur Afghanistan) with its capitals at Taxila
in Bihar) with its capital of Champa, and Pushka1avati, and (xvi) Kamboja
(ii) Magadha (covering the district.s of tidt' lltified with modern distri c t of
Patoa, Gaya and parts of Shahabad) Hw..ara disrict.s of Pakistan).
with its earlier capital at Rajgriha or Obviously this list of sixteen
Girivraj, (iii) Vajji (8 confederacy of eight Ma hajanapadas covers India only from
republican clans, situated to the noi1Jl Bihar in tile east to Afghanistan in the
of the river Ganga in Bihar) with its west, and Hindukush in the north to
capital. Vaisali, (iv) Malia (also a river Godavari in the south. It leaves out
republicaJl confederacy covering the vast areas of Bengal and eastern
modern districts of Deoria , Basu, India. and practically the whole of south
Gorakhpur a nd Siddharthnagar in India. But these very Buddhist te."X1.s
eastern Uttar Pradesh) wllh two show familiruity wiLh whole of India.
capitals at Kusinara and Pawa, (v) Kasi MaIJagouinda Sutta of Digha Nikaya
with its capital a t Vararwsi , (\ iJ Kosala d escribe the shape of Ind ia as
(covering the preSf'1IT dblricts of rectangular in the north and triangular


, ....... ,_.1



P",~sII>.O"'" ASMAKA

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. '

', '

' D ' TAM''''PARN'

1-°..- (Ct'YlONj


Fig. 1 3 .1 Map oJMa /tajo napadas

11 5
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 h e saw a
fold division of India into Uttarapatha royaJ genealogy of 151 generations
north-western). Madhyadesha (centralJ, covering a time period of about 6051
Prachi (eastern), Dakshinapath (southl. (or 6015) years. During th is time ,
and Apranta (western) , which confirms Maga dha experimented in th e
that th e geographical unity of republican system thrice . This extract
India had been visual ised much from Megasth e nese's Indica is in
before the sixth century B.C. lfwe study conformity with the post-Mahabharata
the lists of Janapadas preserved in war royal genealogy preseJVed in the
the Jain texts Bhagvatisutra, an d Puranas,
Sutrakntang. g r eat Grammarian Alongwith Ole listofMahajanapadas
Panini's Ashtadhyayi (sixth century we also find the names of many famous
B.C.), Baudhayandharma s utra cities during the time of Buddha. Some
(seventh century B.C . ), and the of these were Champa, Rajagriha ,
Janapada list available in the Sravasti, Saket, Kausambi and Kasi.
Mahabharata, the whole of India These were mostly the capital cities of
from Himalaya s in the north to Mahajanapadas.
Kanyakumari in the sout h , from There were a lso 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 reveal
Janapadas. Kautilya (fourth century that during the time of the Buddha
B.C.) clearly visualises the goa l of there were m a n y such repu blican
political unity of the whol e la nd states. Some of the important ones
under a ChaJo-avarti ruler, and clearly were:
defines the Chakravarti kshetra [rom (i) Mallas of Kusinara
tbe Himalayas in t h e north to the (iiI MaUas of Pava
ocean in the south. The distribution of (ill) Sakyas of Kapilavastu
punch-marked coins, which were in (iv) Koliyas of Ramagrama
circulation from sixth century B.C. to (v) Moriyas or Pipphalivana
second century B.C. shows that by the (vi) Bulis of Nakappa
fourth century B.C. there was only one (vii) Kalamas of KesapuUa
currency for the whole of India. It s hows (vill) Bhaggas of Sumsumaragiri
political and economic unification for fix) Lichchhavis ofVaisali
the entire territory . The Buddhist texts also speak of
The Buddhist literature shows that nine ganas of the MalJas and nine of
some Janapada s followed the Kasi. These helped the Va,ijis against the
monarchical system. Each Janapada aggression of Magadha. The Mallas of
has it s own indepe ndent dynas ty Kusinagara and Pava were the
of ruler s. Megasthenese, the kshatriyas of the Iks hvaku dynasty.
Greek a mba ssador in the cour t of According to Divyavadana, perhaps at

... •. . .. .. . . •. .•.••. ..• . •..•.•.••.•• . .....•.. ..• . •. •.•...•••.•.•.• ..•.•• .•• •. •. •. •.••••••• •.. •. h1AHAJANAPADAS TO N ANDAS ,~
the time of Buddha, the MaUas were The Mori yas of the Pippha-
divided into two bra nches , namely livana a lso c laimed to be a
Kusinara (Kus inagara) and Pava in kshatriya. According to Mahavams a,
eastern Uttar Prades h . Perhaps they Chandragupta Maurya belonged to this
also formed a sangha of nine republican ks hatriya clan.
states. We do not have much information
The Sakyas of Ka pilavastu, modem about the Bulis of Allakappa, KaJamas
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 lhe 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
l\'(Tenty-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 Vajji sangha. They are also
caJ led kshatriyas. The Vajjis were
defeated and assimilated in the
Magadha empire by Ajatasattu.
Tbe RJse of Magadha
Tbe four important royal dynasties that
stand out promin ently in the sixth
century B.C. are the Hary a nkas of
M:3.gadha, the Ikshvakus of Kosala, the
Pauravas of Vatsa and the Pradyotas
of Avanti. Haryanka is the name of a
new dynasty founded in Magadha by
Bimbisara after overthrowing the
BI"ihadrathas. The Pradyotas are so
Fig. 13.::1 Punch-marked Coins called after the founder Pradyota . The

* ANC,..,. INmA ................................ ............... ...... .................... ......................................... .

other two are old royal dynasties. It is

interesting to note that the kingdom of
There were matrimonial alliances
behveen the kings of many of these
Kuru-Panchala, Ka si 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 dynas ties,
they ranked as minor powers. mentioned a bove, tried to establish its


.......... -


• •

• •

. •
• •

l ~

-. •

Fig. 13.3 Distribution of Silver Punch-marked Coins

................... •.•• •..•.•••••••••• •••• ••• ••••••••••.•••••..••••.............•...•..••. .•.••• M AI 1AJANAPAJ)AS TO N ANDAS

supremacy. and aggrandise itself at the district, senred as th e capital of the

cost of minor States. We hear, for Magadha kingdom. While Ajatas atru
example, that Pradyota, king of Avanti, 'W'US fighting against the Lichchhavis, h e
fou g ht with Udayana, king of built, as a defensive measure, a fortress
Kausambi, although th e latter was his at Pataligrama, a village at the junction
s on-in -law, and at another time he of the Ganga and the Son. In course of
lhreatened Rajagriha, the capital of time, the strategic importance of th e
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 ofKapilavastu. Again, Bimbisara, suitable capital for his kingdom . which
king of Magadha, annexed Anga, and had extended its boundaries in all
his son Ajatasatru conquered t h e directions by then.
Lichchhavjs ofVaisali. All these kings-
Pradyota, Udayana, Bimbisara and Sieunagll
Prasenajit - flourished in the second According to the Buddhjst tradition
halfofthe sixth century B.C. Udayi and his three successors were all
At the beginning of the rUth century unworthy to rule. So th e people got
B.C .• the Pauravas and the Pradyotas disgusted a nd elected Sisun aga as the
seem to have retired from the contest Idng, the minister of the last king. The
Pumnas, 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 Elimbisara belonged, and hence calls it
of Magadha, and the Iks hvakus of the Sisunaga Dynasty.
Kosala. A fierce and protracted struggle
ensued between Prasenajit and IIBJlda Dynasty
Ajatasatru, and although t.he results Ka1asoka, 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 n.amed Mabapadma Nanda, who
out as the supreme power in northern founded a new dynasty known as the
India. which finally culminated into one Nandas. Mahapadma seems to have
of the greatest empires that. had ever been a great military gen iu s. He
been seen. Ajat'asatru, became the defeated and destroyed the far -famed
founde r of Magadhan supramacy. He kshatriya families, such as t he
died about 475 B.C. and was Pauravas, the lkshvakus, and the
succeeded by Udayi, to whom tradition Pradyo tas , who were ruling in
ascribes the foundation of Pataliputra, }<~ausambi, Kos ala and Avanti, and
the new capital of th e Magadhn establi shed an empire which included
k in gdom. As described in epic the greater part of northern India Thus,
literature, Rajagriha, now represented the task begun by Bimbisara a nd
by the ruins at Rajgir in the Patna Ajatasatru made ttiumphant progress.

• ANCIENT I NDIA ......................... .. ............................................... .. .................. ...... .......... .... ..

Foreign Invasions that U1e Indian soldiers formed part of

the Achaemenian army that conquered
Persian conquest of Indlnn
Greece in the time of Xerxes (486-465
B.C.) and fought against Alexander at
The western bord er land of India Gaugamela in 330 B,C. But tbls is by
comprising the Punjab , Smdh 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 lIDS period. Of anny.
u1e sixteen Mahajanapadas mentioned
AJ~xandcr' Campaigu
in the literature, only two, Kamboja and
Gandhara, may be placed in this In the fourth century B.C. th e Greeks
outIyingregion. It appears to have been and Persian fought with each othe r for
divided into a large number of the supremacy over western Asia. The
Independent principalities which were defeat of Ad1aemenian king Druius III
frequently at wa;' 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 mos t 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., su bjugated a number of India. After the conquest of the Persian
principalities living to the south of the empire Alexander marc hed to India
Hjndukush mountains . It was in the through the Khyber pass in 326 B.C.
reign of Darius (522-486 RC.) that we It is interesting to know that the
have pos itive evidence of the e.xtension history of Alexander's campaign of
of Ac h aemenian rule in the north· India is reconstructed on tIle basis of
western partoflndia.1'wo inscriptions aCCOWlts available in Greek and Roman
of this monarch mention ~Hi(n)du M as a sources. Surprisingly, no Indian source
p art of his dominion . The exact mentions anything about Alexander or
his campaign.
connotation of this tenn is not known,
but it certa inly comprised some It is aJso surprising that while Greek
s ources give a very d etailed accou nt of
te rritory to the east ofthe Sindhu, which
Alexander's campaign to India, they are
Darius must have con quered about
comp letely silent about Kauti lya .
518 B.C. H erodotus, the Greek However, lhe identification of
historian, tells us that in 517 B.C.
Sandrocottas or Androcottas of Greek
Darius sent a n aval expedit ion to sou rces with that of Chandragupta
e..xplore the valley of the Sindhu river. Maurya and flXing 326 B.C. as the date
How long the Persian domination of Chandragupta's accession to the
lasted in India is not definitely known. thrune 11:1$ uennne Ule s heet a nc hor ur
Its conti nuance up to about 330 B.C. the chronological framework of Indian
is generally presumed o n the ground history.

. ........... .. , ... , .. ........... .. . ... . ............. ... ... ............. .. .... . ... . .............. M AJiAJANAPAOi\S TO NANDAS ~

On ce Alexander reached the Indian which Alexander had himself

soil. the )<jng ofTakshasila (Taxila, near concluded with them. But in the night
Rawalpindi in Punjab) offered to h elp they were surrounded and s laughtered
Alexander. Only a couple of Indian mercilessly by him and his soldi ers.
princes foUowed the ignoble example of This m assacre has been condemned
Taxila. Most of the numerous kings and even by the Greek writers.
republican Chiefs in Afgh anistan, After defeating Assakenoi and
Punjab and Sindh offered brave others Alexander joined his other
resistance, though in vain. Despite the d ivision o f army. A bridge was
fact tJlat petty chieftains were no match constructed on the Indus river at GlUnd
for the seasoned troops of Alexander a.bout 24 km. above Attock. After
and knew that they had no chance of crossing the Indus Alexander proceeded
success, they refusee! to s u bmit without towards Taxila. When he was about
a fight. The Greek writers have paid 7' km. from Taxila. Am bhi came forward
glowing tributes to the bravery and b~ great Alexander and recognised him
patriotism of a large number of t hem. as his sovereign.
After crossing the Hindukush , However, the most powerful among
Alexander divided his army into two the north-westem Indian was the ruler
parts. One part was kept under his own of a kingdom between the Jhelum and
comm and and the other under the two the Chenab whom the Greeks ca ll
of his bes t Generals. Alexander himself Poru s. probably a corruption of
undertook the task of conquering the Paurava. When he was summoned by
north-westem part of India. The Greeks Alexander's envoys he proudly replied
had to face a strong resistan ce from that he would undoubtedly do so,
I-Iasti, a tribal chief whose capital was but at hi s own frontiers and with
Pushkalavati. He stood the Greek siege arms. Alexander made e laborate
for ful130 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 th e enthus iasm for the defence of Nexander. The latter asked him how he
the coun try that even women took part would like to be treated. "Like a King"
in figh ting. Even the mercena r ies 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 republica n s tates with their 5000 cities
mercenary anuy of 7000 were granted and villages without number". In
their lives by a special agreement course of rus advance to the next river,

ANCIENT b .rOIA •• •.••••••• , ........ .............. . , . ..... .. ...... ............. ....... . . ... ..... ...... . . ....... ........... ..... . ... .

Beas, Alexander had to fight hard with died fighting and only a few being token
the Kathaioi (Kathas) whose casu alties 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 (ArjunayanasJ also fought w ith great
mutinied and refused to proceed further valour, a nd when one of their towns was
(end of July 326 B.C.). It is difficult to
captured by A1e.'Cander all the c itizens.
say whether this insubordination of the
numbering 20 ,000, after a h eroic
so ld iers was d u e 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
the mighty empire of the Nandas w hich is a long list of s u ch sagas of bravery,
lay beyond the river. But it is interesting patriotism and sacrifice. In September
to note that in course oftheir reply to 325 B.C. Alexander reached Patala, and
Alexander's pleading to go on further, began his hom eward j o urney . He
the troop s laid great stress on the proceeded with his army by land , but
caJanuty that would befall the whole sent the shi p s under Near c hu s.
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 ne..'(t year. Berore
thi s the h eroic resistance and patriotic leaving India, he had put several
sp irit d isp laye d by th e whole ks htrapas incharge of different parts of
population of the tiny republics must the conquered tenitories . But so me
have loomed large over the soldiers. conquered ganasanghas rebelled and
Ma ny a ncient Greek historians have there were other troubles even before
recorded that the retreat was because h e 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 Ale.&llnder'. Campaign
Whatever may be the real reason ,
Alexander had to bow to the decision The invasion of Alexander the Great has
of his mutinous s oldiers and decided been recorded in minute details by the
to return. Near the conflue nce of the Greek historians w ho n atural ly felt
Jhelum with the C henab 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 (Kshu drakas). All the towns over such an event. Was it because
o f the Malavas became c itadels of Alexander only touched the western
resistance. In one of them, 5000 border of t he then India and returned
brahmans left the pen for the sword and without leaving any las ling impact on

12 2
............................................................................................... .. MAllMANA"DAS TO

Indian people. His campaign can hardly

be called a great military success as the
do not certainly favour the hypothesis
that he could h ave faced the might of
NAND"" *
only military achievement to his credit N1andas with ease. Further, wha tever
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.

]. 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 Magad h a. What were the methods adopted by
Magadh an kings of various dynasties for the expansion or Magadha ?
4. Who was Alexander? Discuss his invasion of north-west India.

• Draw the m a p of India and iOCllte Mahajanpadas with their capitals.


THE M'Il\lyaJ, empin: WRS the lirst and ()n~ of the

greateol empires that were established on Indian
soi1. The vast Malltyan emplfe stretching from the
valley of lhe Oxus to the delta of Kaveri was given a
\vpll·knit, comtnop administration.
.•. •.• .. •.. . ...... ... .. .... .. .. . . ... ...... •............•......•....... .. ... . ...•. ..... ...... .. ...... . ........ ...... TtiE M AU"'AS

THe MAURY,," empire was the first and Buddhist sources like Mahauamsa and
one of the greatest empires that were Dipauamsa describe Chandragupta
established on Indian soil . The vast Maurya as a scion of the Kshatriya
Mauryan empire stretching [rom the clan of the Moriyas branch of Sakyas
valley of the Oxus to the delta of Kaveri who lived in Pipphallvana, in eastern
was given a well-knit, co mmon Uttar Pradesh. The Mudrarakshasa, a
administration. Chanciragupta Maurya p !ay written by Vishakha Datta,
was the first ruler who unified entire u ses the terms like Vrishala and
India under o ne political unit. About Kulahina, for Chandragupta whic h
Mauryan rulers we have epigraphicaJ me a n a person of humble origin .
sources, literary so urces, foreign Justin, a Greek writer, also says
accounts and materials obtained that Chandragupta was "born in
from a rchaeo logi ca l excavations. humble life".
The Arthashastra g~ves us detailed According to Buddhist sources
infonnation about the adminis trative Chandragupta's father was killed in a
system of the Mauryan empire. The battle and h e was brought up by his
work was written by Kautilya who i!:> maternal uncle . Chanakya, rmding
also known as Chanakya. Some t he s igns of roya lty in the child
scholars think that Kautilya was the Chandragupta, took him as his
real architect of the Mauryan empire pupil , a nd educated him at Taxil a
and was also the Prime Minister of which was then a great ce ntre of
Chandragupta Mawya. Megasthenese, lea.rning. Chandragupta's early life and
the Greek ambassador from the cou rt education at Taxlla is indirec tly 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 latte r's campaign of
but some fragments of it are lrnown to Punja b.
us in the form of quotations in the Th e details of Chandragupta's
works of the later Greek writers. cnnquests and empire building process
Despite some dis c repancie s and ane not available to us. From th e Greek
inaccuracies in th e information and Jain sources it seems th at
provided by Megasthenese it is , Chandragupta took advan tage of the
neverth e less, an useful source. disturbances caused by the invasion
However, the most important and of Alexander and his sudde n death
authentic source for the history of in 323 B,C. in Babylon. He , with the
Mauryan period is provided by th e h e lp of Kautilya raised a large army
inscriptions of Ashoka. and la unched cam paigns . He first
overthrew the Greek k s hatrapas ruling
ChandtagUpla Maury. (324-300 B.C.) in the region of n orth-western India.
Not much is known about the early life Justin writes, "India after the d eath of
and ancestry o f Chandragupta. The Ale.xander, had shaken, as it were, the

,. ANclEN'T 11'10[/\ ... .... •. .... .... ,. ................ ... ................... . . .. ........... ... .......... .... .. ...................... .

yoke of servitude from its n eck and put n ot k nown to have made conquest in
his Governors to death. The architect south l n dia. it can be said that it was
of this liberation was Sandrocottas". conquered by Chandragupta. Thi s
Sandrocottas of Greek writers has been conclusion is furthe r strength ened
identified with Chandragupta Maurya. b y the Jain tradition which says
After libera ting north -we s tern that in his old age Chandragupta
India fro m the Greek rule, abdicated the throne and retired t.o
Chandragupta turned his attenti9n to SravanbeJgola in Kamataka with his
the conquest of Magad h a 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
Parisistl1a Parva.mJ describes that with by fast unto d eath a t that place. There
t.he help of Chanakya, Chanrlragupta is a hill nearby cal led Chandragiri,
defeated th e Nanda king and which seems to be named a fter him.
captured him. After defeating Nanda, Chand ragupta d efe ated the
Chandragupta b ecam e the ruler of invading army of the Greek Kshatrapa
M agadha empire. SeJeu c us who had s ucceed ed
Chand.ragupta's western and Alexander in the eas tern part of hi s
s outhern Indian conquests nre known empire_ This victory was achieved
to u s through indh-ect evide n c e s_ in about 305 B.C. The Greek writers
The Junagarh rock in scrip ti on of do not give detail s of the war but
Rudra dam an says that a dam on the state that a treaty was concluded in
S udars hana lake for irrigation was which Seleucus conceded the territories
constructed by Push yagupta , ·a o f Kandahar, Ka bul , Herat and
provincial governor of Chandragupta Bal uchistan and C hand r agupta
Maurya. Later, Yauarw.raja Tushapba presented him 500 elephants. It is
excavated canals for iniga tio n during a lso state d that this a lso led to
Ashoka's reign. Similarly, th e find of the matrimoniaJ alliance between the
Ashokan inscliptions at Girnar hills in two - perhaps Seleu cu s married his
Junagarh district (in Oujarat) and at d aughter to Chandragupta Maurya or
Sopara (Thane d is trict , 'Maharashtra) to his son Bindusara. Sele ucus sent
s hows that these areas formed part of Megasthenese as his ambassador to
Mauryan empire. the court of Chandragupta. Plutarch
Ashoka's in scription s h ave been writes, "Sandrocottas who had by tha t
found at Ma ski , Yerragudi a nd time mounted the throne overran and
Chitaldurga in Karnataka. Rock subdued the whole of India with an
Edict n and XlII of Ashoka mentions army of 6 ,00,000".
that hi s immediate nei g hbourin g Thus , Chandragupta established a
states were those of Cholas, Pandyas, vast empire which with the exception
Satyaputras and Keralaputras. Since of Kalinga, extended from Afghanis tan
Ashoka and his father Bindusara are in the west to Assam in the east and

~--------~~~~~~ ~
.......... . .. TilE MAURYAS





... Rock Edicts

1. Pillar Edicts
.... Bouodarits of
Mauryan l;nlpin:

Fig. 14. 1 Map of the Mauryan Empire

ANCrENT IN DIA ...... .. .. . . ........ . . .. .... . .... . ... ... ......... . . .. . ... . . ...... ...... . . .... . .. .... ................. . ... .. . ... .

from Kashmir 1n north to Karnataka in traditional accounts. According to the

south. This is indirectly p roved by the Buddhist sources his mother was
fmd spots afthe 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 Acco rdin g t o t he Buddhist
his father Bindusara made a n y tradition, Ashoka was very cruel in Ws
conquests at all. Chandragupta early life and captured the throne after
Maurya is s aid to have ruled for 24 killing his 99 brothers. But this does
years Le. from 324 B.C, to 300 B.C. not appear to be correct. Not only
8lndu•• ,. (JOO-273 8 .C .)
because of the exaggerated figure of
99, but also because Ashoka himself
Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded speaks affecti onate ly about hi s
by his son Bindusara. We know brothers, sisters and relatives in his
little about this king. The Jain edic ts .
scholar Hemachandra and Tibetan Ashoka is the first king in the Indian
historian Taranath say that Chanakya history who has left bis rec ords
outlived Chandragupta and continued e ngraved on stones. The history of
as a minister of Bindusara. From Ashoka and hi s reign ca n b e
Diuyauadana we came to know that reconstructed with the help of these
Bindusara appointed his eld est son inscriptions and s ome other literary
Sumana (also named Susima) as his sources. The inscriptions on rocks are
viceroy atTaxila 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
Trud ia and when it cou ld not be are found in India, Nepal, Pakistan and
suppressed by Susima, Ashoka was Afghanistan. Altogether, they a ppear 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 Ed ic t 1 fo u nd at three places in
that this was done by his fat h er Karnataka an d one in Madhya
Cbandragup ta Maurya. Pradesh. All other inscriptions refer to
Bindusara continued the policy of him as deuanampiya. (beloved of th e
friend ly relations with Hellenic gods) and piya.dasi. These inscriptions
world. Pliny mentions that Ptolemy are ge n erally located on anci ent
Philadelphus of Egypt sent Dionysius highways.
as his ambassador to his court. The inscriptions of Ashoka were
written in four different scripts. In
Ashoka (273 -232 B.C.) Afghan istan area they were written in
After the death ofBindusara in 273 B.C. Greek and Aramaic languages and
Asboka succeeded to the throne. On the scripts, and in Pakistan area, in Prakrit
early life of Ashoka we have on ly language and Kharosthi script .

