India is one of those countries which have attained an early civilization. From a remote antiquity, the valleys of the Indus and the Ganges became the seat of a culture distinguished by its originality, and many sided development, Alike in the domain of intellectual advancement as also in the arts of material progress, this civilization proved its excellence at an early date.
Before the Kelts and the Teutons bad passed to Central and Western Europe, before the Latins bad laid the foundation of the seven-hilled city later on destined to be the mistress of the Western world, before the Hellenes had learned the arts of civilization, the culture of India had already a long history. Precise information as to the date of its origin is indeed lacking, but evidences seem to exist, which may carry it back to a remoter antiquity—long before the wisest monarch of the ancient world had laid the foundation of the divine Ark of Jehovah, before Assyria had risen into a power and her proud conquerors broke the power of nations and mocked at the pretensions of their gods.
Before the Egyptians were carrying their arms across Syria, before the Kanssites ruled in Babylon or the Mitannianas were settled in North Syria,—perhaps to that age when nomadic Aryan tribes were fighting the sturdy Semites—or fierce unknown invaders were alternately spreading consternation in western Asia or settling down to found empires.
As we go on in search of the beginnings of Indian culture we are carried to a region of uncertainty and darkness, with no light to guide our steps or to illuminate the objects of vision. We lose ourselves in the dark labyrinth of hoary antiquity. With the consideration of that period which falls within the domain of prehistory we are not concerned and our enquiry begins with the age in which records are available.
To those interested in pre-history the monotony of their sojourn is occasionally relieved by the find of a few cairns or monoliths containing the relics of primitive man, or the implements with which he attempted to mitigate the hardship of his struggle with nature. These supply him with data to proceed with a scientific enquiry about the evolution of man in the past. But to the ordinary historian, they are of not so great interest as to the enquirer into the history of primitive man, since to the former they supply no basis for chronology or for detailed study of events or the doings of mankind.
When we return to the region of history proper we find the fame of Indian culture spreading far and wide. The adventurous sons of India penetrated into foreign lands. Her commodities passed to other lands. By this process contact with nations was established and the stories of her wealth became known to the outside world. She became the land of wonder and of plenty.
Henceforth references to her are found in the literatures of the ancient world. The Hebrew Chronicler clearly refers to her shores when he speaks of the gold- producing Havilah (Gn. II) or Ophir whence the sailors of Hiram and those from Tarshish (Kings, 26-28) brought Solomon his gold, silver, ivory (shenhabbin); apes (Qof) and peacocks (tukim).
Later on, the Greeks came in contact with Indians, and Homer mentions some Indian commodities while Ktesias gives us a description of India, though in many places fabulous and fanciful. After him, we find India in the pages of Herodotus, the father of history, who more precisely mentions the Indian fighters in the Persian army. With Alexander began the direct intercourse of Greece with India and from one of the ambassadors of a—lieutenant of his we have detailed descriptions of India of which fragments are preserved in the works of later writers.
About the same time, or perhaps earlier, began direct intercourse with China, the Indies, and other lands. Indian missionaries carried the teaching of Buddha to the outside world and India became for a long period the teacher of the ancient world. For centuries reverence was paid to her sages by students from all parts of the civilized world.
A few centuries afterward decay set in, hordes of barbarians entered and ravaged her soil or settled down to rule the unhappy land. Yet her civilization was not destroyed nor her prosperity interrupted. The conqueror became the captive in turn and yielded to the charms of the prostrate enemy.
Something different however happened in the land from the 10th to the 12th century AD, when, the tide of Saracenic conquest turned to the East and after repeated attempts broke the political power of the race which had long held sway in Hindusthan. With their establishment began a struggle for existence and for the regaining of national independence. This engaged the attention of the Indian and continued with varying fortunes on both sides till the period which saw the dawn of Modern History. This struggle however did not destroy the economic prosperity of India.
She retained her position and held good her reputation for wealth and splendour. The story of her wealth passed to the other continents. Nations strove to open communication with the coveted land the stories of the wealth of which had reached their ears, and whence rich commodities had passed into their hands, through the exacting merchants of Western Asia. After repeated attempts their efforts were crowned with success. The European came as traders and later on became the masters of this once coveted land.
