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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Oxford History of India

Vincent A. Smith

published by
The Clarendon Press,
New York, 1923

The text is in the public domain.

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Book I
Chapter 2

The reader is reminded that this text was written nearly a hundred years ago; there was even more uncertainty then than now as to the details of Indian history. More importantly, it was written by a British national of the time (no, not by me): attitudes and biases have changed. See the orientation page.

Ancient India

 p1  Chapter 1

Prehistoric India; the elements of the population.

Antiquity of man. Man has existed on the earth for a time beyond the possibility of computation, but certainly to be estimated in hundreds of thousands rather than in thousands of years. By far the greater part of the long story of the 'ascent of man' is and always must remain unknown. The extreme limit of human tradition as preserved in Egypt may be placed roughly at 5000 B.C. or 7,000 years from the present day. Beyond that limit not can be clearly discerned, nor is any trustworthy estimate of date practicable. Indian tradition does not go back so far as that of Egypt and Babylonia. Evidence, however, exists that certain parts of India were occupied by human beings at a time immensely remote, when the hippopotamus and other strange beasts of which no meme remains dwelt in Indian forests and waters.

Palaeolithic or 'quartzite' men. The pleasant belief of poets that primitive man enjoyed in an earthly paradise a golden age free from sin, sorrow, want, and death finds no support from the researches of sober, matter-of‑fact science. On the contrary, abundant and conclusive evidence proves that the earliest men, whether in India, Europe, or elsewhere, were rude savages, cowering for shelter under rocks or trees, or roughly housed in caves and huts. They lived by the chase or on jungle produce, and may not have known how to make a fire. They were certainly unable to make pottery and were ignorant of any metal. They were dependent for tools or weapons of all kinds on sticks, stones, and bones. The sticks, of course, have perished, and in India bone implements are rarely found, probably by reason of the white ants. Stone tools, which are imperishable, may be said to constitute the sole memorial of the most ancient Indian men, whose skulls and bones have vanished. They did not construct tombs of any sort. The stone implements, laboriously shaped by chipping into forms suitable for hammering, cutting, boring, and scraping, are found in large numbers in many parts of India, more especially in the districts along the eastern coast. The Madras or Chingleput District presents the 'most numerous and important traces of palaeolithic man known in Southern India'. The chipped stones, which had to several all purposes of peace or war, are usually  p2 pieces of a rock called quartzite, but when quartzite was not available other hard rocks or minerals were used. The 'quartzite men', as Logan calls them, may possibly have been of the same race as the 'river-drift' men of Europe, who made similar tools; and it is also possible that they may have been preceded in India by some early people of whom no trace remains. So far as our positive knowledge extends, or is likely to extend, the 'quartzite men' rank as the oldest inhabitants of India. That stage in the long story of mankind which is marked by the exclusive use of merely chipped stone implements is called technically Palaeolithic, from Greek words meaning 'old stone'.

Neolithic men. In the next stage of human advance men were for a long time still ignorant of metals, except gold, and were consequently obliged to continue using stone tools. They did not altogether give up the use of tools merely chipped, but most of their implements, after the chipping had been completed, were ground, grooved, and polished, and thus converted into highly finished objects of various forms, adapted to divers purposes. That further stage of advance is called Neolithic, from Greek words meaning 'new stone'. The remains of Indian neolithic man are far more abundant than those of his palaeolithic forerunner, and have been noted in most provinces. They can be studied to special advantage in the Bellary District, Madras, where Foote discovered the site of an ancient factory, with tools in every stage of manufacture. The neolithic people used pottery, at first hand-made, and later, turned on the potter's wheel. They kept domestic animals, cultivated the land, and were in a state of civilization far above that of palaeolithic man. Several authors suppose that the neolithic folk were not descended from the palaeolithic, and that the two periods were separated by a gap of many centuries or millenniums. That theory, although supported by certain observed facts, is improbable, because gaps rarely occur in nature, and there is little reason to suppose that 'a break in the chain of humanity' ever occurred. The seeming gap probably is to be explained by the imperfection of the record and our consequent ignorance. The neolithic people certainly were the ancestors of the users of metal tools and thus of a large proportion of the existing Indian population. Ample proof exists that the transition from stone to metal was ordinarily gradual, and that both materials often were used side by side. The early metal forms are close copies of the stone forms.

