Sources of the History and Culture of Rajasthan (From earliest times up to 1200 A.D.)

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Sources of the History and Culture of Rajasthan (From earliest times up to 1200 A.D.)

The advent of men in Rajasthan can claim greater antiquity than many other regions of India. It is a geological fact that the Aravalli ranges are older than the Himalayas. In ancient rive beds and natural rock – shelters of Rajasthan have been discovered fairly early traces of human habitations. Palaeoliths in abundance have been reported from Marwar and Mewar from Marwar and Mewar regions of Rajasthan. Then we have a rich microlithic assemblage at Bagor (Bhilwara District). In fact, the Chambal river-valley, Banas- Berach basin, Luni river basin, rock-shelters of Viratnagar, ancient – lake sites, old river – terraces, and several open air sites from different parts of Rajasthan have yielded palacolithic and microlithic implements, indicating the early activities of man in Rajasthan. Thereafter we find rich chalcolithic cultures at Ahar (Udaipur), Ganeshwar (Sikar District) and Balathan (Udaipur District). The recently excavated site of Balathal has presented the evidence of a chalolithic village which is earliest (dated to 2500 B.C.) onto only in Rajasthan, but in India.

The banks of the Saraswati river, which flowed through the western part of Rajasthan, became the centers of two early and formative civilizations of India viz. the Indus – Saraswati civilization and the Vedic civilization. Kalibangan (Hanumangarh District) was an important center of Indus - Saraswati civilization in Rajasthan. The Vedic literature mentions the Matsyas and the Salvas as located near the river Saraswati and there is evidence to believe that by the close of the Vedic age Rajasthan had become fully colonized by the Vedic tribes. The relics of Painted Grey ware culture have been reported from the dried- up beds of Saraswati and Drshadvati rivers. We also have evidence of Painted Grey Ware (PGW) from Noh (Bharatpur), Jodhpur (Jaipur), Viratnagar (Jaipur) and Sanari (Jhunjhunu). These sites represent the growth of Iron Age in Rajasthan.


Archaeological Sources

The inscriptions serve as a very authentic evidence for the reconstruction of the history and culture of Rajasthan. Not only do they help us in building up the chronology and political history on a firm basis; they also offer reliable pieces of information about the contemporary life and conditions in Rajasthan.

Listed below are some of the important inscriptions reported from Rajasthan.

Barli Fragmentary Stone Inscription (5th or 4th century B.C.): This fragmentary inscription was found in the temple of Bhilot Mata, about a mile from the village Barli, situated about 36 miles southeast of Ajmer. The inscription is now preserved in the Ajmer museum. It is engraved on a white stone which formed part of a hexagonal pillar. The characters are Brahmi. The language is Prakrit mixed with Sanskrit.

Coins, though they are small in size, sometimes play a big role in illuminating history not known other sources. They also serve as ancillary evidence for the history known from other sources. Excavations and accidental findings have so far yielded thousands of coins from different parts of Rajasthan.

The earliest coins reported from India are known as ‘punch marked coins’ which are made of silver and are dated from c. 600 B.C. to 200 B. C. The punching devices of these coins have no inscriptions; instead they have a number of symbols. A very big hoard of punch- marked coins was discovered from Rairh (Tonk District) in Rajasthan. This hoard consisted of 3075 punch – marked coins of silver.

An another significant hoard from Rajasthan is that of Gupta gold coins discovered at Bayana (Bharatpur District). It consists of 1821 gold coins, which add to our knowledge of Gupta period in general. This hoard has furnished valuable information about Gupta currency in particular. It is also indicative of the prosperous conditions prevalent in India during the Gupta period. The artistic designs on these coins revel about the aesthetic sense of the society. Five Gupta coins of silver from Ajmer discovered by Dr. G.H. Ojha and one silver coin of Kumaragupta from Naliasar- Sambhar discovered by Dr. Satya Prakash offer some insight into the religious inclinations and artistic taste of people. On the coin of Kumaragupta – from Naliasar- Sambhar, a peacock as a vehicle of Swami – Kartikeya, has been designed in a very beautiful manner. Six gold coins of Gupta age were discovered from Bairh, a place situated near Rairh in 1962. Some gold coins of Gupta age are also reported to have been discovered from the areas of Jaipur, Ajmer and Mewar, ‘dmonastrating the important role the coins played in the economic life of the people during the Gupta age’.

Useful information is also provided by several small hoards of coins issued by various dynasties, tribes and rulers of Rajasthan. Bairat has yielded 28 coins of Indo-Greek rulers, 16 of which belong to Menander. Excavation from Sambhar have yielded many coins which include 6 punch – marked coins of silver, 6 Indo – Sassanian copper coins. Rangamahal has provided several Kushana coins, including some post-Kushana coins. Kshatraps coins are reported from Nagari (Chittorgarh).

