Study of Indian History

Important Features of History

  • The important aspects of the study (of History) are −

    • To know - how did agriculture or other means of existence begin.

    • When did our primitives begin the use of metal and how did they develop spinning, weaving, metalworking, etc.

    • How did the political and administrative systems evolve

    • How did the development of literature, urban life, science, and architecture evolve, etc.

  • History does not mean only the description of the dates and events related to the kings or dynasties, but rather it also means to study various aspects that shaped the overall personality of the society and the people.

  • Therefore, the study of history is the study of the entire human past, which goes back to millions of years.

  • Throughout the period (starting from Ancient, Medieval, and Modern), every society has developed over a long period of time; however, they differ in terms of courses they followed and the processes they underwent.

  • The primitives experienced stone-age, hunter-gatherers and they all practiced agriculture. Over a period of time, the primitives began to use metal at one time or the other. In spite of so much similar activities, still they differ in their cultural, social, political, and religious identity.

  • The study of history helps in understanding the people, societies, and nations and finally, the whole humanity gets a sense of identity and belonging.

  • It may be a very superficial view to ask −

    • Why should study history?

    • Does it contribute anything economically to our society?

    • Does it solve the problem of poverty and unemployment?

  • Of course, History does not answer these question, but History helps us in knowing the past people, their cultures, their religions, and their social systems, and suggests us how to make future better.

  • History, further, makes us learn lessons from the past for the present and future. It reminds us not to repeat the mistakes, which led to various manmade calamities and disasters like wars (in the past).

  • History guides us why and how to ignore the bad things that created problems in society and follow the things, which promote harmony, peace, and prosperity.

  • Ashoka (the king of ancient Patliputra), in his Rock Edict XII, insisted on the following measures and practices to maintain harmony, peace, and prosperity in the society −

    • Promotion of the common ground or root of all religion.

    • Cultivation of the sense of unity of all religions by the practice of vachaguti or restraint of criticism of other religions and sects.

    • The coming together (samavaya) of exponents of different religions in religious assemblies

    • Learning the texts of other religions so as to become bahusruta or proficient in the scriptures of different religions.

Purpose of Studying History

  • The study of past does not mean that one lives in the past, but one learns to live with the past.

  • History gives a society or a nation an identity. It is not something that we can disown.

  • Voltaire (a great intellectual and statesman from France) contended that India is the cradle of worldly civilizations and homeland of religion in its oldest and purest form.

  • Voltaire, further, wrote, "In short I am convinced that everything - astronomy, astrology, metaphysics, etc. comes to us from the bank of Ganges".

  • Pierre de Sonnerate, a French naturalist and traveler, believed that all knowledge came from India, which is the cradle of civilizations.

Immanuel Kant
  • Immanuel Kant (a great philosopher of Germany) recognized the greatness of ancient Indian culture and civilization. He acknowledged that Indian religious thoughts were free of rigidity and intolerance.

  • Immanuel Kant wrote (about India), "Their religion has a great purity ... (and) one can find traces of pure concept of divinity which cannot easily be found elsewhere".