Indian History

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.

Religious Beliefs and Practices of Harappan Culture

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.

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Social Differentiation in Harappan Society

The Harappan society appears to have been matriarchal in nature. This view is base on the popularity of the mother goddess as indicated by the finding of a large number of terracotta female figurines in Punjab and Sind region.

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Trade in Harappan Civilization

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.

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Industries and Crafts in Harappan Civilization

The Harappan people were aware of almost all the metals except iron. They manufactured gold and silver objects. The gold objects include beads, armlets, needles and other ornaments. But the use of silver was more common than gold.

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Agriculture in Harappan Civilization

The prosperity of the Harappan civilization was based on its flourishing economic activities such as agriculture, arts and crafts, and trade. The availability of fertile Indus alluvium contributed to the surplus in agricultural production.

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Town Planning of Harappan Civilization

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.

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Origin and Extent of Harappan Civilization

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.

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Harappan Civilization

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

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Pre-Historic Art

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.

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Subsistence Pattern of Neolithic Cultures

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.

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Geographical Distribution of Neolithic Sites

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.

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Neolithic Cultures

The last phase of prehistory is termed as Neolithic. The term Neolithic is derived from Greek ‘neo’ which means new, and ‘lithic’ meaning stone. Thus, the term ‘neolithic Age’ refers to the ‘New Stone Age’ of human culture.

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Mesolithic Cultures

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.

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Geographical Distribution of Palaeolithic Sites

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.

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Tools of the Palaeolithic Period

The main tools of lower Palaeolithic phase were hand axes, cleavers and choppers. These are called chopping tools. These were rough and heavy and were made by chipping the sides of the stones. Gradually, sharper and less heavy tools came to be made.

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Palaeolithic Cultures

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.

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Pre-Historic Cultures

Prehistoric period is that period of our ancient past for which we do not have written records. Therefore, knowledge of the cultures, which developed in this period, based only on the materials found in the archaeological excavations.

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Account of Foreign Travellers

Indigenous literature can be supplemented by foreign accounts. To India came Greek, Roman and Chinese visitors, either as ambassadors or travellers or to seek religious knowledge from time to time. They have left behind an account of the things they saw.

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Archaeology

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.

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Coins

The study of coins is known as numismatics. It not only includes visual elements such as script and images on the coins but also metallurgical analysis. Ancient coins were mostly minted in metals such as copper, silver, gold and lead.

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Inscriptions

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.

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Secular Literary Sources

This category of literature does not have religion as its theme. To this class belongs the Dharmashastras or the law-books which prescribe the duties for different social groups. They set out punishments for persons guilty of theft, murder, adultery, etc.

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Religious Literary Sources

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.

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Sources for Ancient Indian History

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.

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