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Source Of Ancient Indian History

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To know ancient history, it is very important to study the sources which tell us about the history of India. There are several pieces of evidence which give us information about histories like inscriptions, coins and others but mainly the most important sources to know history are literary, archaeological, and foreign resources. Many foreign travellers visit India in the different empires which tells us about the economy, administration, and trading with foreign countries. So, this topic will give you a better understanding of this.

There are 3 types of sources to know ancient history-

1. Literary sources

2. Archaeological sources

3. Foreign accounts

1. Literary Sources- 

It includes Religious texts, Cosmic texts, and details of foreign travellers. Many foreign experts believed that Indians had no understanding of history writing and that everything produced in the name of history was nothing more than nonsense fiction. However, it looks that this is a harsh verdict. Because ancient India regarded historical information as extremely valuable. It was given Vedic-like sacredness. Itihas-Purana is one of the branches of knowledge in the Atharvaveda, Brahmans, and Upanishads. In his Arthashastra (fourth century B.C. ), Kautilya encourages the king to set aside a portion of each day to listen to historical narrations.

Puranic literature- 

There are 18 primary Puranas, 18 subsidiary Puranas, plus a great number of other volumes in the Puranic literature.
According to the Puranas, the following are historical topics:

SARGA evolution of universe
PRATISARGA involution of universe
MANVANTARA recurring of time
VAMSA genealogical list of kings and sages
VAMSANUCHARITA life stories of some selected characters

Later on, it featured a description of the tirthas (holy places of pilgrimage) and their mahatma (religious significance). There are four ages mentioned-


Vedic Literature:

There are 4 Vedas. The Vedas provide reliable views of Vedic culture and civilization.
The Vedic literature is written entirely in a distinct language known as the Vedic language. Its vocabulary encompasses a wide range of meanings, as well as grammatical variations.
It has a distinct speech style in which the accent completely affects the word. This is why a complex system has been established to maintain and preserve the Vedic pronunciation.
We can not only determine the meaning of the mantras but also hear the original tone using Ghana, jata, and other sorts of Pathas.

2. .Archaeological Sources:

These include inscriptions, coins, pottery, seals, Sculpture/painting, and Architecture (monument). 

Religious texts- 

Brahmin Literature, Buddhist Literature, Jain literature.

Brahmin Literature- 

Veda, Brahmin, Aranyaka, Vedanga, Sutra, Mahakavya, Theology (dharmasutras, Memoirs, commentaries)

There are 4 parts of Vedic literature-

Veda, Brahmin, Aranyaka, Upanishads

The Atharvaveda is the first to mention the word history. The Upveda of the Atharvaveda is Itihasa. 

Some important facts:

Kautilya had said,  “The king should spend some time every day listening to history”.
According to E.H.Carr  “History is the continuous dialogue between past and present.”
According to Bury,  “History is science, Nothingless Nothing more.”
According to Bacon “History makes man intelligent.”
According to Barney  history is the queen of the sciences.
According to Abul Fazl  “History is a hospital where a person gets medicine for his sorrows and gets treatment for sadness.”

History and historians were censored by Augustus, the first Roman emperor. Aurangzeb did the same thing in the medieval period. Historiography was forbidden. History is thought to be a more powerful weapon than a sword or a pistol.

Our country is known by several names, including Jambudweep, India, Hindustan, and In-tu. When foreigners (Persians) first encountered the Indus people, they dubbed the entire country Indus or Indus. The initial shape of the Indian subcontinent was triangular or arched.

In Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita, India is depicted as having the shape of a tortoise, with a bow similar to those found in the Puranas, such as the wain in Dighanikaya and an equilateral triangle in the Mahabharata.

The Bhuvankosha chapter of the Puranas contains a description of India’s geography. Earth is referred to as Lotus in the Puranas. India was known as Ajnabha and Haimavatvarsha, according to the Puranas Bharatvarsha.

Bharatvarsha, or Bharata’s country. This country was given the name Bharatvarsha after the old Bharata dynasty. Bharata was India’s first “Chakravarti Emperor.” Kautilya’s Arthashastra contains the definition of the Chakravarti Emperor. “The part of the thousand Yojana spanning from the Himalayas to the sea under the reign of the Chakravarti king,” according to Kautilya.

Yin-tu was the Chinese name for India. First and foremost, Zhang Qian or Chanquian made use of the Shen-du, which is the Chinese name for the Indus River. India is known as Arya Desha and Brahma Desha by Itsing.

The description of Bhardhavas (bharatvarsha) is first found in Kharavel’s Hathigumpha inscription which is in Prakrit. The first description of India as a state is in the Ashtadhyayi of Panini. In the Manusmriti and Bhagavata Purana, India has been called the country developed by gods. The term Bharatiya has been used for the first time for his meaning of Indian is Somitevasuri’s Neetivakyamritam. Gandhar, Mujawat, Mahavrisha, Balik, Magadha, Anga, Ashtachakra, Ayodhya, and Varunavati (Varanasi and Kashi) are all mentioned in the Atharvaveda.

Important notable writers:

KALIDASA The events of the reign of Pushyamitra Sunga, the dynasty that succeeded the Mauryas, are depicted in Kalidasa Malavikagnimitram. Abhgyanshakuntalam: a Gupta glimpse
BHASA and SUDRAKA                     Plays based on historical events were composed by Bhasa and Sudraka.
BANABHATTA Many historical facts are revealed by Banabhatta Harshacharita.
VAKPATI Based on the deeds of Yasovarman of Kannauj, Vakpati authored Gaudavaho.
BILHANA The victory of the later Chalukya monarch Vikramaditya is described in Bilhana Vikramankadevacharita.
KALHANA Rajatarangini is his novel.

3. Foreign Accounts:

Important statements of Foreign travellers in relation to India:

Travellerspromises                                             Statements
Hiuen Tsang Indians are rash and agile. But strictly honest and truthful by profession. They do not cheat on anyone. They fulfilled their promise. They believe in sacred moral principles. They do not take anyone’s possession by trickery, tend to be tolerant, and are afraid of the fruit they would receive in the next birth due to sinful actions they had committed at the present birth. They do not cheat and follow their vows’.
Marcopolo The brahmins here are the best traders in the world. They are very honest because they do not lie to get anything most coveted in the world. Probably they were alien to worldly attachments.
Arian In martial art, Indians were superior to other erstwhile Janas.
Megasthenes Indians are not the perpetrators of false speech. They have great respect for truth and virtues.
Al-idrisi Indians believe in natural justice. He is so famous because of his qualities that people from all parts were attracted to India.
Nearchus “clothes worn by Indians were made from produced by the plants. The Indians wore ivory earrings. They used umbrellas to avoid sunlight. They wore shoes made of white cloth which were finally carved.

Greek kingdoms dispatched ambassadors to Pataliputra. Megasthenes, Deimachus, and Dionysios are notable. Sandrokottos (Chandragupta Maurya) is mentioned, which aids in putting his accession date at 322 BC. In Ancient Indian Chronology, this serves as a sheet-anchor.

Last Updated : 23 Dec, 2022
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