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Republics, Kingdoms, Towns and Cities in Ancient India

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Republics, Kingdoms, Towns and Cities in Ancient India
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Item Code: NAW035
Author: G.P. Singh
Language: English
Edition: 2003
ISBN: 8124602379
Pages: 336
Other Details: 10.00 X 7.50 inch
weight of the book: 1.05 kg
About the Book

Ancient Indian polity took a new turn with the emergence of republics in the post-Vedic age. The history of republics covers the period from the age of the Mahabharata to the fourth century AD. Dr. G.P. Singh here comprehensively, yet incisively, studies the rise, growth and fall of republics in ancient India during the period. He has also dwelt upon the rise and expansion of kingdoms and growth and decline of towns, cities and various urban centres in different parts of the Indian subcontinent at length.

The work traces the pattern and functioning of republican governments at the time of the Buddha (sixth and fifth centuries BC) Panini (fifth century BC), Kautilya (fourth century BC), Alexander (327-325 BC), the Mauryas (321-184 BC) the Mauryas (184-72 BC) the Sungas (184-72BC) and the Guptas later. The research is based on the in-depth study of the epics, the Puranas, and Buddhist and Jaina sources which are supplemented by Greek and Roman writings, Sanskrit literary evidence and epigraphic & numismatic discoveries.

It delves deep into modes of expansion of territories, factors leading to urbanisation and urbanisation patterns, and town planning. It presents a picturesque description of the urban centres of north-western India primarily based on Greek and Latin sources and pays special attention to dates related to founding of republics and cities, their extent, their functioning as administrative and religious centres, the problem of their identification and references to them in works, and their place in the wider framework of ancient Indian polity.

The book will be useful to scholars and students interested in the study of ancient Indian polity and urban history.


This volume contains the histories of republics, kingdoms, towns and cities in ancient India.

The present work, I hope, will be of some use to students and scholars and historians and archaeologists. The work will be useful especially for those who intend to take up a fresh study of urban history of ancient India.

I am grateful to all those scholars whose works I have utilized in the volume.

I take the opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks to Shri S.K. Mittal, D.K Printworld (P) Ltd., New Delhi, for all the sincerity and seriousness he has shown in the publication of this volume as well as my other works.

The present writer craves the indulgence of readers for all omission and commission and mistakes and misprints which may be discernible to their eyes.


REPUBLICS, kingdoms, towns and cities form very important parts of ancient Indian history. In the present volume, an attempt has been made as far as possible to provide a comprehensive, systematic and graphic picture of the republics that flourished and declined during the period falling in between the epic age (the age of the Mahabharata) and the fourth century Al), the kingdoms that existed in the age of the Buddha (sixth and fifth centuries BC), and the towns and cities that grew up and decayed in different parts of India between c. 1000 BC and AD 550.

The two prevailing forms of government in Ancient India were monarchy and republic. The latter in the true sense of the word emerged in post-Vedic times. Its history can be traced back to the epic age. The ardent desire of the tribal communities to have their own political organization based on the principle of self-government led to the formation of republics. A number of tribal republics came into existence and some of them continued to survive down to the fourth century AD.

One of the characteristic features of ancient Indian polity was the transition from monarchy to republic. The most vital factor for change from one form of government to the other was the transformation of the political system. Ancient Indian political system was vibrant because of its flexibility.

The earliest description of the republics can be found in the Mahabharata. The period extending from the sixth century BC to the fourth century AD saw the rise and fall of various republics in various parts of India. The details of all the republics that existed in the times of the Buddha (c. 563-483 BC), Panini (fifth century BC), Kautilya (fourth century BC), Alexander (c. 327-325 Bc), the Mauryas (c. 321-184 BC), Sungas (c. 184-72 BC) and Samudragupta (c. AD 335-75) have been provided in this volume on the basis of available evidences. All possible attempts have been made to harmonize all the available data about a particular republic of a particular time so as to present a clear and accurate picture of the subject. The literary and archaeological (epigraphic and numismatic) evidence have been found in many cases supplementary to each other. The details of the republics of north-west India (Afghanistan, the Punjab and Sindh) have been furnished on the combined testimony of Panini, classical (Greek and Roman) writers and Archaeology. It is significant to note that Panini, being a native of Gandhara region had first-hand knowledge of history and geography of greater part of north-western India. His Astadhyayi is repository of information about the republics of this part of the country. A great many republics were in the flourishing state in his time. The Punjab and Sindh were the two important centres of republics in the times of Panini and Alexander. The latter in the course of his invasion of north-west India personally met many republican communities and witnessed with his own eyes the functioning of their government. He presented an eye-witness account of the political system prevailing there in his time in his letters along with other details which was later utilized by Plutarch, one of the five historio-graphers of Alexander (the other four being Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus and Justin), for writing his biography. These five classical writers have provided very reliable accounts of the monarchies, and republics/oligarchies/democracies in north-west India in their respective works. The functioning of republics has been critically assessed, and the factors responsible for their decline and disappearance have been explained in detail.

