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Vincent Arthur Smith.

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territory,' and by the Muhammadans Hindustan, ' the Hindu
territory.' Modern usage sometimes extends the term Hindu-
stan to the whole of India. The ancients generally designated
the whole southern peninsular area by the Sanskrit word
dakshina, meaning ' south ', which is familiar in its corrupt



PHYSICAL FEATURES 19

English form as ' the Deccan '. But the term ' Deccan ' is now
commonly restricted to the plateau or highlands to the north
of the Kistna (Krishna) and Tungabhadra rivers, which are
mostly included in the Nizam's Dominions and the Bombay
Presidency. The Far South, or Tamil Land (Tamilakam),
which comprises the bulk of the Madras Presidency with the
addition of the Mysore, Cochin, and Travancore States, is
treated as distinct from the Deccan. But historically Mysore
has been more closely connected with the Deccan states than
with those of Tamil Land.

The historian's three divisions of India. As a matter of
fact the three divisions of Hindustan or Aryavarta, to the
north of the Narbada ; the Deccan, between the Tapti and
the Tungabhadra ; and the Far South or Tamil Land, from the
Tungabhadra to Cape Comorin, usually have had separate
histories. The historian of India, therefore, finds it con-
venient to restrict his main narrative of events before the
British period to Hindustan, which was most in touch with
the outer world, and to devote distinct chapters to the account
of events in the Deccan and the Far South. Most of the events
of at all general interest occurred in one or other of the three
regions named above. The affairs of Mahakantara, or the
central belt of jungle, of the Himalayan slopes and valleys,
including Nepal and Kashmir, as well as those of the basin
of the Brahmaputra, including Assam, ordinarily fall outside
of the main current of Indian history. The administrative
arrangements of modern India take little account of physical
features and natural geographical boundaries.

Basins of the Indus and Ganges. Within the area of Arya-
varta or Hindustan we must distinguish the basin of the Indus
and its tributaries, comprising the Panjab, Sind, Cutch, and
Rajputana to the west of the Aravalli hills, from the basin of
the Ganges and its affluents. The history of the countries
along the lower course of the Ganges, the modern province of
Bengal, is distinct in large measure from that of the countries
along the upper course of the same river, now mostly included



ARABIAN





JND I A

SHOWING

PHYSICAL FEATURES

Scale of Miles
10050 100 200 300 400 500



"^Nicobar Is.





GEORGE fH.LIP J SON, LTO,



22 PHYSICAL FEATURES

in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. South Bihar and
Tirhut, the ancient Magadha and Mithila respectively, although
now under the government of the newly formed artificial pro-
vince of ' Bihar and Orissa ', are associated historically rather
more with the upper than with the lower provinces. The out-
lying peninsula of Surashtra, or Kathiawar, being most easily
accessible through Malwa, was often included in the northern
empires of the Gangetic basin.

The ' Lost River '. The extensive desert which now occupies
so large an area in Rajputana and Sind was much smaller in
ancient times, when the ' Lost River ', the Hakra or Wahindah
flowed through the Bahawalpur State, and with its tributaries
fertilized wide regions now desolate. During the Muham-
madan period that river was the recognized boundary between
Sind and Hind, or India Proper. It disappeared finally in the
eighteenth century, but its ancient channels and the ruins of
forgotten cities on their banks may be seen still. Failure to
appreciate the enormous scale of the changes in the courses of
the rivers of Northern India has caused much misunderstanding
of history. In olden days the command of the rivers was as
important as the command of the sea is now.

The Western and Eastern Ghats ; the plain of Tinnivelly.
The long chain of hills or mountains of moderate height,
known as the Sahyadri or Western Ghats, which extends, with
only one short break at Palghat, from the Narbada to Cape
Comorin, plays an important part in Indian history. It shuts
off from the interior highlands the low-lying fertile strip of land
between the hills and the sea, called the Konkans, which has
been the seat of trade with Europe since remote ages. 1 The
passes, which do not change like rivers, have necessarily deter-

1 Ancient Hindu authorities name ' Seven Konkans', extending to Cape
Comorin. ' The Konkan is now held to include all the land which lies
between the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean, from the latitude of
Daman on the north [20 25'] to that of Terekhol, on the Goa frontier
[about 15 43'], on the south. This tract is about 320 miles in length '
(Bombay Gazetteer, 1896, vol. i, part ii, p. ix).



