Lectures on the Ancient History of india by D.R. Bhandarkar is a collection of three lectures focusing on the history of india from 650 B.C. to 325 B.C Starting with the Aryan colonization of India and Ceylon, Bhandarkar takes us on a journey through the poltical, administrative and social structures of this period.
Much remains a mystery of the ancient India land before emergences of the Mauryan and Gupta empires. Lectres on th Ancient History of India discusses the culture, practices, sciences and arts of the society revealing a country that was far more advanced in relation with the rest of the world.
Devadatta Ramakrishna Bhandarkar was the son of renowned Idologist, Sir R.G. Bhandarkar. Following in the footsteps of his illustrious father, Devadatta joined the Archaeological Survey of India and became an assistant to Henry Cousen. There he took part in painstaking surveys of the monuments of Rajputana and other areas of western India eventually becoming an authority on ancient India.
Devadatta’s tryst with Calcutta University and its founder, Sir Asutosh Mukherjee was a long and fruitful one. He was hailed by Mukherjee as the ‘pathfinder in trackless regions of the boundless filed of India antiquarian research’. Devadatta served as Carmichael Professor of Culcutta University, teaching Numismatics in the MA program for Ancient Indian History and Culture. His lectures during his tenure, collected and published by the University as Lectures on Ancient Indian Numismatics and Lectures on Ancient History of India, have reminded a point of reference for generations of scholars.
Devadatta Ramkrishna Bhandarkar died in May 1950.
This book contains the lectures which I delivered as Carmichael Professor of the Calcutta University in February, 1918. When I came here to hold the chair, I was told that I was to deliver four lectures embodying some research work. If my lectures, I thought, were to contain nothing but new original work, they could be delivered only to a few advanced students of the Ancient Indian History and would hardly be understood by the people in general. If, on the other hand, they were to be such as would be intelligible to the latter, there was the danger of their being more popular than scholarly in character. Was it possible, I asked myself, to realise both the ends, i.e. to satisfy both the classes,-the scholars and the people? After thinking about the matter, I came to the conclusion that both the objects could be fulfilled if I selected a period was the one which immediately preceded the rise of the Mauryan power, although it was in some respects the most important one. This period was accordingly chosen and the lectures delivered. How far I have succeeded in interesting the specialists and the laymen in the subject-matter of these lectures I leave it to them to determine.
The most important event of the period I have selected, viz: from 650 to 325 B.C., is the completion of the Aryan colonisation of Southern India. This has, therefore, become the theme of my first lecture. In my second, I have dealt with the political history of the period, the characteristic feature of which is the gradual evolution of Imperialism. Shortly before Buddha, the Aryanised India had been divided into sixteen tiny States, mostly kingships, which by the process of centralisation were developed into four Monarchies when Buddha was living, and these Monarchies, again, culminated into Imperialism about a century after his demise. My Third and Fourth Lectures pertain to the Administrative History, a subject which has not yet attracted as much attention of the scholars as it deserves though the materials even not at our command are enough for the purpose. The Third Lecture is divided into two parts, the first of which deals with Literature on Hindu Polity to which we are indebted for our knowledge of this subject. This, I to which we are indebted for our knowledge of this subject. This, I am afraid, is more of an esoteric than of an exoteric character, and may, therefore, prove somewhat abstruse to the general reader. The second part aims at setting forth some of the Hindu conceptions of Monarchy, and will, I hope, be read with some interest. Therein I have attempted to set forth the evidence which, if it is impartially and dispassionately considered, seems to show that there was a time in the Ancient History of India when Monarchy was not absolute and uncontrolled. We have been so much accustomed to read and hear of Monarchy in India as being always and invariably unfettered and despotic that the above conclusion is apt to appear incredible to many as it no doubt was to me for a long time. In the Fourth Lecture I have endeavoured to show that Monarchy was not the only form of political government known to India and the governments known to India and the governments of a more or less popular character such as oligarchy, aristocracy and democracy were also nourishing side by side with it. In this lecture I have also endeavoured to give a glimpse into the rules and regulations of debate which characterised the popular assemblies of Ancient India and have pointed out that they bear a remarkably close correspondence to those followed by the modern civilised age.
The Bengalis are a loving and lovable people, and many are the lecturers and teachers of the Calcutta University from whom I have received willing help and suggestions of various kinds. It is impossible to mention the names of Mr. Narayan Chandra Benerji, M.A., for the invaluable assistance he rendered me in connection with my Lectures on the Administrative History before he formally became Lectures of the University. The preparation of the Index I solely the work of my pupil Mr. N.G. Majumdar, B.A., who also helped me in revising the proofs.
It is scarcely necessary for me to add that the subject of the Ancient Indian History and Culture is a progressive one, and with every additional study and find of new material some of the conclusions previously drawn are likely to be modified. And, as a matter of fact, as this book is reaching its completion, I myself am aware that I now hold somewhat different views on one or two matters dealt with in these Lectures. Similarly, though no effort has been spared to ensure accuracy and fullness, I do not expect this book to be by any means free from defects. But I request my readers not to play the role of a cattle louse described in the well-known Sanskrit verse,* but rather to confine their attention to the good points only, if there be any, in these Lectures, and thus help to carry forward the torch of research work to illumine the dark periods of Ancient Indian History.
An outsider like myself has only to see the affairs of the Calcutta University and be convinced that the progress of the Ancient History of India or of Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit studies is due solely to the solicitude and encouragement of one single person, and it is to this person, therefore, that this book has been dedicated. In the dedicatory page will be found his portrait, which, I may add, was inserted much against his wishes.
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