How to prepare Ancient Indian History for IAS

Ancient Indian History for Civil Services Examination

Dealing with Ancient Indian History


Review official syllabus first and you will see the influence of various topics in exam point of view. History of India and Indian National Movements, Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

We have  divided syllabus in four parts as you can see below:

  • Modern Indian History
  • Medieval Indian History (For this things to read are common).
  • Ancient Indian History (mainly related to Culture topics like -Art, Architecture, Society and Literature.
  • World History (Only in Mains)

What type of questions asked in Ancient Indian History?


First, we have to very carefully analyze that what kind of questions are asked in For Prelims and Main examination. You can also to optimize your time and efforts during your exam preparation.

  • Related to Literature and Philosophical Development (Religion, Philosophy, Society etc).
  • Art (Music, Dance, Early art forms etc).
  • Architecture (Key architecture styles and their evolution in North, South etc).

To decode these points, see last three years Prelims and five years General Studies papers (related to History and Ancient period in particular).

Sources to Prepare Ancient Indian History


Following sources are useful for preparing in General Studies point of view.

  • Tamil Nadu Board books are good for Ancient India part or else you can read the relevant chapters from Spectrum and AL Basham books, supplementing with Internet. It gives suitable weightage to South Indian History as well. 'Facets of Indian Culture' by Spectrum (especially for Mains):

    • Religion and Philosophy
    • Architecture, Art and Craft
  • Selective Essays of 'A Cultural History of India' by AL Basham (for mains).
    Recommended essays to read from this book are:
    • The Indus Civilization
    • Ashokan India and the Gupta Age
    • Buddhism
    • Jainism
    • Philosophy
    • Science
    • Ancient and Modern Languages
    • Early Art and Architecture

What to read for Ancient Indian History?


We will try to give a basic checklist based on the different faces of the Ancient Indian History, and it will give you as idea about what aspects you should read.

Give importance to such topics:

  • Indus Valley Civilization: Its characteristic features, unique aspects of important sites.
  • Locations of Mahajanapadas and Contemporary Society and Culture.
  • Aryan Civilization: Difference between Vedic ages, Position of women, Varna organisation and its evolution.
  • Religious and Philosophical developments: Buddhism, Jinism, schools in Hinduism, others - Ajivika, Charvaka etc (and difference between them).
  • Key features of Mauryan Empire, Ashoka - his dharma, policies and fall of Mauryas.
  • Early developments in Art, Literature, Architecture (Rock cut), Sculpture (Influence of foreign invasions) before Gupta age.
  • Gupta Age: development of classical language, literature, science and developments in society, maturing achitecture - Nagara, Vasara and Dravida forms, new development in religion - Mahayan Buddhism, two schools of Jainism, Tantric cults
  • South Indian Ancient History: Sangama culture, Literature, Early Cholas, Pandyas etc, their contact with Roman Empire and South Asia in trade and other contact, difference in south Indian society and culture with contemporary North Indian society and culture.

What NOT to Read?


  • Petty wars, exact years of ruling and dynasty, Political wars, conspiracies, succession wars etc.
  • Small region empires and their details, names of various foreign invaders who belonged to groups like Shakas, Pahlavas etc.
  • Facts such as names of small Kings/small wars, so many philosophers, saints, puranas, temple names etc.

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Civil Services Prelims Study Materials

Test Series for Civil Services Prelims

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