facts about the India  facts about ancient India

facts about the India facts about ancient India: A HISTORY OF ANCIENT AND EARLY MEDIEVAL INDIA FROM THE STONE AGE TO THE 12TH CENTURY Book By Upinder Singh Pearson Publication gives the facts about India, actually this article will cover facts about ancient India.




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facts about the India| facts about ancient India

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KEY CONCEPTS TO UNDERSTAND: facts about the India

Lineage, clan, tribefacts about India for kids

Historians use several sociological terms and concepts while describing ancient cultures.

Kinship refers to socially and culturally recognized relationships among people commonly assumed to be based on natural or biological ties. These ties may be based on birth/descent (conlineal or agnatic. Unilineal kinship systems which recognize descent through the mother are known as matrilineal. Multi-lineal or cognatic systems are those in which descent through both the mother and father is recognized. In both patrilineal and matrilineal systems.

 

PRIMARY SOURCES OF FACTS ABOUT THE INDIA

The analysis of ancient plant remains. The study of ancient plant remains is known as paleobotany or archaeobotany. Botanical remains from ancient sites often include macro-botanical remains such as seeds or grains. These can get preserved through desiccation, waterlog- analyzed under microscopes to determine what types of plants they represent and whether these were wild or domesticated. Plant remains can also take the form of micro-botanical remains.

RECENT DISCOVERIES: FACTS ABOUT ANCIENT INDIA

Isampur: a center of stone tool manufacture

Isampur (Gulbarga district, Karnataka) is a village located in the north-western part of the Hunsgi valley, drained by a small seasonal stream known as the Kamta Halla. The Paleolithic site lies about 2 km north-west of the village, close to large flakes, and debitage (waste material). The main tool types were chopping tools, knives, handaxes, cleavers, and scrapers. While unfinished tools occurred in large numbers, there were relatively few finished ones.

 

NEW DIRECTIONS IN RESEARCH: FACTS ABOUT ANCIENT INDIA

Pictures on stone

Pictures made on granite rocks can be seen in many places in Karnataka and Andhra at sites such as Kupgal, Piklihal, and Maski. They are difficult to date, but a rough chronology can be worked out on the basis of style, content, and weather- are also people standing in a chain-like formation, usually interpreted as dancers. Other less frequently occurring motifs include the elephant, tiger, deer, buffalo, birds, footprints, and abstract designs. In general, the scenes tend to be smallthe facts about india

Introduction Ideas of the Early Indian Past: FACTS ABOUT ANCIENT INDIA

The Puranas describe a universe shaped like an egg, vertically divided into the celestial worlds, earth, and netherworlds. The earth is a flat disc, consisting of seven land masses ( Varshas) arranged in concentric circles, alternating with seas of salt water, molasses, wine, butter, curd, milk, and fresh water.

Situated in the center of the earth is Jambudvipa, in whose southernmost part lies Bharatavarsha, the golden Meru mountain rising from its midst. One of several explanations of the name Bharatavarsha connects it with the Bharata people, descendants of the legendary king Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. Cosmography blends with geography in the Puranas.

Bharatavarsha is said to consist of nine divisions (khandas), separated from one another by seas. But the mention of its mountains, rivers, and places—some of which can be identified—suggests that the composers of such texts were familiar with various areas of the Indian subcontinent, and perceived them as parts of a larger cultural whole.

For people of other lands, the major subcontinental landmark was the Indus, or Sindhu, the mighty river that originates in the Tibetan plateau, flowing 3,200 km south-west across fertile plains before it merges with the Arabian Sea. The words ‘India’, ‘Hindu’, and ‘Hindustan’ originate from the name of this river. Ancient Chinese sources refer to the land of ‘Shen-tu’, Greek texts mention ‘India’, and Persian inscriptions describe ‘Hidu’ as one of the subject countries of the Achaemenid king Darius.

These terms initially referred only to the lower Indus valley, but their connotations expanded swiftly. facts about the India

For Megasthenes, who visited the court of Chandragupta Maurya in the 4th century BCE, ‘India’meant the entire subcontinent. Many centuries later, Arabic and Persian texts used the word‘Hindustan’ for this vast stretch of land and ‘Hindu’ for its inhabitants.

While the idea of the Indian subcontinent forming a distinct geographic and cultural unit is a very old one, its nation-states—India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka—emerged only in recent times. When exploring the ancient history of South Asia, it is necessary to ignore modern political boundaries and to treat the Indian subcontinent and its many regions and sub-regions as a single canvas.

