UPSC Mains Daily Answer Writing (14-11-2022) - GS 1

UPSC Mains Daily Answer Writing

Questions

Q1. Accounts given by foreign travellers are as important as the evidence obtained from inscriptions and coins in the reconstruction of ancient Indian history. Elaborate with examples. (250 words)  15 marks

Q2. Cave paintings of India are a great witness to the evolution of human civilization. Discuss. (150 words)  10 marks


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Model Solutions

Q1. Accounts given by foreign travellers are as important as the evidence obtained from inscriptions and coins in the reconstruction of ancient Indian history. Elaborate with examples. (250 words) 15 marks

Model Structure
Introduction:

  • History is re-constructed from sources broadly classified as literary and archaeological.
  • Inscriptions, coins, monuments, etc., come under archaeological sources. Biographies, travel accounts, etc., are part of literary evidence.

Main Body:

  • From ancient times, foreigners travelling accounts have played an important role in reconstructing India’s history:
    • Social life: Travelers’ accounts are rich sources of ancient lifestyle, including cuisine, markets, customs, and social relations.
      • For example, Fa-Hien’s account of the Gupta period mentions an extensive history of Gupta society, including the caste system and the poor conditions of outcastes.
    • Political history: Foreign travellers often indicated or sometimes directly conveyed the contemporary political situation, which has helped in the reconstruction and dating of ancient dynasties, kings and events.
      • For example, the writings of Greek historian Arrian provided a detailed account of Alexander's Indian campaign and names of Indian kings, and the might of contemporary Magatha.
    • Geographical history: Many travellers have left behind accounts of places and regions they visited and things they saw.
      • For example, Ibn-e-Batuta’s account described Gangetic plains as rich and fertile and drained by Ganga's pure waters.
    • Economy and trade: Foreign accounts gave a detailed view of the Indian economy and the nature of trade.
      • For example, Greek and Roman accounts such as the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea (80-115 CE) and Ptolemy’s Geography (150 CE) gave information about the Indian Ocean trade in ancient times.
    • Cultural history: Detailed cultural descriptions in foreign travellers' historical accounts helped in establishing the long and continuing legacy of Indian ethos.
      • For example, Tahqiq-i-Hind of Al-Beruni is an encyclopedia of Indian culture with details on Indian astrology, philosophy, literature, beliefs, customs and laws, apart from India's sciences and geography.
  • Inscriptions help us in the reconstruction of India’s ancient history in the following ways:
    • The most famous inscriptions, useful as historical evidence, are Ashoka’s inscriptions. These inform us about Ashoka’s times, associated events, the history of Buddhism and contemporary religions etc.
    • The Hathigumpha and Allahabad pillar inscriptions contain critical and rare historical accounts of Kharavela and Samudragupta respectively.
    • Copper plate inscriptions have helped us understand socio-economic dynamics and the evolution of caste through changes in land ownership.
    • The Sauhagaura copper plate informs us about historical droughts, and the measures undertaken by authorities to tackle food shortages.
      • This helps to put together social, economic and political evidence of the past.
  • Coins help us in the reconstruction of India’s ancient history in the following ways:
    • The start of the circulation of coins in the 6th century BCE provides evidence of the second phase of urbanization in India.
    • The coins inform us about dynasties and kings, ancient metallurgy, economic conditions when coins were issued or political strength of the issuing dynasty, etc.
      • For example, the coins of Kushanas and early Guptas show a higher proportion of gold, which reduces during the later Gupta period, indicating the growth of the Indian economy from the Kushanas to the Gupta period and the weakening economy under later Gupta kings.

Conclusion:

  • Both literary and archaeological sources have helped in reconstructing Indian ancient history by providing a detailed view of socio-economic, political and cultural conditions of ancient India.

Q2. Cave paintings of India are a great witness to the evolution of human civilization. Discuss. (150 words) 10 marks

Model Structure
Introduction:

  • Cave paintings are one of the oldest art forms practiced by human beings to express themselves and even precedes language.
  • Cave paintings have been found in different parts of India and in different ages, most famous being Bhimbetka where old paintings were superimposed by the new ones.

Main Body:

  • The evolution of human civilization can be understood through its different aspects becoming visible in cave paintings
    • Continuity and Changes: Caves were used as a shelter by earliest people. The earliest paintings show hunting, small community size.
      • Social events were also seen in paintings, for example, in Warli cave paintings.
    • Evolution of Art: Initial paintings were made directly on walls with rudimentary colors and in the later part even brushes, spraying along with more sophisticated colors.
      • The sources of colors show their knowledge about different plants and minerals, for example, red color was obtained from hematite.
    • Culture: Cave paintings have brought to light old tools, pottery, bones, and the lifestyle of ancient human beings, this can be seen through scenes of hunting, dancing, and food preparation.
      • Beliefs and attitudes can be deduced from figures of mythical creatures, humorous scenes, and compassionate paintings of pregnant animals.
    • Evolution of Communication Tools: Cave paintings served as teaching medium for future generations.
      • Mode of storytelling through paintings was adopted, whose continuing impact can be seen in modern shadow puppetry.
      • Development of linguistic script is projected in time through practice of engraving on cave walls.
    • Development of Authority and State: Tribal warfare could be seen in various cave paintings at Bhimbetka, indicating development of tribal state and rudimentary kingship due to needs of leadership.
    • Division of labor: The division of work between men and women can be seen in cave paintings at Warli.
      • The developing gap between men and women is visible as men have more representation (>95% human figures).
      • However, class distinction was not a feature of the early stages as the economy was still rudimentary.
    • Technology: Increasing sophistication of hunting methodologies, use of fire, agriculture and clothing, and start of sedentary life are visible through the cave paintings from Mesolithic to Chalcolithic age.
    • Religion: Paintings at Ajanta, Ellora, Barabar & Nagarjuna caves, etc. show evolution and practice of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and also serve as great monuments for religion.

Conclusion:

  • Cave paintings show the evolution of civilization through many lenses. There is a need to explore more cave paintings and preserve them for future generations to witness the evolution of humankind through the ages and educate our present about our past.
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