(Last Updated on : 25/10/2013)
Sources of history of India
are significant tools for tracing the lifestyle and culture of India since ages. India has a rich and colourful history and it is a treasure trove of earliest chronicle. Different parts of the subcontinent have different histories and legends. Historians discover the historical aspects of various regions of the country through diverse sources. Indian history has a past of over thousands of years. The history of India is evident in several forms. Sources of history of India are the evidences that relate the origin of earliest civilisations, their culture and their beliefs. Sources are important to trace the ancient records. These are vital for the historians as they get their information about what happened in the past. The sources belong to two types, both written and non-written and throw light to the relevance of the historical facts. These sources comprise of coins and coinages, manuscripts, texts and the archaeological survey.
Indian Coins and Coinage
Indian coins and coinage is the one of the best sources of history of India. Coins provide information on the condition of country. Several coins are available that confirm the origin of earliest civilisation, kings and kingdoms. The coins of ancient times are made of gold, silver and copper and speak of the economic situation of that place in the period. Coins are essential that provide chronological information. These coins and coinage are the only source to provide idea of the Bactarian, Indo-Greeks and Indo-Parthian dynasty and the relation of the Roman Empire with the Indians. In addition to that coins also provide information on the coin artistry of India, various portraits and figures engraved on them and about the Hellenistic art. Dates, royal portraits and names of kings were usually engraved on the coins which help in understanding the era of different rulers and illuminate the hidden corners of Indian history. Dates and intrinsic value of coins narrate the evolution of the country's economy. Religious and cultural condition of different eras can be deciphered by the type and shape of coins. Coins of Gupta dynasty
have been discovered in large number and many of them were made of gold which showcases the Roman influence on India. During the period of Chandragupta II
, Chaitya coins were the evidence of the relation with Sakas
Among the copious sources of history of India, Indian manuscripts play a vital role and help in locating the earliest history of a place. The manuscripts are rich sources of written evidences. A manuscript is a document that is written by hand and offers information that is hand-recorded in other ways than writing. These constitute a variety of themes including textures and aesthetics, languages, scripts, calligraphies, illuminations and illustrations. These are written on metal, bark, palm leaf, cloth etc. Majority of these were written in Sanskrit language
which forms the most versatile and rich source of history of India.
Ancient Texts of India
Ancient texts also provide abundant information about the ancient rulers, their supremacy and their reign. They also provide an idea about the lifestyle of ancient era. The four Vedas
- Rig Veda
, Sama Veda
, Yajur Veda
and Atharva Veda
belong to the ancient Indian texts. Other ancient texts comprise of the Brahmanas
, the Aryankas, the Upanishads
, the Epics Ramayana
, the Brahmashastras and the Puranas
Archaeology of India
Archaeology of India is the scientific study of the remains of the past. This study is considered to be essential among the sources of history of India. It is the study of buildings, monuments and other material relics. Excavations are conducted at various sites in the country to collect facts about the past details of the country. For instance the archaeological survey at Taxila
gives an idea about the Kushanas
. The rock cut temples of Ajanta
and its sculptures and paintings are archaeological sources. The Archaeological Survey of India
is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation. It forms one of the significant sources of history of India. The survey looks after the maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of the country. The organization has a large work force of trained archaeologists, conservators, epigraphist, architects and scientists for conducting archaeological research projects throughout the country.
Foreign travellers have also contributed a lot in forming important sources of history of India. Various information have been recorded by classical and Greek writers, right from the 6th Century when the Persians invaded the country. Persian domination of north western India has been recorded by Ctesias and Herodotus. Records of historians such as Onesicritus and Nearchus throw light on the Alexander's invasion of north western India. 'Indika' is a renowned book written by Megasthenes that narrates the social and political scenario of the country during the era of Chandragupta Maurya
. Other well known works includes the book "Geography" written by Ptolemy and "Natural History" written by Pliny. An account of ports and harbours of ancient India can be found in "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea". With the spread of Buddhism
in China, amicable relations developed between India and China. Many Chinese pilgrims and travellers have also left invaluable historical records which depicts the history of India. In 8th century, a number of Arabian scholars also visited India who have left several accounts on India.