Questions on Sources of Information

  • The Harappan inscriptions have not yet been deciphered. They seem to have been written in a pictographic script in which ideas and objects  were  expressed in the form of pictures.  The  style  is Boustrephedon  : right to left and back again left to  right  and then right to left and so on.
  • Prakrit served as the Lingua Franca of  the country  in the third century B.C.
  • Asoka’s inscriptions were written in the Prakrit Sanskrit became prominent in the Gupta period in the fourth century A.D.
  • In India inscriptions were written on birch bark and palm leaves, but in Central Asia,   where  the  Prakrit  language  which had  spread  from   India, manuscripts  were  also  written  on  sheep  leather  and  wooden tablets.  They  have been preserved in the dry sands  of  Central Asia
  • Material Remains :
  • Megaliths: Burial structures found in South India. The dead were buried along with dead, their tools, weapons, pottery and other belongings in the graves, which were  encircled  by  big pieces of stone.  These  structures  are called  megaliths
  • Paper came  to  be used in India  much  later,  in  the Fourteenth century.
  • Coins were used for the first time in Kushana times. We get the largest number of coins in post Maurya These were made of lead, potin, copper, bronze, silver and  gold. The  Guptas  issued the largest number of gold  coins. .
  • Inscriptions: The study of inscriptions is called epigraphy and the study of the old writing used in inscriptions and other old records is called
  • Inscriptions began to be composed  in regional languages in the ninth and tenth centuries.
  • Ashokan inscriptions were engraved in the Brahmi Script, which was written from right to left.  The Brahmi  script prevailed  in  the whole country, except  for  the  ninth-western part.  Greek and Aramaic and Kharoshti (ass lipped )scripts  were employed  in writing Asokan inscriptions in    Brahmi continued  to be the main script till the end of Gupta times.
  • Asokan inscriptions were  first deciphered in  1837  by  James Prinsep, a civil servant in the East India  Company in Bengal.
  • Vedic , Epic and other religious Literature
  • The Rig Veda may be assigned to Circa 1500-1000 B.C. but collections  of the Atharva Veda, Yajur Veda, the  Brahmanas  and the Upanishads belong roughly to 1000-500 B.C.  The  Rigveda mainly  contains prayers, while the later Vedic texts mainly comprise not only  prayers but also rituals, magic and mythological  The Upanishads    contain philosophical speculations
  • Epics: The Mahabharata is  older  in  age  and possibly reflects the state of affairs from the 10th century B.C. to  the 4th Century A.D. Originally it consisted of  8800  verses and  was  called  Jaya Samhita or  the  collection  dealing  with victory.  These  grew  to 24000 verses  and came to  be  known  as Bharata, named  after one of the earliest Vedic tribes. The  final compilation brought the verses to 100,000 which came to be  known as  the  Mahabharata  or the  Satasahasri    It  contains narrative, descriptive and didactic material. The main  narrative which relates to the Kaurava Pandava conflict may belong to later Vedic times.
  • The Ramayana originally consisted of 12000 verses, which later grew to 24000.. As a whole  the  text seems to have been composed later than the Mahabharata.
  • In post-Vedic times we have a large corpus  of  ritual literature.  Big public sacrifices meant for princes and  men  of substance  belonging to the three higher varnas are laid down  in the   Srautasutras,  which  provide  for  several  pompous   royal coronation ceremonies.. Domestic  rituals connected with  birth,  naming, sacred thread investiture, marriage, funerals etc. are laid  down in  the Both the Srautasutras and the  Grihyasutras belong  to  Circa 600-300 B.C.
  • The Sulvasutras, prescribe various kinds of measurements for the construction of sacrificial altars. They mark the beginnings of geometry and mathematics
  • The earliest Buddhist texts were written in  the  Pali language,  which was spoken in Magadha or south Bihar
  • Stories relating to the previous births   of  Gautama Buddha are contained in the Jataka stories . It was believed that before  he  was finally born as Gautama, the Buddha passed through more than  550 births, in many cases in the form of animals. Each birth story is called  a  Jataka  which  is a folk    These  Jatakas  throw invaluable  light on social and economic conditions ranging  from the  fifth to the second century B.C. They also  make  incidental references to political events in the age of the Buddha.
  • The Jaina  texts were written in  Prakrit  and  were finally compiled in the sixth century A.D. in Valabhi in Gujarat.
  • Secular Literature
  • The law-books called the  Dharmasutras  and Smritis,  which  together  with  their  commentaries  are  called Dharmasastras were compiled in 500-200 B.C. and the principal Smritis were codified in the first six centuries of the Christian era. They lay down the duties for different  varnas well  as for kings and their officials. They prescribe the  rules according  to which property is to be held, sold  and  They  also  prescribe punishments for persons  guilty  of  theft, assault, murder, adultery etc.
  • The Arthasastra  of    Its earliest portions reflect the state of society and economy in the age  of the Mauryas. It provides rich material for the  study  of ancient Indian polity and economy.
  • The earliest Tamil  texts  found  in  the  corpus  of  the Sangam This  was produced over a period of  three  to  four centuries by poets who assembled in colleges patronised by kings. Since  such  a  literary assembly was called  Sangam,  the  whole literature is known as the Sangam literature. The compilation  of the  corpus is attributed to the first four Christian  centuries, although final compilations may have been completed by the  sixth century.  The  Sangam literature is a very major  source  of  our information  for the social , economic and political life of  the people  living  in  deltaic Tamil Nadu  in  the  early  Christian centuries.  What it says about trade and commerce is attested  by foreign accounts and archaeological finds
