Sources of History of Ancient Rajasthan

We get information about the history of Rajasthan from historical texts, citations, inscriptions, descriptions of thousands of travelers andarchaeological material. Archaeological material includes inscriptions, monuments, statues, frescoes, copper plates, etc.

  • Inscriptions
  • Coins
  • Art
  • Sculptures
  • Literature


Inscriptions have proved a source of the highest value for the reconstruction of the political and cultural history of ancient Rajasthan. The inscriptions engraved on stone and metal are free from the process of tampering and decaying which is possible in the case of books and other documents written on perishable material: Thus the value of inscriptions as contemporary documents remains undisputable. Of the large number of inscriptions discovered in Rajasthan, some are very important. They are engraved on rocks, big boulders, pillars, walls, copper plates, images, etc. These may broadly be classified under two gropus-(i) those engraved by or on behalf of the ruling authority, and (ii) those engraved by or on behalf of private individuals.

Though some of the inscriptions discovered are undated, yet their characteristic script and language help us in determining their approximate age, Inscriptions mention the name of the ruler, his dynasty and his exploits in political as well as cultural spheres. They also help us in the location of the kingdom of the ruler and determining the extent of his empire. Administrative setup, official hierarchy, inter-state relations, relations between the suzerain and his feudatories and likewise information arc available in these inscriptions.

  • The earliest specimens of inscriptions in Rajasthan are found on the seals discovered at Kalibangan; they are written in the Harappan script which probably used to be written from right to left. When deciphered, they would throw a flood of light on the history of the period. Earliest epigraphic records of the historic period have also been found in Rajasthan.
  • The two inscrptions of Asoka, found at Bairat (a copy of Minor Rock Edict and the Bhabru Edict, Bhabru near Bairat) in the third century B.C., indicate his territorial jurisdiction and his interest in Buddhism.
  • The Bayana (Bijayagarh) stone inscription of V.S. 428 (A.D. 371-72) supplies a list of the rulers of the Varika tribe and describes the Pundarika sacrifice performed by Vishnuvardhana.
  • The Gangdhara (Jhalawar district) inscription of V.S. 480 (A.D. 423) acquaints us about the Aulikara dynasty ruling from Dasapura (Mandsor) and gives information that Mayurakshaka, the minister of Visvavarman, constructed a Vishnu temple. It also throws light on the feudal system of the age.
  • The two inscriptions from the Bhramara Mata Temple, one dated in V.S. 547 and the other undated, found ncar Chhoti Sadri, distrigt Udaipur, reveal the existence of a royal family called Manavayani which ruled over an arca about thc borders between Rajasthan and Malwa.

Inscriptions of Ashoka (Virat Nagar) :-

Two inscriptions of Maurya Emperor Ashoka, Bhabru inscription and Bairath inscription have been found from the hill of Bairath. The Bhabru inscription was discovered in 1840 AD by Captain Burt from the hill of Bijak . This inscription gives informationabout Ashoka being a follower of Buddhism and the Maurya rule in Rajasthan. The Bhabru inscription of Ashoka is currently preserved in the
Calcutta Museum . This is called the Calcutta-Bairath article. Another inscription has also been found from Virat Nagar.


Next to the inscriptions, coins are of importance, supplying valuable materials for reconstructing the history of ancient Rajasthan. Thousands of old coins have boen found at various places in the region.

The biggest hoard of 3075 punch-marked coins, which are the earliest coins of India, was found at Rairh, a place which is at a distance of fifty-two miles from Jaipur. These coins bear only figures, devices or symbols, sometimes there are many symbols punched at different times These symbols convey some vague religious ideas and artistic conventions but do not supply any historical information. These symbols were stampod by the issuing authority in order to guarantee their genuincness and value.

Punch-marked coins have also been discovered at other places like Pushkar, Bairat, Nagara, Nagan, Sambhar and Jhalrapatan Obviously they were the ancient sites in Rajasthan.As a result of excavations, several varicties of coins of different periods have boen recovered bearing names, dates, legends, etc., which tells about the history of the region.

Valuable information has been derived from the coin ages of the Kushanas’ Indo-Grecks, Malavas Sibis. Uddehikas, Yaudheyas. the Kshatrapas and Gadhaiyar coins uncarthed from various sites of Rajasthan.