Burial and cremation. While the 'quartzite men' presumably were content to leave their dead to be devoured by the beasts, the neolithic people buried theirs and constructed tombs. In Europe sepulchres of neolithic age are extremely numerous, and commonly of the 'megalithic kind', that is to say, built with huge blocks and slabs of stone arranged so as to form a chamber for the deceased. In India graves of the neolithic period seem to be surprisingly rare, perhaps because they have not been sought. In fact, the only clearly recorded examples appear to be those  p3 found by Cockburn in the Mirzāpur District, U. P., where the bodies interred in deep graves lay extended north and south on stone slabs. The tombs were surrounded by stone circles. The Indian megalithic tombs, of which hundreds have been noted in the peninsula, usually contain iron objects and may be assigned to the Early Iron Age. Similar tombs containing stone implements only do not seem to be recorded. Many prehistoric cemeteries exist in the Tinnevelly District along the course of the Tāmraparni river, the most ancient seat of the pearl and chank or conch-shell fishery. The largest covers an area of 114 acres, a fact which implies the former existence of a dense population. The bodies were interred in great earthenware jars. The peculiarities of the Tinnevelly interments suggest many problems as yet unsolved.

Burial preceded cremation or burning of the dead in most countries, and India appears to conform to that general rule. The Hindu preference for cremation, which has been established for many centuries, seems to be a result of Indo-Aryan Brahmanical influence.

Mining and trade. The connexion between the early settlements on the Tāmraparni river and the pearl fishery is not an isolated fact. The position of the neolithic and early iron age settlements of both Europe and Asia was largely determined by the facilities offered for mining and for trade in articles specially valued. Professor Elliot Smith rightly affirms that the coincidence in the distribution of the megalithic monuments of Europe with that of mining centres is

'far too exact to be due to mere chance. Ancient miners in search of metals or precious stones, or in other cases pearl-fishers, had in every case established camps to exploit these varied sources of wealth; and the megalithic monuments represent their tombs and temples.'​1

The extraordinary graves in Tinnevelly may be those of foreign colonists who settled there for trading purposes, and continued to reside for centuries. Gold-mining was equally attractive to the ancient men, who knew the use of gold long before they acquired a knowledge of copper or iron for the purpose of according tools. A late neolithic settlement, for instance, existed at Maski in the Nizam's Dominions, where the old gold-miners' shafts are the deepest in the world. The mines probably were still worked in the days of Asoka (240 B.C.), who recorded one of his edicts on a rock at Maski.​2 Similar connexions between other Indian  p4 prehistoric settlements and mines or fisheries will be detected when attention is directed to this subject. The investigation of the prehistoric remains of India has not gone far as yet.

Iron age; copper age. In southern India stone tools were superseded directly by iron, without any intermediate step. The time when iron became the ordinary material of tools and weapons is called the Iron or Early Iron Age. In northern India the case is different. There the metal first used for tools, harpoons, swords, and spear-heads was copper, practically pure. Copper implements and weapons, of peculiar forms, but sometimes closely resembling those found in Ireland, have been discovered in large numbers in the Central Provinces, Chutiā Nāgpur, old beds of the Ganges near Cawnpore, and elsewhere. Silver objects are associated with them, but no iron.​3 Probably copper tools were in use when the Rigveda hymns were composed, but commentators differ. Iron certainly was known to the authors of the Atharvaveda, a very ancient book, and was in common use in 500 B.C. We may safely assume that the metal was utilized in northern India from at least 1000 B.C. It may have been introduced very much earlier, and from Babylonia. The earliest of the copper tools may well be as old as 2000 B.C. In southern India the discovery or introduction of iron may have occurred much later and quite independently.

No bronze age in India. In several extensive regions of Europe a Bronze Age intervened between the Neolithic and the Early Iron Periods. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, usually made with about nine parts of copper to one of tin. It is much harder than pure copper and consequently better adapted for the manufacture of tools and weapons. No bronze age can be traced in India. The few Indian implements made of bronze, only five or six in number, which are of early date, vary much in the percentage of tin which they contain, and may have been either imported or made as experiments. It is certain that tools or arms made of bronze never came into general use. The numerous bronze objects found in the megalithic tombs of southern India and in the Tinnevelly urns are either ornamental or articles of domestic use, such as bowls. They are never implements or weapons. Many of the bronze objects seem to have been imported. In modern India alloys of copper and zinc are more commonly used than the alloys made with tin.