Environment and Natural Wealth of Pre-Indus Civilization:
The prosperity of India was largely due to the influence of those physical factors to which we have referred in the introductory chapter and before we proceed to a study of economic conditions in India, a consideration of these with special reference to India must engage our attention. In her geographical situation, India occupies a peculiarly advantageous position, She cavers the middle-most position between the two southern peninsulas of the Asiatic Continent.
The Northern half of this which may be called Continental India mainly lies to the north of the Tropic of Cancer while the peninsular region to the south of that line juts out into the Sea and stretches about 1000 miles southwards. The country a whole lies between the latitudes 36′.N and 8′.S. and between 62° and 06° Longitudes. The extreme length from North to South is about 1800 miles, while the breadth, is approximately the same. This situation was a great advantage to India and contributed to the development of her industry and civilization.
Placed in the center, her people could draw upon the natural resources of the rich archipelago of the East Indies, as well as from the coasts of the African continent. Her adventurous sons took advantage of this, and these two regions became covered with Indian colonies and settlements. Later on as her industry developed, India from her central position supplies, the markets of the West and of the Far East with her goods.
The natural boundaries of India are well defined. She is separated from the Central Asian region by the Himalayan wall on the north, while offshoots of the same, separate her both in the North-West and in the North-East from the Asiatic Continent. On all other sides she is bounded by the Sea. She thus became practically secure from invasions, and though the gaps in the mountain wall admitted free passage to conquering races which succeeded in establishing their supremacy over the coveted plains, the narrowness of the passage made it impossible for barbaric hordes to obliterate the settled civilizations of previous ages.
Physical Characteristics of Pre-Indus Civilization:
Thus well-defined and separated from the Continent, India embraces an area of about 18,000,00 sq. miles, being practically equal to the whole of Europe with the exception of the old Russian Empire. Within this vast area are to be found diversities which are hardly met with elsewhere. The different regions vary in physical characteristics in climate in topography, in the character of soil, in their products and in various other respects.
To the extreme North lies the hilly region of the Himalayas, varying in altitude from 10,000 to 29,000 feet, from the level of the sea. From the snowcapped hills of this region take rise, almost all the river systems of the plain to the South of it. The extreme northern region is a land of eternal snow, and the climate of the system of high lands remains cold, all the year round.
To the South of this region lies the great plain of Hindustan covering an area of roughly of 5,00,000 sq. miles, fertile and well watered by the river systems of the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. In the elevation of the plain we find a sudden drop from that of the Hills. In the greater part of the plain the climate is more or less continental, the heat being very great in summer, while the winter is also very cold.
The fertility of the soil is increased by an ample rainfall, which rises to a maximum in the East. Portions of the South East of this plain is comparatively barren, while in the East the Gangetic Delta, is almost a muddy flat of little elevation, and cut up into small islands, by the various channels which bring the waters of the Ganges to the Sea.
i. Geological Account:
To the South of this Gangetic plain lies the great plateau of the Deccan, surrounded by a system of hilly ridges on all sides. The northern boundary is formed by the Vindhya and Satpura ranges, which along with the Mahadeo hills, the Maikal range, and the hills of Chotanagpur continue the high belt separating it from the plains to the North.
The plateau, which at present maintains on an average an elevation of 1500 to 3000 feet is bounded on the west by the Western ghats, in the East by the Eastern ghats and on the South by the Nilgiri hills. The Western ghats maintain an average of 6000 feet, while the Eastern ghats are comparatively low. This plateau is fringed on the south and east by a belt of fertile plain land, and this coastal belt forms a separate region by itself.
The evolution of these physical characteristics was an event of the remote past—long anterior to the age of human records. In the absence of these the historian must turn to those engaged in the history of the formation of the world, namely, the geologists.
According to Geologists the present physical features of India are the results of a series of great revolutions which took place in the remote past, separated from us by an interval which is beyond the conception of the ordinary historian who attempts to record the doings of man in the historical period. Geologists recognize within he area of present day— “two dissimilar areas unlike in Geological history and equally unlike in the physical features which are the direct outcome of the geological part.”