PHYSICAL FEATURES 23

mined the lines of intercourse between the coast and the king-
doms of the interior. The facilities for erecting forts on the
flat-topped hills of the Ghats and Deccan have largely influ-
enced the course of history, especially during the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries, when the Maratha power was based
on the possession of the hill -fortresses. The ill-defined range of
the Eastern Ghats has less historical significance. The arid
plain of Tinnivelly and Madura in the south-east of the penin-
sula is a well -marked natural feature which became the
seat of a separate kingdom, that of the Pandyas, at a very
early date.

The temptations of India. The wealth extracted by an
industrious population from the teeming soil of the hot
northern plains has always been a temptation to the hardy
races of the less favoured parts of Asia, and has supplied the
motive for innumerable invasions of armies and immigrations
of more peaceful settlers. The new-comers, entering from the
north, have thence pushed into the less attractive regions of
the Deccan table-land, whenever they were strong enough to
do so, but none of the invaders from the north were able to
establish effective dominion over the extreme south. The
riches of Tamil Land especially pearls, pepper, and spices
always have been sought by foreigners who came by sea, not
overland. The eagerness of merchants belonging to European
naval states to secure the trade in those precious commodities
has resulted in the most wonderful fact of modern history, the
conquest of all India by the subjects of an island kingdom in
the Far West. The events of 1914 have proved that the union
between India and England does not rest merely upon con-
quest. Community of material interests is hallowed by a
common feeling of loyal devotion to the person of the King-
Emperor. The sincerity of Indian feeling has been made
manifest to the world by the free-will offering of blood and
treasure tendered by the princes and peoples of India, and
accepted in a spirit of brotherhood by the king, parliament,
and people of the United Kingdom.



24 ANCIENT INDIA



CHAPTER II

The peoples of India : aborigines ; Aryans ; Indo- Aryans ; Dravidians ;
foreign elements.

The Stone Age. Poets dream of a golden age when the
world was young and men lived in innocent peace and happy
plenty. Sober science tells a different tale and teaches that
everywhere the earliest men were rude savages, dwelling in
caves or huts, ignorant even of the use of fire and the com-
monest arts of life. Rudely chipped flints or other hard stones
were their only tools and are their sole memorial. Later, but
still very ancient, men made better stone implements, often
exquisitely finished, and learned how to make pottery, at first
by hand only, afterwards with the aid of the wheel. India,
like other lands, yields many relics of such early men, who had
not been taught the use of metals, and are therefore said to
have lived in the Stone Age.

The Copper Age. In Northern India the first metal to
become known was copper. Hundreds of curious implements
made of pure copper have been found in the Central Provinces,
in old beds of the Ganges near Cawnpore, and in other places
from Eastern Bengal to Sind and the Kurram valley. They
are supposed to date from 2000 B.C., more or less. The time
when, iron being unknown, pure copper, not bronze, was used
to make tools is called the Copper Age. 1 It is possible that
some of the Rigveda hymns may date from that age, but com-
mentators differ.

The Iron Age. In process of time the use of iron became
familiar, having been introduced, perhaps, from Babylonia.
Since then men have lived and still live in the Iron Age. The
Atharvaveda, which, although very ancient, is later in date
than the Rigveda, seems to recognize the use of iron, which

1 The use of bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, common in Europe, was
rare in India, which had no Bronze Age.



ANCIENT INDIA 25

certainly was known to the people of Northern India before
500 B.C., and probably long before that date.

Variety of races in India. How far the existing peoples of
India are descended from the ancient men who used stone and
copper tools nobody can tell. The most casual observer can-
not fail to perceive that the present population of nearly three
hundred millions is made up of the descendants of many diverse
races, some of which have been settled in the country since the
most remote times, while others are known to have entered
it at various periods. In the course of ages those diverse
races have ' now become so intermixed and confounded that it
is impossible to say where one variety of man ends and another
begins '.

Two main types. But, notwithstanding infinite crossing,
two main types are clearly discernible. The short, dark, snub-
nosed, and often ugly type is represented by the Kols, Bhils,
and countless other jungle tribes, as well as by an immense
mass of low-caste folk in Northern India. The Southern races
also, with certain exceptions, are more akin to this type than
to the second, which is tall, fair, long-nosed, and often hand-
some, as represented by the Kashmiris and many high-caste
people in the north and some in the south.

