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The earliest Indian inscriptions date from the Mauryan period

Updated on March 17, 2016

The Great Kalinga War Ashoka ended

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king Ashoka

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The king Ashoka and Kalinga war

Ashoka (273 -232 BC)

The lord Ashoka was the most acclaimed Mauryan ruler. He was the main ruler who attempted to take his message to the general population through engravings. Ashoka surrendered war for peace and resilience. The King Ashoka ruled over most parts of present – day India. After various military triumphs, his domain extended from present – day Pakistan and Afghanistan in the west to the present day Bangladesh and Assam in the east and to the extent northern Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The ruler Ashoka vanquished the kingdom named Kalinga, which none of his progenitors could have done. He turned into a Buddhist in the wake of seeing the passings and obliteration created by the Kalinga war.

Kalinga war (261 BC)

The Empire Mauryan of was at its peak when the king Ashoka became the emperor. But Kalinga was the only kingdom which was not under the Mauryan control. Kalinga was an independent kingdom, which had a flourishing trade. It was important because it controlled the land and sea routes to south India and south – east Asia. The king Ashoka fought a war to conquer Kalina. However, after seeing the violence and the bloodshed, he decided to give up wars.

Ancient India - The Harappan civilization

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Harappan Seal

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The earliest Harappan seals

Coins are important historical records. They help the historians to reconstruct the complicated history of the distant past. The umber of coins of a particular period found today and the metals used (gold, silver, copper, etc.) give an idea of the economic conditions of that period.

The earliest Indian inscriptions available to us today are the ones found on Harappan seals. They do not give us much information because the Harappan script has not yet deciphered.

The earliest Indian inscriptions date from the Mauryan period. Most of them were issued by Ashoka. They are found inscribed on rocks and pillars in different parts of India and also in Afghanistan. Most of his inscriptions found in India were inscribed in the Brahmi script which is the mother script of all modern Indian scripts (such as Bengali, Tamil or Devanagari) except Urdu and was written from left to right. His inscriptions in north – western India were inscribed in the Kharosthi script that was written from right to left. Those found in Afghanistan were in Greek and Aramaic scripts.

Ashokan inscriptions are the most important sources for the history of his times. They give us information in his own words about his ideals, his services to Buddhism and his administration. Most of what we learn from them is not available from other sources.

Beginning with the times of Ashoka, inscriptions remain a very important sources for the history of India right down to the Sultanate period because of the paucity of historical works of that age. Inscriptions which mention dates help in determining the time of different rulers or events. Their find spots help in determining the extent of the kingdoms or spread of religions, etc.

Inscriptions became a relatively less important source beginning with the period of the Delhi Sultanate because its founders, the Turks and Afghans started the practice of writing stories which give more detailed informations.

The excavations at Mohenjo – daro and Harappa changed our old concepts and revealed the rich Harappan Civilization. The splendour of the Guptas was highlighted by the discovery of the temple at Deograh near Jhansi.

The ruins of the Harrapan city of Mohenjo-daro

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