Sources of Cultural Heritage
Books are the most important source of our knowledge of the cultural heritage of the country. Our literary sources take us at best about three thousand years back into our ancient history. The Rigveda is the oldest book available with us and it gives us a good deal of knowledge about the Aryan civilisation. Paper came to India around the thirteenth century A.D., and then onwards, quite a large-number of books were written which give accounts of the Sultanate and Moghul periods. Publishing became a well-established industry with the advent of the Europeans and almost every detail of cultural and other dev4opmerits during the last three hundred years is available in our literary sources.
Among others, sources of our cultural heritage are:
(I) Old Buildings and Monuments :
Old buildings and monuments furnish the most authentic historical evidence of the past. Old buildings and monuments speak about the people, customs and traditions, way of living. etc., We have found bricks, arms, pots, toys, etc., during excavations at various sites. The relics found at Harappa and Mohan-Jo-daro point towards the history of the Indus Valley civilisation, their houses, their drainage system, their bathrooms, their seals and the like.
The paintings and the sculptures of Ellora, Ajanta and Elephanta, the stone temple of Deogarh, the brick temple of Bhitore are the powerful and most important examples of the sculpture and paintings of the early centuries.
(II) Pillars and Rock Inscriptions:
Many inscriptions have been found on pillars, rocks and copper plates containing orders and preachings of the kings. Ashoka was the first king to get his edicts inscribed on pillars and rocks. These are commemorative, dedicatory and donative. The whole account of the reign of Ashoka can be reconstructed with the help of these inscriptions which help us in determining the extent of the empire of Ashoka.
The Prashasti inscription of Allahabad tells us that Samudra Gupta had defeated nine kings in North India and twelve kings in South India. The Prashasti of Bhoja at Gwalior and the iron pillar at Mehrauli near Delhi were constructed by kings Bhoja and Chandragupta II respectively. Hathigumpha is one of the most important of private inscriptions. Kara inscription near Allahabad helped us in identifying Kausumbhi.
Coins indicate the economic activity of the ancient people. The old coins too have proved to be very useful in determining the history of the country. We have religious inscriptions on very old coins. After the Mauryan age. we find inscribed the name, title, date. etc., on the coins of the rulers, Thus the coins help in fixing the dates, dynasty, successors, etc. of the rulers, sometimes they also help in determining the social, cultural. political and economic conditions of that age. Coins of Kanishka show great importance of Buddhist religion. The Roman coins show that trade between Rome and India had flourished.