Ancient Indian History

PRE-HISTORIC PHASE (STONE AGE)

The Stone Age can be roughly divided into three pans:

  1. The Old Stone Age (Paleolithic Age)
  2. The Late Stone Age (Mesolithic Age)
  3. The New Stone Age (Neolithic Age)

Old Stone Age (Paleolithic Age)-500,000-8000 B.C. (approx.)

  • The Old Stone Age or the Paleolithic Age in India developed during the Pleistocene Period or the Ice Age.
  • The Paleolithic sites are spread in all parts of India except the alluvial plains of the river Indus and Ganga.
  • The people of this age were food gatherers, who had no knowledge of agriculture, fire, pottery or metals. 

Late Stone Age (Mesolithic Age) —10,000-6000 B.C.

  • The characteristic tools of the Mesolithic Age are known as Microliths, e.g. points, blades, scraper etc.
  • The last phase of this Age saw the beginning of plant cultivation.
  • All the three phases of Paleolithic followed by the Mesolithic and then by the Neolithic Age have been found in the northern spurs of the Vindhyas in the Bclan Valley. 

New Stone Age (Neolithic) — 6000-1000 B.C

  • During this phase people used stones other than quartzite for making tools, which were more finished and polished.
  • Neolithic men cultivated land and domesticated cattle, sheep and goats.
  • They knew techniques for making fire and also made pottery; first by hand and then using the potter's wheel.
  • They were familiar with only one metal i.e. gold. They could also spin cotton and wool and weave cloth.
  • Late Neolithic Age people led a more settled life and lived in circular and rectangular houses made of mud. 
  • The Dolmens or the Megalithic tombs are a characteristic feature of the Neolithic Age.
  • Koldihwa reveals a three-fold cultured sequence of Neolithic, Chalcolithic and the Iron Age. 
  • Chopani Mando provides the earliest evidence of the use of pottery in the world.

Harappan Culture 

  • This grand old civilisation was earlier called the Indus Valley civilisation. However, the fact that Harappa was the first site to be discovered, it is known as the civilisation beyond the Indus region, now better known as the Harappan civilisation.
  • This civilisation spread roughly across modern day Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Pakistan and some adjoining areas. It extended from Manda (in Jammu) in the north to Daimabad in the south and from Alamgirpur (in U.P.) in the northeast to Sutkagendor (in Baluchistan) in the west.
  • More than 1000 sites belonging to this civilisation have been excavated.
  • This civilisation revealed features of a modern town, which was divided into two parts. One was a raised citadel where the rulers would have stayed and in the other part of the town lived the ruled and the poor.
  • The town planning had a remarkable arrangement. Streets, some as much as 30 feet wide, were laid out on a grid plan.
  • The drainage system of Harappa is almost unique, which indicates that the Harappans paid a great deal of attention to health and cleanliness.
  • Located at Mohenjodaro is the Great Bath, comprising a tank made of beautiful bricks, meant for some elaborate ritual of vital importance for the people.
  • Important sites of this civilisation are Mohenjodaro and Chanhudaro in Sindh, Harappa in W. Punjab, Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat, Kalibanga in Rajasthan, and Banwali in Haryana. Other sites are Ropar in Punjab, Rangpur and Surkotada in Gujarat, Alamgirpur in western U.P., Kot Diji and Ali-murad in Sind and Sutkagendor in Baluchistan. 

Society

  • It was urban society consisted mainly of middle class inhabitants.
  • Existence of different sections of people i.e. the priest, traders, artisans, cultivators, fisherman etc. is known.
  • The people of Sindh and Punjab ate wheat and barley as their staple food, whereas people from Rangpur and Surkotda preferred rice and millet. Fish, milk and curd were known to them.
  • Their pottery was red or black pottery. Copper, bronze, silver, gold were known but not iron.
  • Structural remains of the houses indicate that class differences were present in Harappan society. 
  • Both men and women loved jewellery. Different kinds of necklaces having different shapes and materials arranged in an artistic manner were used.

Economy 

  • Harappans engaged in internal and external trade. Trade was by means of barter. 
  • Sea-trade can be verified by the fact that many representations of ships and boat are found on the seals in Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Lothal.
  • Lothal had a dockyard. Rangpur, Somanath and Balakot functioned as sea ports. Sutkgendor and Sutkakoh functioned as outlets. 

Religion 

  • It was 'primitive animism'. No temple like structure has been found but image worship was in vogue.
  • A number of large buildings in the citadel and lower town at Mohenjodaro are believed to be temples of the Gods.
  • Sacred ritual spots included the great bath at Mohenjodaro.
  • On some seals prototype of Shiva is found in the form of Pashupati. He is surrounded by animals like Goats, Elephants, Tiger and Antelopes. He is seen sitting in a yogic posture.
  • Pipal tree and Unicorn were also worshipped. This evidence indicates the prevalence of a cult of fertility and mother goddess worship.
  • Practice of 'fire-cult' is evident from Lothal and Kalibanga. These sites suggest prevalence of ritual sacrifice.  

Contribution

  • The civilisation unearthed the first signs of urbanisation in India.
  • Cotton growing and spinning were first practiced here.
  • Influenced religious beliefs of the Hindus.