Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ancient India -Life, Arts, Language & Literature

India can boast of a glorious past and the study of the history of Ancient India is a subject in itself. India has a civilisation as ancient as most ancient civilizations across the world. We have added new articles on all the following Ancient India topics. 

Everyday life in Ancient India

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.

The Arts in Ancient India

Indian art is very intimately associated with Indian religion and philosophy. There is always an irresistible urge to find an expression for spiritual longings. Beauty to Indian artist was something subjective. E.B Havell an eminent critic art is all praise for the ideals of Indian art and the underlying spirit behind it. He says that great art brings out national character and thought in a revealing manner and such art can only be appreciated if the ideals animating it are sympathetically understood. Indian art was not meant to cater to the aesthetic taste of a small elitist society. It was meant to propagate religious ideals and reach as large as audience as possible who for the most past were not literate. The masses of India though not considered to be well educated have reacted through the ages in the most enthusiastic manner to art and revealed their essential culture.

Practically the entire remnants of art of ancient India which have survived the ravages of time are of a religious nature or with some religious motif. Secular art also existed as for example in the wall paintings and sculptures in the palaces of kings proclaiming the transitoriness of human splendour. There are also few critics who hold the view that Indian art did not emphasize spiritual and religious ideas to the exclusion of everything else but also was an expression of the vitality of life of the people and their sense of pure joy in life. In Indian art the temple towers though tall are firmly based on earth. The figures represented are beautiful and a smile on the face is quite common. It is also worthy of note that female forms are depicted with decorative often voluptuous motif and often are made to appear strikingly beautiful. While religious literature in ancient India was the work of learned Brahmans and ascetics religious art was the work of expert craftsmen who were secular in their outlook and who enjoyed thoroughly their life without any thought of asceticism. It is their view of life that is prominently depicted in art and literature.

Ancient Language in India

The earliest form of Sanskrit is found in the Rig Veda. After the Rig Veda was composed, Sanskrit language developed rapidly. The grammar became considerably simplified though still remaining complex. When the need was felt for proper pronunciation and understanding of the meaning of the older Vedic texts particularly at a time when many new words were introduced from non-Aryan sources, India developed the science of phonetics and grammar. There was also a belief that unless the Vedic texts were recited very accurately, it would bring misfortune to the reader.

Panini's great grammar the Ashtadhyayi was most probably composed towards the 4th century BC. It may be stated that with Panini the language attained its highest state of development and thereafter there was improvement only in its vocabulary. Side by side the sounds of Sanskrit were analysed with remarkable accuracy. The vowels and the consonants were all classified in a very scientific manner according to their mode of production. Panini's grammar may be justly described as one of the grandest achievements of any civilization. Panini had formulated some 4000 grammatical rules. Later Indian grammar texts could only be commentaries on the matchless work of Panini. Sanskrit spread to other parts of the country including countries like Cambodia and Srilanka.

When Buddhism emerged as a new religion people started speaking languages much simpler than Sanskrit. These were known as the Prakrit. In the pre-Gupta period the inscriptions especially the series of Ashoka's edicts are in Prakrit. Prakrits were simpler than Sanskrit in respect of both sound and grammar. One of the early Prakrit of considerable importance was Pali which became the language of one sect of the Buddhists.

Tamil is the oldest of Dravidian languages with a literature dating back to the earliest centauries after the beginning of the Christian era. These languages form an independent group with a distinctive character. From the very early times Tamil was affected by Sanskrit. Early Tamil literature contains relatively few words from Sanskrit and they were adapted to the Tamil phonetic system.

Literature in Ancient India

The earliest known work of the Aryans in India was the Rig Veda which is a collection of 1028 hymns in Vedic Sanskrit. Most of the hymns are in praise of different Vedic deities and were intended for recitation at the Yajnas or sacrifices. Many of them are beautiful descriptions of nature. Some of the most enchanting are addressed to Ushas the goddess of dawn. The Rig-Veda was followed by three more Vedas-yajur Veda which gives directions for the performance of the Yajna, the Sama Veda which prescribes the tunes for the recitation of the hymns of the Rig Veda and the Asmara Veda which prescribes rites and rituals. After the four Vedas a number of works called the Brahmanas grew which contained detailed explanation of Vedic literature and instructions. The Aranyakas which are an appendix to the Brahmanas prescribed certain rites and also laid the basis of a body of more philosophical literature. It was the Upanishadic literature which dealt with questions like the origin of the universe, birth and death, the material and spiritual world, nature of knowledge and many other questions. The early Upanishads are Brihad -Aranyaka and Chanddogya. They are in the form of dialogues and expresses the highest thoughts in simple and beautiful imagery.

