Archaeological Sources

Archaeological Sources

Ancient history

The ancient history of India has been very glorious. Unfortunately, we feel unable to completely reproduce the ancient history in the absence of material, except for the types of history writers who have been in the country of Greece, Rome etc., they have always been wanting here. Indian scholars have classified these collected sources after a thorough study and have attempted to present ancient Indian history in a sequential way based on these collected sources. The sources of these ancient Indian history, as described by scholars, are originally divided into three parts –
  • Archaeological sources
  • Literary sources
  • Narratives of foreigners

Archaeological sources

In India, reservoir of archaeological material is abundant, and the excavation work done at many places is proof of this. In fact, archaeological content is of paramount importance for the study of ancient Indian history, since the composition of many ancient Indian texts is not well known, hence, these texts do not know precisely the social economic status of any particular period, sometimes – In the literary means, the author’s vision also creates a hindrance. Therefore, in such a situation, archaeological material is relatively more authentic and authentic to know ancient Indian history, because the probability of manipulating during its time is less. Under archaeological material, records, postures, monument buildings, sculptures, paintings and material remains are kept.

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The Inscription  is the most important and reliable in the archaeological sources to know ancient Indian history, the oldest Inscription is from Bogajkoi of Central Asia, it is about 1400 BC and it helps in determining the date of Rigveda. Highlighting the importance of the Inscription, Fleet, a well-known historian, wrote that “the knowledge of the political history of ancient India only known to us from indepth study  but other branches of India’s exploration also have to take shelter of Inscription at the end. It is also true that many Inscription have not been dated, but the text of different letters on these Inscription gives us indication regarding its time period.

cave edicts, rock edicts, pillar edicts, manuscripts, etc. come under the Inscriptions. These can be divided into two parts –
  • Indegenous record
  • Foreign records

Indegenous records –

Ashokan Edicts and Inscriptions : There are Rock Edicts ,Pillar edicts, and cave inscriptions located at several places in the Indian subcontinent. Their importance came to be appreciated only after their decipheration by JAMES PRINCEP in 1837 and also the identification of Ashoka as the the author of these edicts in the beginning of the 20 th century . Majority of them are in the nature of ashoka’s proclamation to the public at large , and only a small group describe his own acceptance of Buddhism and his relarionship with Sangh( commune). Though Prakrit was the language used in them , the script varried from region to region ( kharoshti in the North-West , Greek and Aramaic in the West and Brahmi in the East of India).

Junagarh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman, Sohgaura copper plate Inscription in Gorakhpur district of UP , Mahasthan Inscription in  Bogara district of Bangladesh- All these were directly concerned with the Mauryan Period , though they are beleived to be not necessarily those of Ashoka. 

Material Remains : Wooden palace of Chandragupta Maurya , Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW), Silver and Copper punch marked coins found in Kumharar ( Patna) and other places are material remains of the Mauryan period .

Ancient history

Ashokan 14 major Rock Edicts and their Content

  • Rock Edict 1 – In this major rock edicts there is prohibition of animal sacrifices and festive gatherings.
  • Rock Edict 2 – It contains measures of social welfare. Mostly contains care for men and animals .
  • Rock Edict 3- Respect to the Brahmanas, ordered his officers to spread Dhamma policy Ashoka.
  • Rock Edict 4 – Courtesy to relatives ,elders, consideration for animals.
  • Rock Edict 5 – Appointment of Dhamma Mahamatras, and their duties. In this rock edict it is mentioned that ” Every Human is my Child “
  • Rock Edict 6 –  King desire to get informed constantly about the condition of people.
  • Rock Edict 7 – Need for tolerance among all religious sects.
  • Rock Edict 8 –  This Edict describes about the first Dhamma yatra of Ashok to Bodh Gaya and Bodhi tree.
  • Rock Edict 9 – Mostly condemn the meaningless and popular ceremonies and rituals.
  • Rock Edict 10 – Mostly stressed on the popularity of Dhamma and condemned the desire og glory and fame.
  • Rock Edict 11– Explanation of Dhamma Policy .
  • Rock Edict 12 – Appeal for the tolerance among all religious sects.
  • Rock Edict 13 – Kalinga war mentioned, and also 5 contemporary Helenic ( Greek) kings.
  • Rock Edict 14 – Inspiration to spend religious life, and encourage engraving of inscription in different parts of country .
These 14 major Rocks Edicts were found at Manshera ( Hazara, Pakistan), Shahbajgarhi ( Peshawar Pakistan), Kalsi ( Dehradun , Uttarakhand) ,Junagarh ( Girnar ,Gujrat) , Sopara ( Thana ,Maharashtra) Yerraguddi ( Kurnul, Andhra Pradesh), Dhauli ( puri, Orissa) ,Jaugada ( Ganjam, Orissa)

2 Kalinga Rock Edicts   

These two Rock Edicts were found at Dauli or Tosali ( Puri, Orissa) and Jaugada ( Ganjam , Orissa ) . Its content is based on the new system of administration after the Kalinga war.

Minor Rock Edicts

Minor Rock Edict were found at Sasaram ( Bihar) , Maski ( Andhra Pradesh) , Bhabru – Bairat (Rajasthan ) , Rupanath ( MP) , Gavimath , Palkigundu , SiddhpurJating Rameshwar, Brahmagiri ( Karnataka).

Pillar Edicts

  • 7 Pillar Edicts were  found at Meerut- Delhi ( Chhoti Lata ), Topra -Delhi ( Badi Lata) , Allahabad (UP) , Lauriya Nandangarh , Lauriya Areraj, and Rampurva ( Bihar ) 
  • 4 Minor Pillar Edicts were found at Sanchi ( MP), Sarnath and Allahabad (UP) . Its clearly shows the fanaticism of Ashoka to Dhamma .
  • 2 Tarai Pillar Edicts shows Ashoka’s respect for Buddhism. These were found at Rummandei/ Lumbini  Nigaliva ( Tarai of Nepal )

Cave Edicts

There are 3 Barabar Cave Edicts were found at Barabar Hills ( Gaya , Bihar ). The content of these Cave Edicts shows Ashoka’s toleration.

In the next post we will discuss about the Literary Sources of Ancient India . So Stay connected with us . 


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