They recognize first of all:
1. The peninsula, which “withstood all tendencies to earth- folding for as long as the palaeontographical records go back.”
2. The other area is represented by the regions to the north including even the Himalayan region which had undergone series of changes. We find repeated immersions beneath the ocean followed by upheavals of the land area.
The Oldest Portion:
The oldest of the physical features was perhaps the Aravalli range of which only the divested and degraded remnants have survived to our days (which formed a powerful mountain system which existed in Palaeozoic times). Moreover in the earliest period this mountain region was flanked by a part of the peninsula stretching from the Aravalli to the present coast. India was thus represented by the Central plateau and the northern fringe of the Aravalli Mountains.
To the north of the region was a vast shallow which covered the area of Afghanistan, Rajputana and a large part of the present Himalayan region. In Tertiary times the Gondowana beds were formed, and after the Palaeozoic era and during the secondary stage of evolution, the rock area extended over Assam and the Eastern Himalayas, while Burma and the N. E. Himalayas still remained submerged.
At this time this nucleus of India formed part of a vast Continent with which the continent of Africa seems to have been joined together by a stretch of dry land. The evidence of plant and animal life of past ages, as also of their remains found in the two regions now separated by the ocean goes to confirm the above view. This was succeeded by revolutions in physical geography and as the result of these during the same Tertiary period the gondwava continent was broken up and the same period saw the rise of the Himalayan mountain system.
As a result of the series of volcanic cataclysms 200,000 sq. miles of the Indian continent was covered with lava and the present landscape of the Deccan was formed. Towards the close of the period of volcanic activity, there commenced the great upheaval to the north, which resulted in the formation of the Himalayas, the mightiest mountain system.
This took place in the Pliocene period. The collected alluvium of ages, the deterioration of rock and gravel on both sides filled up in course of time the shallow gap. Gradually the Indus system of rivers became distinct, and in historic times, the two great river systems of the Indus and the Ganges were separated and India attained roughly her present shape (Imperial Gazettoer, Vol. I p. 50-887).
This happened in comparatively recent, though prehistoric times. According to some geologists this was a gradual process, which completed itself with the close of the Pleistocene period. But it is very difficult to determine when the sea ceased to exist. Most probably it was long before the advent of the Vedic Aryans and their settlement in the plains of Hindustan.
The evidence of the Vedic hymns dispels any idea of an inland sea. Nowhere do they speak of an inland sea, or do they contain any reference to a cataclysm, which might have raised the land and expelled the water. The whole region of advance was dry land, which came to be appropriated and was covered with the Aryan Settlements. Within recent times no great changes have taken place, only certain rivers, especially the Indus, have changed their courses, the area at the mouth of the delta has received some accretions, owing to the deposit of silt, or here or there the coastal area has varied, either owing to the receding of the sea, or to the erosion of the coasts.
The general slope of the plateau is from west to the east while the greatest elevation is in the southern angle where high and high and elevated state of Mysore lies. The coastal region attached to the plateau forms a distinct portion by itself. Its elevation is very small in comparison with the plateau.
ii. River System:
The Indian continent owes much to the great river systems, which supply it with water, add to the fertility of the soil and thus lessens the toil of the agriculturists. In the Gangetic plain there are two distinct river systems. The one which is probably the older is that of the Indus which rises in the hills to the north of the Himalayan chain and after passing in a North Westerly direction for 800 miles turns southward; it is then fed by the water of regions which vary in altitude from 10,000 to 18,000 feet.
The main tributaries of the Indus are the Sutlej, the Beas, the Ravi, the Chenab, the Jhelum, while the Kabul river which joins it near Attock draws water from the regions beyond the frontier, whence come smaller affluent like the Kuram, with the Tochi and the Gomal. Later on it passes through the plain of the Punjab and falls into the Arabian Sea. The hymns of the Rigveda show a familiarity with the Indus river system.
Not only is the Indus repeatedly mentioned, but the names of the tributaries figure prominently in connection with the advancing Aryans. Not only are the Sutudri, Asikni, Parusni or Iravati, mentioned but we have repeated references to the Kubha (Kabul) the Krumu (the Kuram) and the Gomati (the Gomal).
