Wednesday, February 9, 2011


 Ancient India
  • Pre Historic cultures in India
  • Pastoral and Farming Communities
  • Indus Valley Civilization
  • Vedic Society
  • Pre Mauryan Period
  • The Mauryan Empire
  • Post Mauryan Period
  • Religions
  • Imperial Guptas
  • Harshavardana
  • Position of women in Ancient India
  • Education in Ancient India
  • Caste System in Ancient India
  • Feudalism in Ancient India
  • Cholas
  • Maths in Ancient India
  • Regional States of India
  • The Chalukyas of Badami

Books and Authors in Ancient India


Sri Harsha
Buddha charita
Abhigyan Shakuntalam
Panc hsidhantika and Brihat Samhita
Surya Sidhanta and Aryabhatta
Panch tantra
Vishnu Sharma
Aihole Prasasti
Ravi Kriti
Charaka Samhita
Bhaskara II
Harshacharita and Kadambari
Harsha vardhan
Harsha vardhan







Poets in Ancient India in Ancient India


Ashvaghosa Nagarjuna, Vasumitra
Samudragupta II
Chandra gupta II
Chandragupta II
Pulkesin II
Vikramaditya VI
Vikramaditya VI

Pre Historic Cultures In India

1. Basis for Periodization
2. Periodization of Indian Prehistory
3. Sources of prehistory
4. Food gathering communities
5. Food Producing Men
6. Neolithic or the New Stone Age
7. Iron Age
8. Impact of Iron

Basis for Periodization

The earliest traces of human existence go back to the period between 3,00,000 and 2,00,000 BC. A large number of primitive stone tools found in the Soan valley and south India suggests this. The modern human being first appeared around 36000 BC. Primitive man in the Palaeolithic age which lasted till 8000 BC used tools and implements of rough stone. Initially man was a food gatherer and depended on nature for food. He learnt to control fire which helped him to improve his way of living. From 8000 BC the Mesolithic age began and continued up to 4000 BC in India. During this time sharp and pointed tools were used for killing fast-moving animals. Chota Nagpur plateau, Central India and south of the river Krishna are some of the sites.
Neolithic settlements are not older than 4000 BC. Man began to domesticate animals and cultivate plants settling down in villages to form farming communities. The wheel was an important discovery. Towards the end of the Neolithic period metals like copper and bronze were used. This was the Chalcolithic phase.

Periodization of Indian Prehistory

Palaeolithic Age:

To begin with the Palaeolithic Age was also called the old stone age covered the long period from the time the first ancestors of modern human beings started living in the Indian subcontinent from roughly 3 lakh B.C to 8000 or eighth millennium B.C.Archeologists divide it into three phases -the Lower or Early, the middle and the upper Palaeolithic age-according to the nature of the stone tools used by the people.

Mesolithic Age:

Then came the Mesolithic age also known as the late Stone Age which broadly covered the period from the eighth to fourth millennium BC.It is the intermediate or transitional stage between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic age. The tools of this age are called microliths. Neolithic Age: Third is the Neolithic age or the new Stone Age that covered the period roughly from 4000 to 1800 BC and was marked by the use of polished stone tools. Chalcolithic Age: Stone-copper age covered the period from 1800 to

Sources of prehistory

Unlike the more advanced stages for which various types of sources are available the study of the initial stages of human history is based entirely on the material remains left by early man. The period is referred when man was primarily a food gatherer or had just begun a settled life and for which no written records are available. The material remains of early man is available mostly in the form of stone tools and sometimes with the remains of animals that he hunted do not speak comprehensively about his life.

The basic information provided by the tools of the early man, his habitat and observed facts about communities still in the initial stages of societal development have led to certain conclusions about variations even in the earliest cultures and the cultural zones.

Food Gathering Communities

Early man of the Stone Age

Early Stone Age tools have been found in different areas of the subcontinent the most notable among which are the Potwar plain in north-western Punjab; the Beas and Banganga valleys; Nevasa in the valley of Pravara, a tributary of the Godavary; Gudalur in Gundlakamma basin in Andhra Pradesh; Nagarjunakonda in the Krishna valley, a string of sites (Vadamadurai, Attirampakkam etc) in the coastal plain near Chennai and the districts along the north bank of the Mahanadi in Orissa. Primitive man used tools and implements of rough stone. Flint was commonly used as it is hard but flakes easily. Tools serve a variety of purposes such as skinning of dead animals, cutting their flesh and splitting bones etc. Man during this period was essentially a food gatherer. He was totally dependent on nature for his food supply; requirement of game animals and edible plants. In course of time he learnt to control fire which helped improve the pattern of living in many ways.

He used the skins of animals, barks of trees and large leaves as clothes. Men were organized in small wandering groups consisting of few men, women and children. It was towards the end of the Palaeolithic period that the modern human being (Homo Sapien) first appeared around 36,000 BC. The middle stone age cultures were around the date 33,000 BC to about 16,500 BC.
There are indications that in some regions like western Rajasthan and MP the flake making technique was of a more improved variety than in others. These regional variations in dates and the total cultural assemblage became more prominent in the Late Stone age heralded by the use of smaller tools the microliths. In MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan and several other areas a long time span of 8500 BC-1700 BC has been suggested for these cultures.

Microliths being compound tools suggest a substantial technological change being hafted in bone, wood or bamboo. Atleast in few areas along with the microliths the technique of pot making a technique of great significance in human history as it came to be closely associated with food production and settled life. Langhnaj in Gujarat and Adamgarh in MP suggest presence of domesticated animals and exchange of commodities between different areas and communities.

Food Producing Men:

Settled life based on food production first began in the northwest. Here man progressed from incipient food production to the foundation of Neolithic -Chalcolithic village cultures. In Ahar (Banas valley of Rajasthan), Maheshwar-Navdatoli in the Narmada valley, Nagda in the Chambal valley, Daimabad, Chandoli and various other sites of the northern Deccan early farmers were living in open villages and cultivating crops which included wheat, several kinds of legumes or rice as at Chirand in south Bihar.

In the south, in central and eastern Deccan the economy was predominantly pastoral and the Neolithic -Chalcolithic influence can be seen at Piklihal and Tekkalakota in Karnataka or Utnur and Nagarjunakonda in AP. This period continued from about 2000 BC to about the middle of the first millennium BC although in certain areas the advent of a new metallic technology seems to have taken place earlier

Neolithic or the New Stone Age:

The main period of the Neolithic Age in the Indian subcontinent was 4000-1800 BC. This was the food producing age when man completely changed his way of life. Traces of Neolithic communities have survived mostly in the north-western region and the Deccan. Neolithic settlements in Baluchistan seem to be oldest around 3500 BC. In the new way of life man began to domesticate animals and cultivate plants. The dog, sheep and goat were probably the first to be domesticated.
Among plants, wheat and barley were the earliest cereals grown. As a result man began to settle down in certain selected areas. This led to the growth of villages and farming communities. The tools he needed also changed. All these developments took place first in north western India and culminated in the rise and growth of great Indus Civilization while the rest of the Indian subcontinent was late in undergoing the transition from Mesolithic to the Neolithic and then to the Chalcolithic periods.

Iron Age

The early history of Iron in India can be examined in terms of different regional contexts through the study of the various iron-using areas of the subcontinent. The chronology of iron differs from one area to another but between the period 1000BC and 500 BC its use said to spread to all major areas-
The upper Ganges valley and its peripheries
Malwa plateau and Tapti valley
South and Central Indian megalithic areas
Baluchistan plains
Middle and Lower Ganges valleys
North west mainly Peshawar region
In the Upper Ganges valley and the Indo Gangetic divide iron is first found associated around 800 BC with a culture known as Painted Greyware. Its use was sparse in the beginning but by the middle of the 6th century BC it had become fairly common and was associated with the new Northern Black Polished Ware culture. During this period its horizon expanded to include the central and lower Ganges valley where it marked a significant break from the earlier cultures. In the Malwa region and Tapti valley too it sites such as Nagda, Eran and Prakash, iron brought in an element of change in the earlier Chalcolithic cultures and it is possible that the use of iron was slightly earlier in this region (1000 BC) than in the Ganges Valley. At Hallur in north Karnataka iron appears to overlap the Neolithic implements of 900 BC

Impact of Iron

Iron brought in a change of economy, the characteristic feature of advanced type of agriculture. In the Ganges Valley and in the Malwa region iron led to the rise of urban areas. Both Brahmanical and Buddhist texts are full with reference to cities during the middle of the first millennium BC and at sites like Ahichhatra, Varanasi, Kausambi, Sravasti and Ujjayini the evidences of Iron age urbanization is available.

By the middle of the 6th century BC some of these settlements had reached the proportions of urban centres. This suggests that for the first time since the decline of the Harappan civilization a substantial agricultural surplus which could sustain such urban centres had emerged. The use of silver and copper coins in large numbers during this period implies considerable trade and commerce. Some of the urban centres were also seats of political power as suggested by defence arrangements in some of them. Thus a political system with definable territorial units as its bases had developed by this time.

Pastoral and Farming Communities

1. Neolithic Phase
2. Chalcolithic Phase
3. Early Iron Phase
4. Geographical distribution and characteristics

Neolithic Phase

Neolithic Phase The Neolithic transition involved less a technological revolution than one in land use. After millennia of success as hunters and food gatherers people settled down to village life as farmers or stockbreeders. It cannot be coincidental that this process of settling down and tending to wheat, barley, cattle, sheep and goat species is first found in South Asia at a site in a frontier region, Mehrgarh. There was no particular period in South Asia when hunters and gatherers took to agriculture and animal rearing. The Neolithic stage appeared in different regions at different times in each case with a unique stone and ceramic technology and range of domesticates.
Neolithic cultures in the Jhelum valley and in the Garo and North Cachar hills exhibit a frontier character with artefactual links with cultures outside the subcontinent. On the other hand in Orissa we may have mingling of traditions from the northeast and the Deccan plateau. Like the Kachhi plain the region comprising the Belan valley at the edge of the Vindhya plateau and the adjoining Ganga plain around Allahabad is an important zone.

Chalcolithic Phase

After the Harappan civilization we have a sequence of Chalcolithic cultures which span the second millennium BC and extend geographically from the Banas and Berach basins northeast of Udaipur through Malwa and into western Maharashtra up to the Bhima valley. Stratigraphy at key sites such as Dangwada and Kayatha near Ujjain and Daimabad on the Pravara shows that the Kayatha culture was succeeded by the Banas, Malwa and Jorwe cultures in turn. These cultures exhibit some similarities in subsistence economies, house form, flaked stone tools, and limited use of copper. Thus it is possible to consider a process of cultural development and transmission of ideas for about a millennium along the important marshland of west-central India which gave access to the productive basins of the Krishna and Tungabhadra where settlements of the southern Neolithic flourished.

Early Iron Phase

Just as the emergence of settled village life took different forms in different parts of the country so also the introduction of iron occurred at different times in different contexts. On the basis of available radiocarbon dates it was suggested that iron working might have begun in Malwa around 1100 BC. This was based on the argument that there was continuity between Chalcolithic and Iron Age material cultural at sites in Malwa and the dates for the terminal phases of the Chalcolithic period here around were around 1300 BC. Since 1963 when D D Kosambi made the assertion that extensive forest clearance and agrarian settlement would not have been possible in the Ganga plains without the use of iron, archeologists have been exploring the connection between the introduction of iron technology, settlements patterns and political developments in northern India.

Geographical distribution and characteristics of Pastoral and Farming communities (2000-500 BC)

The region falls into three major areas: the stretch between Peshawar and Taxila comprising the Peshawar valley and the Potwar plateau, the area between Swat and Chitral and finally the valley of Kashmir. The Neolithic levels of Saraikhola in the Potwar plateau gave way to Kot Diji related horizon and in some way this region as a whole was within the trading network of the contemporary Indus plains. In the Swat Chitral region the large number of sites that have been excavated show the use of different metals, stone and other objects among which are shell, coral and ivory which must have reached this region from the Indus plains. The rock shelter site of Ghaligai which perhaps goes back to 3000 BC provides the baseline in Swat -Chitral. The proto-historic graveyards of the region are dated between the second quarter of the second millennium BC and the late centuries BC. The evidence of such graveyards and associated settlements has been categorised as the Gandhara Grave Culture.
 These Copper Age graves are marked by in-flexed burials and urn burials after cremation. Grave sites and associated settlements have been investigated at a large number of sites including Loebanr, Aligrama, Birkot Ghundai, Kherari, Lalbatai, Timargarha, Balambat, Kalako-Deray and Zarif Karuna located in the valleys of Chitral, Swat, Dir and Buner etc. In Kashmir more than 30 Neolithic sites have been found scattered but most of them are in the Baramula, Anantnag and Srinagar regions. This distribution points out that this was not a culture isolated from the plains. Handmade grey pottery with a mat impressed base is a distinguishing feature of the ceramic phase of the Kashmir Neolithic at both its excavated sites - Gufkral and Burzahom. The Neolithic phase in Kashmir merged into a megalithic phase around the middle of the second millennium BC. Handmade grey pottery with a mat impressed base is a distinguishing feature of the ceramic phase of the Kashmir Neolithic at both its excavated sites- Gufkral and Burzahom. The Neolithic phase in Kashmir merged into a megalithic phase around the middle of the second millennium BC.
1.Ladakh and Almora
2. Northeast Rajasthan
3. South India
4. Eastern India
5. Malwa

Ladakh and Almora

The handmade red pottery excavated at Kiari in Ladakh has been compared with similar pottery of the Burzahom Neolithic Period II. Four hearths occur in three successive phases and there are domestic cattle, sheep and goat. Its date is 1000 BC. Giak a similar site at a distance of less than 10 km and located in the same geographical situation yielded a single radiocarbon date which goes back to the 6th millennium BC. In the UP Himalayas near Almora megalithic burials have been noticed and the upper filling of a cist yielded a date of third millennium BC. The cist-burials of this area show horse burials and red, grey and black pots. Uleri an iron-smelting site near Almora shows a date range of 1022-826 BC.

Northeast Rajasthan

It was Jodhpura a large mound on the bank of the non perennial Sabi or Sahibi River which first yielded evidence of Ganeshwar-Jodhpura culture belonging to the fourth and third millennia BC. Wheelmade orange to deep red color, decorated with incised designs and possessing shapes including dish on stand was found at Ganeshwar in a small Aravalli valley on the Delhi-Jaipur railway line. A large number of copper artefacts including a distinct type of arrowhead were found in the Ganeshwar excavations. Ganeshwar has been re-excavated and a large number of sites have been located in various parts of northeast Rajasthan especially in Sikar, Jaipur and Churu districts.

South India

This area is broadly known as the Southern Neolithic Culture with geographical variations in each of the three component states. It consists of the Karnataka plateau; the plateau region of north-western part of TN and the tract of Telengana and Rayalseema in AP. Neolithic sites are abound in the region. Around Tekkalakota alone there are 19 of them. The flat topped granite hills of the region and the river banks seem to have provided a suitable occupation ground for the Neolithic settlers. Their principal excavated sites include Brahmagiri, Maski, Piklihal, Utnur, Kupgal, Hallur, Nagarjunakonda, Veerapuram etc. A full fledged Chalcolithic complex occurs in Andhra.
Among a large number of sites discovered in the Kurnool area, Singanapalli is a single culture site yielding a profuse quantity of painted pottery, stone blades etc. The area between the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra and the tip of the southern peninsula constitutes the major zone of the burial style denoted by various types of megaliths. This burial style continued well into the historical period in its main distribution area and is characterised by a host of megalithic structures such as cairn-circles, dolmen, menhirs and their extensive variations and combinations.

Eastern India

There are 70 odd reported Chalcolithic and Iron Age black and red ware sites in West Bengal distributed mostly in the area to the west of the Bhagirathi. The most impressive evidence of crops has occurred in the Chalcolithic context at Senuar-rice, barley, wheat, sorghum, millet, peas, lentil, sesamum and linseed. From approx the middle of the third millennium BC there were fully agricultural and pre-metallic villages with a wide range of crops on the river banks of a substantial area of Bihar. The relevant cultural material in Pandu Rajar Dhibi West Bengal consists of microliths blades and husk impressions of rice in the core of pottery. In Chirand, Bihar extensive evidence has been found in form of pottery, terracotta, bone tools, beads and remains of wheat, barley and rice. At Senuar in the Kaimur foothills three principal ceramic types were found. In addition to a rich microlithic industry there are bone tools, beads and miscellaneous stone objects, rice, barley and some millet. Rice is said to have been the principal crop.


The protohistoric archaeology of MP is dominated by that of the Malwa region which is a large fertile plateau drained by the Chambal, Kali sindh, Narmada, Sipra, Betwa and other rivers and has some trunk routes from the north to the Deccan and West India passing through it. The area is dotted with Chalcolithic sites. The dominant pottery type was Black on red ware associated with other types like the Black and red ware. The implements used were primarily although Navdatoli possesses copper flat axes. Beads occur profusely and were made of diverse material. A number of crops were grown at Navdatoli. The Malwa culture falls broadly in the first half of the second millennium BC. Malwa was closely linked with Rajasthan on the one hand and the Deccan on the other. There is also evidence of fire-altars and perhaps temples at Dangwada which has also yielded evidence of bull worship

Indus Valley Civilization

The sensational discoveries made at Harappa in West Punjab and Mohenjodaro in Sind have revolutionised our idea of ancient Indian history. From the meagre evidence it may be concluded that the civilization represented by these two cities commonly known as the Indus Valley Civilization belonged to the first half of the third millennium B.C. Further evidence indicates that they continued well into the second millennium B.C. Sir John Marshall the eminent Indologist opines that the civilization revealed at these two places leads one to the inference that it is not an incipient one but had begun ages earlier with many millennia of human endeavour behind it. The same high authority goes farther and declares that the civilization of India is even superior to that of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

The Indus-Valley people were well-acquainted with the use both of cotton and wool. The numerous specimens of pottery, seals, bracelets etc reveal that arts and crafts florished. The people lived a very comfortable life in well built houses and baths. The streets were all well planned and drains regularly drained out. It was essentially urban civilization. The merchant class contributed to the general prosperity and trade contacts seem to have been established with the Sumerian and Mesopotamian civilization of those times.

There are many unsolved problems relating to the Indus Valley Civilization. For instance numerous seals have been discovered with inscriptions of the figures of animals and names in a script which is undecipherable. Sir John Marshall says that nothing that we know of in other countries bears any resemblance in point of style to the models of rams, dogs or the intaglio engravings on the seals-the best of which are distinguished by a breadth of treatment and a feeling for line and plastic form that have hardly been surpassed in glyptic art. It was not the Aryans who brought civilization to India which is rather untenable stand taken by Indo-Germanic scholars who seem to think that anything good in the world could have come from Aryan Race.

The most striking deity of the Harappa culture is the horned God inscribed on the seals. Sir John Marshall called this God proto Shiva and this horned god has certainly much in common with the Siva of later Aryan Hinduism. How the Indus Valley Civilization came to an end is still a matter in the realm of speculation. Professpr Childe says that it is possible that the river Indus became inundated and destroyed the cities and villages. It is also possible that climatic changes over a long period reduced the populated part of the land into the barren desert.
1. Major cities
2. Town Planning
3. Harappan Trade
4. Agriculture
5. Domestication of animals
6. Crafts
7. Religion
8. Harappan Pottery
9. Weights and Measures
10. Script and Language
11. Images
12. Decline of Harappan Culture
13. Survival and Significance
14. Things to Remember

Major Cities And Their Features:


Mohenjodaro (Sind) is situated on the right bank of the Indus.


Harappa (Punjab, Pakistan) is located on the left bank of the Ravi.


Chanhudaro lies on the left bank of the Indus about 130 km south of Mohenjodaro.


Kalibangan (Rajasthan) was on the banks of the river Ghaggar which dried up centuries ago.


Lothal is at the head of the Gulf of Cambay.


Banawali (Haryana) was situated on the banks of the now extinct Sarasvati River.


Surkotada (Gujarat) is at the head of the Rann of Kutch.


Dholavira (Gujarat) excavated is in the Kutch district

Town Planning In Indus Valley Civilization

The most characteristic feature of the Harappan Civilization was its urbanization. The cities show evidence of an advanced sense of planning and organization. Each city was divided into the citadel area where the essential institutions of civic and religious life were located and the residential area where the urban population lived. In the citadel the most impressive buildings were the granaries which were store -houses. Near the granaries were the furnaces where the metal workers produced a variety of objects in metals such as copper, bronze, lead and tin. The potters also worked in this part. The workers lived together in small quarters near the factory. Another well-known building was the Great Bath. It might have served the purpose of ritual bathing vital to any religious ceremony in India. In Mohenjo daro there is also a large building which appears to have been the house of the governor. Another building nearby was either a meeting hall or a market place. Below the citadel in each city lay a town proper.
The town was extremely well planned. The street ran straight and at right angles to each other following the grid system. The rectangular town planning was unique to the Harappans and was not known in Mesopotamia or Egypt. The streets were very wide and the houses built of burnt bricks lined both sides of the street. In Egypt and Mesopotamia dried or baked bricks were used. The houses were of varying sizes which suggest class differences in Harappan society. A well laid drainage system kept the cities clean.

Harappan Trade

The Harappan people traded with the people of Sumer and with the towns lying along the Persian Gulf. Harappan seals and other small objects used by the merchants and traders for stamping their goods have been found in Mesopotamia. The merchandise was shipped from Lothal and incoming goods were received here. Weights and measures which were very accurately graded point to a very high degree of exchange


The Harappans cultivated wheat and barley the two main food crops. Peas and dates were also grown. In addition sesame and mustard were grown and used for oil. However the people cultivated rice as early as 1800 BC in Lothal. The Harappans were the earliest people to grow cotton. Irrigation depended on the irregular flooding of the rivers of Punjab and Sind.

Domestication of animals

Stock breeding was important in Indus culture. Besides sheep and goats, dogs, humped cattle buffalo and elephant was certainly domesticated. The camel was rare and horse was not known.


The various occupations in which people were engaged spanned a wide range. Spinning and weaving of cotton and wool, pottery making chiefly red clay with geometric designs painted in black, bead making from clay, stone, paste, shell and ivory, seal making, terracotta manufacture and brick laying.

Goldsmiths made jewellery of silver, gold and precious stones and metal workers made tools and implements in copper and bronze.

Religion in the Indus Valley Civilization

Clay figures of the Mother Goddess as the symbol of fertility have been found- these were worshipped by the people. A seated figure of a male god carved on a small stone seal was also found. The seal immediately brings to our mind the traditional image of Pasupati Mahadeva. In addition to this we come across numerous symbols of the phallus and female sex organs made of stone which may have been objects of worship. Certain trees seem to have been treated as sacred such as papal. They also held the bull sacred. Some Indus people buried their dead in graves others practised urn-burial. They believed that there was life after death because the graves often contained household pottery, ornaments and mirrors which might have belonged to the dead persons and which it was thought he or she might need after death. Around 1750 BC Mohenjodaro and Harappa declined but the Harappan culture in the other cities faded out more gradually. Various causes have been suggested for this. Some ascribe it to decreasing fertility on account of the increasing salinity of the soil caused by the expansion of the neighbouring desert.
Others attribute it to some kind of depression in the land which caused floods. Others point out that the Harappan culture was destroyed by the Aryans but there is hardly any evidence of a mass scale confrontation between the two.

Harappan Pottery

The Harappan pottery is bright or dark red and uniformly sturdy and well baked. It consists chiefly of wheel made wares both plain and painted. The plain pottery is more common than the painted ware. The plain ware is usually of red clay with or without a fine red slip. The painted pottery is of red and black colours. Several methods were used by people for the decoration of pottery. Geometrical patterns, circles, squares and triangles and figures of animals, birds, snakes or fish are frequent motifs found in Harappan pottery. Another favourite motive was tree pattern. Plants, trees and pipal leaves are found on pottery. A hunting scene showing two antelopes with the hunter is noticed on a pot shreds from the cemetery H.A jar found at Lothal depicts a scene in which two birds are seen perched on a tree each holding a fish in its beak. Below it is an animal with a short thick tail which can be a fox according to S R Rao. He also refers to the presence of few fish on the ground. Harappan people used different types of pottery such as glazed, polychrome, incised, perforated and knobbed.
The glazed Harappan pottery is the earliest example of its kind in the ancient world. Polychrome pottery is rare and mainly comprised small vases decorated with geometric patterns mostly in red, black and green and less frequently in white and yellow. Incised ware is rare and the incised decoration was confined to the bases of the pans. Perforated pottery has a large hole at the bottom and small holes all over the wall and was probably used for straining liquor. Knobbed pottery was ornamented on the outside with knobs. The Harappan pottery includes goblets, dishes, basins, flasks, narrow necked vases, cylindrical bottles, tumblers, corn measures, spouted vases and a special type of dish on a stand which was a offering stand or incense burner.

Weights and Measures

Harappans used weights and measures for commercial as well as building purposes. Numerous articles used as weights have been discovered. The weights proceeded in a series, first doubling from 1, 2, 4, 8 to 64 and then in decimal multiples of 16. Several sticks inscribed with measure marks have been discovered. Harappans were inventors of linear system of measurement with a unit equal to one angula of the Arthasastra.

Script and Language

Harappan script is regarded as pictographic since its signs represent birds, fish, varieties of the human form etc. The number of signs of the Harappan script is known to be between 400 and 600 of which 40 or 60 are basic and the rest are their variants. The variants are formed by adding different accents, inflexions or other letters to the former. The language of the Harappans is still unknown and must remain so until the script is read. There are two main arguments as to the nature of the language that it belongs to the Indo-European or even Indo-Aryan family or that it belongs to the Dravidian family.

The approach followed by Kinnier-Wilson is to find analogies between Harappan and Sumerian signs.S R Rao has produced a different attempt to read the script as containing a pre-Indo-Aryan language of the Indo-European family. An attempt has been made by Natwar Jha a palaeographist and Vedic scholar who says that script is syllabic that is no vowels are written. Semitic languages like Phoenician and Arabic use the syllabic system. Since no word in these languages begins with a vowel the writing does not create any problems in comprehension. Jha claims to have deciphered about 3500 inscriptions on seals.
According to Rajaram the script is both pictorial and alphabetic; alphabets are favoured to the pictures in the later stages. He also finds close connection between the Brahmi and the Indus script. Most of the writing is from left to right and not the other way. Many ancient scripts like Phoenician, various Aramaics and Hemiaretic are connected to or even derived from Harappan. This is contrary to the currently held view that all alphabetic writing descended from Phoenician in the late second millennium BC.


