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Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 2, p. 270.


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CHAPTER VII
THE EARLY HISTORY OF NORTHERN INDIA,
FROM 600 B.C. TO A.D. 650
Sources of THE history of India begins, for an orthodox Hindu, more
history. than three thousand years before Christ, with the war between
the sons of Pandu and the sons of Kuru, as described in the
Mahlbhlrata, a vast epic about eight times the bulk of the
Iliad and Odyssey combined, and in parts of great antiquity.
Another huge epic, the Ramayana, which probably is less
ancient, relates the story of Rama, prince of Kosala (Oudh),
and is also regarded by Hindus as a storehouse of historical
facts. Many attempts, all alike unsuccessful, have been made
to distil history from the Indian epic poems, but modern
criticism now generally acknowledges the fact that bardic lays
cannot be made the basis of sober history.
The epics being rejected, the historian must look elsewhere
for his material. Although the ancient kings used to maintain
official chronicles, not a fragment of those documents has
survived, and Sanskrit literature does not contain a single work
which deserves the name of a history, except, perhaps, the
Kashmir chronicle composed by Kalhana. The materials
available may be defined as consisting of monuments, in-
scriptions, coins, literary tradition, the annals of foreign
countries, especially of China, and the observations of foreign
travellers.
For the earliest period, literary tradition being almost the
only source, the results obtainable are necessarily meagre and
wanting in precision, until the fourth century B.C., when the
other sources begin to flow, and the stream of events becomes
more copious. But it varies much in volume, and when facts
fail, as they do at times, the historian must stay his pen.
History The most ancient literary tradition dealing with historical
begins matter which is to be found in the sacred books of the
about
6oo B. c. Brahmans, Buddhists, or Jains cannot be assumed to have
taken shape earlier than 500 B.C., although it may record a



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