Apart from this Indus system of rivers, we have two other systems, which though take their rise in the North region, flows for a time in different directions and after a junction in Eastern Bengal fall in to the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges which is formed in the hill region of Garwal, by the junction of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi passes in a south easterly direction.
From the North it receives the waters of the Ramganga, the Gumti, the Gogra, the Gundak and the Kusi. From the South it receives the water of the Jumna and the Son. After passing the Rajmahal hills the Ganges turns South East and its main course is diverted into two channels. One continues eastward and becomes the Pudda, after its separation from the Madhumati to the South of Pabna. The other passes directly South below and after receiving the waters of feeder rivers becomes the Hughly near Calcutta. Like the Indus the Ganges too is mentioned in the Rigveda repeatedly along with the Jumna.
In the later samhitas, in the Brahmanic and post-brahmanic literature is scared character is repeatedly inculcated upon. The other great river of Eastern India is the Brahmaputra which takes its rise in the region of the Manassarovar and after passing in an easterly direction for 700 miles takes a South-westerly course through the Assam Valley and after various changes joins the Pudda; and the united waters of the two pass into the Bay, through the Pudda and the Arial Khan.
In the Deccan and the Peninsula, two river systems are noticeable. The one comprising of the Narmada and the Tapti falls into the Gulf of Cambay. The other system comprising of four almost parallel rivers all flow in an easterly direction. They are the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krisna, and the Kaveri.
iii. Indian Coast:
For the greater part of its length the Indian coast is almost uniform and regular. There are few indentations, and consequently India is very poor in naturally protected landlocked bays or harbours. Only a few of them exist on the Western Coast, while in the East the coast is practically devoid of safe anchorages. At the present time we have only a few harbours of importance e.g. Karachi on the mouth of the Indus, Bombay, Goa and Karwar on the West Coast, Tuticorin in the South, Madras and Pondichery on the East coast, the river port of Calcutta in the Delta region and Chittagong in the East.
In ancient times however when the size of trading vessels was not as huge as in our days, a large number of fair- weather anchorages were available. Thus in the 5th Century BC we have distinct historical evidence which goes to prove that the ports of Broach and Surat (Bharu-kaccha—and Surastra or Surattha) were great centres of maritime activity. Later on we have accounts of the great importance of the ports of Suppara on the west and of Tamralipta in Bengal which had by the 5th Century BC become the port of departure for vessels going to Ceylon and the Archipelago.
So also in the days of the Perilplus and of Ptolemy were Suppara (Supparaka) and Calliena (Kalyan, a few miles to the north of Bombay harbour,) Melizigara and Byzantium (described as a fine harbour). Further south lay Muziris, Nelcynda, and Bacare (Porcad) and Colchi (korkai) in the Chera and Pandya kingdoms. Even in the east coast lay a large number of Ports and safe-weather anchorages, whence the Pandyan and later on the Chola maritime adventurers started to the islands of the Indies either for conquest or for trade.
The mariners of ancient days moreover took advantage of the surface currents or drifts which even now affect the coasts of India. They utilized also the monsooner winds, the importance of which has now been reduced to their rain-bearing agency.
These surface current which now run along the West coast from North to South, and vice versa, on the Eastern side, during the South-West monsoon, facilitate the coasting trade. During the, North East monsoon the current was reversed. The, mariner took advantage of both during the respective seasons for his outward journey and for his return home.
Next to these currents and drifts of the sea, the monsoon wind is of great importance. The monsoon wind current was of great service to the trader of ancient times. The South-western monsoon helped the journey from the African coast or other countries to the West India. It also helped the mariners of India who engaged in trade with the Eastern Archipelago, while the North East monsoon facilitated a return journey.