12 8
.... ............. ......... .............................. ........................ .. ................................ THE MAURVAS

Inscriptions from aU 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
KaUnga War and Ita Impact empire he appointed a class of officers
known as rajjukaswhowere 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 ofrus reign. This turned Ashoka'. Dhamma
out 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
XIIl 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 Buddhis m
lakh people were killed in this war, as his main faith, it would be wrong to
several lakhs perished and a lakh and think that he forced Buddhis t ideals on
a half were taken prisoners. These his subjects. He showed res pect to all
numbers may be exaggerated but one sects and faiths and believed in uruty
fact comes out clearly that this war among ethical and moral va lues of all
had a devastating a ffect on the people sects. In Rock Edict VII he says, "All
of Kalinga . The horrors of war sects desire both self control and purity
co mpletely changed the personality of of mind". In Roc k 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 poli cy 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 As hoka was
principles with dhammaghosa. He took the propagation of Dhamm a. 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 th.e 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 11 Ashoka himself puts
became a w ea k hearted pacifist. the question: "What is Dhamma?" Then
Contrary- to this he warned people that he enumerates the two basic attnbutes
these good measures may not be taken or constituents of Dhamma : less evil
as a s ign of weakness. If need be, he and many good deeds. He says such
would not hesitate ill dealing severely evil.s as rage, cruelty, anger, pride and

o A'iCIEHT I NOlA ........... . ........................................ . .......... .. . . ....................... ... .... ........ . . . ..... .

envy are to be avoided and many good (ii) Respect towards teachers
deeds like kindness, liberality, (iii) Proper treatment towards
truthflllnes~. gentleness, self control, ascetics, relations, slaves,
purity of heart, attaclunent to morality, servants and dependents, the
inner and Quter purity etc. - are to be poor and miserable, friends,
pursued vigorously. acquaintances and companions.
As hoka, in Rock Edict XII and (iv) Liberality towards ascetics,
many other edicts prescribes th e friends, comrades, rela tives and
following codes to be followed: the aged.
(i) Obedience to mother and father, (v) Abstention from kiJling of living
elders , teachers and other beings.
respectable persons. (vi) Non ~injury to all living creatures.
(vti) Spending little and accumulating
little wealth.
(vill) Mildness in cas e of all living
(ix) Truthfulness.
(x) Attachment to morality.
(xi) Purity of heart.
Thus , Ashoka tried to instill moral
law (Ohamma) 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 religio n as
such. He asked people to have control
over their passion , to cultivate purity
of life and character in innermost
th oughts , to be tolerant to other
religions . to abstain from killing or
injuring animals and to have regard for
them , to be charitable to all, to be
respectful to pare nts, 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 animal s . He
Fig. 14.2 Ashokan Edict established hospitals for humans and
Engraved on a Pillar animal::; and made liberal donations to

............................................................................................................... 1'HE

daughter Sanghamitra to propagate

Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
As,hob'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 du ties as a king
Fig . 1 4 . 3 Rummindei Pillar Inscriptioll a n d impose it on h is 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 weils 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 Ka li nga war Ashoka gre:atness. Probably no nller has ever
adopted Buddh is m , 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 th is world and the next, so also I
called Dharmamahamatras whose sole desire the same for all men".
responsibility was to propagate Ashoka is the on ly king in the
Dhamma among the people. history of human kind who apologised
Ashoka sent missions to fore ign to his conquered subject for having
cou ntries also to propagate dhamma. waged war against them and caused
His missionaries went to western As ia, 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 inscliptions of Ashoka.
Ashoka. namely, Antiochus Theos, of
Syria and western Asia, Pto lemy Dedine of the Maury-an Empire
Ph iladelphus 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 Epinls. 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 s uccessors were weak
continuous history of the empire after who could not control the unrest and
Ashoka. Perhaps, after the death of revolt in various pa rts of the empire.
Ashoka, the empire was divided into Consequently the north-western and
an eastern a nd an western part. The southern portions were the first to go
western part was governed by Kunrua, out. Some historia ns hold As hoka
Samprati a nd others and the eastern responsible for this decline. Ashoka's
part with southe r n India , with its pacifist policies weakened the empire
capita l a t Pataliputra, by six later in terms of wars and military strength .
Mau l-ya n kings from Dasarat h to The centrali sed empire n eed s 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 incom e and over all income
the empire and total disillusionment must have been very inadequate to
on kings unworthiness, Pushyamitra, maintain the army and the
the commande r- in -ch ief killed th e ad ministrative machinery. This must
king Brihadratha while he was have weakened the e ntire edi fi ce of
reviewing the anny. Too little is known the empire. But weak economy does
of the actual circw nstances leading to not appear to be the case, as the
such an ad. However, what is very clear excavation s 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 presen ce expending and flourishing economy.
of his amly. this s hows that he neit her
PoUty 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 twelft h world . It ushered in a centralised form
cen t ury A.D. where the king was of govenunent. From theAlthasllastra,
murdered and r ep laced. Though Ashokan inscriptions and from
Pushyamitra, ascended the throne, the fragment s available from
curiously enou gh, he retained the title Megasthenese's accounts, we have a
of the Senapati. He did not adopt any fairly good idea about the various
tiUe declaring h imself as the king. aspects of administration, economy,
There is something very dramatic in society and religion of the people.
the way in wh ich Mauryan empire The king was head of the state. He
d eclined and disappeared just in 50 had judicial, Jegislative and e.xecutive
years after the d eath of Ashoka. powers. The king issued what were
Historians have given various reasons known as sasana or ordinances. The

.......... . . . . ......................... .. ... ........ ... .. ....... . .. ..... . ............. . . .. .. ...... . .............. THE M A,URYAS

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

sasanas. But k ing could not do by rJaisya 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-raja Tushaspa at the time of
and had to govern according to the Ashoka, both provincial governors.
customs of t h e land. The king was Provinces were subdivided into the
assisted in administration by a districts, each of these were further
Council of Ministers (Mal1triparishad). 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 admin istration who
houses, commerce, agriculture, ships , tOW-cd the entire district every five years
cows, horses, elephants, chariots, to i.nspect 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
incharge of the revenues of the king. keeping beside judicial functions
Th e rajjukas were officers responsible enu merated above. The du ties of Yukta
for land measurement and fixing their largely comprised secretarial work,
boundaries. They were a lso given co1l1~ction and accounting of revenue
power to punish the guilty and set etc. There were an in termediate levels
free the innocents. Another officer of of administration between district and
the Mauryan admin istration 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 adrninistmtion. The head of the village
was the provincial govemer. was called gramika who was assisted
Th e Mauryan empire was divided in village administration by "village
into provinces. We do not know about elde:rs". It is difficult to say whether the
the number of p rovinces during the gramika was a paid servant, or was
reign ofChandragupta and Bindusara.
elected by the village people. The
But we know that during the reign of
Bindusara, Ashoka was posted at vill.ages enjoyed considerable
Ujjain as Governor of the Avanti region autonomy . Most of the disputes of the
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. Arthashastra mentions a wide range
provinces were directly under Kurnaras of s·cales in salary, the highest being
(princes). According to the Junagarh 48,000 panas and the lowest 60
rock inscription of Rudradaman, panas.

ANC1EN1' I NDIA ....... •.•••••••••...•••.....••.••••• ••• •. . • ..•........ ••••••...............•.•..•..........•...........•.•...

City Admfn.t .tration 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 Nagaroka.
mentioned in the edicts of Ashoka. The The administrative machinery
Arthas1tashtra has a full c hapter of the Mauryan state was fairl y
on the administration of cities. d eveloped 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 Society and Cult-are
each. Each of these boards had
Megasthenese speaks of Mauryan
specific responsibilities towards the
society as comprising seven castes -
administration of city. For e.xample, flfSt
philosophers, farmers, soldiers,
board was concerned with the
herdsmen, artisans, magistrates and
industrial and artistic produce. lts
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. Th e
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 ofjati enjoyed 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 people 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 the
who looked after the public welfare main job of th e brahmans _ But
such as maintenance and repairs of Buddhist monasteries also acted as
roads. markets, hospitals, temples, educational instinltions. Taxila, Ujjayioi

..... . . .. ...... , ..... ............. . ...................................... ........ ................ ... ............ THE M AURYAS

and Varanasi were famous educational great impetus to economic development

centres . The technical education was during the period. The vastness of
generally provid ed through guilds, In d ia's agricultural and mineral
where pupils learnt the crafts from early resources and the ex'tr8ordinary skill
age. of her craftsmen have been mentioned
In the domestic life, thejoint family with admiration by Megasthenese and
syste m 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 (s tree-dhanal , and
agriculturists and lived in villages. New
jewels. These were at her disposa l 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
enjoy in g 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 (kodraua), sesame, pepper and
officials, in charge of workshops and saffron , pulses, wheat , lin seed,
prisons who misbehaved with women. mustard, vegetable and fruits of various
Megasthenese h as stated that kinds and sugarcane were grown .
s lavery did not exist in India. However, The state a lso owned agricu ltural
forced labour and bonded labour did farms , cattle farms, dairy farm s etc.
e...xist on a very limited scale but were Irrigation was given due importance.
not treated so harshly as the slaves in Water re se rvoirs 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, fou.nd at Junagarh mentions ihat
education, etc. which m ade India into one o f 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 ofSkandagupta we came to
Economy know that this very dam was repaired
The Mawyan state created a machinery during his rclgn, almost 800 years after
which governed vast areas directly and it was built.
to enforce the rules and regulations in lndustry was organised in various
r es pect of agriculture , industry , gu ilds. 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 a nd silk. Foreign t rade 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
trader had to get a license to trade. The
state controlled a nd regulated t h e
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 educationa l
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 gu ild s of ivory workers.
Similarly, the Nasik cave inscription
mentions that two weaver's guilds gave
permanent endowments for the
maintenance of a temple.
Flg. 14.4 Ashokan Pillar with Lion
Kautilya says, "A fulllreasury is a
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 M AURYAS

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 fonn of a
was also levied on aU 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 tbese tenns, "where the greatest of
Arthashashtra describes revenue at allldngs" of India resided, "was a marvel
great length. This was 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. stnlcture 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 h ave survived are:
(i) Remains of the royal palace and the
dty of Pataliputra
(ii) Ashokan pillars and capitals
(iii) Rock c ut Chaitya caves in the
Bara bar 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

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

considered to be one afthe most unique

historical record. It gives a biographical
account of th e 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 finan ce, necessary for a crown-
prince, Kharvela ascended the throne
in h is twenty fourth year. He spent the
firs t year in rebuilding the capital of
Kalinga. In the second year, he defied
the might of Satakami and attacked
and destroyed the city of Mushika; in
the fourth year he subduded Rathiras
and Bhojakas of Berar. 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 disu se. republics through their co ins 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 th e seco nd Audumbaras , Kunindas, Yaudheyas
campaign, Kharavela carried home an etc. Most of these, later on became
image of the Jain t irthankara 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 a nd
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 lCharavela's reign. Nothing is a very powerful kingdom was
heard of him or his su ccessors, ifany. 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 ofrepubUcs ruling over the AitareyaBrahmanaalso. The Greek

........ . ............................................................... . THE: AOE OF SUNGAS AND SATAVA!lANAS /.

writer Pliny men tions that the Andhras referred to as the lord ofDakshinapailia.
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 th e
thousand e lephants. During the renovation and decoration of Sanchi
Mauryan age they were part of the stu pas and monasteries.
Mauryan empire but it appears that The next important king was
immediately after the fall of the Gautamiputra Satakami. In between.
dynasty, the Andhras declared three kings ruled, of whom
themselves free. Satakami 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 11, the expansion of
Satavahana empire received a set
back and Nahapana seems to have
conquered part of Satavahana territory.
A large number of coins of Nahapana
has been found in Nasik area.
The Satavahanas became powerful
agr,ain during the reign ofGautamiput ra
Satakarni. His achievements are
recorded in glowing terms in the Nasik
inscription of Queen-mother, Gautami
Batasri. This inscription was engraved
after h is death and in the nineteenth
year o f the re ign of hi s 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 Sataoohanas restruct large number of his silver
coins. He also recovered northern
235 B.C. to 2] 1 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 perfonned two the eighteenth year of his reign and
Arnuamedhayajna. His achievements gI-anted some land to ascetics in the
a t! described in detail in the Nanaghat twenty fourth year. Gau tamiputra
ir.~c r iption. It appears that he Satakarni is the first king bearing
cO'.lquered western Malwa, Vidarbha matronym and this p ractice was
and Anupa (Narmada Valley). He is also followed by nearly all his successors.

14 3
t ANCIENT J""IA .. ... ....... .................................................................................................... ..

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 ofPulmavi have been found Vasumitra's conflict with Yavanas, in his
in Andhra Pradesh. This shows that Mal.avi.kagnirnitram. It may be
Andhra had become a part of mentioned that the word Yavana
Satovahana empire in the second originally mean.t Ionian Greeks, but
centwy 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 suprem acy
married the daughter of Saka ruler on Indian soil; they were succeeded by
Rudradaman. But this Sake king seve r al central As ia n 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 (Nannada valley).
being discussed here.
Sri Vajna Satakarni (A.D. 165·195)
wa s perhaps the last of the great The Indo·Greeka
Satavahana ruJers . 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 inciden ts on the western border of
From the distribution of his coins it India. After Alexander a lru'ge part of
appears tbat he ruled over a large
his empire carne under the rule of his
kingdom extending from bay of Bengal
Generals. The two main a reas wer e
in east to Arabian sea in the west. Th us
he regained the land that the Sakas had Bactria and the adjoining areas of Iran
conquered from bis predecessors. known as Parthia. About 250 B.C.
Maritime trade and activities during his Diodotus , the governor of Bactfia
reign are indicated by depiction of ship revo lted against the Greeks and
with a fish and conch on his coins. proclaimed his independence. Some
The successors ofYajna were weak important Indo-G r eek kings we r e
and unworthy to govern such a large Euthydemus, Demetrius, Eu cratides
em pi re. Th ey ruled ove r small and Menander.
territories, The Satavahana em p ire Among all the Indo-Greek rulers,
collapsed when Abhiras seize d Menander(165·145 B .C.), was the most
Maharashtra a n d Ikshvakus and illustrious, He ruled for almost twenty
Palla vas appropriated the eastern years. His capital was Sakala (modem
provinces. Sialkot) in Pakistan, Greek writers tell
us that he was a great ruler and his
The Epoch of Foreign Invade,." tenitory extended from Afghanistan to
One of the most important events of the Uttar Pradesh in east and Gujarat in
reign of Pus hyamitra Sunga was the the west. Men ander was converted to

144 \
.. .......................................................................... TliE A GE OF SUNGAS AND SATAVAHAN AS

king of kings .... Vonones was succeeded

by Spalirises. Gondophemes was the
gre-atestofthe Parthian rulers. He ruled
from A.D. 19 - 45. It a ppears that for a
very brief period he was master of the
Saka- Pahalvaarea both in eastern Iran
and north-western India. Soon after
Gondophernes, the Pahlava ru le in
India ended and the Kushanas moved
in. Ex cavation s a t Begram in
Afghanistan have brought to light a
large number of coins ofGondophemes
but none of his successors.
The Sakas
Pig. 15.3 Coins of Indo-Greeks The Indo-Greek rule in north-western
India was destroyed by the Sakas who
Buddhism by Buddhist m onk are als o known as the Scythians. The
Nagasena. Menander asked Nagasena Sakas or Scythians were nomactic 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 Ou l of their
Nagasena's answers are recorded in original home by the Yueh-chi, later
Milindapanho or the Questions oj came to be known as Kushanas, who
Milinda. in tum were also pushed out of their
In the history of India, the Indo- lOOld 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 wes t.
Tbe first migrants were Yueh-ehi, who
The Parthian. displaced Sakas, who in turn, invaded
The Parthians also known as Pahlavas Bnetria and Parthia and then en lered
were Iranian people. Their history is In d ia through the Bolan Pass. The
obscure. But a few facts may be gleaned Sakas were divided in five b ranch es 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 Arach osia and On e branch settled in Afghanistan. The
Seistan and adopted the title of "great second branch settled in Punjab with

t ANCIENT INDIA ........... .. .................. . . . ....... . .. ... ......... ...... ................. . ................................. .

Ta.'\.iJa as its capital. The third branch on north-western border of China. In

settled in Mathura. The fourth in theyear 165 B.C., they came in conllict
Maharashtra and Saurashtra and rlle with a neighboUring tribe known as
rtfth in central India with Ujjain as its Hiung-nu. The Yueh-ch i were defeated
capital. The Sakas ruled in different and forced to move out of their land .
SIess 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 a lternative 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 cal led Wu-sun whom.
promi nen t ruler of western India was t.hey defeated easily. At about th is time whose reference is found in the Yueh-chi were d ivided into two
various inscriptions found in groups - LittJe Ylleh-chi which migrated
Maharashtra and in the records of the to Tibet and great Yueh-chi which
Satava h anas. Of the central Indian finally came to India. After Wu-sun the
branch, the most iUustrious ruJer 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 Rudractaman, it appears leave their land and they came to
that his rule extended over a vast India and the Ylleh-chi settled down
territory including the areas of Gujarot, 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 agricu lturaJ a nd a settled
undertook the repairs of the Sudarsan way or life. Further, perhaps this
lake dam that had been built by the area great Yueh-chi were divided into
provincial governer Cbandragupta five branches.
Maurya, in Kalhiawad when it was According to Chinese sources, the
damaged by heavy rains. first great Yueh-chi king was Kujula
Uijayini, the capital of Rudradaman Kadphises, also known as Kadphises I
beca m e a centre of culture and who united all the five groups and
education. Many scholars Utink that established h is autho r ity over
Saka Era was founded by Sakas. The Afghanistan . He called hirns~lf 'great
dynasty came to an end with the defeat king'. He is also called dharmathida
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. t.hat he was a Buddhist.
Kadphises I was succeeded by his
The Kushana.
son Wema Kadphises or Kadphises U
The Chinese historians teU us that t.'1e who extended Kushana territory llpto
Yueh-chi were a nomadic tribe settled Punjab, or perhaps even in the Ganga-

14 6
....................................................... ....... ........... THE AGE OF S UNGAS ANO SATAVAHANAS i

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

Yamuna daa b. He issued gold and Kani shka was a fo ll ower of

copper coins and is referred to as great Buddhism. Th e fourth Buddhist
king and a devotee of Siva. On some of co uncil was h eld during Kanishka's
his coins Siva holding a trident and bull Kanishka's cou rt wa s adorned by
are shown. the presence of such scholars as Parsva,
Ka dphises II was s u cceeded by mitra, Ashvaghosha, Charaka,
Kanishka, the most well known and and Nagarjuna. Durin g hi s reign
greatest of a ll the Ku s hana kings. Taxila and Mathura emerged as great
Kanlshka seems to have come to throne centres of art and culture.
in A.D. 78 and some historians think Kaniskha ruled from A.D . 78-10l.
that Ka nishka founded the Saka era. After him came Vasishka, Huvishka,
At its peak, Kanishka's empire Va.sudeva 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 Vaishnaua
Malwa in the south. The capital ofthls deity, he was a Saiva. The decline of
vast empire of Kanishka was Kushana power set in after Vasishka,
Purushapur Le. modern Peshawar. though the Kushanas continued to rule
Coins of Kanishka had been found up to the fourth century A.D. over small
from almos t a ll ove r the above principalities, indepe ndently under
mentioned area. some sovereign rulers.

t AN CIENT I NDIA •••••••••••...•••...........••••••••••••••••••••••....•........•...•••••••••• •... •.•.•... . .........•..••..•... . .


1. Descr ibe the political condition of India after Ma u ryans.

2. Who were the Satava h a nas ? Desc ribe their political achievemen ts .
3. Who were I ndo ~Greek and how do we k now a bout them?
4. Who were Kus hanas? Describe their political his tory.
5. Write short notes on:
{il Sakas
(iil Kanis h ka
(iii) Parthians
(iv) Kharve la

• Collect some pic tures of the coins fou n d in different dynasties. Try
and find out their value in terms of Rupees.

14 8
. ,



.. •

. .
, , t WI , t • __

• •



'J.'HJ!: earliest referen~s that we find about the people

andkjngcjo}:,Ils of the ,~("ea ar~ preserv"d j1;1 ~hree
r(}nn~: - Ashpkan illscriptions.- $anginn literature
and Megasthenese's acoounts. The Rock Edict II
fu\d Xllf'ofAshoka mentions-the southe~n Idhgdoms

of Cnola, Pandya Satyaputra, KeraJaputra and
.• ~

• ,
• • ••
,~ . .. •
t 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 excamated and then interred. Grave
first millennium B.C. In this chapter we goods included pots and iron
shallleam about the history of south artifacts. A stone circle is erected
India from the Megalithic period to around the pit.
about A.D. 300.
(il) Gists: 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.
a p pears that t h ere was an abrupt (ii i) Laterite chambers: In Mala b ar,
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


-' 50
(iv) Alignments: In Gulbarga district
and sou th of Hyderabad, a large

or stone ci r cles. Their main

past. They are marked by capstones

number o f stand in g stones ooncen tration is on the eastern coast.

(menhirs) arranged in squares or There is no doubt about lhe 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, m en hirs are however Black-and-Red ware and typical iron
arranged in a semi-circle. tools. They have a sw-prising unifonnity
(v) Sacrophagi: These legged urns of al1 over the peninsula. In Ole pottery
terracotta sometimes have animal shapes conical or looped lids, carinated
h ead s and are not very common . vases, pedestalled bow ls, s pouted
(vi) Urns: The pract ice of burying dishes etc. are quite character istic. Of
excarnated bones in urns seems to the iron im plements the main types are
be a hangover from the Neolithic a.xes with c rossed stra p s, sic kles,
tripods, tridents, spearh eads, swords,
lamp hangers, arrowh eads and lamps.
Horse-harness bits and bells are also
common finds. Occasionally, bea d s of
etched carnelian , gold ornaments and
E',undry objects of copper or ston e are
associated with the megaliths.
These Megalithic monuments,
whatever their extern al s h ape and
contents, seem in our prese nt
knowledge to herald not on ly t he Iron
Age, th at is a period of India's history
when the use of iron for too Ls 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
sti ll know very litt le as how tbe
Megalithic people lived, because no
such site has been excavated. Naturally,
the builders of these Megaliths remain
unknown. No reference to these
monuments has been traced in Sanskrit
o r Prakrit literature, though the early
Tamil literature does c ontain
Fig. 16.2 Megalithic Iron Toots descriptions of these burial practices.

ANCIENT I NOlA ..... ............ ................ ,." ...................................................... ........... ........... ... .

The Early History there has been a lot of c ultura l

The earliest references that we find interactions between the southern and
about the people and kingdoms northern India. With the regular settled
of the area are preserved in three fonns life, development of strong sedentary
- Ashokan in scriptions, Sangam. communities an d a strong economy.
literature a nd Megasthenese's three states, namely, Cholas . Ch eras
accounts. The Rock Edict II and and Pandya e m e rged. Th e Sangam
XIII of Ashoka mention s the literature believes that the dynasties of
southern kingdom s of Chola. Pandya, Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas belong to
Satyaputra, Keralaputr a and immemorial a ntiquity.
Tambapanni. All these lay outside Cholas
the Ashokan e mpire but Ashoka's
benevo lence to th ese n eighbouring The Cholas occupied the delta o f th e
states is very much attested by the fact Kaveri river and the adjoining region.
that he made provisions for medicines The r egion of Kanchi was also part of
and fo od ite m s etc. for an imal s their kingdom . It was also call ed
and hum ans of these kingdoms. Cholamandalam in early m edieval
Megasthenese a lso mentions these times. It was situated towards the
states. In the HatJ1igumpha inscription north-east o f Pandya kingdom .
of KharveJa, h e is credi ted for defeating Earlier its capital was Uraiyur in
a confederacy of Tamil states. TiruchirapaUi but subsequently it was
The first detail ed description of shifted to Puhar which came to be
south lnclian slates is found in Sangam known as Kave ripattanam. In the
literature belo nging 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 ru led over it
among the spo ken a nd literary for about 50 years.
languages of south India and t he The most dlstinguished of the early
earliest litcrarure of this language is Chola kings was Karikala. His two great
k n own as Sangam literature. This
achievements seem to be the crushing
literature represents the coUection of
odes, ly rics and idylls which were defeat he inflicted upon the joint force s
com posed by poets and sch olars fo r the of C h e r n and Pandya kings and
p r esentation in three successive successful invasion of Sri Lanka.
literary assemblies called "Sangam", It appears that Karikala defeated,
established by the Pandyan kings . The in a great battie at Vennl. near Tanjore,
Sangam li terature preserves folk a confederacy of a bout a dozen rulers
memory about the society and life in headed by Chera and Pandya kings
south India between the third Century 8l1d established his s upremacy 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, San s krit conquered Sri Lanka. He is credited
and Sangam literature, it is clear that to have built big irrigation channels by

.................................................... .............. ................ THE E ARLY H'STORY OF SoUTH INO" il'




o . OOOI·ikondacholapurarn .
UnoJyur K• ."c:rip3nlnarn(P"h:ar)

Fig. 16.3 SaTIfJwn 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 agricu ltu re, trade, Karikala, who is known as a great king
commerce, arts and craft etc. He was 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 1l'lOlA .. ... .. ............ ............. . , ...... ............................................... .............. .. ..

empire declined and the Cheras and area of the kingdom included the
Pandyas extended their territories at narrow strip of land bet'veen the sea
the cost of the Chola kingdom . Arter the and the mountains of Konkan range.
defeat at t.he hands of the PaUavas, 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
Pandya. 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 modem districts of
In this battle both the kings were killed.
Tirunelveli, Ramnad and Madurai in
Tamil Nadu. The capital of the kingdom
He is said to have defeated the Yavanas
was Madurai, The Sangam literature also. Probably. the reference is to the
gives some disjointed information and Greeks and Romans who came in large
names of a few kings. Nedunjeliyan is number as traders and set up large
mentioned as a great Pandya king. The colonies in south India. According to
Chera, Chota and five other minor states the Chera tradition, the greatest king
combined against him and advanced of the Chera dynasty was Sengutturan.
against him at Madurai. But he He is said to have subjugated the Chola
defeated the combined forces. This great and the Pandya kings.
victory was remembered for long and It is interesting to note that some
has even been mentioned in a tenth kings of all the three kingdoms claim
century A.D. inscription. He is also said that their rulers lead victorious
to have performed several Vedic expeditions to the north, as far as
sacrifices. He may be taken to have Himalayas. The Chera king Nedunjeral
ruled around A.D, 210. Adan is called lmayauararnban. i.e. "he
Under the Pandyas, the capital who had the Himalaya mountains as
Madurai and port city Korkai were greal the boundary of his kingdom ". But
centres of trade and commerce. The clearly aU this was e:xaggeration. At the
Pandyan kingdom was very wealthy end of the third century A.D. the Chers
and prosperous. The tra d ers profited power declined and we hear about them
from trade with the Roman empire. again in the eighth century A.D.
Pa ndya kings even sent embassies to However, one important fact about
the Roman emperor Augustus <V1d these three early kingdoms of south
Trojan. India is that they constantly fought with
each other and made new alliances
against the ones who became powerful.
The Cheras, also known as irrespec tive 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.

1. Discu ss the Megalithic culture in south India .
2. Describe the economy of th e Megalithic people.
3. Describe the political h istory of Cheras. Pandyas and Ch a las .

• Collect phOtOgT8phs 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
Choias , Pandyas and Cheras.



