Literary Sources 2. Archaeological Sources. Amongst literary sources, we include all written records in the form of texts, essays or descriptions. The first literary sources of Hindus are Samhitas which includes four Vedas — the Rig-veda, the Sam-veda, the Yajur-veda and the Atharva-veda. Besides these are Brahmanas the Satapatha, the Panchavis, the Aitreya etc.
Finding Primary Sources
The Rig-veda provides us information about the civilization of the early Vedic Age while the rest of the three Vedas are useful to know about the civilization of the later Vedic age. Brahmanas provide us knowledge concerning the expansion of the Aryans towards east India during the later Vedic age and also religious beliefs and rituals of the Aryans.
Upanishads concern the philosophical speculations and beliefs of the Aryans such as the trans-migration of soul, Brahma, salvation of soul etc.
Sutras tell us the rituals while performing different Yajnas and the religious, social, moral and political responsibilities of an individual. Smiritis reveal to us the social and religious conditions of the Indians between B. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are useful for knowing the living conditions of the Aryans during the later Vedic age while Puranas help us in finding out the history of the rulers and their kingdoms which existed in India after the war of Mahabharata till the 6th century A. Afterwards, the Mahayana and the Tantrika sects of Buddhism created vast religious literature of their own and Jataka stories nearly in number of Mahayanism describing various life-stories of Mahatma Buddha were also written Some later written Buddhist texts like Anuguttar-Nikay which provides us useful information concerning the political, social and religious condition of the 6th century B.
All of them constitute sources of knowing the contemporary culture and history of India. These Buddhist religious texts provide useful information to us concerning the polity, political life, different rulers, their dynasties, their rule and their kingdoms up to 6th century B. The religious texts, the Mahavansa and the Dipavansa, prepared by the scholars of Sri Lanka also provide us useful information concerning the history of Ancient India.
The original Jain religious texts were called Agams, Afterwards these were compiled into 14 Purvas and further, the first ten Punas were re-arranged in 12 Angas in the fifth century A. Now only 11 Angas are available. Besides, a vast literature was created by Jain scholars afterwards, which also provide us useful knowledge concerning history, culture and civilization of Ancient India. Among the later Jain religious texts, one of the most prominent ones is the Parisista Parva which was prepared during the 12th century. The Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Muslim writers and travellers have left fairly interesting sources of information in their accounts.
But the most popular account amongst them is the Indica written by Megasthenes who lived for some time in the court of Chandra Gupta Maurya as an ambassador of Seleucus. The Tahkika-i-Hind of Al-Baruni provides us good information concerning political, social and cultural condition of northern India in the 11th century.
The Chinese travellers, Fa-hien, Hiuen Tsang and I-tsing recorded their experiences in fairly bulky volumes which provide us with much useful information. Their writings provide us useful information concerning social, religious and cultural condition of contemporary India. Besides these important writers and travellers there are many other Greek, Muslim and Chinese whose accounts also provide us with useful information of Indian history and culture.
The contemporary biographical works also provide us with good information. Amongst historical writings, the most famous is the Rajatarangini. It is a history of Kashmir written by Kalhana. According to Mr. Ghosh , it is probable the entire Puranas received their final shape in the 5 th or 6 th Century A. The next important literature before us is that of Pali and Prakrit which are records of Buddhism. There are Jatakas hitherto collected and published and each of the Jatakas birth stories.
The Archaeological Sources of Ancient Indian History
Light is also thrown on the political, economic and religious conditions of early Buddhist India. The great 12 Angas , as the ancient Jain canonical text of Jainism are called, again a very important source of our information. The historical books published in Sri Lanka in Pali language throw some light upon our relation with that country.
There are three important dramas of Kalidasa — Malavikagnimitram,Vikramorvashiyam, and Abhigyan Shakuntalam. Abhigyan Shakuntlam already translated into more than 60 European languages, through a literary work depicts the social life of the people, the dress of the time and the approach towards different social and especially the family problems.
The famous grammarian, Panini , and the renowned literature, Patanjli , are celebrated for their mastery over literature. Nothing directly connected with history is to be traced in their works, but very intensive study has helped historians to extract certain valuable information of historical importance from them as well. As already asserted in the very beginning, they are the sources of semi or total religious nature but information regarding the social life and the economic conditions of the country can be traced in them.
What Are Historical Sources? - History
In the absence of any very reliable historical book they are of great importance of our purposes of reconstructing the history of those far-off days. The two epics — the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are of great importance from the view-point of collecting historical information about the past. The heroic nature of the people, the weapons that were used during a battle, the cause of the just and the unjust as proclaimed by the rival groups, and of course, much that is of religious importance, is recorded in them.
It would be wrong to believe that history is the name of the record of the various kings and their dynasties, their conquests and achievements. A true history is the records of the rise and fall of the people, their social and religious life, the development of Art and industry, the commercial and, of course, the political condition of the day.
Taking this broader view of the history it can be safely concluded that these books are of great importance.
As we come to later ages, there are court poets and writers write about their masters. Reliance cannot be given to these court poets as they are mostly hyperbolic in their expression and liberal in praising their masters. The chronological order of their description is not usually very trustworthy but they cannot be altogether rejected. The most important book of secular nature is the Arthshastra by Kautilya , the Chancellor of Chandragupta administrative machinery of the time.
Though the description is of the type as to what should be done and what should not be done, it is believed that all that he suggested was acted upon the Emperor. Smith is of the view that all that has been exaggerated can be eliminated and even then what remains is of great historical importance of our information. Majumdar thinks that is really an authentic historical book which has been written on real historical grounds.
Though in verse, has been written cautiously to give a real historical touch to the description. Raj Tarangini had its echoes in other parts of the country and court-poets and writers resorted to the same style of the praise of their masters. They were evolved for the proper understanding of the Vedas. Vedanga has been written in the precepts sutra form. This is a very precise and exact form of expression in prose, which was developed by the scholars of ancient India.
Ashtadhyayi eight chapters , written by Panini , is a book on grammar that gives excellent information on the art of writing in sutra precepts. The later Vedic literature includes the Brahmanas , the Aranyakas , and the Upanishads. Aranyakas and Upanishads give speeches on different spiritual and philosophical problems.
The Jain and the Buddhist literature had been written in Prakrit and Pali languages. Pali language reached to Sri Lanka through some of the Buddhist monks where it is a living language. Mahavira and Buddha are considered as the historical personalities equivalent to the God. They have created Jain and Buddhist religious ideology respectively. The Buddhist books are called as Jataka stories.
They have been given some historical importance because they are related with the previous births of the Buddha. There are more than such stories. The historic information mentioned in Jaina literature also help us in reconstructing the history of different regions of India. The Dharmasutras and the Smritis were the rules and regulations for the general public and the rulers. It can be equated with the constitution and the law books of the modern concept of polity and society. For example, Manusmriti. Arthashastra is a book on statecraft written by Kautilya during the Maurya period.
The book is divided into 15 parts dealing with different subject matters related to polity, economy, and society. Kautilya acknowledges his debt to his predecessors in his book, which shows that there was a tradition of writing on and teaching of statecrafts. Mudrarakshasha is a play written by Visakha datta. It describes the society and culture of that period.