A specimens of images made of both stone and metal have been discovered. A number of stone sculptures have been discovered at Mohenjodaro, two at Harappa, one at Dabarkot and one at Mundigak (Afganistan). The best specimen among the stone sculptures of Mohanjodaro is the steatite image of a bearded man wearing an ornamented robe. Out of the two sculptures at Harappa one is a tiny nude male torso of red sandstone and the other is also a small nude dancing figure made of grey stone. Majority of these sculptures are made of soft stone like steatite, limestone or alabaster.
A few bronze sculptures have also been discovered at Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Chanhudaro and Daimabad. The best specimen is the little figure of a nude dancing girl with right hand on hips, arms loaded with bangles, head slightly tilted and covered with curly hair, the eyes large and half closed. A second figure of comparable size also comes from Mohenjodaro. Other good examples of the skill in casting and bronze working are the little models of bullock carts and ikkas from Harappa and Chanhudaro. Four unique bronzes of elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and chariot each weighing 60 kgs from the recently excavated site of Daimabad have thrown further light on the bronze work of the Harappans.

Decline of Harappan Culture

The decline of Harappan culture is difficult to explain. During its late phase between 2000 and 1700 BC 'The Indus Valley Civilization as a distinct entity gradually ceased to exist'. Historians have different opinions regarding the causes of the decay and disappearance of the Harappan culture. Various causes have been ascribed for its weakening and then decay: Increase in rainfall, earthquake, decrease in fertility of soil, floods, Aryan invasion, disease etc.

Mortimer Wheeler pointed out that the Harappan culture was destroyed by the Aryans. The Aryans were more skilled at warfare and were powerful than the Harappans. In the last phase of Mohenjodaro, men and women and children were massacred in the streets and houses. But there is very little evidence on this opinion.
Sir John Marshal, Lambrick and E.J.H Mackay suggest that the decline of the Harappan civilization was mainly due to the vagaries of the Indus River. But this theory is partly true. Some of the evidence of the devastation by floods has been found at Mohenjodaro and Lothal but there is no such evidence in respect of other sites like Kalibangan.

Some historians suggest that the first urban civilization came to an end around 1700 BC because its numerous small settlements grew beyond their natural limits leading to the mismanagement of natural resources. Although the theory of ecological factors for the decline of the Harappan civilization is latest yet it does not give us complete answer. Historians are of the view that the decline of the Indus Civilization was not the result of a single event; it was a slow decline and a result of combination of factor

Survival and Significance

The tracts of the Indus civilization did not become extinct with the decline of this civilization. There was no complete break-up after the Indus Civilization and many of its features were adopted in the later cultural developments. Some of the developments which survived and became important are as follows.
  • In the field of religions many important features of Harappan religion were adopted in later Hinduism. The Harappans worshipped Pashupati Shiva in his actual form as well as in the representative form as Linga, worship of mother goddess, worship of trees, animals; serpents were all adopted by Hinduism.
  • The Harappan civilization contributed towards the advancement of Mathematics. The numerical and decimal system was evolved here which made remarkable contributions towards Vedic mathematics.
  • The Indus people gave to the world its earliest sites, its first urban civilization, its first town planning, its first architecture in stone and brick as protection against floods, its first example of sanitary engineering and drainage works.
  • Another remarkable contribution of the Harappan people was the cultivation of cotton. Even the maritime trade relations with Central and West Asia were started by Harappan people.
  • To them also belong the credits for producing some of the earliest specimens of pottery. The Harappan way of making baked pottery, bricks, beads, jewellery and textiles was adopted in the later civilization. They also invented the device of a cart to harness the labour force of the animals to the production of man's utility.

Things to Remember

  • Surkotada is the only Indus site where the remains of a horse have actually been found.
  • A small pot was discovered at Chanhudaro which was probably an inkpot. Harappan pottery is bright or dark red and is uniformly sturdy and well baked.
  • It was chiefly made and consists of both plain and painted ware and plain variety being more common.
  • Harappan people used different types of pottery such as galzed, polychrome, incised perforated and knobbed.
  • Main types of seals are the square type with a carved animal and inscription and rectangular type with inscription only.
  • Terracotta seals found at Mehargarh were the earliest precursors of the Harappan seals.
  • Evidence of sea and river transport by ships and boats in several seals and terracotta models have been found apart from the dockyard at Lothal. Representations of ships are found on seals found at Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
  • Apart from Lothal in Gujarat, the three Harappan sites on the Makran coast - Sutkagendor, Sotkako and Khairia kot have been generally considered to have been posts in the maritime links with the Gulf and Mesopotamia.
  • At Kalibangan the lanes and roads of the city were built in a definite proportion. Lanes were 1.8 mts wide and the roads were 3.6, 5.4 and 7.2 mts wide.
  • The Mohenjodaro, the length of the Great Bath was 12 mtrs, breadth was 7mtrs and depth was 2.5 mtrs.
  • In the south-west of Mohenjodaro there was a granary which covers 55 x 37 mtrs area. It is surrounded by verandas on four sides. There were 27 blocks of solid blocks of solid bricks in granary. It was divided into 3 parts.
  • In Harappa the Granary was outside the Fort. In the Lothal port, there was a dockyard which was 216 mtrs in length and 37 mtrs in breadth.
  • Leg bone of elephant was found at Kalibangan.
  • Copper rhino, copper chariot and copper elephant found at Daimabad.
  • Harappan city with three divisions namely-citadel, middle town and lower town was at Dholavira.
  • Ragi was not known to the Indus people.

Vedic Society

The Harappan civilization was followed by Vedic or Rig-Vedic culture which was completely opposed to it. The Vedic culture was founded by the Aryans. They were immigrants and arrived in India between 2000 and 1500 BC. The origin of the Aryans is still an unsettled affair. The coming of the Aryans to India was a great event in Indian history. The Aryans were considered to be one of the world's most civilized communities. They were far ahead of other races of their time. The original homeland of Aryans has remained a subject of long and protracted controversy. Regarding the original home of the Aryans the historians have held divergent views.

1. Origin and Settlement of the Aryans
2. The concept of Arya or Aryan
3. Vedic Literature
4. Vedas and their Brahmanas
5. Later Vedic Literature
6. Life in the Rig Vedic Period
7. Later Vedic Civilization
8. Things to remember

Origin and Settlement of the Aryans

1. Central Asian theory
2. Arctic Theory
3. Sapt -Sindhu Theory
4. Tibetan Theory
5. South-east European Theo

Central Asian theory

There are various schools of thought regarding the original home of the Aryans. The most important theory which held the field for a long time was that the Aryans originally lived in Central Asia. This theory was propounded by Prof Max Muller a German scholar of comparative languages. He stated that the ancestors of the Indians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Germans and the Celts must have lived together originally. The 'Pitri' and 'Matri' in Sanskrit are essentially the same as the Persian 'Pidar' and 'Madar', the Latin 'Pater' and 'Mater' and the English 'Father' and 'Mother'.
These are not trade terms but words of everyday use in families which could not have been adopted unless at some distant time, the ancestors of these people had lived at one common place. Max Muller concluded that the Aryans who today occupy European countries migrated by a route south of the Caspian through Asia minor to Greece and Italy and one of their groups came to India through the northwest passages.

Arctic Theory

Central Asian theory has been seriously challenged by Sri Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his book 'Arctic Home in the Vedas'. He opined that the original home of the Aryans was a place of extreme cold. The Vedas refer to days and nights lasting for 6 months which are found in Arctic region.

Sapt-Sindhu Theory

According to the eminent historians A C Das, K M Munshi the Aryans originally belonged to the Sapt-Sindhu or Punjab. This point of view was put forward by A C Das in his book Rig Vedic India. He says that all the plants, rivers, crops and animals mentioned in Rig-Veda and other ancient books were found in ancient Punjab. The geographical conditions in Rig-Veda points out to this region. But this theory is not convincing. If the Aryans had been indigenous inhabitants of the Sapt Sindhu area there would have been no need for them to desert such a fertile area and go to other parts. Aryans were unaware of animals such as elephant and lion which were found mainly in India. This proves that Aryans were foreigners

Tibetan Theory

According to Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Pargiter the original home of the Aryans was Tibet. This view has been expounded by them in the Satyarth Prakash and Ancient Indian Historical Traditions respectively. According to them Aryans worshipped the sun and fire as it was extremely cold in Tibet. All the trees and animals mentioned in the Rig Veda were found in Tibet.

South-East European Theory

The theory generally accepted these days is that the original home of the Aryan was in south-east Europe. According to Macdonell the common trees like the oak, the birch and the willow and the common animals like the horse and the cow with which the ancestors of the Aryans were familiar could in those days be found only in southern Europe. This theory is also disputed by some western scholars

The concept of Arya or Aryan

The Indo-Europeans are called Aryans although the term Arya is found mainly in the eastern Indo-European languages. This term may indicate the culture shared by the Avesta and the Rig Veda. The two terms Indo-Iranian and Indo Aryan is frequently used. The term Indo-Iranian is used to signify the undifferentiated language which was spoken by the Aryans comprising the Indians and Iranians before their separation. The term Indo-Aryan means the speech and its speakers who existed in India sometimes are termed as Proto-Indian to denote the same. The term Arya occurs in both the Rig Veda and Avesta. Since Afghanistan was occupied by the Indo Aryans and the Iranian Aryans for some time, a part of this country came to be known as Araiya or Haraiva. In the sixth century BC King Darius I of Persia called himself an Aryan. In the Rig Veda the term Arya connotes a cultural community. Speakers of both the Indo Aryan and the Indo Iranian languages are called Aryans. The Avesta mentions the country of the Aryans where Zoroastrianism began. This might indicate the 'Aria' or 'Ariana' mentioned by classical writers. It covered a large area including Afghanistan and a part of Persia. It also included parts of Bactria and Sogdia to its north. Megasthenes speaks of Arianois as one of the three people inhabiting the countries adjacent to India.
In the Rig Veda the worshippers of Indra were called arya. When this text speaks of the struggle between the Aryans on the one hand and the dasas and the dasyus on the other it does not consider the former to be indigenous and the latter to be foreigners. The struggle takes place between two cultures one observing the vrata and the other violating it. At that stage there is no perception of India as a country or a nation and therefore the notion of indigenous and foreigner do not arise. On the basis of skin colour some hymns of the Rig Veda depict Aryans to be of a separate community. Their enemies are described as black skinned.
The Aryans are called Manusi Praja who worshipped Agni Vaisvanara and who sometimes set fire to the houses of black skinned people. It is also stated that the Aryan God Soma killed black people. But Bailey argues that all the references to the term Arya in the Rig Veda cannot be taken in the sense of race or caste. The term Arya means master or a person of noble birth in the Avesta and this meaning suit several references in the Rig Veda. Therefore those leaders of the Vedic tribes who are lauded in the Rig Veda under the appellation of Arya were either prosperous or high born. In cattle rearing society they owed their prosperity to cattle wealth which could be better accumulated and preserved by the horse backed aristocracy.In the later Vedic and post Vedic times the term arya came to cover people of the three higher varnas who were also called dvija.The Sudras were never placed in the rank of the Aryans. The Aryans were considered to be free.The Sudras on the other hand were not free.

Vedic Literature

Early Vedic Literature

The word Veda is derived from the word 'vid'which means knowledge or wisdom. Vedas are the greatest gift by the Aryans to the Indian culture and civilization. Besides religion these Vedas throw light on the social and economic life of the Vedic and Later Vedic period. The term Vedic literature includes

1. The four Vedas
2. The Brahmanas attached to each Samhita
3. The Aranyakas
4. The Upanishads

Four Vedas

Rig Veda:

Collection of lyrics in praise of different gods recited by the priest called Hotri. It contains 1028 suktas divided into 10 mandalas.

Sama Veda:

All of its verses except 75 being taken from RIgVeda. It was1549 or 1810 shlokas which were sung on the holy occasion of Yajnas by the Udgatri priests.

Yajur Veda:

Deals with the procedure for the performance of sacrifices. It has 40 chapters and about 2000 mantras. It contains ritual as well as hymns recited by Adharvayu.

Atharva Veda:

It has 20 mandals, 731 richas and 5889 Mantras. It is known as Non Aryan work. It is a collection of songs, spells and incantations for the cure of disease, the restoration of harmony and exorcism of evil spirits etc.


They are ritual texts. The sole object of the authors was to speculate on and mystify minute details of Brahmanical sacrifices. There are separate Brahmanas for each Vedas.


They are the concluding portion of the Brahmanas. The literary meanings of Aranyaka is forest. They were written by sages in the forests. They deal with mysticism and symbolism.


Upanishads are usually called Vedanta. The later philosophers found in them the ultimate aim of the Veda. The Upanishads are 108 in number and have been written by different sages between the period from 1000-500 B

Vedas and their Brahmanas

1. Rig Veda - Aitereya and Kaushitaki Brahmana
2. Sama Veda- Tandya and Jaiminiya Brahmana
3. Yajur Veda - Taitteriya and Satpatha Brahmana
4. Atharva Veda - Gopatha Brahmana

Later Vedic Literature

The later Vedic literature includes the Vedangas, Sutras, Upavedas, Puranas, Dharamshastras and the Epics. This literature is also known as Smriti written by ordinary sages.

1. Vedangas
2. Sutras
3. Dharamshastras
4. Puranas
5. Epics


These are commentaries on the Vedas, they are six in number and deal with religious practices (kalpa), pronunciation (siksha), grammar (vyakarana), etymology (nirukta), meter(chhanda) and astronomy ( jyotish


The term sutra means thread. The first among the sutra literature is Srauta Sutra. It deals with Vedic sacrifices. Sulva Sutra prescribes various kinds of measurements for the construction of sacrificial altars. The Dharma Sutra deals with social duties. The Sutras have been divided into four parts

1. Srauta Sutra
2. Kalpa Sutra
3. Griha Sutra
4. Sulva Sutra


The Dharamshastras are treatise on dharma, civil and religious law. They are the main source of knowledge regarding Brahmanical institutions. These shastras reveal the working of the caste system in a rigid form. They throw light on the Hindu law, marriage, divorce, loans and partnerships various kinds of crimes and punishments and judicial procedure. The Dharamshastras mention the four Ashrams for the twice-born- Brahmacharya, Garhasthya, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa.


The Puranas are in Sanskrit. Puranas literally mean ancient stories. There are 18 Puranas in number. They give valuable information about the political history of ancient India. The most important Puranas are - Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana, Matsya Purana, Brahma Purana and Bhavishya Purana. Puranas are not completely trustworthy as they are at time exaggerated.


Epic age is supposed to have been synchronous with period between the post Rig Vedic and the period of Budhha. The two epics Mahabharata and Ramayana are excellent examples of Indian literature in verse. They throw light on the social and political life of the people of those times. Ramayana was composed by Maharishi Valmiki and consists of 24,000 slokas. The Mahabharata is India's biggest epic. It contains more than 1 lakh verses. The Bhagwadgita is also a part of the Mahabharata.

Life in the Rig Vedic Period

Rig Veda reveals that the Aryans possessed a large territory. The war of ten kings described in Rig Veda refers to many tribes and kingdoms of Rig Vedic India. The most important of them were the Bharatas. They were settled in the territory between the Saraswati and the Yamuna. Divodasa and Sudas were two important Bharata ruler. From the evidence of Rig Vedic texts it appears that monarchy was the prevalent form of government, although the concept of republics was also known. As a rule kingship was hereditary and monarchy was a system of government. But there are instances when the king owed his position to the choice of the people. The protection of the people was the primary duty of the king. Other duties of the king were to establish peace in his region to lead the army in battles, to dispense justice and to appoint priests to perform sacrifices and other sacred rites. In lieu of all these duties he received voluntary offerings from his subjects for administrative purposes. These were known as Bali. These offerings were made in kind and were both compulsory and voluntary.
The main income was derived from the booties collected in war. The king appointed various ministers for running the administration efficiently. The foremost among them was the Purohita. He was the guide, philopsher and friend of the king. Purohita was the domestic priest of the king. Vasishtha and Vishwamitra were two famous purohitas of the Rig Vedic times. The supreme commander of the armed forces was called Senani. In peacetimes the Senani discharged civil duties. The king appointed spies and dutas also. Spies gave him all the information about the people and the kingdom while dutas acted as ambassadors between the different states. The king's entourage also included the Senani and the Gramani who looked after the army and served as the village headman respectively. A very striking feature of the Rig Vedic polity was the institution of two political units known as the Samiti and the Sabha. The sabha is mentioned in many passages of the Rig-Veda as body of the elders. It was attended by persons of noble truth - Brahmanas and rich patrons.
It was as important as the samiti. The sabha acted as the national judicature. Various passages of Rig Veda refer to Samiti but they do not define its exact character and function. The Samiti was an ordinary assembly of the tribe and its members were called Visha. The king attended the Samiti. The most important work of the Samiti was to elect the king. Justice was based on Dharma. The king was the fountain head of justice. Main crimes of the age were theft, burglary, robbery, cheating etc. Cattle lifting was the commonest of all. Monetary compensation was given to the relatives of the man killed. To prove their innocence the criminals were subjected to fire and water ordeals. Aryans were skilled warriors. Main weapons of war were bow and arrow. Other weapons included swords, spears, axes and lances. Most of the wars were fought from bullock driven chariot. Horse riding was known. Cavalary as a military unit had not been formed. Local government played a more important part in the Rig Vedic days. The lowest unit of administration was the family or kul and its chief was known as Grihapati or Kulapati. A group pf families or kuls constituted a village which in the Rig Vedic days were called Grama. The village officer was called Gramini. The village head Gramini led the villagers in time of war and attended the meetings of the Sabha and Samiti. Several villages together formed a vis or clan and its chief was called Vispati. He was also a military leader and used to lead his clan in times of war under the guidance and instructions of the Rajan of the tribe. The tribe was known as the Jana and the head of the Jana was the Rajan who was constantly assisted by the Senani and the Purohita.

1. Social Life
2. Economic Life
3. Religious Life

Economic Life

The Rig Vedic economy was essentially agricultural economy. They introduced use of plough drawn by oxen and bulls. The ploughed land was called Urvara or Kshetra. The main source of irrigation was rain. The land was also irrigated by wells and small canals. Two crops were raised a year. Animal rearing was the second important occupation of the Aryans. There are references of herdsmen. Cows and bullocks constituted the chief form of wealth. Cow was considered a sacred animal and was called Aghnya (not to be killed). Animals was used to carry goods and agriculture. They reared sheep, goat, bulls, cow and dogs.
The carpenters were an important class in Rig Vedic society. Other important crafts of the Aryans were barbers, tailors, leather-workers, smiths, gold smiths; potters etc. They also introduced the Painted Grey Ware in north India. Trade and commerce also flourished in those days. Most of the trade in Rig Vedic days was in the hands of Panis. Trade was carried both by land and sea. Majority of the trade was carried on with the help of the barter system and cow was a standard unit of exchange. Later on coins of gold and silver called nishka, shatamana, rajata and raupya were used as currencies.

Economic Life

The Rig Vedic economy was essentially agricultural economy. They introduced use of plough drawn by oxen and bulls. The ploughed land was called Urvara or Kshetra. The main source of irrigation was rain. The land was also irrigated by wells and small canals. Two crops were raised a year. Animal rearing was the second important occupation of the Aryans. There are references of herdsmen. Cows and bullocks constituted the chief form of wealth. Cow was considered a sacred animal and was called Aghnya (not to be killed). Animals was used to carry goods and agriculture. They reared sheep, goat, bulls, cow and dogs.
The carpenters were an important class in Rig Vedic society. Other important crafts of the Aryans were barbers, tailors, leather-workers, smiths, gold smiths; potters etc. They also introduced the Painted Grey Ware in north India. Trade and commerce also flourished in those days. Most of the trade in Rig Vedic days was in the hands of Panis. Trade was carried both by land and sea. Majority of the trade was carried on with the help of the barter system and cow was a standard unit of exchange. Later on coins of gold and silver called nishka, shatamana, rajata and raupya were used as currencies.

Religious Life

Aryans lead a simple religious life. They continued to follow the faith and rituals which were prevalent among them before they arrived in India. They worshipped forces of nature. The number and importance of the goddesses was less as compared to the gods. The deities worshipped by the Rig Vedic Aryans were fairly numerous and they have been grouped under three heads-
Terrestrial Gods - Prithvi, Agni and Soma
Celestial Gods - Dyaus, Varuna, Surya
Atmospheric Gods - Indra, Vayu, Parjanya
To please these Gods Rig Vedic Aryans offered prayers and sacrifices. Milk, grain and ghee were offered in Yajnas. In these yajnas animal sacrifices were performed. Each sacrifice was performed by a Hotri priest who used to chant the Vedic hymns. The Aryans did not build temples to worship their gods; nor did they prepare idols of these gods. The Rig Vedic people believed in life after death.

Later Vedic Civilization

The main sources of information about this civilization are the Vedic texts which were compiled after the age of the Rig Veda. These were the Sam Veda Samhita, the Yajur Veda Samhita, Atharva Veda Samhita, Brahmanas and Upanishads. All these later Vedic texts were compiled in the upper Gangetic basin in 1000-500 BC. These texts show that the Aryans during the later Vedic period shifted from the North-West to the region of the Ganges and Yamuna. The whole of North India to Central India upto the river Narmada along with some regions south of the river comprised of Aryan influence. Archaeologists have excavated a site Hastinapur which belongs to this period between 1000 and 700 BC. The only available remains found are shreds of painted grey pottery, a few copper implements and traces of houses made of unbaked bricks.
1. Political life
2. Social Life & Caste System
3. Economic Life
4. Religious life

Political life

Kingship was a normal feature of the society. There are few references to elected kings otherwise most of the times the office was hereditary. There are references in the Atharva Veda regarding the election of the king by the people. The Brahmanas and the later Samhitas state that the king had divine origins. The kings started adopting various titles like Adhiraj, Rajadhiraj, Samrat, Ekarat, Virat and Savarat. The king was the head of the state and was above law but he was not a despotic ruler. He was dependent upon his ministers who were referred to as Ratnins. They performed Rajasuya and Asvamedha Yajnas to show the extent of their powers. The Rajsuya Yajna was performed at the time of the coronation of the king. It conferred supreme power on him. The most important Yajna was Ashvamedha Yajna. It meant unquestioned control over an area in which the royal horse ran uninterrupted. After the completion of this Yajna the king assumed the title of Chakravartin. It enhanced the power, prestige and prosperity of king. The king performed various duties such as administration, justice, extention of his territory, welfare of his subjects; fighting battles.
In lieu of his duties he received Bali, Sulk and Bhag as taxes. These taxes were roughly 1/6th of the income of his subjects. With the increase in power and income of the king the number of ministers also increased. The ministers were called Ratnins or the receiver of jewels offered by the king at the time of the ceremony. With the increase in royal power the sabha and samiti lost importance. They came under the influence of chiefs and rich nobles. With the expansion of the territories ordinary people could not travel long distance to attend the meetings. They could not remove the king from the power. Women were no longer permitted to sit in the sabhas.King was the fountain head of judiciary. Criminals were given more severe punishments as compared to the Vedic period. Capital punishments became prevalent. King appointed various ministers to dispense justice.Theft, robbery, adultery, abduction, killing of man, treachery and drinking intoxicating liquor were offences punishable with death.

Social Life

In the later Vedic period joint family system was prevalent. The families were patriarchial. Father was the head of the family and was very powerful. He could even disinherit his son. People worshipped their male ancestors. Another chief feature of the later Vedic period was the vanashram system. During this period life span of 100 years of a man was divided into four equal parts of 25 years each and different duties were assigned to him in different parts of life. These ashrams were-
1. Brahmacharya
2. Grahastha
3. Vanaprastha
4. Sanyasa
In the later Vedic period position of women declined. They were given a lower position in the society. They were considered inferior and subordinate to men. Women could not participate in the political assemblies. They no longer accompanied their husbands in religious yajnas. Marriage was considered a sacred bond. Woman was the mistress of the house and enjoyed respectable position in the household. Polygamy also prevailed. Education was provided independently by teachers in the ashrams maintained by them. The rich people and king gave large donations to the learned teachers. The main aim of education was to shape their character and prepare them for the future. Besides religion and philosophy other important subjects of study were arithmetic, logic, astrology, grammar, medicine and language. The art of writing had become known to the Aryans. Women were free to get education. There were women scholars also. Dress was similar to the early Vedic period. They wore cotton, woollen and silken clothes. Shoes were also used by the people. Both men and women wore ornaments. Aryans started wearing silver ornaments. The principal means of entertainment of this culture were music, dancing, dicing, hunting and chariot racing. The Aryans had built up cities during this period. Indraprastha, Hastinapur, Koshambi and Benaras had grown up as principal cities. They still led a moral and virtuous life.

Caste System

During the later Vedic period the caste system became very rigid. It was difficult to change one's caste but it was not absolutely impossible. The society had been divided into four main caste divisions- Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Brahmans emerged as the most important class. They performed the sacrifices and rituals for their clients. Kshatriyas came next and they were to fight wars, third position was occupied by Vaishyas and they carried trade and Shudras were considered the lowest among the four castes. They were to serve the other three castes. The first three castes called Dvija -twice born but Shudras were deprived of it. According to Satapatha Brahmana, Kshatriyas and Brahmans could marry women from the Vaishyas and Shudras but the Vaishyas and Shudras could not marry Brahmana and Kshatriya girls.