Facts about the India: The history of the subcontinent is really about the historical trajectories and interactions of these regions and sub-regions, which at certain points of time—during the peak of the Maurya, Mughal, and British empires—attained some measure of political unity.

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The Main Physiographic Zones of the Subcontinent

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The Indian subcontinent has fairly well-defined geographical frontiers but enormous ecological diversity. Its climatic patterns are similar to those prevailing in other areas on the same latitude but are significantly modified by the Himalayas and the Western Ghats. The Himalayas block the icy northern winds from sweeping across the Indo-Gangetic plains in winter as well as the rain-laden monsoon winds from the south-west in summer.

The barrier of the Western Ghats similarly leads to rainfall in the western coastal strip. Most of the subcontinent gets its rains from the south-west monsoon, except for the north-west and Sri Lanka, which rely on winter rains.

In the north, the subcontinent is bordered by the Himalayas, fairly young fold mountains. The process of their uplift and folding is still going on, making them geologically unstable. The Himalayas can be divided into the western, central, and eastern zones, each with their own specific characteristics.

The northwestern part of the subcontinent includes the arid mountainous North-West Frontier Province and the Baluchistan province of contemporary Pakistan. Leaving aside the fertile river valleys, this area is not especially suited for agriculture, but the many routes running along its valleys and passes connect the subcontinent with areas lying to its west. (facts about the India)

Even more arid conditions prevail in the Thar desert of Rajasthan, where low hills and sand dunes rise over the underlying low, rocky plateau. Between the desert and the north-western mountains lies the Sindh province of southern Pakistan, the Indus providing precious water in an area of very low rainfall.

The northern course of this river lies in Tibet and Ladakh, and along with its tributaries, it flows through the fertile plains of Indian and Pakistani Punjab. To the east of the Indus is the shriveled course of a once mighty river, the Ghaggar-Hakra. The fertile northern alluvial plain of the Ganga and its tributaries is another major geographical zone of the subcontinent.

The western part of this plain is known as the doab (literally, ‘the land between two rivers’, the Ganga and Yamuna). The middle part of the plains corresponds roughly to the state of Bihar and the eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh in modern India. The eastern part includes the delta of the Ganga and Brahmaputra, comprising of modern West Bengal, Assam, and Bangladesh.

The Vindhyan ranges separate the northern plains from peninsular India, while the Aravalli hills divide the Thar desert from central India. The Malwa plateau, with its two major rivers, the Narmada and Tapi, lies between the Aravallis and the central Indian mountains. Peninsular India is an old and relatively stable geological formation, its landscape marked by plateaux, plains, and the fertile valleys of rivers such as the Mahanadi, Krishna, Godavari, Pennar, and Kaveri.

The Deccan plateau, formed by the lava flows from very ancient volcanoes, constitutes the dominant part of the peninsula. It is bordered by the Eastern and Western Ghats, beyond which are the narrow Coromandel and Malabar–Konkan coastal plains. The Nilgiri, Annamalai, and Cardamom hills lie in the extreme south of the peninsula, which is separated from the island of Sri Lanka by the Mannar strait.

The various geographical zones of the subcontinent have never been isolated units. From very early times, human interaction took place through routes cutting across mountains, rivers, and regions, dictated by geographical features and human needs. The Himalayas could be crossed at points such as the Bolan, Gomal, and Khyber passes, and a network of overland routes connected the subcontinent to China, central Asia, West Asia, and Europe.

There was also the over 7,500 km long subcontinental coastline, home to numerous fishing and sailing communities from times immemorial, which linked the subcontinent to the larger Indian Ocean world and to areas such as Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf. The natural landscape has always been an important part of human life and has affected and influenced people’s thought and action in many ways.

The topography, climate, soil, and natural resources of any land influence modes of subsistence, settlement patterns, population density, and trade. Humans have in turn transformed the environment in many ways. Situating the human past in its specific environmental context helps us understand the different rhythms and patterns of cultural development and interactions in the various regions.

However, as we will see further on, ecology too has a history and the subcontinental environments of today differ in many respects from those of the past.

Ways of Dividing the Indian Past: the facts about India

The English word ‘history’ comes from the Greek historian (inquiry or investigation). History is essentially a discipline that inquires into the experiences of people who lived in the past. Historians often classify the past by dividing it into different periods. Labels are convenient, but they should be meaningful and consistent, and it is necessary to be aware of their limitations. For a long time, historians divided Indian history into the Hindu, Muslim, and British periods.