THE five centunes that passed between the fall of

the Mauryas and the rise of the Guptas witnessed a
lot of political instability and upheaval, but during
the same period there had been a lot of progress in
the areas of literature, science, art architecture
.....................................SOCnm, ECONOMY AND CUL""" DURING SUNG"" AND SATAVAHANhS

THE five cen tunes that passed between follow almost immediately aftenvards
t.he fall of the Mawyas 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 Th e Mana va. Dharmasastra or
the same period there had been a lot of Manu.smriti is not only the oldest work
progres s in the areas of literature, of t.his 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 fi rst century B.C. Some other
base for future developments. Also, important smritis are Naradasmriti,
during this period, there were close Vishnusmriti, YajnalJalkyasmriti,
cultural and economi.c 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 Litccoture
we:re declared to be of divine origin.
In the field of language and literature The most outstanding work in the
this period is c haracterised 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 Hterature in the South. of Sanskrit granunar learning shifted to
In the north there was progress in the the Deccan where the Katantra school
Sanskrit language and literature, and flourish ed in the first century A.D.
various rorms of Prakrit with a Sarvavannan, a scholar of great repute
djstinctive literature of its own . in the court of the Satavahana King
The most remarkable compilations Hala, comp o sed the grammar of
of the period are the two great Epics, Katantra. This work was s hort and
the Ramayana and the Mahabharala. handy which h elped the learning
Some of the Dh.armasastra works were of Sanskrit in about six months .
also composed in this period. Hala wrote a grea t poetical work
The smritis have played a very Gathasapta.sati in Prakrit.
imPOJtanl 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 philo sop her. H e wrote
sm riti s may be regarded as the Saundarananda, Bu.ddhacharita,
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 smrilis Mahakcwya. This wo rk has been

t AN CIENT 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 Turlan , 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 a nd guide to the Tamilians.
and mentioned by Kautilya and Silappadikamm and Manimekhalali
Patanja li . 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
NatyashastTa written by Bharata. a re important sources for the
The important Pali work of the co nstruction of the early history of
period was Milindapanho, which s outh India.
eA"plains the Buddhist doctrines in the
Social Conditionlf
fonn of a dialogue between Milinda
(who is generally identified with the During this period varna and ashrama
Indo -Greek king Menander) and systems contin ued 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
S&ngam 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
Le., 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 kingd o m . Eac h Sangam marriage between different varnas .
consisted of a number of distinguished These were ca lled anuloma i.e .•
poets and erudite scholars who selected marriage between the male of higher
the best ones from amongs t the works vama 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 sociaJ s tatus of a person
literature produ ced b y these born of anuioma was higher than
assemblies, was compiled between partiloma and they followed t hei r
A.D. 300 and 600. On the whole corpus father's occupation. Buddhist texts and
of literature , Eltuttogai (the eight other evidence also leave no doubt that
anthologies) coUection is considered to the so called mixed castes really resulted
be the earliest one belonging to c. third from organisations like guilds of people

...................................... SOOL.". EcoNOM' 'NO CULTURE DURLNO S UNGAS ANO S",V"'''''MS

following different arts and crafts. The individual was divided into four stages.
general theory of intermarriages It may be pointed out that this four fo ld
leading to the birth of different mixed division of life dates back to the vedic
jalis appears superficial and handy. age and we get a fairly comprehensive
The Buddhist texts also show lhatjatis 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 s, 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
a lso of a Setthi (Vaisya) working as a tiu'ead, a person lead a celibate life as a
tailor and a potter, without loss of student at the home of h1S leacher.
prest ige in both cases. We find (ti) Grihastha : Having mastered the
kshatriyas of the Sakya and Koliya Vi~das or part of them, a person returns
clans cultivating their fie lds. The to his parental home , gets married and
Vasettha Sutta refers to brahmans becomes a householder (grillastha).
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
brah mans following many diverse from three debts: d e bt 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 lead ing a
to brahmans pursuing tillage, tending
religious life.
cattle, trade . hunting, carpentry.
weaving, policing of caravans, archery. (jil) Vanaprasrha : When well advanced
driving of carriages. and even snake- in middle age and a person has seen
channing. The Jatakas hold up a his grandchildren, he leaves home for
brahman pe.:'l.sanl. as a supremely pious the forest to become a henn it. 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 In do-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
thal 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. aJms.
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

t ANC.E", INDIA ..........••.••••••.• .••. ••. •• •... . ...• •. •••••• ••• •••••••.• •• .•.•.... •. .••• •••••.• •••••.•.•............•.••••• •.

material things, leaves hennitage and s tuden ts are mentioned - Brahmavadin

becomes a homeless wanderer, and or lifelong sruden ts of sacred texts and
thus earthly ties are broken. This Sadyoduaha who pursued their
fourth ashrama is the one when person srudies till their m arriage. They also
abandons, truth and falsehood, received training in fine arts like music.
pleasure and pain . t h e vedas, this dancing and painting. From the
world and the next, seeks only atman description o f Megasthenese and
The scheme of the four ashramas Kautilya it appears that some of them
was des igned to give a wide scope to went for military and administra tive
individuals in the choice of a vocation trainings also. The ideal marriages were
in life which was best suited to their those wh ere the father and guardian of
int ellectua l cap ac ity an d mental the girls selected the bridegroom on
inclinati ons. It was not absolutely aCC01.lnt of his qualifi cations. The
necessary that one should strictly follow women enjoyed h onourable 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 p are n ts, children, and science a nd ad ministra tion as
grandchildren. uncles and their revealed from the literature of the period.
descendents, servants etc. Even the class of courtesans enjoyed a
social s t atus not accorded to them
Family Life anywhere else in the world . The theme
The joint frunily system characterised of several dramas of the period revolved
the society. Family rather than the around courtesans . We find the
individual was consid ered as the unit reference to the practice of satiaJso. In
o f the social system , Obedience to the fam ily property, all the sons had
pare nts and elders was h eld as the equal share. Unfortunately, a large
highest duty for children, Marriage nwnber of Dhannasastras rejecl the
between the members of the same rig h t of women to inh e rit, but
joNs was a lso preferred, though Yajoovalkya lays down a list of priority
intermarriage between different jaos in inheritance, which pl aces wife,
was prevalent. The marriage in the same followed by the daughters, immediately
gotra a nd prauQ,ra is restricted . Eight after sons. The right of a wife to inherit,
forms ofmalTiage are mentioned in the if no so n s wer e living , has been
DhamJ.OSaStras. These a re--brahma, accepted by most of the ancient Indian
daiua. arsha, prajapatya, asu.ra, a uthorities. However, she was a llowed
gandharva. rakshasa. and paisacha. some personal property (stree-dhana)
Among these the last on e is cond emned in t he fonn ofjewe!lery, clothlng etc. The
by all the Dharmasatms. Wom en n ot Arthashastraallows her to own mon ey
only got good edu cation but also held upto 2,000 s ilver panas, and amoun t
honoura ble position in the society and a b ove thi s co uld be held by h er
household. Two classes of women husband in trust on h er behaJf.

...................................... SOCn:.:n. ECONOMY AND CULllJRE DURING SUNGAS ANO SATAVAHANAS ~
Religion. tradition, as raja Milinda. But by far
The period witnessed au efflorescence of the greatest name among the foreign
new ideas leading to the rise of new p at ro n s of Buddhism is t h at of
philo sophical sc hools and religious Kan ishka. His fame in the Buddhist
~ects, which, modified the outlook of world is only second to that of Ashoka.
~ocjcty and are visible in all four major Owing his time Buddhism spread to
religious sects of the period Le., central Asia, China , South East Asia
Vaishno.vism, Saivism. Buddhism and and West. Li ke Ashoka, Kanishka
Jainism. called a Buddhist council - the fourth
Buddhism council in Kashmir under the joint
presidents hip of Vasum itra and
During the reign of Ashoka, Buddhism
Ashvaghos h a. The conveni ng of this
became one of the It:adlllg religions of
India. The group of foreign invaders coun cil led to the divis ion of Budd.hism
that appeared on Indian soil from the in to two broad sects - the Hin ayana
first century B.C. onwards were a nd th e Mahayana . While the
attrac t ed by its li berality ahd Hinayan a followed the o lder ord e r
simplicity and accepted Buddhism in and philosophy of Buddhism, the
large numbers. One of these, the Greek Mahayana introduced ma n y new
king Menander, lived in the Buddhist elements in the old er order.

Fig. 17.1 The Great Stupa at Sanc1ti

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

Some new features that were was in Kamataka and in Tamil Nadu.
introduced in the older order were: Sravanbelagola in modem Kamataka
(i) The introduction of a belief in the became the great centre of Jainism.
Bodhisttauas, being those "who Despite the divisions, J ain
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) Buddha began to be worshipped in constant.
the icon fonn with elaborate rituals Vedlc Religion
instead of symbols. To Hinayanists ,
Buddha was a great teacher and the Vedic religion did not remain
Mahayrulists considered him as unchanged through alj these centuries.
God. Some of the Vedic Gods had quietly
(ill) f:linayanists 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 th e Trinity of
philosophy is ascribed to Nagrujuna. a Gods at this time - Brahrna as the
contemporary of Kanishka. He creator, Vishnu as the preseIVer, and
propounded madhyamika sch ool of Siua (also known as Rudra and
Buddhist philosophy popularly known Mahesh) as the God who eventually
as sunyauada. destroys the universe when it is evil
ridden. Of the three Gods, the cult of
Jalnlam Vishnu and Siva, sometime associated
Jainism also flourished during this with Sakti cult became more popular.
period along with Buddhism and One form of Va is hn avism 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 n ew
towards west and settled in sect had spread in a large area
Saurashtra, while the other group as in scrip t ional evidence shows .
settled in Kalinga where it enjoyed royal The famous Besnagar (district
patronage under king Kharvela. In Vidisa, Madbya Pradesh) inscription
south India their main concentration mentions that Heliodorus, the Greek

•.. ... . .• •. .• .. .. .. .• •••••• ••.• ••.•• •••SOCIETY. E CONOMY AND CULTURE DURIN G S UNGAS AND S ATAVAHANAS '-

ambassador of King Antialcidas. called t h at a completely personal relationship

him se lf Bhaga uata and erected a between God and the devotee was
Garudadhauja, in honour of Vasudeva. possible. This relationship was the on e
at Besnagar. It is thus apparent where God could bestow his grace on
that Bhagavatis m like Buddhis m the devotee . and the degree of devotion
was popular e nough to attrac t 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 of later
the Bhagavad-Gita. Other early Hindu ism.
inscriptions related to Bhagavatis m It was in the flIst century A.D. that
came from Ghosundi (Rajasthan), Christianity was introduced in India by
Malhura (Uttar Pradesh) and Nasik the traders from the west. The coming
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 s uch as those of phallic
emblem (lingamJ. the buU (NandL) etc.
and was also associated with Sakticult.
The most common cult object of the
Saivas is lingam., the earliest specimens
of which have been found in ' the
Harappan period. One of the important
schools of Saivism was Pasupata sect
funded by Lakulin or Lakulisa around
s econd century B.C. Saivism also
attracted the foreigners. Wema
Kadphi s es the s econd king of the
Kushana dynas ty 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 a ll these sects were a gradual shift Fig. 17.2 Besnagar Pillar of
in emphasis from rituals to the view HeliDdorus, near Vidisa

t !\NCORNT I NDIA ............................................................................... . ............................... -. -

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

legend of St. Thomas, who according records, but also represented 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
a n important institution in the
Kcoa.omic COGClitiOD economy. The guilds implemented well
The period witnessed all round defined rules of work and controlled the
development in the field of agriculture, quality of the fmished product and its
industry and trade. Agriculture was the prices to safeguard both the artisans
main occupation of a large section of 8l1d the customers. The behaviour of
the people. Outside the grama lay the the guild members wa s controlled
ara ble land of the village, the gmma- through a guild court. The guilds also
ks11etra which was p rotected 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 an,
Sometimes the land holdings were big cllettis in south India . Guilds also
consisting of up to 1,000 acres. Usually carried out benevolen t a nd welfare
holdings were small enough that could works s uch 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, and also those
belonging to the state. Kautilya gives a
complete scheme of village plan. The
land of the village was divided into -
cultivated, uncultivated, grove, forest,
pastures etc. Among the crops, rice of
different varieties, coa rse grains,
sesame, saffron, pulses, wheat, linseed,
sugarcane, m u stard and large number
of vegetables·and fruits were grown. On
the boundary of the village was
ge nerally a forest. The village had
artisans like carpenter. potter,
blacks(nith, barber, rope maker,
washennan etc.
Rem arkable progress in trade and
industry is noticeable during this
period. A large number of arts and
c rafts and occupations are not only Fig . J 7.3 711£ Gateway of Sanchi Stupa

................................. Soc,""'. ECONOMY ANa CULTURE DU"'NG SUNGAS ANa SATAVAHANAS

Vidisa carved the stone sculptures on

the gateways and railings surrounding
and external trade was vigorous in most
parts ofIndia. AlI 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 fordeve]oped 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. deve]oped by Chandragupta Mawya.
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 flrst
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 indu strial 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 Karle C'ave

_ ANCIENT I.NDIA ............................ . ........... " ., ... , ...................................................... .

as by land route wruch is generaUy Art anel Architccture

known as the silk route. This connected The excavatio n of the Taxila, Sakala,
the world from China to Rome and Shita, Kausambi, Ahichchhatra ,
served as a transmitter of not only the Patliputra, Nagarjunkonda, Amaravati,
trading commod ity 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 l a rge
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.
estabHshments a nd items of trade like
In the field of architec ture the
Indian spices, sandaJwood and o ther
new activities were witnessed . Some
variety of woods, pearls, te..xtiles of
scholars think t h e Sunga period
various types, sea products, metals,
semi-precious stones and animals. represents the Brahmanical reaction
Arikamedu was an important Roman against Buddhism. But the art and
settlement and trading station. It was architectural activities reflect totally a
located close to a port and was a contradictory sto ry. Sanchi,
excavated in 1945, The Romans paid Amaravati , Bharhut an d Sarnath
for the goods mainly in gold currency. s tu pa s 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 hjstorian mound built over sacred relics either of
Pliny laments that Indian trade was a the Buddha himself o r 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 s maller
India each year on luxury items. One chamber in the centre of the base of the
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 cardinal points there was a break in the
period. railing because of gateways. The four
Trade and contacts with Rome and gateways of Sanchi stupa built in the
the west was not the only commercial fIrst century B.C. are extremely artistic
outlet open for India. India saw a with every inch of 's pace utilised for
growth in Indo-China relations and the carving and are one of the finest
introduction of Indian culture South examples of art and architecture of
East Asia. It has been referred to as Indi a. One of these gateways was
Suuamabhumi in the literature of the donated by the Guild of ivory workers
period. ofVidisa.

.................................... Soc.En'. EcoNOMY AND CULn) RE D URlNG SUNGAS AND SATAVAHANAS t
the Buddha. Mathura also produced
many fine specimens of sculptures that
include, images of Brahmanical, Jain
and Buddhist deities a nd the life size
sculptures of yakshas, yakshini and
portraits of kings.
In the north-west, developed the
hybrid Indo-G reek form of art where,
though the themes were Indian , the
depiction was h eavily influenced by
western art. It is popularly known as
Gandhara School of Art The Gandhara
school depicted, almost exclusively,
Buddhist themes. Stucco was a popular
medium in Gan dh a ra art and the
monasteries o f Afghanistan were
Fig. 17.5 Amarauati Stupa.
decorated with an a bundance of stucco
images. Gandhara artists produced the
Anoth er form of architecture is images of Buddha in different postures
represented by rock-cut caves. These and sizes. The large statues of Buddha
rock-cut caves are of two types. Theone at Bamiyan were one of the finest
with a stu pa and worshipping hall example of the Gandhara art.
called chaaya and monastery called
viha ra. The famous cave of Karle
consist of a fairly complicated
structure, all cut into the rock. The
ceilings ofa few of these caves s how an
imitation of a barrel vault with wooden
ribs . This indicates the impact of
wooden construction in ston e.
Sc uJp""e
The post Ma uryan period is an age of
great sculptural activity. Bharhut,
Sanchi, Bodh Gaya, Ma thura,
Amar avati, Gandhara were the
important centres of art activities. The
Mat h ura a nd Gandhara sc hool s
flourished during the Kushana period.
The Mathura school h as the distinction
of having produced the first image of Fig. 17.6 Statue a/Buddha from Mathura

'" ANCIEffT IND.... .... .. ........... .. ...................... . . ........... .......... .. ................................... ... .... .

Fig. 17. 7 Statue of Jain Fig. 17.8 Fasting Buddha

Tirthankara from Mathura from Gandhara

Terracotta art also flourished ScieDce aDd Techaology

during this time . Th e most prolific Engineering skills are evident from the
ce ntres of its produ c tion were remains of the building of dams and
Ahichchhat ra, Mathura , Kaus ambi , irrigation works. Th e famous examp le
Bhita, Rajghat, Pataliputra, Tamralipti, is the dam built during Chandragupta
Mahasthan etc. Maurya's period and repaire~ by Saka


Fig. 1 7.9 Plan of Tank excavated at Shringauerapura

................................... SOCUITV, ECONOMY AND CUCTURf: DURING SUNGAS AND SATAVAHANAS *'

Fig. 17.10 Excavated lIiew of one of the tanks at Shdngaverapura

king Rudradaman. One of the most by counting the periods of revolution

remarkable structure that has been of the sun, the moon, the five planets
excavated is a complex of four water and two nodes known as Rahu and
tanks at Shringaverapura which shows Ketu. Eclipses were a lso predicted with
a very advan ced level of hydrolic accuracy. All these observations have
engineering. The tanks are built of been described by Varahamihira in
millions of bricks and water was Pancha Siddhantika which gives the
brought from the river Ganga through summary of five schools of astronomy
a canal. It measures about 250 mts in present in his time.
length and 38 mts in width. It would The Indian medicinal system made
have contained about eighty lakh litres remarkable progress during this period..
of water. The use of geometry in It was based on the theory of three
building construction and town humours - air, bile and phlegm - the
planning became obvious. In the field correct balance of th ese gave in a
of astronomy, Indian astronomers healthy body. The surgical equipment
developed much more elaborate commonly consisted of twenty-five types
astronomical system after modifying of knives and needles, thirty probes,
and adopting the more accurate values twt:nty-six articles of dre.ssing etc.

t ANCIENT IN DIA ...•.•.• ...•.•.•.•.•..•.•...•..••••••••••••••.••••••••• •••••.•...•.. . .•.•.•..••.•••••.•.••••••••.••••.•. .... .•.

Ayurveda has its origi n in the Harappan period onwa rd s.

Atharauaveda. During this time, Excavation at Harapp an and
medicine became a regula r s ubject, of Mesopotamian cities reveal ma teria l
study at centres of learning like Tawa r e main s whkh clearly esta bli s h
and Varanasi. The school at Varanasi tra d e re lations. The Boghaz Koi
specialised in surgery and Sushruta Inscriptions of the fourteenth century
&unhita is an encyclopaedia of surgery, B.C. records the names of deities like
co mpiled b y th e great surgeon lndra, Mitra, Varuna and twin Nasatyas
Sushruta. At Tax:ila, the teachings of as weU as numerical and other words
Atreya were coUected by his pupils and of Indian origin which shows close
compiled by Charaka in his Gharaka contacts.
Samhita. Charaka and Sushruta were With the rise of the Persian Empire
the contemporaries of Kushana king in the si>..1.h century B.C, the founda tion
Kanishka. was laid for regular contacts between
The works of Charaka and India and the West. Persian s under
Sushruta reached as far as Manchuria, Darius I unified a vast area ofland from
China , Central Asi a through Afghanistan to Mediterranean sea. To
translations in various la nguages. maintain its contro l pro perly they
Evidently. the know led ge of Indian establish ed road, postal system a nd
herbs and medi cinal plants had other means of communication. These
reached the wes tern world through were linked with India which provided
Greeks and Roman s. Theophrastus a great impetus to trade and exchange
gives details of the medicinal use of of ideas.
various plants a nd herbs from lodia in A new dimension to this contact was
his book His tory of Plants. Arabic added by the invasion of Alexander in
tra nslation of Charaka and Sushruta the last quarter of the fourth century
Samhitas in the eighth century A. D. B.C. Alexander came up to the north -
influenced European and west Asian western fron ti ers of Indi a and
medicinal system during the middle established severa] cities and settlement
ages. of Greek people on his way. The famous
By the beginning o f the Christian city of Alexandria in Egypt became the
era, there was large scale production of great meetin g point of the East and
copper, iron , steel, brass. and their West. The first three Mau ryan kings
aUoys. The large n u mber of gold and nam e ly. C handragupt a Maurya,
s ilver coins s hows the purity of metal Bindusa ra and Ashoka established
and craftsmans hip of the period. intim ate re lat io n s \\'ith t h e Greek
kingdoms of the West. We have t he
India and ber relatJona with the
ev id en ce of a m atrimonial alliance
outalde world
between Chandragupta Maurya a nd
As you have lenr11l ea rli er, India Se leucus, a G reek Kin g of Syria.
esta blished its extcma l contacts from Megasthenese and Daimachu s lived if'!

..... . ........ .... ........ ....... SOCIl. :rv.

the Mauryan Court as ambassadors of about 25 B.C. It took about fOUT years
the Seleucid kings. Dionysius was an to reach Rome. It presented animals
ambassador of Egyptian king Ptolemy and other gifts were presented to the
Philadelphus to Mau ryan court. The Roman king, Augustus. indian art and
diplomatic relationship between Jndia coinage bear marks of Hellenistic
a nd the West a re recorded in the Rock influences. The Gandhara school of art
Edict xrl1 of Ashoka also l in which five and coin s of lndo-Greek and Ku$klana
Greek rulers are specifically named, kings are its best examples. In the ~ld
and it is claimed that on account of the of religion both influenced ea~other
activities of Ashoka's missionaries his as is shown in th e philoso,\'bic,!i
dhamma spread to these countries. development of Greeco-Roman world .
One important development of this Chdstianity reached India as ew-Iyas
commercial and political intercourse first century A.D. through :f.J::!le.le
was that an increasingly large number commercial and c ultural contt."i'fS .
of people from india and the West visited Indian religion, such as Bhagavatism,
each other's country. The contacts are Saivism and Buddhism influenced the
recorded in detail in the works of foreign ers. The people as well as the
Strabo's Geography, Amen's Indica, kings of the Kushanas , Sakas, Indo-
Pliny the elder's Natural History, lhe Greeks , Parthians dynasties adopted
Pe riplus of Erythraen sea and Indian religion and culture and become
Ptolemy's Geography. India had come a pa rt of the Indian society. The
to occupy an important position in the cultural contacts between India and
world as known to the Greeco-Romans. central Asia, China and eastern Asia
A number of lndian kings sent also began during this period. These
embassies to Rome. The bes t known have been discussed in detail in the
Indian embassy was se nt to Rome next cha pter.


J . Explain the following:

Sangruns, Dhannasastras, Borldhisattvas, Pratiloma, Anuloma, Shrelli.
2. Write a note on the language and literature of the period.
3. Describe the rise of Mahayanism .
4. Write a note on Bhagavatism.
5. Describe the sodal condition s of the period.
6. Write a note on the four Ashramas.

t ANCIENT INDIA ........................................................................................................... .

7. Describe the economic conditions with special reference to trade and

8. Write about the development in the field of architecture.
9. Write a note on Gandhara and Mathura schools of arts .
10. Write about the developments in the field of science and technology.
11. Write an essay on India's contacts with the outside world.

• On an outline map of India show the major routes connecting

important trade centres in India.
• On an outline map of world show the silk route and connect it with
Indian t rade routes.
• Visit museums and caUeel pictures of coins of this period and identify


. " •

• ," , •
.. , " "•
~, >,

.. • • •

" •



LUCE the Maurya$ a few centuries eallier, the GUpt3s

made. a perma(lent impact on Indian history by
b.uilding up a large o;oInpire Md by firmly establishing
seveial trends ef Indi,lD, cuLtUl;"e w~ich had be~n
" " in the: earlier periods,
, ",

.... n lua
~.'" '" .oN
, 1 r,.u
)Il"a ''''\.Tl~
•• • •• •
" "'. I 11

... , .....
1\ J.AI
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"• •

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•. ANCI ENT IN DIA •.. .. •.•.•. •••. • .•.....••. . •••••• . ... . .. •..•••••..•. .. •. ..•. ....•. . . ... . ...•...•.•. .. . .•••••• . . •. .....•.•.•.• .•...•.

Emergence of the Gupt". ancestors. I· tsing. who travelled India

As you have seen in the earlier chapter, from A.D. 671 to 695 re fers to Srigupta
n orth India intermittently came under as the builder of a temple a t Gaya for
the rule of several foreign people. such the Chinese pilgrims, 500 years before
as the YavaflQS (the n ame given to the his time . This king Srigupta has been
Greeks , Romans and west As ian s) identified with the first Gu pta king of
Kushanas, Sakas, Parthians, etc. These that n ame mentioned in the AJiahabad
people began to settle in north-west pillar inscription. The Pwnnasmention
Indi a from the fi rs t cent u ry B.C. that the early Guptas controlled the
onwards. Mos t of Utese people came to a rea alon g the Ganga, (fhe middle
lndia due to the turbulent condition in Gangetic basin) , Prayag (Allaha bad and
central As ia. They a dapted themselves surrounding region), Saketa (Ayodhya
with Indian culture, and a t the same region) and Magadha. Srigupta was
time, introduced some new elements in succeeded by his son Gha totkacha who
it. Between Ute first century B.C. and too is referred to as rruPtaraja in Gupta
third cen tury A.D. the Satavahanas in records.
the Deccan, the Ku s h anas in the north In A. D. 320 Ch a.ndragupta I
and the Sa.kas in the west emerged as s u cceeded hi s fathe(.G&"atotkacha. lt is
the three big political powers, and said that h e laid the foundation of the
worked as a stabi li sing factor in great Gupta em p ire. Ch andragupta I
these regions. The em pi res of the marri ed a Lichchhav i prin cess
Satavahanas and Kushanas came to an Kumaradevi . The Lich chhavis (to whom
end in the middle of th e third century Gautama Buddha belongs) were an old
A. D. and a new dynasty emerged in and established Ganarajya and quite
north India, known as the Guptas. Like powerful , still being respected in north
the Mauryas a few centuries earlier, the India. This m a rriage a ll ia n ce of
Guptas made a permanent impact on Chandragupta I was impo rtant for his
Indian his tory by building up a large political career as is proved by the coins
empire and by firmly establi shi n g of Chandragupta I a nd Kumaradevi
several trends of Indian culture which type. These coins portray the fi gu res of
had begun in the earlier periods. The Chandragupt.a and Kumaradevi
Gupta kings a re known nol only for and mention the nam e of th e
their poli tical might a nd stren gth but Lich chhavis. Sam udragu pta , son of
a lso for great achievements in the fi eld Chandragup ta 1 and Kum aradevi, in
of scicn ce, art . culture and literature. the Allahaba d insc ription proudly
About the eW'ly Guptas we do not caJ led himself Lichchhauis-dauhitra
know much in detail. The Allahabad 'son of the of Lichchhavis' .
pillar in scription o f Sa mudra gupta Ch a ndragupta J introduced a new era,
men t ion s mallaraja Srig upta and th e Gupta era , s t a rtin g with
maharaja G h a to tk ac ha a s hi s h is co rona tion in A.D. 3 20. He was
....... •.•.•••....•••••••••••••••••••••...•.•••••••••••.•••.........•..••••.•.•. I NOlA FROM THE GUPTAS TO H ARSHA

- •

.IRAtI/A\, Sl:.l
-- -..-,..



- - 1\>w'''-''''''<JCG ''fI''Ilon r : ]
-.........!r.,.;opu.• ( ... _
.' ""'"h 10,1..