According to Pliny, the existence of these air currents was discovered so far as the Graeco-Roman world was concerned, by the Greek sailor Hippalus, and this contributed to the growth and the volume of their trade with India. The Indians however seem to have known it centuries ago, and utilized these winds to facilitate the journey of their sailing vessels. The monsoon wind brought as it brings in our own days the charge of moisture which converted into rain, helped the agriculturist who devised his seasons for ploughing and sowing, accordingly.
iv. Character of the Soil:
The soil of India, which has not changed much with in historic times, varies considerably in the different regions. Generally in the plain of the North it consists mainly of alluvial deposits. Geologists believe that the whole plain has been produced by the deposit of the fine rock crumblings brought down by the two great river systems. In the region of the Delta the soil is entirely clayey, with very little rocky matter in it and is black in colour. While in the plain of Hindustan, the soil contains rock crumblings and mineral matters.
In the Deccan, the soil varies considerably. In the so-called Deccan Trap, which contains by far the so-called black cotton soil, it is mainly basaltic rock, and is supposed to have been of volcanic origin. This soil is dark in colour, very fertile and its water-bearing capacity is very great. This covers the whole of the North Western part of the Deccan and embraces two thirds of Kathiwar.
In other parts of the Deccan and a part of the tract to the north of Kathiwar, the soil consists of hard crystalline Archaean Rock. The soil here is light and porous. The rain enters easily and is passed away to the subsoil. In addition to these there are regions where the soil is sandy. This is the case in a large part of the region to the South of the Indus Valley. A large part of Rajputna is sandy desert.
Forests exist even now in large tracts of India. At present the forest areas, include a large part of Tarai Region, the Assam Valley, the Sunderbans, and a large part of Central India and Chota Nagpur. In ancient times the forest area was much larger. In fact the early inhabited settlements were but islands in the midst of the forest. The Vedas speak of forests repeatedly. In the Buddhist literature we hear of the Maha-Kalinga forest to the west of the Orissa sea coast.
The Ramayana describes the forest region to the cast and south of Mithila which was then the home of savage enemies of the Aryan race. Panchavati and practically the whole southern region was dense forest in those days.
A large part of the Mahratta country formed till a very late period the celebrated Dandakaranya, which was cleared only in historical times. The region of the Vindhya hills too was covered with forest and we have innumerable references to the state of affairs in the forest regions in Indian literature and only in recent historical times they have been partially cleared.
These forests of India are of great economic value, and even now the Government derives a large revenue from them. In ancient times they were of great service to the people. The forests supplied the early builders with timbers to build their houses with. The Sal (Shorea robusta) the sisoo (Dalbergia Sisoo), the Black wood of Malabar the Deodar, and the Pine, were of great service to men.
In Malabar the Sandal wood grew wild and it was largely exported to the other countries of the ancient world. A large number of other forest products were also valuable. Thus the Myrobalam, furnished tanning material. The Bamboo,—the giant grass, supplied building materials to the poor. A large number of forest trees and shrubs were utilized for their medicinal properties. Canes, and creepers were used for basket making.
Smaller trees furnished fuel in an age when coal was unknown. The high economic value of the products of forests, was recognised by Indian princes, and as early as the 4th Cen. BC the forests came to be regarded as state property. State Officers not only collected the timber, and other produce, but established manufactories for producing various articles of use.
The wild animals too were state property. Game laws were introduced and indiscriminate hunting forbidden. The elephant was used in war. The skin of ferocious animals was collected. The deer was hunted for its flesh.
The fertile soil of India is capable of bearing large crops of food-grains and other useful plants. We have evidences to prove that a large number of such plants was either native to the Indian soil or came to be cultivated from remote antiquity.
The following are the chief among these:
(Oryza Sativa), which now practically forms the staple food of the people of many provinces of India, was indigenous. De Candolle thought it to have been cultivated in China as early as 2700 BC. Its chief wild habitat extends from South India to Cochin China. Lyall seems to believe in an early cultivation of rice in India and compares its foreign names, e.g., Persian Virinzi, Arabic Aruzz, and Greek Oryza, with the Vedic Vrihi.
(Triticum Vulgara) The history of its cultivation goes as far back as the Vedic period though some scholars deny mention of it in the hymns of the Rigveda. De Candolle thought its cultivation to have been pro-historic and almost general throughout the prehistoric centres of civilization.
