India or Bharatvarsa is bounded on north by Himalayas and on the south by ocean. A part of Jambudvipa, the scriptures called it Bharatvarsa or where the descendants of Bharatas live. The name Hindu or India is given by the Persians.
They call it Hafta-Hindu or Sapta-Sindhu, a land watered by the river Sindhu. The ancient name Bharatvarsa has its authenticity in ancient literature that refers to Bharat clan that dominated the large area of the country.
On the north the huge range of Himalayas render very strong frontier to this country. The other mountains like Hindukush and Vindhyachal have equally played decisive roles in molding the history of land.
These features are important factors in the study of civilisation. These mountains have several passes that served as routes of movement and invasion in various periods of history.
The five passes of Himalayas—Khyber, Bolan, Tochi, Gomal and Kurram served as important ways for invasion and migrations that influenced the formation of the history of the land. Khyber and Bolan passes are the major ones. Rig-Veda refers to Tochi-Kurram pass used by Aryan invaders.
The Khyber route also finds its mention in the treatise. The invaders could have come down through the pass to the Valley of Kabul River to Peshawar. These five natural routes, known as five fingers, connect Iran and central Asia with India. The passes eased the movement and the invaders used these to conquer the land ultimately changing the entire court of history and moulding the civilisation.
Hindukush range has two passes-Qorakottal and Dandanshikan that connect Western Afghanistan and Hari Rud valley with Balkh (Bactria). This route facilitates the eastward movement towards Kabul. Between Kabul and Kandahar, a series of valleys and mountain passes offer several ways to Punjab frontiers.
These areas have remained historic shelters of warlike races. Once these people settled themselves in those strategic and difficult mountain belts it became easier for them to command the Indian plains. Thus, the peaceful tenor of life of Punjab and Western India was recurrently endangered by these strategic factors.
The Huns, Persians, Greeks, Sakas, Turks and Afghans entered the country through these passes. They not only politically dominated the land but also influenced the culture and the society. The long structured sea coasts in Southern Plateau have also remained a powerful source of contact with the world.
The vast coastline had activated the maritime activities and led to the establishment of a number of harbours. The trade relations with Rome, China, Malaysia, and South-east Asia were developed. The plains of north India were fertile land that rendered prosperity to the country. This was the cause of numerous invasions from outside. The climatic changes in north-western India changed the history of the region.
The monsoon currents did not remain as strong as earlier as a result of dry land and extension of desert. It extended from east Iran to Rajputana serving as a natural barrier repulsing the invasions through Khyber Pass.
The various races that entered the region as invaders settled down here. In course of time they lost their identity. The Indian society is a mixture of various races like Aryans, Dravidians, Persians, Greeks, Turks, Mughals, Huns, Sakas, Kushans, etc. This led to the formation of a composite culture in India.
The literature of ancient India offers six geographical divisions of the country:
1. Middle region (Madhya Desa),
2. Himalayan region (Himavanta),
3. North-West region (Uttarpatha),
4. Deccan (Dakshinapatha),
5. Eastern India (Purvanta),
6. Western India (Aparanta).
The Anthropologists consider India a land of multi-races. The geographical feature of the country attracted people from outside during various periods. The Indus Valley and the Gangetic plains had such climate that brought out bumper harvests and eventually prosperity.
The races from outside coveted the prosperity of the land. They invaded the country and were impressed with the environment which made them settle here. After a few centuries the invaders mingled with the local population and it was not possible to identify them.
There are references when the groups from outside were called Sudras, but later on the assimilated into the national stream and were called Kshatriyas. India is not a land of geographical integration but it is a land of pious ceremonies. The sacred cities and lakes, rivers and mountains are scattered throughout the country. The seven holy cities, seven holy rivers and seven holy mountains give it a spiritual unity.
The sacred points like temples are placed either on the sacred mountains, sea-coasts or on the river banks. People from all ethnic groups, religious groups and social groups have quest for unity, peace and immorality.
Indian myth, religion and art introduce into man’s life an overtone binding into a greater universe. The principles set since Dravidian cultures have been re-molded through the various stages in history.
The peace prayer of the country includes not only men and animals, but all the living creatures in this universe. Through ages the country has experienced vast movements and has gone through many renaissances.
All this has contributed to the emergence of a composite culture. Despite diversities in the land due to geographical and other features there is an underlying unity in the country.
Hunting and Gathering Period
The earth is nearly 4000 million years old and the evolution of its crust shows four stages. The fourth stage is called the Quaternary which is divided into Pleistocene (most recent) and Holocene (present); the former lasted between 1,000,000 and 10,000 years before the present and the latter began about 10,000 years ago.
Man is said to have appeared on the earth in the early Pleistocene, but now this events seems to have occurred in Africa about 2.6 million years back. The fossils of the early men have not been found in India. However, recently reported artifacts from Bori in Maharashtra take the appearance of man as early as 1.4 million years ago.
At present it appears that India was settled later than Africa, although the lithic technology of the subcontinent broadly evolved in the same manner as it did in Africa. Stone Age has been divided into four periods, Palaeolithic Age or Early Stone Age (ESA), Middle Stone Age (MSA), Late Stone Age (LSA) or Mesolithic Age and Neolithic Age.
- The idea of pre-history is barely 200 years old. And so is the word pre-history; it was ﬁrst used by M. Tournal in 1833.
- Dr. Primrose rediscoverd Indian pre-history by discovering prehistoric implements (stone knives and arrow heads) in 1842 at a place called Lingsugur in Karnataka.
- Robert Bruce was another person who enriched our knowledge about Indian prehistory when he discovered a large number of prehistoric sites in South India and collected Stone Age artifacts.
- These early efforts could not place India on the prehistoric map of the world.
- Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s efforts in 1921 resulted in our knowledge of the entire pre historic culture sequence of India, putting India ﬁrmly on the world map of prehistory.
- As regards the early man; no fossils of early man have been found in the entire subcontinent, but their presence is indicated by stone tools dated around 250,000 BC. Earliest traces of human activity in India go back to the second Inter-Glacial period between 400,000 and 200,000 B.C.
- From their first appearance to around 3000
B.C. humans used only stone tools for different purposes. Based on the tool mining traditions, this period is therefore known as the Stone Age and the entire Stone Age culture has been divided into 3 main stages i.e. Paleolothic (early or Old Stone Age), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) and Neolithic (New Stone Age).