- -
Fig. 18. 1 Map of the Gupta Empire

t he first Gupta k in g to adopt the Samudragupta

title maharajadhiraja and iss ued Samudragupta s u cceed ed his fathe r
gold coins. about A.D. 340. He earned a reputation

t ANCIENT INO" ........................ .. . ... .. . . ........ . .. . . . . . . . ............... . .. . ....... . . ..... . .. .............. ........ ..

as one of the greatest kings and The Allahabad pillar inscription also
conquerors. He was chosen by his father lists fourteen kingdom~ bordering his
as his successor be cause of his kingdom . These rulers paid tribute,
qualities that would make him into a followed his orders and showed their
good king. The Allahabad pillar obedience by attending his court. These
inscription gives a detailed account of were located in eastern Rajasthan ,
the career and personality of northern Madbya Pmdesh, Assam and
Samudragupta. The inscription was Nepal. Further, some forest kings
co mposed by one of his officia ls , {atauika -rajasl are mentioned whom
Harishena , and engraved on the Samudragupta had mad e his
Ashoka's pillar at Allahabad . pari.charaka (helpers).
The milita ry achievements of Another group of politicaJ powers
Samudragupta contain a long list of listed in the inscription are such as
kings and rulers defeated and subdued Kushanas, Sakas, Murundas as well as
by him. In the aryavarta he uprooted Simhalas (Sri Lanka) and inhabitants
nine kings and princes and annexed of other islands. These rulers sent
their kingdom. embassies to Samudragupta's court.
His next most important campaign According to a Chinese source,
was in southern India. Altogether twelve Meghavarna, king of Sri Lanka, sent an
kings and princes of the south embassy to Samudragupta for hi s
(dakshinapatha) a re listed in the permission to build a monastery and a
inscription. In the case of the kings of guest bouse for Buddhist pilgrims at
this area, he followed the policy of first Bodh Gaya.
capturing the kings, then r eleas ing Samudragupta was a versatile
them from ca ptivity and then genius. He was not only proficient in
reinstall ing them as kings in their war, but also in the sastras. He is called
territory. By showing royal mercy he kaviraja i.e. ' king of poets '. The
won their allegiance. For his south Allahabad pillar inscription calls him a
Indian campaign, Samudragupta great musician. This is also confirmed
proceeded through the eastern and by his lyricis t type of coins which shows
southern parts of Madhyadesha ·to him playing veena (lute) . He patronised
Orissa and then advanced along the learned men in his court and appointed
eastern coast and reached Kanchi and them as his ministers. Samudragupta
beyond and returned to his capital by died in abo ut A.D. 380 and was
way of Maharashtra and Khandesh. succeeded by his son Chandragupta 11.
After these conquests he performed
Ashuamedhayajna. On this occasion CluU1drqupta n
he issued go ld coins depicting the The Gupta empire reached its h ighest
sacrificial horse and bearing the legend glory, both in terms of territoria l
co nveying that he performed the expansion and cultural excellence l
Asliuamedha sacrifice. under C handragup ta 1[ , son of

. .. .. ... .. ......... . .•......... ..................... . . . . . ...... .. . .......... .. . . INDI" FROM TIl E G UPTAS TO HARsHA
5amudragupta and Dattadevi. Like his twenty years, and even after tJlat. the
father, Chandragupta II was chosen by relations between the Guptas a nd
his father as his successor. Vakatakas remained friendly and close.
Chandragupta IJ inherited a strong and Hjs foremost success was his victory
consolid a ted empire from his rather. over the m ighty Sakas dynasty. The
which he furth er ex t e nded . He annexat ion o f their p rosp erous
established matrimonial alHance with kingdom comprising Gujamt and part
Vakatakas and married his daughter of Malwa not only strengthened the
Prabhavatigupta to Rudrasena n of the Gupta empire but also brought it into
Vakataka dyna sty. Chandragupta II d irect touch with western sea ports.
probably concluded this alliance with This gave a tremendous impetus to
the Vakatakas before attac king overseas trade a nd commerce. Ujjain,
the Sakas so as to be sure of b aving a great centre of trade, religion a nd
.a friendly power to back him up culture, became the second capital of
in Decca n. After the death of the Gupta empire after the conquest.
Rudrasena n. Prabhavatigupta acted as Perhaps it was after this victory over
a regent 01] behalf oCher two minor sons. Sakas, that Chandragupta II adopted
During her regency, which lasted over the title ofVikramaditya, which became
popular in the legends as a patroniser
of learned men and a great liberator
who overthrew the yoke of foreign rule.
The identification of Chandragupta II
with Vikramaditya is doubted by some
scholars. Chandragupta II issued
dated s ilver coins to commemorate his
victory over Saka kshatrapas.
The Mehrauli iron pillar inscription
erected originally in front of a tem ple of
Vishnu (near Qutub Minar in Delhi)
"ecords the exploits of a king named
Chandra. He is said to have vanquished
the group of enemies in Vanga (Bengal),
perfumed the southern ocean by the
breeze of his prowess and overcome the

•• •
Vahlikas (across the Indus river). This
king Chandra of iron piUar is generally
Id) Ie)
identified as Chandragupta II. This
would mean his kingdom extended
.from Bengal to the north-west frontiers.
Fig. 18. .2 Coins (a,b,c) Samudragupta. Other than his conquests,
(d,e) Chandragupta Chanciragupta II's reign is remembered

>. ANCIENT INOlA .....••.......••••......•...•.• .. .. , ••• , •...•..••••• ••• ••••.•••.•.........•.•.•••••••••••••••••...•................

for his patronage of literature and arts there was a struggle between him and
and for the high standard of artistic his brother Purugupta. Skandagupta's
and cultural life. Kalidas the great reign seems to have been full of wars.
Sanskrit poet was a member of his His greatest enemies were the Hunas, a
court. Fa-Hien , the Chinese Buddhist ferocious barbarian horde which lived
pilgrim visited India between A.D . 405 in central Asia and were at this very
and A.D. 411 collecting Buddhist tim e threatening also the mighty
manuscripts and text and studying Roman empire in the west. One branch
at Indian monasteries . He described of them, known as white Hunas,
th e country as a happy and occupied the Oxus valley and advanced
prosperous one. against both Persia and India. They
crossed the Hindukush, occup ied
Kumuagupta 1
Gandhara and defied the Gupta empire.
Chanclragupta II ctiej:l about A.D. 413 Skandagupta inflicted such a terrible
and was succeeded by his son defeat upon the Hunas that for half
Kumaragupta I, who enjoyed a reign of a century they dared not disturb
more than forty years. Lik e his the Gupta empire, though th ey to
grandfather, Samudragupta, he issued wrought h avoc on Persia during this
Ashvamedha type of coins. He may period . Another important event of
hav e performed an Ashvamedha Skandagupta's reign is the restoration
sacrifice, though we do not know of any and repair of the dam on Sudarsana
of hi s military achievements. The lake which had been built during
epigraphic records, however, show that Chandragupta Maurya's reign. We have
h e organised the administration of vast seen above that this lake was previously
empire and maintained its peace , repaired durin g the reign of Saka
prosperity and security for a long kshatrapa Rudradaman l.
p eriod of forty years. This is no small
Decline of the Gupta.
cred it upon his tact and ability. At
the end of Kumaragupta's reign, The Gupta dynasty, no doubt
the GuPta empire was cha llenged by continued to be in existence for more
the Pushyamitras. a community than 100 years after the death of
living on the banks of lh e Narmada. Skandagupta in A.D. 467. He was
Skand agupta. son of Kumaragupta I succeeded by his brother Purugupta.
and future king fought and subdued Noth in g is known a bout his
t.hem and restored peace. achievement s a nd perhaps there were
none to his credit. Thereafter, the only
Suudagupt;,& Gupta ruJerwho continued to rule fairly
Kum aragu pt a I died in A.D. 455 a large part of th e empire was
a nd was succeede d by his son Budhllgupta, whose inscriptions have
Skandagupta. His succession to the been found from Bengal. Bihar, Uttar
throne was not peaceful and perh aps Pradesh and Madhya Pradcl>h . Hi s

... . .•. . .. . .. .. .. .. ... . . . . .. ... . .... . ....... ...... . ....... . ........... .. . ...... . INDIA FROM n tE G uprAS TO H ARSHA

s u ccessors were not able to handle the connected in any way with the inlperial
a dmini stration, rebellions of some Guptas. Some of the kings of this
governor s and officiaJs and the !-luna family were very powerful and carried
invasion. Though the Huna rule was vi c toriou s a Tm s as far as t h e
one of the shortest instances of foreign BrahmapulIa. The Maukharis held the
rule over India, the Gupta empire region of westem Uttar Pradesh around
suffered much from it. The Hunas once Kanauj. The Maukharis conquered a
more attacked under the leadersh ip, of partofMagadha.!sanavarmanand his
Toramana in A.D. 512. They conquered so n Sarvavarman were powerful
a large part of north India upto GwaJior Maukhari kings and adopted the title
and Malwa. Toramana was succeeded of maharajadhiraja. Isanavarman is
by his son Mihirakula who established remembered for the heroic opposition
h is capjta l at Sakala (Sialkot) . The he offered to the Hunas who had once
Huna , rule in India was very short liVed. m ore moved towards the heart of India.
Hiuen-Tsang describes how Mihirkula In the west, the Maitraka cian, under
invaded Magadha, was defeated and its leader Bhatarka, establi shed a
captured by the Gupta king Baladitya, kingdom in Saurashtra with Valabhi as
and how his life was saved at the its capit~. Under the Maitrakas. Valabhi
intercession of the queen mother of became not only a seat of learning and
Magadha. According to an inscription culture, but also a centre of trade and
from Malwa. Yasovannan. a powerfuJ commerce. Of the four main kingdoms,
loca l ruler of Malwa, a lso defeated the Maitrakas survived the longest and
Mihirakula. Itis not known whether he ru.led until the middle of th e e ighth
did it indepe ndently or as an ally of centluy, when LIley s u ccumbed to the
Baladitya. attacks from the ATa bs.
Another dynasty which was
North India .. ner the Guptlla found e d about the same time as
From the decline of the Guptas until the Maitraka VaJabhi, but was destined to
rise of Ha rs h a, in the beginning of playa far more disti nguisbed part
seventh century, there nourished four in Indian history, was t h at of
major kingdoms in north India. These Pushyabhutis of Thaneswar. The
were the Guptas o f Magadha, the Pushyabhuti fa mily came to the fore
Maukharis, the Pushyabhutis, and the after the Huna invasion and m a de its
Maitrakas. These powers vied with each political presence felt on the accession
other to succeed to the past glory of the of Prabha karvardh ana. He assumed
Guptas. The present Guptn s of the titl e of paramabhattaraka
Magadha (not to be confused with the maharajadhiraj a. He has been
main im perial Gupta dynasty) were a des cribed by Ba nabhatta as, .. ... a lion
minor dynasty of Magadha. It is not to the Hun s d eer, a burning fever to the
possible to determine whether they were king o f S indhu . a troubler of s lpep of

17 9
t ANC<£NT INO" .. ................ ....................... ..... .. ............................................................... .

Gurjara king. a bilious fever to that thrown into prison. Hearing this news,
scent-elephallt, the lord of Gandhara, Rajyavardhana immediately started
destroyer of the skill of the Latas, an with his troops to suppress the kings
axe to the creeper which is the goddess of Gauda and Malawa. But he was
of fortune of Malawa. " treacherously killed by Sasanka.
His sovereignty probably e."(tended
to the whole of the Punj ab in the
north-west and part of Malwa in the After the death of Rajyavardhana, his
south. In the last phase of his rule there younger brother, Harshavardhana also
was a Huna invasion. He had two sons, known as Siladitya, ascended the
Rajyavardhana and Harshavardhana Pushyabhuti throne in A.D. 606 at the
and a daughter Rajyasri, married to age of sixteen, and ru led for forty-one
the Maukhari king Grahavarman. years. After Grahavarman's d eath, the
While Prabhakaravardhana was Councilors of Maukhari state offered the
rapidly extending the boundaries of throne to Harsha. The period of Harsha,
his kingdom towards the west and in comparison with most other early
south, two powerful kingdoms were Indian kings, is remarkably well
established in Bengal and Assam. docwnented . The poet Banabhatta has
About A.D. 525 an independent written a detailed account of the events
kingdom was established in Bengal. leading upto his rise to power, in the
When the Gupta empire fell , Gauda Harshacharita (life of Hars ha). At the
comprising western and northern parts
of Bengal, asserted its independence,
but the Maukharis subdued it. Half a
century later the throne of Gauda was
occupied by Sasanka. He established
his capital at Karnasuvarna. (near
Murshidabad) and soon made himself
master of the whole of Bengal. He Fig. 18.3 Signature of Harsha in ' Iis
conquered Orissa and then advanced own hon.dwriting
towards Kanauj in the west against the
Maukharis. The Maukhari king
Grahavarman was married to Rajyasri, same time the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen-
daughter of Prabhakaravardhana. Tsang also wrote in great detail about
This m a rriage alliance strengthened Harsha and India of Harsha's time.
the position of the two families. After After ascending to the throne
the death of Prabhakaravardhana, Harsha first rescued his widowed sister,
Sasanka, with the help of Malawa king, from the Vindhyan forest, where she
invaded Kanauj. King Grahavarmao was going to throw herself into the fire
was killed and the queen Rajyasri was with all her attendants. Harsha

'ND.. FROM 11iE Gum s 1'0 HARS'" t

BA r' OF

I'IfI. 18.• Mop of Harsha's Empire

thereafter, proceeded towards the east Harsha was not s uccess ful in his first
against Sasanka with a view to avenge expedition against Gauda, but in his
the death of his brother, Rajyavardhana second expedition towards the close of
and brother-in -law, Grahavarman. his reign, after the death of Sasanka,

ANCIENT I NOlA .••• . •• .....•• ••••.•.•.•.•.••.••••••• •••... .•.•.•...•••.•.•.•...•.....•••.•••••••• .•• ••••.•.•.•.•.• ', ....... .

he conquered Magadha and Sasanka's whom Banabhatta, t h e auth or of

empire. Gauda was divided between Harshacharita and Kadambari is the
Harsha and Bhas karavarman, the king most well known .
of Kamarupa, who was an ally of Harsha was not only an efficient
Ha rs h a. He was successful in his administrator who personally looked
military enterprise, and conquered a into the affairs of s tate, and constantly
large part of northern India. Hiuen- travel1ed over different p arts of his
Tsang tells us that, "he waged incessant empire to see things with his own eyes,
warfare, until in six years, he had fought but also a tolerant king. He was a Saiva
the five Indians. Then, having extended by faith , but he s howed equal respect
his territory, he increased his army, to other religious sects as well. Hiu eo -
bringing the e lepha n t c orps upto Tsang portrays him as a libera l
60,000, and the cavalry to 100,000, Buddhist who also honoured gods of
and reigned in peace for thirty years others sec t s. Hi s c haritable acts
with out raising a weapon", Hars h a benefitted all the communities, sects
launched a campaign so as to e."<t.end and religions. Like Ashoka, he built rest
hi s empire beyond the Nannada but hou ses, ho s pit a ls, and endowed
failed to do so. The Allole inscription numerous Brahmanical, Buddhist and
mentions that Harsha met defeat at the Jain establishmen ts.
hand s of Pulakesin II. the Chalukya Hiu en -Tsang m ention s two m ost
king of Badam i. Hiuen-Tsang also says celebrated events of Harsha's reign t he
t h at H a r s h a could not d e fe at th e assem b lies a t Kana uj and at Prayaga.
Chalukya king . Harsha 's em pire T h e Ka n auj a ssemb ly was h e ld in
extended from the Punja b to northern honour of Hiuen -Tsang for whom the
Orissa and from Himal ayas to the king h ad grea t a ffection and regard.
banks of Narmada. Dhruvabhatta n, Thi s assembly was .,--
the Maitra ka kin g of Valabhi and attended by twenty
Bh a s karavarman, the kin g o f kings, four thousand
Kamarupa, were his allies. Buddhist monks, and
In th e hi s tory o f [ndia, Ha.rsha about three thousand
earned a n undying repu tation not so Jains and bra hmans .
m u ch for his c onqu ests as for After the ceremony
his p eacefu l act ivitie s , so vividly at Kanuaj , Har s ha,
d escribed by Hiuen-Tsang a nd by his accompanie d b y . . . ."
biograpber Banabha tta. Th e great Hiu en-Tsang, p ro- r-
emperor was n ot on ly a pat ron of e eed ed to Prayaga
lea rnin g. but wa s him se lf an (Allahabad), where h e
accomplished a uthor. He wrote three used to ce lebrate
Sanskrit plays - NagancUlda, Ratnauali rel ig iou s fes t)va ls
a nd Priyadars ika. He ga th e red a t the end of every five Fig. 18. 5
Hiuen Ts.ang
around him a circle of learned m en , of years, at the con fluence

of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the
Saraswati. Here he performed the

married his daughter Prabhavati

Gupta into the Vakataka family. The

ceremony of dana, which lasted for Vakatakas and the Guptas remained
about three months. During these friend ly for a long-time. After the
three months most of the accumulation Vakatakas, three major kingdoms,
octive year's wealth was exhausted. He namely the Chalukyas of Badami.
even gave his clothes and jewellery and Pallavas of Kanchipuram and Pandyas
once begged from his sister an of Madurai dominated the Deccan and
ordinary garment to put on. Harsha south India for about 300 years.
attended six such assemblies at The Vakatakas in the Deccan were
Prayaga in his life time and donated all foUowed by the Chalukyas of Badami.
he had. Harsha sent an .embassy in The ChaJukyas began with a base at
A.D. 64 1 with Hiuen-Tsang to the Valapi or Badami and Aihole, from
Chinese emperor and received the where they m oved northwards and
Chinese embassy in return. He died in annexed the areas around Nasik and
A.D. 647. Harsha does not appear to the upper Godavari region. Pulakesin II
have any heir to his thl'One , which was was the greatest king of Chalukya
usurped ,after his death by his minister.dynasty, who ruled [rom A.D. 610 to
642 He was the contemporary of
Deccan and. South lfteli .. Harshavardhan a of Kanauj . The
In Deccan and south India, after the detailed account of his victories
Satavahana rule had ended in the nrst as we ll a s early history of the
h alf of the t hird century A.D., the ChaJukyas is recorded in the Aih ole
Vakatakas rose to power in the second inscription co mposed by Ravikirti.
half of the third century A. D. Not much Vishnuvardhan, son of Pulakesin n.
is known about tbe founder of this founded the easter n branch of the
dynasty, Vindhyasakti. His son and Chalukyas with its capi tal first at
successor Pravarasena was the Pishtapuri and later at Vengi. This
real founder of the Vakataka empire branch remained independent of the
in western and central India. He is main or western branch and e..... ercised
the on ly Vakataka ruler to whom uninterrupted sway over the
the title sam rat was accorded. He kingdom up to the twelfth century.
performed Vajapeya and foul' The Rashtrakutas succee ded the
AshlJumedhayajnas. The Vakataka Chi.llukyas or Badami and maintained
empire was divided by the successors the vaslempi re in t.he Deccan. The first
ofPravarsena into lWO parts. The main known r ul er o f th e dynasty was
branch and the other known as Dantidurga I who conquered Badami
Vatsagulma branch. The importance of in A.D. 752. defeating the Chalukyas.
the Val<atakas as a political power in The contem pora rie s of the
western and central Deccan was Ch;'\ l1,.1kya ~ t1n d lhe Pa lla vas in the
re a lised by Chan dragupta Il , whu D ecca n WC"I C I h e Gangas and the

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

.- -

.' :......w-..


Fig. 18. 6 Map of South India

Kadambas. The western Gangas, so Gangavadi. The founder of the family,

called, to distinguish them from the Konkanivannan Dhannamahadhiraja,
eastern Gangas of KaJinga, ruled over probably ruled in the second half of the
a large part of modem Mysore. The fourth century A.D. and had his capital
region was called after them as at Kolar. They ruled independently from

.• ••.•.• .•.••••.••...•.•.•.••••••• •.....•.•.•••.•........ •...••••.• .•• ••• ••••••. ... .... INDIA FROM 1"HE: G UPTAS 'TO H ARSHA

A.D. 350-550. They had matrimonial Cholas were the major powers. The
relations with the Pallavas , the Pallavas played an important role after
Chalukyas of Badami and the the fall of Satavahanas from the Ulird
Rashtrakutas who were their powerful century until the rise of Chola s in the .
contemporaries. ninth century A.D . The origin of Pallava
Ganga kin g Durvinita was a is under debate. The PaUava kings were
promin ent rul e r and scholar of divided into two groups , the early
Kannada and Sanskrit literature. Pallavas and greater Pallavas . About
Sripurusha was another important the early Palla vas we have come to
ruler of dynasty who s hifted his capital know from th e Ta mil and Sanskrit
Manyapura (Manne near Bangalore) inscriptions. They performed s acrifices
and his kingdom was known as and ruled over a well organised territory
Srirajya, evidently on account of its that covered Ute northern part of the
prosperity. Pen.insula exlcnding from the eastern
The Kadamba dynasty was founded sea to the western sea. Simhavishnu was
by Mayursarrnan , a lea.m.ed brahman. th e famo u s king ruling in the sixth
It is said that he came to r eceive century A.D. He increased the influence
a nd prestige of his family. His son
education at Kanchi. but h e was
and successo r Mahendrava rman I
insulted by some Pallava officials. To
(A.D. 600-630) was a versatile genius.
avenge his insult he took up military
He was both a poet and a s inger
profess ion, defeated Pallava officials
a nd composed a play Mattauila s
and then Pallavas recognised the Prahasana (th e De light of the
independence of Mayursarman. The Drunkards) in Sans krit. In his time. the
Kadarnbas ruled from Banavasi from practice of scooping entire temples out
A.D. 345 to 365. Kakusthavarman of solid rock was introduced, of which
IA. D. 435-455) was the most powerful the rathas of Mahabalipuram are flne
king and administrator of the dynasty. examples. He was the contemporary of
He exte nded his territory and the Chalukya king, Pulakesin II and
established matrimonial relations with H arshava rdhan of Kanauj. This
the Gangas and the Guptas. After his period was m arked w ith the clash
death, family split into two and one of between Pulakesin II and Hars ha on
the branches continued to rule from the one baud and Pul a k es in II
Banavasi and another from Triparvata. and Mahendravarman I on the other,
The ruler from Triparva ta , and in both Pulakesin II emerged
Krishnavarma I, agai n united the victorious.
family. But the Chalukyas of Badami Afterdeafeating Mahendravarman I
defeated the Kadambas around A.D. he captured the northern provinces of
540 and annexed their kingdom . his kingdom. Pulakesin II. in tum was
In the southern Peninsula, three defeated by Narsimhavannan, son and
dynas ties the Pallavas, Pandyas and the- successor of Mal,endravarrnan r, who

t ANClENT INOLA .......................................................................................................................

advanced as far as Badami and style of temple architecture. The Pallava

occupied it after a siege. After this ruler also sent embassies to the Chinese
victory Narasimhavarman adopted the emperor.
tittle of Vatapikonda. He is also said to In the Ursl half of the eighth
have defeated the Chatas, the Cheras, century, the Pallavas faced
the Pandyas and the Kalabhrs. attacks from the Chalukya king
Narasimhavarman gave asylum to a Vikramad itya U (A.D . 733-745) who
Ceylonese prince, Manavarman , and is said to have overrun Kanchi
sent two naval expeditions to Ceylon to thrice. The Pallavas also suffered
help him to secure the throne of that severely from the attacks of the
country. H e was one of the most Pandyas and the Rashtrakutas
powerful rulers of sou th India a n d during the reign of Dantivarman
raised the power and prestige of the (around A.D. 796-840). Soon the
PaUavas as far as Ceylon and South power of the Palla vas began to
East Asia. decline due to these struggles and
The reign of Narasimhavarman n they were succeeded by the Cboias,
(c. A.D. 695-722) was peaceful It is destined to be the greatest imperial
knowri for remarkable architectural power in the sou th, whose influence
activities which initiated a particular and power was felt a lso by Ceylon
style popularly known as the Dravidian and the South East Asian countries.

1. Describe the emergence of Guptas up to the reign of Chandragupta L
2. Describe the expansion of Gupta empire during Samudragupta's reign.
3. Discuss the personality of Samudragupta.
4. Discuss the achievements of Chandragupta 11. Why was he known as
5. Discuss the causes for the d ecline of the Gupta empire.
6. Describe the political condition of India after Guptas.
7. Who were Pushyabhutis? Write about their political history.
8. Describe the personality of Harsha and hi s achievements.
9. Describe the politicaJ condition of south India after Satavahanas, up
to the eighth century A.D.

............................ . .•.......•..•••••••.••....... . .... .. ... . .... . ........ . .. IN DIA FROM mE G UPTAS TO H ARSHA ,~
10. Write short notes on:
Iii Kumacagupta
(ii) Pulakeshin II
(iii) Mahendravarman
(iv) Narshimahavarman
11 . Discuss the Pallavas of Kanchi and Chalukyas of Badami and their
political relationships.

• Draw a map of India and show the extent of the Gupta empire and
locate important cities.
• Collect some literary wor"ks of Gupta period and read in the
• Collect material on the Nalanda University and photographs of its
archaeological remains.
• Discuss the system of education imparted in the university in the
• On an outline map of India show the south Indian kingdoms with
their capitals and other important places.
• Make a collage of the arc haeological monuments of the period.