Aryans and Aborigines. The people of the short, dark type
undoubtedly are the descendants of the older races who occu-
pied the country before the tall, fair people came in. They are,
therefore, often called ' aborigines ' to indicate that they
represent the earliest or original inhabitants, so far as can be
ascertained. Attempts, based chiefly upon philology, or the
science of language, are sometimes made to distinguish races
Kolarian, Dravidian, and so forth among these ' abori-
gines ', but with little success. The tall, fair people certainly
came in from the north-west, and the earliest invaders of whom
we know anything, the people of the Rigveda hymns, called
themselves Aryans, or ' kinsmen '. Their blood may be as-
sumed to flow in the veins of certain Brahmans and other
classes at the present day, but it is mixed with strains derived



26 ANCIENT INDIA

from later invaders of similar physical type. The question of
the original seat of the Aryan stock, one branch of which
entered India from about 1500 B.C. or earlier, has given rise
to many theories, which agree only in not being proved. It is,
however, safe to say that the Aryan settlers in India were akin
to the Persians or Iranians, and probably to many other races
of Asia and Europe.

Indo-Aryans. These Aryan settlers in India are con-
veniently called Indo-Aryans to distinguish them from the
continental Aryans on the other side of the passes. The
Pars! or Persian colonies, whose ancestors, fleeing from
Muhammadan persecution, reached Western India in the eighth
century, may be regarded as Aryans of pure blood. The
earliest settlements of the Vedic Indo-Aryans undoubtedly
were made in the Panjab, the ' land of the five rivers ', or ' of
the seven rivers ', according to an ancient reckoning. Thence
the strangers spread slowly over Northern India, advancing
chiefly along the Ganges and Jumna, but making use also of
the Indus route. One section seems to have moved eastwards
along the base of the mountains into Mithila or Tirhut. The
distinctive Brahmanical system was evolved, not in the Panjab,
but in the upper Ganges valley in the Delhi region, between
the Sutlaj and Jumna. Manu honours the small tract between
the Saras vati and Drishadvati rivers by the title of Brahma-
varta, ' the land of the gods ', giving the name of Brahmarshi-
desa, or ' the land of divine sages ', to the larger region com-
prising Brahmavarta or Kurukshetra (Thanesar), with the
addition of Matsya (Eastern Rajputana), Panchala (between
the Ganges and Jumna), and Surasena (Mathura). When the
treatise ascribed to Manu assumed its present shape, perhaps
about A.D. 200 or 300, the whole space between the Himalaya
and the Vindhyas from sea to sea was acknowledged to be
Aryavarta, ' the Aryan territory '. The Indo- Aryan advance
thus indicated must have been spread over many centuries. As
they advanced the Aryans subdued, more or less completely, the
'aborigines ', whom they called Dasyus, and by other names.



ANCIENT INDIA 27

Southern expansion of Aryans checked. The central forest
barrier, or Mahakantara (ante, p. 18), long checked the Aryan
advance towards the south, and, indeed, no large body of
Aryan settlers can be proved to have passed it. But, in course
of time, the ideas and customs of the Aryans spread all
over India, even into lands where the people have little or
no Aryan blood in their veins. Tradition credits the Bishi
Agastya with the introduction of Aryan Hindu institutions
into the South.

Aryan languages. The Indo-Aryans spoke a language which
in a later literary form became known as Sanskrit, and be-
longed to the same family as Persian, Latin, Greek, English,
and many other Asiatic and European languages. From the
early Indo-Aryan speech, Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, and other
languages of Northern India have been evolved during the
course of ages. But multitudes of people who are not Aryan
by descent now speak Aryan languages. Community of lan-
guage is no proof of community of blood.

Immigration from the north-east. Strangers distinct from
the Aryans, and belonging to the Mongoloid type of mankind,
more or less akin to the Chinese, came down from the north-
eastern hills, and are believed to form a considerable element
in the population of Eastern Bengal and Assam. This move-
ment from the north-east was of minor importance compared
with the Aryan immigration from the north-west.

Dravidians. The people of the south are described as
Dravidians because Dravida was the old name of the Tamil
country. Some writers extend the meaning of the term
Dravidian so as to comprise most of the so-called aboriginal
races, even in the north, but such an extension of a purely
geographical name is not to be commended. The Southerners
undoubtedly include several distinct races, but almost all of
the short, dark type. The Tamils are the most important.
Learned men have many theories about the origin of these
races, which agree only in their uncertainty. No positive
assertion on the subject is justified.