Earliest inhabitants of India. In prehistoric time communication between the north and south must have been difficult and rare. The people of either region presumably knew little or nothing of those in the other, and the two populations probably were  p5 totally different in blood. Even now they are very distinct in their ideas and customs, although physical characters have become blended. Peninsular India, built up of the most ancient rocks, has been permanent land for uncounted millions of years. The plains of northern India, on the contrary, were formed ages later by the gradual filling up of a sea with material brought down from the highlands of Asia. Although the sea had been filled up long before the appearance of man on the earth, the surface of the regions now forming the basins of the Indus and Ganges must have taken thousands of years to become fit for human habitation. It is highly probable that the earliest inhabitants of India, whoever they may have been, settled on the ancient high and dry land of the peninsula, and not in the plains of the north. 'Quartzite man', as we have seen, is to be traced for the most part to the south of the Narbadā. Numbers of queer tribes with extraordinary customs, hidden away in different parts of the peninsular area, look like the descendants of the true 'aborigines' or earliest people. Northern India presents fewer such specimens, but certain parts of that region, especially the Āravallis and the Salt Range, are composed of primeval rocks like the peninsula, and undoubtedly were dry land in a very early stage of the earth's history. In those parts certain tribes now in being may be the descendants of 'aborigines' as ancient, or almost as ancient, as those of the peninsula.

North and South. It is desirable to understand and remember that the distinction between the peoples of the north and those of the south goes back far beyond the dawn of history. The peninsula was isolated by reason of its position and ordinarily could not receive either new inhabitants or novel institutions except by sea. The unceasing immigration of strangers by land into northern India, which has made the population there the mixture which it is, did not affect the south, which was shut off by the wide and almost impenetrable barrier of hill and forest, represented by the Narbadā, the Vindhya, and the Sātpura ranges. It is worth while to dwell upon the natural separation of the north from the south even in the most remote ages, because the roots of the present go down deep into the past to a depth far beyond measurement. The incomplete unity of India discussed in the first section of the Introduction depends mainly on the diffusion through the reluctant south of the Hindu ideas of the north, a process which probably had not begun earlier than 1000 B.C. Its slow and  p6 gradual progress forms no small element in the real inner history of India, that history which never has been and hardly can be reduced to writing. The conflict between the Dravidian ideas of the south and the Indo-Aryan ideas of the north, which has lasted for three thousand years more or less, still continues, although on the surface the victory of the north seems to be complete.

The modern population mixed. In my judgement it is absolutely impossible to decide who were the earliest inhabitants of India, either in the north or south, or to ascertain whence they came. Nor can we say what their bodily type was. The modern population of India almost everywhere is far too mixed to admit of the disentangling of distinct races each of a well-marked physical type. In the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, where I served, the low‑caste Chamār or leather-dresser and even the sweeper (Bhangī, &c.) often is handsome, and better looking than many brahmans. I do not believe that anything worth knowing is to be learned by measuring the skulls or otherwise noting the physical characters of individuals in a population of such mixed origin. So in England it often happens that in one family, one member will be long-headed (dolicho-cephalic) and another short-headed (brachy-cephalic). The absurdity of classing two brothers as belonging to distinct races because their heads differ in shape is obvious. The inferences drawn by anthropologists in India often have been quite as absurd. The mixture of races on Indian soil was going on for countless ages before any history was recorded, and it is hopeless now to unravel the different lines of descent.

Two main types: the fair type. When India as a whole is looked at broadly, without theorizing, anybody can see that the population comprises two main physical types. The tall, fair-skinned, long-nosed, and often handsome type is chiefly found in northern India among the upper Hindu castes and the Muhammadans. It is well exemplified by the brahmans of Kashmīr, who may be of tolerably pure Indo-Aryan descent. The type occurs in southern India among the Nambudri brahmans of Malabar, whose ancestors came from the north. The ancestry of the tall, fair people in fact is known to a large extent. They are mostly, or perhaps wholly, descended, with more or less intermixture of other strains, from some or other of the innumerable strangers from the north-west who are known to have poured into the basins of the Indus and Ganges during the last four thousand years. Where such immigration has not taken place the type does not occur. Its appearance occasionally among low‑caste and outcaste people probably is due to irregular unions.

The short, dark type. The second type, short in stature, often ugly in face, snub-nosed, and dark-skinned, is found in almost all the jungle tribes occupying the regions built of primaeval rocks, and to a very large extent among the low‑caste population of the plains. We may feel assured that the people of that type represent and in great measure are actually descended from the neolithic peoples, or perhaps even from the palaeolithic. Some of  p7 the isolated jungle tribes may have preserved their descent comparatively pure, with little admixture of outside blood. The people of the peninsula originally may have been and probably were, as previously said, originally quite distinct from those of the north, but it seems to be impossible to draw any definite line of physical, that is to say, bodily distinction between the bulk of the inhabitants of the two regions at the present time.

