How to Crack Ancient History For Civil Services Exam
Indian History dates back to about 2.5 million years ago and it is divided into several phases/period. Typically Ancient Indian history covers from ice age to 300 CE
We need to understand the important developments of human society from hunters and cave dwellers to early farmers to urbanites in large empires. Unlike Modern or Medieval Indian History there are fewer data points (kings, wars, places, treaties etc.) Therefore it is much easier to master Ancient Indian History and enhance probability of correct answers in the UPSC exam.
It is interesting and important to study the developments in society, economy, politics, religions, trade, art & literature along the journey of human society from Stone Age to Mauryan Empire to Sangam kings in South India.
Firstly we need to understand different sources used to reconstruct the historical developments such as literature, Coins, Inscriptions, Artefacts and Accounts by Foreign travellers. Significant literary sources and their historic relevance are important; You may be asked to identify contextual relevance of literature sources of early Vedic, later Vedic and post Vedic period. For example Vedas, Vedanta’s, Brhamanas, Aranyakas , Upanishad, Sutras, Smriti have been created in different periods and have different applications. Also there were questions on text and key information of accounts by foreign travellers.
Significance of archaeological sources, archaeological methods and various techniques applied in explorations and excavations as well as different methods of analysing the artefacts need to be clearly understood. For example horizontal and vertical excavation to study single and multi-cultural sites.
Cultural developments in different periods Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic periods had different tools, and different subsistence practices; Also these cultural developments were not uniform across Indian sub-continent; some regions like North West region and Gangetic valley had early farmers whereas agriculture picked up in south India only after use of Iron Plough share. It is important to understand the critical developments across regions chronologically.
Needless to say Harappan civilization is a very important topic ; One has to very clearly understand it was the first urban civilisation of Indian sub-continent with emphasis on standardisation of bricks, housing, urban planning, seals, weights and measures, tools, cult practices etc. Also question related to long distance trade of Harappan Civilisation and its cultural differences with other contemporary civilizations like Egypt, Mesopotamia have been asked. Overall basic understanding of Harappan civilization in terms of urbanization, Society, Trade, Religion would be adequate.
South Indian Megalithic and Chalcolithic cultural aspects need to be understood and how they were lagging behind Harappan civilization in terms of urbanization, standardisation and economy.
Critical changes in social and political system in later Vedic period to be understood; For instance community ownership of land in Early Vedic period has been independently owned in Later Vedic period; Social stratification has become intensified; agrarian expansion moved from west to east along the genetic plains; sacrifices and rituals have become complex and expensive; Kings no longer remained as tribal chief and started to have own army and had a tax system in later Vedic. Vedic religion also has seen changes; Indira most important god in Early Vedic period was replaced by Prajapati as prime god in later Vedic period. Above transition of Vedic society built the foundation for an urban society in Mahajanapadas in later centuries.
We can understand the importance of Mahajanapadas in terms of urbanised society, formation of several kingdoms, agrarian expansion, resistance to Vedic religion and rise of Buddhism, Jainism and other heterodox religions. Also cultural advances of Taxila and long distance trade are key aspects.
Also it is critical to understand the similarities and differences between Buddhism and Jain religions; Especially causes for rise and spread, preaching & principles, patronage, language of texts of both the religions need to be understood precisely.
Rise of Magadha Empire and the centralised and comprehensive administrative apparatus need to be understood. Revenue administration, Local administration, Mauryan Inscriptions, Dhamma policy are to be studied precisely.
Rise of tribal Kings and development Sangam literature are distinctly different. Salient aspects of Sangam literature and varied zones (Thinai in Tamil) of Tamilakam, Kingdoms, Trade with Roman empire are important to be studied.
In essence one has to travel through the time and understand critical developments and their impacts precisely. With structured content, experienced faculty and focus on key developments and their causes and impacts, aspirants can master ancient Indian History and score higher marks in Civil Services Examination.
Dear Aspirants, Ancient Indian History questions are asked every year in both Prelims as well as Mains. So, one must not be neglecting this part of History.
Wishing you All The Very Best from the entire ALCHEMY IAS team.
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