,., .... "
Iv • ~ ...
~1" T~ ~
·l")fO:(>OOC "

" ..
, SI '<


Empires may rIse and fall; and dynasties may appear

and disappear on the sands of time. But when our
attention turns away from these clashes of arms
we find the splendours of time.
........................................ .. SOCIETY, ECONOMY AND CUeTU,," ''ROM 1m GUPTAS ' " HARSHA

IN the previous chapter we had a

glimpse of the fascinating panorama
blwga in north Kottams or ualanadu
in the south. The other units of
of events which unfolded during a administration in the descending scale
span of five hundred years. Empires were the districts - adhisthana or
may rise and fall; and dynasties may pattana in north and nadu in the south;
appear and disappear on the sands groups of villages i.e. modem tahsil
of time. But when OUT attention cajled uithis in north and pattala and
tums away from these clashes of arms. kurrarn in south Indian records. The
we find the splendours of time . villages formed the lowest
These splendours include the state administrative units.
of polity, religion. society, economic There existed a host of central,
life, literature, art and architecture provincial and local officials to carry on
and technology. th.e administration. The Guptas
PoUty and Admln' ......tlon continued with the old bureaucratic
fo:nu of administration, Ul0ugh it was
The governments set up during lhis more elaborately organised. The
period were fairly well organised. This governor of bhukti called «parika was
would be clear from the fact that appointed by king. He, in turn
notwithstanding the shocks of appointed the officer in charge of a
intermittent wars, and sometimes of uishaya - known as uishayapati.
disputed slIccession, the reigns of the Epigraphic records of the Gupta period
Guptas. Chalukyas, and Palla vas have thrown interesting light on the
lasted for about two hundred, four functions of these vishayapatis. They
hundred and six hundred years had their headquarters in towns where
respectively. In those days of slow they had their own officers and were
means of communication it is aided in their administrative work by a
remarkable indeed that they could hold Board of Advisors consisting of four
together extensive territories for such members r epresenting the various
long periods. The machinery of important sectio n s, namely. Ii) the
administration was more or less the nagarsresthis (chief of the guild of
same il1 all cases except that its pari s traders and bankers) represented the
or constituents varied with time or guilds in particu lar a,nd the urban
locality. The name of the function aries population in general (ii) sartha,u aha
might have changed but not their (the head of guild of traders)
functions. represented the various trading
As before , the kingdom (rajya) was communities, (iii) the pra[hamakulika
divided for administrative convenience (the chief of artisan) representing
into a number of provinces - bhu.kti in various artisan classes, (iv) the
the north and mandala or mandatam pmthamakayastha (the chief scribe),
in the south. The provinces in tum were who might have represented the
sub-divided into divisions - uishaya or Kayaslha or government official like

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

the Chief Secretary of the present undoubtedly on the increase. Gupta

day. This body was known as rulers assumed several titles such as
Adhisthanadhikarana. maharajadhiraja, parambh attaraka,
Similarly. each city had a council. parmesvara etc. Samudragupta, for
The village came under the control of example, is described in Allahabad
rural bodies consisting of a headman pillar inscription, not only equal to the
and the village elders. This period is Gods Indra, Varona, Kuvera and Yama,
ch a racterised by a remarkable growth but also as a 'God dwelling on the earth'.
of the local self governing institutions In the preceding period s u ch titles were
such as the village committees and used by the rulers of foreign origin s u ch
district committees. Their existence as the Greeks, or the Kushanas but
from a very early period has been never by a king of an Indian origin.
noticed, hundreds of inscriptions and Guptas were the first among the
literature of this period from various Indi ans, who adopted such high
parts of the country throw a flood of sounding titles.
light on their nature and activities, and But old ideals of popular
testify to the most wonderful government are freely expressed in the
organisation that the ancient Indians literature of the period. The Smritis say
evolved. These types of v ill age thal, "the ruler has been made by
administrations still continue. Brahma a servant of the people, getting
Two new classes of officers were his revenue as remuneration". The king
introduced by the Guptas. These were was advised to rule witl1 the h elp of
Sandhivigrahika - the of peace ministers and to respect the decision o f
and war i.e. modern foreign minister, guiJds and corporate bodies. It appears
and Kumaramatyas - a body of top that royal powers were more
ranking officials attached not only to circumscribed in the Gupta period and
the king but also to the crown-prince, later during the Mauryas . Kings were
and sometimes placed as in charge of advised to keep themselves in touch
districts. Another class of important witb the public through variol1s
officials were Ayuktas, probably the agencies. Harsha maintained con tact
same as Yuk-tas mentioned in the with public opinion both through his
Ashokan inscriptions and in Kautilya's officers and by his own tours. This gave
Arthasastra. During the Gupta him an opportunity of supervising the
period we find the little moha prefixed administration also.
to many known officials - such as The numerical strength of the Gupta
mahapratihara, mahabatadhikrita anny is not known as we know about
and mahadandanayaka etc. the army Chandragupta Maurya and
The powers of all these officials and Harsha. Evidence that the king
officers emanated from the kihg wh o maintained a standing army is
was helped by the crown-prince. The confirmed from the conquests of
royal powers and prestige was Salnudragupta and Chandragupta II .

. ....................................... ... . Soe,m, ECONOMY ANO CULruRE "'OM TBE GUPTAS TO IiARSHA ~
The Gupta kings are described as drama, grammar or prose. The
excel lent and unrivalled chariot wonderful corpus of literature is the
warriors and horsemen and are usually visible product of the system of
represented on their coins . education and learning. The Puranas,
The Gupta period provided a eighteen in nu m ber, preserved the
landmark in the history of the t raditions, legends, moral codes,
administration of law and justice in religious and philosophical principles
early India. It produced a rich corpus a.nd itihas. The smn'tis are metrical
of legal literature, which feneets a text s containing the ru les and
distinct advance in the legal system. For regulations and laws for the guidance
the first time lawgive rs of the period and governance of society. They
drew a clear line between civil and are based on dharrnasutras and
c r iminal law. The Brihaspatismriti 9'rihyasutras of Vedic literature. But
enumerates eighteen titles ofland and a dditions and alterations have been
adds that fourteen of these have their done to make them suitable to the
origin in property (dhanamulaJ and changing conditions of society. They are
four in injury (himswnulaJ. On account written in verse. The phase of writing of
of the growth of private property in land, commentaries on the smritis begins
which could be sold for money, we find after the Gupta period .
detailed laws about partition, sale, The com pilation of the two great
mortgage and lease of land in law-books epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata
and in inscriptions of the period. was completed by the fourth century
The list of taxes enumerated in the A.D. The philosophical works of the
Arthashastra of Kautilya is much period are many and varied in character
bigger than that found in the Gupta such as philosophic works of
inscriptions. This could suggest that Mahayana and other schoo ls of
the burden of taxation decreased in Buddhist thoughts and those of variou_s
Gupta times because of the prosperity Saiva and Vaishnav schooL
of the state . There is no trace of In the field of kauya or poetical
emergency taxes in this period . Land works, the name of Kalidas
tax was collected varying from onc- stands foremost in the history of
fourth to one-sixth bribe produce, both Indian literature. He is credited
in cash and kind. Various officers with having written the best works
mentioned in the inscriptions kept in poetry. dramma as well as in
proper records of assessment and prose. His kauyas such as
collection of revenues, land transactions Meghaduta, Raghu.vamsa and
etc. Kum.arasambhaua. and dramas such
as Abhijnashakuntalamare considered
Language and Literature
to be among the best literary works in
The period m arked the brilliant phase the world and have been translated into
of lnctian literature whether in poetry, many languages. Kalidas graced the

ANCIENT iNDIA ...... . . . . .. .................................................. ....... .. .... ......................... . ..... .

court of Vikramaditya. the king of Harsha, Harshachanta, written by

Ujjayini, who has been identified with Banabhatta. is an outstanding work of
Chandragupta II. A few inscriptions of the period.
the period also possess, in some degree, This pe r iod also saw the
most of the characteristics features of development of Sanskrit grammar
Sanskrit kcwya. The Allahabad pillar based on Paruni and Patanjali. Mention
inscription by Harisena, Mandsor may also be made of three Sltatakas of
in scription composed by Vatsabhatti j
Bhartl;hari. He has also been creclited
Junagarh rock inscription, Mehrauli for writing the commentary on the
Pillar inscription, Aihole inscription by Mahabhasya of Patanjali. This period
Ravikriti etc. are fine examples of literary i::; particularly memorable for the
expression. co mpilalion of the Amarakosha by
In the field of drama, Shasa. Amarasimha, who was a luminary in
Sudraka, Kalidas and Bhavabhuti are the court of Chandragupta II. Thi s
the most noteworthy. Sudraka is the lexicon is memorised by heart by the
author of Mrichchakatika - ' Little students who learn Sanskrit.
clay cart'. Hi s play deals with the The Prakrit was as much popular
love of a brahman with the beautiful in this period as it was earlier, The
daughter of a courtesan; it is Sve tambara Jain canon was written
considered one of the best plays in Ardha-Magadhi Prakrit and
of ancient India . Vishakhadatta religious texts of the Digambara
wrote two plays: Mudrarakshasa Jain s of the sou~h were written in
and Deuichandraguptam, which the Maharashtri and Sauraseni
are the two best known Prakrits . The commentaries on
histori cal plays. Malaulkagnimitram., Buddhist texts were WTitten in Pali. The
Abhijnanashakuntalam and Vikramor· well known Prakrit and Pali
uasiyam the three famous plays written grammar works of the period are
by Kalidas. Bhavabhuti's works are Pmkriraprakasha written by Vararuchi
Uttararama-charita, Malati-MadhavQ and Prakritalakshana written by
etc. Chanda. The book on grammar ofPali
In prose, earliest notable works are is Ka.tyayanapraka rna.
Dasakumaracltarita by Dandin and
TamU LiteJ1ltun
VasauadattQ of Subandhu. One of the
most famous works is Panchatancra, The Tamil literature of the period
written by Vishnu Sharma, which was consists of large number of works
translated into Persian and Arabic in resembling those of the Sangam Age.
the eighth century A.D. and has been The deveiopmentof devotional songs of
tr anslated in almos t all European the Saiva and Vaishnava saints are
languages since then. The popular characterised alike by the depth and
work Hitopadesa is based on the sincerity of feeling and the beauty
Panchatantra. The biography of of literary expression. Among the

........................................... SoClElY, EcoNOMY AND CUL11JRE FROM THE GUPTAS TO H ARSHA

Nayanar saints, Tirumular occupies a to India via central Asia. But unlike
very high position . The hymns Fa-Hien, Hiuen-Tsang has left an
composed by them were collected into account of his travels. giving details of
eleven Tirmurais which are held in the various Indian kingdoms visited by
great venerations by the people ofIndia. him. Hi s book Si-yu -ki forms an
Another important work contains the invaluable source to ancient Indian
lives of sixty~three Saiva saints. history . He studied at Nalanda
The Vaishnava saints known as University, which was at that time one
Alvars are traditionally twelve in of the most famous and prestigious
numbers. The coUection of their works centers of education. He was honoured
known as Nalayirap ra bandham, by Harshavardhana of Kana uj and
co nsists of 4,000 stanzas. It is Bhaskarvanna of Assam. He left India
considered the most sacred text in with 20 horses loaded with 657
Tantil and celebration of it in special Buddhist texts and I SO relics and spent
festivals in all prominent temples of the r emaining years of hi s life in
so uth India raised the status of Tamil studying and translating Buddhist
as language of religious writing. texts. Hiu en~Tsang played the most
distinguished role in establi s hing
Foreign Accounts
Buddhism on a solid footing in China
Three great Chinese pilgrims Fa-Hien, and improving the cultural relations
Hiuen-Tsang and I-tsing visited Iodia between the two countries.
in search of lmowledge, manuscripts The examp le o f Hiuen -T sa ng
and relics between the fifth and seventh inspired Chinese monks to visit India
centuries A.D. Fa-Hien with four other in large numbers. Chinese texts have
monks came to lndia during the reign pTl!served the biographies of s ixty
of Chandragupta 11. He came to India monks who visited India during the
via cen tral Asia, Kashmir and traveUed second half of the seventh century A.D.
aU over north India . He stayed at Th.:: greatest among these later pilgrims
PaUiputra for three years, Jearning \Va·s I-tsing. He came to lndia via sea
Sanskrit. As he was interested only in route spending several years in
Buddhism, his report does not contain Sumatra and Sri Vijaya learning
much political information, but h e has Buddhism. He stayed at Nalanda for
given a general description of northern ten years studying and tra n s lating
India at that time. His report gives an Buddhist texts and rerurned to China
idea of general peace and welfare during with a collection of 400 Sanskrit
Gupta period. m anuscripts. He translated a number
Hiuen-Tsang visited India during of texts a nd compiled a Sanskrit-
Harsh a 's reign. He spent thirteen years Chi nese dictionary. Io his book entitled,
in India (A.D. 630-643). of which A Record of the Buddhist Religion as
eight we r e in Hars ha 's kingdom. Practised in India and. the Malay
Like Fa-Hien , Hiuen- Tsang a lso came Archepelago, h e gives detail account of

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

Buddhism and general condition of the weaver, and corporate activities of the
two countries. period. Ivory work flourished as earlier.
We come to know about the guilds of
Ec:onomic Condition ivory workers from a seal found in the
It has been shown in the preceding excavation at Bbita. Leather industry
chapters thatlong before the rise of the also flourished. We see the depiction of
imperial Guptas, India had developed leather boots and shoes in the
an advanced system of agriculture, contempary sculptures and paintings.
industry and trade. This economic The art of the jeweller seems to h ave
stability and prosperity provided the been in the same advanced condition
basis for the all round cultural progress as in the preceding period. The Brihat
made during this period. Samhita mentions no less than twenty-
The agriculture system was well two jewels. Ratna pariksha, the science
developed during this period. Scientific of testing gems, was included by
methods we re followed fOT better and Vatsyayana in his Kamasutra as one
more agricultural production. The of the sixty-four arts. Literary evidence
Brihat Samhita and the Amarakosha as well as foreign accounts ofthe period
contain special chapters on the study prove that jewels were used at this
of plants and gardens, forest, crops and period for a large variety of purposes.
manure etc. As in the earlier centuries, technical
The various branches of industry sciences were ut ili sed for the
were maintained at the same high level manufacture of metals. Vatsyayana
as in the earlier period , because of mentions Ruparatnapariksha,
abundance of raw materials and the dhatuveda and maniragakarajnanam
skill and enterprise of the artisans and i.e. testing of precious stones, the
the craftsmen. Literary works mention smelting of metals and the technology
a large variety of clothing materials. of jewels and so forth . According to
These consists of cotton, silk, wool and Hiuen-Tsang's testimony, brass, gold
lin en. Hiuen -Tsang class ifies the and silver we re produced in
clothing material of Indians under the abund ance. The Gupta period's gold
heads - silk, cotton , linen, wool and goat and silver coins, seals, the Mehrauli iron
hair. Amarakosha mentions different pillar, a few statues belonging to this
terms in use for the finer and coarser period are the best examples of metal
varieties of cloth as well as for worlananships.
unbleached and bleached silk and the Ship building w as another big
like . Ajanta frescos also revealed industry which was well developed in
different techniques of weaving. the p eriod th at facilitated trade and
Dashapura, Sanaras, Mathura, and communication activities.
Kamarupa were great centres ofte.xti..les Large num ber of guilds flourished
production. The Mandsor inscription in the period. The e laborate laws of
gives details about the guilds of silk partnership , contract, con stitution of

1 94
............................. ........ SocIl;:1Y, E CONOMY AND CUt.nJRE fROM mE G UPTAS TO HARS~II\ . ~

guild a nd right and duties of the Trade and commerce flourished

individual members are mentioned during the e ntire period. Trad e was
in detail in smritis and corroborated carried o n between India on the one
by con t emporary lite rature a nd hand and eastern and western countries
inscriptions. on the other, both through land as well
During this period, various guilds as coastal routes.
activite ly parti c ipated in the Durin g this period . Indi a
administration of city. as seals and maintained regular maritime relation
inscriptions mention the legends with Sri Lanka , Persia, Arabia,
Sres hthi·kulika-nigama and s reshthi· Byzantine Empire , Afri ca a nd
s arthauaha -kulika-nigama. The further west. In the eastern part , India
inscriptions of the Gupta and of the
d eveloped commercial relations with
later periods record the endowments by
China, Burma, and South East Asia.
princes and other individuals deposited
The important trade item s were
with the guilds for regular payments
s ilk, spices of various kind , t ex tiles
to be made to people concerned for the
meta ls, ivory, sea produc e etc.
perfonnance of acts of piety and charity.
l'amralipti, Arikamedu, Kaveri·
These permanent endowme nts
s how the function of the guilds in the pattnam , Barbaricum, Mu ziri s,
capacity of banks as well as confinn Pratishtha na , Sopara and Bri ghu -
their s table position in terms of kachchha were the important sea ports
business stab ility. Thi s in turn of the time. These were well connected
generated faith in the people to invest t hrough inland routes from all parts of
their money safely in the guilds . India.
Public works were undertake n and Th e hi g hly flourishing trade
executed by the state a s well as guilds. a.nd c omm erce made the co untry
Reference may specially be made to the enonnously wealthy and the reputation
repairs of, the dam on Sudarshana lake o f the rich es of India spread far and
and t h e connected irrigatio n canal, wide . In the b eginning of the fIfth
carried out in the prov in ce of century th e people of the ' Middle
Saurashtra, under th e rul e of Kingdom', according to Fa-Hien, were
Skandagupta provinci a l govern or prosperou s a nd happy. Hiuen-Tsang
Pamadatta and his son Chakrapalita. gjves a similar account of peace and
Other works included meas ures taken plenty in India. He s ays that 'the rare
to improve public health, construction and valu able products of distant
of roads and bridges, improvement of regions are stored here in great
communication, setting up of big and quantities'. Description of the city,
s mall industries and working of mines. dwelling hou ses, luxurious items ,
The re were also other numerous ornaments and wealth etc. in literary
endowments of various public welfare accounts prove the high standard of
activities such as education. living and the lLLXUIy of town life.

~ ANCIENT biOlA . ........... .... .. .. . .. . ........ . ............ ................ ... . . . ... .. ...... . ..... . ......... ... ...... . .. ... . ... . .

However, some historians feel that service, annual gifts, financial help, etc.
with the Guptas began the rise of to the king and also had to regularly
feudalism in India. For this they cite the attend to the court of the king. This was
evidence of land grants given to not the case in India. First it was not a
brahmans, temples, viharas, mathas land grant given in the European sense.
and other lnstitutions. According to lofaet, the donee had no obligation
those who subscribe to this view, these towards the doner except to use the
land grants gave rise to the emergence grant for the purpose it was given.
of landed intermediaries and feudal The land grants given to various
lords, whose position can be equated charitable institutions and t h e
to the feudal lands in Europe. These brahmans to run the educational
scholars also believe that there was a institutions etc. were hardly enough
general decline in the industries , trade to meet th e regular and essentia l
and commerce and coins became rare. e.xpenditure. The area of the land grant
All these factors weakened the economy and the LOcome therefore was so little
and the state, and gave rise to feudalism that it would have hardly been ever
in India, as in Europe . noticed by the state. Therefore, man)
But, as we have seen above, the historians rightly think that these land
decline in industries. trade and grants meant for charitable purposes
commerce does not seem to be the fact. should not be compared with the feudal
We have seen the evidence of trading grants in Europe. The tradition of land
relations with various co untries for grant for charitable purposes continued
whic h enormous amount of literary into the medieval period also. These
evidence exist in the Indian , Chinese were known as madad-i -mash.
and Arab sources. There was prosperity suyarghal, milk and Jdarar. In fact in
al l around. the mediva] period the total expenditure
There was no decline in the urban. under these heads went upto 5% of the
and comme rcial cen t res nor any total income of the state.
paucity of coins. Some historians have
made a detailed study of inscriptions Religions
dealing with the land grants given by The development and spread of
several dynasties. They have made a religions like Buddhism, Jainism, and
quantitative s tudy of the a reas given Brahmanism to foreign countries testify
in the land grant in relation to the total the high degree of maturity in the
land SIea of the kingdom. The study mother country. Although the Guptas,
shows that the total area given in land Chalukyas, Pallavas and others were
grant is between 0.017% and 0 .026% followers of Brahmanism they never
of the total land area of the kingdom. imposed their religion as the official
Further, in Europe. to which India religion of the empire. They en couraged
has been compared, the reciever ofland equally the promotion of all religions,
- (fief) grants had to provide military induding Buddhism and Jainism,

'J 96

rest house for Buddhist pilgrims at

Gaya. A large number of chaityas,
Sanchi, Sarnath, Gaya, Nalanda
continued to be the great centres of stu pas and viharas were built .d uring
Buddhism. Buddhism became much this period .. Nalanda, Valabhi and
popular not only in India but in China, Kanchipuram became important
Ceylon and South East Asia. A large centres of education. During this period
number ofpUgrims and students from Buddhism assimilated several features
these countries came to India to study of Brahmanism, and Brahmanism
Buddhism during this period. Some of imbibed some of the essential teachings
the most famous ones are Fa-Hien, of Buddhism.
Hiuen-Tsang and I-tsing. All of them JalLnism
mention in de t ail the flouri shing
Jainism made considerable progress
condition of Buddhism and recount
durin g this period. Some of the
things such as number of monasteries,
Chalukyas, Rashtrakuta, Ganga and
number of s tudents in these
Kadamba kings patronised the Jain
monasteries etc. The King of Ceylon
religion. It continued to be popular
requested Samudragupta to build a the m erchant c9mmunities of
western India. In the sixth century A.D.
the second Jaina Council was held at
Valabhi and Jain canon was defined
substantially as it exists today.
Buddhism and Jainism both either
discarded, or passed over in silence, the
doctrine of the existence of God. But
within the Vedic r eligion there grew
certain religious system which attained
considerable popularity within a s hort
time. This system now centered around
the idea of a supreme God conceived
as Vishnu, Siva, Sakti and some other
form. Salvation was possible through
His Grace (prasada) alone and this
could be attained only by bhakti i.e.
intense love and devotion leading to
complete su rrender of se lf to the
pel~so nal God. The chief vehicle of this
n ew system were Bhagavatism, (later
came to be known as Vaishnavism),
Fig. 19.1 Jain Trithankara Saivism and Saktism.

19 7
t MeIE'" INDIA .................................................. ... ................................................. ...... .... .

The three important aspects ofVed.ic worshipping him with devotion. in

religion became oystallised at this time.preference to other older methods of
The images of gods and goddesses sacrifices and austerities. It did not, of
emerged as the centre of worship and course. do away with either the sacrifice
greater stress now began to be laid on or Vedic literature which prescribed it.
dana (gifts) than on yajnas (sacrifices) It therefore. can be said that this new
although offering to the images system made an attempt to introduce
remained central to the ritual. This in a religious reform on more conservative
turn encouraged bhakti (devotion) principles than Buddhism and Jainism
where worship of a god became much did.
more the concern aCthe individual. They The Vaishnavism centered around
expressed themselves by deflning the the Vasudeva cu1tofBhagavatareligion
four ends of life known as Purshartha where Vasudeva Kris hna is identified
- religiou s and the soc ial laws with the Vedic diety Vishnu.
(dharma) . economic well being (artha). An important feature of
pleasure (kama), and the salvation of Vaishnavism during this period was the
the soul (moksha). popular worship of avataras i.e .,
incarnations of Vishnu . It was believed
that whenever the social order faced
crisis. Vishnu app e ared in an
appropriate form to save the earth and
humanity. Epigraphic and literary
records of the period throw light on the
evolution of the avataras, the roots of
this can be traced to the later Vedic
The number and nature of these
avataras are variously given in different
treatises. Gradually. the concept often
aua_taras became more popular.
Fig. 19.2 Depiction of Varahauatar Through these avataras we find the
at Udaygiri biological as well as historical evolution
of life on earth. These are Matsya
Vaiahnavism {fish}. Kurma (tortoise) . Varah (Boar),
Vaishnavism , as the name implies, Narasimha(man-lion). Vaman (dwarfj.
means religion in which Vishnu is the Parasurama (Rama with the axe) ,
object of worship and devotion as Rama ( King of Ayodhya and hero of
the Supreme God. Originally, it the Ramayana) . Krishna (Hero of
merely laid stress upon the idea of a the Mahabharata ), Buddha (the
supreme God, God of Gods . called Enlightened one) and Kalki (to appear).
Hari, and emphasised the necessity of Of these, Krishna was the most popular

... . ...... . . ... .. . ..................... .. S OCIETY, & ONOMY AND CllLroRE FROM 11iE G UPTAS 1'0 H A RSHA

incarnation of Vishnu because several Siva was at first worshipped, not by

aspects of Krishna's life occupy an a particular sect, but by the Vedk
important position in modern pe::>ple in general. The existence of the
Vaishnavism. Saiva sect may be traced as early as the
Another feature of Vaishnavism in second century B.C. It is possible that
this period is the conception of Lakshmi a definite Saiva system or school was
or Sri as Vishnu's wife. Goddess established , in imitation of the
Lakshmi is associated with prosperity. Bhagvata sect. Saiva sect was earlier
The Gupta kings were followers of known as Lakula, Pasupata or
Vaishnavisrn and called themselves Mahesvara.
paramabhagauatas. As worshippers of The worship of Siva as a sect seems
Vishnu , the Gupta emperors to have spread r a pidly after the
introduced the depiction of his uahana. Kushana period. By about the si.'\.'th
Garuda, Goddess Lakshmi, and chakra century A.D. Saivism became more
on their coins. popular and spread to south India and
In SQuth India, Vaishnavism be,::ame the predominant religion in
became quite popular and the An_man and Cambodia from fifth
Vaishnava devotees were known as century onwards. Tn the first half of the
Alvars. Their Tamil songs are so seventh century A.D. Hiuen-Tsang
marked by depth of feeling and true found followers of Saiva sect as far west
piety that they are looked upon as as Baluchistan.
Vaishnava Veda. These songs are very
In south India a large number of
popular in south India , and their
sajints, called Nayanars, composed
authors are held in great veneration.
Their images are worshipped side by their devotional hymns with the highest
side with those of Vishnu and his spiritual sentiments and set up Saivism
various incarnations. on a strong foundation. The number of
these saints is usually given as 63 and
Saiviam their hymns are still widely read and
The origin of Saivism may be traced to held in great veneration .
the conception of Rudra in the RigVeda. Lingayata was another important
The worship of t he Siva-tinga in sec t of Saivism in south India, whose
Harappan civilization also point to the philosophy was influenced both by
great antiquity of Saivism. Rudra Sankara and Ramanuja. The
represented the malignant and Lingayatas gave prominence to the
destructive phenomena in nature. We worship of Linga (Phallus) and the
can trace the development of the Na.ndi (Bull) .
worship of Rudra right from the The Saiva sect became very popular
RigVedic times to the period of in the south under the patronage of the
Upanishad. Kena Upanishad eulogised Rashtrakutas and the Cholas and the
Siva and his consor t Uma as supreme magnificent temples and monastic
deities. establishment still testify its former

t ANCIENT INDIA ........................................................................ .......... ................ ........ .

grandeur. The Buddhist kings of Pala the Gods by every Hindu. He is

dynasty established Saiva temples for considered as Vighnaharta (remover of
the Pasupata sects. all ob stacles).
The ot her sects that b ecame
Art and Architecture
popular during this period are Saktism,
Kartikeya and Ganapati. The economic prosperity of the country
Mother Goddesse s have been led to the all round d evelopment in the
worshiped in Ind ia right from pre- field of scu lptural art, architecture 3Jld
historic pe riods onwards. During the paintin g. Th e m an u a ls on the
Gupta period , the Goddesses DUTga , construction of ston e temples were
Kali, and Parvati were associated with written during this period giving minute
the Sakti, as the strength or potency of d etails of construction which were
her male COWlterpart. These goddesses faithfully followed by the crafts m e n.
were worshipped as wives of gods and Caves continued to be excavated
played an active and positive role in the during the Gupta and the post Gupta
life of human beings in their ben evolent period. In the Deccan, some of the finest
as pects such as Lakshmi, Annapuma, rock-cut caves were excavated. There
a nd Saraswati. Ardhanarisvara , a are nine caves at Udaygiri near Vidisa.
figure , half Siva an d half Parvati, These are partly rock-cut and partly
representing the union of the God with
hi s sakt i , was an important
development of this period. The Siva
and Sakti were worshipped in benign
as well as terrible fonns.
The numerous s olar deities o f the
Vedas were merged into a s ingle God
usually known as surya (the s un).
Several temples in northern a nd
wes tern India were buill during this
period dedicated to the Sun God. The
Mandsor inscriptiort of the time o f
Kum aragupt a I mentions the
construction and repair of Sun Temple
by the guild of weavers.
In the epic and puranic mythology,
Ka rtikeya and Ganapati are usually
described as the two sons of Siva and
Parvati. Kartikeya was the war -God
known as Kum a ra , Skan da , an d
Subramanya. Ganapati or Ganessa is
ven erated and worshipped ftrst a m ong Fig. 19.3 Bhitarguon Temple


Fig. 19.4 Remains of the Great Stupa at Nalanda

stone-built. The caves exhibit a gradual number of pillared halJs and th e

a dvance in the design showing seven monolithic temples popularly
combined features of the rock-cut and called rathas were carved by the
structural design. The caves at Ajanta Pa.llava kings, Mahendravarman and
retaining the es sential fea tures of old, N ara s imhavarman in the seven th
pre s en t an altogether new line of c e ntury A.D. Th e rathas are the
architecture by the great beauty of their culmination of complete reproduction
pillars of varied design and size and the of'massive structural temples cut out
fine paintings with which the inner wall of rock.
and ceiling are decorated. Another Monasteries and stupas were also
group, is the series of caves at 8agh, built during this period. The monastic
though s imple in architecture, but are institutions which were also the centres
famous for their paintings. Another of education, attained vast proportions
notable group of rock-cut monasteries consisting of large aggregations of
and chaitya balls are those of E Bara. various kinds of buil ding grouped
The Brahmanical, Buddhist and J ain together. The famous centres were at
caves show the final phase of Bodhgaya, Sar natha, Kusinagara,
development. For the Kailash temple, S :r avasti,
, Kanchi and Nalanda.
a block of hill side was cut off, and was The Nalanda Un iversity grew into
carved into a magnificent monolithic a most pres ti gious establishment
terpple with a spacious hall and finely from about the fifth century A.D.
carved pillars. At Mamallapuram, Hiuen-Tsang describes in detail the

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

great temples, monasteries, and librruy flat-roofed platforms are characteristics

buildings of Nalanda mahavihara. The of the early Gupta period. Small, but
period also saw the ushering in of a new e legant temple No. XVII at Sanchi,
epoch connected with the growth and Kankali temple at Tigawa. Vishnu and
development of structural temples of Varaha Temples at Eran and at Nachna
distinctive forms and styles. Small, Kuthara in Madhya Pradesh are good

Fig. 19.5 (a) The Rathas at MamaUapuram

Fig. 19.5 (b) Carving on the Rathas

· ............................ . .......... S OCIETY, EcONOMY AND CULTURE FROM THE G UPfAS TO H ARSHA t

.'~ ,,'~ ,.
~. ' . .' . -.