Another body of literature to grow was Vedangas which were concerned with astronomy, grammar and phonetics. One of the most outstanding works of this period was a classic on Sanskrit grammar, the Ashtdhyayi by Panini.

The two great epics the Mahabharata and Ramayana were developed over a period of centauries and were perhaps put to writing in their present form in the second century AD. The Mahabharata contains 1,00,000 verses and is the longest single poem in the world. The Bhagvad Gita a later addition to the Mahabharata enshrines a philosophical doctrine and in it are described the three paths to salvation: karma, gyan and bhakti. The Ramayana the story of Rama is shorter than the Mahabharata and is full of interesting adventures and episodes. This period abounds in both religious and secular literature in Sanskrit. The Puranas is important as they were the main influence in the development from early Vedic religion to Hinduism. There were many other Shastras and smritis. The Shastras contained works of science and philopsohy.

The Arthsashtra by Kautilya was a treatise on the science of governance. There were shastras on art, mathematics and other sciences. The smritis dealt with the performance of duties, customs and laws prescribed according to Dharma. The most famous of these is the Manusmriti. The early Buddhist literature was in Pali and consists of two sections. The Sutta pitaka consists mainly of dialogues between the Buddha and his followers. The Vinayapitaka is concerned mainly with the rules of the organization of the monasteries. The Milinda Panha is another great Buddhist work consisting of dialogues between the Indo-Greek King Menander and the Buddhist philosopher Nagasena. Another great Buddhist work consists of hundreds of jataka stories which became the subjects of Buddhist sculpture and are popular all over the world for their wisdom. Later many Buddhist works were written in Sanskrit. Of these the most famous is the Buddhacharita or life of Buddha by Ashvaghosha. The period before the reign of the Guptas ushered in the glorious period of Sanskrit literature.

This was the greatest period for the growth of poetry and drama. The great writers of this period are well known Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, Bharavi, Bhartrihari, Bana, Magha and many others. Of these Kalidasa is known all over the world. His works the Kumarasambhava, the Raghuvamsa, the Meghaduta, the Abhijnanashakuntalam and others are unrivalled for their poetry and style. Bana wrote the Harshacharita, a biography of King Harsha and Kadambari. Among the famous works of the period are Bhavabhuti's Utter -Ramacharita, Bharavi's Kirtarjuniya, Vishakhadatta's Mudra Rakhshasa, Shudraka's Mricchakatika. The subjects of these and other works were political events, romances, allegories, comedies and philosophical questions.

The four Dravidian languages- Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam developed their own distinct scripts and literature. According to tradition three literary gatherings or Sangams were held at which many sages and poets recited their compositions. This body of literature consists of many themes like politics, war and love. The famous works of this body of literature include the Ettutogai (Eight Anthologies), the Tolkappiyam (a work of Tamil grammar) and the Pattuppattu (the ten songs). Thiruvalluvar wrote the famous Kural which in verse deals with many aspects of life and religion. The Silappadikaram and the Manimekalai are some of the other most famous works of early Tamil literature.

