Sources of Ancient Indian History

In this section, we are going to study the sources of Ancient Indian History. By Sources, we mean that the ways through which we have understood the ancient History,  the way it is.

Sources of Ancient Indian History.

(A)- Archaeological Sources

(B)- Literary Sources

(C)- Foreigners Account

Now lets get to know each of them one by one.

(I) Archeological Sources:- it includes

a) Inscriptions



A) Inscriptions:- they tell us the social,economic & political life of that age.

They help us in determining the territorial extent of that kingdom.

Noteworthy Points:

Study of Inscription is known as epigraphy.

1)Harrapan inscriptions are the earliest inscriptions but these could not be DECIPHERED.

2) Earliest Deciphered inscriptions:- Ashokan Inscriptions.(Deciphered by James Princep in 1837, he was a civil servant of East India Company.)

B) Numismatic :- it is the study of coins.

1. Harappan age-2300-1700 BC- No coins

2.Vedic age- 1500-1000 BC – No coins

3.Later vedic age-1000-600 BC- Nishka(lump of gold)it was not a coin,but used as an ornament.

NoteWorthy Points :-

1) Mauryans issued a large number of “PUNCHMARK COINS” .

Basic punchmark coin was known as “PANA” or “KARSHAPANA”(both means same)

2) The punchmark coin were minted of Silver.

3) Most common symbol used on them were mountains,trees & birds.

C) Monuments:- they tell us about the stage of development in the field of Architecture.

Gives useful information about social & religious life of that age.

Temple system :- started on large scale in “GUPTA AGE”.

Ankorvaat Temple:- Kambodia

* Dedicated to lord Vishnu.

* sculptures of Brahma,Ganesha are also present.

* those who played “Diamond rush” on Symbian based Nokia phones must be aware of this temple 😀

Borobudur Temple: Indonesia

* this temple is dedicated to “Mahayaan Buddhism”

* this temple indicates that Buddhism was in Indonesia also.

 (II) Literary Sources:-

A) Buddhist literature.

B) Jain literature.

C) Vedic literature.

D) Sangam literature.

A)Buddhist Literature:- it is compiled in “Pitak”.

– Pitak is a paali word which means BASKET.

1. Sutta pitak:- it contains religious ideas of Gautam Buddha.

– it was compiled by main disciple of Gautam Buddha,his name was “ANAND”.

2.Vinay Pitak:- it was compiled by “UPALI”(disciple of Gautam Buddha).

-it contains code of conducts followed by Buddhist.

3.Abhidhamma Pitak:- it contains philosophical interpretations of Gautam Buddha.

4.Jatak pitak:- Contains previous birth stories of Gautam Buddha

5.Miland Panho:- contains philosophical dialogue between Indo-Greek ruler Milander & Buddhist Monk “Nagasen”.

6. Angutar Nikaya:- it contains information about 16 Mahajanpadas.

B) Jains Literature:- it is compiled in “Sutras”.

1.Kalpa Sutra:- it contains initial history of Jains.

2.Bhahvati Sutra:- contains the details about “Vardhman Mahaveer’s” life.

3.Naayadhamma Kaha:- it contains religious ideas of “Vardhman Mahaveer”.

4.Achranga Sutra:-it contains code & conducts followed by Jain Followers.

We will discuss vedic & sangam literature in forthcoming articles.

(III)Foreigners Accounts

A.Greek & Romans:-

For better understanding Greek & Romans We are taking “Alexander The Great” as the focal point to understand the foreigners account, here we will study Foreigner Travelers or Religious converts –

1. Before Alexander the great.

2. Contemporary to Alexander the great

3. After the death of Alexander the great.

a)  Before Alexander The Great:-


–           Called as “The Father Of History”.

–          First Greek to write about India.

–          Mentioned North west part of India

–          Book- “HISTORICA”.

b) Contemporary:-

1.       Aristobulus & Onesicritus:

-Both were Commanders in the army of Alexander.

– Aristobulus wrote “War of History”

– Onesicritus wrote “Biography of Alexander the great”

c)  After the death of Alexander the Great:-

Sr. No Traveler Came in the Court of Book Name Book Contains
1 Megasthenes(Ambassador of Selucus) Chandragupta Maurya INDIKA Social,political & religious life of that age.
2 Deimachus Bindusar( Amitraghat)
3 Dionysius Ashoka The Great
4 Pliny Never visited India Naturalis Historiya Trade relation b/w India & Roman Empire
5 Anonymous Periplus of Erytheran Sea Indian sea trade.
6 Ptolemy Geography Geographical informations .


1 Fa hien Chandragupta 2nd Fo-Kno-Ki Religious information of India
2 Hiuen Tsang Guest Of Harshawardha Si-yo-ki Social,religious &economic ccondions of  India

Noteworthy Points:

-real name of Hiuen Tsang was “Yuan Chwang”

– he stayed 5 years at “Nalanda University”


1.       Al Biruni

–          Real name abu Rayhan,he was from Khiva.

–          Book- Kitabul Hind/Tahkik-e-Hind

–          Came with Mahmud of Ghazni.

–          Was a great scholar of science,maths,Arabic,science & Sanskrit.



  1. By sameer mallik


  2. By sikhamohanty


  3. By sikhamohanty


    • By Gaurav Kaushik


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