The territorial expansion of the state, in fact, began from the sixth century BC onwards. With the expansion of its territory and the increase in its population the state became fairly extensive and large. There were sixteen such state in northern India in the age of the Buddha which include fourteen kingdoms and two republics. The details of all sixteen mahajanapadas have been provided in the volume. The history of their rise as territorial states has been dwelt upon at length. Of all the sixteen states, Magadha was the largest. The rise of kingdoms proved to be stumbling block in the way of the growth of republics. Both republics and kingdoms form parts of political history of ancient India.

The factors leading to urbanization, patterns of urban settlement, town-planning, and growth and decline of post-Harappan towns and cities in different parts of India have been dealt with within a wide canvas. There were two urban revolutions, one in the Indus Valley and other in the Ganga Valley. The first half of the first millennium BC (PGW or Painted Grey Ware period) was the first phase in the history of second urbanization in the Ganga Valley. The second half of the first millennium BC (NBPW or Northern Black Polished Ware period) was very important phase for the growth and development of towns and cities in the Gangetic Valley. An attempt has been made to correlate the literary evidence and archaeological data so as to present a cohesive picture of the subject. The period, first to third century AD, proved to be blooming one for the growth of towns and cities in different parts of India including the Ganga Valley. The process of decay actually started from the early fourth century AD in most of the cases.

By the end of the fifth or sixth century Al) most of the towns and cities had declined and decayed. However, some towns continued to exist further. Some towns were found in existence even in post-Gupta times.

Dvaraka was one of the largest city of ancient India about which we have both literary and archaeological evidence. The entire credit goes to Shri S.R. Rao, a distinguished marine archaeologist, for his archaeological rediscovery of this city. In the course of archaeological exploration, the seals were also discovered by him some of which are exactly similar to those discovered by me in the Mahabharata and Puranas. Some of the seals described therein do not figure in his archaeological findings. The literary discovery of the seals of Dvaraka in the epic age constitutes a supplement to archaeological discovery by Shri Rao. The details of the subject have been provided highlighting the political significance and economic value of the seals used in Dvaraka city in the time of Lord Krsna.

The details of the emergence, growth and decay of urban centres in north-west India in the pre- and post-Maurya period provided in the volume are primarily based on the information supplied by classical geographers and historians of pre- and post-Christian era. It is noteworthy that some big or developed villages and semi-urban areas also figure in the lists of towns and cities provided in the classics. The classical concept of a town or city was totally different from that of ours. The statements of classical writers are contradictory with regard to number of towns and cities in north-west India. The Greek historians in particular have exaggerated their statements in this regard just to magnify the exploits and glorify the achievements of Alexander. However, it is a fact to reckon with that Afghanistan, the Punjab and Sindh were studded with towns and cities many of which were conquered and destroyed in the course of military operation of Alexander. Some of them have passed into oblivion but some are still in existence. There are some remains and ruins of towns and cities which constitute the mute evidence of urban culture and past glory of north-west India. The classical accounts of the subject have been corroborated and supplemented wherever necessary and possible by non-classical sources. The facts brought to light will be of some help for those who wish to make a fresh historical disquisition into the history of urbanization in north-west India.

One can get some idea about the socio-economic, political, religious and cultural life of the people having settlements in towns, cities or urban centres. The study of towns and cities is important also from the point of view of having some idea about culture and civilization of India in ancient times.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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