The modified Mongolian type. A third and less prominent element of the population is now found chiefly in the Himalayan region. The Tibetans may be taken as the type. The Burmese and Gu̅rkhas are more or less similar to them in appearance. All those nations and several other communities exhibit modified forms of the yellow-tinted Mongolian type of the Chinese, and usually are beardless. The evidence of ancient sculptures, as seen at Barhut (Bharhut) and Sānchī, combined with that of certain institutions, indicates clearly that eighteen hundred or two thousand years ago the Tibetan type was much more prominent in the plains of northern India than it is at the present day. In the Mahābhārata, for instance, we find Draupadī married to five brothers at once. That kind of marriage, technically called polyandry, still is a Tibetan and Himalayan custom, and is absolutely opposed to Aryan principles.​4 The famous Lichchhavis of Vaisāli in Tirhu̅t administered criminal justice on Tibetan lines. Many other proofs might be adduced to show that the Himalayan type was and is a considerable factor in the formation of the mixed population of northern India, especially in Bengal and Bihar.

Many arrivals of the fair type. The tall, fair people, as has been said, clearly are descended from immigrants from the north-west, belonging to diverse races, who resembled more or less the Afghans of the border, the Persians, and the Turks of Central Asia. No man can tell when such people began to pour into the tempting plains of India, but the process certainly was going on several thousand years ago and continued with intervals on a large scale until the reign of Bābur in the sixteenth century. Since that time the inflow of strangers from the north-west has been small.

The Indo-Aryans. The earliest invaders or settlers about whom anything at all definite is known were the people of the Rigveda hymns, who called themselves Aryans, and are conveniently designated as Indo-Aryans in order to distinguish them from their brethren who remained at the other side of the passes. They separated themselves sharply from the non‑Aryan dark-skinned early inhabitants of India, and were no doubt tall and fair. They  p8 were akin to the Iranians or Persians, who also called themselves Aryans. It is certain that they slowly worked their way across the Panjāb and down the courses of the Indus and Ganges. Probably they advanced as far as Prayāg (Allahabad) at a tolerably early date, but Bihār and Bengal long continued to be reckoned as non‑Aryan countries. The peninsula was not affected at all by the early Indo-Aryan movements. The people there went on their own way and developed a distinct Dravidian form of civilization. The later conversion of southern India to Hinduism was the result of 'peaceful penetration' by missionaries or small colonies, and was not a consequence of the southward march of Indo-Aryan tribes. The amount of Aryan blood in the people to the south of the Narbadā is extremely small, in fact, negligible.

Lasting effect of Indo-Aryan movements. The Indo-Aryan movement must have continued for a long time. The guesses of some of the best European scholars place it somewhere between 2400 and 1500 B.C., but they are only guesses, and no near approach to accuracy is possible. Perhaps 2000 B.C. may be taken as a mean date.​5 It is a strange fact that the Vedic Indo-Aryans, the earliest known swarm of immigrants, have stamped an indelible mark on the whole country from the Himālaya to Cape Como̅rin. Modern Hinduism, however much it may differ from the creed and social usages of the ancient Rishis, undoubtedly has its roots in the institutions and literature of the Vedic Indo-Aryans. Plenty of other strangers have come in since, but none of them, not even the Muslims, have produced effects comparable in magnitude with those resulting from the Indo-Aryan settlements made three or four thousand years ago.

The Greeks and the Sakas. Nothing positive is known concerning any influx of foreigners which may have taken place during many centuries after the close of the Indo-Aryan movement, except the comparatively small settlements of Greek origin in  p9 the Panjāb and north-western frontier consequent on Alexander's invasion in 326 B.C. and the existence of the Bactrian kingdom and its offshoots between 246 B.C. and A.D. 50. The next extensive immigration of which any definite knowledge has survived is that of the Sakas, which began in the second century B.C. The term Saka was used by the Indians in a vague way to denote all foreigners from the other side of the passes, without nice distinctions of race or tribe. It may have included both ugly, narrow-eyed Mongols, and handsome races like the Turks, who resemble the Aryans in physique. The Sakas formed kingdoms in the Panjāb, at Mathurā, and in the Kāthiāwār peninsula.

The Yueh‑chi. In the first century after Christ another nomad tribe from Central Asia called the Yueh‑chi descended upon the plains of northern India. Their leading clan, the Kushāns, founded a great empire which extended southwards apparently as far as the Narbadā. The kushāns appear to have been big fair-complexioned men, probably of Turkī race, and possibly akin to the Iranian or Persian Aryans. The Saka and Yueh‑chi conquests must have introduced a large element of foreign blood into the Indian population. Obscure indications exist of Iranian invasions in the third century of the Christian era, but nothing definite has been ascertained about them, if they really occurred.

