This is a comprehensive, intelligible and interesting portrait of Ancient Indian History and Civilization from a national historical point of view. The work is divided into three broad divisions of the natural course of cultural development in Ancient India: (1) From the prehistoric age to 600 B.C., (2) From 600 A.C, to 300 A.D., (3) From 300 A.D. to 1200 A.D.
The work describes the political, economic, religious and cultural conditions of the country, the expansionist activities, the colonisation schemes of her rulers in the Far East. Political theories and administrative organizations are also discussed but more' stress has been laid on the religious, literary and cultural aspects of Ancient India.
The book is of a more advanced type. It would meet the needs not only of general readers but also of earnest students who require a thorough grasp of the essential facts and features before taking up specialized study in any branch of the subject. It would also fulfil requirements of the candidates for competitive examinations in which Ancient Indian History and culture is a prescribed subject.
Ramesh Chandra Majumdar (1888- 1980) was an Indian historian of great repute. He is sometimes called "the dean of Indian historians" for his colossal contribution to the study Indian history. Born at Khandapara in Faridpur District (now in Bangladesh) he did his B.A. from Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1909 and M.A. from Calcutta University in 1911. He got his doctorate for his thesis "Corporate Life in Ancient India."
He started his teaching career as a lecturer at Dacca Government Training College. Since 1914, he spent seven years as a Professor of history at the University of Calcutta. In 1921 he joined the newly established University of Dacca as Professor of History, where he served, as the Head of the Department of History as well as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts. Then he became the Vice Chancellor of that University, for five years from 1937 to 1942.
In 1955 Majumdar became the founder-principal of the College of Indology of Nagpur University. In 1958-59 he taught Indian history in the Universities of Chicago and Pennsylvania. He was also the president of the Asiatic Society (1966-68) and the Vangiya Sahitya Parisad (1968-69).
Some of his well-known works are: The Early History of Bengal (1924); An Advanced History of India (1960); The History and Culture of the Indian People, 11 Vols. (1951-77), History of the Freedom Movement in India. 3 Vols., etc.
I. Physical Characteristics
India is bounded on the north by the Himalayas and on the south, east, and west by the open sea. On the north-cast and on the north-west, ranges of hills connect the main chain of the Himalayas with the sea.
India is thus naturally protected on all sides. It must not be supposed, however, that she was cut off from the rest of the world by these formidable barriers. The Himalaya is the most inaccessible frontier that nature has designed for any country, but even here, there are roads from Tibet to Nepal that have carried for ages not merely peaceful missionaries of culture and religion, but on rare occasions even formidable hosts of soldiers as well. Besides, there are mountain passes in the north-west which have served for ages as the high road of communication between India and the outer world.
There are several passes across the Hindu Kush, and the most frequented route on this side of the hill range is the one that runs along the valley of the Kabul river and then descends to Peshawar, through the Khyber Pass, a' winding and narrow defile over 20 miles long. Another well-known route runs from Herat to Kandahar, and then descends to the Sindhu (Indus) valley through the Bolan Pass. Another road from the west passes along the inhospitable Makran coast. Apart from invasions and immigrations unrecorded' in history, in-numerable bands of colonists, merchants, and conquering hosts entered and left India through these passes in historical times ever since the Aryans crossed the Hindu Kush about four thousand years age.
The north-eastern chains .contain a remarkable gap through which the Brahmaputra enters India, and it must have been frequented by people in all ages, though recorded instances are few and far between. The hills further south are covered with dense forests and it is difficult to cross them, but merchants, misssionaries, and sometimes even armed hosts are known to have passed through them.
II. Sources of Indian History
One of the gravest defects of Indian culture, which defy rational explanation, is the aversion of Indians to writing Absence of history. They applied themselves to all conceivable branches of literature and excelled in many of them, but they never seriously took to the writing of history. It is difficult to accept the view, too often maintained, that the Indians totally lacked the historical sense. This is discredited by the few historical texts, local chronicles like those of Nepal, Gujarat, Kashmir, and other places, and a large number of inscriptions that have come down to us. Still the fact remains that the Indians displayed a strange indifference towards properly recording the public events of their country.
