History is the study of past events. It helps to understand those processes that enabled the early humans to successfully conquer their environment and develop the present day civilizations. It is not just a study of battles and kings as is normally understood by some. It is an analysis of society, economy and cultural trends over a long period as reflected in available sources.
Our knowledge on the religious beliefs and practices of the Harappans is largely based on the Harappan seals and terracotta figurines. The Harappan religion normally termed as animism i.e., worship of trees, stones etc. A large number of terracotta figurines discovered at the Harappan sites have been associated with the worship of mother goddess.
Trading network, both internal (within the country) and external (foreign), was a significant feature of the urban economy of the Harappans. As the urban population had to depend on the surrounding countryside for the supply of food and many other necessary products, there emerged a village-town (rural-urban) interrelationship.
The most interesting urban feature of Harappan civilization is its town planning. It is marked by considerable uniformity, though one can notice some regional variations as well. The uniformity is noticed in the layout of the towns, streets, structures, brick size, drains, etc.
The archaeological remains show that before the emergence of Harappan civilization the people lived in small villages. As the time passed, there was the emergence of small towns which ultimately led to full-fledged towns during the Harappan period.
The people in the prehistoric times used tools and weapons made of stone. Later man started using metals. Copper was the first metal to be used by man for making tools. Gradually several cultures developed in Indian subcontinent which were based on the use of stone and copper tools
The rock paintings were an important and distinct feature of the Mesolithic people though their beginning may be traced to the upper Palaeolithic period. These paintings are made on the walls of rock shelters, maximum of which have been found at Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh.
The advent of agriculture marked a significant change in Neolithic phase. The people cultivated various kinds of crops such as wheat, barley, rice, millet, lentils, etc. depending on the geographical conditions. Agriculture gave impetus to animal domestication.
The Neolithic sites were spread over almost all the regions of Indian subcontinent. In the northwestern region Mehrgarh is a classic site in the Kachi plains of Baluchistan. The excavations at Mehrgarh have revealed the evidence of houses built by Neolithic people.
The term Mesolithic is the combination of two words, meso and lithic. In Greek ‘meso’ means the middle and ‘lithic’ means stone. Hence, the Mesolithic stage of prehistory is also known as the Middle Stone Age. It was the transitional phase between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic Ages.
The geographical distribution of the Palaeolithic sites suggests that this culture was spread throughout the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. In the north, Kashmir Valley and the Sohan Valley in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) have yielded Palaeolithic tools.
The term Palaeolithic is derived from the Greek word ‘palaeo’, which means old and ‘lithic’ meaning stone. Therefore, the term Palaeolithic age refers to the old stone age. The archaeologists have dated this culture to the Pleistocene period about two million years ago.
The material remains of the past can be studied with the help of archaeology. Archaeology is a science that enables to systematically dig the successive layers of old mounds and to form an idea of the material life of the people of the past on the basis of remains found there.
Inscriptions are permanent writings engraved on hard surface such as stone, metal or terracotta. Study of inscriptions is called epigraphy. The earliest inscriptions were written on stone. They usually record the achievements, activities and ideas of those who got them inscribed.
Most ancient Indian texts contain religious themes and these are known as Vedas. They are assigned to 1500-500 B.C. The Vedas are four in number. The Rig Veda mainly consists of prayers. The other three, Sama, Yajur and Atharva contain prayers, rituals, magic and mythological stories.
A historian needs source material to reconstruct the past. But sources themselves do not reveal the past. They need interpretation and the historian makes them speak. In fact the historian is expected to track the source, read texts, follow clues, ask relevant questions, cross check evidence to offer meaningful explanation.