However, this classification is flawed and can be questioned on several grounds. For example, is the religious affiliation of the ruling elite the best basis for labeling a period? In that case, why is the third period described by the British and not the Christian period? From when can we start using the term ‘Hindu’ in the context of ancient India.

How can it be applied to the reigns of the many ancient Indian kings who patronized Buddhism or Jainism? Did the advent of Muslim rulers create a major rupture in the fabric of Indian society, especially when the sway of these rulers—except at the height of the Mughal empire—did not extend overall or even most of the subcontinent?

Due to such reasons, most historians have discarded the Hindu–Muslim–British periodization of the Indian past in favor of a more neutral classification into the ancient, early medieval, medieval, and modern periods.

The dividing lines may vary, but the ancient period can be considered as stretching roughly from the earliest times to the 6th century CE; the early medieval from the 6th to the 13th centuries; the medieval from the 13th to the 18th centuries; and the modern from the 18th century to the present. The current use of these terms shifts the focus away from religious labels towards patterns of significant socio-economic changes.

The ancient or earliest parts of the human past can be further divided into prehistory and history. The enormously long period before the invention of writing and the study of that period are known as prehistory. The part of the past that comes after the invention of writing, and the study of that part of the past (i.e., of literate societies) constitute what is considered history.

Ancient Language-Script India facts and information 

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A language consists of spoken symbols of communication. A script, or writing, is a system of visual communication using signs or symbols associated with specific meanings or sounds, written down on some surface. Human beings used languages long before they invented scripts. The cuneiform script of Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) was invented in c. 3400 BCE and Egyptian hieroglyphics in c. 3100 BCE. In the Indian subcontinent, the earliest substantial evidence of writing is associated with the Harappan civilization and dates from c. 2600 BCE, but recent discoveries push back the origins of the script to the second half of the 4th millennium BCE.

Mesopotamians pressed letters onto moist clay tablets, while the ancient Egyptians wrote on papyrus sheets made of reeds. The Harappan script is mostly found on seals and sealings. But apart from the specimens of writing that have actually survived, it can be assumed that people must have written on a perishable material as well. Writing marked a new stage in human expression and communication. It opened new possibilities for storing and transmitting ideas and knowledge across distance and time.

Its impact was complex and varied. Rulers used writing to advertise and exercise power, merchants to record business transactions, priests to preserve religious texts, and poets to give permanence to their creative expression. We can speculate about the precise impulses that led to the invention of writing, but all over the world (with a few exceptions) it coincided with the emergence of cities and states. For these reasons, historians consider the beginning of writing an important watershed in the story of ancient cultures.

However, in a situation where relatively few people knew how to read or write, writing gave a certain power and privilege to those who knew it and denied it to those who did not. Further, the invention of writing did not mean the end of the oral transmission. The spoken word has always held a special significance in many cultural traditions, and this significance continued even after manuscripts of texts came to be made. Oral versions of many written texts continued to circulate and often had a far greater outreach and impact.

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The beginning of writing is also an important watershed in the study of the past because written evidence becomes available to the historian. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that such evidence covers only a very small portion of the human past. The past before writing (prehistory) and the history of non-literate people who did not leave behind written sources are also extremely important and have to be recovered. And even when written sources are available, archaeological sources continue to be important for historians.

In the Indian subcontinent, the story of writing is a bit complicated. Although the Harappans were a literate people, their script has not yet been deciphered. So historians cannot use the written material they left behind to reconstruct their history. Another mystery is: what happened to write after the decline of the Harappan civilization in c. 1900 BCE? While it is possible that people continued to write, although, on perishable material, there are hardly any surviving specimens of writing between c. 1900 BCE till we come to the 4th century BCE.

The oldest script in the subcontinent is the Harappan script, but the oldest deciphered script is Brahmi, known from about the 4th century BCE, and the two scripts seem to be quite different. [india facts and information ]

For these reasons, it is not easy to draw the dividing line between history and prehistory in India and the term protohistory is useful. This word carries different meanings. In the European context, it is sometimes used to refer to people who did not themselves have writing, but who is mentioned in the written records of a contemporary literate group. In the Indian subcontinent, the Harappan civilization—a literate culture with an undeciphered script—is included in protohistory.

This term can also include the period c. 1500–500 BCE, for which there is an orally transmitted literature (the Vedas), but no evidence of writing. Archaeologists often use the word protohistory for the long period between the beginning of food production and the advent of iron technology. This would include Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures in different parts of the subcontinent.