.: '~,'

" "

Fig. 19.6 Deogar-h Temple

Fig. 19.7 Shore Temple at Mamallapuram

t ANCIENr INOlA .................................................................. .

examples of early temple architecture. style (Nagar style) and south Indian
Gradually. these temples developed a style (DraVidian style). At Aiho le,
shikharo. on the roof which came to be Badami and Pattadakal we find temples
adopted all over the country. Two best of both styl es.
examples of this type are the brick The earliest examples of Dravidian
temple Bhitargaon in Kanpur and the style temple is the rock-cut temple
Dasavatara temple at Oeogarh, both known as Dharmaraja ratha at
in the Uttar Pradesh. MamalJapuram and structural temples
The shape of shikhara i.e., the at Kanchi, known as Kailasanatha and
superstructure above the sanctum- Vaikuntha Perumal, all built by the
sanctorum containing the images of Pallava Kings.
deities marked the development of two
distinctive style viz., northern Indian
In the domain of sculpture, the Gupta
period witnessed the highest
development of art in India. The period
is known as the "classical period"
because it saw the culmination of
spirituality, idealism and art into one.
The figures of Buddha, found in
large numbers at Sarnath and other
places, show a fully d eveloped form of
Buddhist art and came to be regarded
as the model for succeeding ages. They
exhibit at once, grace and refinement
as well as delicacy and repose, and
offers a unique combination of
perfection in technique with the
expression of the highest spiritual
conception which makes them
This high quality was generally
maintained in the images of
Brahmanical gods also as is illustrated
by the images of Siva, Vishnu and
others in the sculptured panels of the
Deogarh temples and other places.
These divine images not only possess
beauty and charm, but are also
Fig. 19.8 Dharamachakro Pravartana beaming with a radiant spiritual
Mudra of Buddha from Samath expression.

..... ,................... .

The tradition of paintings in India can
be traced from prehistoric rock art
painting found at Bhimbetaka,
Mirzapur and various other sites.
Literary evidence also leaves no doubt
that the art of painting was cultivated
in Ind ia from very remote times. The
paintings were used for the decoration
of walls. The best examples of
paintings in India in Ajanta and 8agh
caves were done between the first and
the seventh century A.D. At Ajanta of
t he 29 caves traces of paintings
can be seen in sixteen caves. In Ajanta
t he surface of the caves were first
covered by a mixture of clay. cowdung,

-Fig. 19.9 Cave 19 at Ajanta

The Gupta artists and craftsmen

were no less capable in working with
metals. The famous iron pillar at Delhi,
near Qutub Minar, is a marvel in
metallurgical skill and technology.
The art of casting copper statues, coins,
and copper seals etc, on a large
scale shows the handling of metal work
at its best. A copper image of Buddha,
about 80 feet high was erected at Fig. 19.10 Sheshashayee Vishnu,
Nalanda in Bihar, and a fine Sultanganj Vishnu temple Deogmh
Buddha, 7% feet high, can still be seen fine pulverised traprock, and then a thin
in Birmin g ham Museum. Coins coating of fine white plaster. The
were finely struck and dies were ground thus prepared was carefuUy
carefully engraved. Seals attached to smoothened and kept moistened. This
copper-plates are also examples affine produced a surlace on which the design
workmanship. was first sketched and then painted.

t ANCIENT I NOlA •...•...•.............••••••••••••.••.......•.••••••••••••..... .. ..•.•••••••••••••.•••......•...........•...••.•••

Fig. 19.11 Durga Temple at Aihole

The usual colours used are white, red,

brown, green and blue in various
shades. The pictures depict figures of
Buddha and various episodes of his
present and past lives i.e., Jataka
stories. Animals and vegetables are is
drawn in profusion for the sake of
ornamentalion . The designs are as
varied and graceful as they are fanciful.
The painting on the rock-cut temple
at Kailasa and the adjoining caves
conta in paintings of a somewhat
different type and style from those of
Ajanta and Bagh.
The cave temple ofSittannavasal in
Pudukottai (Madras) contains some fme
paintings of the time of the Pa11ava king
Mahendravarman. They are elegant
and beautiful, and show the degree of
excellence which the art had attained
during Pallava era. Fig. 19.12 Painting$ in Ajanta Cave

........... ••.... .......... .•••••••••••••• SocIETY. ECONOMY ANO CUen!RE PROM THE GUPTAS TO HARsHA

Science and Technology Juotisa. Varahamihira, who flourished

In the field of mathematics, astronomy in. the court of Chandragupta 11, has
pl-eserved in his Panchasiddhantika,
and medicine , India had much
written in A.D. 505, the accounts oHive
advanced knowledge dwing this period
astronomical works w hi ch were
in comparison to any other country in
evidently regarded as authority in his
the world. These developments in
own time . The se five works or
science and technology in India were
slddhantas are known as Paitamaha,
first borrowed by Arabs and then by RomakaJ Paulisa J Vasishtha and
the western world. Surya. The Suryasiddhanta is the
In Ancient Ind ia, mathematics most important and complete work on
and astronomy o riginated a nd the astronomy of the period. In the field
developed in Vedic times it self. In of astrology, we are also much indebted
mathematics, Aryabhata wrote the to Varahamihira. He has, in his
book Aryabhattiya. in Ku sumpura encyclopaedic work Brihatsamhita,
(Pataliputra) when he was 23 years old. preserved a considerable amount of
Aryabhattiya is divided into four parts. ancient knowledge on the subject. His
As regards geometry, Aryabhata Brihatsamhita, besides being the most
considers among other topics, an area important textbook on natural
of a triangle, the theorem on s imilarity astrology, is a veritable compendium
of triangles, the area of circle and U1e of Ancient Indian learning in the
theorem relating to rectangles field of science. Varahamihira's son,
contained by the segments. Prithuyashas too was an ardent
One of the most important features student of astronomy, I;lnd wrote, in
of Aryabhata's mathematical system is about A.D. 600, a work called
his unique system of notation. It is Harashatpanchashika.
based on the deci m al place-value As in mathematics, so too in
system , unknown to other ancient astronomy, Aryabhata was an
people, but now in use throughout the outstanding scholar of the Gupta age.
civilized world. The other famous His most original contribution was
mathematician was Brahmagupta who however, that the eclipses were not the
wrote Brahmsiddhanta in c. A.D. 628 work of Rahu, as believed by some
Hi s other well known work was a.strologers, but caused by the s hadow
Khandakhadya probably composed in of the earth falling on the moon,
A.D. 665. He developed rules for therefore, asserting the movement or
operating with negative qualities and earth on its own axis around the sun,
with zero. He began to apply Algebra as was known in Vedic times.
to astronomical problems. AIyabhata was the first to utilize sign
functions in astronomy. He discovered
Astronomy EUl accurate formula to measure the
Astronomy and Astrology are included decrease or increase in the duration of
in ancient Indja in a tenn known as two consecutive days.


Ayurueda, the name of Indian medical
sciences, literally means scien ce of
longevity. Its origin dates back to Vedic
times. Over seven hundred hymns in
the Vedas particularly in Atharoaveda
refer to the topics connected with
Ayurveda. The great writer of this
period is Vagabhata, who ranks only
next to Charaka and Susnlta. The two
famous works of the per iod are
Astanga-sangraha and the Astanga-
hirdaya-samhita assigned to two
different authors by the same name Le.,
Vagabhata. There were also treatises on
the diseases of animals. The best known
is Hastyayuroeda. It deals elaborately
with the diseases peculiar to elephants.
A similar treatise on the horse known
as Asvasastra was written by sage
Another science which developed along
with medicine is chemistry. Nagarjuna,
the great Mahayanist, is reputed to have
distinguished himself also in chemistry.
Besides medicine, chemistry must have
substantially helped in the development Fig. 19.13 Iron Pillar at Mehrauli
of metallurgy. The Mehrauli iron pillar
remains a living monument that shows
the progress in metallurgy achieved weigh about 6 tonnes. It has withstood
1500 years ago by Indians. This is 7.32 all the vagar ies of nature such as
meters high with a diameter of 40 cm rams, heat and cold for over all these
at the base to 30 cm. at the top and 1500 years without rusting.

1 . Explain the following:
bhukti, Vishaya, Adhisthanadhikarana, bhakti, Nayana ras, Aluars,
Sresthi, Sarthavaha, Kulika, Niganul, Avatars.
2. Describe the administrative system during the Gupta period.
3. Describe the city administration during the Gupta period. In what aspect
did it differ from the administrative system of the Mauryan period?
4. Describe the literary trends of the period with special reference to works
complied during this period both in Tamil and Sanskrit.
5. Write about the Chinese travellers who came to India during this period.
6. Describe the developments in Buddhism and Jainism during this period.
7 . Describe the evolution of Vaishnavism and Saivism.
8 . Write abou t the economic conditions during this period with special
referen oe to tra de and commerce.
9. Write about the developme nt in the field of art, architecture and painting
during this period.
10. Describe the achievements in the field of science, mathematics and

• Make a project on the art and architecture of the period.

• Read any Iilerary work of the period.
• On an outline map of India show the important cities of the period .
• Visit the museums and coHect pictures of different coi n s and
sculptures and identify them .


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" CHAP'l'ER 20 •


Tm: close interaction among the various regions of

bc;lia led to the crystallisation of common cultural
trends, seen in the literature, education, ' art and
archItecture of the period, which are visible even
after several ups and downs in the succeeding
centuries . •'

• .. T1
................ ...... ......... .............. ... .•••••••••••.. .••••••• .•• .... ..• ....... ....... ....... INDIA Am:R H ARSHA

THE period after the death of Harsha Hiuen-Tsang described Kanauj as a

in the mid seventh century A.D. and tile flouri shing centre of Buddhism along
establishment of Delhi Sultanate in the with Hinduism. Kanauj was then a well-
twelfth century A.D. covers a span of fortified city, extendingabollt four miles
600 years. These six centuries on the bank of the Ganges.
witnessed some important events such After the death of Hars h a in
as- A.D. 647, Kanauj lost its status as the
(i) The rise of important kingdoms in capital city briefly. But in the beginning
eastern, central and southern India of tbe eighth cen tury A.D. Kanauj came
which were as important as north back as the centre of power with a very
Indian kingdoms during this powerful king, Yashovarman. He ruled
period. Some of them were not only over a vast empire which includ ed
the powerful kingdoms of the time, almost the wh ole of northem India. His
but also acted as a bridge between victory over Bengal fo rmed th e s u bject
north and south. of the famous kavya Gaudavaho by
(ii) The cultural traditions of these Vakpatiraja, acourt poet. Yashovarman
kingdoms remained stable even was a famous king who sent an
though they often fought among embassy to China in A.D. 73 1. Famous
themselves. dramatist Bhavabhuti, the author of
(iii) There remained a continuity in the Malati-Madhava, Uttara Rama-charita
field of economy, social stnlcture. and Mahavira-charita adorned his
ideas and beliefs. This was perhaps court. Yashovarman ruled till about
because the changes in these areas A.D . 740. Nothing is known about the
take place more gradually than the successor ofYashovarman, though it is
changes in political structure. The known that fOUI kings ruled Kanauj
close interaction among the various between A.D. 740-810. Kanauj [rom
regions of India led to the the sixth century A.D. till it fmally fell
crystallisation of comm on cultural to Mohammad Ghori in A.D.I194
trend s, seen in the li terature. played an important role in hislory of
education , and art and architecture the north India and enjoyed a status of
of the period and are still visib le not only a political centre but also a
even after several ups and downs cultural centre_
in the succeeding centuries.
Gurjara Pratihar.s
(iv) The spread of Muslim rule over the
major part of northern India at the The early history of Gurjara Pratiharas
end of twelfth century. is shrouded in mystery. Some
Sin ce the days of Maukharis, historians believe that they came to
Kanauj became the seat of power in India from the central Asian region after
nort h India - a position which the Gupta period and settled in
Pataliputra (patna) enjoyed before Rajasthan. Gradually they gained
and Delhi was to enjoy afterwards. political importan ce. However, the

t ANClE"" INDIA •..•••••...............••..........••.........•••.••••••••.• •• •••...•.•.••••••.•.••........••..•••......•.... .. .•

bardic tradition of R~.jastban claims particularly with Andhra, Vidharbha

that the Gurjara Pratihams were born and Knlinga. H e made extensive
out of a yajna done at Mount Abu. preparation and fought against his
Others horn out of this yajna were rivals. He fIrSt defeated Chakrayudha
Chalukyas, Pannaras and Chahmanas. and captured Kanauj. Then , he
It is for this reason that these four defeated Dharamapalaand fought with
dynasties are also known as a.gnikulas Rashtrakuta king, Govinda m . Itis aJsa
(flIe-clans) , It is further said that these
believed that Nagabhatta defeated
four dynasties of Rajputs were created Sultan Vega who was the son of the
for the protection of the country from governor of Sind under the Caliph-AI-
e.xternal aggressions. This has been Maroun.
taken by some scholars to suggest that Nagabhatta II was succeeded by his
they were foreigners who were given Son Ramabhadra durin g whose
status in Indian society. The Pratiharasbrief reign of three years, the Pratihara
claim that they were called Pratihara suffered most owing to the
(literary means door keeper) because aggressive policy of the Pala king,
their ancestor Lakshrnana served as a Devapala. Shoja 1, succeeded rus father
door keeper to his brother Rama. The Ramabhadra . about A.D. 836. Within
geographical name ofGujarat is derived a few years of his accession , Bhoja I
from Gurjara. succeeded in restoring the falling
The early history of the family IS fortunes of his dynasty. The death of
preserved in the Gwalior inscription of DevapaJa followed by the Rashtrakuta's
Bhoja, the seventh and the most famous invasion of Bengal must have provided
king of the dynasty. Nagabhatta I was a golden opportul1.1ty to the Pratihara
the real founder of the fame of family. king. Fortune also favoured Bhoja I in
He defeat.ed the muslim forces another direction. The Rashtrakuta
from the Arabs. After him, Vatsaraja king, Krishna [l was involved in a Ufe
(A.D . 775-800) followed an aggressive and death struggle with the Eastern
imperial policy which brought him Chalukyas. Bhoja I defeated Krishna n
into conflicts with Pala kings of and captured the region of MaJW8 and
Bengal. Vatsaraja defeated Pala king Gujarat. After asserting triumpb over
Dharmapala but unfortunately the the two great rivals, Bhoja 1 had no
fruits ofrus victory were snatched away difficulty in establishing his sovereignity
from him by the Rashtrakuta king over the Punjab, Avadh and other
Dhruva , who defeated Vatsaraja . territories of north India and
Dbaramapala look advantage of the consolidated his empire.
reverses of Vatsaraja and installed his The name of Bhoja is famous in
own nominee Chakrayudha on the many legends. He was a devotee of
throne of Kanauj . Nagabhatta II Vishnu, and adopted the title of
(A.D.8IS), son of Vatsaraja made an Adiuaralw. which has been inscribed
alliance with several other states in some of his coins. He is also known

. .... ................................................................................................ . .. .. .. INDIA ,rn;R HARSHA

by other names as 'Mihir'. 'Prab hasa' and 2000 km. in breadth. The King's
etc. An assess ment of Bhoja as a anny had four divisions, each consis ting
conqueror and administrator is given of 7,00,000 to 9,00,000 men. There is
by the Arab historians Sulaiman no doubt that these figures are a bit
around A.D. 851. He wrote that Bhoja exagerated but this shows that
maintained numerous fo rces and no Pratihara empire was fairly large and a
other lndian king had such fine cavalry. powerful ooe.
He h as got rich es and his camels and Between A.D. 915 and A.D. 918, the
h orses are numerou s. Exchanges are Rashtrakuta king, Indra II again
carried on in his states with silver and attacked Kanauj leaving it totally
gold. There is no other country in India devastate d. This weakened the
more safe from robbers. Pratihara empire. Another Rashtrakuta
Bhoja 1 was succeeded by b is son ruler, Krishna Ill, invaded north India
Mahendrapal a I about A.D . 885. in about A.D . 963 and defeated the
Mahendrapala I not only kept the vast Pratihara rulers. This was followed by
empire intact but even probab ly the decline of Pratihara empire.
extended bis boundaries. The Pratihara The Pratiharas were patrons of
empire now stretched almost from Lh e learning and lite rature. The Sanslcrit
Himalayas in the north to the Vindhyas poet Rajashekhar lived at the court of
in the south and from Bengal in the Mahendrapala I. The Pratihara kings
east (0 Gujarat in the west. He was were followers of Hinduism . They
also known as 'Mahendrayudha', and embellished Kanauj with many nne
'Nirbhayanarelldra'. He was a liberal buildings and temples. It is interesting
palron of learned men . His guru to note from the epigraphic records that
Raja shekha ra ,occupies a dist in- the building of temples and the
guished place in the Indian literature. educational institutions attached with
His works include Karpuramartjari, them, fanned community projects, in
Bala-Ramayana, Bala Bharata. which the entire village communjty
Kavyamima71sa, Bhuuana Kosha and participated. The upkeep of the temples
Haravilasa. and educabonal institutions was the
Th e Pratiharas dominated north concern of the entire community. For
lndia for over two hundred years from this purpose they made contributions
the eighth century to the tenth century both in cash and kind, irrespective of
A.D. Al-Masudi , a naliveofBaghdad, thelr professions.
who visited [ndia in A.D. 915-916 During this period, many Indian
teslified to the g reat powers and scholars went along with embassies to
prestige of the Pratihara rulers and the the court of the Caliph at Baghdad. We
vastness of their empire. He says that do not know the names of the Indian
empire of AI-Juzr (GurjaraJ had kings who sent these embaSSies. Several
1,800,000 villages, the cities and rural Arab travellers and scholars also visited
areas were about 2000 km. in length [nelia. This interaction between lndia

t ANe",", I NDIA ................................................................................................................. .. .

and Arab led to the spread of Indian king, Dhruva could not tolerate the
cu lture, literature and science, imperial pretensions of Dharmapala,
especially mathematics, algebra and and routed him in a battle. Meanwhile
medicine to the Arab world from where the Pratihara power revived under
these were further transmitted to Nagabhatta 11 . Dhruva defeated
Europe. Dharmapala near Monghyr.
The Pratiharas were well known for Dharamapala was succeeded by his
their hostility to the Arab rulers of son Devapala who is rightly reckoned
Sindh. Despite this, it seems that the as the most mighty Pala king .
movement of scholars and trade Epigraphic records credit him with
between lndia and west Asia remained extensive conquests. He conquered
uninterrupted. Pragjotishpur (Assam) and Utkala
(Orissa). The Palas ruled over Bihar,
Palaa Bengal and parts of Orissa and Assam
The history of Bengal from the death of with many vicissitudes of fortune for
Harsha up to the ascendancy of the over four centuries. Their power is
Palas remains in obscure. At this time attested by the Arab merchant
West Bengal was known as Gauda and Sulaiman. He calls the Pala kingdom
Ruhma (or Dharma), short for
East Bengal as Vanga. Bengal was
Dharmapala, and says that the
subject to internal disorder, which has Pala rulers were at war with their
been termed as matsyanyaya (the rule neighbours - the Pratiharas and the
of strong devouring the weak). This lead Rashtrakutas, but his troops were more
to a revolution in which Gopala was numerous than his adversaries. He tells
elected king by the people to end this us that 'it was customary for the Pala
matsyanyaya. The details of GopaIa's king to be accompanied by a force of
early career are not known. However, 50,000 elephants' .
he introduced peace in the kingdom Besides the inscriptions and the
and laid the foundation for the great Arab travellers, detailed information
future for his family known as the Pala about the Palas is also provided to us
dynasty. by the Tibetan chronicles. According to
Gopala was succeeded by his son, Tibetan historians, Pala rulers were
Dharmapala about A.D. 780. He was great patrons of Buddhist learning and
an energetic personalitYI and found religion. Dharmapala founded the
himself in a position to undertake the famous Buddhist monastery at
expansion of his empire. He defeated Vilcramashila, which became second
Indrayudha. the king of Kanauj and only to Nalanda in fame. Its splendid
installed Chakrayudha to the throne temples W1d monasteries bear eloquent
of Kanauj. Dharmapala held a grand testimony to his liberality as well as to
darbar at Kanauj which was attended that of other donors.
by several kings . But he could not During Pale's time, the fame of
consolidate his position. Rashtrakuta Nalanda University spread aU over the

.•••.• . "." ...... . ...........•...•.•..••••.•.•...•...•.•.... . •..•.• ..•. •..•......•••••••••••••••••.•.. .•.. . INOlA AITER H ARSHA

world. During this time Nalanda had dynasty which ruled over Malaya, J ava,
more than 10 ,000 s tu de nts and Sumatra and n eighbouring islands
teachers, coming not only from different sent many embassies to the Pala kings.
parts oflndia but also from central Asia,
China, South East As ia and Sri Lanka.
It was considered as one of the biggest When the Palas were ruling over eastern
e ducational institution of its ,.time. The India and the Pratiharas over the
University imparted education in n orth India, the Deccan was being ruled
various branches of knowledge. To by the Ras htrakutas. The term
m ee t the ex pen ses of t his hu ge ' Rashtrakutas ' mean s design ated
establis hment, Dharmapala donated office r s in charge of territorial
the royal income from two hundred d ivision s called Rashtras. The members
surrounding viUages. DevapaJa also of family were officers of Ras htra under
donated inco me from five villages. th e ea_rly Cha lukyas of Bad a mi.
Besides, the villagers, wealthy Dantivannan or Dantidurga was the
merchants and other royals also helped founder of the dy nasty with his capital
the University both in cash and kind. a t Manyakhet or Malkhed near modern
Villagers don ated food g r a in s, Shoia pur. Dantivarman was succeeded
vegetables, and other provisions for the by his uncle Krishna 1 about A.D . 758,
use of inmates. The fame of Nalanda who extended hi s kin gdom from
University was s uch that the king of Maharashtra to Kamataka.
Suva rn adv ipa (mod e rn Malaya With the accession ofDhruva, about
Penin s ul a, J ava and Suma tra ), A.D. 779, a new-era began in the history
Maharaja BaJaputradeva erected a ofRash trakutas. Like his predecessors
monastery in Nalanda and requested he defeated the Ch alu kyas of Vengi
Devapala to donate five villages for Lhe and the Ganga s of Mysore and opened
maintenance of that monastery . the struggle against the Pallavas. He
The Pala kings patr onised was the ftrst Rashtrakuta ruler to
Hinduism too. They gave donations for decisively intervene in the tripartite
learning and educational purposes. struggle being waged for the s upremacy
Vinayakapala built one thousand in north India and defeat both the
temples in honour of the Swva deity. Pratihara king Vatsaraja and the Pala
They gave donations to brahmans to king DharmapaJa. After his s uccessful
se ttle in their co untry and run campaigns in the north, h e a dded the
gurukulas. emblem of Ganga and Yamuna to his
The Palas had close trade contacts imperial insignia.
and cultural links with South East Dhruva was succeeded by
Asia and China. The trade with South Govinda III (A.D. 793-813) wh o also
East Asia and China was very profita ble made incursions into north India and
and added greatly to the prosperity o f fought successfully against the Pala
the Pala empire. The powerful Sailendra king Dharmapala and Chakrayudha,

t ANa""T INDIA ..•................................•......... .. .........•........................................................•.•

the ruler of Kanauj. He also shattered Jainism, Buddhism and Is lam. They
the confederacy of the Ganga, Chera. p ennitted the Muslim merchants to
Pandya and Pallava rulers in south. settle in their kingdom, build mosques
Govind 1Il was succeeded by his son and preach their religion. Their tolerant
Amoghavarsha I (A.D. 814-878 ). policies gave great impetus to trade and
Amoghavarsha who ruled for 60 years, commerce.
is known better, n ot for his m artial spirit In t11e field of literature too they
of his predecessor. but for his leanings equally patronised Sanskrit, Prakrit,
toward s religion and literature. The Apabhramsa, a forerunner of many
principles of Jainism appealed to him modern Indian languages and
more. He wac; a patron of literature and Kannada. Their rock·cut cave temples
patronised t he men .
of letter".
, excavat ed a t Ellors belonging to
Amoghavars h a, hImself w rot e Brahman ical Buddhist and Jain faiths
Kauirajamarga, which is the earliest are the symbols of their r eligious
Kannada work on poetics. He was a toleration and are one oflhe splendours
great builder and is said to have oflndian arts. The Kailash temple built
built the capital city Manyakhet so as by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I, is
to exce l the c ity of IndTa . Among an unrivalled and stupendou s piece of
Amoghavarsha's s u ccessors, the two art. An entire hill side was cut off to the
great Rashtrakuta rulers were lndra II I extent of 160 feet by 280 feet, and was
(A.D. 915-927) and Krishna III (939- carved into a magnificent mon olithic
965). Indra JU defeated the Pratihara temple with a spacious hall and finely
king Mahipala I and plun der ed h is carved pillars. The plinth of the temple
cap ital Kanauj. Ar ab traveller h as been carved in such a way that it
Al·Masudi calls the Rashtrakuta king appears as if the entire temple is resting
as the greatest king of India. on the back of an ima ls like lio ns,
Krishna III was the last in a line of elephants etc.
brilliant rulers. He was engaged in a
Tripartite Straggle
struggle again s t the Paramaras of
Malwa and eastern Chalukya ofVengi. The above account makes it quite clear
He also launched a campaign against that towards the close of the eighth
the Chola ruler of Tanjore and his century A.D. there were three great
armies reached Rameshwaram, where powers in lndia. The Gurjara Pratihara
he built a pillar of victory and a temple. in the north , the Palas in the east and
The asce nd a n cy of t he th e Rasthrakutas in the Deccan
Rashtrakutas in the Deccan constitutes emerged as powerful dynasties almost
one of the most brilliant chapters in the at the same time. The tripartite struggle
his tory of the Deccan. They ruled more for the supremacy between the Palas,
than three hundred years. Rashtrakuta th e Gurjara Pratih a r as and the
rulers not only patronised Saivism and Ras htraku tas was the importa nt event
Vai s hn avi sm but also protected of these centuries .