Economic Life

The Aryans in the later Vedic period had progressed and prospered economically. Agriculture was the chief means of livelihood of the later Vedic people. The Aryans had come to know about iron but very few agricultural tools made of iron have been found. Heavy ploughs were made from it. Vedic texts refer that 24 oxen were used to drag heavy and large ploughs. During this time rice and wheat became their chief crops. Other agricultural products were barley, cotton and various pulses. In Vedic texts rice is also called as Vrihi. Cattle rearing was second important occupation of the Aryans. They domesticated camel, cow, ox, elephant, sheep, horse, goat, donkey and dog. The number of animals represented the wealth of the people.
 During this period cow-worship increased and slaughter of cow was prohibited. Various arts and craft developed during this period. Weaving was done by women only but on a wide scale. The people were acquainted with four types of pottery -black and red ware, black slipped ware, painted grey ware and red ware. Other occupations of the Aryans were the goldsmith, leatherwork, the carpenter, blacksmith etc. Both internal and foreign trade had progressed. The Vedic texts refer to sea and sea voyages. This shows that now sea-borne trade was carried on by the Aryans. Money lending was a flourishing business. The references to the word Sreshthin indicates that there were rich traders and probably they were organized into guilds. The Aryans did not use coins but specific weights of gold were used for purposes of a gold currency- Satamana, Nishka, Kosambhi, Hastinapur, Kashi and Videha were regarded as renowned trade centres. Bullock carts were used to carry goods on land. For foreign trade boats and ships were used.

Religious life

Significant changes took place in religion and philosophy during this period. Many of the old gods lost their importance and new so called gods and goddesses rose in popularity. Rudra or Shiva, Vishnu or Narayan and Brahma or Prajapati became the most respected names in Godliness. Prajapati the creator or Brahma occupied the supreme position in the religion. Durga, Kali and Parvati were also worshipped. The Aryans started worshipping certain objects as symbols of divinity. Idol worship also began in this period. Rituals became more complex. Emphasis was laid on 40 samskaras. Sacrifices became more important and now they were being performed by priests only. This was done to maintain the supremacy of the Brahmanas and the Kshatriyas in the society. No ceremony was considered complete in the absence of a purohita. Therefore they got a special status in the society. The chief priests who were engaged in performing sacrifices were -Horti the invoker, Adhvaryu-the executor, Udgatri-the singer. The chief priest received voluntary offerings from the people called Bali.
New beliefs were born among the Aryans who started believing in the attainment of Nirvana through Gyan or the knowledge. The Upanishads criticized the rituals and laid stress on the value of right belief and knowledge. The conception of the material world as Maya or illusion also gained currency during this later Vedic age. Thus the tenets of Hinduism - Moksha, Karma and Maya were enunciated by the seers of the later Vedic period.

Things to remember

·  It is believed that before the coming of the Aryans in India the greater part of northern and north-western India was inhabited by a group of people known as Dravidians
·  The Dravidians could not meet challenge and hence gradually moved southwards. The horse played a very important role in the lives of the Aryans.
·  There is no trace of totemism and animal worship.
·  Rig Veda is collection of 1017 hymns supplemented by 11 others called Valakhilyas. Purusukta theory developed in the later Vedic period.
·  The first three Vedas - Rig, Sam and Yajur Veda are collectively known as Trayi.
·  The word Arya comes from the root word meaning to cultivate and Aryans as a whole were agriculturists who considered agriculture a noble profession or occupation.
·  In the later Vedic period the purohita or priest was described as the rashtragopa or the protector of the realm of the raja.
·  The king in later Vedic age performed Rajsuya sacrifice which was supposed to confer supreme power on him. The king also performed Vajpeya or the chariot race. The ritual lasted for 17 days and it was supposed to elevate him from the position of Raja to that of Samrat.
·  Indra and Varuna lost their previous importance and prajapati attained the supreme position in later Vedic age.
·  Pushan became the God of Sudras.
·  Rudra and Vishnu became more important than before.

Pre Mauryan Period

1. Formation of states
2.The Sixteen Mahajanapadas
3. Republics
4. Rise of urban centres
5. Haryanka dynasty
6. Shishunaga dynasty
7. Nanda dynasty

Formation of states

In the later Vedic period the tribal organizations changed its identity and gradually shifted to the territorial identity. This territorial identity was gradually strengthened in the 600 BC with the rise of large states. The formation of bigger kingdoms made the king or the chief more powerful. Tribal authority became territorial and towns became the seat of the power. Instead of copper weapons the kings started using iron weapons and horse drawn chriots. Therefore from the 6th century BC the widespread use of iron in eastern UP and western Bihar led to the formation of large territorial states.

The new agricultural tools and implements enabled the peasants to produce a good amount of surplus which not only met the military needs but also the administrative requirements. The people became content with these material advantages and started settling permanently in their land. Towns came into existence as centres of industry and trade. People owed their allegiance to the territory to which they belonged and not to the Jana or the tribe to which they belonged. These areas of settlements were now regarded as janapadas or states. In transition from tribe to monarchy, janapadas lost the essential democratic pattern of the tribe but retained the idea of government through an assembly representing the tribes. These states consisted of either a single tribe such as Shakyas, Koliyas, Mallas etc or a confederacy of tribes such as Vrijis, Yadavas, Panchalas etc. Each janapada or state tried to dominate and subjugate other janapada to become mahajanapadas.

The Sixteen Mahajanapadas

The sixteen century BC is often regarded as a major turning point in early Indian history. It is an era associated with early states, cities; the growing use of iron, the development of coinage etc. It also witnessed the growth of diverse systems of thought including Buddhism and Jainism. Early Buddhist and Jaina texts mention amongst other things, sixteen states known as Mahajanpadas. Although the lists vary, some names such as Vajji, Magadha, Koshala, Kuru, Panchala, Gandhara and Avanti occur frequently. Clearly these were amongst the most important Mahajanpadas. While most Mahajanpadas were ruled by kings some known as ganas or sanghas were oligarchies where power was shared by a number of men often collectively called rajas. Both Mahavira and the Buddha belonged to such ganas. In some instances as in the case of the Vajji sangha the rajas probably controlled resources such as land collectively. Each mahajanpada had a capital city which was later fortified.
1. Anga
2. Magadha
3. Kasi
4. Kosala
5. Vajji
6. Malla
7. Cheti
8. Vatsa
9. Kuru
10. Panchala
11. Matsya
12. Surasena
13. Assaka
14. Avanti
15. Gandhara
16. Kamboja


It roughly covered the modern districts of Monghyr and Bhagalpur. It had its capital at Champa. A mud fort belonging to 5th century BC has been found here. It was noted for its wealth and commerce


It covered the modern districts of Patna, Gaya and parts of Shahabad. Its capital was Rajgriha. The earliest dynasty of Magadha was founded by Brihadratha. It grew to be the leading state under Bimbisara and Ajatshastru


It was situated on the banks of Ganges and on the confluence of Varuna and Asi. With its capital at Banaras, Kasi was at first the most powerful among the 16 states. It was involved in frequent wars with Kosala, Magadha and Anga.


With its capital at Sharavasti it covered the present districts of Faizabad, Gonda, Bahraich etc. One of the important cities of Kosala was Ayodhya. Kosala also included the tribal republican territory of Shakays of Kapilvastu.


It was a confederacy of 8 republican clans of whom the Videhans, the Lichchhavis, the Jnatrikas and the Vrijjis were the most important. It was a republican state in the time of Mahavira and Buddha. The powerful of them were the Lichchhavis with their capital at Vaishali.


It was situated north of Vajji state. It was a republican confederacy covering the moder n districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur and Siddharthnagar in eastern UP. Malla state was divided into two parts. The capital of the one was Kushinagar and of the other was Pa


It was situated on the bank of river Ken, its capital was Shuktimati. It was in the present region of Bundelkhand. It was one of the ancient tribes.


It covered the modern districts of Allahabad, Mirzapur etc. It had a monarchical form of government. Its capital was Kaushambi. The Vatsas were a Kuru clan who had shifted from Hastinapur and settled down at Kaushambi.


It covered the modern Haryana and Delhi to the west of river Yamuna with its capital at Indraprastha. It was the most important kingdom of the later Vedic period but during the 6th century BC they lost their political importance.


It was another important kingdom of the later Vedic period which lost its importance during the 6th cen BC. It covered the area of western UP up to the east of river Yamuna in the Kosala janapada with its capital at Kapila.


Its capital was Virat Nagari. It extended in regions of Jaipur, Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan.


It was situated in the south of Matsya state with its capital at Mathura


It was situated between the rivers Narmada and Godawari with its capital at Potana.


It was a big kingdom with its capital at Ujjaini. It was covered up to Malwa and MP. It ecame an important centre of Buddhism.


It covered the modern district of Rawalpindi and Peshawar. Its capital was Taxila. Taxila was not only an important trading centre but also a seat of learning.


During the early period Kamboja was ruled by the kings but during the Kautiliya's time it transformed from a monarchy to republic. In the sixth century BC only 4 states -Avanti, Vatsa, Kosala and Magadha survived. The political history of India from the 6th century BC onwards is the history of struggles between these states for supremacy. Ultimately the kingdom of Magadha emerged to be the most powerful and succeeded in founding an empire.


According Romila Thapar the republics grew out of monarchies. The more independent Aryans rebelled against the monarchical rule and established republics which were more in keeping with the tribal traditions. While some say republics predated monarchies. In ancient India these republics were given the term gana and sangha. According Panini the term 'samgha' and 'gana' had the same meaning. The Arthsashtra of Kautilya mentions a number of republics including those of Lichchhavis, the Vrijikas,the Kuru,the Panchalas, the kamboj etc. The most prominent and powerful of these republics was that of the Lichchhavis. It had its capital at Vaisali. Even the Greek writers are of the opinion that a large number of republics existed in India at the time of Alexander's invasion. The Buddhist literature is another source of these republics. It refers to a large number of republics which covered the area to the east of the kingdoms of Kosala and Kausambhi and to the west of Anga, to the north of Magadha and the south of the Himalayas. The republics were basically of two types-the republics comprising a single tribe like those of the Sakyas, the Kolias and the Mallas and the republics comprising a number of tribes or the republics of confederacy like the Vrijjis.
Government of the Republics: The kings in these states had the supreme authority. These republics or sanghs were governed on democratic lines. A chief was elected to act as the president of the administrative council. The administrative and the judicial matters of the republics were carried out in public assembly at which young and old are alike present in the common hall at Kapilavastu. It was called as Santhagara. The assembly of the people could also be called on special occasions. The president of the council was called a Raja. It is not known as to how he was elected and for how long he ruled but it appears that the office was not hereditary. The local administration was carried by local assemblies which played an important role in the administration of the state. In some of these republics villages were organized on professional basis e.g the potter, smiths of the clan used to have separate villages of their own. The small republics were gradually losing their importance and were being over-shadowed by kingdoms like Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala, Magadha etc. Soon the leadership became hereditary in certain families. The leaders took up the titles of Maharajas and Mahasenapatis in the 4th century. The ancient Indian republics flourished in Mauryan times and survived up to Gupta period.

Rise of Urban centres

The 6th century BC saw the growth of towns in every part of India. The establishment of big empires was one reason of the growth of town because several towns were built up as capital cities of empires while several others grew as centres of trade. The urban life was prosperous. The towns were populous and soon became markets and habitats of artisans and traders. These towns were encircled by four walls. The buildings were built of bricks and mud. The rich lived in ornamented and big houses. Wood was sufficiently used in the buildings. In Pali and Sanskrit text there are references to cities like Kaushambi, Sravasti, Patliputra, Kapilavastu, Varanasi, Vaishali etc. Most of these cities originated on river banks and trading routes and they were well connected with one another e.g Sravasti was well linked with Kaushambi and Varanasi. These towns became not only the centres of trade but centres of industries as well.

Haryanka Dynasty

Bimbisara (545-493 BC) Magadha came into prominence under the leadership of Bimbisara who belonged to Haryanka dynasty. He was a man of determination and political foresight. He became the king in second half of the 6th century BC. He added to the prestige and strength of Magadha by his policy of matrimonial alliance and annexations. Marriage relations with different princely families gave enormous diplomatic prestige and paved the way for the expansion of Magadha westward and eastward. Bimbisara built his capital at Rajgir which was called Girivraja at that time. It was surrounded by five hills and cyclopean walls which are examples of earliest Indian stone architecture. Bimbisara for the first time laid down the foundation of an efficient administration in Magadha. He himself appointed the ministers and never ignored their advice.
Officers were divided into various categories according to their work and the beginning of an administrative system took root. The chief officers were known as Mahamantras the executive as Sabhatthaka who was in charge of all affairs and interests; the judicial officer as Voharika and the military officer as Senanayak. The head of a village was called Gramika. A lot of autonomy was given to various provinces in the kingdoms. He constructed several canals and roads appointed several new officers for the regular collection of revenue. It helped him in increasing his financial resources and military strength. Both Jains and Buddhists claim Bimbisara as a follower of their respective religions. It is stated in the Mahavamsa that Bimbisara ruled for 52 years. Ajatashatru the son murdered his father in about 493 BC and became the king.
1. Bimbisara
2. Ajatsatru
3. Successors of Ajats

Bimbisara (545-493 BC)

Magadha came into prominence under the leadership of Bimbisara who belonged to Haryanka dynasty. He was a man of determination and political foresight. He became the king in second half of the 6th century BC. He added to the prestige and strength of Magadha by his policy of matrimonial alliance and annexations. Marriage relations with different princely families gave enormous diplomatic prestige and paved the way for the expansion of Magadha westward and eastward. Bimbisara built his capital at Rajgir which was called Girivraja at that time. It was surrounded by five hills and cyclopean walls which are examples of earliest Indian stone architecture. Bimbisara for the first time laid down the foundation of an efficient administration in Magadha.
He himself appointed the ministers and never ignored their advice. Officers were divided into various categories according to their work and the beginning of an administrative system took root. The chief officers were known as Mahamantras the executive as Sabhatthaka who was in charge of all affairs and interests; the judicial officer as Voharika and the military officer as Senanayak. The head of a village was called Gramika. A lot of autonomy was given to various provinces in the kingdoms. He constructed several canals and roads appointed several new officers for the regular collection of revenue. It helped him in increasing his financial resources and military strength. Both Jains and Buddhists claim Bimbisara as a follower of their respective religions. It is stated in the Mahavamsa that Bimbisara ruled for 52 years. Ajatashatru the son murdered his father in about 493 BC and became the king.


Ajatsatru is stated to have ruled from 493 BC to 461 BC. It was during his reign that the Haryanka dynasty reached its highest watermark. He continued his father's policy of expansion through military conquests. He turned his attention to the north and the west. His first campaign was against Kosala. The war remained indecisive for a long time and ultimately the ruler of Kosala ended his conflict with Ajatsatru. The war with Vriji confederacy continued for 16 years. Finally Magadha was victorious and was recognized as the most powerful force in eastern India. Ajatsatru was of liberal religious opinion. jaina texts represent him as a Jaina and Buddhist texts as a Buddhist. he was probably inclined to Jainism but later on became Buddhist.The first General Council of the Buddhist was held under his patronage near Rajgriya. He also built several Buddhist Chaitayas. he died in 461 BC and was succeeded by five kings. The Ceylonese Buddhist Chronicle called Mahavamsa tells us that all of them ascended the throne after killing their fathers.

Successors of Ajatsatru (462-413 BC)

Ajatsatru was succeeded by his son Udayabhadra. The rivalry between Magadha and Avanti continued his time. He was at constant war with Avanti whose king Palaka was defeated by him. He built a town called Kusumapura and a Jain Chaityagriha inside it. According to Buddhist texts Deepvamsa and Mahavamsa, Udayabhadra was succeeded by Anurudha, Munda and Nagadasaka respectively. None of them proved himself capable of ruling and according to the Buddhist texts each of them was a patricide. The people of Magadha deposed the last five in 413 BC and appointed a Viceroy Shishunaga as King.

Shishunaga Dynasty

According to the Ceylon chronicles he was placed on the throne by the people rebelling against the previous kings. He was the King's Amatya or Minister. But he had gained respect under the weak successors of Ajatsatru and probably became the ruler in 413 BC. he proved to be a capable ruler and extended the territories of Magadha. The neighbouring rival state of Avanti, Vatsa and Kosala were defeated by him and their territories annexed to Magadha. He ruled for 18 years.

1. Shishunaga
2. Kalasoka


According to the Ceylon chronicles he was placed on the throne by the people rebelling against the previous kings. He was the King's Amatya or Minister. But he had gained respect under the weak successors of Ajatsatru and probably became the ruler in 413 BC. He proved to be a capable ruler and extended the territories of Magadha. The neighbouring rival state of Avanti, Vatsa and Kosala were defeated by him and their territories annexed to Magadha. He ruled for 18 years.


Sishunaga was succeeded by his son Kalasoka in 395 BC. He transferred his capital from Vaishali to Patliputra. The second Buddhist General Council was held during his time at Vaishali. He ruled for 28 years. According to the Buddhist literature Mahavamsa the 10 sons of Kalasoka ruled one after the other for 22 years. The Shishunaga dynasty came to an end in 344 BC.

Nanda Dynasty

The Nandas were the successors of the Shishunaga dynasty. The Puranas refer to 9 Nandas. The Mahabodhivamsa also refer to nine Nandas and their names are Ugrasena, Pundak, Pandugati, Bhootpal, Rashtrapal, Govishank, DasSiddhak, Kaivest and Dhan. The Puranas describe the first Nanda king named Mahapadma as the son of a Shudra mother while the Greeks say that he was born of the union of a barber with a courtesan. Mahapadmananda according to Puranas destroyed all kshatriya rulers. The Nandas belonged to castes other than Kshatriya. He defeated the kingdoms of Aikshvakus, Panchalas, Kasis, Haihayas, Kalinga, Asmaka, Kuru, Maithilas, Sursenas etc and annexed these territories to Magadha. He has been described as Eka-rata or sole sovereign.

The Nandas succeeded in establishing a great empire which covered a large part of northern India and part of the south. Little is known about the history of Nandas after Mahapadmananda except the last ruler Dhana Nanda. It is accepted by all that nine rulers of Nanda dynasty ruled over Magadha. Dhan Nanda was the last ruler of this dynasty. During his time Alexander invaded India. He was a powerful king and kept a large army. He was unpopular among his subjects by means of excessive taxation and extraction. Chandragupta Maurya took advantage of his unpopularity and misgoverance and succeeded in killing him and captured the throne of Magadha.

The Mauryan Empire:

1. Magadha
2. Mauryans
3. Sources of Mauryan History
4. Causes of Magadhan Supremacy
5. Chandragupta Maurya
6. Bindusara
7. Ashoka
8. Kalinga war and its impact
9. Dhamma of Ashoka
10. Policy and Administration
11. City Administration
12. Economic Activities
13. Society and Culture
14. Art and Architecture
15. Pillar and Sculpture
16. Decline of Mauryan Empire
17. Moral Codes of Ashoka
18. Ashoka's 14 Rock Edicts
19. Categories of Ashoka's Inscriptions
20. Later Mauryas


Between the sixth and the fourth centuries BC Magadha became the most powerful Mahajanapda. Modern historians explain this development in a variety of ways: Magadha was a region where agriculture was especially productive. Besides iron mines were accessible and provided resources for tools and weapons. Elephants an important component of the army was found in forests in the region. Also the Ganga and its tributaries provided a means of cheap and convenient communication. However early Buddhist and Jaina writers who wrote about Magdha attributed its power to the policies of individual's ruthlessly ambitious kings of whom Bimbisara, Ajatshastru and Mahapadma Nanda are the best known and their ministers who helped implement their policies. Initially Rajagaha was the capital of Magadha.
The old name means house of the king. Rajagaha was a fortified settlement located amongst hills later in the fourth century BC the capital was shifted to Patliputra commanding routes of communication along the Ganga.


The Mauryan Empire was the first and one of the greatest empires that were established on Indian soil. The vast Mauryan Empire stretching from the valley of the Oxus to the delta of Kaveri was given a well knit common administration. Chandragupta Maurya was the first ruler who unified entire India under one political unit. About Mauryan rulers we have epigraphically sources, literary sources, foreign accounts and materials obtained from archaeological excavations. The Arthashastra gives us detailed information about the administrative system of the Mauryan Empire. The work was written by Kautilya who is also known as Chanakya. Some scholars think that Kautilya was the real architect of the Mauryan Empire and was also the prime minister of Chandragupta Maurya.
Megasthenese the Greek ambassador from the court of Selectus to that of Chandragupta Maurya wrote accounts of India and Indian people. His book 'Indica' is lost but some fragments of it are known to us in the form of quotations in the works of the later Greek writers. However the most important and authentic source for the history of Mauryan period is provided by the inscriptions of Ash

Sources of Mauryan History

1. Epigraphical Evidences

2. Literary Sources

3. Foreign sources

4. Archaeological excavations

5. Numismatic Evidence

6. Evidences from Art and Architecture

Epigraphical Evidences

The most authentic source of Mauryan history is the epigraphical evidence. The edicts of Ashoka are the oldest, the best preserved and the most precisely dated epigraphic records of India. The inscriptions are engraved on rocks, boulders, cave walls and pillars of stone. The inscriptions of Ashoka are of two kinds -the smaller group consists of declaration of the king as a lay Buddhist to his church. These describe his own acceptance of Buddhism and his relationship with the Samgha. The second group of important inscriptions consists of Major and Minor rock edicts and the pillar edicts.

They describe his famous policy of Dhamma. These inscriptions were installed in prominent places either near towns or on important trade and travel routes or in the proximity of religious centres and places of religious importance.

Literary Sources

Of the religious sources the Buddhist and Jain traditions the early Dharmashastra are of great importance. The Ashokavadana and Divyavadana are two Buddhist texts containing information about Bindusara, Ashoka's expeditions to Taxila to suppress a rebellion and about his conversion to Buddhism. DipVamsa and Maha Vamsa describe in detail the role played by Ashoka in the spreading of Buddhism in SriLanka. Chaitra or Parisisthaparvan (biography of Chanakya) of Hemachandra provides very interesting information on Chandra Gupta Maurya.

Amongst the Brahmanical works the Puranas give information on the history of the Mauryas. Megasthenese 's Indica is another source in which he had described the physical features of the country-soil, climate, animals and plants, its government and religion, the manners of the people and their art.
This book in original form has been lost. But most passages have been preserved in form of epitomes and quotations which are found scattered here and there in the later writings of various Greek and Roman authors such as Strabo, Arrian and Plinius. Another important source which gives valuable information on the Mauryan period is the Arthashastra. It is believed to be the work of Vishnu Gupta Kautilya also known as Chanakya. He was the chief advisor of Chandragupta Maurya. His book Arthashastra is a standard work on politics and art of government.

It is considered to be the most valuable work in the field of secular literature. Mudra Rakshasa is another important work which throws some light on Chandragupta Maurya's career. It is a drama written by Vaisakha Dutta in the Gupta period. The author collected all the information available to him in the 5th century AD. This drama gives the detail of the revolution by which Chandragupta Maurya overthrew the Nandas. It also mentioned that Chandragupta belonged to a low caste

Foreign sources

As a sequence of Alexander's invasions of India a number of Greek travellers visited India. They gave valuable information of India to the outside world. Neachus was deputed by Alexander to explore the coast between the Indus and the Persian Gulf. Onesicritus took part in the voyage with Neachus and afterwards wrote a book about the voyage and India. Megasthanese was sent as an ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya by Seleucus Nikator the Greek ruler of Persia. His account about Mauryan India is compiled in Indika.

Archaeological excavations

Archaeological excavations have been conducted at a number of Mauryan sites. Excavations at Kaushambi, Rajagriha, Patliputra, Hastinapur, and Taxila have helped us to reconstruct the historical development of the period.

Numismatic Evidence

The Mauryan empire was based on the money economy.Kautilya refers to suvarna, silver pana and copper mashaka as a token currency. A horde of punch marked silver coins were found at Golakhpur at a site of ancient Patliputra belonging to Pre-Mauryan times. Most of these coins have only symbols like tree in railing, sun, moon, mountain, and animals, birds etc punched or stamped on them. These symbols on the coins had probably some connection with local commerce such as the guilds, local or provincial administration, the royal and dynastic symbols etc. The sites from where these coins have been found imply that these places were inhabited during the Mauryan period.

Evidences from Art and Architecture

The Mauryan Art remains include chaityas, viharas, stupas, animal capitals surmounting the pillars. On some pillars the Edicts were inscribed. These remains give us an information about the material used at that time about the craftsmanship, about the peaceful times, efficient administration, religion of the king and people etc. From these stupas, pillars, caves we can see the progress of Mauryan art in different spheres like architecture, sculpture, art of polishing, engineering and art of ornamentation.

Causes of Magadhan Supremacy

The kingdom of Magadha rose to pre-eminence during the period of Bimbisara and became the first great empire in India by the time of Nanda. Magadha occupied a strategic position of geographical importance. It was bound on the north and west by the river Ganges and Son on the south by the spurs of the Vindhyas and on the east by the river Champa. In this way it was safe from all four sides. Even its two capitals Rajgriha and Patliputra were situated at a strategic position from a geographic viewpoint. Its first capital Rajagriha was surrounded by five hills forming a natural defence. While its second capital Pataliputra being at the junction of the Ganges and the Son had natural means of defence.

Natural resources were also favourable to Magadha. The rich iron deposits were situated not far away from Rajgir. It was from this that its rulers could make effective and strong weapons. Its adversaries lacked reserves of iron ore and could not equip themselves with weapons of such high quality. Hence they were easily defeated by Magadhan rulers. Thus the local iron ore deposits made possible better implements and weapons and a profitable trade in iron.
 The land of Magadha was also fertile which yielded rich harvests. Heavy rainfall made the land more productive even without irrigation. They produced varieties of paddy which are mentioned in the early Buddhist texts. Land taxes could be kept high which proved to be regular and substantial source of income to the state without which the maintenance of a big army could not be possible and the empire could neither be built nor consolidated. Neighbouring forests provided timber for buildings and elephants for the army.

Chandragupta Maurya (324-300 BC)

The Buddhist sources like Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa describe Chandragupta Maurya as a scion of the Kshatriya clan of the Moriyas branch of Sakyas who lived in Pipphalivana in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The Mudrarakshasa a play written by Vishakha Datta uses the terms like Vrishla and Kulahina for Chandragupta which mean a person of humble origin. Tuskin a Greek writer also says that Chandragupta was born in humble life. According to Buddhist sources Chandragupta's father was killed in a battle and he was brought up by his maternal uncle. Chanakya finding the signs of royalty in the child Chandragupta took him as his pupil and educated him at Taxila which was then a great centre of learning. Chandragupta's early life and education at Taxila is indirectly proved by the fact that the Greek sources says that he had seen Alexander in course of the latter's campaign of Punjab.

