Introduction to Ancient Indian History

The achievements of the Aryans in the realms of philosophy and metaphysics have been the subject matter of research by very many scholars and valuable light has been shed on these as a result of their labours. But as regards the social and economic conditions in which they lived there is not much authentic information and whatever is known had to be gleaned from such books as Mahabharata and Kautilya's Arthasastra. The latter book gives us valuable information about the political, social, economic and military organization of Mauryas. The Jataka tales a collection of tales belonging to the pre-Buddhist period give us a revealing glimpse into a period when the fusion between the Aryan and the Dravidian races had been almost completed. It gives us the periods of rule and genealogies of dynasties of kings. Originally the institution of kingship was elective but in the course of time the office became hereditary. The chief source of revenue for the government was from land. The political and economic structure was built up from the village communities. India was famous for her textile goods. There was a thriving metallurgical industry making implements of war.

Trade guilds controlled different trades. The merchant -guilds or associations were so powerful that the king himself could not take away any of their privileges. Another peculiar feature was that those who belonged to particular craft say carpentry were all concentrated in a single village. There was a flourishing trade not only within the country but also with other countries of the world. In the treatment of iron India had made remarkable progress even in ancient times. The iron pillar in Delhi stated to have been erected in the fourth to seventh century AD is a standing monument to this superior knowledge of metallurgy. The pillar has successfully withstood the ravages of time all these years. Panini the great grammarian wrote his learned grammar of Sanskrit in the 7th century BC. Panini's book is one of the splendid productions of the human mind. The ancient Indians were well versed in astronomy, medicine and surgery. They were mindful of the animals and had hospitals for them. In the field of mathematics their contribution was outstanding. They invented the zero and decimal place-value system. They could divide time into the minutest part. The ancient Indians had vast conception of time and space. There were centres of higher learning corresponding to the modern universities in places like Taxila. It is stated that the eminent grammarian Panini studied in that university. The position of women was honourable at home and in society.

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