Books and Authors in Ancient India

Book [Author]
Mudrarakshasa [Visakdatta]
Rajtarangini [Kalhana]
Kathasaritsagar [Somdeva]
Kamasutra [Vatsayana]
Prashnottarmalika [Amoghavarsha]
Swapanvasdattam [Bhasa]
Buddha charita [Asvaghosa]
Natyashastra [Bharata]
Abhigyan Shakuntala [Kalidasa]
Vikramorvashi [Kalidasa]
Raghuvansan [Kalidasa]
Amarkosa [Amarshmha]
Panc hsidhantika and Brihat Samhita [Varharmihara]
Surya Sidhanta and Aryabhatta [Aryabhatta]
Panch tantra [Vishnu Sharma]
Nitisara [Kamandaka]
Aihole Prasasti [Ravi Kriti]
Indica [Megasthanese]
Arthasastra [Kautilya]
Charaka Samhita [Charaka]
Lilawati [Bhaskara II]
Harshacharita and Kadambari [Harsha vardhan]
Ratnavali [Harsha vardhan]
Gathasaptashati [Hala]
Nitisara [Kamandaka]
Astadhyayi [Panini]
Mahabhasya [Patanjli]
Nagananda [Harshavardhana]
Naishadhacharitra [Sri Harsha]
Mrichhakatika [Sudraka]
Gitagovinda [Jayadev]
Navratna [Virsena]

Poets in the Courts of the Kings Ancient India

Poet [King]
Ashvaghosa Nagarjuna,
Vasumitra [Kanishka]
Harisena [Samudragupta II]
Amarsimha [Chandra gupta II]
kalidasa [Chandragupta II]
Banabhatta [Harshavardhana]
Ravikirti [Pulkesin II]
Bhavabhuti [Yasovarman]
Mahaviracharya [Amoghavarsha]
Jinsena [Amoghavarsha]
Dandin [Narsimhavarman]
Rajashekhar [Mahindrapala]
Bilhana [Vikramaditya VI]
Viknaneshvara [Vikramaditya VI]
Kamban [Chola]

Check Point I
1.In the fourth century BC the empire of Magadh was greatly expanded under which powerful dynasty?
Ans: Nandas

2.Through which accounts we come to know that Nandas conquered all rival monarchs and became all powerful rulers of North India?
Ans: Puranas

3.Hathigumpha inscription is associated with which monarch?
Ans: Kharavela

4.Kharavela ruled over Kalinga in which century?
Ans: IInd century BC

5.Where Emperor Chandragupta is said to have lived for many years as a Jain ascetic?
Ans: Sravana Belgola

6.A period of 12 years of dire famine the whole of Jain sangha migrated from the north to south under whose leadership?
Ans: Bhadrabahu

7.Which literary source gives some information of value about the trade between the north and the south in the age of the early Maurayan Empire?
Ans: Arthasashtra

8.Who has given the account of the rule of the Pandyan kingdom by Pandala a daughter of Herakles ?
Ans: Megasthenes

9.In which rock edicts of Ashoka the kingdom of south India together with Ceylon are mentioned?
Ans: Second Rock edicts and thirteenth rock edicts.

10.Which rock-edicts include the names of Chola, Pandya, Satiyaputra, Keralaputa and Tambapanni?
Ans: IInd Rock edict

11.When Kalinga did was conquered by Ashoka?
Ans: 260 BC

12.Which edicts of Ashoka prove the inclusion within the Mauryan Empire of the north-west as well as the north-east of the Deccan?
Ans: Sopara

13.Which source mentions that the mission had been send after the third Buddhist council at Pataliputra for the propagation of the Dhamma in different countries?
Ans: Mahavamsa

14.From which places in farther south Ashokan inscription have been found?
Ans: Raichur,Chitaldurg and Kurnool

15.Which of the following ancient place is now known as Kanakgiri?
Ans: Suvarnagiri

16.Antamahamatras were incharge of what work?
Ans: Defence and missionary work among people

17.Which inscription mentions a league of Tamil states that was 113 years old at the date of the inscription and had been for some time a source of danger to the Kalinga kingdom?
Ans: Hathigumpha

18.Which poet mentions that the Kosar started operations against their foes and gained success against many of them?
Ans: Mamulanar

19.The most important records which have a dedication to Jain ascetics by a Chera prince come from which place?
Ans: Arnattarmalai

20.Which language is employed in the script of Damili records?
Ans: Tamil

21.The language employed in the script of Damili records was Tamil but at which place it is in Prakrit?
Ans: Arikkamedu

22.A Pallava inscription of the 9th century AD mentions which earliest ruler of Kanchipuram ?
Ans: Ashokavarman

23.Which dynasty is identical with the Andhras of Andhrabhrityas in the Puranic lists of the Kings?
Ans: Kushan dynasty