The details of Chandragupta's conquests and empire building process are not available. From the Greek and Jain sources it seems that Chandragupta took advantage of the disturbances caused by the invasion of Alexander and his sudden death in 232 BC in Babylon. He first overthrew the Greek Kshatrapas ruling in the region of north-western India. After liberating north-western India from the Greek rule, Chandragupta defeated the Nanda King and captured him. After defeating Nanda, Chandragupta became the ruler of the Magadha Empire. Chandragupta's western and southern Indian conquests are known through indirect evidences.

The Junagarh rock inscription of Rudradaman says that a dam on the Sudarshana Lake for irrigation was constructed by Pushyagupta a provinicial governor of Chandragupta Maurya. Later Yavanaraja Tushapha excavated canals for irrigation during Ashoka's reign. Similarly the find of Ashokan inscriptions at Girnar hills in Junagarh district in Gujarat and at Sopara Thane dist Maharashtra shows that these areas formed part of Mauryan empire. Ashoka's inscription have been found at Maski, Yerragudi and Chitaldurga in Karnataka.
Rock Edict II and XIII of Ashoka mentions that his immediate neighbouring states were those of Cholas, Pandyas, Satyaputras and Keralaputras. Since Ashoka and his father Bindusara are not known to have made conquest in South India it can be said that it was conquered by Chandragupta. This conclusion is further strengthened by the Jain tradition which says that in his old age Chandragupta abdicated the throne and retired to Sravangola in Karnataka with his teacher the Jain ascetic Bhadrbahu. Local inscriptions of later period refer to his giving his life as a devout Jaina by fast unto death at that place. Chandragupta defeated the invading army of the Greek Kshatrapa Seleucus who had succeeded Alexander in the eastern part of his empire.

This victory was achieved in about 305 BC. The Greek writers don't give details of the war but state that a treaty was concluded in which Seleucus conceded the territories of Kandahar, Kabul, Herat and Baluchistan and Chandragupta presented him with 500 elephants. This also led to the matrimonial alliance between the two perhaps Seleucus married his daughter to Chandragupta Maurya or to his son Bindusara. Seleucus sent Megasthenese as his ambassador to the court of Chandragupta. Chandragupta established a vast empire which with the exception of Kalinga extended from Afghanistan in the west of Assam in the east and from Kashmir in north to Karnataka in south. This is indirectly proved by the find spots of the edicts of his grandson Ashoka. Ashoka is said to have added only Kalinga to the Mauryan Empire and there is no definite evidence that his father Bindusara made only conquests at all. Chandragupta Maurya is said to have ruled for 24 years from 324 BC to 300 BC

Bindusara (300-273 BC)

Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded by his son Bindusara. The Jain scholar Hemachandra and Tibetan historian Taranath say that Chanakya outlived Chandragupta and continued as a minister of Bindusara. From Divyavadana it come to know that Bindusara appointed his eldest son Sumana as his viceroy at Taxila and Ashoka at Ujjain.

It also tells that a revolt broke out at Taxila and when it could not be suppressed by Susima Ashoka was sent to restore peace. Some scholars give the credit of south India conquest to Bindusara but most scholars believe that this was done by his father Chandragupta Maurya. Bindusara continued the policy of friendly relations with Hellenic world. Pling mentions that Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt sent Dionysius as his ambassador to his court.

Ashoka (273- 232 BC)

After the death of Bindusara in 273 BC Ashoka succeeded to the throne. According to the Buddhist sources his mother was Janapada Kalyani or Subhadrangi. As a prince he served as a victory first at Ujjain and then at Taxila. According to the Buddhist tradition Ashoka was very cruel in his early life and captured the throne after killing his 99 brothers. Ashoka is the first king in the Indian history who has left his records engraved on stones. The history of Ashoka and his reign can be reconstructed with the help of these inscriptions and some other literary sources. The inscriptions on rocks are called Rock edicts and those on pillars, Pillar edicts.
The Ashokan inscriptions are found in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afganistan. Altogether they appear at 47 places. However the name of Ashoka occurs only in copies of Minor Rock Edict I found at three places in Karnataka and one in MP. All other inscriptions refer to him as devanampiya (beloved of the gods) and piyadasi. The inscriptions of Ashoka were written in different scripts. In Afghanistan they were written in Greek and Aramaic languages and script and in Pakistan area in Prakrit language and Kharosthi script. Inscriptions from all other places are in Prakrit language written in Brahmi script.

Kalinga war and its impact

The earliest event of Ashoka's reign recorded in his inscription is his conquest of Kalinga (modern Orissa) in the 8th year of his reign. This turned out to be first and also the last battle fought by him. The Rock Edict III describes vividly the horrors and miseries of this war and its impact on Ashoka. According to this edict one lakh people were killed in this war, several lakhs perished and lakh and a half were taken prisoners. He felt great remorse for the atrocities the war brought in its wake.

He thus abandoned the policy of aggression and tired to conquer the hearts of the people. The drums declaring wars were replaced by the drums announcing ethical and moral principals with dhamma ghasa. He sent ambassadors of peace to the Greek Kingdoms in West Asia and several other countries. Within the empire he appointed a class of officers known as rejjukas who were vested with the authority of not only rewarding people but also punishing them if required.
He thus abandoned the policy of aggression and tired to conquer the hearts of the people. The drums declaring wars were replaced by the drums announcing ethical and moral principals with dhamma ghasa. He sent ambassadors of peace to the Greek Kingdoms in West Asia and several other countries. Within the empire he appointed a class of officers known as rejjukas who were vested with the authority of not only rewarding people but also punishing them if required.

Dhamma of Ashoka

There is no doubt that Ashoka's personal religion was Buddhism. In his Bhabru edict he says he had full faith in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. He showed respect to all sects and faiths and believed in using among ethical and moral values of all sects. In Rock Edict VII he says all seeks desire both self control and purity of mind. In Rock Edict XII he pronounces his policy of equal respect to all religious sects more clearly.

The Dhamma as explained in Ashoka's edicts is not a religion or a religious system but a moral law, a common code of conduct or an ethical order. In Pillar Edict II Ashoka himself puts the question what is Dhamma? Then he enumerates two basic attributes or constituents of Dhamma: less evil and many good deeds. He says such evils as rage, cruelty, anger, pride and envy are to be avoided and many good deeds like kindness, liberty, truthfulness, gentleness, selfcontrol, purity of heart, attachment to morality, inner and outer purity etc are to be pursued vigorously. Ashoka established hospitals for humans and animals and made liberal donations to the Brahmans and ascetics of different religious sects.
He erected rest houses, caused wells to be dug and trees to be planted along the roads. Ashoka took for the propagation of Buddhism. He conducted Dharamyatras and instructed his officials to do the same. He appointed special class of officials called Dharamahamatras whose sole responsibility was to propagate Dhamma among the people. Ashoka sent missions to foreign countries also to propagate dhamma. His missionaries went to western Asia, Egypt and Eastern Europe. Of the Foreign kings whose kingdoms thus received the message of Buddhism five are mentioned in the inscriptions of Ashoka namely Antiochus, Syria and Western Asia, Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt, Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia, Megas of Cyrene and Alexander of Epirus. Ashoka even sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to propagate Buddhism in Srilanka.

Policy and Administration

The Mauryan Empire was one of the largest in the whole of the ancient world. It ushered in a centralized form of government. From the Arthashastra Ashokan inscription and from the fragments available from Megasthense's account there have a good idea about the various aspects of administration, economy, society and religion of the people. The king was head of the state. He had judicial, legislative and executive powers. The king issued what was known as sasana or ordinances. The edicts of Ashoka are examples of the sansanas. The king was assisted in administration by a council of ministers (mantriparishad). Besides there were some referred as Adhyakshas (superintendents).
 Kautilya refers to a large number of superintendents like those of gold, store houses, commerce, agriculture, ships, cows, horses, chariots, infantry, the city etc. In the Maurya administration there was an officer called yukta who was perhaps the subordinate officer in charge of the revenues of the king.

The rajjukas were officers responsible for land measurement and fixing their boundaries. They were also given power to punish the guilty and set free the innocents. Another officer of the Mauryan Administration was pradeshikas. Some scholars think that he was responsible for the collection of revenue while others think that he was the provincial governor. The Mauryan Empire was divided into provinces. During the reigns of Bindusara, Ashoka was posted at Ujjain as Governor of the Avanti region while his Brother Susima was posted at Taxila as the governor of the north-western provinces. Provinces were subdivided into the district each of these was further divided into groups of the villages and the final unit of administration was the village. The important provinces were directly under kumara (princes). According to the Junagarh rock inscription of Rudradaman, Saurashtra was governed by vaisya Pushyagupta at the time of Chandragupta Maurya and by Yavana-raja Tushaspa at the time of Ashoka both provincial governors.

A group of officials worked in each district. The pradeshika was the head of district administration who toured the entire district every five years to inspect the administration of areas five years to impact the administration of areas under his control. The rajjuka was responsible for surveying and assessing the land, fixing its rent and record keeping besides judicial functions. The duties of yukta largely comprised secretarial work collection and accounting of revenue etc. There were intermediate levels of administration between district and that of village. This unit comprised five to ten or more villages. The village was the smallest unit of administration. The head of the village was called gramika who was assisted in village administration by village elders. It is difficult to say whether the gramika was a paid servant or was elected by the village people. The villages enjoyed considerable autonomy. Most of the disputes of the village were settled by gramika with the help of village assembly. The Arthashastra mentions a wide range of scales in salary, the highest being 48000 panas and the lowest 60 panas.

City Administration

A number of cities such as Pataliputra, Taxila, Ujjain, Tosali, Suvarnagiri, Samapa, Isila and Kausambi are mentioned in the edicts of Ashoka. The Arthashastra has a full chapter on the administration of cities. Megasthenese has described in detail the administration of Pataliputra and it can be safely presumed that similar administration system was followed in most of the Mauryan cities. Megasthenese described that the city of Pataliputra was administered by a city council comprising 30 members. These 30 members were divided into a board of five members each. Each of these boards had specific responsibilities towards the administration of city. The first board was concerned with the industrial and artistic produce. Its duties included fixing of wages, check the adulteration etc. The second board dealt with the affairs of the visitors especially outsiders who came to Pataliputra. The third board was concerned with the registration of birth and death.
The fourth board regulated trade and commerce kept a vigil on the manufactured goods and sales of commodities. The fifth board was responsible for the supervision of manufacture of goods. The sixth board collected taxes as per the value of sold goods. The tax was normally 1/10th of the sold goods. The city council appointed officers who looked after the public welfare such as maintenance and repairs of roads, markets, hospitals, temples, educational institutions, sanitation, water supplies etc. The officer in charge of the city was known as Nagarka. The administrative machinery of the Mauryan state was fairly developed and well organized. Numerous depts regulated and controlled the activities of the state. Several important depts that Kautilya mentions are accounts, revenue, mines and minerals, chariots, customs and taxation.

Economic Activities

The Mauryan state concerned machinery which governed vast areas directly and to enforce the rules and regulations in respect of agriculture, industry, commerce, animal husbandry etc. The measures taken by the Maurya state for the promotion of the economy gave great impetus to economic development during the period. The vastness of India's agricultural and mineral resources and the extraordinary skill of her craftsmen have been mentioned by Megasthenes and other Greek writers. The large part of the population was agriculturists and lived in villages. New areas were brought under cultivation after cleaning the forest. People were encouraged to settle down in new areas.

chief of the guild was called jesthaka. The guilds settled the disputes of their members. A few guilds issued their own coins.
Among the crops rice of different varieties, coarse grains, sesame, pepper, pulses, wheat, linseed, mustard, vegetable and fruits of various kinds and sugarcane were grown. The state also owned agricultural farms, cattle farms and dairy farms etc. Irrigation was given due importance. Water reservoirs and dams were built and water for irrigation was distributed. The famous inscription of Rudradaman found at Junagarh mention that one of Chandragupta's governors, Pushyagupta was responsible for building a dam on Sudarshana Lake near Girnar in Kathiawad. From an inscription of Skandagupta it has been known that this dam was repaired during his reign almost 800 years after it was built. Industry was organized in various guilds.

The chief industries were textile, mining and metallurgy, ship building, jewellery making, metal working etc. The trade was regulated by the state. India supplied to other states indigo, cotton and silk and medicinal items. Provisions of warehouses, godowns and transport arrangements were also made. Foreign trade was carried on by land as well as by sea. Special arrangements were made for the protection of trade routes. The state controlled and regulated the weights and measures. The artisans and craftsmen were specially protected by the state and offences against them were severely punished. The guilds were powerful institutions. It gave craftsmen great economic, political and judicial powers and protection. The
The Sanchi Stupa inscription mentions that one of the carved gateways was donated by the guilds of ivory workers. Similary the Nasik cave inscription mentions that two weaver's guilds gave permanent endowments for the maintenance of a temple. Kautilya says a full treasury is a guarantee of the prosperity of the state and it is the most important duty of the king to keep the treasury full at all the times for all works. During the Mauryan period taxes were levied both in cash and in kind and were collected by local officers. The chief source of revenue was land tax and tax levied on trade etc. The land tax was 1/4th to 1/6th of the produce. Toll tax was levied on all times which were brought for sale in the market. Tax was also levied on the manufactured goods. Those who could not pay the tax in cash or kind were to contribute their dues in the form of labor. Strabo mentions that craftsmen, herdsmen, traders, farmers all paid taxes. The Arthashastra describes revenues at great length. This was further augmented by income from mines, forests, pasture lands, trade and forts etc. Brahmans, children and handicapped people were exempted from paying taxes. Also no tax was levied in areas where new trade routes or new irrigation projects or new agricultural land were being developed. Tax evasion was considered a very serious crime and offenders were severely punished.

Society and Culture

Megasthenese speaks of Mauryan society as comprising seven castes-philosophers, farmers, soldiers, herdsmen, artisans, magistrates and councillors. He could not properly comprehend the Indian society and failed to distinguish between jati, Varna and the occupation. The chaturvana system continued to govern the society. But the craftsmen irrespective of jati enjoyed a high place in the society. The material growth mellowed the jati restrictions and gave people prosperity and respectability. The urban way of life developed. The residential accommodation and its wealth etc were entered into official records and rules and regulation were well defined and strictly implemented. The education is fairly wide spread. Teaching continued to be the main job of the Brahmans. But Buddhist monasteries also acted as educational institutions. Taxila, Ujjayini and Varanasi were famous educational institutions. The technical education was generally provided through guilds, where pupils learnt the crafts from the early age. In the domestic life the joint family system was the norm. A married woman had her own properly in the form of bride gift and jewels.
These were at her disposal in case of widowhood. The widows had a very honourable place in the society. There are frequent references to women enjoying freedom and engaged in many occupations. Offences against women were severely dealt with. Kautilya laid down penalties against officials in charge of workshops and prisons who misbehaved with women. Megasthenese have stated that slavery did not exist in India. However forced labour and bonded labour did exist on a limited scale but were not treated so harshly as the slaves in the western world. About one and half century of Mauryan rule witnessed the growth of economy, art and architecture, education.

Art and Architecture

During the Mauryan period there was a great development in the field of art and architecture. The main examples of the Mauryan art and architecture that survived are
·  Ashokan pillars and capitals.
·  Remains of the royal palace and the city of Pataliputra
·  Rock-cut Chaitya caves in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills
·  Individual Mauryan sculptures and terracotta figurines

The famous city of Pataliputra was described in detail by Megasthenese, references of which are found in the writings of Strabo, Arian and other Greek writers. It stretched along the river Ganga. It was enclosed by a wooden wall and had 64 gates. Excavations have brought to light remains of palaces and the wooden palisade.
The Mauryan wooden palace survived for about 700 years because at the end of the 4th century AD when Fa Hien saw, it was astounding. The palace and also the wooden palisade seem to have been destroyed by fire. The burnt wooden structure and ashes have been found from Kumrahar. Seven rock-cut caves in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills show that the tradition of rock-cut caves in India began with the Mauryas. These caves were caused to be excavated by Ashoka and his grandson Dasaratha for the abode of Ajivika monks

The most extraordinary object of Mauryan period was monolithic stone pillars of up to 15m height with a capital. The pillars comprise two pars a shaft tapering from the base with a diameter from about 90 cm to 125 cm. These pillars had a capital at the top which was adorned with animal figurines. The main animal figurines were lions, horses, bulls and elephants. The pillars and the capitals were made of sandstone near Chunar in Mirzapur dist. They were all polished which gave them a shine. Some Yaksha and Yakshini figures have been found from Mathura, Pawaya and Patna. They are large sized statues representing folk art of the period.

Pillar and Sculpture

The pillars set up by Ashoka furnish the finest remains of the Mauryan art. The pillars with Ashoka edicts inscribed on them were placed either in sacred enclosures or in the vicinity of towns. The pillars are made of two types of stone-the spotted red and white sandstone from the region of Mathura and the buff coloured fine grained hard sandstone usually with small black spots quarried in Chunar near Banaras. The stone was transported from Mathura and Chunar to the various sites where the pillars have been found and here the stone was cut and carried by craftsmen. Each pillar has three parts: the prop under the foundation, the shaft of the column and the capital. The prop is buried in the ground. The shaft made of a single piece of sand stone supports the capital made of another single piece of sandstone. Thin round and slightly tapering shaft is highly polished and very graceful in its proportions. The capital which is the third part of the pillar consists of some finally executed animal figures such as the lion or the elephant.
The sacred dharmachakra with 24 spokes symbol engraved with animal seulpures in relief and the inverted or bell shaped lotus. The capital of the Sarnath Pillar is the magnificent and best piece of the series. The wonderful life like figures of four lions standing back to back and the smaller graceful and stately figures of four animals in relief on the abacus and the inverted lotus- all indicate a highly advanced form of art. The Indian government adopted this capital with some modifications as its state emblem. The sculpture of the Mauryan period is represented by the figures such as
  • The Yakshi of Besnagar in MP.
  • The Yaksha of Parkham near Mathura
  • The Chauri bearer from Didarganj in Bihar
  • The stone elephant from Dhauli in Orissa
Artistically these figures do not appear to belong to the same tradition as the animal capitals. They were probably carved by local craftsmen and not by the special craftsmen who were responsible for the animal capitals

Decline of Mauryan Empire

Ashok ruled over 40 years and met with his death in 232 BC. The decline set in and soon after the empire decline set in and soon after the empire broke up. Seven kings followed Ashoka in succession in a period of 50 years. The empire was divided into an eastern and western part. The western part was governed by Kunala, Samprati and others and the eastern part with southern India with its capital at Pataliputra by six later Mauryan Kings from Dasarath to Brihadratha. The revolt of the Andhras in the south and victorious raids of Greek king in the west gave a blow to the power and prestige of the Mauryan Empire. Due to the concern for the empire and total disillusionment on kings unworthiness Pushyamitra the commander-in-chief killed the King Brihadratha while he was reviewing the army. This is the only recorded and undisputed incident in the history of India till the 12th century AD where the king was murdered and replaced.
Most of the historians agree that after Ashoka his successors were weak who could not control the unrest and revolt in various parts of the empire. Some historians hold Ashoka responsible for this decline. Ashoka's pacifist policies weakened the empire in terms of wars and military strength. The centralised empire needed very strong willed rulers which were not the case with Ashoka's successors. Some historians think that Ashoka's welfare measures must have eaten away a large chunk of income and overall income must have been very inadequate to maintain the army and the administrative machinery.

Moral Codes of Ashoka

Ashoka in Rock Edict XII and many other edicts prescribes the following codes:
·  Obedience to mother and father, elders, teachers and other respectable persons.
·  Respect towards teachers
·  Proper treatment towards ascetics, relations, slaves, servants and dependents, the poor and miserable, friends, acquaintances and companions
·  Abstention from killing of living beings
·  Non-injury to all living creatures
·  Spending little and accumulating little wealth
·  Truthfulness
·  Purity of heart

Ashoka's 14 Rock Edicts

The Edicts of Ashoka set in stone are found throughout the Subcontinent ranging from as far as in Afghanistan and in south as Andhra, the edicts state his policies and accomplishments. Although predominantly written in Prakrit, two of them were written in Greek and one in Aramaic.Ashoka’s edicts refer to the Greeks,Kambhojas and Gandharas as people forming a frontier region of his empire. The major Rock Edicts are
Declares prohibition of animal sacrifice also prohibits the holding of festivals; royal hunting was discontinued; only 2 peacocks and deer were killed in the kitchen of beloved of Gods.
It mentions medical treatment of humans and animals; also mentions construction of roads,wells etc and also tree planting.
It mentions about the Pradeshikas,Rajuks and Yuktas;declares the liberty towards Brahmanas and the Sramanas.
It mentions that the Beri Ghosa has been replaced by dharma also mentions that the Rajuks had the power to punish.
Reference to the appointment of Dhamma mahatamas for the first time in the 14th year of his regime. It also mentions that Dhamma Mahatamas promoting the welfare of prisoners.
Mantri parishad has been mentioned; officials like Pulisani and Pratividikar has also been mentioned; it mentions All Times I am available to the Mahamattas- Mahamattas could bring their report to the king at any time.
It mentions religious toleration amongst all the sects; it gives information that tension among the sects was expressed intensely; it gives information about self-centre and purity of mind.
In his 10th Regnal year Ashoka went to Dharmyatras to Sambodhi in Bodhgaya.
It mentions about the uselessness of the various ceremonies; it stresses on morality and moral code of conducts; it also mentions about the ceremony of Dhamma;it includes regards for slaves and servants,respect for teachers,restrained behaviour towards living beings and donation to Sarmanas and the Brahmanas.
It mentions that the king desires no more fame or glory except in the field of Dhamma;it mentions about the supreme quality of Dhamma policy.
It further explains the policy of Dhammas;it emphasizes on giving respect to the elders,abstain from killing animals and liberalism and charity towards friends,Sramanas and Brahmans and good behaviour towards slaves and servants.
Ithijika Mahamatta has been mentioned ;appeal for toleration among sects to honor the other sects;it mentions that the beloved of the Gods does not consider gifts or honor to be as important as the progress of the essential doctrines of all sects.
It is the largest inscription from the edict .King considered the victory by Dhamma to be the foremost victory;mention the Dhamma victory on the Greek being named Antiochus;it also mentions the Dhamma victory over the following foreign brings-
Ptolemy II Philadelphus- King of Egypt ( 285-247 BC)
Alexander –King of Epirus (273-255 BC)
Antigonous Gonatus- King of Macedonia ( 276-239 BC)
Magas- King of Cyrene
It also mentions the Dhamma victory in south over the Cholas and Pandyas as far as Ceylon
IInd and 13th RE mentions that Pandyas,Cholas had Dhamma victory over Ceylon.
The purpose of the Rock Edicts has been mentioned.

Later Mauryas (232-184 BC)

The evidence for the later Maurya is very little and whatever is there is in an uncertain form rendering the re construction of their history very difficult. The Puranas besides Buddhist and Jaina literature do provide us with some information on the later Maurya but there is no agreement among them. Even among the Puranas there is lot of variance between one Purana and another. But on one point which all Puranas are in agreement is that the Mauryan dynasty lasted 137 years. Ashoka's death was followed by the division of the Mauryan Empire into two parts-western and eastern. The western part was ruled by Kunala (son of Ashoka) and then for a short time by Samprati. It was later threatened by the Bactrian Greeks in the north-west and by the Satvahanas and others in the Deccan.

The eastern part of the empire with Pataliputra as the capital came to be ruled by Dasaratha. Dasaratha is also known as from the caves in the Nagarjuni hills which he dedicated to Ajivikas. Three inscriptions ordered by Dasartha Devanampriya state that the caves were dedicated immediately on his accession. Samprati also mentioned in the Matsya Purana is referred to in both the Buddhist and Jaina literature as the son of Kunala.
According to Jaina tradition he was a grandson of Ashoka and a patron of Jainism. He is said to have been converted to Jainism by Suhastin after which he gave the religion both his active support as a ruler and encouragement in other ways. The western part including the north-western province ,Gandhara and Kashmir was governed by Kunala. It is possible that Kunala gradually extended his territory to include the western province of the empire. According to the Puranas Dasaratha reigned for eight years. Jaina sources mention that Samprati ruled from Ujjain and Pataliputra.

This would suggest that the capital of the western part of the empire was moved from the north to Ujjain. The decade following was to see the conflict between Antiochus III of Syria and Euthydemus of Bactria with Bactria emerging as a strong power ready to threaten north-western India. A number of Principalities in the trans-indus region broke away from the empire while Samprati was occupied in establishing himself at Pataliputra. Gradually the concentration of attention moved to Magadha and the main line of the Mauryan dynasty lived out its years at Pataliputra unable to control or prevent the breaking up of the empire in the more distant regions.

After the reign of nine years Samprati was followed by Salisuka who ruled for thirteen years. The successor of Salisuka mentioned as Somavarman or Devavarman ruled for seven years. The last two kings of the Mauryan dynasty were Satadhanvan who is said to have ruled for 8 years and finally Brihadratha who ruled for seven years and was assassinated by Pushyamitra Sunga.

Post Mauryan Period

In contrast to the Mauryan period the period between 200 BC and 300 AD was an age of small kingdoms many of them foreign in origin.
1. Society: Evolution of Jatis
2. Caste System
3. Economy and Society
4. Indo Greeks
5. Sunga Dynasty
6. Kushan Dynasty
7. Satavahana Dynasty
8. Megalithics
9. Sangam literature
10. Schools of Art

Society: Evolution of Jatis

The earliest Vedic literature comes from a background of pastoralism giving way gradually to agricultural settlements. Early Buddhist literature suggests a more settled agrarian economy and an emergent commercial urban economy. The post-Maurya period witnessed a series of small kingdoms ruling in various parts of the subcontinent and at the same time a tremendous expansion in both internal and external trade. The Gupta and Post Gupta periods witnessed the beginning of a major change in the agrarian system with the assignment of land grants and revenue grants and revenue grants to both religious and secular assignees resulting in a new politico-economic structure in many parts of the subcontinent. The migration of the Aryan speaking peoples brought in the new Aryan elite.
 Though the brief campaign of Alexander did not seriously disturb the centres of powers in the Punjab and Sind, the invasions of the Indo-greeks, Sakas and Kushanas for two centuries definitely affected Indian society in the northern and western parts of the subcontinent. The impact of the Huna invasion in the 5th century AD was felt as far as the heartland of the Ganges. The migrations of people from central Asia to northern and western India in the post-Gupta period produced an even greater impact.

