History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2015: Q.2 (a)

Q.2  (a) How far can the ancient Indian Sruti literature be used as historical sources ?


”Sruti” literally means ‘that which has been heard’. In the hindu tradition,the Vedas have the status of sruti.

Problems in using the Vedas as historical sources:

(1) Vedic texts comprise a religious literature ,and references to possible historical events are a few. The Vedic corpus was not a popular literature and therefore ,does not necessarily represent popular ideas or practices. The Vedic literature forms an important part of the Brahmanical tradition. It reflects their religious beliefs, practices and points of view.

(2)A major problem in using the Vedas as a source of history is the problem of dating the Rig veda. The dates that have been suggested for the composition of this text ranfe from 6000 BCE to 1000BCE.

(3) There are several problems in correlating the evidence from the Vedas with archaeology.

Upto what extent can it be used as historical sources:

(1)The Vedic  texts can be used as sources of history for the areas in which they were composed.   For example: The family books of the Rig Veda  samhita were composed in the land of sapta-sindhu or the seven rivers that is the Indus, its five tributaries, and the saraswati(Ghaggar-Hakra).  The later Vedic  texts were composed in the Indo-Gangetic plain and the upper Ganga Valley.

(2) The ‘battle of ten kings ‘ may be based on an actual historical incident. The great battle took place on the bank of the river Parushni(Ravi).There are also references which show that the political alliances between the tribes were fluid and shifting.

(3)There are references of the assemblies like the sabha (smaller,elite gathering) and  samiti(a larger assembly) presided over by the the Rajan, the chieftain.

(4)There are also references of cattle rearing, agricultural activity, various craft works, slavery etc which shades important light on the socio-economic life of the contemporary society.

So for constructing the history of the sub-continent it is important to carefully  juxtapose the archaeological  evidences and the text based evidences and caution should be made while using  the ancient sruti literature as the source of history.

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