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Ancient India



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History of India The ancient civilization of India grew up in a sharply demarcated sub-continent bounded on the north by the world's largest mountain range-the chain of the Himalayas, which, with its extensions to east and west, divided India from the rest of Asia and the world.

The long sea coasts of India facilitated the growth of maritime trade and a large number of harbours were established through which trade relations with Rome, China, Malaya, South East Asian archipelago were set up. India's centralised position in Indian Ocean is also of great strategic and economic importance.

India is a curious meeting place of diverse religions, races, manners and customs. From the point of religion, India is the home of the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and the Paris. Diversity is also to be seen in the languages of the Indian people. From the points of view of race, religions, language, manners and customs, the Indians constitute a composite population.

In ancient literature, mention is found of five natural divisions of India:-

  1. Madhyadesa,i.e. Indo Gangetic plain stretcing from the valley of the river Saraswat to the Rajmahal Hill. This division has been known as Aryavarta from the ancient times.
  2. Uttarapatha or Udichya i.e. North-West India
  3. Pratichyaor Aparanta i.e. Western India
  4. Dakshinapatha or Dakshinatya i.e. the area south of Madhyadesa
  5. Prachya or Purvadesa, the region east of Madhyadesa

The course of history is also shaped through geographical factors, such as geology, climate, etc. The study of Indian physiography, therefore, can be classified into three territorial compartments, such as the northern plains of the Indus and Ganga basin, the Deccan plateau lying to the south of the Narmada and to the north of Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers and the far south Tamil states. Rivers made the irrigation easier by continuous supply of perennial water to this tract which includes the states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.

The horizontal and vertical excavations have helped uncover the period-wise sequences of cultres and of ancient remains. Excavations have brought to light the cities which the people established around 2500 BC. They also reveal the layouts of the settlements in which people lived, the types of pottery they used, the form of house in which people dwelt, the kind of food they ate, and the types of implements they used. The vast variety of rich vegetation and congenial regular weather chain suited the human habitat and the pages of history and replete with the stories of their linux. The Mahajanapadas attracted the risings of smaller states. As early as in 5th century BC, Herodotus observed that "of all the nations, that we know, it is India has the largest population."

Points to Remember
  • Father Hameleden was the first to master Sanskrit language and compile a grammer book.

  • Father Coeurdoux recognised the kinship of Sanskrit and languages of Europe in 1767.

  • Alexander Hamilton (1762-1824), a French, was the first person to teach Sanskrit in Europe.

  • Freidrich Schlegel was the first German Sanskritist.

  • Franz Bopp (1791-1867) succeded in reconstructing the common ancestor of classical languages of Europe and Sanskrit in 1816.

  • Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900) edited the translation of Rig Veda

  • Otto Bohtlingk and Rudolf Roth produced the Sanskrit-German dictionary known as the St-Petersburg Lexicon

  • James Prinsep successfully interpreted for the first time the earliest Brahmi script in 1837. He was able to read the edicts of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka.

  • William Jones translated in 1789 Kalidasa's masterpiece Abhijnana-Shakuntalam into English.

  • Wilkins translated the Bhagwat Gita into English in 1785.

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