2 16
.................. ......................................................................................... INOlA AmR H ARSHA

It is said that the main cause for this king, Dhannapala. In the first phase,
battle was the desire to possess the city Ras h trakutas achieved a complete
of Kanauj which was then a symbol of triumph, but the d eath o f Dhruva
sovereignty. Besides, the inter-regional proved to be a set back. to Rashtrakutas.
warfare was also aimed to control the In the second phase PaIa king Devapala
intennediate fertil e regions. The tilt of (A.D. 821-860) was the most prominent
the power among these three was because his con temporary Pratihara
determined b o th by the internal and Rashtrakuta kings were weak
strength of the respective region and the rulers. But in the ninth cent.ury the
inability of the rulers to extend their Pratihara kings 8hoja IA.D. 836-885)
control beyond their respective regions and Mahendrapala (A . D. 885-9]0)
for a longer duration . Their military
proved to be more powerful than their
equipment, administrative machinery contemporaries of the other two
dynasties. Towards the end of the ninth
and the strategic concepts were all more
century the Rashtrakutas gained in the
or less the same. The Arab travellers
strength once again under their kings
also testify that these powers were equal lndra II and Krishna III whose power
i~ strength. Due to this balance of was felt not only in the n orth but also
power there was a great deal of political in the sou th.
stability within the regions which Around the end of the tenth century
fostered the development of culture and A.D. the powers of Pratiharas, PaIa
education. and Rashtrakutas declined almost
As we have seen above, the first simultaneously. The end of these three
encounter took p lace among t h e dynasties marked the e nd of the
Rashtrakuta king, Dhruva. the glorious era of more than three hundred
Pratihara king, Vatsaraja and the Pala years.


]. Describe the political condition of north India after the death of Harsha.
2. Who were the Gurjara Prntiharas? Discuss their contribution to Indian
c ulture.
3. What do you mean by the tripartite struggle? Discuss it in the context· of
tile PaIas , Pratiha ras and Rashtl·akutas.
4. Discuss tile history of the Rashtrakutas and their contribution to Indian
5. Dis(..'Uss the history of the PaIas and their contribution to lndian culture.
6. Write short notes on:
Ii) Yashovarman of Kanauj
(ti) Mihira Bhoja
(iii) Amoghavarsha
(iv) Devapala

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" m
't".H:f<:'.in'Qdern "'state of Assam was.' called
'an,ci ha~QtjsJ:i:.ln' !mdent tlmei, the 'latter nam'~
"n 1:lsia"M iiiii','c;/Wrfal Q:(, K~UPI;l , ~l$p. ifhf,;fe. WI;lS
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...... .. ... . .... . ... . ... . ..... . . . ............... . .......... ....... ... . .......... . ......... ... .. . THE HISTORY OF KA>IARUPA

THE modern state of Assam was called (ill) Balavarma

Kamarupa and Pragjotis h in ancient (iv) Kalyanavarma
times. The latter name was used for (v) Ganapativanna
the capital of Kama rupa also. There (vi) Mahendravarrua
was another kingdom called Davaka (vii) Narayanavarma
in this region which has been (viii) Bhutivarma
mentioned in the Allahabad inscription
(ix) Chandramukhavanna
of Samudragupta as the border state
(x) Sthitavarma
along with Kamruupa. The kingdom of
Kamarupa at one time extended up to (xi) Susthitavanna
northern and western Bengal, some (xii) Supratishthitavanna
bordering lands of China as well as (xiii) Bha.skaravarma
Davaka. The region was ruled by a Among these the la st king,
si n g le d y nasty from the time of Bhaskaravanna was a contemporary of
Mahabharata up to the middle of the Harshvardhana in the first half of the
seventh century till Bhaskaravarma. seventh century. The eighth king
The sow-ces of history of this dynasty Bhutivarma was ruling in the middle
are the Dubi and Nidhanapur copper of the sixth century is known from his
plates of Bhaskaravarma. Some other own record s . Thus the first king
sources include genealogical seals from Pushyavarma has approximately been
NaJanda and accounts of Banabhatta placed in about A.D. 350. He must h ave
and Hiuen-Tsang. acknowledged the supremacy of
The dynasty claims its descent Samudragupta.
from the Asura Naraka who, according The Nalanda sea l ca ll s
to the epics and the Puranas, was the Pushyavarma the lord of Pragjotish,
son of Vishnu (in his Varaha and gives the title of maharajadhiraja
incarnation) and the Earth. Therefore, to the first three kings. But historians
this dynasty is also called Bhauma (Le. attach littl e significance to thi s
the son of Bhumi) . Naraka had a son, high sounding title because they
Bhagadatta, who is said to have taken acknowledged the sovereign ty of the
pa rt in the Mahabharata war. The imperial Guptas . We do not know
inscriptions of the dynasty claim that much about the first s ix kings of
king Bhagadatta and his successors this dynasty. The seventh king
ruled for about 3,000 years in Narayanavarma or hjs predecessor
Kamarupa and then came the king performed two horse sacrifices
Pushyavarma. From these sources we which shows that he may have beoome
have a list of thirteen kings starting from independent of the Gupta empire
Pushyavarma, a contemporary of in the first half of the sixth century.
Samudragupta, as follows: The eighth king Bhutivarma o r
ti) Pushyavarma Mahabhutivarma was a powerful king.
(ti) Samudravarma He flouri shed about the middle of the

t ANCIENT 1"", •............•.......................................................................................................

sixth century A. D. Under- him , Bhaakaravarma

Kamarupa became a powerful Bhaskaravarma was an ally of king
kingdom. It included the whole of the Harshavardhana. He is described
Brahmaputra valley and Sylliet and in Harshacharita of Banabhatta.
extended to the west as far as the Bhaskaravarma sent his ambassador
Karatoya river which continued to be Hamsavega with presents to have an
the traditional boundary of Kamarupa alliance with Harsha. This was a
for a long time. diplomatic move on the part of the king
We know nothing about his son of Kamarupa who was earlier defeated
Chandramukhavarma but his and imprisoned along with his elder
grandson Sthitavanna is said to have brother by the Iring of Gauda. On the
performed a horse sacrifice. The next other hand the elder brother of
king Susthitavarma's name occurs H a rsha , Rajyavardhana. also was
in th e Aphsada inscription of the killed treacherously by the same king
later Gupta }{jog Adityasen whose of Gauda, and Harsha had declared to
grandfather Mahasenagupla is said destroy them. Thus it was an alliance
to have defeated him on the banks between the two kings against their
of river Lauhitya (Brahmaputra) . common enemy. The narration of
Mahasenagupta must have fought Banabhatta has disturbed the
this battle as an ally of the Maukharis, chronological sequence of the events
who were the imperial power in north and therefore some confusion has
india at that time. Some historians think cropped up about the history of the
that this ally of Mahasenagupta was time. This alliance must have taken
Sasanka of Gauda and not a king of place when Harsha advanced against
Maukhari dynasty. But it is not clear the king of Gauda in his later career;
how a small kingdom in Rajasthan and not immediately after the
became an ally and subsidiary ruler coronation of Harsha. As a. result of this
of a king of distant BengaL But alliance and with the help of Harsha,
Sasanka may be identified with the Bhaskaravarma succeeded in
same Gauda king who defeated and occupy ing a large portion of Bengal
imprisoned Supratisthitavarma and from the kingdom of Sasanka.
Bhaskaravanna soon after the death of Bhaskaravarma's influence over
their father Susthitavarma, By that the Buddhist monastery of Nalanda
time Supratishthitavarma had not is also attested by the account of
Hiuen-Tsang. He narrates that King
yet ascended the throne. However,
Bhaskaravanna sent a messenger to
they managed to escape from the
the head of Nalanda monastery.
prison of the Gauda king and
Silabhadra, to send the 'great pilgrim
Supratisbthitavarma ruled for a short
fr-om China' to him. But this request
period . His brother, Bhaskaravarma, was acceded to, only after a threat.
succeeded him. Hiuen-Tsang visited Kamanlpa and

......................... THE HISTORY OF KAMAR"'A

stayed there for about a month. Now north Bengal and also some influence
Harsha demanded from the king of over Nalanda in Bihar. The dynasty
Kamarupa to send the Chinese came to an end with the death of
pilgrim to his court. This also could Bhaskaravarma in the same way as it
materialise only after a threat to happened with the kingdom of Harsha.
Bhaskaravarma. The latter met Harsha It is indicated by the evidence that the
in person, along with Hiuen-Tsang at kingdom was occupied by a Mlechchha
Kajangala where the former was ruler named Salastambha. We know
camping. He also attended ,the great the names of a few successors of
religious assembly at Kanauj and Salastambha but no details about
Prayaga. them. Some believe that he was a scion
The story of Hiuen-Tsang shows of the family of Bhaskaravarma. But
that Bhaskaravarma had control over there is nothing to corroborate it.

1. Write the chronology of Kamarupa kings.
2. Write about the sources of the histOlY of Kamarupa.
3. Write about the Gauda king.
4. Write in detail the achievements of Bhaskaravarma and his relations
with Harshavardhana.

CoUect material on the cultpre of Kamarupa.

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,. CHAPl'ER 22




T HE last stagtl of Flmkrit is represtlnted by the

AiJlibhrtlmsa. which Was wi'lsldeeM ImpOftant an
al.xiburt't of the faot that themodetn lahguages like
Hiildi, Gujarati, Marathi ahd Bafigla have an evolved
" !'remit.

.. ........................... ....... .. ................... , .. SociETY AND CULnIRE IN THE P OST HA RSHA PERIOD

Language and Literature Saptasandhana (having seven

SANSKRIT r emained the main language, a1 ternative in t e rpretationsJ. The
an d literature of various kinds tendency of working out the intricate
continued to be written in it. Pall and patterns of double, triple or even more
Prakrit were used for writing the meanings reflect ample le isure
Buddhist and Jain religious Literature. combined with wealthand excessive
Vakapati's Gaudavaho, a biography of love of embellishment. The climax of
Yashovarman of Kanauj . was the last this style may be found in the
major work in the older tradition of Shatarthakauya of Somaprabhacharya
Prakrit . The last stage of Prakrit in which every verse was meant
languages is represented by the for being interpreted in a hundred ways.
Apabhramsha, which was considered A large number of Jaina narratives
important on accou n t of the fact that dealin g with the Jiv es of Jain
the modern languages like Hindi, teachers were composed. The most
Gujarati, Marathi and Bangl ~ have all famous are Adina,thacharita by
evolved from it. V<::trdhamana, Shantinathacharita by
Dwing this period, literature s hows Devachandra, Prithvichandracharita
cons iderable development. The by Shantisuri , Pars huanathacharita
literature produced during this period by Devabhadra, Kuarapalacharltaand
exercised a profound influence on the Neminathacharita by Hem achandra
traditions of the succeeding centuries etc. The Suk.u.malachariu by Shrihara
in their respective fields . and the Ne minathac harita by
A number of kavyas with two fold Haribh adra are wholly written in
or even more significance constitutes a Apabhramsa.
special feature of this period . The Many historicaJ texts in the kavya
Ramacharita of Sandhyakara Nandi
form were written during this period.
written during the reign of the Paia
The most remarkable of them is the
king, Mahipa l, presents both the story
Rqjatarangini by Kalhana. The text is
of Rama and the life of king Ramapala
of Bengal. un ique as it is the on ly known
The Raghauaphandauija of attempt at writing h istory in modern
Dhananjaya Shrutokriti d escribes sense . The Rajendra Karnapura of
the stories of the Ramayana and Shambu is an eu logy of king
the Mahabharata at the same time . Harsha of Kas hmir. The Prithuiraja
The marr iage of Siva and Parvati; V~jay of Jaya nka, Duayashraya
and Krishna and Rukmini are Mahakauya by Hemac handra,
described in the Paroati-Rukminiya Kirtikaumndi by Someshvara
of Vidyamadhava , the cou rt poet and Vikramankad evacharita of
of the Chalukya king Somadeva. Bithana, Navasahasankacharita of
Hemachandra is also credited with Padmagupta and Kirti Kaumudi of
hav in g co mposed a work entitled Somadeva belong to the same genre.

t ANCIENT I NDIA ... ...... ... ... ........ ........................ .... .................................. .. ................ .... .. .

A large number of treatises which was transmitted by Islam about

were written on poetics. The most A.D. 1200 to Europe. This in course of
important among such works are time led to the development of the
Kavyamimamsa by Rajashekhara. concept of power technology. King
Oasharupa by Dhananjaya. Bhoja ofParamara dynasty had written
Saraswati Kanthabharana by Bhoja. the Rajmariganka on astronomy.
Kavyanushasana of Hemachandra In the field ofmed.icine, in the eighth
and Kavikan.thabharana by cen tury . Charaka, Sushruta and
Ksbemendra etc, Ashtangahridaya were rendered into
In the field of prose literature, Tibetan and Arabic . Dridhabala of
Brihatkathaman,iari by Kshemendra, Panchananda in Kashmir revised the
Kathasaritasagara by Somadeva, text of Chnraka-Samhita. Madhava
Kathakoshaprakarana by Jineshvrua wrote several works on medicine. His
Sun are famous. In these works prose best known work is the Nidana or
tended to be less contrived and Riguimshci1al1a on Pathalogy translated
artificial. The themes were familiar into Arabic under the guidance Harun-
stories from traditional sources. These al Rashid_ His other works are ChikitsQ
stories are popular even to this day. Kutamudgara and Yogavyakhya.
Drama of this period have a Vagabhata II's son Tisata wrote
tenderness and subdued dramatic Chikitsakalika or Yoga-mala and
quality with a minimum of comic Tisata's so n Chandratha wrote
effects. They managed to retain elements Yogaratnasamuchchhaya. Brinda of
of earlier plays. The famous dramas are Bengal wrote his Siddhayoga between
Lalitavigraharaja nataka by A.D. 975-1000.
Somadeva, the Harikeli nataka by Besides all these works of kauya,
Visaladeva, Prasannaraghaua by prose , dramas and historical works
Jayadeva. Karnasundari by Billiana, there a r e several commentaries on
Abhidhana Chintamani, Deshi- the religIOUS texts , Krityakalpataru
namamala, Anekarthasamgraha of Lakshm idhara , and Chaturvarga
and NighQlltushesha written by Chintamani of Hemadri were compiled
Hemacba ndra. during this period. Vijnaneshvara wrote
Tn the fields of astronomy Mitakasara and a commentary on the
and mathematics, the famous Yajnavalkyasrnriti. Jimutavahana
mathematician Bhaskaracharya wrote Dayabhaga (Law of inheritance) ,
flourished in the twelfth century A.D. Vyavaharamatrika a nd Kalaviveka.
His Siddhanta-Shiromani comprises Manuvritti by Govindaraja,
fou r parts- Lilavati. Vi:,jaganita, Smrityarthasara by Shridhara, the
Grahaganita and Gola. The last commentary on the Yajnavalkyasmriti
one deals with astronomy. A very by Apararka, Smritichandrika by
significant principle of Siddhanta Devanna Bhana are other outstanding
Shiromaru' is that of perpetual motion, creations of this period. All these works

... .......... ........................... , ............. . .... SocIEli' AND CULTURE IN THE P OST fuRsHA PERIOD

are commentaries on different smritis Lingayats, Virasaiv8s , Svetambaras

and law-dige s t s which indicate a and Digambaras etc. The lowest were
vigorous effort at regulating society and the antyajatis, of whom Chandalas are
various works on polity such as the most important representatives. The
Nitishastra by Mathara. Nitisara by enumerations of the sub-divisions of
Kamandaka, the Nitiuakyamrita of these antyajatis differ from one law
Somadevasuri are important. giver to another and from period to
The traditional professions related
From the seventh century A.D . to four varnas were not scrupulously
onwards , two trends were continuing adhered to during this period. This
in society. One was the continuity of the tendency to deviate from the customary
assimilation of foreign elements and profession was not new , it was
second was the segregation of jnti noticeable even in the earlier age.
system. The four vamas still constituted The brahmans, for example did not
an umbrella beneath which jntis kept invariably confi ne their activity to
emerging and finding their own inter~ studying, teaching, worshipping and
Jati relationship which. though broadly the perfonnance of priestly functions.
in keeping with the theoretical Am speaks of kshatrya brahman, who
structure, were nevertheless modified lives by fighting, the vaisya brahman ,
by local requireme nt.s and expediency. who live s by engaging himself in
The law of the period accepted birth. agriculture and trade, t he sudra
profession ~ and residence as the bmhman who sells lac, salt, milk, ghee,
deciding factor in the determination of honey etc. Like-wise, kshatriyas,
jnti. As a result there were four original vaisyas and sudras deviated from their
varnas with severaljatiand these were traditional professions a nd formed
further subdivided into muneruus sub~ several mixed castes.
sections. For instance, the brah.rnans Another important c lass that
came to be identified by their gotra, emerged as ajatiduring this period was
ancestor, the branch of Vedic learning. that of kayasthas, the scribes of the
original home and village. lnscriptions administration, responsible for writing
of the period also mention this documents and maintaining records.
fact. The kshatriyas also multiplied as Though we start getting the reference
a result of the assimilation of to kayasthas from the Mauryan period
foreigners and other local people. The itself, it appears that by the seventh
transfonnation of a specific profession century they came to be regarded as
into jnti and the increasing distinctjati.
phenomenon of hypergamous unions The smritiauthorities of this period
between dilferentjati led to the rise of followed the older marriage rules. The
.mixed jati. Jatis were also fonned on literature also reflects the new ideas and
the basis of religious sects such as pra.ctices regarding remarriages. The

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

words like punarbhu and didhishu lrrigation bythearahata(Persian wheel)

meaning a remarried woman is and by leather buckets are mentioned
frequently mentioned in the literature. in the inscriptions. This s hows that the
The marriages were often arranged by so called Persian wheel was very much
parents or other guardians of the present in India prior to the arrival of
parties and sometimes girls chose their Muslim rulers. Medhatithi mentioned
husbands. As regard the position of that the agriculturi$t were expected to
women, the Commentaries on smriti know among other things, what seed
and digests of this period follow more was to be sown thickly and what
or less the rules laid down in early sparsely, what soil was fit for a
smritis. The women's right to inherit particular kind of seed and what soil
property was accepted by the was not so fit, and wha t harvest was
authorities. The widow was entitled to . expected from a s pecieJ variet:y of seed .
succeed to the whole estate of her The early Arab writers refer to the
issueless, deceased husband. fertility of the soi l a nd t he ri ch
Economic Lile cultivation, both of grains and fruits ,
in India.
During the post Harsha period the in the field of industry the o ldest
literary and inscriptional evidences one is that of textile. The progress
show the a dvanced state of agricuJture, of Gupta period continued during
trade and economy. Medhatithi this period. The r ecords of this
included a group of seventeen articles period m ention a great variety and
(including rice and barley) in qualities of textiles s uch as woolen and
the category of grain (dhanyaJ. hempen yarns, garments made of s ilk,
AbhidhanaratnamaIamentions a large deer's hair, and s heep and goat's wool.
variety of cereals and other food grains The professions of weavers, dyers and
with their syno n yms. From the tailor are mentioned in
Abhidhanaratnamala we get the contemporary literature.
scientific knowledge of agriculture. It The working in the metals was
mentions that soils were classified pursued with much success as in the
variously as fertile, barren, fallow, contemporary literature we find copper,
desert, excellent as well as those green brass, iron, lead, tin, s ilver and gOld.
with grass or abounding in needs, those Some centres of metal industry were
which were black or yellow, and those famous. s uch as Sau rashtra was
which owed their fertility to rivers or famous for its bell industry while Vanga
rams. It funher mentions that different was known for its tin industry etc. Lists
kinds of fields were selected for different of jewels are preserved in various texts,
classes of crops. Machines for crus hing which mention no less than 33 kinds
sugarcanes are mentioned in a of gems and analyse tlle good qualities
description of the winter season in of diamond, emerald , ruby, pearls,
Upam it; b h auaprapa.n c ha katha . sapphire etc. Trade was flourishing

.. .. .... .. .. ... ... ........ ............ ........ .... .. .. ..... .. . . SocIETY AND C ULTURE IN THE P OST ~HA PERIOD

during this period as earlier. The Arab, in the towns , where professional
Chinese, Indian sources mention the ;associations were recognised. In the
flow of trade between east and west via inscriptions of this period we have
Inrua. As r egard the list of Indian evidence of, not only of di.fferent classes
expo rt s. the Arab trave ller Ibn of guilds, but also of their constitution
Khordadbah writing towards the end and functions. These guilds collectively
of the ninth century, mentions Indian made endowments for pious objects or
exports consisting of diverse products deposited them with the trust to provide
of aloe-wood, sandal wood, camphor for such objects out of the accruing
and camphor water, nutmeg, clove pink, i.nterest. From the south Indi an
coconut, vegetable, textures of velvety inscriptions we have the evidence of the
cotton, and othe r vari ety. metals, working of two famous trading
precious and semi precious stones, corporations. The first is the
pearls , fisheries etc. Manigramam whose history can be
In the list of import items, horses iraced from the end of the ninth century
were the most important. The best down to the thirteenth century. Its
breed of horses were imported from activity carried on in the coastal as well
central and western Asia. as inland towns of the south India. The
The prosperity of the coastal towns second is the famous Nanadesa-
of Gujarat, Malabar and Tamil attracted Tisaiyayirattu Ainnurruvar which was
foreign merchants to settle in India. The destined to extend its activities to
ports along the west coast qf India Burma and Sumatra in the eleventh
referred to by Arab geographers were and the twelfth centuries. It began its
Dehal (in Indus delta) Cam bay, Thana, carrier from the ninth century onwards.
Sopara and Quiton. The trade with
l~eUgioD and Philosophy
South East Asia increased enonnously
during this period. The Sailendra kings The fundamental featur'es of religious
established political, cultural and ideas and practice~ which characterised
econom ic relations with Indian kings. t h e previous period continued during
The Arab travellers were attracted by this period. But t he relative importance
the wealth of Sailendra kings and give of the different religious sects
descriptive details about them. undergoes a great change because of
The guilds a nd similar associa tions the reciprocal influence of different
continued to play an important part as religious sects upon one another. Both
in the previous centuries. Medhatithi Buddhism and Jainism developed
mentions both industrial and mercantile theistic tendencies on the analogy of
guilds. These guilds consisted of people Saivism and Vaishnavism.
following common profession such as During this period, Buddhism
tradesmen, artisans, money lenders, witnessed not only decadence of pure
etc. Artisans worked both in towns and Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism,
villages. But concentration was greater but also the appearance of a new phase

t M e'.NT INDIA ...... .. ............. .. ............................. .. ... ........................•............................