The Hu̅nas or Huns. There is no doubt that during the fifth and sixth centuries great multitudes of fierce folk from the Central Asian steppes swooped down on both Persia and India. Those invaders are called by the Indians Hu̅nas, or in English Huns, a term used in a general sense like the earlier term Sakas, to cover a mass of various tribes.​6 Other Huns who invaded Europe are known to have been hideous creatures of the Mongolian kind; but the assailants of India are distinguished as Ephthalites or White Huns, a name which may imply that they were fair people like the Turks. Many of the Rājpu̅t castes or clans, as well as the Jāts, Gu̅jars, and certain other existing communities, are descended either from the Hu̅nas or from allied hordes which arrived about the same time. The appearance of the existing castes so descended indicates that their foreign ancestors must have been mostly of the tall, fair, good-looking type. The population of the Panjāb and the United Provinces is free from Mongolian features except in the sub‑Himalayan and Himalayan regions.

The Hun irruptions mark a distinct epoch in the history of northern India, the significance of which will be explained later.  p10 They are mentioned prominently in this place because they contributed some of the best elements to the population.

Type of Muhammadan settlers. the last movement which introduced a large new class of recruits to the Indian population was that of the Muhammadans, beginning with the inroads of the Arabs at the commencement of the eighth century and ending with the establishment of the Mogul dynasty in the sixteenth century. Subsequent Muslim immigration has been on a small scale. The Muslim invaders and settlers, other than the Arab conquerors of Sind, belonged to various Asiatic races, including a certain number of narrow-eyed, yellow-tinted, beardless Mongols. But the majority were collected from nations or tribes of better appearance, and were tall, good-looking, fair-complexioned, bearded men. They comprised Iranian Persians akin to the Indo-Aryans, Turks, Afghans of many varieties, and sundry peoples of mixed descent. The admixture of mongol blood having been overborne by the other elements has left little trace intention features of modern Indian Muslims. The effect of the immigration on the whole has been to increase materially the proportion of tall, fair-complexioned people in the country. The physical type of the Muhammadan immigrants was far more like that of the Indo-Aryan brahmans than it was to the dark 'aboriginal' type indigenous in India.

Rapid spread of Islām. The rapidity of the spread of Islām, the religion of Muhammad, and the dramatic suddenness with which the adherents of his creed rose to a position of dominant sovereignty constitute one of the marvels, or it might be said the miracles of history. No cut-and‑dry explanation that can be offered is felt to account adequately for the astounding facts. But history records not a few other unexplained marvels, and we must be content to acknowledge that many things in the past, as in the present, pass man's understanding.

The prophet Muhammad, a native of Mecca, was more than fifty years of age before he attained any considerable success. He believed himself to be the divinely appointed messenger of a revelation destined to supersede the Jewish and Christian religions, as well as the rude paganism of his countrymen. His fellow citizens at Mecca were so hostile that in A.D. 622 he was obliged to quit his birthplace and take refuge at Medina. That event, renowned as the Flight, or Hijra, is the epoch of the Muhammadan Hijrī Era, vulgarly called the Hegira.​7 The remaining ten years of his life sufficed to make him substantially the sovereign of Arabia and the accepted Prophet of the Arabs. Soon after his death in A.D. 632 his successors, the early Khalīfs ('Caliphs'), found themselves in conflict with the mighty Persian and Byzantine empires. Nothing could withstand the furious enthusiasm of the  p11 Arabs from the desert, beneath whose attack ancient thrones tottered and fell.

Within the brief space of eighty years from the Prophet's death his Arab followers had become the masters, not only of Arabia, but of Persia, Syria, western Turkistan, Sind, Egypt, and southern Spain. They carried their new religion with them, and either imposed incident on their opponents at the point of the sword, or compelled them to ransom their lives by heavy payments.

Islām in the borderlands. The Indian borderlands soon attracted the attention of the Khalīfs. The Arabs reached the coast of Makrān as early as A.D. 643. The conquest of Sind was effected by Muhammad bin Kāsim in A.D. 712, and thenceforward for centuries that country remained under Arab rule. From the beginning of the eighth century many Arabs and Muslims of other nations must have settled in Sind and the neighbouring countries, effecting a marked change in the character of the population. But India proper remained substantially unaffected, although Arab traders occasionally visited the western kingdoms for business purposes. The Indian Rājās rarely troubled themselves about events taking place to the west of the Hakrā river, then the boundary between Sind and Hind.8

