Ancient India by R. C. Majumdar

Ancient India

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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 B.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, and 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. Among the more important additions may be mentioned in the chapters on the prehistoric age, including the Indus Valley Civilization, a more detailed account of the ancient republican clans and the various medieval local dynasties, especially 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 administrative system, as well as the social and economic condition and an entirely new section on coins have been added. Considerable other modifications and rearrangements, involving re-grouping of chapters, have been made and more copious footnotes and fuller bibliography have been added for the guidance of advanced students. 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 the requirements of the candidates for competitive examinations in which Ancient Indian History and Culture is a prescribed subject.


About The Author

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 of Indian history. Born in 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 a 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 at 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), and History of the Freedom Movement in India. 3 Vols., etc.




India is bounded on the north by the Himalayas and on the south, east, and west by the open sea. On the northeast and on the northwest, 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 Himalayas 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 northwest 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 ago.

The north-eastern chains .contain a remarkable gap through which the Brahmaputra enters India, and it must have been frequented by people of 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, missionaries, and sometimes even armed hosts are known to have passed through them.

One of the gravest defects of Indian culture, which defy rational explanation, is the aversion of Indians to writing the 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, Prithviraj-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 sums, however, a regular historical form only from the seventh century A. D., the earlier chapters being a medley of confused traditions and fanciful imaginations.


Preface To The First Editon

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 utility, 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 earnest students. 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 requirements 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 therefore adopted a new title (or this book, though considerable portions 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, a more detailed account of the ancient republican clans and the various mediaeval local dynasties, especially 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 administrative system, as well 'as social and economic conditions, 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 introduced 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.


Preface To The Second Edition

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 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 Bibliography.



List of Plates xii
The System of Transliteration xiii
Preface xv
Introduction: I. Physical Characteristics 1
II. Sources of Indian History 7
I. The Prehistoric Age-Early Man and his Implements 13
II. The Prehistoric Age-Race and Culture 16
Ill. The Sindhu (Indus) Valley Civilization 20
IV. The Aryans 28
V. The Vedas 33
VI. Early Aryan Society 43
VII. Later Vedic Period-Political History 65
VIII. Later Vedic Period-Political theory and administrative system 74
IX. Later Vedic Period-Social and Religious Condition 78
BOOK II. FROM C. 600 B. C. TO C. 300 A.D.  
I. Political History from the Sixth to the fourth century B.C. 95
II. The Maurya Empire 104
III. From the end of the first to the beginning of 119
the second Magadha Empire (Second-century RC. to fourth century A.D.)  
IV. Political Theory and Administrative Organisation 140
V. New Religious Movements 160
VI. Literature 178
VII. The Epics and the Hindu Society 195
VIII. Colonisation and Economic Condition 210
IX. Art. 222
BOOK III. FROM C. 300 A. D. To C. 1200 A. D.  
I.The Gupta Empire 230
II. North India from C. 500 A. D. to 650 A.D. 248
III. North India from C. 650 A.D. to C. 800 A 257
IV. The Deccan up to the rise of the Rashtrakutas 269
V. The Struggle for Supremacy- The Rashtrakutas, 282
the Palas, and the Gurjara-Pratiharas  
VI. Downfall of the Pratihara Empire 288
VII. Invasions of Sultan Mahmud 305
VIII. Northern India in the 11th and 12th centuries A.D. 312
IX. The Muslim Conquest of Northern India 344
X. Nepal and Kashmir 351
XI. Rise and Fall of Empires in the Deccan 365
XII. Eastern and Western Deccan 379
XIII. South Indian 394
XIV. Political Theory and Public Administration 414
XV. Growth of Local Sdf-government 421
XVI. Religion 427
XVII. Literature 437
XVIII. The System of Education 451
XIX. Economic Condition 455
XX. Art and Architecture 458
XXI. Degradation of Hindu Society 468
XXII. Indian Colonies in the Far East 476
Bibliography 498
Identification of ancient places 514
Index 518

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