Indian Historiography in the Ancient Period

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Historiography in the ancient Period:  

It is a natural human trait to appreciate the past. Actually, the ancient Indians possessed a thorough knowledge of history. It is widely believed that the ancient Indians were unable to translate their notion of history into history in the modern sense. India didn't have a historian or a history that was worthy of its name, in contrast to ancient Greece, Rome, and China. They lacked historical awareness. But we cannot draw the conclusion that ancient India was deprived of history. In ancient India, history was passed down orally, and a large deal of historical literature was produced. True, the historical accounts of the ancient Indians did not follow the modern definition of history, which is a written study of the past.  

Timeline of Ancient India: 

The ancient history of India covers all continents inhabited by humans in the period 3000 BCE - 500 CE. 

Sources of Indian Ancient Histography: 

  1. The Harappan seals and other artefacts inscriptions attest to the fact that Indians had mastered writing by the third millennium B.C.E., and maybe earlier. The Harappan script hasn't been fully interpreted yet, though. 


    Harappan seals and other artefacts

  2. Inscriptions are the earliest types of historical writing that have been discovered in India. They are believed to date to the reign of Ashok Maurya in the third century B.C.E. His commands are carved into pillars of stone and in the natural rocks. Inscriptions first appear on coins, metal figures and sculptures, and copper plates starting in the first century C.E. They offer significant historical data.  

    Ashoka on his chariot

    Ashokan Edicts 

  3. From the 1st century C.E. inscriptions begin to occur on coins, metal images and sculptures, and also on copper plates. They provide important historical information. They depicted historical monarchs' birthdates, dynastic genealogy, the size and governance of many empires and kingdoms, significant political events, social structures, climatic conditions, famines, etc. that occurred during those periods. 

The COININDIA Coin Galleries: Gupta: Chandragupta II

Gold coins of Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire, 400 CE

Gold coin of the Gupta era, depicting a Gupta king holding a bow, 300 CE. 

Indian old coins - Marathas: Chhatrapati Sivaji, Gold hon, c. 1674-80  Nagari legend: chhatra / pati Weight: 2.81 gm. Diameter: -- mm Die axis: 7  o'clock Jahangir ruled from 1605 to 1627

Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Gold hon, c. 1674-80 CE 

Written sources of ancient Indian Literature:  

  • Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata Puranas 
  • Jain and Buddhist writings 
  • Historical narratives written by Indian authors 
  • Travelogues were written by foreigners 

Information from ancient written sources (Inscriptions): 

  • An important development in Indian history is the writing of dynastic histories and royal biographies. 
  • King Harsha's biography, ‘Harshacharit,’ was penned by Banabhatta in the seventh century C.E. The social, economic, political, religious, and cultural life throughout the reign of the king is accurately portrayed.

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Sohagaura Copper-plate

At Sohagaura, the copper plate was discovered (District Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh). It is believed to date back to the Mauryan era. It has a Brahmi inscription on it. Punch-marked coins also have the "Tree-in-railing" and "Mountain" motifs that appear at the start of the inscription. Another sign, which resembles a building built on four pillars, is meant to represent a granary. The inscription records a royal directive directing the careful distribution of the grains kept in the granary. It is meant to suggest that safety measures were taken during a famine.

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