24.Who mentions that the Andhra territory in the eastern Deccan as including thirty walled towns, besides numerous villages and as maintaining an army of 100,000 infantry,2000 cavalry and 1000 elephants?
Ans: Pliny

25.How many kings have been mentioned in the dynasty of Satvahanas according to Puranas?
Ans: 30

26.The names of the earliest kings in the Puranic list figure also on inscriptions and on coins are found at which places in Deccan?
Ans: Nasik,Karle and Naneghat

27.About which Satvahana king Kharavela of Kalinga states clearly that the territory of that Satvahana king lay to the west of his kingdom?
Ans: Satakarni

28.Who was the first king of Satvahanas?
Ans: Simuk

29.Nasik inscription was associated with which Satvahana king?
Ans: Kanha

30.Which accounts states that Simuka grew wicked and dethroned and killed?
Ans: Jaina

31.Whose figure was sculptured in rilievo at Naneghat along with the figures of his father Simuka,Queen Naganika a maharathi and three princess?
Ans: Sri Satakarni I

32.Which source mentions victory of the Sungas over the Andhras?
Ans: Malavikagnimitra

33.Who is described in the inscription of his queen as the lord of Dakshinapatha?
Ans: Satakarni I

34.Which king of Satvahana enjoyed the longest reign 56 years and wrested Malwa from the Sungas?
Ans: Satakarni III

35.Who was the famous Satvahana king whom Kharavela of Kalinga defied in the second year of his reign by sending a large army of horse, elephant, foot soldiers and chariots to the west?
Ans: Satakarni II

36.Which king has compiled the famous literature Sattasai?
Ans: Hala

37.In which language the Saptasati has been written?
Ans: Prakrit

38.Which Gupta ruler destroyed the Saka power in the west?
Ans: Chandragupta II

39.Bhumaka and Nahapana were famous rulers of which satrap?
Ans: Western satrap

40.Which was the capital of Natrapana?
Ans: Minnagara

41.Which Satvahana ruler described as the destroyer of the Shakas Pahlavas and Yavasas?
Ans: Gautamiputra Satakarni

42.Which ruler of Satvahanas overthrew Nahapana and minted his silver coins again?
Ans: Gautamiputra Satkarni

43.Coins of Pulumayi II are found in which districts?
Ans: Godavari,Guntur and Cuddalore

44.Which Shaka king defeated the Satvahana ruler twice and took Aparanta and Anupa from him?
Ans: Rudradaman

45.Which Satvahana ruler coin bears the figure of a ship stating that his power was not confined to the land?
Ans: Yajnasri

46.Which writer names several ports in Maisolia the regions between the deltas of Godavari and Krishna?
Ans: Ptolemy

47.In western Deccan which one was the most important port?
Ans: Barygaza

48.What was the religion of most of the Satvahana rulers?
Ans: Brahmanism

49.Hala’s saptasati opens with invocation of which god?
Ans: Shiva

50.Which Satvahana ruler was a great supporter of the Brahmins and tried to emulate the epic heroes Rama,Krishna and Arjuna?
Ans: Gautamiputra Satakarni

51.In which text temples to Gauri and also the vrata of fire and water are mentioned?
Ans: Saptasati

52.Who founded the Abhiras dynasty?
Ans: Isvarasena

53.When Kalachuri or Chedi era started?
Ans: 248-49 AD

54.Which Indo-Greek king offered an elephant scalp to Nandivarman II on the occasion of his being chosen for the throne?
Ans: Demetrius

55.Which dynasty declared its devotion to Kadamba tree?
Ans: Kadamba

56.Which Pallava king belonged to Bharadvaja gotra and also performed the agnistoma,vajpeya and asvamedha sacrifices and bore the title of Supreme king of kings devoted to dharma?
Ans: Skandavarman


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  3. Please give correct and authentic information as many might quote this as reference for their research. You have mentioned "Tamil is the oldest of Dravidian languages with a literature dating back to the earliest centuries after the beginning of the Christian era." as per records Tamil belongs to 1st century BC. Reference Encyclopædia Britannica please correct as before Christian era. Thank you.

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