Heer found it in the remains of the habitations of the lake-dwellers of Switzerland. Unger found it in an Egyptian pyramid of 3400 BC. Philological evidence proves its knowledge among almost all the ancient nations. Probably its cultivation was introduced by the Aryan immigrants who found the soil and climate capable of producing it.
(Hordeum Vulgare; Sans—yava, Old Per.— yao.) To this plant which is one of the earliest to be cultivated by man, we find the earliest references in the Rigveda which contains the word yava. Some scholars have taken it in the sense of grain in general. The cultivation of Yava, which has been identified by De Candolle with the Indian Hexastichum variety is even now carried on in large areas of modern India.
At present the chief millets grown in India are the Jowar Cholum, the Cumboo or Bajra and the Ragi. All these, which require much less water than rice or wheat, seem to have been extensively cultivated from an early period. Regarding the sorghum vulgare there exists some doubt as to whether it was indigenous to India. The case of some other varieties of millets (Miliaceum) is not so much open to doubt. As to the Ragi, Watt says- “There is perhaps no doubt that as a cultivated crop it originated in India” (Ragi—Eleusine Coracana).
A large variety of pulses, too, was cultivated even in the earliest mes. It is difficult to find out whether they were indigenous to India, but there is no doubt that their cultivation goes back to the period of the Samhitas other than the Rigveda. These latter mention the Mudga (Phaseoluts Mungs), Masa (Phaseolus Radiatus), Masura (Ervum Hessutim), Kulattha (Dolichos Oliflorus).
Economic Considerations about the Fauna of Pre-Indus Civilization:
The animals of India both domestic and wild are numerous and varied. India was blessed with the soil and climate capable of bearing animals useful to man.
At first the mass of Indian population was pastoral. They paid great attention to the growth and improvement of cattle, which formed their chief wealth during the Vedic period. The cattle wealth of the Punjab has been very great even up to our own days. As in our days, sheep and goats were reared on large scales. The wool-bearing sheep of the Gandhara and the Parusni districts is repeatedly mentioned even in the Rigveda.
Later on, the Himalayan regions became the chief source of wool. Sheep and goats were largely used for food. Wild goats were common. Horses were common in almost all provinces, though in Indian literature those of the West and North are praised. This condition prevails even now. The domestication and use of the horse, was extensive even in the Vedic period. They were used for riding and transport purposes, both in peace and war. Asses and mules were also kept and used for various purposes. Horse-racing was an important amusement.
Camels were either natives of the desert regions or brought into India at an early date. Even in the Vedic period, we find them drawing wagons or bearing burden (A.V., XX. 127, 132). Buffaloes were used for domestic purposes. Like cows they were domesticated in the pre-vedic period. Apart from milk bearing, their flesh was used for food. The taming of elephants was complete in early Vedic times or even earlier. They were used in war, and also for other purposes.
With wild animals, we are not so much concerned, though, as a matter of fact, the early settlers found it very difficult to hold their own against the lion, tiger, panther or leopard, bear, wolf, hyaena, jackal, with boar, tusked elephant, rhinoceros, and wild buffalo. In course of time these ferocious enemies were put down. The skin of animals was used for household purposes, the wool of some was made into blankets, while the flesh of the deer, boar, goat, and even of the rhino was eaten.
The thick hide and horn of the rhino and the tusks of elephants were used for various purposes and exported to the markets of the West. The tail of the yak was made into chauries while from the musk-deer was extracted the aromatic substance known as musk moschus moschiferus).
Another asset of nature has been the excellent and abundant supply of fish from the rivers. Even now the supply seems to be inexhaustible. Fish-eating in all the provinces, especially in the east, gave an opportunity to many to earn their livelihood by fishery and even in the Vedic period fishermen formed a caste.
Oyster pearls are found in many Indian rivers not to speak of pearl-beds on the sea coast. From an early period pearl-fishery on the coast of Ceylon and the eastern coast of Southern India was a profitable business. The India pearl found its way to the western markets and fetched a high price.
India at present is regarded as considerably rich in minerals. She is found to contain not only large quantities of Gold Copper and Iron, but also Coal, Manganese and Mica in abundance. Owing to the lack of effort on the part of the people and want of the up- to-date machinery and organisation, she is not in a position to take the place she deserves among the industrial nations of the world.
