Discovering India, a hard journey
By Seif Kamel
The most distinctive character of the Indian civilization its continuity. The only other country in the world that can be compared to India in this regard is China.
In other ancient civilizations like Egypt, Greece, Iran, and Italy considerable periods of gap came about between the ancient civilization and the modern cultures. The culture and civilizations of India are among the most important reasons tourists came for India tours.
This is different in India as a typical Indian would still preserve the concepts and traditions his ancestors created thousands of years in the past. The Indian take pride in their ancient civilizations and history and they absorbed a lot of their past and made benefits out of it. Many travelers love spending their vacations in India to live a new distinctive experience.
The non-Indians on the other hand were never interested in the Indian civilization for a very long period of time. Many Greek and Egyptian dynasties have had great interests in India but not in the Indians themselves or the civilization.
In the beginning of the geographical exploration of the world that was initiated by the Europeans in the 14th and 15th centuries, more Europeans became more interested in India. However, it was all focused on studying the trade process.
With the trading getting more and more between India and the west, a new stage of political dominance of the West started. A new stage of the study of administration and revenue began taking place.
Warren Hastings, the first governor of India who ruled in the 18th century was the first one to be interested in the Indian civilization especially in the Sanskrit civilization and Persian records.
Hastings was lucky enough to find a few scholars in his time that exerted a lot of efforts in revealing the history of their nation. Discovering the ancient history of the country has attracted many travelers to go for tours in India in our modern times as well.
The most famous among these scholars was Sir William Jones, who came to Calcutta as the judge of the Supreme Council. As an orientlist, Jones knew different languages including Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and even some Chinese and then he added the Sanskrit. Because of all these lingual skills, Jones devoted himself to discover the civilizations of India through studying the unexplored literature. Many travelers organize group tours to India to enjoy the Indian literature and its translations.
Jones founded the Asiatic Society, which he became the first president. This group is actually credited for exploring the rich and diverse Indian literature. Jones was the first to realize the similarities between the Sanskrit, Greek, Persian, and Latin, suggesting that they all come from the same origin.
Many Indian inscriptions were found later and they are now on display on many museums included in many custom tours to India. A large number of tourists who travel to India would actually like to know a lot about the history of the nation
Jones was able to prove that these languages, the Hindu European languages had the same origins and that the people speaking these languages used to live in the same lands once in history. Jones also invented the Indology, the science of studying the Indian civilization.
The idea of the discovery of the ancient Indian civilization led logically to the sources of the ancient Indian history. The ancient Indian writers, being interested mostly on how life should be, didn't record much of the events and incidents taking place in their periods of time. They were actually more interested in architecture and this is why many of the old Indian structures still amaze travelers who spend their holidays in India
Most of the literature of India was not intended to deal with history. However, studying them carefully gave some hints to some historical facts. The early Indian literature draw some light to the advance of the Aryan civilization near the rivers of India, their conflicts with the non Aryans, and some aspects of their social life, beliefs, and traditions.
The Jian and Buddhism books have also had some references to some of the events and persons related to their regions. India is full of Buddhist constructions that can be included in many custom tours to India for the travelers interested in such architectures
The Indian "Epics" actually provided the scholars with more historical information including some social, economical, cultural, and sometimes political aspects of ancient India. However, the chronological order of these works was very poor.
All of these literature works haven’t provided any narrative history of any sort asserting that the ancient Indians didn't give much care to historical order of events, as they were rather interested in story telling.
These conditions actually tended to improve starting from the 7th century AD when some biographical works came to light. These works provided a clearer vision of the history at the time. Many historical manuscripts are still on display in several Indian Museums that can be included in many affordable tours.
However, scholars had to wait until the 12th century to have a real historical study. When Kallana wrote his book, Rajavanjiti, he provided a connected and reliable record of the Kingdom of Kashmir in the period from the 8th till the 12th century.
The comparative lack in the Indian ancient literature was mainly made up by the accounts derived from foreign records. We can know a lot of the Persian invasion of India from the inscription of their king, Darius.
The foreign works where the Indian history was mentioned can be divided into two types; the chorological studies like these of Herodotus and Ktseias who never visited India and the second type is the works of writers who visited the country for a reason or the other.
The first to write about India were the Greeks and the first writer actually visited India escorting Alexander the great in the 4th century BC. Although most of the works of these writers were lost, some fragments were mentioned by later Greek writers. However, they all focused on the Macedonian invasion rather then the lives or the civilization of India.
The first real Greek record of the Indian history was the "Indika of Magasthenes, who was the royal ambassador to India assigned by the Greek ruler of Syria. Although most of his works were lost, they form an important source for the ancient history of India. However, he only focused at the courts of India, the trading routs, the geography, and the soil.
Afterwards, when the Moslems started traveling to India, an important work came to life; the "Tarikh El Hind", or the History of India, was a historical study carried out in the Arabic language carried out by Al Beriouni, a famous scholar and astronomer. The Moslem scientist spent a lot of time in India where he learned the Sanskrit.
The Moslems have constructed many marvelous mosques in the country like the Jama Mosque in Delhi that is visited by hundreds of tourist's everyday as an important section of their travel packages in India
Many other Arab travelers and tradesmen wrote interesting records of the Indian history shedding a lot of light on the period where the old Indian ruling power was witnessing its last decline.
The most ancient inscriptions that were ever discovered in India are those found in the ruined cities of the Indus Valley. However, nobody was able to understand or translate these inscriptions making them less important than other discoveries found in Egypt and China.
The oldest discoveries in the Indian soil date back to the 4th and 5th BC. The ancient Indians used to carve on stone, metal, clay, caves, and pillars. Many of the ancient Indian inscriptions are still waiting to be unearthed. However, they still provided very little of the history of ancient India.
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