[Ancient History] Information Sources for Ancient India

Indian Literary Sources :

Source
Author
Language
Date
Notes
Veda Samhitas
Various
Sanskrit
1st m.
BCE
Gives account of life of people in addition to philosophy, religion etc

Arthashastra
Chanakya
Sanskrit
4th c. BCE
Covers Mauryan period under Chandragupta Maurya
Treatise on statecraft, economy and military strategy
Sangam literature
Various
Tamil
c. 600 BCE – 300 CE
Primarily Dealt with everyday themes

Foreign Literary Sources :

Source
Author
Language
Date
Notes
Indika
Megasthenes
Greek
4th c. BCE
Ambassador of Seleucus I to court of Chandragupta Maurya
Used by later writers Strabo and Arrian
Describes geography, politics, various kingdoms, caste system
Indica
Arrian
Greek
1st c. CE
Considered one of most important sources about India
Covers travel of Alexander’s officer Nearchus from India to Babylon
Covers geography, esp. Indus and Ganges
Describes social structure
Describes seven castes, physical appearance, absence of slavery
Used Indika (Megasthenes) as source
Geographica
Strabo
Greek
1st c. CE
Descriptive history of people and places all over the world
Consists of 17 volumes of material
Fa-Hien
Chinese
Around 400 CE
Travelled to India/Ceylon to obtain Buddhist scriptures

Epigraphical Sources:

Note that more than 55% of epigraphical inscriptions in India are in Tamil
Inscription
Location
Attributed to
(date)
Notes
Indus valley inscriptions
IVC
c. 2600 – 1900 BCE
Indus script remains undeciphered
Edicts of Asoka
All over India
Asoka
3rd c. BCE
In Praktrit, Sanskrit, Greek

Heliodorus pillar
Besnagar
(Madhya Pradesh)
c. 110 BCE
In Sanskrit (Brahmi)
Dedicated by Heliodorus to god Vasudeva
Heliodorus was the Ambassador of Indo-Greek king Antialcidas to court of Sunga king Bhagabhadra
Describes relationship b/w Sungas and Indo-Greeks
Hathigumpha incription
Udayagiri
(Orissa)
Kharavela
(Kalinga)
(150 BCE)
In Prakrit (Brahmi script)
Main source of info about Kharavela
Mentions conflict with Demetrius
Mentions conflict with Uttarapatha
Rabatak inscription
Rabatak
(Afghanistan)
Kanishka
127-151 CE
In Bactrian (Greek script)
Describes Kushan dynasty
Halmidi inscription
Halmidi
(Karnataka)
c. 450 CE
Oldest inscription in Kannada (Brahmi script)

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