  • Alexander’s invasion not mentioned  in Indian sources, and it is entirely on the basis of the Greek  sources  that we have to reconstruct the  history  of  his Indian exploits. The  Greek visitors mention Sandrokottas, a contemporary  of Alexander  the  Great  who  invaded  India  in  324  C.  Prince Sandrokottas  is identified with Chandragupta Maurya, whose  date of accession is fixed at 322 B.C. This identification has  served as  the sheet-anchor in ancient Indian chronology. Alexander’s   campaign  in the Punjab and  Sind  formed  the subject  mater of a number of Greek and Roman works   by  Quintus Curtius, Diodoros, Siculus, Arrian, Plutarch, and others.
  • Megasthenes ambassador of Seleukos to the court of Chandragupta Maurya. His book Indika is lost and is preserved only in fragments, They provide valuable information about the system of  Maurya  administration  and the  social  classes  and economic activities in the Mauryan period.
  • The Periplus of the Erythrean  Sea  and Ptolemy’s geography, both written  in  Greek, provide  valuable  data for the study of  ancient  geography  and commerce.  The date ascribed to the first ranges between A.D.  80 and  115,  while  the second is attributed  to  about  D.  150. Pliny’s  Naturalis  Historia belongs to the  first  century A.D. and written in Latin tells us about trade between India and Italy.
  • Fa-hien. I tsing and Hsuan  Tsang. All Chinese travelers. They were   Buddhist monks  and came  to  this country to visit the Buddhist shrines and to study Buddhism.  The first  came in the beginning of the fifth century A.D.,  and  the second  and third in the second quarter of the seventh century A.D.  Fa-hien describes  the social religious and economic conditions of  India in  the  age of the Guptas, and Hsuan Tsang  presents  a  similar account of India in the age of Harsa.
  • No regular histories in the scientific sense written in ancient India.. We  have a sort of history in  the  Puranas,  which are  encyclopaedic in content,  and provide dynastic  history  up to the beginning of the Gupta rule. Statements about events are made in  future  tense,  although they were written  much  before  the events had happened.
  • The Puranas speak of four ages called Krita, Treta, Dvapara and  Kali.  each  succeeding age is depicted as  worse  than  the preceding, and as one age slides into the other moral values  and social institutions suffer degeneration..
  • The Puranas, eighteen in number, are said to have been recited by the Suta Lomaharsana and his son Ugrasravas.  Normally they deal with five set subjects :
  • a. Sarga :  primary creation
  • b. Pratisarga :  Recreation after periodical dissolution of  the universe
  • Vamsa : Genealogies of gods and risis
  • Manvantara : Groups of mahaynas `great ages’ in a  Kalpa,  in each of which the first father of mankind was Manu.
  • Vamsanucharita : Historices of old dynasties of kings.
  • Of these, the last topic alone is important for the purpose of  history,  but it is found only in the Matsya,  Vayu,  Vishnu,  Brahmanda, Bhagavata, and Bhavisya
  • Sandhyakara Nandi’s Ramacharita narrates the story of conflict  between  the  Kaivarta peasants  and  the  Pala  prince Ramapala,   resulting   in  the   latter’s
  • Bilhana’s Vikramankadevacharita recounts the achievements of  his  patron, Vikramaditya VI (1076-1127), the Chalukya king of Kalyan.
  • The best example of the earliest historical writing is provided  by the Rajatarangini or “The Stream of  Kings”  written by Kalhana in the twelfth century. It is a string of  biographies of  the Kings of Kashmir, and can be considered to be  the  first work  which  possesses  several  traits  of  history  as  it   is understood in our times. It is the only work in Sanskrit, which can be described as  a near approach to history It was begun  in  1148  D.  and  is  based  on  writings  of  previous chroniclers as well as royal charters and laudatory inscriptions.
  • Bana’s Harshacharita,  Sandhyakaranandi’s  Ramcharita,    Padmagupta’s    Navasahasankacharita,    Bilhana’s  Vikramadevacharita  and  Jayaratha’s  Prithviraja-Vijaya are other important `histories’  But these works  preserve  very little historical matter, and are  more  of literary  pieces,  being  full  of  elaboration,  metaphor,   and imagery.
  • There are two Ceylonese chronicles, the Dipavamsa (fourth century A.D.) and the Mahavamsa (sixth  century  D
  • Foreign Writings : The earliest reference to India is made  by  Herodotus who describes the political  connections  of North-western  India  with the Achaemenian empire  in  the  fifth century B.C.
  • Like the Greek and Roman works, Chinese literature is  also of great help in reconstructing ancient Indian History.  We  have the  excellent narratives of Fa-hian (399-414 A.D.)  Huien  Tsang (629-45 A.D.) and I-tsing (673-95 A.D.
  • Then come the authors from West Asia. Alberuni, a man of  versatile intellectual  and  a  scholar of Sanskrit, wrote in  1030  D.  the Tahrik-i-Hind. Al Beruni accompanied Mahmud  Gahzni
  • COINS: Like the inscriptions, they  corroborate  the information derived from literature and often modify and  amplify it.
  • Coins are almost our sole evidence with regard to the Indo-Scythian  and Indo-Bacterian Kings.  Coins shed remarkable  light on  the  existence of Ganas (autonomous communities)  in  ancient India,  and  also  on  the  religious  predilections  of  certain monarchs (e.g., of Kanishka).
  • MONUMENTS The  temples,  stupas,  and  monasteries vividly  depict the artistic achievements and religious  devotion of the people and the princes ..
  • The remains of monuments in foreign lands open to us a  rather unknown chapter of India’s ancient glory.  Shrines, dedicated  to Siva,  on the Deng plateau (Java), and the vast panorama of  bas-reliefs  on the walls in the colossal temples at  Boro-Bodur  and Pramabanam (central Java), as also the remarkable ruins at Angkor Vat  and Angkor Thom (Kambuja), reveal the hand of  Indians,  and show  that  they had migrated to the Far East  and  spread  their power and culture the