A significant number of coins were issued by the republican tribes of Rajasthan. Prominent amongst them are the coins of the Malava tribe. Thousands of copper coins issued by the Malavas have been discovered, mainly from Nagar or Karkota Nagar (Tonk District) and Rairh (Tonk District). The Malava coins from Rajasthan are invariably of copper and a fairly large number of them bear their tribal name. The Malava coins can be put in three categories. The first category of coins bear the legend Malavanam Jayah (i. e. victory to the Malavas). The other two categories of coins consist of those coins which were discovered in association with the Malava coins and resemble the latter in fabric. The coins of second category bear no legend, while those of the third bear enigmatic legends like Gajava, Haraya, Jamaka, Magacha, Masapa, Pachha, Bhapamyana etc. the meaning of these legends is not obvious to us.


Other Antiquities

In the Vedas, the river Saraswati has been eloquently and extensively applauded. It was, in fact, the ‘life-line’ of ancient Rajasthan Rigveda VI./49/7). The people of Matsyas are also mentioned in the Rigveda. They have been shown as residing near the banks of Saraswati in the Satapatha Brahmana. The Salvas find mention in the Gopatha Brahmana, as a pair Janapada alongwith the Matsyas had developed an extensive kingdom with its capital located at Virata (present Bairat or Viratanagara in the Jaipur District). The Pandavas are said to have spent their period of exile at Virata with the help of the Matsyas who were their allies. According to Mahabharata, the Matsya Janapada was rich in the wealth of the cows and the Matsyas were renowned for truth. The Mahabharata also refers to the Salva country, with its capital at Salvapura, generally identified with Alwar. The Malvas also find mention in the Mahabharata as a tribe of great warriors which helped the Kauravas in their battles against the Pandavas.

The Puranas contain some observations on the sacred places of Rajasthan. Interestingly, the Skanda – Purana gives a list of Indian states which includes some states of Rajasthan. These are : Sakambhara Sapadalaksha; Mewar Sapadalaksha; Tomara Sapadalaksha; Vaguri (Baged) 88,000; Virata (Bairat) 36,000; and Bhadra 10,000.

The Chinese traveler, Yuan Chwang, makes certain references related with Rajasthan. He mentions the place called Po-li-ye-ta-lo which is identified with Virat or Bairat (Jaipur District). According to him, “Po-li-ye-ta-lo was 14 or 15 Li or 2½ miles in circuit’ – corresponding almost exactly with the size of the ancient mound on which the present town is built. According to Yuan Chwang, “The people of this city were brave and bold and their king, who was of the Fei-she (Vaisya) race, was famous for his courage and skill in war.” Yuan Chwang also mentions the kingdom of Gurjara by the name Kiu-che-lo. According to him, it was 5,000 Li in circuit. The capital of this kingdom was Pi-lo-mo-lo, which is generally identified with modern Bhinmal. Yuan Chwang says that “the king of this country was a Kshatriya by birth, was a young man celebrated for his wisdom and valour, and he was a profound believer in Buddhism, and a patron of exceptional abilities.”

The period of 700-1200 A.D., in Rajasthan was of considerable literary activity. The works composed by different authors during this phase throw a flood of light on the political, social economic and religious conditions of Rajasthan.


Sources of the History and Culture of Rajasthan (1200 – 1900 A.D.)

The period c. 1200 – 1900 A.D. forms one of the most interesting and inspiring chapters in the annals of Indian History. But if one intends to study the connected accounts of the political, socio-economic and cultural developments of Rajasthan, he is faced with a paucity of material. Though a comprehensive general view of the dynastic history of Rajput states was provided by Col. Tod, Kaviraj Shyamal das and Dr. Ojha, the study yet suffers from critical assessment of society and other institutions. The study of these aspects calls for a systematic analysis of source material. For a precise and critical understanding of history our sources fall under the following heads: (i) Archaeological sources; (ii) Documents and Letters; (iii) Contemporary Literature; (iv) Travelers Accounts; (v) Archival Records and; (vi) Illustrated Manuscripts and Paintings.



Of all the sources archaeology forms the primary source of our study. This branch helps us to know much about important sites and monuments. The mediaeval towns like Ajmer and Amber throw sufficient light on the town planning and life in them. The details of village economy can mainly be studied from the remains of the villages which have been abandoned. Jawar is an instance of this kind.