Islām in India proper. The annexation of the Panjāb to the Ghaznī kingdom about A.D. 1020 by Sultan Mahmu̅d necessarily involved extensive settlement of Muslim strangers in that province, although the rest of India continued to be free from their presence. From the closing years of the twelfth century, when Muhammad of Gho̅r began the systematic conquest of the country, a constant stream of Muslim immigrants continued to flow in; and during the period of the growth of the Sultanate of Delhi newcomers arrived without ceasing. During the decline of the Sultanate from 1340 to 1526 the immigration must have diminished, but in the latter year it received a fresh impetus from the victories of Bābur. During the next two centuries a certain number of Muhammadans from beyond the border effected a lodgement, although the total was not very great. the older colonies, however, multiplied, crowds of converts from Hinduism were made, and intermarriages between the old and new Muslims took place. The tendency of the Muslim population is to increase, its fertility being superior to that of the Hindus. The immigrant Muhammadans, although thoroughly naturalized, retain their distinctness and never become merged in the Hindu majority, as their predecessors the Sakas, Hu̅nas, and the rest were absorbed. The reason is to be found in the definite character of the Muslim creed resting on scriptures of known date, and consisting essentially of only two doctrines, the unity of God and the divine mission of Muhammad. That simple creed inspires intense devotion and  p12 offers unbroken resistance to the seductions of Hinduism, although Indo-Muhammadanism social practice is affected considerably by its surroundings. The looser beliefs of the early immigrants from Central Asia were not strong enough to withstand the subtle influence of the Brahmanical environment. The Shamanism of the nomad invaders, like the demon-worship of the Dravidians, yielded before the attractive force of the Hindu system, so that each successive wave of pre‑Muhammadan foreigners quickly melted away in the ocean of caste.

Smaller foreign communities. Since the fifteenth century a considerable population of mixed Indo-European blood, originating from unions of Portuguese, English, and other Europeans with Indian women, has grown up, which forms an important element in the population of the great cities, the Bombay Konkan, and the settlements on the lower Himalayan ranges.

The Jews, Parsees, Armenians, and certain other small foreign communities maintain their isolation so strictly that they hardly affect the racial character of the general population.

Language no proof of race. Sanskrit, with its derivative vernaculars; the old Persian, or Zend language; Greek, Latin, German, English, and many other European tongues, form a well-defined group or family of languages which is designated either as Indo-Germanic or as Aryan. Many authors have shown a tendency to assume that the various peoples who speak Aryan tongues must be of Aryan race, connected one with the other more or less closely by ties of blood. That assumption is wholly unwarranted. Community of language is no proof of community of blood. The population of Indian, as we have seen, comprises extremely various elements, descended from all sorts of people who formerly spoke all sorts of languages. In the north, for instance, no trace remains of the Central Asian tongues spoken by the diverse Thebes comprised under the terms Saka, Hu̅na, or Yueh‑chi. The descendants of those people now speak Hindī and other languages closely related to Sanskrit. Similar cases may be observed all over the world. Languages become extinct and are replaced by others spoken by races whose position gives them an advantage. Thus, in Great Britain, the Cornish language is absolutely extinct, and the Cornish people, who are of different race from the English, now speak nothing but English.

Aryan ideas and institutions have shown marvellous power and vitality in all parts of India, but the proportion of Aryan blood in the veins of the population, which is small almost everywhere, is non‑existent in some provinces.

Languages. The most important family of Indian languages, the Aryan, comprises all the principal languages of northern and western India, Hindī, Bengālī, Marāthī, Gujarātī, and many others, descended from ancient vernaculars or Prākrits, closely akin both to the Vedic and to the later literary forms of Sanskrit.

The family or group of tongues second in importance is the Dravidian in the peninsula, comprising Tamil, Telugu, Malayālam,  p13 Kanarese, and Tulu, besides some minor tongues. Both Tamil and Telugu have rich literatures. The Tamil is the principal and perhaps the oldest language of the group. The grammar and structure of the Dravidian speech differ wholly from the Aryan type. The most ancient Tamil literature, dating from the early centuries of the Christian era, or even earlier, was composed on Dravidian lines and independent of Sanskrit models. The later literature in all the languages has been largely influenced by Brahmanical ideas and diction. The linguistic family is called Dravidian because Drāvida was the ancient name of the Tamil country in the far south. In fact, Tamil is really the same word as the adjective Drāvida. Three other families of languages, namely, the Munda, at Mon-Khmēr, and the Tibeto-Chinese, are represented on Indian soil, but as they possess little or no literature, and are mostly spoken by rude, savage, or half-civilized tribes, it is unnecessary to discuss their peculiarities. The speakers of those tongues have had small influence on the course of history.

