Chapter 3-Ancient India Part 1

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Studying history is one way of getting to know the past. History is an attempt to understand how and why our ancestors lived as they did, what difficulties they met with and in what manner they overcame them.

  • It is important for you to be acquainted with the past to understand better what is happening in the India of today.

  • History is no longer treated as merely a study of dates and events and that too largely only political events. Its scope has been widened to include many aspects of life.

  • These include the study of patterns of life, which we call culture. Culture was once defined as that which relates to art, architecture, literature and philosophy.

  • Now it includes all the activities of a society. Therefore the emphasis of history has shifted from the study of only the upper groups of society to all levels of society.

  • It now covers information on kings and statesmen as well as on ordinary people who make history.

  • It includes the study of art and architecture, of the evolution of languages in India, literature and religion. The current understanding of history depends on two things.

  • One is careful and critical use of source material given to us by historians defending certain statements which should be decided on rational analysis.

  • Secondly, historical events have causes and these causes should be fully examined.

  • Above all even the past must be subjected to a critical analysis. It is only in this way that historical knowledge will advance.

  • The past of India goes back several thousand years. We learn about it from the evidence which our ancestors have left behind. For the near past we have written and printed records.

  • For times when printing was not made, records written on dried palm leaves, the bark of the birch tree and plates of copper and in some cases, they were inscribed on large rocks, pillars, stones walls or tables made of clay and stone.

  • Our knowledge of the life of people in those ancient days comes from the objects which they left behind.

  • For example, their pottery or their weapons and tools. These are things which are solid and which you can see and touch and these have sometimes to be literally dug out of the earth. They are all clues in the game of a historical treasure hunt but they form a part of our culture.

  • In Europe, ancient manuscripts were often written in Greek and Latin; in western Asia they were written in Arabic and Hebrew, and in china, classical Chinese was used.

Ancient India

  • India has a continuous history covering a very long period. Evidence of Neolithic habitation dating as far back as 7000 BC has been found in Mehrgarh in Baluchistan.

  • The first notable civilization flourished in India around 2700 BC in the north western part of the India subcontinent, covering a large area.

  • The civilization is referred to as the Harappan civilization. Most of the sites of this civilization developed on the banks of Indus, Ghaggar and its tributaries.

  • The culture associated with the Harappan civilization is the first known urban culture in India.

  • Agriculture was the main occupation of the Harappans who were living in rural areas.

  • Harappans also had the technical knowledge of metals and the process of alloying.

  • Harappans knew how to write and most of their seals contain some form of script. As a result our knowledge of the Harappan civilization is based on the archaeological evidence alone.

  • A large number of Indus seals found in Mesopotamia which indicated of a possible trade between the Indus valley and Mesopotamia civilization.

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