The sites of urban regions afford a scope of study of concentrations of population and possibilities of traffic and trade with the neighboring states and land. The Military History of the forts is an interesting subject of study. Similarly, the study of the temples of Chittor, Amber, Ajmer and other regions of Rajasthan enable us to gather information about the evolution of architecture.

A detailed study of the sculptures leads us to elucidate the social aspects of the life – the costumes, ornaments, dance, musical instruments and pattern of living. The priceless collections of several museums of Rajasthan and isolated sculptures from various sites have their own tales to tell. Though a large number of such pieces have met their premature death, partly due to the ruthless activities of the invaders and partly due to unsympathetic concern of public at large, the remnants at our disposal offer clues to several problems for the cultural history of our period. The images of Shiv, Parvati, Yakshas, gods and goddesses, collected and preserved in the M.B. College Museum, Udaipur, belonging to the 12th to 15th century, depicts a large variety of garments and ornaments and throw light on mediaeval cults of Rajasthan. A panel at Vela Kabra temple, Chittor (15th century) depicts village life with a boy playing a flute and a gathering to the Kirtistamba (Chittor) depict dresses and ornaments of various classes of people of the 15th century. Kumbhalgarh helps us to determine the dresses of aristocrats, the style of their moustaches and ornaments of 16th century. The figures of the Memorial Stone of Gor Singh, Deobari, V.S. 1736 depict a fight between a warrior anda lion. The carved panels at Rajasamudra represent a dynamic impulse of art depicting the costumes, beliefs and several aspects of social of fights between the animals are highly informative regarding the popular pastimes of a court in Rajasthan. The figures of Bhils and Bhilnis, at the outer paner of Rishabhadeo temple, 18th century, depict tribal life of the South – Western Rajasthan.

Of all the Archaeological sources and other sources, the inscriptions which are found in abundance, in the form of stone-inscriptions and copper-plate grants, form the primary authority of the period of our study. Most of them are found in temples, mosques and forts, reporting not only about the heroic and pious deeds of their builders or donators but also indicating the literary, linguistic, political, social, religious and economic changes that took place subsequently in Rajasthan. It is true that some of them record legendary accounts, yet they, no doubt, serve as the real landmarks of Rajasthan history. The language of the inscriptions of our period is generally Sanskrit or Rajasthani. We also have a number of inscriptions in Persian relating to the medieval period from different parts of Rajasthan. Some of the inscriptions are in the running Mahajani script, which is difficult to read.

We have a number of copper plates also relating to our period of study from different parts of Rajasthan. A copper plate grant of 1535 A.D., preserved in the old deposited records, Udaipur, refers to Rani Karmavati’s performance of Jauhar along with several other ladies of the royal household and of the notable families of the period. A copper plate grant of V.S. 1669 records that Rana Karan Singh’s wife went to Dwarka and there granted land to the Brahmanas. Several in the old deposited records, udaipur of Bikaner give the classifications of land and the rate of state demands. Similarly, a copper plate grant of V.S. 1767 (1710 A.D.) refers to grant of jagir to the local priest of Gaya, Varanasi and Hardwar at the time of immersing the ashes in the sacred river Ganga. A Bikaner copper-plate grant of 1816 A.D. is a specimen of the language bearing the Punjabi mode of address to a dignity.


Unpublished – Documents, Letters etc.

Next important source comprises of documents in Persian and Rajasthani. There are several such collections in manuscripts, preserved in various Government Departments or owned by private individuals. These documents constitute  very useful source of our information. They are all unpublished.


Contemporary Literature

The production of literature in Persian, Sanskrit, Rajasthani and Hindi has been a long tradition in our country. This kind of literature covers several aspects – political, religious, social, philosophical, astronomical, literary and scientific. Though the main aim (leaving aside purely historical literature) of its writing had been to enrich the special branch to which it belonged, it also reflected richness in yielding historical data.


If we turn up to Persian literature we find that much has been written in this language, covering the history of the Sultans of Delhi and the Mughal emperors. There are a couple of autobiographies also written by the Mughal rulers themselves. But as the main emphasis in this kind of literature is on its accounts of the Sultans and the emperors, it is in vain to expect from them much which is relevant for the history of Rajasthan. However, due to the closer contact of the Rajput princes with the Sultans and the Mughal emperors, we are in a position to get the glimpses of the events relating to Rajasthan.

Rajasthani Literature: Vat, Varta and Khyats

This kind of literature at times contains valuable material for history. It is a class by itself and preserves traditions and clan-accounts of the Rajpur families and ruling houses of repute. The works belonging to this class contain material for finding historical chronology. Some of them also help in correcting genealogies of ruling dynasties. They also constitute a valuable repository of information on the cultural history of feudal families.


