The Pushyabhuti Dynasty of Early Medieval India

The most notable ruler of this dynasty was its last ruler, Emperor Harshavardhana (or Harsha). Introduction The Pushyabhuti Dynasty (c. 500 CE – 647 CE) rose after the downfall of the Gupta Empire (3rd century CE – 6th century CE) in the 6th century CE in northern India. Also known as the Vardhana or Pushpabhuti[…]

Images of Enlightenment: Aniconic vs. Iconic Depictions of the Buddha in India

One of the most important moments in the story of Prince Siddhartha is when he reached spiritual enlightenment—a state of infinite knowledge. Depicting the Divine Representing divine figures has long been a thorny issue. After all, depicting the divine in human form would seem to define and limit the divine in a manner which seems to contradict the idea[…]

Siege Warfare in Ancient India

Capturing forts was necessary as enemy capitals were usually fortified and no invader could proclaim victory without these strategic strongholds. Introduction Forts and sieges held a key position in ancient Indian warfare. Built on considerations of strategic location, topography, and the natural advantages provided by the site, forts would be heavily supplemented with man-made fortifications. They[…]

Naval Warfare in Ancient India

The ancient Indian naval ships protected trade and carried troops to war zones. Introduction The navy in ancient India carried out three roles: it was used to transport troops to distant battlefields, participate in actual warfare, and was primarily meant for protecting the kingdom’s trade on sea and navigable rivers and the maritime trade routes.[…]

Religious Developments in Ancient India

Hinduism stood for a wide variety of related religious traditions native to India. Introduction For well over 1,000 years, sacred stories and heroic epics have made up the mythology of Hinduism. Nothing in these complex yet colourful legends is fixed and firm. Pulsing with creation, destruction, love, and war, it shifts and changes. Most myths occur in several different[…]

The Initiation of Religions in Ancient India

The Upanishads are the philosophical account deemed to be the earliest source of Hindu religion. Introduction The religious practices of the early Indo-Aryans, known as the Vedic  religion (1500 BCE to 500 BCE) were written down and later redacted into the Samhitas, four canonical collections of hymns or mantras, called the Veda, in archaic Sanskrit. The Late Vedic age[…]

On the Pallava Trail in Kanchipuram

The creativity of the Pallavas did not diminish throughout their reign. By Anantha Krishnan Introduction The Pallavas ruled south-eastern India from the 3rd through the 9th centuries CE. Their empire covered what is today the Tamil Nadu state. Their origin is shrouded in mystery though historians believe their roots might have been from Andhra Pradesh[…]

The Religion–Politics Divide in Sikh Politics from Pre- to Post-Colonial India

Examining the intersection of religion and politics in the evolution of the Sikh tradition in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods in the Indian subcontinent. Introduction The purpose of this essay is to look at the changing dynamics of the intersection of religion and politics at various historical junctures in the evolution of the Sikh[…]

Opening the Way to India in the Ancient World

Sea routes got busy and the merchants began to travel with a variety of goods unknown to Europe until then. Possibly being overjoyed by the tales of mythical exploits of Heracles, Semiramis, the fabled queen of Assyria, Cyrus, King of Persia and so on, Alexander the Great set out from the tiny kingdom of Macedon for a daring adventure, unheard of in the entire[…]

Architecture of Ancient Sri Lanka

The architecture of ancient Sri Lanka displays a rich diversity. Introduction The architecture of ancient Sri Lanka displays a rich diversity, varying in form and architectural style from the Anuradhapura Kingdom (377 BC–1017) through the Kingdom of Kandy (1469–1815). Sinhalese architecture also displays many ancient North Indian influences. Buddhism had a significant influence on Sri Lankan architecture after it was introduced to the island in[…]

Divine Light and Melodies Lead the Way: The Medieval Santmat Tradition of Bihar, India

Examining the branch of Santmat, prevalent in the rural areas of Bihar, India. Abstract This paper focuses on the branch of Santmat (thus far, unstudied by scholars of Indian religions), prevalent in the rural areas of Bihar, India. Santmat—literally meaning “the Path of Sants” or “Point of View of the Sants”—of Bihar represents a unique[…]

A Brief History of Ancient Buddhism

The origin of Buddhism points to one man, Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, who was born in Lumbini. Introduction Buddhism is one of the most important Asian spiritual traditions. During its roughly 2.5 millennia of history, Buddhism has shown a flexible approach, adapting itself to different conditions and local ideas while maintaining its core teachings.[…]