The Indo-Aryan movement. The Indo-Aryans, after they had entered the Panjāb — the 'land of the five rivers', or 'of the seven rivers' according to an ancient reckoning — travelled generally in a south-easterly direction. For reasons unknown they called the south dakshina, or 'right-hand', a word familiar in its English corruption as 'the Deccan'. The larger part of the tribes crossed the Panjāb and then moved along the courses of the Ganges and Jumna, but some sections at an early period had advanced a considerable distance down the Indus, while others, at a later date, apparently marched eastward along the base of the mountains into Mithilā or Tirhu̅t. While resident in the Panjāb the strangers had not yet become Hindus, but were Hindus in the making. the distinctive Brahmanical system appears to have been evolved, after the Sutlaj had been passed, in the country to the north of Delhi. The apparently small tract between the rivers Sarasvatī and Drishadvatī, which it is difficult to identify with precision, is specially honoured by Manu as Brahmāvarta, 'the land of the gods'; the less-exalted t4 of Brahmarshi-desa, 'the land of divine sages', being given to the larger region comprising Brahmāvarta or Kurukshetra, roughly equivalent to the tract about Thānēsar, with the addition of Matsya or eastern Rājputanā, Panchāla, or the Doāb between the Ganges and Jumna, and Surasena, or the Mathurā district.9

 p14  When the legal treatise ascribed to Manu had assumed its present shape, perhaps about A.D. 200 or earlier, the whole space between the Himālaya and the Vindhyas from sea to sea was recognized as Āryavarta, or 'Aryan territory'. The advance thus indicated evidently was a slow business and occupied a long time. The dark-skinned inhabitants of the country subdued by the invaders were called Dasys and by other names. They are now represented generally by the lower castes in the plains and by certain tribes in hilly regions.

Aryan penetration of the south. Although there is no reason to believe that any large Indo-Aryan tribal body ever marched into the peninsula, which was well protected by the broad belt of hills and forests marked by the Narbadā river and the Sātpura and Vindhya ranges, the peaceful penetration of the Deccan by Indo-Aryan emissaries began many centuries before the Christian era. Tradition credits the Vedic Rishi Agastya, or a namesake of his, with the introduction of Aryan ideas and institutions into the Dravidian south. Probably the chief line of communication was along the eastern coast, and certainly the propagation of the new ideas was effected by Brahmans. The obscure story of the gradual advance of the caste system and other Indo-Aryan institutions in India to the south of the Narbadā has not by the been thoroughly investigated, and it is impossible to discuss the subject in these pages.

Distinct Dravidian civilization. When the Brahman succeeded in making their way into the kingdoms of the peninsula, including the realms of the Āndhras, Cheras, Cholas, and Pāndyas, they found a civilized society, not merely a collection of rude barbarian tribes. The Dravidian religion and social customs differed widely from those of northern India. Caste was unknown, as it now is in Burma, and the religion is described as demon-worship. The original demons have since been adopted by the Brahmans, given new names, and identified with orthodox Hindu gods and goddesses. The Hindu theory that mankind is divided into four varnas, or groups of castes — Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Su̅dra — was wholly foreign to the southerners. To this day Kshatriyas and Vaisyas do not exist among them.​10 The law of marriage and inheritance also differed completely from those of the Brahmans. Even now, when Hinduism, with its strict caste rules and its recognized system of law, has gained the mastery, the old and quite different Dravidian ideas may be traced in a thousand directions. The ancient Dravidian alphabet called Vatteluttu, of Semitic origin, is wholly distinct from any of the northern abets. Tradition as recorded in the ancient Tamil literature indicates that from very remote times wealthy cities existed in the south and that many of the refinements and luxuries  p15 of life were in common use. The good fortune of Tamil Land (Tamilakam) in possessing such eagerly desired commodities as gold, pearls, conch-shells, pepper, beryls, and choice cotton goods attracted foreign traders from the earliest ages.​11 Commerce supplied the wealth required for life on civilized lines, and the Dravidians were not afraid to cross the seas. Some day, perhaps, the history of Dravidian civilization may be written by a competent scholar skilled in all the lore and languages required for the study of the subject, but at present the literature concerned with it is too fragmentary, defective, and controversial to permit of condensation. Early Indian history, as a whole, cannot be viewed in true perspective until the non‑Aryan institutions of the south receive adequate treatment. Hitherto most historians of an India have written as if the south did not exist.


Prehistoric India. V. A. Smith, 'Prehistoric Antiquities,' chap. IV, vol. II, I. G., 1908, with a large number of selected references; the first general outline of the subject. R. B. Foote, (1) Catalogue of Prehistoric Antiquities in the Madras Museum, Madras, 1901; (2) Indian Prehistoric and Protohistoric Antiquities, Foote Collection, Madras, 1916, 2 vols.; (3) several articles in A. S. India, Annual Rep., for 1902‑3 and 1903‑4, and in the Progress Reports, A. S., Southern Circle. A. C. Logan, Old Chipped Stones of India, Calcutta, Thacker, Spink, 1906. The investigation is being continued by the Bihar and Orissa Research Society, as well as by the Archaeological Society and the Archaeological Survey of Hyderabad. Occasional articles appear elsewhere, but no general work on Prehistoric India exists. Ample material is available, and a good book on the subject is badly wanted.