28 ANCIENT INDIA

Dravidian languages and civilization. The principal lan-
guages spoken in the south, namely Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese,
Malayalam, and Tulu, which are closely related one to the
other, form a group or family totally distinct from the Aryan,
and known to philologists as the Dravidian family. It is
equally distinct from the Kolarian or Munda family spoken
by many of the so-called aboriginal tribes. Tamil, a rich and
copious tongue, the most cultivated of the Dravidian group,
possesses a fine early literature, perfectly independent of the
Sanskrit. Although our knowledge of the ancient life of
the Dravidian nations is scanty, enough is known to justify
the assertion that they were far from being rude barbarians
when Aryan teachers first reached them, several centuries
before the Christian era.

The foreign elements of the Indian population. As already
observed, the origin of the southern races is not known, and
foreign immigration from the north into the south cannot be
proved to have taken place on a large scale. The known
foreign elements in the Indian population came in mainly from
the north-west and settled, for the most part, to the north of
the Vindhyas. It will be useful to state briefly what those
elements are. The first swarm of immigrants about which
anything can be ascertained is that of the Indo- Aryans (ante,
p. 26), whose movement undoubtedly lasted for centuries.

The Sakas. In the second century B. c. we begin to hear
of the Sakas, hordes of nomad tribes from Central Asia, who
descended on the Indian plains, formed settlements in the
Panjab, with extensions probably as far as Mathura, and
occupied Kathiawar or Surashtra, of which they became the
masters. The ancient Indians having been accustomed to use
the term Saka in a vague way to denote all foreigners from the
other side of the passes, without nice distinctions of race and
tribe, it is possible that many of the people called Sakas may
have been akin to the Aryans of the olden time.

The Yuehchi or Kushans (Kusana). The third recorded
inrush of strangers from Central Asia in large numbers began



ANCIENT INDIA 29

in the first century after Christ. At that time the leading
horde was known to the Chinese historians, the principal
source of information on the subject, as the Yuehchi, a people
probably akin to the Turks, and perhaps to the Aryans. The
Kushans (Kusana), the principal clan or sept among the
Yuehchi, founded a powerful empire in Northern India, the
history of which will be noticed in Chapter VI.

The White Huns or Ephthalites. Indistinct indications
suggest that India may have been invaded by Persians or
Iranians in the third century of the Christian era, but the
next clearly proved irruption took place in the fifth and sixth
centuries, when multitudes of fierce folk from the Asiatic
steppes swooped down on Persia and India. The Indians
called them all by the name of Hunas, a term used vaguely
like the term Sakas, and covering, no doubt, many different
hordes or tribes. European writers distinguish the Indian
Hunas as the White Huns, or Ephthalites, from the other
Huns who invaded Europe. As in the case of the Sakas, we
cannot say positively whether or not the White Huns were
akin to the fair, tall Aryans and Turks, or to the small yellow-
faced Mongols. But it is now known that many existing
Rajput clans and other castes Gujars, Jats, Kathi, &c. are
descendants of either the Hunas or the Gurjaras or of other
similar hordes which followed them. The appearance of the
Rajputs, Jats, and Gujars indicates that their foreign ancestors
must have belonged to one of the fair, tall types of mankind,
and not to the yellow -faced, narrow-eyed, Mongoloid type.

Early spread of Islam. A new force which came into
existence in the first half of the seventh century ultimately
produced enormous effects on the population of India.
Muhammad, an Arab of the desert, born about A. D. 570, con-
ceived in middle life the idea of proclaiming a reformed religion
which should abolish the rude heathen practices of the Arabs,
and be, in his belief, an improvement on the Jewish and
Christian religions as known to him. For years he had little
success, but he began to acquire political power from the time