Caste System

Caste meaning Varna or colour to the Aryans was the logical distinction between the conquerors (Aryans) and the conquered (Dasas and Panis). It was in about 1,000 B.C. that the Aryans settled between the Indus and Gangetic regions; it was here that they learnt the art of cultivation. With the coming of agriculture, greater division of labour came into existence and thereby different occupations.
Once the Aryans settled as agriculturists and experienced the consequential developments mentioned above, the Aryan society also developed into grouping known as the four-fold caste system. Those who took to the occupation of fighting were know as Kshatriyas; those who took to cultivation were known as the four-fold caste system. Those who took to the occupation of fighting were known as Kshatriyas; those who took to cultivation were known as Sudra; and as there was an opportunity to contemplate because of the leisure engendered by agricultural occupation, the priestly community elevated themselves to the status of brahmins. Significantly, as the Aryans began to cultivate land, the earlier word "gavasthi" meaning search for cows came to mean 'to fight', because fights between the various tribes of Aryans for fertile land and herds of cattle were common.
Soon, by 600 B.C. a new grouping emerged in the Aryan community, Whenever a community takes to agriculture, some agriculturists produce surpluses or accumulate capital. Such an activity naturally brings to the forefront a group of people dealing with trade and commerce. That is how vaishyas came into existence, since the emergence of this community is rooted in the surpluses generated by agriculture, the erstwhile sudra community moved up to form this new grouping, while the non-Aryans and mixed-Aryan became sudras. About this time the concept of pollution also figured. It is definite that pollution was a known idea at this time because those who undertook unclean occupations like cleaning of carcases, fishing and other occupations came into existence. It was this aspect of unclean occupations associated with pollution that later on grew into untouchability.
From sixth century B.C. onwards there is historical evidence to show that the Sudras were primarily drawn from non-Aryans and mixed-Aryans, as for example, Ashoka enslaving one and-half lakh people after the kalinga war and bringing them to the Gangetic region to cut forests and cultivate land. We can, therefore, say that the four-fold caste division based on occupations was as good as established by the time the Mauryan empire was established. It is also significant to note that there are references in the inscriptions of Ashoka that bird-catchers, fishermen and butchers came to be treated as people beyond the pale of the then social structure. This stigma, in all probability, was confirmed because of the growing belief in the non-slaughter of animals, both on the part of the Buddhists like Ashoka and those of the Aryan community gradually discarding sacrifices.
Apart from these developments by the sixth century B.C., Brahmanism grew obscurantist because of its rituals and sacrifices. The Aryan rituals and festivals were over-emphasised by the priestly community because of the compulsion for making themselves indispensable in those time. As the Aryans took to agriculture, the priestly community realized that they had no meaningful occupation to perform apart from catering to some of the medical needs of people. Furthermore, looking at the way in which the Kshatriya warrior community was thrusting itself ahead, the brahmins or priestly community brought out a coup de grace by building mythologies to beguile the Kshatriya community. Historical evidence shows that it was during the Aryan stay in the Saraswati region that the legend of manu was created - all kings were adjudged as descendants of the ninth Manu, while the first Manu was created by Brahma. At this stage, the priestly or brahmanical community laid more emphasis on rituals and festivals supporting it by interpretation of the Rig Veda so that their own importance would not be ignored. Thus, in this process brahmins overshot their worm by making religion obscure to the average man.
Challenged by these desertions of common people as well as royalty, the Aryans, in particular the Brahminical community, brought about another coup de grace in the four centuries preceding the Christian era. Sanskrit language was rejuvenated by Panini. Coupled with this linguistic victory Brahmins wrote a number of dharma shastras including that of Manu. The Work of Manu is of a colossal magnitude. It relates both to secular and sacredotal fields of life. They also supplemented these with grihya dharma, rajya dharma, sreni-darma, ashrama-darma, silpi-shastra and so on. The purpose of all these writing was to regulate and discipline the whole life of man, whatever his calling or situation in life.
Also, in the same period, there were many more developments. With the influx of foreigners, a place was to be found for all of them. To achieve the objective the priestly order of India evolved the concept of jati-dharma, it is the dharma to be followed by each sub-caste or grouping within the four Walls of caste system. From now onwards, the four-fold division lost its usefulness and increasingly became a metaphysical concept. The real sacred lay in the jati-dharma or the dharma of the sub-caste; while the concept of chatur-varna stayed as an abstraction. What exactly any individual belonging to a jati a or a sub-group should do was minutely laid down covering all facets of life, like taboos relating to dinning, the items of consumption, the pantheon of gods to be worshiped, contraction of marriage, and the reverence to be shown to other jatis as well as the substraction of four-fold caste system as ad when the occasion called for. Since every individual was born into a jati and as the dharma of jati comes to be treated as an immutable truth, each individual was born in some kind of subjection.
The non-Aryan concept of karma or re-birth was smuggled into a configuration of dharmas, sutras and other concepts. By this time, the idea of the outcaste mentioned earlier was very well institutionalised. The observations of Fahien in the fifth century A.D. clearly show that untouchability was institutionalised beyond redemption. Roughly from the fourth century B.C. till the third century A.D. The Aryan concepts of religion underwent mutational changes. The metaphysical concept of God are found in the Upanishads was interpreted in the form of puranic stories and a vast hierarchy of gods. Soon enough the Aryan genius added a constellation of goddesses to support the male pantheon. Far more important was bringing down all these god and goddesses to the each in the form of images. Even the rituals were transmitted into stylised recitations of Sanskrit phraseology and some slokas faintly reminding one of the hymns of the Vedas.
Aryanism became intelligible and simple enough to the ordinary people. This development meant dislodging Buddhism because the strong point of Buddhism in its youthful days was its simplicity and intelligibility to the ordinary man Since Aryanism achieved the supreme feat of dislodging all that was not acceptable to the common people and as it was able to evolve dharmas, it emerged as the sole driving force of India by the third century A.D. That is why from the post-Mauryan era onwards, founders of dynasties were very often Brahmins, royal titles were sanskritized, and kings performed Vedic rituals. This triumph of Aryanism along with the attendant superiority of Brahmins continued in the succeeding ages with slight modifications.

Economy and Society

In the post -Mauryan era (200 BC -300 AD) the economy moved at an accelerated tempo. Society witnessed structural reorientation as significant groups of foreigners penetrated into India and chose to be identified with the rest of the community. The occupation of craftsmen was an important segment of the day's socio-economic milieu. The craftsmen were not only associated with the towns but also villages like Karimnagar in the Telengana region of AP. The categories of craftsmen who were known in this period bear out the truth that there was considerable specialization in mining and metallurgy. A large number of iron artefacts have been discovered at various excavated sites relating to the Kushan and Satavahans period. Telegana region appears to have made special progress in iron artefacts not only weapons but also balance rods, sickles, ploughshares, razors and ladles have been found in the Karimnagar and Nalgonda districts.
 The progress was made in cloth making and silk weaving. Dyeing was a craft of repute in some south Indian towns. The use of oil was also high because of the invention of oil wheel. The inscriptions mention weavers, goldsmiths, dyers, workers in metal and ivory, jewellers, fishermen as the donors of caves, pillars, tablets, cisterns etc. Among the luxury items the important ones were ivory and glass articles and bead cutting. Coin minting reached a high level of excellence made out gold, silver, copper, bronze, lead and potin. A coin mould of the Satavahans period shows that through it half a dozen coins could be turned out time. In urban handicrafts the pride of place goes to beautiful pieces of terracotta produced in profuse quantities. They have been found in most of the sites belonging to the Kushan and Satavahans periods. The terracotta figures of great beauty have been found in the Nalgonda district of Telengana. The immense manufacturing activity was maintained by guilds. At least a dozen kinds of guilds were there. Most of the artisans known from inscriptions hailed from the Mathura region and the western Deccan which lay on the trade routes leading to the ports on the western coast. The guilds coming from the days of the Mauryan period became a more important factor in the urban life both in being instrumental to increase in production and moulding public opinion.
The primary guilds of the day were those of the potters, metal workers and carpenters. Some guilds organized their own distribution system while owning a large number of boats to transport goods from various ports of the Ganges. Ususry was a part of banking and the general rate of interest was around 15% loans extended to sea trade carried higher interest rate. The immense commercial activity was bolstered by the thriving trade between India and Roman Empire. With the movement of Central Asian people like Sakas, Parthians and Kushans trade came to be carried across the sea. Among the ports the important ones were broach and Sopara on the western coast and Arikamendu and Tamralipti on the eastern coast. Out of these ports Broach was the most important as not only goods were exported from here but also goods were received. Across land the converging point of trade routes was Taxila which was connected with the Silk Route passing through Central Asia. Ujjain was the meeting point of good number of trade routes. The trade between India and Rome mostly consisted of luxury goods.
To begin with Rome got her imports from the southern most portions of the country. The Roman imports were pearls, jewels and precious stones from Central and South India. Iron articles formed an important item of export to Roman Empire. The Romans exported to India various types of potters found in excavations at places like Tamluk in West Bengal, Arikamedu near Pondicherry and few other places. Indian kingdoms sent ambassadors to Rome the best known being the one sent about 25 BC which included strange collection of men and animals-tigers, snakes, tortoises. This mission reached Rome during the days of Emperor Augustus in 21 BC. According to Pliny the largest Indian ship was 75 tons. There was a boom in trade with south-east Asia. The growing number of outsiders in the port towns and trade centres led to their absorbing Indian habits as their numbers grew. Social laws of the day became rigid as seen form the law code of Manu. Non Indian groups gradually grew into separate subcastes. Theoretical knowledge confined to Brahmins and other practical and technical knowledge became the preserves of professionals. It was during this time Dharamshastras came to be written. These shastras made the social structure to be rigid. Poetry and drama were also popular. In Sanskrit Asvaghosa and Bhasa were the two great dramatists. The important towns of northern India were Vaishali, Patliputra, Varanasi, Kausambi, Sravasti, Hastinapur, Mathura and Indraprastha. Most of the towns flourished in the Kushan period as revealed by excavations. The excavations at Sonkh in Mathura show as many as seven levels of the Kushan. In Jalandhar, Ludhiyana and Ropar also several sites show good Kushan structures. The Satavahans kingdom also witnessed thriving towns like Tagar, Paithan, Dhanyakataka, Amravati, Nagarjunakonda, Broach, Sopara, Arikamedu and Kaveripatnam.

Indo Greeks

After Alexander the Great the Greek Seleucid dynasty of Persia held on to the trans-Indus region. After Seleukos Nikator was defeated by Chandragupta Maurya in 303 BC, the trans-Indus region was transferred to the Mauryas. In mid third century BC the Seleucid rule ended. The Greeks of Bactria rose in revolt under the leadership of Diodotus. These Greeks were later known as Indo-Greeks when they gained a foot hold in the Indian sub-continent. Bactria situated between the HinduKush and the Oxus was a fertile region and it controlled the trade routes from Gandhara to the west. The Greek settlement in Bactria began in the 5th century BC when Persian emperors settled the Greek exiles in that area.
 About the same time the Seleucid king defeated King Subhagasena after crossing the Hindu Kush in 206 BC. This defeat reveals the unguarded nature of north-western India. The son of Euthydemos, Demetrois conquered modern southern Afghanistan and the Makran area he also occupied some parts of Punjab. Then around 175 BC the homeland of Bactrians came to be ruled by Eukratides another branch of the Bactrians. His son Demetrios II penetrated deep into the Punjab proceeding along the Indus he penetrated till Kutch. The most known Indo-Greek was Menandar whose claim rests on the Buddhist treatise the questions of King Milinda discussions between Menandar and the Buddhist philosopher Nagasena and he ruled the Punjab from C 160 to 140 BC. Menandar not only stabilized his power but extended his frontiers. His coins are to be found in the region extending from Kabul to Mathura near Delhi. He attempted to conquer the Ganges Valley. Probably he was defeated by the Sungas. After Menandar Strabo ruled. At that time Bactria was ruled by a different group of Bactrian. Little later Antialkidas ruled from Taxila as known from the inscription from Besnagar near Bhilsa. This inscription was incised on the order of Heliodoros who was the envoy of Antialkidas in the court of Besnagar. Heliodoros got a monolithic column built in honour of Vasudeva. Thus began the Bhakti cult of Vasudeva. The penetration of Indo-Greeks as well as of Sakas, Pahlavas and Kushana influenced the government, society, religious literature and art of ancient India. Even before Indo-Greek rulers established themselves in India the services of the Greeks were utilized. Ashoka appointed a Greek as very viceroy of his province. After the Indo-Greek period a Greek during the period of Kushans was entrusted with engineering work.
A number of Greeks figure as donors in the inscription of the Karle caves. The Greek mode of wearing hair and the habit of eating in a lying posture came into vogue. The Greeks took to trade and they became affluent merchants. Even Tamil literature refers to Greek ships bringing cargoes and the Greek section of Kaveripatnam was very prosperous. Contemporary writers admit the greatness of the Greek scientists. The Gargi Samhita admits that the Greeks were like Gods in science and they penetrated into India as far as Pataliputra. Varahmihira during the Gupta Age knew about Greek science and used number of Greek technical terms in his works. In the field of art the Indo-Greeks contributed to die cutter art. They showed a remarkable skill in making the portraits of rulers. Also the Greek kings adopted some of the indigenous methods of minting the coins. The open air theatre that came into being in this period was directly a Greek legacy. The term Yavanika for curtain shows that Indian drama was influenced by the Greek model. The Greek form of sculpture influenced the Gandhara art of the Kushan period. The school began in the Kabul valley where the Greek influence was maximum. In religious field also the Greek influence was felt as shown in Millinda -Panho and Besnagar inscription. Legions of Greeks were converted into Indian religions.

Sunga Dynasty

The founder of the dynasty Pushyamitra Sunga overthrew the Mauryas in 187 BC. After him there were nine other rulers. Among them Agnimitra, Vasumitra, Bhagvata and Devabhumi were the prominent ones. After the overthrow of Brihadrata Pushyamitra Sunga waged few wars to consolidate his position. Evidence shows that he defeated the Yavanas. This is confirmed by Patanjali' Mahabashva. Later Vasumitra the grandson of Pushyamitra Sunga defeated the Yavanas. This is confirmed by Malavikaganimtriam and gargi samhita. Some scholars regard that the establishment of Sunga dynasty was symbolic of the Brahmanical reaction to the Mauryan bias towards Buddhism.
Pushyamitra Sunga performed the Vedic sacrifices of asvamedha and the others like aginstoma, Rajasuya and vajpeiya. There was a high degree of tolerance prevailing during the period and some of the minor work of Sunga art are found at Mathura, Kausambi and Sarnath. The Sungas attempted to revive the caste system with the social supremacy of the Brahmins. This is more evident in the work of Manu wherein he emphasised on the higher position of the Brahmins in the society. The most significant development of the Sunga era was marked by various adjustment and adaptations leading to the emergence of mixed castes and the assimilation of the foreigners in Indian society. In the field of literature Sanskrit gradually gained ascendancy and became the language of the court. Patanjali was patronized by Pushyamitra Sunga and he was the second great grammarian of Sanskirt.
Patankali refers to a Sanskrit poet Varauchi who wrote in the Kavya style and which was later perfected by Kalidasa. In the field of art there was immediate reaction against the Buddhist era of the Mauryas. The Sunga art reflects more of the mind, culture, tradition and ideology than what the Mauryan art did. During the Sunga period stone replaced the wood in the railings and the gateways of the Buddhist stupas as noticed at Bharhut and Sanchi. Bharhut stupa is replete with sculptures -apart from the floral designs , animal, figures, Yakshas and human figures. Even the stone railing around the Sanchi Stupa is in rich belief work.
There was increasing use of symbols and human figures in architecture. Sunga art are manifestation of popular artistic genius. There was an increase in the construction of rock-cut temple as noticed in the Chaitya Hall. The importance of Sunga dynasty lies in the restoration of real politic while abandoning the Ashokan approach. In the field of religion they not only revived the earlier tradition but also gave an impetus to new approaches combative towards the heterodox sects the cult of Katakana the god of war the resurgence of Bhagvata cult and the supremacy of Vasudeva in the Hindu pantheon.

Kushan Dynasty

In the post-Mauryan era Central Asia and north-western India witnessed hectic and shifting political scenes. The Great Yuehi-Chi driven out of fertile land in western China migrated towards the Aral Sea. There they encountered the Sakas and overthrew them. They settled in the valley of Oxus and with the occupation of the Bactrian lands the great hordes were divided into five principalities.
A century later the Kushan section attained predominance over the others. Their leader was Kadphises. Thus began the history of Kushans. Kadphises attacked the regions south of Hindu Kush, conquered Kabul and annexed Gandhara including the kingdom of Taxila. He died in 78 AD. By then the Kushans had supplanted the princes belonging to the Indo-Greeks Saka and Indo-Parthian communities along the frontiers of India. The successor of Kadphises was Vima Kadphsis. He conquered large parts of North India. His coins show that his authority extended as far as Benaras and as well as Indus basin. His power extended as far as Narmada and Saka Satraps in Malwa and Western India acknowledged his sovereignty.
The next ruler Kanishka belonged to the little Yuehi-Chi section of the horde. His capital was Purusyapura and here he built many Buddhist buildings. In his early days he annexed Kashmir and consolidated his rule in the Indus and the Gangetic basin. His army crossed the pamirs and inflicted a defeat on the Chinese. A large number of inscriptions were incised during the time of Kanishka and his successor. He became an active patron of Buddhist Church during the later part of the reign. His coins prove that he honoured a medley of Gods -Zoroastrian, Greek, Mitraic and Indian. The prominent Indian deity was God Shiva. He also convened a council of Buddhist theologians to settle disputes relating to Buddhist faith and practices.
 The conclusions of this council were engraved on copper sheets and preserved in the stupa of the capital. The delegates to the council primarily belonged to the Hinyana sect. Soon the Kushan power declined. Within the Kingdom Nagas and Yaudheyas troubled Kushans. A Naga ruler probably performed ten ashvamedha sacrifices. A few other tribes also like Malavas and Kunindas probably regained their importance at the expense of the Kushan Empire. There was a brisk trade as the area covered by the Kushan Empire helped the flow of trade between the east and the west.
Gold coins of great complexity were issued by the Kushans. These coins speak of the prosperity of the people and show the figure of Kanishka standing and sacrificing at altar and deities belonging to various religions. The coins also show that Kushans were in direct contact with the Romans. Their greatest contribution was Gandhara art. Stone images of the Buddha and Bodhisattavas were carved out. The chief feature was blending of Buddhist subjects with Greek forms.
 Images of Buddha appear in the likeness of Apollo and the Yakshakubera is posed in the fusion of Zeus. The imprint of this school of art is still to be found in Mathura and Amaravati. The Chaitya built at Peshawar was as high as four storeys. Fahien passing through Gandhara during the fifth century praised the images of the Buddha, Bodhisattavas and numerous other deities. Kushan period saw propagation of Buddhism in Central Asia and China. Mahayana Buddhism was sanctified. The fourth Buddhist Council summoned by Kanishka canonized the doctrines of Hinayana and Mahayana. Not only Buddhism flourished but also different brahmanical sects started merging. Sanskrit language received an impetus. In a way the Kushan age constituted the prelude to the Gupta age.
The Kushan state was a buffer between the Aryan civilization and the nomadic hordes in Central Asia who time to time had overrun the civilized worlds with the sweep of avalanches. It was also responsible for the exchange of ideas and goods between different civilizations because of the peculiar geographical position occupied by the Kushanas.

Satavahana Dynasty

The government of the Satavahana kingdom was organized on the traditional lines. It was divided into Janapadas which were further divided into aharas. Each ahara was under an Amataya. The basic unit of the ahara was the grama with the village headman called gramika. Central control was maintained over the provinces. Princes were generally made viceroys. The kings were expected to maintain dharma. Taxation was not burden as the state derived its income from crown lands, court fees, fines and ordinary taxes of the Mauryan period were not imposed. Central control was not high because feudal traits emerged in the Satavahana period.
The feudal chiefs like maharathas, mahasenapatis and mahabhojas issued their own coins. The area under the Satavahana in general witnessed considerable prosperity. Broach was the most important port and it had a vast and rich hinterland. Pratishthana produced cotton, tagara and Ujjain produced muslin. The chief imports were wines, copper, tin, lead and gold and silver coins.
Another important port was Kalyan mentioned in the Perilus. The other ports were Sopara and Goa. Within the kingdom there were important cities like Tagara, Prathishthana, Nasik, Junnar and Dhanyakataka. Koddura and Chinnaganjam were the important ports on the east. Evidence shows that a many people emigrated from the Deccan to colonize the regions in South-East Asia. Encouraged by wealth the kings patronized literature and architecture. Hala was an authority on the Puranas. He was the author of Sapta-Sataka. Leelavati deals with the military campaigns of Hala. The five gateways at Sanchi the rock-cut chaitya halls of Bhaja, Karle, Nasik and Kanheri and the stupas at Amaravati, Bhattiprolu, Goli and Ghantasala were built in this period.
The capitals of the pillars in Karle Caves were sculptured. Its construction began during the time of Gautamiputra Satakarni and was completed during the time of Yajna Sri Satakarni. Two Ajanta Frescoes came into existence during this period. The Satavahanas were great excavators of cave temples and the magnificent temples of Ellora and Ajanta were the continuation of the Satavahana tradition.
·  Satavahana Administration

Satavahana Administration

The Satavahana administration was very simple and was according to the principles laid down in Dharmashastras. The king laid no claim of divine right. They had only the modest title of rajan. The king had no absolute power. Their power was checked in practice by customs and shastras. The king was the commander of war and of threw himself into the thicket of the frays.
A peculiar feature of the Satavahana administration was the presence of feudatories of different grade. The highest class was that of petty princes bearing the kingly title raja and striking coins in their own names. Next in rank was the maharathi and mahabhoja. Both titles from the beginning were hereditary and restricted to a few families in a few localities. Probably mahabhoja ranked higher than that of maharathi.
The mahabhojas were the feudatories of Satavahanas. They were primarily located in western Deccan. They were related by blood to the feudatory maharathi. It is definitely known that the maharathi were the feudatories of Satavahanas. They also granted in their own name villages with physical immunities attached to them. The maharathis of the Chitaldrug enjoyed the additional privilege of issuing coins in their own name.
Towards the close of the Satavahana period two more feudatories were created Mahasenapathi and Mahataralavara. Barring districts that were controlled by feudatories; the empire was divided into janapadas and aharas, the latter corresponding to modern districts. The division below that of ahara was grama. Non-hereditary governors were subject to periodical transfers. There were other functionaries like great chamberlain, store keepers, treasurers and dutakas who carried royal orders.


This culture was one of the earliest iron-using archaeological settlements in South India. Megaliths were the burial monuments for important tribal figures. In these monuments we find different implements like stone and iron tools which were needed for daily existence. They were found around river valleys, important trade routes and strategic places. In the different districts of South India we have discovered megalithic monuments. Many inscriptions of the Mauryan king Ashoka have been found in these regions where megalithic sites have been discovered. The people followed a primitive kind of agriculture. They were used to move from place to place. Primitive form of exchange existed between the different tribal groups. These settlements indicate the beginning of use of iron for the purpose of production. It is said that they belonged to the period around 5th century BC.

Sangam literature

Sangam literature refers to a body of classical Tamil literature created between the years 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. This collection contains 2381 poems written by 473 poets, some 102 of whom are anonymous authors. The period during which these poems were written is commonly referred to as the 'Sangam age, referring to the prevalent Sangam legends claiming literary academies lasting thousands of years, giving the name to the corpus of literature. Sangam was an association of literary figures. The literature refers to the contact with Greco-Roman traders. Discovery of certain archaeological sites in South India which indicate the existence of settlements of these foreign traders in South India. In these sites Roman pottery with Roman wine has been discovered. Sangam literature gives details regarding the nature of polity, economy and society. Sangam literature is primarily secular dealing with everyday themes in a South Indian context. The poems belonging to the Sangam literature were composed by Tamil poets, both men and women, from various professions and classes of society. These poems were later collected into various anthologies, edited and had colophons added by anthologists and annotators around 1000 CE. Sangam literature fell out of popular memory soon thereafter, until they were rediscovered in the 19th century by scholars such as S.V.Damodaran Pillai and U.V Swaminathan Iyer.
Sangam literature deals with emotional and material topics such as love, war, governance, trade, and bereavement. Much of the Tamil literature believed to have been written in the Sangam period is lost to us, though detailed lists of works known to the 10th century compilers have survived. In their antiquity and in their contemporaneity, there is not much else in any Indian literature equal to these quiet and dramatic Tamil poems. In their values and stances, they represent a mature classical poetry: passion is balanced by courtesy, transparency by ironies and nuances of design, impersonality by vivid detail, austerity of line by richness of implication. The Sangam literature gives the picture of a primitive society and the transformation of this primitive society into a developed one. There is reference to migration of Brahmans and Buddhists into South India. This infused certain changes in the South Indian society. There was the introduction of varna system in South India


The changing features of social and economic life such as the growth of towns, expansion of the artisan class and the rapid development of trade and commerce in the 6th BC were closely linked with changes in the religious field. It was a period of religious upheaval not only in the history of India but also in the rest of the world. In India various sects and reformers came into existence. They protested against the existing social and religious evils and attempted to reconstruct a new socio-religious order. As a result there arose a conflict between the established orthodoxy and the aspirations of newly rising groups in the urban centres.
 These sects were regarded with scorn and Brahmans were particularly harsh towards them. Of all these sects two such came to stay were Jainism and Buddhism which later became independent religions.
  • Causes for the emergence of new religions
  • Jainism
  • Buddism

Causes for the emergence of new religions

·  Complications and ritualism in Hinduism
·  Vedic religion had become complex and degenerated into superstitions, dogmas and rituals.
·  The sacrifices prescribed by the Vedas became complicated.
·  The Vedic mantras were complicated and went beyond the understanding of common man.
·  The supremacy of the Brahmans created unrest. They no longer led pure and holy life.
·  All the sacred Vedic texts were written in Sanskrit which was the language of the elite and not the masses.
·  The masses could connect with the new sects as Mahavira and Buddha spoke to them in their language.