Carlleyle had recorded from the surface at Nagar (the Uniara Thikana of Jaipur unit of Rajasthan) over 6,000 Malava coins of copper which were then lying scattered on the mounds, like shells on the seashore’ These coins supplied the information about forty chiefs of Malava tribe.

One of the coins of Diomedes, the Greek ruler of Kabul, was discovered during an exploratory survey of the site Naliasar in Sambhar in 1950 Of the big hoards, discoverod from different parts of Rajasthan, the Bayana hoard of Gupta coins is worth mentioning, Apparently a buried collection of some rich person, it proves that this region was a part and parcel of the Gupta Empire. The Sarvania hoard proves that the southern part of Rajastlhan was under the sway of the Westem Kshatrapas.

The coins of the Arjunayanas and the Yaudheyas, bearing the symbol of a standing bull, may well represent the bull before the jupa or sacrificial post. Such coins give us an idea of religious practices performed by the rulers of those days.

Thus Rajasthan has supplied carly coins of practically all epochs of the ancient period including punch- marked, Malava, Sibi, Indo-Greek, Indo Sassanian, Kshatrapa, Kushana and Gupta coins which are preserved at several Museums of Rajasthan. Several Rajput dynasties also issued coins. One of the most interesting among them is a joint coin issued by Prithviraja III and Muhammadbin- Sam Coins of the Pratiharas with suggestive figures like the Adivaraha throw light on their aspirations and their religion.


In the field of  art Rajasthan has yielded a rich crop. The life-size stone statue of a standing Yaksha discovered at Noh near Bharatpur is an important and one of the earliest examples of plastic art in India.

It can well be compared with somewhat identical and contemporary colossal statues from Parkham, Besanagar and Patana. Of the Important terracottas and sculptures, one clay toy from Rairh presents a female head depicting two hair strings (Venis) falling on her back and a turban put on her head in a traditional manner. It is very interesting to note here the use of the turban by the ladies.

The four standing male figures, each wearing a V-shaped nocklace, and a crown and holding a water pot in the left hand represent the early essays of ancient Rajasthan in the sculptural art, assignable to the Kushana period, they have boen discovered at Noh.

Mention may also be made of a colossal Kushana Siva Linga, near Nand, seven miles from Pushkar.

Plastic remains of the Gupta period are also not inconsiderable. Of them the “Sardar Muscum at Jodhpur preserves two colossal red stone pillars, cach measuring about thirteen feet in height and depicting various Krishna-Lila scenes, such as Krishna’s lifting of the Govardhan mountain, fight with Ass, Bull and Horse demons, suppression of Kaliya Serpent, upturning of the carts, etc., in the elegant style of the Gupta period. Equally important are the Jain bronzes of the post-Gupta period. One under worship in a Jain shrine at Pindawara (near Sirohi) throws much light on the art of metal casting in Rajasthan about 1,250 years ago. One of these images represents Sarsawati (the goddess of learning). while another bronze of this hoard depicts a male divinity in the Kayotsanga pose dated in the Vikrama year 744, i.c, 687 A.D.


Sculptures A brief but very interesting survey of some ancient bronzes, sculptures and terracottas discovered at various ancient sites in Rajasthan, has been made by Dr. R.C. Agrawal. The whole material of this region has got an important bearing on the Buddhist, Jaina and Brahmanic art of the country.

Nothing gives a better idea of the religious condition of ancient Rajasthan than its beautiful sculptures and bronzes.


Literature preserved at various places, both public and private, in Rajasthan forms a very valuable source for the historic study of ancicent Rajasthan, though the am and attitude of most write were more literary than hustorical. The Vedas contain seferences to i rivers, like the Sarasvati and Drnshadvati and the pooples like the Mats and the Salvas who during the Epic period resided in Rajasthvan t also believed that the pandavas during the period of their exile got refun in Rajasthan. The Virata Parva of the Mahabharata is specially concernl with Bairat, the capital of the Matsyas The Epics and the Puranas alu provide us with some useful historical material The Padmapuram enlightens us about the origin of the Pushkar. The Srimalamahatmyaa part of the Skandapurana, gives valuable information regardıng the ancient city of Bhinmal and its vicinity. It also gives a list of Indian states which includes. Sakambhara-Sapadalaksha, Mewar- Sapadalaksha, Tomara-Sapadalaksha, Vaguri 88 thousand, Sivadesa l thousand and Bhadra 10 thousand. From the Vamanapurana, we know about the existence of several holy places in the Sarasvati-Dnishadvat Valley at the time of its composition.

