- What can we know about the past?
There are several things we can find out about our past – what people ate, the kinds of clothes they wore, the houses in which they lived. We can find out about the lives of hunters, herders, farmers, rulers, merchants, priests, crafts persons, artists, musicians, and scientists. We can also find out about the games children played, the stories they heard, the plays they saw, the songs they sang, etc.
- What have we learnt about the people who lived along the banks of Narmada?
People have lived along the banks of river Narmada for several hundred thousand years. Some of the earliest people who lived here were skilled gatherers. Gatherers are people who gathered their food without cultivating. They knew about the vast wealth of plants in the surrounding forests, and collected roots, fruits and other forest produce for their food. They also hunted animals.
- What does a study of the past of areas on the Sulaiman and Kirthar hills to the northwest reveal about the past?
Some of the areas where women and men first began to grow crops such as wheat and barley about 8000 years ago are located here. People also began rearing animals like sheep, goat, and cattle, and lived in villages.
- Where are the Garo hills?
The Garo hills lie to the north-east of India.
- Where was rice first grown in ancient India?
Rice was first grown near the Garo Hills, north-east and in the Vindhyas in central India.
- Why did people move from one place to another?
So, men and women moved in search of livelihood, as also to escape from natural disasters like floods or droughts. Sometimes men marched in armies, conquering others’ lands. Besides, merchants travelled with caravans or ships, carrying valuable goods from place to place. And religious teachers walked from village to village, town to town, stopping to offer instruction and advice on the way. Finally, some people perhaps travelled driven by a spirit of adventure, wanting to discover new and exciting places. All these led to the sharing of ideas between people.
- Hills, mountains and seas form the natural frontiers of the subcontinent. While it was difficult to cross these frontiers, those who wanted could and did scale the mountains and cross the seas. People from across the frontiers also came into the subcontinent and settled here.
- How did travelling help India’s culture and traditions?
Over the years, people from India travelled to other countries and many scholars visited India. These movements enriched India’s culture and traditions. People have shared new ways of carving stone, composing music, and even cooking food over several hundreds of years.
- What is the origin of India’s name?
The word India comes from the Indus, called Sindhu in Sanskrit. The Iranians and the Greeks who came through the northwest about 2500 years ago and were familiar with the Indus, called it the Hindos or the Indos, and the land to the east of the river was called India.
- How did India come to be called ‘Bharata?’
The name Bharata was used for a group of people who lived in the northwest, and who are mentioned in the Rigveda, the earliest composition in Sanskrit, dated to about 3500 years ago. Later it was used for the country.
- What are some of the ways of finding out about the past?
There are several ways of finding out about the past. Read books (manuscripts) that were written long ago. We can also study inscriptions.
- What are manuscripts?
These are called manuscripts, because they were written by hand (this comes from the Latin word ‘manu’, meaning hand). These were usually written on palm leaf, or on the specially prepared bark of a tree known as the birch, which grows in the Himalayas. Over the years, many manuscripts were eaten away by insects, some were destroyed, but many have survived, often preserved in temples and monasteries. These books dealt with all kinds of subjects: religious beliefs and practices, the lives of kings, medicine and science. Besides, there were epics, poems, plays. Many of these were written in Sanskrit, others were in Prakrit (languages used by ordinary people) and Tamil.
- What are Inscriptions? What for did people use inscriptions?
Inscriptions are writings on relatively hard surfaces such as stone or metal. Sometimes, kings got their orders inscribed so that people could see, read and obey them. There are other kinds of inscriptions as well, where men and women (including kings and queens) recorded what they did. For example, kings often kept records of victories in battle.
- What are the advantages of writing on hard surfaces?
Objects that are made of hard, imperishable substances usually survive for a long time.
- Who are archaeologists?
There were many other things that were made and used in the past. Those who study these objects are called archaeologists. They study the remains of buildings made of stone and brick, paintings and sculpture. They also explore and excavate (dig under the surface of the earth) to find tools, weapons, pots, pans, ornaments and coins. Some of these objects may be made of stone, others of bone, baked clay or metal. Archaeologists also look for bones — of animals, birds, and fish — to find out what people ate in the past. Plant remains survive far more rarely — if seeds of grain or pieces of wood have been burnt, they survive in a charred form. Do you think cloth is found frequently by archaeologists? Historians, that is, scholars who study the past, often use the word source to refer to the information found from manuscripts, inscriptions and archaeology. Once sources are found, learning about the past becomes an adventure, as we reconstruct it bit by bit. So historians and archaeologists are like detectives, who use all these sources like clues to find out about our pasts.
- One past or many? Why do we call pasts, not past?
We have used the word ‘pasts’ in plural to draw attention to the fact that the past was different for different groups of people. For example, the lives of herders or farmers were different from those of kings and queens, the lives of merchants were different from those of crafts persons, and so on. Also, as is true even today, people followed different practices and customs in different parts of the country. For example, today most people living in the Andaman Islands get their own food by fishing, hunting, and collecting forest produce. By contrast, most people living in cities depend on others for supplies of food. Differences such as these existed in the past as well. Besides, there is another kind of difference. We know a great deal about kings and the battles they fought because they kept records of their victories. Generally, ordinary people such as hunters, fishing folk, gatherers, farmers or herders did not keep records of what they did. While archaeology helps us to find out about their lives, there is much that remains unknown.
- What do dates mean?
If somebody asks you the date, you will probably mention the day, month and year, 2000 and something. These years are counted from the date generally assigned to the birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. So, 2000 means 2000 years after the birth of Christ. All dates before the birth of Christ are counted backwards and usually have the letters BC (Before Christ) added on. In this book, we will refer to dates going back from the present, using 2000 as our starting point.
- What do you know about AD and BC?
Letters with dates BC, we have seen stands for ‘Before Christ.’ You will sometimes find AD before dates. This stands for two Latin words, ‘Anno Domini’, meaning ‘in the year of the Lord’ (i.e. Christ). So 2005 can also be written as AD 2005. Sometimes CE is used instead of AD and BCE instead of BC. The letters CE stand for ‘Common Era’ and BCE for ‘Before Common Era’. We use these terms because the Christian Era is now used in most countries of the world. In India we began using this form of dating from about two hundred years ago. And sometimes, the letters BP meaning ‘Before Present’ are used. Find two dates mentioned on page 3. Which set of letters would you use for them?
- Many of these were written several hundreds of years ago.
- All inscriptions contain both scripts and languages. Languages which were used, as well as scripts, have changed over time.
- What is decipherment?
Decipherment is a process by which scholars deciphered or understood the hidden meaning of inscriptions written in ancient languages and symbols.
- How did scholars decipher the inscriptions found from Rosetta, Egypta?
from One of the most famous stories of decipherment comes from Egypt, a country in north Africa where there were kings and queens about 5000 years ago. Scholars who could read Greek figured out that the names of kings and queens were enclosed in a little frame, called a cartouche. They then placed the Greek and the Egyptian signs side by side, and identified the sounds for which the Egyptian letters stood. As you can see, a lion stood for L, and a bird for A. Once they knew what the letters stood for, they could read other inscriptions as well.
- What did archaeologists uncover in Rosetta?
Archaeologists uncovered inscribed stones which contained inscriptions in three different languages and scripts – Greek, and two forms of Egyptian.
- Mention several things we can find out about the past.
There are several things we can find out about the past – what people ate, the kind of clothes they wore, the houses in which they lived. We can also find out about the lives of hunters, herders, farmers, rulers, merchants, priests, craft-persons, etc. We can find out about the games kids played, the stories they heard, the plays they saw and the songs they sang.