  • It is generally believed that the founder of Jainism was Mahavira.It is now recognized that Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara.The sacred books of Jain tell us that their first Tirthankara was Rishab, the founder of Jainism. He was the father of Bharata the first Vedic king of India.Rishab was followed by 23 Tirthankaras.The Vishnu Purana and Bhagavat Purana describe Rishab as an incarnation of Narayana.His four main teachings were

  • Not to injure life
  • Not to tell a lie
  • Not to steal
  • Not to possess property
  1. Varadhmana Mahavira
  2. Doctrines of Jainism
  3. Teachings of Jainism
  4. Sects of Jainism
  5. Contribution of Jainism to Indian culture
  6. Jaina Council

Varadhmana Mahavira

Mahavira was born in village Kundagrama in district Muzzaffarpur in a Kshatriya family in 540BC.He was a prince and related to Bimbisara ,the ruler of Magadha.He was married to Yasoda and had a daughter called Priyadarsana.He became ascetic after the death of his parents. For 12 years he practised extreme mortification. During this period he fully subdued his sense. In the 13th year he reached Nirvana under a Sal tree becoming a Jina and a Kevlin an omniscient at Jhrimbikagrama.He now possessed the four infinities- Infinite knowledge, Infinite power, Infinite perception and Infinite joy. Thus he became a Jina (a conqueror) or Mahavira (a great hero).
 From the remaining 30 years Mahavira moved from one place to another and preached his religion. He founded a new sect called Jains.He also met Ajatashastru, the king of Magadha and is said to have converted him. At the age of 72 he attained Kaivalya (death) at Pavapuri near Patna in 468 BC.

Doctrines of Jainism

Mahavira accepted most of the religious doctrines of Parsava and codified the unsystematic mass of beliefs into an organized and rigid religion. He rejected the authority of Vedas and the Vedic rituals. He did not believe in the existence of God. He believed in Karma and transmigration of soul. Attainment of Nirvana or Moksha was the most important human desire. It could be attained through Triratnas:

1. Right faith (Samyak Vishwas)
2. Right knowledge (Samyak Jnan)
3. Right conduct (Samyak Karma)

Teachings of Jainism

Jainism taught five doctrines-
1. Non injury
2. Non lying
3. Non stealing
4. Non possession
5. Observe continence
It is said that only the 5th doctrine was added by Mahavira, the other four being taken over by him from previous teachers. The Jaina philosophy shows a close affinity to Hindu Samkhya philosophy. They ignore the idea of God and accept that the world is full of sorrows and believe in the theory of karma and transmigration of souls. In Jainism the devotees have been classified in five categories, in the descending order;
1. Tirthankara who has attained salvation
2. Arhat who is about to attain nirvana
3. Acharya the head of the ascetic group
4. Upadhaya,teacher or saint
5. Sadhu class which includes the rest
From the remaining 30 years Mahavira moved from one place to another and preached his religion. He founded a new sect called Jains.He also met Ajatashastru, the king of Magadha and is said to have converted him. At the age of 72 he attained Kaivalya (death) at Pavapuri near Patna in 468 BC.

Sects of Jainism

Although Parsavanath the predecessor of Mahavira had asked his follower to cover the upper and lower portions of their body.Mahavira asked them to discard clothes completely. There were two sects:

Swetambaras (white clad):

They wore white dress. They were more liberal and supporters of change.

 Digambaras (Sky-clad):

They kept themselves naked. They were orthodox and rigid. In order to spread the Sects of Jainism, Mahavira organized an order of his followers which admitted both men and women. Since Jainism did not clearly mark itself out from the brahmanical religion it failed to attract the masses. Despite this Jainism gradually spread into south and west India where the brahmanical religion was weak.Chandragupta Mauraya spread Jainism in Karnataka. Jainism spread to Kalinga in Orissa in the 4th century BC and in the 2nd century BC it enjoyed the patronage of King Kharvela.In the south Jainism was patronised by royal dynasties such as Gangas,Kadambas,Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas.One of the important cause of the spread of Jainism in South India is said to be the great famine that occurred in Magadha 200 years after the death of Mahavira.This famine lasted for 12 years and in order to protect themselves many Jainas went to the south under the leadership of Bhadrabahu even Chandragupta Maurya accompanied him. But the rest of them stayed back in Magadha under the leadership of Sthalabahu.These emigrant Jainas spread Jainism in south India.

Contribution of Jainism to Indian culture

Jainism made the first serious attempt to mitigate the evils of Varna order and the ritualistic Vedic religion.Mahavira criticized the caste system and threw open the gates of Jainism for all people irrespective of their castes. He believed in the equality of mankind.he also laid stress on leading a simple life. He condemned all the complex rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices. He gave people a very simple religion to follow. The Jaina philosophy has certainly enriched Indian thought. The five vows ahimsa,satya,asateya,aparigraha and brahmacharya are relevant even today. The Hindu religious texts were all in Sanskrit. The early Jainas described Sanskrit language and adopted Prakrit language of the common people to preach their doctrines.Mahavira himself preached in Ardha-Magadhi.
Their religious literature was written in Ardha-Magadhi and the texts were compiled in the 6th century AD. The adoption of Prakrit by the Jainas helped the growth of this language and its literature. The Jainas composed the earliest important works in Apabhramsa and prepared its first grammar. In early medieval times the Jainas also made good use of Sanskrit and wrote many texts in it. Thus Jaina writings gave impetus to the regional languages. Even though these texts are religious scriptures yet we gain valuable information from them regarding the political and social state of those times.
 The Jainas built Bhikshu grihas or cave dwellings for the residence of their monks. Some of the best examples are Udayagiri at Ellora,Mount Abu at Ginar etc.In south India there are beautiful Jain shrines at Sravana Belgola at Mudabidri and at Guruvayankeri.The Jaina temples were constructed at all places of pilgrimage. The temples of Ranakpur near Jodhpur and Dilwara temples at Mount Abu are the products of superb craftsmanship.
The Jaina tower in the fort of Chittor is another specimen of architectural engineering. Innumerable manuscripts in palm leaves were written down and some of them were painted with gold dust. These have given rise to a new school of painting known as the Western Indian School.Jainas also constructed stupas adorned with railings, gateways with carved figures and pillars. The images of Tirthankaras were also made.

Jaina Council

First council was held at Pataliputra by Sthalabahu in the beginning of the third century BC and resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas to replace the lost 14 Purvas.Second Council was held at Valabhi in the 5th century AD under the leadership of Devaradhi Kshamasramana and resulted in final compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.


Buddhism opened its doors not only to the Indians of all castes and creed but also to the foreigners who had settled in India-Indo -Greeks and Indo-Scythians. Buddhism was propagated to foreign countries too like Ceylon and Burma, Thailand and Cambodia, Central Asia and China, Nepal and Tibet and the Indonesian countries, Japan, Korea and Mongolia. Thus Buddhism occupies a unique place in the history of Indian religions. Buddha was born as prince Siddhartha in the Sakya tribe.
He was born in the Lumbini grove near the city of Kapilavastu. He was unhappy to see the sufferings of human life. He also left home and wandered as an ascetic for many years. Finally he felt that he received enlightenment i.e. he become Buddha and found the answers to the questions that arose in his mind. Buddha taught that the world is full of sufferings it is due to the desire for worldly things. He showed the path leading to the end of these sufferings and the path is called the Buddha's eight fold path.
Eight fold paths include eight kinds of action and thought which would show a man how to live a virtuous life. Eight fold include -
1. Right faith

2. Right resolve
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right living
6. Right effort
7. Right thought
8. Right concentration
Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath where his five former disciples had settled. To these five ascetics he preached his first sermon and called it Dharma Chakraparavartana. Buddha emphasised on the importance of non-violence and forbade the killing of animals as part of religious practices. He urged people to lead good life according to which the purpose of life was to purify the mind and attain Nirvana, i.e. no more rebirths. He started monasteries which were places where Buddhist monks lived and spent their lives praying and preaching Buddhism. These monasteries or viharas were used as schools also.
Many people joined Buddhism and very soon it spread in many parts of India. Buddha died at the age of 80 in 483 BC at Kushinagara in the Malla republic. His last words were 'all composite things decay, strive diligently.
1. Gautama Buddha
2. Buddhist Councils
3. Buddhist Scriptures
4. Buddhist Philosophy
5. Contribution of Buddhism to Indian culture

Gautama Buddha

Gautama or Siddharata, the founder of Buddhism was born in 563 BC in Lumbini in the Sakya kshatriya clan of Kapilavastu. His mother was Maya, a princess of the neighbouring clan of the Koliyas. A Maya died in childbirth Siddharatha was brought up by his aunt and stepmother Prajapati Gautami. The sight of an old man, a sick man, a dead body and an ascetic intensified Siddharata's deep hatred for the world and made him realise the hollowness of worldly pleasures.
After the birth of his son he left home at the age of 29 in search of the Truth. This departure is known as the Great Renunciation. For 6 continuous years he lived as a homeless ascetic seeking instruction under two Brahmin religious teachers and visiting many places. Finding no satisfaction there he practised the severest penances the most rigid austerities and made fruitless efforts to find the Truth. He then gave up penances, took a bath in river Niranjana and sat under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya(modern). Here he attained supreme knowledge and insight. Revelation came to him that the great peace was within his own heart and he must seek it there.
This is known as Nirvana and since then he became Buddha(the Enlightened one) or tathagat(one who attained the Truth). From there he reach Sarnath where he gave his first sermon (dharmachakrapravartana) as a result 5 disciples joined him. Buddha's last teaching was heard by Subhadra a wandering ascetic and Ananda his favourite disciple. The most renowned among the early converts to his teaching were Sariputta and Moggallan, ascetics of Rajgriha who were converted by Assaji one of the five original disciples.
Five great events of Buddha's life and their symbols are
  • Birth- Lotus and Bull
  • Great Renunciation-Horse
  • Nirvana-Bodhi tree
  • First sermon-Dharamachakra or wheel
  • Parinirvana or death-Stupa

Buddhist Councils

The first Buddhist council took place in 483 BC at Sattaparni. Religious doctrine were compiled and embodied in Pali canon. The literature is known as Tripitakas. President of the council was Mahakashapa. Upali recited the Vinay Pitaka and Ananda recited the Sutta Pitaka. Vinay Pitaka was the rules of the order and Sutta Pitaka was the great collection of the Buddha's sermons on matters of doctrine and ethics. The second council was held in 383 BC, 100 years after Buddha's death at Vaishali under the presidentship of Sabbakami. Here Buddhism was divided into Sthaviras and Mahasanghikas. The third council was held in 250 BC at Patliputra in the reign of Ashoka. The president was Tissa Mogaliputta.
A decision was taken to send missionaries to various parts of the subcontinent. Here a new Pitaka or Abhidharmma Pitaka was added. Secondly canonical literature was precisely and authoritatively settled.
The fourth Buddhist council was held in the 1-2nd AD at Kundalavana, Kashmir in the reign of Kanishka under the leadership of Vasumitra and Asvagosha. Here Buddhism was divided into two broad sects the Mahayana and Hinayana. Hinayana treated Buddha as nothing more than a human being whereas Mahayanism treated him as God and worshipped his idol. Bodhisatva of Mahayanism was a saviour and would help every living organism in attaining Nirvana. The Mahayana sect adopted Sanskrit in place of Pali as their language. The earliest text is Lalitvistara. Later another sect Vajrayana appeared in eastern India. The chief divinities of this sect were the Taras. They did not treat meat, fish, wine etc as taboo in dietary habit and freely consumed them.
Ashoka, Kanishka, Harsha and Palas of Bihar and Bengal were great patron of Buddhism. Upagupta converted Emperor Ashoka to Buddhism. Ashvagosha was first biographer of Buddha who wrote Buddha Charitam in Sanskirt. Nagarjuna propounded the theory of Shunyavada. Pushyamitra Sunga persecuted the Buddhist. Shashanka the Gauda king cut the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya.

Buddhist Scriptures

Vinaya Pitaka:

Mainly deals with rules and regulations which Buddha promulgated. Also gives an account of the life and teaching of the Buddha.

Sutta Pitaka:

It consists chiefly of discourses delivered by Buddha himself on different occasions.

Abhidhamma Pitaka:

It contains the profound philosophy of the Buddha's teachings.


It contain regulations on the course of life in the monastic order and have two sections - Mahavagga and the Cullavagga.

Buddhist Philosophy

Buddha believed in the theory of actions or Karma. He held that one of the chief features of the universal law of Dharma is as a man acts so shall he be. We get the reward of our past actions in the present life and for our present actions we get rewarded in the future. Buddha had no faith in personal God. A belief in the supernatural was a weakness. He neither admitted nor denied the existence of God. However he believed that a supreme force controls the whole world. To it he gave the name of Dharma. Buddha's conception of religion was purely ethical. He did not care for worship or rituals. He put all his emphasis on conduct.
He was against useless sacrifices and rituals. According to Buddha, the highest goal of man's life is to achieve Nirvana. According to him Nirvana meant when there is no craving, no selfishness and no hatred or malice for others. It can be achieved by following the eight fold path.

Contribution of Buddhism to Indian culture

Buddhism greatly influenced the Indian religion. It gave to Indian people a simple and popular religion. It rejected ritualism, sacrifices and dominance of priestly class. It has also left its permanent mark on Indian religious thought. Buddhism appealed to the masses on account of its simplicity, use of vernacular language in its scriptures and teachings and monastic order. Buddhism left deep impact on the society. It gave serious impetus to democratic spirit and social equality. It opened its doors to women and shudras. Buddhism encouraged abolition of distinctions in society and strengthened the principle of social equality.
The Buddhist viharas were used for education purposes. Nalanda, Vikramshila, Taxila, Udyantpuri, Vallabhi and others cities developed as high Buddhist learning centres. Buddhism helped in the growth of literature in the popular language of the people. The literature written both in Pali and Sanskrit were enriched by scholars of Hinyana and Mahayana sects. The Buddhist texts like Tripitakas, Jatakas, Buddha charita, Mahavibhasa, Miliand panho, Lalit Vistara are assets to Indian literature.
The main contribution of Buddhism to Indian life is in the domain of architecture, sculpture and painting. The stupas, viharas, chaityas that were built at Sanchi, Bahrut, Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Amravati, Taxila and other places are simply remarkable. The Sanchi Stupa with its beautiful ornamental torans is considered a masterpiece in architecture. The cave temples of Ajanta, Karle, Bhaja, Ellora etc show their achievement in rock cut cave temples. The Ajanta painting depicting touching scenes of Buddha's life are world famous.
They bear a testimony to the heights reached by them in the field of painting. This Buddhist art forms a glorious chapter in the history of Indian art and architecture. They fostered a new awareness in the field of culture. Buddhism established intimate contact between India and foreign countries. Indian monks and scholars carried the gospel of Buddhism to foreign countries from the 3rd century BC onwards and made it the prominent religion of Asia. These religious movements helped in carrying the message of Indian civilization to many distant countries of Asia. It also helped in assimilating foreign influence in Indian culture.

Imperial Guptas

After the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire the Satvahanas and the Kushanas emerged as two large political powers. The Satvahanas acted as stabilizing factor in the Deccan and South to which they gave political unity and economic prosperity. Kushanas did the same in the north India. In the middle of the third century AD both these empires came to an end. On the ruins of the Kushana Empire arose the empire of the Guptas in A D 319. Although the Gupta Empire was not as large as the Mauryan Empire, it kept north India politically united for more than a century from AD 335 to AD 455. The Guptas were initially a family of landowners who acquired political control in the region of Magadha and parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. They enjoyed certain material advantages. The centre of their operations lay in fertile land of Madhyadesa covering Bihar and UttarPradesh.
They could exploit the iron ores of Central India and South Bihar. They took advantage of their proximity to the areas in north India which carried on silk trade with the Byzantine Empire. Due to these favourable factors the Guptas set up their rule over Anuganga (middle Gangetic basin), Prayag (modern Allahabad), Saket and Magadha. In course of this time this kingdom became an all India empire.

Sources of Gupta Rule

Political history of Guptas

1. Chandragupta I
2. Samudragupta
3. Chandragupta II
4. Kumaragupta I
5. Skandagupta
6. Other Successors


Gupta Administration

Gupta Culture

1. Arts and Architecture
2. Sculpture
3. Painting
4. Terracottas and Pottery
5. Literary Activities
6. Gupta Sciences

Urban centres in Gupta period

Economic Conditions

1. Agrarian structure
2. Classification of Land
3. Land tenures
4. Trade
5. Industries
6. Coinage

Sources of Gupta Rule

The Kamandaka Nitisara was written in the time of Chandragupta II by Sikhara, Prime Minister of Chandragupta II. It is equivalent to Kautilya' s Arthasashtra. It gives us idea of polity and administration of the Guptas. The Devichandraguptam is a political drama attributed to Vishakhadatta, author of Mudrarakshas. It tells us about Ramagupta's defeat by a Saka ruler, murder of the Saka ruler as well as of Ramagupta by Chandragupta II, his accession to the throne and his marriage to Dhruvadevi. The Mudrarakshas of Vishakhdatta is another useful source. It gives an account of establishment of the Mauryan dynasty by Chandragupta Maurya and Kautilya. It throws light on the religion of the king and the religious condition of the people in the Gupta period. The Kaumudi Mahotsava is a drama of five Acts. It gives political condition of Magadha of that time and also throws considerable light on the origin and the rise of Gupta dynasty. It has enabled scholars to solve many riddles of the early Gupta history. Puranas occupy a very important place as a religious source. They are 18 in number but only the Vayu Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Matysa Purana, Vishnu Purana and Bhagvat Puranas give a full account of the Gupta empire, its various provinces and their boundaries. The Dharmashastras also give us a lot of useful information of the Gupta period. Inscriptions are also helpful in writing the history of the Gupta period.
 They can be divided into two groups. Firstly those incised by private individuals and secondly those engraved on behalf of the ruling king. The private records mentioned the donations in favour of religious establishments or installation of images for worship. The official records are either in the nature of Prasastis or charters recording land grants known as tamra sasanas. The Prasastis and the tamrasasanas usually provide us information on the genealogy of the kings mentioned in them. A large number of seals have been found from Vaisali in the Muzzaffarpur district. They give an insight into the provincial and local administration. A lot of useful information for the history of Guptas is found in the coins of the Gupta Emperor. The legends on the coins possess great poetic merit. The fabric and style of a coin helps to form an idea of the political conditions determining the sequence of events and ideas. Both gold and silver coins were issued by these rulers.

Chandragupta I

The third ruler Chandragupta I the son and successor of Ghatotkacha was definitely a strong ruler whose hands were sought by the Lichchhavis who gave their princess Kumaradevi in marriage to him. This matrimonial alliance with this ancient historic family no doubt enhanced the status of the obscure Guptas. The Lichchhavis territory of north Bihar and the adjoining principality over which the Guptas ruled were united under Chandragupta and the latter was able to extend his dominion over Oudh as well as Magadha and along the Ganges as far as Prayaga or Allahabad.

Chandragupta I is usually regarded as the founder of the Gupta era which commenced in AD 320 to commemorate his accession an era which continued in parts of India for several centuries.


Chandragupta I was succeeded by his son, Samudragupta who became the ruler after subduing his rival Kacha an obscure prince of the dynasty. The Allahabad Pillar Inscription written by Harisena gives a detailed account of the conquests of his royal master. This account contains a long list of states, kings and tribes which were conquered and brought under various degrees of subjugation. This list can be divided into four categories. 1. The first one includes the 12 states of Dakshinapatha with the names of their kings who were captured and then liberated and reinstated. They were Kosala, Pistapura, Kanchi, Vengi, Erandapalli, Devarashtra, Avamukta, Dusthalapura, Mahakantara, Kurala, Kothura and Palakka. 2. The second one contains the names of the 8 kings of Aryavarta who were exterminated. 3. The third one consists of the rulers of forest states who were reduced to servitude and the chiefs of five pratyantas or Border States and also nine tribal republics that were forced to pay all kinds of taxes, obey his orders and come to perform obeisance. The states were Samtata, Davaka, Kamrupa, Nepal and Kartipura.
4. The fourth one includes the Daivapura Shahanushahs, Saka Murundas and the dwellers of Sinhala and all other islands who offered their person for service to Samudragupta. Harisena the court poet of Samudragupta lays special emphasis upon Samudragupta's learning and wisdom, sharp and polished intellect and above all his poetical and musical talents. He also refers to Samudragupta's charity and kindness even to conquered kings. The variety of gold coins issued by Samudragupta not only indicate the power, wealth and grandeur of his empire but also give us some idea of his appearance and insight into his personal qualities. The Guptas were followers of the Brahmanical religion and Samudragupta fully maintained the tradition of religious toleration.

Chandragupta II

Samudragupta was succeeded by his son Chandragupta II surnamed Vikramaditya.But according to some scholars the immediate successors of Samudragupta was his son Ramagupta,the elder brother of Chandragupta II. A drama Devichandraguptam by Visakhadutta mentions that Ramagupta agreed to surrender his queen Dhruvadevi to the infatuation of a Saka chief who had invaded his kingdom. The honour of the queen was saved by Chandragupta; younger brother of Ramagupta who killed the Saka chief usurped the throne and married the widow. However the historicity of Ramagupta is matter of great doubt as neither the contemporary inscriptions nor the coins mention any king of that name.Chandragupta inherited the military genius of his father and extended the Gupta Empire by conquests of his own. His principal opponent was the Saka ruler of Gujarat and Kathiawar Peninsula belonging to the family of western Satraps whose continued independence prevented the political unity of India. His efforts were crowned with success. Rudrasimha III the last of the long line of Saka satraps was killed. The annexation of Kathiawar and Gujarat not only expanded the Gupta Empire from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea but also brought it in direct contact with the western world.
The acquisition of Broach, Sopara, Cambay and other ports dotted on the western coast of India and the income from the custom duties collected at the numerous ports gave economic prosperity to the Gupta Empire. The most important entrepot at the time was Ujjain where most of the trade routes converged. The effect of this extension of the western frontier was immense on the trade and commerce as well as the culture of northern India. The European and African trade received immense help with the Gupta conquest of the Kathiawar ports. The western traders poured Roman gold into the country in return for Indian products and the effect of this great wealth on the country in noticeable in the number of coins of Chandragupta II. Chandragupta had other military conquests to his credit. An inscription engraved on the iron pillar near Qutub Minar at Delhi states that a king named Chandra defeated a confederacy of hostile chiefs in Vanga and having crossed the seven mouths of the river Sandhu conquered the Vahlikas. Chandragupta II extended the Gupta empire in all directions-west, east and north-west.

Kumaragupta I

Chandragupta II was succeeded by his son Kumaragupta who enjoyed a long reign of 40 years. He performed an asvamedha sacrifice which implies new conquest. He was able to maintain intact the mighty empire which he had inherited from his father. His coin are discovered at Ahmedabad, Valabhi, Junagarh and Morvi in the west and as far as Satara and Ellichpur. It is probable that Kumaragupta added a part of western Malwa to the Gupta Empire. Towards the close of Kumaragupta's reign the empire was threatened by hordes of the Pushyamitras who were defeated by Skandagupta the crown prince.


Soon after his accession Skandagupta had to face the Hunas who had already proved themselves to be terror to both Europe and Asia. About the middle of the fifth century AD one branch of the Hunas known as White Hunas occupied the Oxus valley and threatened both Persia and India. They conquered Gandhara and threatened the very existence of the Gupta Empire. Skandagupta inflicted such a terrible defeat upon the Hunas that they dared not disturb the empire for nearly half a century. It was a magnificent achievement for which he assumed the title Vikramaditya in imitation of his grandfather. The ChandraVyakarana and Kathasaritsagara refer to Skandagupta's victory over the Hunas. His constant source of anxiety was the old Saka kingdom of Saurashtra newly annexed to the Gupta Empire where he appointed Parnadatta as governor. An inscription in the Girnar hill near Junagarh in Kathiawar refers to the restoration of the ancient embankment of the great Sudarsana Lake which had burst owing to heavy rains in the first year of Skandagupta's reign. Inspite of the Huna invasion and other troubles Skandagupta was able to maintain the mighty empire.

Other Successors

The history of the imperial Guptas after the death of Skandagupta is obsure. The official genealogy traces the imperial line from Kumaragupta through Purugupta and ignores Skandagupta. Purugupta reigned for a brief period and the imperial line was continued by his two sons Buddhagupta and Narasimhagupta. With the accession of Buddhagupta the history of the imperial Guptas stands on a firm ground. The records of his reign prove beyond doubt that he ruled over extensive regions stretching from Malwa to Bengal. But it was during his reign that the Gupta Empire showed signs of visible decay with feudatory states breaking away from the empire. The coins of Buddhagupta also reflect the process of decline that had set in the Gupta empire. His coins are very rare which prove that the internal weakness and war of succession had taken over the Gupta Empire. The death of Buddhagupta was followed by a confused period of internal dissensions leading to the breaking of the empire and renewed invasion of the Huns.
According to official genealogy Buddhagupta's brother Narasimhagupta occupied the imperial throne and was followed by his son and grandson. The reigns of these three emperors covered the first half of the 6th century AD. It was during this period we find the existence of two other kings-Vainyagupta (506AD) ruling in Samatata and Nalanda and Bhanugupta (510-11 AD) in Eran. Vainyagupta was first appointed as a provincial governor of Bengal by Buddhagupta and then he ascended the imperial throne in 506 AD. The other Bhanugupta known from a single inscription of Eran fought a famous battle in which his general Goparaja died and his wife committed sati. The battle fought at Eran must have been directed against the Huna chief Toramana who had conquered this region. Vishnugupta was the last ruler of the imperial Gupta family which had enjoyed sovereignty for more than 230 years.


During the reign of Chandragupta II the celebrated Chinese pilgrim Fahien visited India. The main objective of Fahien's mission to India was to secure copies of Buddhist manuscripts. He visited Peshawar, Mathura, Kanauj, Sravasti, Kapilavastu, Kushinagara, Vaishali, Pataliputra, Kasi, Gaya, and Bodhgaya among other places. He spent three years at Pataliputra and two at Tamralipti. He gives interesting information about the life of the people and the general condition of the country.