  1. Assertion A : The Gandhara School of Art bears the mark of Hellenistic influence.1998

               Reason R          : Hinayana form was influenced by that art.

(a) Both A and Rare true and R is the correct explanation of A
(b) Both A and R are true but R is NOT the correct explanation of A
(c) A is true but R is false
(d) A is false but R is true


2. Which one of the following ancient Indian records is the earliest royal order to preserve food-grains to be utilised during the crises in the country ?1998

(a) Sohagaura Copper-plate
(b) Rummindei pillar-edict of Asoka
(c) Prayaga-Prasasti
(d) Mehrauli Pillar inscription of Chandra


3. Consider the following

  1. Tughlaquabad fort.      2. Lodi Garden
    3. Qutab Minar.            4.Fatehpur Sikri.
    The correct chronological order in which they were built is
    (a) 3, 1, 4, 2       (b) 3, 1, 2, 4

(c) 1, 3, 2, 4       (d) 1, 3, 4, 2


4. Which of the following pairs are correctly matched?

1. Mrichchakatikam            Shudraka

  1. Buddhacharita           Vasuvandhu
  2. Mudrarakshasha       Vishakhadatta
  3. Hurshacharita            Banabhatta

Select the correct answer using the codes given below

(a)1, 2, 3 and 4          (b)1, 3 and 4  © 1 and 4             (d) 2 and 3

5. What is the correct chronological order in which the following appeared in India ?1998

1. Gold coins.                                    3. Iron plough.

2. Punch-marked silver coins.      4. Urban culture.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below
(a) 3, 4, 1, 2       (b) 3, 4, 2, 1   (c) 4, 3, 1, 2       (d) 4, 3, 2, 1



  1. c
  2. a
  3. b
  4. b
  5. d