Changing Interpretations of Early Indian History [india facts and information ]

The historiography (the scholarly activity of constructing and writing history) of ancient and early medieval India reveals many significant changes over time; these can be understood against the background of the political and intellectual contexts in which they emerged and flourished. The various ‘schools’ of history writing are often presented and understood in terms of one school making way for the other in a neat, forward progression. The reality is, however, much more complex.

There was considerable variety within the various schools; some of them co-existed (and still do so) in dialogue or conflict with each other, and there are many examples of writings that go against the grain and do not easily fit into the dominant historiographical trends of their time.

The 18th and 19th centuries were dominated by the writings of European scholars, usually referred to as the Orientalists or Indologists, although they often described themselves as ‘antiquarians’. Many of them were employees of the East India Company and later, the British Government of India. The founding of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784 provided an institutional focus for scholars working in a number of related fields such as textual study, epigraphy, numismatics, and history.

A major contribution of the Indologists lay in their efforts to collect, edit, and translate ancient Indian texts. In this, they depended heavily on information provided by ‘native informants’, whose contribution was rarely acknowledged. Indology soon spread beyond the confines of the British empire and became a subject of study in European universities.

Apart from the study of ancient texts, the 19th century also witnessed important developments in the field of epigraphy, numismatics, archaeology, and the study of art and architecture. The decipherment of the Ashokan Brahmi and Kharoshthi scripts were major breakthroughs. The analysis of coins contributed to the construction of a framework of political history.

Officers of the Geological Survey discovered prehistoric stone tools and laid the basis of Indian prehistory. The Archaeological Survey of India was established in 1871, and over the succeeding decades, this institution made an important contribution towards unearthing and analyzing the material remains of India’s past

RC. MAJUMDAR (1888–1980), A LEADING HISTORIAN OF THE NATIONALIST SCHOOL [ FACTS ABOUT THE INDIA ]

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Understanding Literary and Archaeological Sources

All historical interpretations are ultimately based on evidence derived from the sources of history, conventionally divided into two categories—literary and archaeological. From a historian’s point of view, literary sources include all texts—long or short, written or oral; archaeological sources include all tangible, material remains.

But these distinctions are not absolute. All remains of the past, including literary manuscripts, are actually material in nature. And certain kinds of archaeological sources which have writing on them—inscriptions, coins, and inscribed images—can be considered both material objects and texts.

THE CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY SOURCES: LANGUAGE, GENRE, AND CONTENT

Ancient and early medieval Indian texts can be divided into categories on the basis of language, genre, content, age, and the tradition or class of literature to which they belonged. Linguists and philologists (scholars who study old languages) have divided the languages of the world into different families. Languages belonging to the same family have certain structural similarities and share a significant number of similar, related words (or cognates). For instance, Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Gujarati, Sindhi, Oriya, Nepali, and Kashmiri belong to the Indo-European family.

So do Persian, Greek, Latin, German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Armenian, and many other languages of Europe and Asia. Languages of the Dravidian family—Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, and Tulu— are today largely spoken in South India.

Exceptions include Brahui, which is spoken in the Baluchistan area of Pakistan, Gondi in central India and Malto in the Rajmahal hills of eastern India. Santali, Khasi, Mundari, and some other languages of eastern India belong to the Austro-Asiatic family. Certain languages of the North-East, such as Manipuri, Bodo, Garo, and Lushai belong to the Tibeto-Burmese family.

Andamanese, one of the languages spoken in the Andaman Islands, is not apparently related to any of the known language families. The oldest surviving texts in the Indian subcontinent—the Vedas—are in Sanskrit.

Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages, as do ancient Pali and Prakrit. There were various dialects of Prakrit—e.g., Maharashtri, Shauraseni, and Magadhi.

Apabhramsha is a term used for the further development of Prakrit up to the end of the 1st millennium CE. Among the Dravidian languages, Tamil has the oldest literature, followed by Kannada. Many of the other Indian regional languages and dialects we are familiar with today took shape between c. 1000 and 1500. The various languages were not closed, separate worlds, but overlapping and interacting ones. (facts about the India)

Languages have histories and change with the times. The pre-classical Sanskrit of the Rig Veda is different from the classical Sanskrit of Kalidasa’s poetry. The term ‘classical Sanskrit’ refers to the language whose rules were codified by the 5th/4th century BCE grammarian Panini in his Ashtadhyayi. Another important Sanskrit grammar is Patanjali’s Mahabhashya (2nd century BCE).