Gupta Administration

The inscriptions mention the following titles as: paramadvaita, paramabhattaraka, maharajadhiraja, prithvipala, paramesvara, samrat, ekadhiraja and chakravartin. The king was assisted in his administration by a chief minister called mantra or sachiva. Pratiharas and mahapratiharas were important officers in the royal court though they did not participate in the administration. Among the important military officers are mentioned senapati, mahasenapati, baladhyaksha, mahabaladhyaksha, baladhikrita and mahabaladhikrita who perhaps represented different grades. There were two other high military officers-the bhatasvapati, commander of the infantry and cavalry and the katuka, commander of the elephant corps. Another important official mentioned in the Basarh seals was ranabhandagaradhikarana, chief of the treasury of the war office. One more high officer mentioned for the first time in the Gupta records was sandhibigrahika or mahasandhivigrahika a foreign minister. One of the inscriptions mentions sarvadhyakshas, superintendents of all but it is not clear whether they were central or provincial officers. Numerous inscriptions mention dutaka or duta who communicated royal commands to officers and people concerned. Dandapasadhikarana represented the chief of the police. Ordinary police officials were known as dandapasika, chatas, bhatas, dandika and chauroddharanika. The king maintained a close liaison with the provincial administration through a class of officials called kumaramatyas and ayuktas.
The provinces called bhuktis were usually governed by officers called uparikas. The governor of a bhukti has various designations in the official records-bhogika, gopta, uparika-maharaja and rajasthaniya. Bhuktis were subdivided into vishayas. These were governed by vishayapatis. The headquarters of the district was known as adhishthana and the executive officers of the district as samvyavahari and ayuktakas. The district magistrate was helped in his administration in his administration by a large staff. They were maharattaras(village elders), ashtakuladhi-karanikas(officers in charge of groups of eight kulas or families in the local area), gramika(village headman), saulkika (collector of customs and tolls), gaulmika(incharge of forest and forts), agraharika(in charge of the agraharas, settlements dedicated to Brahmins). The district records office called akshapatala was placed in charge of mahakshapatalika. There were also in the district office, sarbodhyakshas or general superintendents under whom were employed men of noble lineage called kulaputras to guard against corruption. The popular element played an important part in the district administration. The advisory district council consisted principally of four members namely the guild president, the chief merchant, the chief artisan and the chief scribe. The villages were under gramikas along with whom were associated mahattaras or the senior persons of different classes. The town administration was carried on by the mayor of the city called purapala who corresponded to nagaravyavaharakas of the Mauryan age.

Gupta Culture

1. Arts and Architecture
2. Sculpture
3. Painting
4. Terracottas and Pottery
5. Literary Activities
6. Gupta Sciences

Arts and Architecture

By evolving the Nagara and Dravida styles the Gupta art ushers in the history of Indian architecture a formative and creative age. The rock-cut caves continue the old forms to a large extent but possess striking novelty by bringing about extensive changes in the ornamentation of the fa├žade and in the designs of the pillars in the interior. The most notable groups of rock-cut caves are found at Ajanta and Ellora and Bagh.The Udayagiri caves also belong to this category.

 Main features of the temple architecture:
  • Flat roofed square temple
  • Flat roofed square temple with a second storey above.
  • Square temple with a curvilinear tower above
  • Rectangular temple
  • Circular temple. The second group of temples shows many of the characteristic features of the Dravida style. The importance of third group lies in the innovation of a sikhara that caps the sanctum sanctorium, the main feature of the Nagara style. Stupas were also built in large numbers but the best are found at Samath, Ratnagiri and Mirpur Khan.


A good example of stone sculpture is the well-known erect Buddha from Sarnath. Of the Brahmanical images the most impressive is the Great Boar at the entrance of a cave at Udayagiri. The art of casting statues on a large scale by the cire process was practised by Gupta craftsmen with conspicuous success. Two outstanding examples metal sculpture are copper image of the Buddha about eighteen feet high at Nalanda in Bihar and Sultanganj Buddha of seven and half feet.


The art of painting seems to have developed in Gupta age. Remains of paintings of this period are found at Ajanta, Bagh, Badami and other places. The surface of the paintings was done in a simple way. The art of Ajanta and Bagh shows the Madhyadesa School of Painting at its best.

Terracottas and Pottery

Clay figurines were used both for religious and secular purposes. There are figurines of Vishnu, Kartikeya, Surya, Durga, Kubera, Nagas and other gods and goddesses. Gupta pottery remains found at Ahichchhatra, Rajgarh, Hastinapur and Bashar afford an outstanding proof of the excellence of pottery. The most distinctive class of pottery of this period is the red ware.

Literary Activities

The popularity of Sanskrit is seen in the inscriptions composed in the language. It was not merely the language of the learned classes but became the spoken language of the country. Sanskirt had a decided superiority over Pali and Prakrit in the richness of its vocabulary, compactness of its form and expressiveness of its idoms. The poetry and prose in Sanskrit were encouraged on a lavish scale through royal patronage. Kalidasa was the outstanding writer who wrote famous works of Shakuntalam, Meghadutam etc. The biography of Harsha written by Bana was held as an excellent example of best Sanskrit prose. During the Gupta age -Bhasa, Sudraka, Kalidasa, Visakhadatta and Bharavi flourished. Literature in Prakrit also had its patronage outside the court circle.
Prakrit literature written by Jainas tended to be more didactic in style with a substantial religious content. The period saw the last phase of the Smriti literature. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana also got their final touchup and received their present shape during this age. The Gupta period also saw the development of Sanskrit grammar based on Panini (Ashtadhyayi) and Patanjali(Mahabhashya). This period is memorable for the compilation of the Amarakosa by Amarasimha. A Buddhist scholar from Bengal, Chandragomia composed a book on grammar named Chandravyakaranam.

Gupta Sciences

The Gupta period saw the development of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, chemistry, physics and metallurgy. The science of mathematics was cultivated with success. Numerals had been in use for some time. They were later introduced to the European world as Arabic numerals. In the field of mathematics Aryabhatta wrote Aryabhatiya. This mathematician was well versed in various kinds of calculations. The Aryabhatiya refers to some of the important properties of circles and triangles. The most epoch making achievement of this age in the realm of arithmetic was the discovery of the decimal system of notation. The Bakshali manuscripts give us a fairly comprehensive idea of the state of mathematics during Gupta period. It deals with varied topics like fractions, square roots, arithmetical and geometric progressions, summation of complex series, simultaneous linear equations and indeterminate equations of the second degree. The first major expositions of Indian astronomy in the last few centuries BC are recorded in two works, the Jyotisha-Vedanga and the Surya Prajnapti. Vasishtha Siddhanta marked a further progress in astronomy.
 Paulisa Siddhanta was another important work. It laid down a rough rule for calculating the lunar and solar eclipses. The Surya Sidhanta was most popular before the time of Aryabhatta. It had formulated some rules for calculating eclipses and discovered solutions for some of the problems in spherical astronomy. Another important writer on astronomy was Varahamihira. His work the study of Astronomy is divided into three branches each of equal importance-astronomy and mathematics and astrology. The most interesting work of Varahamihira is the Pancha Sidhantika a concise account of the five currently used schools of which two reflect a close knowledge of Greek astronomy. Medicine also progressed during this period. The famous Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna was a student of chemistry, metallurgy and medicine. Dhanavantari was a renowned Ayurvedic physician. Hastyaurveda or the veterinary science authored by Palakapya attests to the advances made in medical science during the Gupta period.

Urban centres in Gupta period

The emergence of self-sufficient local units of production is also indicated by the gradual decay of urban centres in the Gupta period. Archaeology shows that Kushana layers belonging to the first-third centuries AD were very flourishing. On the other hand the Gupta layers belonging to the fourth-sixth centuries AD were in state of decline and in many cases Kushana bricks were used in Gupta structures. In many urban sites habitation disappeared after the 6th century AD.

Economic Conditions

1. Agrarian structure
2. Classification of Land
3. Land tenures
4. Trade
5. Industries
6. Coinage

Agrarian structure

The state was the exclusive owner of land. The most decisive argument is the evidence in Paharpur copper plate inscription of Buddhagupta where it is stated that the emperor acquired wealth as well as spiritual merit when he made land grants. This makes it obvious that he was the owner of the land. Landgrants indicate that the king had the supreme ownership of land otherwise he could not transfer comprehensive rights to the receipent. Even after the donation of land the king reserved certain prerogatives over it. Thus it appears that though the land was to all intents and purposes, that of the peasants the king claimed its theoretical ownership.

Classification of Land

The land of the Gupta period can be classified into the following groups:
Kshetra: Cultivable land
Khila: Waste land
Aprahata: Jungle or forest land
Vasti: Habitable land
Gapata Sarah: Pasture land

Land tenures

In the land grant inscriptions specific terms of land tenure are recorded. They are:
·  Nivi dharma: Land endowment in perpetuity
·  Nivi dharma aksayana: a perpetual endowment which a recipient could not alienate but could make use of the income accruing from it eternally.
·  Aprada dharma: It means that a recipient has all rights to enjoy such a property but no right to make a further gift of the same and can only enjoy the interest and income from the endowed land but not administrative rights.
·  Bhumichchhidranyaya: This means that the rights of ownership as are acquired by a man making barren land cultivable for the first time and is free from liability to pay rent for it.
While the nivi dharma kind of trusteeship was prevalent in many parts of north and central India other kinds of trusteeship were probably followed mainly in the eastern part of the Gupta Empire. Therefore they are frequently mentioned in inscriptions from Bengal. Land survey is evident from the Poona plates of Prabhavati Gupta and many other inscriptions. Location and boundaries of individual plots were carefully marked out and measured by the record keepers and influential men of the locality as mentioned in the Paharpur copper plate. An officer called ustapala maintained records of all land transactions in the district and the village accountant preserves records of land in the village. Agriculture remained the economic basis of society during the Gupta period. The Gupta rulers made it a point to increase agricultural production since land revenue was the primary source of income. Waste land was brought under cultivation. There were two principal harvests one for summer and the other for autumn. A large variety of agricultural crops, trees and medicinal plants were grown during the Gupta period. The main agricultural products of the period were wheat, rice, sugarcane, jute, oilseed, cotton, jowar, bajra, spices, incense and indigo.


Both internal and foreign trade flourished during this period. Trade was carried on both by land and sea. The main articles of internal trade were cloth, foodgrains, spices, salt, bullion and precious stones. The trade was carried on by road and through rivers. Important cities and ports of the Gupta period was Broach, Ujjayini, Vidisa, Prayag, Banaras, Gaya, Pataliputra, Vaishali, Tamralipti, Kausambhi, Mathura, Peshawar etc which were well connected by public highways and the state arranged all facilities and security for the travellers and traders. Rich riverine traffic was carried along the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri. Tamralipti, Kavripatnam, Kalyan, Broach and Cambay were the principal ports of South, Deccan and Gujarat. Brisk trade was carried on with countries of South east asia, China, Rome in the west, India exported pearls, precious stones, cloth, perfumes, spices, indigo, drugs, coconuts and ivory articles while its main items of import were gold, silver, tin, lead, silk and horses.


Many industries came into existence under the patronage of the Gupta rulers. The manufacture of textiles of various kinds was among the more important industries of this time. It had a vast domestic market since textiles featured prominently in the north-south trade within the whole of India and there was considerable demand for Indian textiles in foreign markets. Silk, muslin, calico, linen, wool and cotton were produced in great quantity. Ship building industry also developed during the Gupta period. This helped in trade and colonisation. Among the various industries that flourished in the Gupta period, mining and metallurgy certainly occupied the top position. The Amarkosha gives a comprehensive list of metals. Of all the metals, iron was the most useful and blacksmith were only next to the peasants in the rural community. The most eloquent evidence of the high stage of development which metallurgy had attained in the Gupta period is the Mehrauli iron pillar of King Chandragupta II. Ivory work, stone cutting and carving and sculpture were in great demand.
The cutting, polishing and preparing of a variety of precious stones -jasper, agate, carnelian, quartz, and lapizlazuli were also associated with foreign trade. Pottery remained a basic part of industrial production though the elegant black polished ware was no longer used instead an ordinary ware with a brownish slip was produced in large quantities some of it being made to look good with the addition of mica in the clay. Guilds continued as the major institution in the manufacture of goods and in commercial enterprise. There were guilds not only of traders and bankers but also of manual workers like weavers and stone cutters. These guilds enjoyed sufficient autonomy to manage their own affairs and participated effectively in the economic life of the people. They had their own property and trusts worked as bankers, settle disputes of their members and issued their hundis and even coins.


It is usually held that Chandragupta I was the first imperial ruler who introduced currency system and that the Chandragupta-Kumaradevi type of gold coins were the earliest gold coins of the dynasty. But according to the scholars it was Samudragupta who first issued Gupta coins that his first gold coins were of standard type and that later on he issued the Chandragupta-Kumaradevi type of coins to commemorate his father's marriage to Lichchhavi princess which had proved to be great benefit to the Gupta dynasty. The minting of silver coins was first started in the reign of Chandragupta II and was continued by Kumaragupta I and Skandagupta.Along with gold and silver coins, copper coins were also issued though to a much limited extent at least in the reigns of Chandragupta II and Kumaragupta I. It seems that there was a paucity of coins from the Gupta period onwards. For the Gupta rulers did not issue as many copper coins as their predecessors. The Indo-Greeks and especially the Kushanas issued a large number of copper coins which were evidently in common use in different parts of their territories.
The comparative scarcity of Gupta coins shows that there was hardly any easy medium through which people of one town could enter into exchange relations with those of the other. The gold coins issued by the Gupta rulers could be useful only for big transactions such as the sale and purchase of land in which gold coins were used. Smaller transactions were evidently conducted through the barter system of cowries. Indian economy in the Gupta period was largely based on self-sufficient units of production in villages and towns and that money economy was gradually becoming weaker at this time. The bond of state control which kept these units together in the Maurya period and that of the copper currency which unified it in the pre-gupta period no longer operated during this period. This doesn't mean that production declined. Instead agricultural and craft production had shown substantial increase.


1. Sources for Harsha's Period
2. Early life of Harsha
3. Harsha's Administration
4. Important Officials of the empire
5. Economy under Harsha
6. Society
7. Religion
8. Interesting facts about Harsha

Early life of Harsha

Harsha was the second son of Prabhakaravardhana, the first king of Pushyabhuti dynasty with its capital at Thanesvar. Pushyabhutis were the feudatories of the Guptas but had assumed independence after the Huna invasions. Harsha was a great warrior and a conqueror and fought against many powers. In his first expedition he drove away Sasanka from Kannuj who had occupied it after killing his elder brother. It appears that there was a war between Harsha and the king of Valabhi. His hostilities with Valabhis ended through matrimonial alliance. Upon consolidating his position in the north Harsha led an expedition to the south. But he was defeated by King Pulakesin II of Chalukya dynasty. However Harsha was successful in his eastern campaign.
In the east the empire extended right up to the Brahmaputra. A Chinese account mentions him as the king of Magadha in 641 AD, the king of Kamarupa, Bhaskaravarman was his ally in his campaign of Bengal and other parts of eastern India. According to Bana, his empire included the states of Kashmir, Sindh and Nepal. It included the states of eastern Punjab, UP, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Saurashtra, Kanyakubja etc. He maintained cordial relationship with China and Persia. Harsha was a great scholar and authored several dramas and books. He profusely encouraged learning and patronised the learned persons. The Nalanda University was the great seat of learning which came to forefront under his patronage. His court was adorned with scholars like Bana, Matanaga, Divakara, ayasena, Bharti hari. He reigned for about 41 years and died in the beginning of 647AD.

Important Officials of the empire

·  Maha Sandhi-Vigrahadhikrit- Office to decide about war and peace
·  Mahabaladhikrit- The highest official of the army
·  Baladhikrit- The commanders
·  Vrihadashwar- Head of cavalry
·  Chat Bhat- Salary holder and non salary holders of royal service
·  Katuk-head of Elephant brigade
·  Doot Rajastuaniya- Foreign Minister
·  Uparik Maharaj- Provincial head
·  Ayuktak- Ordinary servant or officer

Economy under Harsha

The nature of the economy under Harsha became increasingly more feudal and self-sufficient. The decline of trade and commerce went on unabated under Harsha. This is evident from the decline of trade centres, paucity of coins and almost complete disappearance of guilds of traders and merchants. The decline of trade and commerce affected the handicrafts and other industries for want of demand. This decline affected even agriculture though indirectly. When trade was flourishing a great part of the merchandise consisted of food stuffs and also most of the raw materials for handicrafts and industries came from agricultural production.
But now there was a lack of large-scale demand for agricultural goods. So the agriculturist now began to produce only that much which was required to meet his own needs and those of the locality but not for the market, both internal and external. This naturally led to the rise of a self-sufficient village economy in which all the needs of the village were met from within and also marked by an increasing dependence on agriculture.


This period witnessed the ascendancy of varnasrama-dharma and it became an indispensable cornerstone of the Brahmanical social structure. Hiuen Tsang writes about the existence of four varnas or orders in Indai. Bana characterised Harsha as one who carried out all rules for the varnas and asramas. The first varna Brhamins continued to enjoy a very high and respectable position in the society and the glorification of gifts to them by the other three varnas became a distinct feature of Brahmanism. Despite the existence of some Sudra kings, the Kshatriya kings were in overwhelming majority. The third varna Vaishyas formed the class of traders according to Hiuen Tsang. The fourth varna Sudras comprised the agriculturists according to Hiuen Tsang. Both Bana and Hiuen Tsang talk about the existence of many sub castes such as the class of vernacular poets, class of bards, class of betel bearers and so on.
The rise of those sub castes was due to the social violation in the code of marriages and general ethics and also different occupations. Hiuen Tsang takes note of many outcastes and untouchables such as butchers, fishermen, executioners and scavengers who were segregated and were not allowed to mix with the people of the higher varnas and had habitations marked by distinguishing sigh. The position of women seems to have suffered a further decline during this period. The institution of svayamvara declined and there is no instance of its practice in the contemporary literature. Remarriage of widows was not permitted particularly among the higher varnas. The evil system of dowry according to Bana was quite common. There were few examples of practice of committing sati.


Brahmanisim which reasserted itself under the Guptas got further strengthened during this period. Its gradual ascendancy brought about the decline of Buddhism despite the patronage given to it by Harsha which is evident from the account of Hiuen Tsang. But Jainism did not undergo any major changes and it made neither progress nor any decay. Saivism became the main theistic system of this period. But Vaishnavism which was popular during the age of the Guptas was gradually declining during these period. The Vedic ceremonies and rituals once again came to be regarded as inseparable and integral constituents of Brahmanisim and the people practised them on a larger scale.

Interesting facts about Harsha

·  At the end of every five years, Harsha used to celebrate a solemn festival in Prayaga named as Prayaga festival.
·  Harsha was also known as Siladitya.
·  Hieun Tsang wrote book si-yu-ki in which he has mentioned Harsha and his reign.

Position of women in Ancient India

The evolution of the status of women in India has been a continuous process of ups and downs throughout history. Considering the vast body of empirical research available on the topic, two approaches seem valid: one is classical text view; and the other, empirical view.
For the purpose of depicting a brief survey of the changing position and role of women in India throughout history, two broad periods are considered: (a) 2500 B.C-1500 B.C., and (b) 1500 B.C. - 1800 A.D.
These divisions are based on degree of freedom that women enjoyed and the role differentiation within the family. Throughout classic literature on the status of women there is almost consistent opinion among great scholars that during the age of Vedas (2500 - 1500 B. C.) a woman's status was equivalent to that of a man.
Though it is difficult to specify the exact chronological time as to when the deterioration in woman's status started, one can state that gradual changes appeared during the age of Brahamanas, 1500B.C. and by the age of Sutras and Epics, 500 B.C. to A.D. o 500 and the age of the later Srutis, A.D.500 to A.D. 1800 the status had deteriorated considerably.
The literature on Indian history abounds in contradictory and conflicting views on this subject. The term "woman" is used in generic sense regardless of the internal differentiation present throughout India based on socio-cultural, demographic and ecological factors.
2500 B.C-1500 B.C.,
1500 B.C. - 1800 A.D.

2500 B.C. -1500 B.C.X

This period is usually referred to as the early Vedic period. During this age a woman had a great extend of freedom like man, and her sphere of role relationships was not circumscribed by too may restrictions. At home, generally the mother was the mistress of the house. She had her usual routine of cleaning the house, sweeping the house with cow dung, decorate the house with lime powder, washing vessels; cooking food, looking after children; serving food to others first ; welcoming and entertaining the. The Vedic Samhitas refer to women taking active part in agriculture and other crafts like leather work, making gur, drawing water, churning butter-milk, making wine, weaving mats and sewing. They were also in charge of household finances and farm laborers. The Vedic hymns inform that both husband and wife were joint owners of family property. In Rig-Veda, a daughter retained her right of inheritance and could substitute a son. Women were permitted to have separate property of their own which came to be designed in later Smritis as Stridhan. Some of the high class women were highly educated and actively participated in intellectual philosophical discussions. One comes across references to lady sages like Gosha, Apala, Lopamudra, Indranni, Gargi and Maitreyi. During the Vedic period girls and boys were initiated into the Vedic studies by performing a rite of passage called upanayan ceremony.
It is believed that according to "Sarvankuramanika" there were as many as twenty women being credited for composing the hymns of the rig Veda. It is believed that during Upanishad period there were Brahmanyadinis, life long students of Philosophy. One renowned scholar was Gargi who challenged Yagnavalkya and asked many subtle and intricate questions. Upanishad also includes a conversation between Yagnavilkya and one of his two wives Maitreyi over division of property at the decision by the sage to renounce the world. Maitreyi indicated her preference for initiation to the knowledge of Brahmavidya to property. Passages in the Vedas show that women apart from a mere literary career had other careers open to them. They entered fields of teaching, medicine, business, military and administration .The wife enjoyed with her husband full religious right and regularly participated in religious ceremonies. In fact, such ceremonies without the wife joining her husband were regarded as invalid. It is further ordained that the woman whose hand is accepted in marriage should be treated with respect and kindness and all that is agreeable to her shall be given to her. All these indicate that a woman held a status equal to man and there were considerably less restrictions on her activities outside the home.
The position of a daughter in the Hindu family during the Vedic period did not include much authoritative role. Her socialization from childhood involved a high degree of Modesty peculiar to Hindu culture .Her training installed in her tolerance, patience, submission and identification of her personality with her husband's. Though marriage was of great social and religious significance, it was not mandatory as the extensive use of the word "Amajur", which means a girl who grew at her father's house, suggests this. The Vedas include references to unmarried female rishis like Apala and aitreya and some of them received co-education, though rare, which sometimes led to love marriage. Girls were regarded as objects of good women. Ramayana includes a detailed description of the reception of Rama after his long exile by the unmarried girls first and later a religious bath at their hands. The grown-up daughters during the temporary absence of the parents managed household and received the guests.
The daughter-in-law entered her husband's family as a stranger, because the other members had already imbibed the traditions and customs of the family. The bride's major duty was to make efforts to merge her personality with that of her husband's in matter both mundane and spiritual, and also to adapt herself to the traditions and sentiments of the family of which she had become a full fledged member. Her position was one of honorable subordination. It was expected from her to show respect to and obey all the elder members of the family. She had to help the mother-in-law in household duties such as cleaning, washing, drawing water, cooking, rearing children, tending cattle, and nursing the sick and the aged.
The wife was always supposed to participate in religious ceremonies along with her husband. In fact, no religious rite was complete without her presence. She was called "ardhangini" or the other half. The Mahabharata declared that "in truth, a householder's home, even if crowded with sons, grandsons, daughters-in-law, and servants is virtually a lonely place for his life, if there is no housewife. One's home is not the house made of brick and mortar; it is the wife who makes the home. A home without the wife is like a wilderness". A wife was considered as his friend, counsel, and companion. All this was related to the counterpart role in the husband's role system.

1500 B.C. - A.D. 1800

Though it is difficult to say at which specific point of time deterioration in the status of women began, still there would be probably little disagreement among the experts if it is stated that women enjoyed a relatively -higher status in the early Vedic period. From about 1500 B.C. started the change in women's status due to various reasons, among which the most important was a denial of education. Traces of deterioration are found in all periods following 1500 B.C. But it became much more marked after the beginning of the Christian era and reached its peak after the Mughul invasion in sixteenth century. In short, the role of women conformed to the dictum laid down by Manu, the great law giver of second century that "a woman does not deserve freedom" and that her life should throughout be one of dependence on man. Another similar dictum laid down by Manu was that woman should be subservient in all stages of her life- "in childhood to the father, in youth to the husband and his elderly kins and to the son when widowed".
Among the traditional Hindu families the fate of a woman, especially of the daughter-in-law, was always of subordination to all other members.

Education in Ancient India

In Ancient India, literary education was generally the monopoly of the upper castes, although in some regions like South India low castes also had access to it. Vedic learning was everywhere confined to the Savarnas; and even among Brahmins, only a section had the right to study the Vadas and priesthood. Other castes were debarred form all higher studies by religious verdicts enforced by the Hindu State.
The Brahmins studied in special seminar started for the purpose, such as Tols, Vidyalysis and Chatuspathis. The medium of instruction was Sanskrit. The sacred language of the Hindus, by which only all religious and higher secular knowledge was expressed. For the common people, there were, in every village and town, vernacular schools which taught mainly reading, writing and rudiments of arithmetic. These schools also imparted religious instructions to the pupils. These schools were generally taken advantage of by the sons of traders; women, the lower castes and agriculturists hardly received any education. Thus education among Hindus, in Ancient India, was extremely restricted and for all, except the Brahmins, very poor in content. The Brahmins enjoyed monopoly of all higher education. Although education was the monopoly of upper castes, certain literary professions such as medicine (ayurveda) and astrology were also open to castes other than Brahmins.
The trading castes learnt accounting and book-keeping. While in the courts of kings there were persons who had specialized in the art of writing and the keeping records, in villages there were accountants who maintained land registers and revenue records. Further, this education, as part of the entire culture of Hindu society controlled and administrated by Brahmins was means of training the pupils in accepting the existing caste structure of Hindu society, believing in the infallibility of the Vedas, and of Brahmins, in interpreting these Vedas. It also taught the pupils the virtue of unconditional allegiance to elders, to parents, to teachers and to the king. In fact, education was a means of making the individual accept and conform to hierarchic structure of society and completely subordinating his individuality to it.