Some of the people living in the region under review were known to Panini. Patanjali in his great commentary (Mahabhashya) on the Ashtadhyayi mentions about the Yavana attack on Madlhyamika (a town near Chitor) within his living memory.

The traditions preserved in the Vedas, the Epics and the Puranas thus form the main source of information for the history of the carlies period ; and for the period before the sixth century B.C. they constitute our only source. The Buddhist and Jain litèratures of the succeeding period form a valuable supplementary and corroborative evidence and supply us with very important historical data. The Buddhist scriptures speak of caravans passing through sandy places of Rajasthan at night guided by professional niyyamakas. The Padataditaka speaks satirically of the habits of Daserakas (pcople of Marwar). Literature of the age, in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Apabhramsa, old Hindı or old Rajasthani, depicts the life of the people and their institutions (political, social, economic and religious), handicrafts, clothes, ormaments, etc. Of the few books throwing light on life in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Malwa or Westeren Aryavarta, mention may be made of Dhamabindu, Dhurtakhyana and Samaraichchkatha of Haribhadra Suri (A.D. 700-70), Kuvalayamala- Katha of Udyotana Suri (A.D 778) Upamitilihavaprapancha Katha and Bri hatkathakosa respetively of Siddharsi Suri. (A. D. 905) and Harisana (A.D. 931) Lilavatikathu and Kathakosaprakarana of Jinesvara Suri (c.AD. 10-25), Sringaramanjari of Bhoja Paramara (c. 1010-55 A D.); Jnanapanchami-Katha of Mahesvara, Jambusvami Charita of Gunapala, ctc. From the Dharmopadesamala-vivarana of Jayasimha Suri written in A.D. 858, it is known that Nagaur was in the kingdom of the Pratihara ruler Mihirabhoja.

The Tirthamalas are another important source material, as they point out the nanes of the tirthas, their origin together with the miracles associated with them, their importance and the descriptions of temples and images. Dhanapala, in his poem Satyapuriyamahavira-Utsaha, supplies us valuable information about the holy places like Sanchor, Ahar, Srimala, Korta and Naraina which were in existence in the tenth century A.D. The Sakalatirthastavana by Siddharshi (twelfth contury A.D.) is important, as it gives a list of holy places, most of which are located in Rajasthan. Important information can be had from the Jain Pattavalis or Guravavalis The Kharatari-gachchapattavali covering the period between VS. 1211 and 1393 is very useful for political and social condition of the people of different parts of Rajasthan. It refers to th. activities held at Ajmer, Chitor, Barmer, Narhad, Phalodi, Kheda Bikampur, Mandor and Sanchor, when the Jain Acharyas visited them Sometimes we are acquainted with the rulers of these towns who were otherwise unknown. The Upakesagachcha Pattavali and the Korantagachchapattavali are particularly related to the towns of Osia and Korta respectively.

The accounts of the foreign travellers, Arabs as well as Chinese, provide us with valuable material to reconstruct the history of the ruling dynasty of the age. Yuan Chwang refers to a Kshatriya ruler of the Gurjara country who has been identified by some scholars with a Pratihara prince of the Mandor family The Arab travellers speak of Jurz, i.e., Gurjara as one of the big states of India. Sulaiman writes abont the administration of Bhoja.

For the last days of the Pratihara Empire, we have useful information from Muslim works like Kitab Zainul Akhbar of Mahmud Girdizi, Turikh-i-Yamini of Al-Utbi, Tarikh-i-Firishta and Tabaqat-i- Nasiri

 Rajashekhara, the author of the Kavyamimamsa, Kshemisvara, the author of the Chandakausika and Pampa mention valuable facts about the Pratihara history and culture. The Prithvirajavijayamahakavya of Jayanaka, written earlier than A.D. 1200, throws light on the history of the Chauhans up to A.D. 1191 Its account is supplemented by Hammirmahakavya of Naya Chandra Suri the Surya kanta of Chandra- shekhar. Of these Kavyas, special mention may be made of works by Hemchandra Suri, Somesbara, Mentunga and Raj Shekhar.

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