The oldest surviving Prakrit grammar is Vararuchi’s Prakritaprakasha, whose date is debated. The ancient Tamil of the Sangam poems is different from modern Tamil. The Tolkappiyam is the oldest surviving Tamil grammar; parts of it go back to the early centuries CE. Such grammatical texts tell us about the structure of ancient languages and they also contain incidental historical references to their time.

THE VEDAS: FACTS ABOUT THE INDIA

In the Hindu tradition, the Vedas have the status of Shruti (literally, ‘that which has been heard’).

They are thought to embody an eternal, self-existent truth realized by the rishis (seers) in a state of meditation or revealed to them by the gods. The category of Smriti (literally, ‘remembered’) texts include the Vedanga, Puranas, epics, Dharmashastra, and Nitishastra.

The word Veda comes from the root vid (literally, ‘to know’) and means ‘knowledge’. There are four Vedas—Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva.

The Rig Veda contains the world’s oldest surviving poetry, some of it of extraordinary beauty and philosophical depth. Each Veda has four parts, the last three of which sometimes blend into each other—the Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka, and Upanishad.

The Rig Veda Samhita is a collection of 1,028 hymns (Suktas) arranged in 10 books (Mandalas).

The Sama Veda consists of 1,810 verses, mostly borrowed from the Rig Veda, arranged according to the needs of musical notation. The original melodies are, however, lost.

The Yajur Veda deals with the details of the performance of rituals.

The Atharva Veda is the latest Veda and contains hymns (some from the Rig Veda), but also spells and charms which reflect aspects of popular beliefs and practices.

The Brahmanas (this term should not be confused with the Brahmana Varna or caste) are prose explanations of the Samhita portions and give details and explanations of sacrificial rituals and their outcome.

The Aranyakas (forest books) interpret sacrificial rituals in a symbolic and philosophical way. There are 108 Upanishads, among which 13 are considered the principal ones.

The Upanishads contain a great variety of philosophical ideas about sacrifice, the body, and the universe, but are most closely associated with the concepts of atman and Brahman.

Within the Vedic corpus as a whole, Books 2–7 (known as the family books) of the Rig Veda Samhita are considered the oldest; the later portions of this Samhita, along with all the other Vedic texts, comprise later Vedic literature.

There are several recensions (shakhas) of the Vedas, associated with different schools (Charanas) of Vedic study and interpretation. (The terms Shakha and Charana are often used interchangeably.) The Shakala shakha is the only surviving recension of the Rig Veda. The texts of the Yajur Veda are divided into those of the Shukla (White) school and Krishna (Black) school.

The recensions of the Shukla (also known as Vajasaneya) Yajur Veda are the Madhyandina and Kanva. The Black school is represented by the Kathaka, Kapishthala, Maitrayani, and Taittiriya recensions.

The main difference between the texts of the two schools is that the Samhitas of the White school contain only the mantras (prayers and sacrificial formulae), while in the texts of the Black school the mantras are accompanied by a commentary describing and discussing various aspects of the sacrificial rituals.

The Kauthuma, Ranayaniya, and Jaiminiya (or Talavakara) are recensions of the Sama Veda and the Shaunaka and Paippalada of the Atharva Veda. References in inscriptions mention other recensions of the Vedas that once existed but are now lost.

Vedic texts comprise a religious literature, and references to possible historical events are few. For example, Book 7 of the Rig Veda Samhita refers to a battle of 10 kings, in which Sudas defeated a number of adversaries who had confederated against him. Historians have tried to reconstruct various aspects of the culture represented in the Vedas, but it is not easy to interpret this vast and complex literature. (facts about the India)

THE TWO SANSKRIT EPICS: THE RAMAYANA AND MAHABHARATA

The two Sanskrit epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, fall within the category of Smriti as well as Itihasa (traditional history), although the Ramayana is sometimes classified as kavya (poetry).

Similarities in language and style suggest that they emerged from a common cultural milieu. The Mahabharata refers to Valmiki and the Ramayana and outlines the Rama story in a section called the Ramopakhyana.

The Ramayana, in turn, mentions the Kurus, Hastinapura, and Janamejaya, although it does not mention the Mahabharata war. The two epics were clearly aware of each other, at least in their later stages of development. The composition of the Mahabharata can be placed between c. 400 BCE and c. 400 CE, and the Ramayana between the 5th/4th century BCE and the 3rd century CE.