In ancient day, when neither the use of coal nor that of many other metals was known, she was considered to be rich in mineral resources. Her people learnt the use and the method of extracting various metals and we have even now the remains of the earliest mining centres.
The Vedic inhabitants used gold for various purposes, the metal being obtained mainly from river washings. Later on, other centres of the gold bearing quartz were discovered mainly in Southern India. Towards the close of the Vedic period, the Aryans became familiar with zinc, copper, tin, and lead in addition to gold, silver and iron.
The Greeks, when they came to India, were struck with the mineral wealth of the country. Megasthenes says (Frag. 1) that “While the soil bears on its surface all kinds of fruits known to cultivation, it has also underground numerous veins of all sorts of metals for it contains much gold and silver, and copper and iron in no small quantities and even tin and other metals which are employed in making articles of use and ornaments as well as the implements and accoutrements of war.” Several later authorities speak of the presence of silver mines in India, which is corroborated even by Moslem writers.
Copper too was extracted in various localities. Iron found in large quantities and from it was made excellent steel, which found its way to the land of the Hebrews, Syria and Arabia. As regards iron, India is now-a-days regarded as very rich, and laterite, haematite magnetite ores are found in abundance. Of the sources of other metals mentioned in early Indian literature, we have but little information e.g., Mercury, Tin, Lead, Zinc; probably there existed mines which are now no longer worked. Sulphides of Antimony and Arsenic were found in large quantities, and are even now abundant.
v. Precious Stones:
India is and was rich in precious stones. Diamond mines existed in India but they are now supposed to be exhausted. Sapphires, and Topazes too were found in various places and varieties of precious stones were exported to the western markets.
Salt mines exist in many places in India. In ancient days, salt was extracted from sea water, mines of rock salt, and from salt lakes. The output of salt mines on the Punjab border or of the Samber Lake supplies the needs of more than half of India. In the days of the Mauryas salt mining was a government monopoly. Alkali deposits of crude potash and salt-petre existed and are found even now in various places in India.
New Settlement and Material Advancement of Pre-Indus Civilization:
It is difficult to determine even to a degree of approximation the date of the advent of man in a country like India, so favourably situated and provided with the bounties of nature. We have no history of the races of men who dwelt there, until we come to the accounts of the settlers with whom the intellectual and material advancement of the country is so closely bound.
The advent of the so-called Aryan settlers (cir. 3000 BC) is a mystery and still more, the circumstances of their progress and advancement. They spring into our view all on a sudden with a highly developed civilization, and with an amount of culture hardly inferior to that of any of the contemporary sections of mankind.
Previous to the Aryans, various races of men dwelt in India, Pre-historic archeology records the existence of man in the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. Records of the Paleolithic period and also of the succeeding age are however very scanty and ossiferous caves bearing the remains of primitive men are very rare.
Hacket found an ovate instrument of chipped quartzite at Bhutra lying in undisturbed post-tertiary gravels, and containing the bones of Hippopotamus Namadicus and other extinct animals. Similar primitive instruments, of agate, quartzite or laterite have been found by Wynne, Bruce Foote, Carlleyle and other scholars in various places of Northern and Southern India.
Remains of the Neolithic period are greater in number and the labours of indefatigable scholars like Bruce Foote, Cock- burn, and Carlleyle have been rewarded with such finds all over India, though such remains are scantier in the Punjab and Bengal. They consist not only of stone implements, early pottery, and other dug-out remains from mounds which are presumably the sites of neolithic communities but also of ruddle drawings (Cockborns, 1899: 94).
Of the first, we have innumerable specimens found throughout India in the shape of flint knives, hammers, and broken celts of various types. Of the second class we have in the records of Bruce Foote an account of neolithic settlements and even of implement factories. According to the same author, the Circular cinder mounds in the district of Bellary represent the remains of neolithic age.
Apart from these implements, we have sepulchral remains of the neolithic period. Not only do we have human skeletons in various detached graves, but also have innumerable sites, which seem to have been the burial places of ancient communities. They are numerous in Southern India and are in themselves objects of close study.