Catse System in Ancient India

Caste meaning Varna or color to the Aryans was the logical distinction between the conquerors (Aryans) and the conquered (Dasas and Panis). It is a Portuguese word meaning clan. It was in about 1,000 B.C. that the Aryans settled between the Indus and Gangetic regions; it was here that they learnt the art of cultivation. With the coming of agriculture, greater division of labor came into existence and thereby different occupations.
Once the Aryans settled as agriculturists and experienced the consequential developments mentioned above, the Aryan society also developed into grouping known as the four-fold caste system. Those who took to the occupation of fighting were known as Kshatriyas; those who took to cultivation were known as Sudra; and as there was an opportunity to contemplate because of the leisure engendered by agricultural occupation, the priestly community elevated themselves to the status of Brahmins. Significantly, as the Aryans began to cultivate land, the earlier word “gavasthi” meaning search for cows came to mean ‘to fight’, because fights between the various tribes of Aryans for fertile land and herds of cattle were common.
Soon, by 600 B.C. a new grouping emerged in the Aryan community, whenever a community takes to agriculture, some agriculturists produce surpluses or accumulate capital. Such an activity naturally brings to the forefront a group of people dealing with trade and commerce. That is how vaishyas came into existence, since the emergence of this community is rooted in the surpluses generated by agriculture, the erstwhile Sudra community moved up to form this new grouping, while the non-Aryans and mixed-Aryan became Sudras. About this time the concept of pollution also figured. As a matter of fact, there are references to this idea in the Vedas too. It is definite that pollution was a known idea at this time because those who undertook unclean occupations like cleaning of carcasses, fishing and other occupations came into existence. It was this aspect of unclean occupations associated with pollution that later on grew into untouchability.
From sixth century B.C. onwards there is historical evidence to show that the Sudras were primarily drawn from non-Aryans and mixed-Aryans, as for example, Ashoka enslaving one and-half lakh people after the Kalinga war and bringing them to the Gangetic region to cut forests and cultivate land. The four-fold caste division based on occupations was as good as established by the time the Mauryan Empire was established. There are references in the inscriptions of Ashoka that bird-catchers, fishermen and butchers came to be treated as people beyond the pale of the then social structure.
The Aryans, in particular the brahminical community brought about another coup de grace in the four centuries preceding the Christian era. Panini rejuvenated Sanskrit language. Sanskrit language not only retained its identity but also language, as disciplined by Panini, forge ahead at the expense of Prakrit and Pali which had ironically earlier develop out of Sanskrit language. Coupled with this linguistic victory Brahmins wrote a number of dharma shastras including that of Manu. The Work of Manu is of a colossal magnitude. It relates both to secular and sacerdotal fields of life. They also supplemented these with grihya dharma. Raja dharma, sreni-darma, ashrama-darma, silpi-shastra and so on. The purpose of all these writing was to regulate and discipline the whole life of man, whatever his calling or situation in life.
Also, in the same period, there were many more developments. With the influx of foreigners, a place was to be found for all of them. To achieve the objective the priestly order of India evolved the concept of jati-dharma, it is the dharma to be followed by each sub-caste or grouping within the four Walls of caste system. From now onwards, the four-fold division lost its usefulness and increasingly became a metaphysical concept like the space-time continuum of Einstein. The real sacred lay in the jati-dharma or the dharma of the sub-caste; while the concept of chatur-varna stayed as an abstraction. What exactly any individual belonging to a jati a or a sub-group should do was minutely laid down covering all facets of life, like taboos relating to dinning, the items of consumption, the pantheon of gods to be worshiped, contraction of marriage, and the reverence to be shown to other jatis as well as the substraction of four-fold caste system as ad when the occasion called for. Since every individual was born into a jati and as the dharma of jati comes to be treated as an immutable truth, each individual was born in some kind of subjection.
Just at this time, a few more concepts were thrown into make the subjugation of man complete. The non-Aryan concept of karma or re-birth was smuggled into a configuration of dharmas, sutras and other concepts. By this time, the idea of the outcaste mentioned earlier was very well institutionalized. The observations of Fahien in the fifth century A.D. clearly show that untouchability was institutionalized beyond redemption. This enslavement of man, which partly originated out of need and which was later given a subtle religious sanction, continues even till today.
The retaining the identity of Aryan community, while absorbing quite a large number of extraneous concepts, practices and peoples into the Aryan faith, was facilitated by the Aryan concepts of religion which underwent mutational changes. The metaphysical concept of God are found in the Upanishads was interpreted in the form of Puranic stories and a vast hierarchy of gods. Soon enough the Aryans added a constellation of goddesses to support the male pantheon. Far more important was bringing down all these god and goddesses to the each in the form of images. Even the rituals were transmitted into stylized recitations of Sanskrit phraseology and some slokas faintly reminding one of the hymns of the Vedas.
Aryanism became intelligible and simple enough to the ordinary people. This development meant dislodging Buddhism because the strong point of Buddhism in its youthful days was its simplicity and intelligibility to the ordinary man Since Aryanism achieved the supreme feat of dislodging all that was not acceptable to the common people and as it was able to evolve dharma, it emerged as the sole driving force of India by the third century A.D. That is why from the post-Mauryan era onwards, founders of dynasties were very often Brahmins, royal titles were Sanskritized, and kings performed Vedic rituals. This triumph of Aryanism along with the attendant superiority of Brahmins continued in the succeeding ages with slight modifications.

Feudalism in Ancient India

The post –Gupta period saw emergence of new phenomenon where there was a tendency to grant the revenue of land or land in lieu of cash salaries to officers, a tendency which got intensified over time. This emergence of a new politic-economic structure was known as Feudalism. Local chiefs though defeated in war were allowed to keep their land in the form of grant. The grantees were equalivalent of vassals or feudatories who displayed their allegiance by handing over a part of the revenue from the land to king. From the revenue retained by the feudatories they were ordered to maintain troops for the king which the king could demand whenever he wanted. They also maintained law and order in their own territory.
Feudatories often had their own sub-feudatories thus building up a hierarchy. Sometimes the king took away the grant made to the feudatory but it occurred rarely. A separate group of guarantees were the Brahmans who for religious reasons were often given the land as well as the right to collect revenue. In this system the people who suffered the most were peasants who generally were of the Shudra caste. They not only paid the revenue to the lord but they had to do all kinds of free labor for him as well as to pay additional taxes. As the pressure on the peasantry increased they slipped further into the impoverishment. Trade also declined. The surplus wealth of the feudatories and the king was used for conspicuous consumption. By the beginning of Medieval period many officers had begun to claim that land as theirs and the number of grantees increased manifold.


• Territorial Expansion

• Chola Government

• Chola Trade

• Social and cultural life

• Art and Architecture

Territorial Expansion

The Cholas had ruled as chieftains in Tamilnadu since the first century A.D.towards the middle of the 9th century, Vijayalaya (846-871) conquered Tanjore and declared himself the ruler of an independent state. Even more important was Parantaka I (907-955) who conquered the land of the Pandyas but suffered defeat at the hands of a Rashtrakuta King.Chola power became solidly established in the reign of Rajaraja I (985-1014) and his son and successor Rajindra I (1014-1044).
Rajaraja‘s policy of annexation was influenced by the consideration of trade. He began by attacking the alliance between Kerala, Ceylon and the Pandayas in order to break their monopoly of western trade. The Pandyas had already been subjugated. The Arab traders were well settled on the west coast and enjoyed the support of the Cheras.To eliminate Arab competition in trade particularly in South-east Asia he tried to bring Malabar under his control.
He later led a naval expedition against the Maldive islands which had assumed importance in the Arab trade. The Cholas although unable to strike directly at the Arab trade caused havoc in Ceylon with a devastating campaign when the existing capital Anuradhapura was destroyed and the Cholas moved the capital to Pollonnarua.The conflict over the rich province Vengi resumed between the Cholas and the later Chalukyas.
The annexationist ambitions of Rajendra I turned northwards as far as Ganges Valley. He marched up to the east coast of India through Orissa and up the river Ganga.There he threatened the Pala king ruling in Bengal before returning to the south. Even more daring was Rajendra’s overseas campaign against the kingdom of Shri Vijaya on order to protect Indian commercial interests in south-east Asia and southern China. The campaign was successful and for a while Indian ships and goods passed without interference through Shri Vijaya territory. This permitted a steady improvement in the commerce of south India and better communications with the Chinese to whom Kulottunga (1070-1118) sent an embassy of 72 merchants in 1077.
The successors of Rajendra I turned their attention to conflicts within the peninsula and the struggle with the later Chalukayas for the province of Vengi was revived. The old enemies of the far south the Pandyas, Kerala and Ceylon remained at war.
The Chola Kingdom had exhausted its resources and was on the decline in the 13th century when it succumbed to an attack by the Hoysalas from the west and the Pandyas from the south. The new kingdoms were to last till the Turkish sultans overthrew the existing dynasties in the Deccan in the 14th century.

Chola Government

The Chola kings ruled their kingdom with the help of a council of ministers and of officers who were in charge of various branches of administration. Local self-govt was a remarkable feature of Chola administration. The village was the basic unit of administration.Chola officials participated more as advisors and observers. The villages had a village assembly or council known as the Ur or Sabha.Villagers who owned land or belonged to the upper castes were chosen by lot to the councils.
 The council was often divided into a number of small committees and each committee would look after an aspect of the village administration. The revenue of the Chola kingdom came from two sources-taxes on land and taxes on trade. Land tax was generally assessed at one –third of the produce. The actual collection of revenue was done by the village assembly. The intermediary or sometimes a govt officer collected the taxes and passed on the govt’ share. Often a part of revenue was assigned to a temple.

Chola Trade

Commerce flourished under the Cholas. Trade was carried on with West Asia and China and South-east Asia. Trade with China reached unprecedented volume during these centuries. Foreign trade provided an additional incentive to an already developing local market.

Controlled by merchant guilds the high volume of trade led to the rapid growth of towns from the 11th century onwards. There was also a marked increase in the number of Chola coins that were minted as compared to those of earlier dynasties in this region.

Social and cultural life

The society was divided into Brahmans and non-Brahmans. Among the non-Brahmans there is as compared to north India, little mention of Kshatriyas and Vaishyas but the Shudras are prominent.
The temple was the cultural and social centre. The village and towns all had temples where people used to gather not only for worship but also to discuss various things of common interest. The courtyard of the temple was often used as a school.
During this period several regional languages branched off from Sanskrit throughout the peninsula. Marathi evolved from the local Prakrit, while Tamil, Telugu and Kannada stemmed from a Dravidian root but had a vocabulary which owed much to Sanskrit. The first writing in these languages was largely adaptations from Sanskrit works. Saints also composed hymns in popular languages.
Tamil literature of this period shows great liveliness and vigor as in Kamban’s version of the Ramayan or the works of the court poets Kuttan,Pugalendi,Jayangondour and Kallaadanar.
A number of popular religious movements flourished in the Tamil area. Some of them were continuing the teaching of the Alvars and Nayanars.Others like the Lingayats in the 12 century preached devotion to a theistic God and actively attacked religious hypocrisy. They questioned the authority of the Vedas and the theory of re-birth. Shiva was worshipped in the form of a lingam or phallic emblem.
In the 11th century, Ramanuja disagreed with Shankara’s theory that knowledge was the primary means of salvation. He insisted on pure devotion, giving oneself up entirely to God. He also pleaded for the throwing open of temples to Shudras but without much success.

Art and Architecture

Under the Cholas the Dravida style of temple architecture exclusive to the south, attained its most magnificent form. The main feature of this style was the building of between five to seven storeys above the chief deity room. A large elaborately carved pillared hall with flat roof was placed in front of the Sanctum. This mandap acted as an audience hall and a place for various other ceremonies. Sometimes a passage was added around the sanctum for devotees to walk around it where images of many other Gods were placed. The entire structure was enclosed by high walls with very lofty gateways called gopurams.The Brihadiswara temple at Tanjore built by Rajendra I is an example of the Dravida style. Another is the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple.
Temple building activity continued even after the fall of the Cholas. The Hoysalesvara temple at Halebid is the most magnificent example of the Chalukyan style. The temple contained finely sculptured panels which show a busy panorama of life. The ground plan was not rectangular but was star shaped or polygonal within which was accommodated the temple built on a raised platform. The giant statue of Gomteswar at Shravana Belagola is a fine example of the standards attained in sculpture in this period.Chola craftsmen excelled in making bronze figurines. The Nataraja, the dancing figure of Shiva is considered a masterpiece.

Maths in Ancient India

The Ancient Indians with their superior cultural attainments, high intellectual curiosity and passion for logical and analytical thinking showed greater interest in Mathematics. The ten Indian numerals and the zero sigh affected a revolution in the study of arithmetic. They liberated the human mind from the cumbersome method of counting adopted by the Romans and unfolded the magic of numbers. Geometry was familiar to the Ancient Indians because geometrical figures were used for making figures for Vedic altars. But it was really in the field of arithmetic and algebra that India left the others far behind. The discovery of the zero symbols is referred to in a scriptural book dated 200 BC.
The discovery of the zero has been hailed by eminent mathematicians as the outstanding single mathematical creation that has had effect on the general on-go of intelligence and power. These were not freak discoveries but answered to some insistent demand of society. There were many problems connected with trade, taxation, exchange, calculation of the fineness of gold etc which called for sound knowledge of mathematical calculations.
From the fifth to twelfth century AD we find numerous books by eminent mathematicians. The earliest book available on astronomy is by the famous Aryabharata.The other famous names are Bhaskara I,Brahmagupta and Bhaskara II. Bhaskara II wrote a treatise on arithmetic and called it Lilavati. In the 8th century a number of Indian scholars went to Baghdad taking with them books on astronomy and mathematics. Aryabhata’s books were translated into Arabic. Baghdad was then a centre of great learning. Indian mathematics in Arabic translations found its way throughout the Moslem world from Central Asia to Spain from there to all over Europe.

Regional States of India

The Chalukyas of Badami

The Pallavas
The Palas
The Pratiharas
The Rashtrakutas
Tripartite Struggle
The Hoysalas
The Cheras
The Paramaras
  • Religion of Chalukyas
  • Language
  • Art and Architecture

The Pallavas

The origin of the Pallavas has been much debated but unfortunately no unanimity of opinion has been arrived at. A critical study of the ancient Tamil literature shows that the Pallavas were originally connected with Ceylon. The term Pallava means creeper and is a Sanskrit version of the Tamil word Tondai which also carries the same meaning. The Pallavas were possibly a local tribe who established their authority in the Tondainadu. The Satvahanas conquered Tondamandalam and Pallavas became a feudatory to the Satvahanas. After the collapse of Satvahana Empire in about 122 AD the Pallavas became independent. The Pallavas rose to prominence about AD 325 on the east coast in the country between the mouth of the Krishna and Godavari Rivers. About 350 AD the Pallavas established themselves on the east coast and occupied the famous city of Kanchi. There was lot of literary activity during the period. Sanskrit was the official languages of the Pallavas.
Most of the inscriptions of the Pallavas were written in Sanskrit and Kanchi was the seat of Sanskrit learning in the south.Dandi was the court poet of Narshimha Varman II.During the Pallava rule the Jain and Buddhist teachers lost their importance.Shaivism and Vaishnavism gained importance. Most of the Pallava kings were devotees of Shiva, the exception being Simhavishnu and Nandivarman who were worshippers of Vishnu. The art and architecture of the Pallava dynasty constitutes a most brilliant chapter in the history of the South Indian Art. The rock-cut temples were unique specimen of the time. The Kailashnath temple bears eloquent testimony of the unprecedented progress of art and architecture. Paintings also developed considerably during the Pallava period.

The Palas

The Palas controlled most of Bengal and Bihar. Little is known of the early Palas until the reign of Gopala in the 8th century.Gopala attained renown from the fact that he was not the hereditary king but was elected.Gopala established the Pala dynasty but it was his son Dharmpala who made it a force in north Indian politics. He ruled for 40 years and assumed imperial titles like Paramesvara-Paramabhataraka-Maharadhiraja and the Buddhist title Parama Saugata.He led a successful campaign against Kanauj. He was also a patron of learning and culture. As a Buddhist he founded the famous monastery of Vikramsila on the River Ganges near Bhagalpur.He was succeeded by his second son Devapala who is regarded as the most powerful Pala ruler. He not only maintained the territories inherited by him from his father but also added to them. Epigraphic records credit him with extensive conquests.
The Badal Pillar inscription states that he humbled the pride of Gurjara king the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan, the Huns and also the region of Utkala.Devpala was a great patron of Buddhism. He was succeeded by the weak rulers. It was under Mahapala that the Pala power was once again revived. Mahipala had domination which included Gaya,Patna and Muzzaffarpur.After his death the Pala power declined under his successors on account of internal dissentions and external invasions. The feudatory chiefs began to assert their independence. The authority of Palas was confined to only a portion of Bihar. The Palas were great patrons of art and literature. The Palas had close trade contacts and cultural links with South-East Asia which added greatly to the prosperity of the Pala Empire.

The Pratiharas

The Pratiharas were a section of the large tribe called Gurjara who immigrated into India. Probably they are also called Gurjara-Prathiharas.The earliest well-known king of this dynasty was Nagabhatta I who was responsible for saving western India from the Arabs. He was succeeded by his son Vatsaraja in about 778AD .He included Jodhpur in his kingdom. His empire comprised Malwa and eastern Rajputana.Inscriptions tell us that he ruled over Central Rajputana also and gradually extended his domination over north. He suffered defeat at the hands of Rashtrakuta king Dhruva.He was succeeded by his son Nagabhatta II .
He was defeated by Govinda III of Rashtrakuta. The Pratihara glory reached its zenith under Mihir Bhoja or Bhoja.He consolidated his power. But he was defeated by the Pala ruler Devapala. He then turned towards Central India and the Deccan and Gujarat. The Pratihara Empire was the last empire in North India before the Muslim conquest. It brought political unity in Northern India. They were later represented by local kings in different areas.

The Rashtrakutas

The origin of the Rashtrakutas is not clear. The scholars hold divergent opinion and advance various theories in support of their claims. According to one scholar Rashtrakutas belonged to the dynasty of the Rathors while the other says that they were the ancestors of the Marathas. Dantidurga was the founder of the Rashtrakutas kingdom. He annexed Gujarat and many districts of the Central and Northern Madhya Pradesh. He was succeeded by his uncle Krishna. He completed the overthrow of the Chalukya power and expanded the limit of the empire by conquest. He constructed the Siva temple of Ellora.He was succeeded by his eldest son Govinda II.He took up the title of Prabhutavarsha Vikramavaloka.He was dethroned by his younger brother Druva.
He was the first Rashtrakuta ruler to intervene in the tripartite struggle being wagged for the supremacy of north India. He defeated both the Pratihara ruler Vatsaraja after occupying Malwa and Dharmpala the Pala ruler.Dhruva was succeeded by Govinda III and he continued to rule till 814 AD. He was succeeded by his son Amoghavarsha.He took up the title of Nripatunga.He ruled for 64 years with a few revolts here and there. He authored a book on ethics, titled Kavirajmarga.He was a great builder and is said to have made the famous city Manyakheta. The Rashtrakuta rulers made extensive conquests. They not only brought the entire south under their control but also penetrated deep into the territories of the north.

The Tripartite Struggle

After the disappearance of the centralized politics in northern India, a large number of states came into existence and there was a struggle for supremacy among them. The object for political ambition during the period between 8-12 century was to conquer and hold the city of Kannuaj which had become symbol of imperial power.Kannuaj became a bone of contention between three powers the Rashtakutas, the Pratiharas and the Palas and much of the military activity of these powers was directed towards its conquest. For some time the Pratiharas of Kanary became more powerful. Later on their place was taken by the Pala kings. The Rashtrakutas held sway towards the west and south of the Deccan.While these powers were busy fighting each other, their feudatories established small regional kingdoms all over the northern India.

The Hoysalas

The Hoyalas of Mysore were descended from a general of the Chalukya king, Vikramaditya.The founder of the dynasty were Biltga better known as Vishnu Vardhana. He reigned for more than 30 years in subordination to the Chalukya king and died in 1141 AD. To begin with he was a Jain but was converted to Vaishnavism by saint Ramanuja. He patronized architecture and sculpture. He extended his domination against Cheras, Cholas and Pandhyas.He finally drove out the Cholas from the Mysore Plateau. His grandson Vira Ballala extended the dominion to Devagiri. He formally declared his independence of Chalukyas in about 1190 AD. He made Hoysalas the supreme power in the Deccan towards the close of the 12th century.
The power of the dynasty was overthrown by Alauddin’s general Malik Kafur who sacked the Hoysala capital Dwarasamudra in 1310 AD. The Hoysalas developed a new style of architecture different from that of the Chalukyas.The temples were polygonal star-shaped in plan having rich carved plinths. The towers of the temples were pyramidal in shape and were often attached together. The Hoysala buildings were generally ornamented with an enormous mass of sculpture and statues of very good quality.

The Cheras

The Cheras of Kerala was also an ancient state of the southern India. It comprised the territories of modern Travancore state,Cochin and some portions of Malabar.Perunar,Adon II and Senaguttavam were great rulers of the line. In the beginning of the Christian era there rules were significant. They successfully fought against the Cholas and the Pandyas.They came into prominence in 10th century. In fact they remained under the supremacy of the Cholas.

They also had to submit to the Pandyas.However the last powerful Chera ruler was Ravivardhan Kulasekra who ascended the throne in about 1297 AD and tried to salvage the waning glory of the dynasty.

The Paramaras

The Paramaras began their political domination as the feudatory chiefs of the Rashtrakutas.But they revolted against their overlords at the end of the 10th century. The Paramaras established under their control in Malwa with their capital at Dhar near Indore. The founder was Upendra- Krishnaraja who ruled near Mt Abu extended his territory by conquests. He founded this dynasty in about 820 AD .Munja the 7th king was the first great Paramara king.He was a great patron of learning.King Bhoja was the most important Paramara ruler.He ruled for 55 years from 1010-1065 AD.
An Udaipur inscription mentions his conquests extending from the Himalaya to Malabar including the Chedi, Gurjara,Lata,Karnatas.During his reign the Paramaras reached their zenith.

The Chalukyas of Badami

·  Religion of Chalukyas
·  Language
·  Art and Architecture
From the 6th to the 8th century AD the Chalukyas were the dominant power in the Deccan.The Chalukya inscriptions provide valuable material for the reconstruction of a continuous history of the Deccan together with its contact with South India for about 200 years. Chalukya power had its rise in the west with its capital at Vatapi.It established a kingdom corresponding to the modern Bombay state with some additions to the south and east but without Kathiawad and Gujarat. The Chalukyas of Badami claimed to be Haripuras. They contended that they belonged to the Manavya gotra. They ruled from the middle of the 6th century to the middle of the 8th century AD when they were supplanted by the Rashtrakutas. The later western Chalukyas of Kalyani overthrew the Rashtrakutas in the second half of the 10th century and continued to rule till the end of the 12th century. An offshoot of the western Chalukyas known as the eastern Chalukyas established its power at Vengi from the 7th century to 12th century.

Religion of Chalukyas

The Chalukyas were the followers of Brahmanical religion but they also followed a policy of religious tolerance. During their reign Jainism prospered in the Deccan. Many Chalukyan kings granted villages to well known Jain scholars. There is no information regarding Buddhism. As regards Brahmanism there arrived the Bhagvata and Pashupati cults the cults of devotion to Vishnu and Shiva respectively. Superb structures were set up at Vatapi and Pattadakal in the honor of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The sacrificial form of worship was composed. Of the Shaivite saints the most popular were Appar, Sambandar, Manikkavasagar and Sundarar.The hymns dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu have been preserved in two separate collections the Tirumurari and the Nalyira Prabandham.
The Jainism and Buddhism gradually gave way to a new form of religious worship the devotional cults of the Tamil saints which later came to be called the Bhakti movement. The devotional aspect was formulated in a relationship between god and man based on love. Tamil devotionalism achieved a great wave of popularity in the 6th and 7th centauries AD and continued in the hymns and sermons of the Nayanars and the Alvars.

Chalukyan Language

Sanskrit was the recognized medium in these mathas and was also the official language at the court. Two outstanding Sanskirt works of this age are Bharavi’s Kiratarjunia and Dandin’s Dashakumarcharita.Apart from the university at Kanchi which acquired fame equal to that of Nalanda there were a number of other Sanskrit colleges. Apart from Sanskrit various regional languages also prospered –Tamil in the far south and Kannada in the Deccan.References are made to the existence of considerable literature in Kannada at this time but little has survived.

A 7th century inscriptions of a Chalukyan king at Badami mentions Kannada as the local Prakrit or natural language and Sanskrit as the language of culture which summarizes relationship between two languages.

Art and Architecture

Art made great progress under the patronage of Chalukya kings. A new style of architecture known as the Chalukya style which was different from the Gupta style was developed during this period. Aihole represents the best of Chalukyan architecture and thus has rightly called the cradle of Indian temple architecture. The three famous temples at Aihole are Ladh Khan Temple, Durga temple and Hucchimalligudi temple. The Ladh temple is a flat roofed structure. The Durga temple was an experiment seeking to adopt the Buddhist chaitya to a Brahmanical temple. The Hucchimalligudi temple is very much similar to the Durga temple but smaller than it. The movement of rock-cut halls was initiated during the 7th century AD. There are as many as 10 temples at Pattadakal belonging to this period.
There are four temples in the northern style and six of them follow the Dravidian style. Among them the temple of Virupaksha is the most important one. It is a direct initiation of the Kailashnatha temple of Kanchi and was built by one of the queens of Vikramaditya II. Another important achievement of the Chalukyan art was the building of excavated cave temples of Hindu gods. The Melagiti Sivalaya at Badami is a small but finely proportioned and magnificently located temple.


  1. Excellent compact summary I have seen for the first time

  2. Valuable info. Fortunate me I discovered your website by chance, and I'm stunned why this coincidence did not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.
    Scarpa Women's Kailash GTX Lady Hiking Boot

  3. awesome and very informative post thanks for sharing

  4. Thank you for this valuable collection.