The history of classical India is a huge and complex maze with many snares to entrap the explore. Much of it is so thickly encrusted with myths that it is often difficult to separate facts from fables. Undaunted by this prospects Abraham early unfolds in the first spring a profoundly illuminating pagnorama of an age that flowered luxuriantly before its of early narrative covers more than a thousand years from around the middle of the first millennium BCE to around the middle of the first millennium CE when Indian was a prosperous and marvelously creative civilization making many seminal contributions in multifarious fields of culture. From its ascent to the rarefied heights of the golden age to its descent into the swamp of the dark age from the daring intellectual adventurism of the first spring to the winter of corruption and cultural hibernation this book tells the story of the classical Indian civilization in a manner that is both lucid and thoroughly engaging.
Abraham Early was born in Kerala and was educated there and in Chennai. He has taught Indian and the United States, and was the editor of a current affairs magazine for several years. His works include two critically acclaimed and bestselling books on India: The last spring the lives and times of the great mughals (later published in two volumes as emperors of the peacock throne and the mughal world) and gem in the lotus: the seeding of Indian civilization
The history of classical India is a vast and complex maze with many snares to entrap the explorer. Much of its is so thickly encrusted with myths that it is hard to separate facts from fables. And there are scarcely any firm dates to peg the chronology of the period.
Classical India had no factual chroniclers with the sole exception of kalhana of the twelfth century Kashmir. The primary sources of information on the political history of the period are royal inscriptions and panegyrics by courtiers. Little credence can be given to them many of the glorious achievement attributed to classical Indian kings by courtier poets quite probably existed only in poetic imagination. This world with all its changes seem to lie on tongues of poets frankly states Vakpati an Indian courtier chronicler of the eighth century.
As for the traditional histories of Indian given in the Puranas they were revised over and over in the course of several centuries to reflect the changes in India’s Political and cultural environment and the data in them are all hopelessly jumbled up. Even their dynastic lists are chaotic. They are therefore of little use in reconstructing Indian history. Concedes Vishnu Purana I have given this history. But the existence of these kings will in future become a matter of today a matter of doubt and speculation. Emperors become mere legends in the current of time.
The account of foreigners Greeks, romans, Chinese, Arabs and early Europeans provide a different perspective on India but these too are flawed by distortions and exaggerations. Strabo a first century Greek historian nothing the many contradictions in the reports about India by Alexander generals comments if they differ thus about what was seen what must we think of that report from hearsay? So in case like these one must accept everything that is nearest to credibility.
This lack of reliability of source however primarily affects only political history and does not seriously hamper the study of the socio-culture history of classical India on which we have a good amount of fairly reliable information. For about a thousand years from around the middle of the first millennium India was a prosperous and marvelously creative civilization which made many seminal contribution in several fields of culture. But this was followed by a many centuries long cultural hibernation and decay from which India is yet to fully awaken. The study of these progressive and regressive phase of the classical Indian civilization is the subject of this book.
Indian today take great pride in their ancient culture heritage and rightly so but they have generally shown little regard for the preservation of their ancient texts or of the relics past. Incredible though it might seem a third century pillar was used as a road roller by a contractor in early modern time similarly a slab of the fourth century Mathura stone inscription of emperor Chandra gupta II was used to pave a street and as recently at 2008 the nearly 1000 year old frescos in a pallava temple in Tamil Nadu were obliterated by sandblasting them to clean up the walls! And every were in India numerous ancient monuments were ransacked by the common people for construction materials to build their mean tenements.
Many of the historical relics of India that are extant now are those salvaged or protected y European conservationists during the British rule. Europeans also played a crucial role in collating an publishing ancient Indian texts many of which had become quite corrupt over the centuries. And European were the first to explore ancient Indian history and reveal its richness to the world and to Indian themselves.
However many myths about India heritage still persist. And they distort the self image of contemporary Indians. The myths the dead form which have no vital truth to support them only prolong the suffering of the patient who is ailing from the poison generated by the putrid waste of the past comments Radhakrishna former president of India. To move ahead Indian has to free its mind form the mental prison of the past.
I have in the book tired to portray a civilization including the everyday life of the people rather than narrative a conventional history. I have therefore quoted extensively from the primary sources of the period to enable readers to see the events of the age through the eyes of the people who lived then and thus vicariously relive those experience. Political history is just one part of this twelve part book.
The overview with which the text opens briefly summarizes the central themes explored in detail in the main sections of the book. This has been done so that the reader may not lost the motif of the book in its ass of detail.
This book in part of a four volume study of the pre-modern history of India from the beginning up to the eighteenth century. Two books of this series have already been published: the last spring: the lived and times of the great mughals and gem in the Lotus: the seeding of India civilization. The next mughals and gem in the lotus: the seeding of Indian civilization. The next book will cover the history of early medieval India and will complete the set.
The term ancient India used in this book refers to the entire pre medieval period from the beginning up to the eleventh century while classical India refers to the period from the second century to the eleventh and the term India refers to the subcontinent not to the republic of India.
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