of the religious philosophy. Buddha's basadis (temples) and mahastambhas

teachings, free from rituals, gradually (pillar) were setup in different parts. The
gave way in the early centuries of the colossal image at Sravanabelgota was
ChrisLian era, to a popular form of the set up during this time. The Jain
religion with a new ethical and doctrines of the four gifts (learning,
devotional outlook in which Buddha food, medicine and shelter) helped to
h ad begun to be worshipped as a god. make Jainism popular among the
This worship now became mo~e people.
e lab orate with devotional songs, Tantricism is another sect which
accompanied by rites and ceremonies. became popular during this time .
The influen ce of Tantri c ideas on Ta ntricis rn had originated in the
Buddhism is evid ent in Vajrayana sixth century but became stronger from
Buddhism (the vehicle of thunderbolt). the eighth century onwards. It was
The Taras or Saviouresses, spouses of strongest in north eastern lnilia and
the male Bodhisattvas received a had close ties with Tibet, some of its
veneration similar to that of saktL The rituals came from the Tibetan
association of Buddhism with magical practices. It is said that Tantricism is
cults was a confusing development, the simplification of the Vedic cutts and
since much of its original ethical was open to all castes as well as to
teaching was now further s ubmerged women. Tantric practice centred on
in ritual. The support of the Pala kings prayers, mystical formulae, magical
sustained it in eastern India, and the diagrams and symbols and the worship
royal patronage kept it going in Orissa, ofa particular deity. The mother image
Kashmir, and parts of north-western was accorded great veneration , since life
India. In south India, Kanchi was a was created in the mother's womb. In
great centre of Buddhism. The Chola this way it is also connected with Saka-
kings also gave donations to Buddhists. Sakti cult. In Tantricism guru had the
It is said that Buddhism began to highest place because those desirous
decline because it did not get the royal of becoming members of a sect had to
patronage and the coming of Islam was be initiated by a guru. It is said that
the final blow to it. The attacks on Tantric interest in magic led to some
monasteries and killing of monks discoveries of a semi-scientific nature
resulted in an exodus of Buddhists from owing La experiments with chemicals
eastern India. and metals in particular.
The Jainism gained popularity Hinduism, in the forms o f Saivism
among the trading classes in north and and Vais hnavism now became popular.
west India and the extensive royal The two characteristics of religious life
patronage in south India . In the in the preceding period viz. toleration
Deccan , it was honoured by the and worship of images , not only
Gangas, Chalukyas and by Rastrakuta continued in full force but are even on
rulers. During this period many Jain the inc rease because of popular

•••••••••••••.••...••.•....................................... SOO,"" AND CULTURE IN THE POST HARSHA PERmo

demand (or a more personal religion prominence by Basava, the Prime

deity. For this purpose, a multitude of Minister of the Kalachuri king Bijjala.
new forms were introduced which Lingayats are followers of Saivaism.
necessitated the building of sr.umes and They laid stress on love a nd self
temples to house them. surrender, truth and morality and
In Vaishnavism, the incarnation of cleanliness. They allowed widow
Vishnu became more popular and remarriage.
interest in the Puranas and epic The bhakti movement led by
literature, particularly, through the Nayanars (Saiva saint) and Alvars
versions in regional languages, (Vaishnav saint) spread allover the
provided the tradition in which country. These saints went from place to
they incorporate the legends of the place carrying their message oflove and
incarnations. The most popular devotion . . They disregarded the
incarnation was Krishna. Krishna inequalities of caste. The path of bhakti
and Radha were worshipped as part advocated by these saints was open to
ofa cult and their love was interpreted all , irrespective of caste. This bhakti
as the longing and attachment movement renewed emphasis on the
of the human soul for the universal Vedas and Vedic worship on the one
soul. hand and powerful literary and
In the south, Alvars represented intellectual movement on the other hand.
the emotional s id e of Tamilian
Vaishnavism and the Acharyas, who
were their successors, represented
the intellectual and philosoI?hical sides
ofVaishnavism and made it popular.
Saivism attained a dominant
position in the society. The main
principles remained the same, though , .,
there were local variations and
consequent doctrinal differences. There ··t,

is a form of Saivism, popularly known

as Kashmir Saivism which is a klnd of
monism on non-dualism. It became
popular in the ninth and tenth century
A.D. In the south, the saiva saints, the
Nayanars made it more popular.
Anot h er popular movement which
spread in south India was of Lingayats
or Virasaivas, whose philosophy was
influenced both by Sankara and Fig. 22.1 Sun Temple in Rajasthan of
Ramanuja. This sect was raised into the time of Gudara Pratihara

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

Fig. 22.2 Statue of Vishnu Visuarupa Fig. 22.3 Scene depicting Marriage
of the time of Gurjara Pratihara of Siva and Parvati of the time of
Gurjara Pratihara
One of the greatest intellectuals These a r e Brahmasutra-bhashya,
a nd ' philosophers of this period commentaries on the Upanishads,
was Sankara, also known as Adi commentaries on Bhagavad-Gita etc.
Sankara char y a. According to the Thus, Sankara upheld the Vedas as the
Shringe ri matha tradition, Sankara fountainhead of true. knowledge.
took birth in Kerala around A.D. 788. The greatest ach ieve ment of
His father, Shivaguru a Yajurvedin Sankara is that he organised the ten
brahman , died when S ankara was branches of Aduaira school of Saivism ,
only three yef!lIs old~. At the age of eight, known as Dashanamis. For the
he took to the life of an ascetic. purpose of unity a nd integrity, and
Sankara studied at Kas i a nd after better interaction, h e es t ablis h ed
finishing hi s s tudies he turned to four mathas in four co rn ers of th e
diguijaya. Sank?1"a kept moving allover cou n try. These are Jyotirmatha at
the country for p reac hin g bis Badrinath in the north, Sh aradapitha
philosop hy and det?ating with the at Dvaravati (Dwaraka) in the west,
learned scholars. Govardhanamatha at Puri in the east
Th e philosophy of Sankara is a nd Shringerimatha in the south and
known as Aduaita, meaning 'non-dual'. sent his four disciples to each one of
He believed t h at abso lu t e reality, these. Eath matha is _said to have a
ca ll ed Brahma is n.on-dual. gotra, p residing d eities, both male and
Sankara wrote seve r al works. female and a special formula as the
"........ ...... ..... .
......................................... ," " ", ........ , SO"""" AND CULTURE <N TIlE POST HARSHA PER'OD

symbol of philosophical quintessence give us some idea of their diverse

of pure monotheism. The ten orders in functions such as banks, treasuries,
which Sallkara organised the ascetics court, parks, fairs, exhlbition sheds,
are known as - Gin (hills), Puri. (city), promoters of handicrafts, dance. music
Bharati (learning), Vana (wood), and diverse cultural activity, centres of
Aranya (forest), Paruata (mountain), learning and hospitals and in turn
Sagara (ocean}, Tirtha (temple), provided employment to large number
Ashrama (hermitage) and Saraswati of populations . Education was
(true knowledge). Sankara died at the imparted in the temple like earlier
age of 32. He was an Acharya par periods. Students were either taught by
exceUence who took the Hindu faith to the temple priests as in the smaller
a new glory. village temples or else attended the
Another philosopher and college a ttached to the larger temples.
intellectual was Ramanuja. He was a Courses in the colleges were organised
Tamil brahman born at T irupati in a systematic manner demanding
around A.D . 10] 7. Ramanuja disagreed regular attendance and instructions.
with Sankara that knowledge was the Professional education continued to be
primary means of salvation. He tried to maintained through the training given
assimilate Bhakti to the traditio n of the to apprentices in guilds and among the
Vedas. He argued that the grace of God groups of artisans. At a more popular
was more important than knowledge level, oral instruction, much simpler
about him in order to attain salvation. than the Sanskrit lea rning of the
Thus, Ramanuja tried to build a bridge colleges was imparted by the saints and
between the bhakti and the knowledge elders. The various centres of education
of Vedas. provided a great impetus to discussions
Education on religion and philosophy. The
The system of education which had numerous mathas and other centres of
developed gradually in the earlier education in various parts of Indi a
centuries continued during this period. enabled ideas to flow freely and quickly
The later sm.iritis introduced a new from one part of the coun try to another.
sacra ment ca l le d vidyaramhha Higher education w as not considered
(commencem ent of education) and complete till the person had visited the
aksharasvikriti or aksharabhyasa various centres of learning in different
training in the aJphabet. During tins palrts of the cou ntry and held
time we find various types of dis'cllssions with the scholars there.
edl'cational institutions. 'l1le foremost The manner in which ideas could
ap temples, which developed as social, be transmitted throughout the
ed .lcational a n d cultural enti ties cot:mtry was important in upholding
bes ides bein g a source of religious and strengthening the cultural unity
inspiration for U1C people. Inscriptions of India.

* ANC<&NT I NDIA .........•........•.•..••...•....•...••...•••.•••..••..•••...•...•.........••......•.....•...••..••..•••..••

Education was also available in the even by British and other European
Jain and Buddhist m onaste rie s at his torians and educationists.
Vikramsila, Oddantapura, Valabhi and
Art and Architecture
Nalanda, which were great centres of
higher learning. The inscriptions and As regards the art and architecture, it
literary works of the period prove that was undoubtedly a fruitful age as
there existed, organised educational would be apparent from the numerous
institutions which were founded and temples that are standing for the 1200
maintained by the people from the king years. These temples are among the
down to humble individuals. most exquisite ed ifices of that era,
Education was imparted free with representing most of the styles of
clothes, food and lodging. Inscriptions archit~ture.
of the period mention the dana of The famous temples of Orissa,
various kind including land for the specially those of Bhubaneshwar are
purpose of vidya (learning). This superb specimens of the Nagar style or
tradition of donation for the purpose of north Indian style. Each temple consist
education is still continuing in Indian of uimana (towered shrine) and the
society. The ancient Indian education jagmolwna(audience chamber) besides
system was thought to be unique by the nata mandapa (dance chamber)
foreign travellers because every village and bhoga mandapa loITering hall). The
had a school and every individual best example of this type is the great
participated in its maintenance. As a Lingaraja temple ofBhubaneshwar and
result, India had the highest literacy Sun temple of Konark.
rate in comparison to other countries Another place, where several
of the world till the time up to the excellent nagar style temples still
nineteenth century. This is accepted stand, is Khajuraho in Bundeikhand.

Fig. 22.4 Paharpur Stupa (now in Bangladesh) of the time of Dharamapala

... ... ... . . ..... ... . .. . ........ SOCIE1Y AND CULTURE IN THE P OST H ARSHA PERIOD *

Fig. 22.S (a) Bodhisattavafrom Fig. 22.5 (b) Avolokitesuarafrom

Nala71da, Pala Period Nalanda, Pala Period

These tem p les built by the Chandelas, subjects drawn from Jain mytb ology.
are on raised plinth and known for their The best specimens of their architecture,
ca r vi n g an d e r otic sculptu res. are the famous temples of Dilwara (Mt.
Kandarya Mahadeva temple is on e of Abu } and Satrunjaya (Palitana). These
the frnes t example. tem ples are most remarkable for their
In Kashmir, the Sun temple called elegant carvings and rich design. The
the Martanda temp le built by Jain sculpture of Gomm atesvara, (57
Lali tad itya Muktapida around t h e feet) the son of the first Jina
eighth century A.D, is the best example Rishabhanatha, at S ravanabelagola
of Kashmir style of architecture. (Hasan , Distt. Myso re) is one of the
The Jains were also great builders larges t free standing im ages in th e
and their temples generally have the world. This granite statue on Indragiri
octagonal dome and are decorated with h ill represen ts the imm ovable ser enity

t ANC'ENT INDOA ....... •....•...•.........•. .. ... ... ....... . .....•.

of the one practicing the Kayotsarga during the reign of Krishna I

austerity, undisturbed by the serpents of the Rashtrakuta dynasty , is
about his feet, the ant hills rising to his regarded as the architectural marvel
thighs, or the undergrowth that has in the world.
already reached his shoulders. In the so uth, Palla vas gave an
In the Deccan, the temples ofVatapi immense impetus to art, and the temple
(Badami) and Pattadakal (Bijapur at Dalavanur (Arcot district) Pallavaram,
district) are stylistically different. These Vallam (Chinglepeet district) as well
temples stand on an elaborately as the Rathas and shore te mples
d~co rated base or plinth. Some good at Mamallapuram, KaHasanatha at
examples are the HoysaJesvara temple Kan c hi s tand today as noble
at Halebid. which though incomplete, monuments of their artistic genius.
is unsurpassed by any Indian temple The Cholas carr ied on the
in both its structural and its decorative .architectural traditions of the
features. Besides free standing temples Pallavas and built several temples in
in the south, temples are a lso hewn out the south. The Dravidian temples
of solid rock. The Kailash temple at were marked by the square vimana,
Ellora, dedicated to Siva excavated mandapa, gopuram, halls with

Fig. 22.6 Kailash Temple at Ellora

.................................... , ........................ SocIITt AND CVLTVR, IN THE POST H ARSHA PERmo

profuse ly decorated columns, decorate the walls of temples a nd

co n ventiona l lions (yalis) for palaces. Miniature paintings also began
ornamentation, the use of the bracket duri n g this time w h ich become
and of compound columns etc. In the popular later in the Mughal Period. The
later structures the central towers are Jain monks of western India and the
dwarfed by exquisitely carved Buddhist in Nepal and eastern India,
gopttrams rising to a great height. The Saiva and Vais h nav in the south,
.best example of this type reaching to began 'the illustration of their
culmination is the Meenakshi temple of manuscripts. They painted small
Madurai. Most of the Hindu temples are pictures on the palm-leaf showing th e
either devoted to Siva or Vishnu. scenes described in the text. At first the
Apa r t from architect ure and pictures were simple but slowly they
sculpture, the art of painting was also began to put in more and more details
practiced. The older tradition of mural and colours, until each picture became
painting continued to be used to a fine painting in itself.

1. Explain the following:
Kavyas, Punarbhu, Dhanya, Vajrayana, Bodhisattvas, Basadis, Advaita,
Matha, Vimalla, Gopuram.
2. Describe the literruy trends of the post Harsha period with reference to
some important works.
3. Write about the economic condition during this period with special
reference to trade and commerce.
4. Write about the following during the~ post Harsha period:
(i) Social condition
(ii) Religion and philosophy
(iii) Education
{iv) Art and Architecture

• Make a project on the art and architecture of the period.

• Make a project on India's relation with other countries.
• CoHeet material on four math:ls established by Sankara.

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CHAPTE~ 23 "



THE most ,emwka,ble a,spect of this spreR-d is {pat

,, it ,>"",s '~ ~Rread not by meE<I1S of a.ny conques~s or
threa,t to Jjfe of an. individual, 0)' society out by
mc:;ansof voluntary acceptance of c.ultural and
spirituitl values of IndIa. •
• ,
.................. ...... ...................................... CU''''RA' !m'ERACTIONS wn'H m. OUTSIDE WORCD

WE have seen in the earlier chapters that paintings found in all these countries.
India was in contact with the outside A large number of Sanskrit and
world, commercially. right from about Buddhist texts were translated in to
the middle of the third millennium B.C. different languages. Besides, chinese
It was in touch with Mesopotamic travellers, notably Fa- Hien and Hiuen-
civilization (rom where the material Tsang, who visited India respectively in
remains of Harappan civilization have ruth and .seventh centuries A.D. , have
been found. thrown a flood of light on the history
However, the m ost remarkab le and culture of the region . Turfan ,
aspect of this contact has been the Khotan, Kuchi, Aqsu, Kashgar, Qara
spread ofindian culture and civilization Shahr (Agnidesa) were the great centres
in various parts of the world, specially of Buddhism and Indian culture. The
central Asia, South East Asia~ China, ear ly Kushanas accepted Buddhism
Japan, Korea etc. What is most and worked to sp read it amongst the
remarkable of this spread is that it was nom a dic horde s of central Asia.
a spread not by means of conquests or Buddhism moulded and softened the
threat to life of an individual or society, violent ways of life of the central Asian
but by means of voluntary acceptance people and continued as a dominant
of cultural and spiritual values of India. religious force for more than thousand
No other culture and civilization had years. We also know that some of the
achieved its spread by means of non- Kushana kings had adopted Hinduism.
violence and cultural influence. The early contacts between China
a nd In dia were established through
Central Asia and China three trade routes - central Asia. Yunan
From the second century B.C. onwards, fmd Bunna, and by sea via South East
India maintained commercial contact Asia. The contacts on a regular basis
with China, central Asia, west Asia and between India and China, began
the Roman empire . Th e Indian land. around the second century B.C., With
routes were connected with the silk the reign of the Kushanas especially of
route that began from China and Kanishka, Buddhism from India made
covered almost the whole of Asia up to a great influence over China. Having
the Caspian sea. The silk route served crossed the inhospitable tracts and
.as a great channel for the transmission central Asian territories, the Buddhist
of cultures of the then known world. missionaries entered China from the
The impact of Indian culture was first century B.C. onwards. Here they
relt stron gly in central Asia and China found a land different from central Asia.
via the s ilk route. Cultural exchanges The Chinese were a highly cultured
that took place between India and the people. They listened to the thrilling
countries of central Asia are visible from message of the Buddha with avidity.
the discoveries of ancient stupas, The Buddhist philosophy appealed to
temples, monasteries, images and their intellectu a ls because China

t ,,"C'"NT IND" ............ .................................................... ......................... .. .................. .


Fig. 23.1 Map of India and South East Asia

already had a developed philosophical and perilous journey. they came to visit
school in Confucianism. Buddhism the land of Buddha. They stayed in
served as a great unifying factor and India and coUected Buddhist relics and
became an integral part of the Chinese manuscripts related to Buddhism and
life imbibing Confucianism within it. learnt about it staying at the various
Among Indian scholars, who went educational centres.
to China, the most notable is Among the Chinese monks who
Kurnarajiva, who stayed for 12 years visited India, Fa-Hien seems to be the
first. He visited during the reign
(A.D. 401-412) and work for the spread
of Ch andragupta II. In A.D. 420, a
of Buddhism. Having accepted the new batch of monks under the leadership
religion, Buddhist scholars from China of Fa-yong came to India. In the seventh
were anxious to learn more and more century A.D. Hiuen-Tsang and I-tsing
about it. Braving the hazards of a long visited India. During the reign of

.......... . ..... . ....................... .. ....................... CULnJRAL I r<CERACTIONS wrrH "'E O UTSIDE W ORLD

Harsha, China and India a lso to build a monastery at Bodh Gaya for
exchanged embassies. the Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka.
Indian scholars also visited China Buddhism played an important role in
between the fourth and sixth centuries. s hapin g Sri Lankan culture. The
The most noteworthy among them Dipavansa and Mahauamsa are well
were Buddhayasa, Gunabhadra , known Sri Lankan Buddhist sources.
Jinagupta, Jinanabhara, Paramartha, Sri Lankan Literature, painting, dance,
Bodhidhannaand Dharmagupta They folklores, art and architecture etc., h ave
made a great impact upon the Chinese been greatly influenced by Indi a.
people. This two way traffic of scholars Pallava king Narasimhavarman helped
and monks was responsible for Sri Lankan king Manavarma to secure
cultural contacts and exchange of ideas. his throne. It ruso became the part of
From China, Buddhism sp read to Chola empire du r ing the rei gn of
Korea, Japan , Mongolia an d other Rajaraja (c. A.D. 985- 1014).
neighbouring countries, where it was MRyanmar
welcomed with great enthusiasm and
played a powerful role in the cultural Mayanmar learlier known as Burma)
history of these countries. was also influenced by the Indian
culture. Hiuen-Tsang mentions about
Sri Lan ka several Hinduised kingdoms of t his
From the days of the Ramayana. lndia region. It not only adopted Indian
had links with Sri Lanka, which was religion but also its culture, language
popula rly known as Lanka in etc, They d eveloped their own Pali
Ramayana. The st ory of Sita's language and translated both Buddhist
abduction and then taken to Lanka is and Hindu scriptures in their version
well known to every Indian child, ofPali. A large number of Buddhist and
though many scholars feel that the Brahmanica1 temples of great size and
Ramayana 's Lanka may be a different artistry were erected in Mayanmar.
one. In a ncient times Sri Lanka was also South h.t Mia
known as Tamrapami. The region of South East Asia has
During the Mauryan period, a1ways been rich in spices, minerals
Ashoka sent his son Mahendra and his and metals. Hence, in ancient times,
daughter Sanghamitra to spread Indian s called it Suvarnabhurni or
Bllddhism in Sri Lanka. Thc famous Suuarnaduipa - the land of gold.
Bodhi tree of Sri Lanka planted by these Indians travelled to South East Asia
royal missionaries bore rich Cruit latcr in search of trade and adventure
on. Most of the people in Sri Lanka from quite early time as several
embraced Buddhism. During the reign stories of Jatakas, Brihata.katha,
of Samudragupta, king Meghavarma of Kathasa ritasagar and even foreign
Sri Lanka sent an embassy to the king sources like Periplu5 of the Erythrean
with a request that he may be allowed Sea refer to the voyages of Indian

t ANCIENT INDIA .... ," ,. ",,',.,' ""',.,' "'" ".,. "., .. ," "., . . • , " " ." " . "".",. " ...... , ............... " ..... ,' '', ... ,

merchants to these countries. With Chola empire of south India. RaJendra

these travellers the message of Indian Chola conquered part of the Sailendra
religions and culture also spread there. empire - mainly the region of modem
Around the third and fourth centuries Indonesia. The Cholas could not keep
A,D. there developed powerful it under their control for long and
kingdoms and empires under kings soon the Sailendras succeeded in
with Indian names and most probably regaining their tenitories.
of Indian descent. Here also most of the Bali is the only country where
dynasties and kings traced their origin Hindu culture flourished and survived ~
to India , Today, while the entire Archipelago has
The famous kingdoms of Champa accepted Is lam, Bali alone remains
(AnnamJ and Kambuja (Cambodia) faithful to Hindu culture and religion .
were ruled by the kings of Indian We have so far discussed the brief
origins. The rulers of Champa were history of kingdoms of SUVGnwduipa,
great warriors and successfully Perhaps no other region in the world
maintained their independence against has felt the impact of India's culture
their neighbours for more than a and religion as has the South East Asia.
thousand years till the Mongols overran The most important source of study of
Champa. the remains of this cultural intercourse
In Kambuja, Kaudinya dynasty and impact are the Sanskrit
of Indian origin ruled from the first inscriptions, written in Indian script,
century A.D. The kings of Kambuja pure or slightly modified. They have
built an empire which at its height been found all over the region in Burma,
included almost whole of modern ' Siam, Malay Peninsula, Annam,
Vietnam and Malaya. We can Cambodia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and
reconstruc t (he history of Kambuja Bali. A study of these inscriptions and
from numerous Sanskrit inscriptions other literature s h ows that the
and from literary works . Also we get a language, literature, religious, political
glimpse of its fonner splendour from the and social institutions wer e greatly
magnificent temples, which are still to influenced by India.
be seen . The varna system which forms the
The famous Sailendra dynasty fundamental basis of the Hindu
which ruled over the vast empire society was introduced in most of these
including Maiay;a, Java, Sumatra, areas . The division of society into
Borneo and Bali. traced its origin brahmans , kshatriyas, vaisyas and
to I ndia. The Sailendra empire, sudras were known. The system did nQt
established in the eighth century, was attain the rigidity as in India. Thu s,
a prosperous empire and continued up inter-marriage and inter-dinning was
to the thirteenth century A.D. In the widely prevalent. On the whole, the jati
eleventh century the Sailendra empire system, as it prevails today among the
entered into maritime struggle with the Balinese of Bali and Lombok, may be

...... . . . ... .... .. .. . C ULTURAL I NTERACTIONS WITH THE O UTSIDE W ORLD

regarded as typical of the original the language was highly cultivated and
RigVedic varna scheme, where the was used both in the court and the
society was divided on the basis of society . They borrowed the
profession and not on the basis of birth. philosophical ideas, Vedic religion and
The ideals of marriage, details of the Puranic and epic myths and legends
ceremony and the family relations along with all the prominent
generally resemble those of India. Br ahmanical and Buddhist divinities
The most popular form of and ideas associated with them. Indian
months and astronomical systems were
. amusement was the shadow play called
also adopted . The most important thing
Wayung (like puppet shows of India).
is that they introduced the
The themes of Wayung are usually geographical names associated with
derived from the two Indian epics, the India. We fmd names like Dvaravati,
Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Champa, Amaravati, Gandhara,
which are still very popular in the Videha, AyutWa (Ayodhya), Kamboja,
countries of South East Asia, despite Kalinga and river names like Gomati,
the fact that most of the countries have Ganga, Jamuna, Chandrabhaga etc.
now adopted Islam. They still call their hospitals, schools,
The literature and inscriptions libraries and several other public places
written in Sanskrit and Pall shows that by their original Sanskrit names.

Fig. 23.2 Angkoroat Te mple of Cambodia

t ANCIENT INOlA ......•..•••..• ••...•.•. . ......•.•..•••.••..... .. ..•.••...•••.•••••.•....•.••...•••..••.. . ..•..••••..••......

Both Hinayana and Mahayana associated with Vaishnavism, Saivism

forms of Buddhism, along wit h and Buddhism.
Vaishnavisrn and Saivism with several
other minor sects of Brahmanism, were
prevalent among these people. The We get a glimpse o f th e form er
images of Hindu gods and goddesses splendour of art and architecture of
have been found. The worship of Trinity South East Asia from its magnificent
{i.e. Brahma, Vishnu and MaheshaJ was temples, stu pas and scuJptures. Large
widely prevalent. However, the place of number of images of gods and
honour seems to have been accorded goddesses belonging to Buddhism and
to Siva. Brahmanism s h ow the ch aracteristic
Buddhism also m ade a stron ghold fe a tures of Indian iconography and
in society. Some places became famous artistic excellence.
centres of Buddhism. Chinese
chronicles also testify the dominance of Of th e seve r a l mos t important
Buddhism in this region. I-tsing stayed speci m en of arc hitecture are the
for seven years at Sri Vijaya for the Angkorvat temple, Borobudur s tupa,
study of Buddhist texts. Another Buddhist and Brahm a nical temples
interesting feature was the large in Java and Mayanmar. These
num ber of ashramas, which were masterpieces of a r ch itectura l a rt
established to impart knowledge on the portray in ston e the s ublimity and
patterns of Indian temples , rnathas, d epth s of India's cultural impact on
viha ra s, ghatikas and agraharas South East Asia.