The above evidences as regards the paleolithic and neolithic men are but of little interest to the student of economic history, though they help us in solving greater problems connected with the early history and distribution of mankind.
As we leave the Neolithic period and come to the age of the use of metals, we meet with evidences which throw light on the factory of the culture of races, which dwelt in the various regions of India in comparatively recent yet pre-historic times.
The Age of the Use of Metals:
During the age immediately succeeding the neolithic period, India seems to have been peopled presumably by a race or races of men who were not only acquainted with the use of metals, but had attained a high civilization. Next to the races, which had attained the neolithic culture where came a race, which though not familiar with the use of bronze, seems to have known the use of copper and some other metals, and it is inferred by many that the use of copper intervened between that of stone and iron.
This is the view of the late Dr. V.S. Smith, whose article on the Copper and Bronze implements in India appeared in 1905. His theory is based on an examination of the finds in Gungeria in Central India in 1970. The findings consisted of a large number of copper implements including some bar celts two feet long and a number of silver plates and animal figures weighing 81bs.
The bar celts resembled those of Peruvia, Babylonia and Egypt. Dr. Smith summed up as follows- “A remote date must be assigned to both the copper tools and the silver ornaments. The Irish celts many of which are identical with those of Gungeria specimens are assigned to period 2000 BC.”
More important information is furnished by those sepulchral remains, which are so common to the Madras Presidency. These, which are of various shapes and patterns, furnish us with data and help us to reconstruct the history of well-developed civilization, of which records are now lost. Thus we have specimens of cairns or mounds which contain the remains of men of a past age. Megalithic tombs too are very common in many of these southern districts.
In some cases there are kistvaens, in others more commonly Dolmens or Cairns. These South Indian graves of the Pre-historic period differ from those found elsewhere in the world. These sepulchral monuments have been studied in detail by various scholars. Those of Coimbatore were studied by Walhouse, those of Tinnevelly by Mr. Rea, while an account of the graves near Pallavaram was given by Surgeon General Biddie who visited the spot in 1886.
The Coimbatore Monuments which fall into two important groups (e.g. those near Nallampatti and those near the Malabar border) consist of chambers, formed of enormous slabs, covered over with capstones, over which were placed heaps of black stones often rising up to 30 feet in height. The larger cairns are surrounded with circles of upright stones. Those of Tinnevelly differ slightly in their outward appearance while those of Malabar called Topekals, form a distinct group.
All these sepulchres contain terra-cotta sarcophagi of different patterns. In some places they are oblong, in other places pyriform, while those found in Tinnevelly are elongated globular pots of thick red earthen ware. These sarcophagi bear resemblance to those found elsewhere. The oblong specimens are identical in form with those found at Gehrareh near Bagdad, showing an archaic connection of the races of these two different localities in pre-historic times.
Apart from the sarcophagi patterns, the contents are of great importance. They seem to be the remnants of an advanced type of civilization, which flourished in pre-historic ages, and they do not betray any vestige of paleolithic or pre-lithic cultures.
The Coimbatore finds included fine pottery, iron implements such as knives and spear blades, as also human bones. Those of Tinnevelly as examined and studied by Mr. Rea were of greater importance They included fine pottery, iron implements and weapons, vessels and personal ornaments of bronze, lamps of iron, stone-slabs, household stone implements, traces of cloth and wood, quantities of mica, swords, tridents, lances, axes, spears, arrows, daggers, mostly of iron, ornamental vase-stands, bowls, cups, grotesque Images of the cock, bangles, necklaces, scent-bottles of bronze diadems of gold, bearing close resemblances to those of other places, and a ring of iron covered with gold plating (found at Vallanad).
A number of urns contained husks of rice and millets. We have moreover, representations in metal of domestic and wild animals. Of these letters we have the figures of the buffalo, goat, sheep, cock, tiger, elephant, and antelope.
To sum up, these remains evidently belong to a race of men who were skillful in moulding pottery, in casting or berating metals, in weaving, in working stone and wood, with a considerable artistic skill and possessing a good agricultural knowledge. Real thinks that their religion was perhaps devil worship as evidenced by their various sacrificial implements similar to those used in that worship.