Ancient and Medieval Hindu Architecture

The first Hindu temples were built from rock-cut caves. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Hindu architecture evolved over the centuries from simple rock-cut cave shrines to massive and ornate temples which spread across the Indian sub-continent and beyond, forming a canonical style which is still adhered to today in modern Hindu temples across the globe. Essential[…]

An Overview of India’s Ancient Civilization

This period of ancient Indian history is known as the Vedic age, as it was depicted in the earliest Indian writings, called the Vedas. Introduction Urban civilization first appeared in ancient India with the Indus Valley civilization in the early third millennium BCE, in what is today Pakistan and north-west India. This was contemporary with other early civilizations[…]

The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters and Art of Prehistoric India

The earliest cave paintings here are about 30,000 years old. Introduction The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site in central India that spans the prehistoric paleolithic and mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period.[1][2] It exhibits the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent and evidence of Stone Age starting at the site in Acheulian times.[3][4][5] It is located in the Raisen District in the Indian state[…]

Ancient India and a Legend of Automatons Guarding Buddha’s Relics

Stories passed down from the ancient world tell of self-powered machines able to move on their own. As early as Homer, more than 2,500 years ago, Greek mythology explored the idea of automatons and self-moving devices. By the third century B.C., engineers in Hellenistic Alexandria, in Egypt, were building real mechanical robots and machines. And such science[…]

A Brief Overview of the Ancient Indus Valley Civilization

Over the course of several centuries, the inhabitants gradually settled down and took up agriculture. Introduction The Indus Valley Civilization was an ancient civilization located in what is Pakistan and northwest India today, on the fertile flood plain of the Indus River and its vicinity. Evidence of religious practices in this area date back approximately[…]

A History of the Kushan Empire

The Kushan Empire reached its cultural zenith circa 105 – 250 C.E. and extended from Tajikistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and into the Ganges River valley in northern India. Introduction The Kushan Empire (c. First–Third Centuries) reached its cultural zenith circa 105 – 250 C.E., extended from Tajikistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and into the Ganges River valley in northern India. The Kushan tribe of the Yuezhi confederation,[…]

A History of Medieval and Early Modern India

Medieval Indian history went for almost three whole centuries under the so-called indigenous rulers. 9th Century to the Rise of Islam Overview For a period that has come to be so strongly associated with the Islamic influence and rule in India, Medieval Indian history went for almost three whole centuries under the so-called indigenous rulers,[…]

A History of India from the Indus Valley Civilization to the 9th Century CE

India’s history and culture is dynamic, spanning back to the beginning of human civilization. Introduction The history of India begins with a mysterious culture along the Indus River and in farming communities in the southern lands of India. The history of India is punctuated by constant integration of migrating people with the diverse cultures that[…]

Initiation of Religions in Ancient India

Vedic religion had a strict code of rituals. Introduction The religious practices of the early Indo-Aryans, known as the Vedic religion (1500 BCE to 500 BCE) were written down and later redacted into the Samhitas, four canonical collections of hymns or mantras, called the Veda, in archaic Sanskrit. The Late Vedic age (9th to 6th centuries BCE) marked the beginning[…]

The Script of the Ancient Indus Valley

An overview of the earliest form of writing known in the Indian subcontinent. By Cristian ViolattiHistorian Introduction The Indus Script is the writing system developed by the Indus Valley Civilization and it is the earliest form of writing known in the Indian subcontinent. The origin of this script is poorly understood: this writing system remains[…]

Drinking Habits in Ancient India

Consumption of one or other form of intoxicating substances has been present throughout the history of the world. By Dr. Ottilingam Somasundaram, Dr. D. Vijaya Raghavan, and Dr. A.G. Tejus MurthyDepartment of Psychiatry, Madras Medical College, Institute of Mental Health, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India Abstract Consumption of one or other form of intoxicating substances has[…]

Cultural Links between Ancient India and the Graeco-Roman World

Long before the arrival of Alexander the Great on India’s north-western border, there are references in early Indian literature calling the Greeks Yavanas. Introduction Cyrus the Great (558-530 BCE) built the first universal empire, stretching from Greece to the Indus River. This was the famous Achaemenid Dynasty of Persia. An inscription at Naqsh-i-Rustam, the tomb of his able successor Darius I (521-486 BCE), near Persepolis, records Gadara[…]