(Last Updated on : 24/05/2011)
Literary sources for ancient Indian culture provide a glimpse of the rich art and culture of the ancient societies. Through the different literary sources a clear idea of the various aspects of the ancient era can be obtained. The different aspects of the rich ancient culture comprise food habits, art forms, costumes, etc. The different literary sources for ancient Indian culture include the Veda or the Vedic texts, Indian Puranas
, the two great epics - Ramayana
, and the various literatures.
As far as the cuisines of ancient Indian society
are concerned, most of the literary sources mention barley, rice
, fruits, vegetables, milk products, etc. Some of them also talk about fish and meat. Like for instance, among the food grains, the Rig Veda
repetitively states barley, particularly fried barley, cereals, pulses, mustard
, butter and rice as the staple food. Dhanya has also been mentioned, as well as crushed grain, mixed with curd, was also relished. Rig Veda further confirms the wide prevalence of drinking wine. Moreover, in the age of Brahmanas
, rice, barley and wheat appear to be the staple food. Different products of barley and rice, and various milk
products are mentioned in some of the literary sources for ancient Indian culture. Some of the appliances and utensils, associated with the preparation of food, are also have a mention in certain Brahmanas; for example pestle, winnowing basket, plate, pot, utensils made of bell-metal, etc. Among the drinks are mentioned soma, sura, honey, milk and fruit-juice. Kalpasutras also mentions the use of various food grains, namely rice, barley, wheat, millet, sesame and pulses
and sugar appear to have been widely added to food for enhancing the taste.
Meat-eating appears to have been extensively prevalent both among the Aryans and the non-Aryans. From other literary references fish appears to have been used as food. Of the food-grains, the Vayu Purana mentions masura, tila, yava, besides varieties of rice. Among the milk-products, it discusses curd
and ghee; is also mentioned. This Puranic text
also confirms the vogue of meat-eating. The offer of meal in Sraddhas and sacrifices appears to have been preordained by Shastras. Manu Smriti
also discusses about food and drink. It mentions that certain food items are prohibited in respect of the three upper classes of the society. Pali and Prakrit works discloses that rice was a vital food grain of the society. Milk and milk-products appear to have been considered as delicacies. Moreover, the Jatakas consist of a good deal of information about the food habits of ancient Indian societies.
Interestingly, Vedic literature
gives a brief idea of the dress code and decorations of the people of ancient societies. As regards the garments, the Rig Veda mentions that linen and wool seem to have been used in making clothes. Further, in Brahmana age, huge importance was attached to the clothing style and costumes. People were familiar with sewing, knitting and weaving. Garments made of wool, silk
was mostly used. In the ancient societies of India, people widely used flowers and flower-garlands, especially in some special ceremonial occasions. According to other literary sources, the different kinds of fabric, used for making garments include silk cloth, auma or aumaka made from the yarn of flax (Uma) and hemp plants, wool and cotton. Jewellery of various kinds pearl, diamond, ruby and other valuable stones also have a mention in the various literary texts of ancient India. Gold and silver ornaments of different kinds were widely used in ancient India. The use of flower garlands, perfumes, cosmetics and lotions was also in vogue.
Ancient Indian culture includes the various art forms of the ancient societies. In the past there were various recreation options for the people. There is no reference to the staging of a full-fledged drama in the Vedic texts. But, it does not imply that dramatic elements were absent in those ages. Some dialogue hymns seem to have provided the people with a dramatic atmosphere. Riddles or quizzical questions most likely served as a means of popular entertainment apart from music, vocal and instrumental elements. Further, the literary sources for ancient Indian culture also reveal that dance was in vogue. The Brahmanas show that the people had an ear for music in the natural environments. Various musical instruments like the Vina (lute) and dundubhi (drum
) have been mentioned. Vocal music appears to have been a means of livelihood. The literary sources for ancient Indian culture also throw substantial light on this aspect of social life. The Kalpasutra
talks about the popularity of music, both vocal and instrumental. Dance, with lyrical steps and gestures of hands conveying diverse ideas, was known. Dance, accompanied by vocal or instrumental music, was a very popular pastime and entertainment mode. Thus, it has been made clear by the literary works that the most popular way of recreation was music and dance in the ancient societies.