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More recently, Hiltebeitel (2001: 18–20) has suggested a shorter period of composition for the Mahabharata, from the mid-2nd century BCE to the year zero. Nevertheless, the fact that the different stages in the composition and development of the epics could well have spanned many centuries, possibly even a millennium, should make it obvious why most historians no longer use the term ‘epic age’.

The Mahabharata consists of 18 Parvas (books) and has two main recensions—a northern and southern. The core story concerns a conflict between two sets of cousins—the Kauravas and the Pandavas—and a great war that was fought between them at Kurukshetra.

The additions include the sermon on dharma given by Bhishma as he lay dying on a bed of arrows, and the stirring discourse of Krishna to Arjuna on the eve of the war, known as the Bhagavad Gita.

The Ramayana exists in the form of two main recensions—northern and southern; the northern recension can be further divided into the north-eastern, north-western, and western. The language of the northern recension is more elaborate and polished than that of the southern one. The epic consists of seven Kandas (books), of which the first (Bala Kanda) and last (Uttara Kanda) are later interpolations.

The basic story is about Rama, prince of Kosala; his banishment to the forest due to the intrigues of his wicked stepmother; the abduction of his wife Sita by Ravana, the king of Lanka; Sita’s rescue; and Rama’s return to the capital, Ayodhya, to become king.

The compact vocabulary and style indicate that the core of the text was the work of a single individual, traditionally identified as Valmiki. Valmiki appears in the Balakanda, where he is inspired to compose the epic, and in the Uttarakanda, where he gives refuge to Sita who has been disowned by Rama.

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Excavations at the site of Ayodhya have indicated the existence of a settlement here from the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) phase, which may go back at the earliest to c. 700 BCE. However, as with the Mahabharata, the archaeological evidence does not tell us whether there is any historical basis to the events or the characters of the Ramayana.

Archaeology and the Mahabharata: the facts about India 

Archaeological explorations and excavations at places mentioned in the Mahabharata—e.g., Hastinapura, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Tilpat, Baghpat, Mathura, and Bairat—have given evidence of a pottery called Painted Grey Ware (PGW) which goes back to c. 1000 BCE. This shows that these sites were inhabited around this time, and the nature of the remains suggests that the people who lived here shared a pastoral-cum-agricultural lifestyle.

THE PURANAS: FACTS ABOUT ANCIENT INDIA

The word ‘Purana’ means ‘old’. According to tradition, the Puranas were composed by Vyasa, but it is clear that in the form in which they have come down to us, they were not the work of one person nor of one age.

There are 18 Mahapuranas (great Puranas), and many more Upapuranas (secondary Puranas). The standard list of the 18 Mahapuranas includes the Vishnu, Narada, Bhagavata, Garuda, Padma, Varaha, Matsya, Kurma, Linga, Shiva, Skanda, Agni, Brahmanda, Brahmavaivarta, Markandeya, Bhavishya, Vamana, and Brahma. The origins of the Puranas may have overlapped to some extent with the Vedas, but their composition stretched forward into the 4th–5th centuries CE, and in some cases, even later.

THE DHARMASHASTRA: FACTS ABOUT THE INDIA

The Sanskrit word dharma (from the root Dhri, meaning ‘to maintain, support, or sustain’) is very rich in meaning and difficult to translate. The concept of dharma is based on the idea that the universe is governed by a certain natural law and that the moral laws guiding people’s lives should be in consonance with that natural law.

Consider the following examples based on the Manava Dharmashastra, often referred to as the Manu Smriti, a text generally assigned to between c. 200 BCE and 200 CE (a more recent view places it in the 2nd–3rd centuries CE):

  1. The Manu Smriti forbids marriage between a man and the daughter of his maternal uncle or paternal aunt. Medatithi, the 10th-century commentator on the text, states that such cross-cousin marriages are against dharma. But Madhava, the 14th-century commentator on the Parashara Smriti, gives detailed arguments to show that there was nothing wrong with such marriages, citing Vedic passages and custom.
  2. The Manu Smriti condemns marriage between a Dvija man and a Shudra woman. But when it talks of the division of property, it specifies the shares to be given to the sons born of a Brahmana, Kshatriya, or Vaishya father by a Shudra woman.
  3. The text states that a widow should not remarry. But it fixes the length of time a woman should wait for a husband who is missing and lays down the inheritance rights of sons with one mother and two fathers (i.e., a son whose mother has married a second time).

D. In one place, the Manu Smriti forbids the eating of meat. However, elsewhere, it includes meat among the items to be offered to a Brahmana invited to a shraddha (ceremonies in honor of and for the benefit of ancestors).

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