30 ANCIENT INDIA

that he fled from Mecca to Medina in order to escape from the
opposition of his hostile kinsmen. The Muhammadan era of
the Hijra (often corruptly spelt Hegira), or Flight, dates from
A. D. 622. x During the remaining ten years of his life, his
prophetic teaching, summed up in the phrase, ' There is no God
but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger ', made such
progress, helped largely by the sword, that Muhammad, when
he died in 632, was practically master of Arabia. His position
as such brought his successors into conflict with the empires
of Persia and Constantinople, resulting in a series of wars, in
which the Arabs won marvellous success. Within the short
space of eighty years after the prophet's death, the adherents
of his religion Islam reigned supreme over Arabia, Persia,
Syria, Western Turkistan, Sind, Egypt, and Southern Spain.
We may say with truth that the rapid progress of the Arab arms
was mainly due to the enthusiasm aroused by the prophet's
teaching, aided by the weakness of the kingdoms attacked ; but
no man has ever yet succeeded in explaining how the teaching
of a prophet like Muhammad should arouse so quickly the zeal
of his followers and make them invincible. The spread of
a new religion is one of the mysteries of human nature, which
do not yield their secret to attempts at summary explanation.
Muslim element in Indian population. Sind, then regarded
as distinct from India proper, was conquered by Muhammad
bin Kasim in A. D. 712, and the occupation of Kabul followed
in 870. But the conquest of those outlying territories did not
much concern India. The first Indian province permanently
occupied by Musalmans was the Panjab, annexed by Sultan
Mahmud of Ghazni about 1021 . From the closing years of the
twelfth century, when the conquest of Hindustan .was systema-
tically undertaken, a stream of Muslim strangers began to flow
into the plains of India, and continued to flow, with some
interruptions, until the eighteenth century, profoundly chang-
ing the character of the population over immense areas. The

1 Hijra dates arc denoted by the letters A. H., meaning Anno Hijrae, 'in
the year of the Hijra '



ANCIENT INDIA 31

Muslim immigrants from the north-west belonged mostly to
tall, fair races, resembling the Aryans rather than the earliest
inhabitants of India.

Lasting effect of the early Aryan immigration. Thus it
appears that for thousands of years millions of foreigners,
beginning with the Vedic Aryans, and mostly fair -skinned
people, have kept pouring into India and mingling their blood
with that of the earlier dark inhabitants. The strangest fact
in the story is that the most profound effect was wrought by
the earliest known swarm of immigrants, the Vedic Aryans,
who have stamped an indelible mark on the institutions of
India, and given the country as a whole its distinctive character.
Sakas, Yuehchi, Hunas, and many other alien tribes who came
in later are now mere names. They have left scarcely a trace
of their peculiar institutions or customs, and have been swal-
lowed up in the gulf of Hinduism. The Muslims alone, thanks
to their zeal for their religion, have succeeded in keeping dis-
tinct and separate. Modern Hinduism, however much it may
differ from the religion and social system of the ancient Rishis,
undoubtedly has its roots in the institutions of the Vedic
Aryans, and not in those of subsequent immigrants. In the
next chapter some of the effects of the Aryan occupation will
be considered.

CHAPTER III

Early Hindu civilization : the Vedas ; Smfiti ; the Puranas ; the epics ;
Buddhism and Jainism ; caste.

The four Vedas. Although it is true that few of the modern
Hindus possess an intimate knowledge of the Vedic literature,
and that the Hinduism of recent times has little obvious con-
nexion with the teaching of that literature, it is also true that
nearly all Hindus profess to revere the Vedas and regard them,
especially the Upanishads, in theory as the foundation of their
system of life. Some account of the Vedic literature, the gift
of the Aryans, therefore, is an indispensable introduction to
the history of ancient and modern India.



32 ANCIENT INDIA

The word Veda means ' knowledge ', and specially the philo-
sophical and religious knowledge which Hindus believe to have
been revealed to the most ancient Aryan sages (rishis). The
books imparting such knowledge are known as ' the four
Vedas'.

Contents of the four Vedas. Each Veda may be said to
comprise three parts, all ranking as truti, or revelation namely
(1) a collection or collections (samhitd) of hymns, prayers,
invocations, or spells (mantra) ; (2) prose treatises, designed to
explain the meaning of the ritual of sacrifice and to serve as
text-books for the use of Brahmans (Brdhmana); and (3)
philosophical discourses (Upanishad), chiefly devoted to the
exposition of the doctrine of the identity of the world -soul with
the individual soul (dtman, brahma), and the means of escape
from the evils of existence by absorption into the world -soul.
Technically the Upanishads form part of the Brahmanas,
which also include supplementary treatises called Aranyakas,
specially designed for the study of advanced students living
in the solitudes of forests (aranya). But the matter of the



Online LibraryVincent Arthur SmithThe Oxford student's history of India → online text (page 2 of 27)