Rudiments of history are indeed preserved in the Puranas and the Epics. We find lists of kings and sometimes, though Sources of very rarely, their achievements, but it is impossible to arrange them in chronological order without extraneous help. References to historical events and traditions are also scattered in other books, and valuable information is thus obtained from the different branches of literature, both secular and religious, even from such books as the grammatical works of Panini and Patanjali. Biographical works of great historical persons are, of course, of great value, and we are fortunate in possessing a number. of them, such as Harsha-charita by Banabhatta, Vikramankadeva-charita by Bilhana, Navasahasanka-charita of Padmagupta, Rama-charita of Sandh- yakara Nandi, Bhojaprabandha by Ballala, Gaudavaho by Yakpatiraja, Kumarapala-charita, both by Jayasimha and Hemachandra, Hammira-kavya of Nayachandra, Prithviraja-charita by Chand-Bardai, and Prithviraja-vijaya by an anonymous writer.
There is only one historical work, properly so called, written by Kalhana in the 12th century A. D. This is Rajatarangini which deals with the history of Kashmir from the earliest times up to the date of the composition of that work. It as- sumes, however, a regular historical form only from the seventh century A. D., the earlier chapters being a medley of confused traditions and fanciful imaginations.
This book is a revised and enlarged edition of my "Outline of
Ancient Indian History and Civilisation" which was published in
1927 and has been out of print since 1938. Constant demands for
the book, ever since, showed that the object with which it was
written, as .explained in the preface, was more than fulfilled.
Owing to a variety of circumstances I could not bring out
a second edition of the book during the next ten years. When
at last I had some leisure to take up the work, I found that the
book, in its present form, has, to some extent, outlived its uti-
lity, as there are already several other works of the same nature
in the field. At the same time I felt the necessity of a book
on ancient Indian history and culture of' a more advanced
type; which would not only serve the needs of general readers
but may also be used as a preliminary handbook by more ear-
nest students who. require a thorough grasp of the essential
facts and features before taking up specialised study in any
branch of the subject. Incidentally] also kept in view the re-
quirements of the growing number of candidates for competitive
examinations in which ancient Indian history and culture is
a prescribed subject. Various personal references to me showed
that the competitors keenly feel the .absence of a single treatise
on the subject such as is available for other periods of Indian
history and the history of other countries. The few books
that exist, like V. A .. Smith's Early History of India, are either
inComplete (dealing only with the political history) or out of
date, and even for a rudimentary knowledge of the Subject such
students have to go through a large number of books, which
they often find it difficult to select and also to procure.
The additions and alterations which were found necessary
to meet all these requirements proved to be so considerable that
the new book could not, with due propriety, be regarded merely
as a revised second edition of the old work. I have there-
fore adopted a new title (or this book, though considerable por-
tions of the old one have been incorporated in it, and the general
plan has not been materially altered.
Among the more important additions may be mentioned
the chapters on the prehistoric age, including the Indus Valley
Civilization, more detailed account of the ancient republican
clans and the various mediaeval local dynasties, specially those
of the south, and the development of art and colonisation.
Important changes, though much less extensive, have been
made in chapters dealing with political theory and administra-
tive system, as well 'as social and economic condition, and an
entirely new section on coins has- been added. Considerable
other modifications and re-arrangements, involving re-grouping
of chapters, have been made, and more copious footnotes and
fuller bibliography have been added for the guidance of advanced
students. On the whole the revision has been a laborious
undertaking. and I have spared no pains to make this work
useful not only to general readers but also to advanced students
and candidates for competitive examinations.
It is hardly necessary to add that in dealing with ancient
India I have used the geographical name to denote the whole
country and ignored the present political division. But I have
adopted some of the new spellings of geographical. names intro-
duced in Independent India. such as Ganga and Sindnu, for
Ganges and Indus, except where they are used in adjective phrases
like 'Indus valley' ; though, due to inadvertence, the old forms
and spellings may .occur here and there along with the new
ones. In writing modem geographical and personal names, no
diacritical mark has been used except to indicate long a.
The first edition of this book has been out of print for a
good many years. The second edition has been long delayed
because I wanted to revise it thoroughly and bring it up-to-date,
and this I could not do so long on account of my various pre-
occupation and absence from India. In this new edition more
details have been added to the history and culture of South
India, and some recent publications have been added to the
Art & Culture (744)
Emperor & Queen (484)
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