Question 1

Evaluate the importance of literary source for the study of ancient Indian history.


The importance of coins and inscriptions as a source for history writing is very much. As compare to the literary sources, there are very little chances of manipulating the archaeological sources like coins and inscriptions. Thus the authencity of the archaeological sources get enhanced. Inscriptions are the most important of all the archaeological sources. Most of the inscriptions of ancient India are found engraved on stone or metal sheets. Due to the engravings on the stone or metal sheet there are almost no chances of manipulation with it. But the problem of dating remains with the inscriptions. The dating is done mainly on the basis of calligraphy of the Inscriptions. The most ancient inscriptions available to us belong to the period of King Ashoka of Mauryan period. These inscriptions throw right on the theories of Kingship of Ashoka and also on his religious ideas. Ashokan inscriptions are mostly in Brahmi script. Some of the inscriptions are also available in Kharoshti and Aramaic script. The inscriptions found after Ashoka can be divided into two groups. Official inscriptions and Individual inscriptions. The official inscriptions are either the eulogies written by the Court Poets or are land charters. At times, there many exaggerations found in these inscriptions. So, they must be used carefully. The inscriptions engraved on the stones or Pillars give us the idea of the extent of the empire of a particular King. Individual inscriptions are generally found in the temples or are engraved on the idols. The information’s given on these Idols gives us the idea about their origin. This also throws light on the architecture and sculpture of the period.

The coins are also an important source for the study of history. There are many signs engraved on the ancient coins. There are no other information mentioned on these coins. We don't know the exact meaning of these signs. These coins were probably issued by the traders, trading guilds etc. These coins do not help the historians much. But when the Greek rulers started ruling over the North-Western parts of India, they started issuing coins on which many information’s were mentioned. Many a times apart from other information’s, the figures of the rulers was also put on the coins. The findings of coins in bulk from one place indicates that the particular place must have been in under one particular state. The dates mentioned on the coins Indicate the time period of the rulers. The religious figures on the coins give us the idea about the religious conditions. The content of gold gives us the idea about the economic condition.

Question 2

Assess the different trends of historical writings of early India.


The historiography of ancient and early medieval India reveals significant changes over time; these can be understood against the background of the political and intellectual contexts in which they emerged and flourished. There was considerable variety within the schools; some of them co-existed in dialogue or conflict with one another, and there are examples of writings that go against the grain and do not fit into the dominant historiographical trends of their time,

Antiquarians' Domination - Apart from the study of ancient texts, the 19th century witnessed developments in epigraphy, numismatics, archaeology, and the study of art and architecture. The decipherment of Ashokan Brahmi and Kharoshthi scripts were 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, established in 1871, has over the decades made important contributions to unearthing and analysing the material remains of India's past. The contributions and breakthroughs of the 18th and 19th centuries were rooted in a colonial context, and this is evident in certain features of Ideological writing. The Brahmanical perspective of ancient Sanskrit texts was often uncritically taken as reflecting the Indian past. Social and religious institutions and traditions were critiqued from a Western viewpoint. Indian society was presented as static, and its political systems despotic, over the centuries. Race, religion, and ethnicity were confused with one another, and there was a tendency to exaggerate the impact of foreign influence on ancient India.

Indian scholars of the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century made major contributions to constructing a connected narrative of ancient India. The data from texts, inscriptions, coins, and other material remains to show the contours of the ancient Indian past. Contributors were in the field of political history. South India was brought into the narrative and the study of regional polities progressed, their search for golden ages, which led to their exalting the age of the Vedas and the Gupta Empire. Non-monarchical polities were discovered and celebrated to counter the idea that India had never known anything but despotic rule. The periodization of the Indian past into Hindu, Muslim, and British periods was, however, retained.

In the long run, the Marxist historians shifted the focus from an eventa-centred history dominated by political narrative to the delineation of social and economic structures and processes, especially those related the class stratification and agrarian relations. Marxist historiography contributed to uncovering the history of non-elite groups, some of which had suffered subordination.

Appeals to the ancient and early medieval past are often dictated by nationalist or communalist agendas. Marxist historiography continues to be an influential force in early Indian historiography.

A critical understanding of historiography, one that recognizes the contributions and limitations of past and present ideological and theoretical frameworks, is essential to understanding where the history of ancient and early medieval India stands. Archaeologists have not adequately explored the historical implications of archaeological data. Correlations between literature and archaeology tend to be simplistic and devoid of reflection on methodology. We need to consider whether, given their inherent differences, textual and archaeological evidence can be integrated, or whether we should simply aim at its proximity.

Histories of early India should ideally represent the various regions and communities of the subcontinent in their diversity. However, while the heartlands of great empires and kingdoms are well represented, many regions are not.

India's varied and complex cultural traditions need attention. While these continue to be the focus of research among scholars working in South Asian studies, religious studies, and art history departments abroad, they have in recent decades remained somewhat marginal to mainstream historical writing in India. There is a close relationship between history and identity; the past has, therefore, always been contested terrain. In contemporary India, the ancient past is invoked in different ways in political discourse, including propaganda with chauvinistic or divisive agendas. There are debates over the state's right to project and propagate certain interpretations of the past.

In a charged and intolerant atmosphere, there are several dangers - of the deliberate manipulation and distortion of the past to achieve political ends, of historical hypotheses being judged on the basis of their political implications rather than academic merit, and of historians being criticized for writing objective history.