Languages. Sir G. Grierson, (1) chap. VII in vol. I, I. G., 1907, with ample list of references; (2) The Languages of India, Calcutta, 1903, reprinted from Census Report, India, 1901; (3) Linguistic Survey of India, not yet completed. The work is on a vast scale, and eleven large quarto volumes or parts have appeared. Several more volumes are yet to come.

Dravidian religion. Whitehead, The Village Gods of South India, Oxford University Press, 1916; Elmore, Dravidian Gods in Modern Hinduism, Hamilton, N. Y., 1915 (reprinted from University Studies of the University of Nebraska, 1915).

The Author's Notes:

1 Manchester Memoirs, vol. 60, part 1, 1915, p29 of reprint.

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2 The Foote Collection of Indian Prehistoric and Protohistoric Antiquities, Madras, 1916, vol. II, pp29, 125. The inscription has been published in a separate memoir (1915) by the Hyderabad Archaeological Society.

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3 The ancients knew methods of hardening copper, hammering being one, and an admixture of iron another.

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4 The term 'phratrogamy' might be coined to denote the form of polyandry which requires all the husbands to be brethren. Polyandry, both in the 'phratrogamic' and the unrestricted form, was prevalent in the highlands of Ceylon until checked by legislation in 1859. The practice may still exist in a quiet way (Papers on the Custom of Polyandry as practised in Ceylon, Colombo, Government Printer, 1899).

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5 Professor Macdonnell inclines to later dates and suggests 1500 B.C. as the earliest limit for the Vedic literature. The estimates which assume considerably earlier dates seem to me more probable. B. G. Tilak goes further than other scholars of reputation, and on astronomical grounds argues temperately that the Aditi, or pre‑Orion period, the earliest in the Aryan civilization, may be roughly placed between 6000 and 4000 B.C.; that the Orion period, from about 4000 to 2500 B.C., was the most important in the history of Aryan civilization, the separation of the Parsees having taken place between 3000 and 2500 B.C.; that the Taittirīya Samhitā period and several of the Brāhmanas should be assigned to the third period, from 2500 to 1400 B.C., during which the hymns had already become antiquated and unintelligible; that the fourth and last period of the old Sanskrit literature extended from 1400 to 500 B.C., and saw the composition of the Su̅tras and the evolution of the philosophical literature. I do not possess the knowledge of either astronomy or Vedic texts which would qualify me to pass judgement on Mr. Tilak's startling proposition as expounded in Orion, or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, Ashtekar & Co., Poona, 1916. So far as I understand the matter his dates are carried back too far.

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6 A Brahman author, writing about A.D. 1600, applied the term to the Portuguese.

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7 Muhammadan dates are usually designated as A.H. (anno hegirae). For example, A.H. 1335 = A.D. 1916‑17, from October to October. The Hijrī year is lunar, of about 354 days, and so is 11 days shorter than the solar year.

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8 The Hakrā, which finally dried up in the eighteenth century, used to flow through the Bahāwalpur State and the region which is now the Sind desert.

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9 The difficulty in precise identification of the Sarasvatī and Drishadvatī is due to the extensive changes in the course of the rivers of northern India which are known to have occurred. Modern maps are utterly misleading, and it is impossible to construct maps of the ancient river system for any time preceding the Muhammadan invasions. The following passage may be commended to the attention of careful students: 'It is, however, a reasonable conjecture that within the period of history the Sutlej united with the Sarasvatī and Ghaggar to form the great river [scil. Hakrā] which once flowed into the Indus through Bahāwalpur, and that then Brahmāvarta was a Doāb [space between rivers] which might be compared with that of the Ganges and Jumna' (C. Pearson, 'Alexander, porus, and the Panjāb', in Ind. Ant., vol. XXXIV, 1905, p254).

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10 The fact is not affected by the ludicrous efforts of certain castes to obtain recognition as Kshatriyas.

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11 The Tamil Land of early ages was much more extensive than the area in which Tamil is now spoken. It included the Kanarese, Malayālam, and Tulu-speaking countries. Ceylon, too, was in close relations with the Tamil-speaking peoples of the mainland. The jewels and spices of the island may therefore be reckoned among the attractions of the Tamil Land. The Telugu-speaking country possessed cotton manufactures and diamond mines.

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