Traveler's Accounts

Quite a large number of European travelers visited India during our period of study. Their accounts of the cities, court-lite and general
condition of the country, though vivid, are full of the interpretation and impression which is not free from personal prejudices and idea of race superiority. Fortunately in the general description of India given by the travelers, we trace out here and there some references to Rajasthan which are useful for our study of political, social and cultural life of the state. However, in accepting their statements we have to observe caution, as what they write is not wholly true and accurate. William Finch in his Early Travels is in India gives a valuable description of the outer wall and ditch of Bharatpu, prosperity of Mewar and Amber. His account of Ajmer as a town and religious place of the Muslims are very interesting. Similarly, Sir Thomas Roe’s and Terry’s description of Ajmer and gifts from Jahangir to Kunwar Karan are vivid and picturesque. Again Manrique Fray Sebastian’s notices of the town of Jaisalmer, its people and their local dances are highly informative. The accounts of Tavernier and Betnier about eclipse, charity, sati system, Holi festival, industrial activities and Indian poverty are of great value. Manucchi’s references of the desert of Rajasthan, Ajmer and Mewar are accurate. His accounts of villages and hills of Mewat show his intimacy with the area. His observations on the opium-eating habits of
the Rajputs are graphic. His references to the articles of decoration of turban, festival of Holi and handicraft industries of Rajasthan are of great use. Captain Mundy’s description of the jungles of Bharatpur and the local dresses of the common people of the town is graphic. Bishop Herber’s description of Jaipur and Ajmer and his observations on festivals and local customs are highly informative.


Archival Records

The princely states of Rajasthan had a historic past which necessitated the maintaining of records of varied nature: revenue, judiciary,
police, taxation etc. Obviously these records have a continuity and throw sufficient light over the various aspects of life – domestic, political, social and cultural. These records include a large number of Bahis, Chopanayas, Haqiqats, Dasturs and the like, prepared date and year wise under the supervision of the officers of repute. They have been classified after the names of the pre-merger states of Rajasthan. These records are unpublished and written in Rajasthani dialects. A brief content of some of these records will reveal that, being old and authenticated, they are thoroughly reliable and throe a good deal of light on some new aspects of the history of Rajasthan.

The Pattas or the revenue records (Bikaner) of our period are the summaries of items of expenditure and income prepared year wise. They preserve the mode and rate of revenue of the state. The Sahar Lakha Bahi records the daily wages of masons and labourers. The Kamthana Bahis give details of the construction in the states. The Modi Khana Bahis and the Mahat – Talka Bahis preserve the names of various office – holders like Patel, Patwari, Chaudhari, Qanungo, tufedar, potdar, havaldar etc. The Rokad Bahis refer to several local cesses. The Byava Bahis refer to various rates of interest and private debts and credit accounts of the States.

The archival records of Jodhpur consists of Bahis and Files. The Byava Bahis, as for example, contain accounts of the rites and ceremonies of royal marriages. The Haqiqat Bahis contain much raw material for the political, administrative, social, and cultural history of Marwar. The records pertaining to the economic aspects have much to say about trade-routes, famine, labour condition, export and import of the state. They are also informative regarding festivals of Holi, Teej, Gangor, Dashera, Diwali etc. the Havala Bahis refer to the units of administration and the concerning office holders like hakims, shiqdars, qanungos, thanayatolers, havaldars, chaudharies, etc. The Hat Bahis preserves notes on the purchase made for the imperial household, promotions and demotions of the officers and other details of income from the parganas. The Portfolio Files of Jodhpur contain original letters, drafts and notes addressed to the administrators of and the rulers of the States. These files make a valuable addition to the history of the inter-state relations in Rajasthan.

The Jaipur Archives contain several kinds of records. The Siyahah Hazurs supply a mine of information regarding the income and expenditure of the state, the puchase made, variety of articles manufactured etc. The Dastur Komvars contain names of persons employed by the state and the gifts given to them on several occasions. They also serve as service references. The Tojees records refer to all items of income and expenditure parganawise and datewise. There are also Tojees pertaining to the various departments of the states. The Archival records of Udaipur also have records like the Rojnamahs and Chopdas. The Dargah files of Ajmer, for example, refer to the system of education in the Dargah for the children of the Khadims, donations made and religious services attended etc. The century file No. (9) of Ajmer refers to 26 kinds of coins of different values and weights in use in Rajasthan.


Illustrated Manuscripts and Paintings

The Rajasthani paintings which are found in huge collections at various museums, art galleries and private collections of the state are
important landmark in his historical studies. They not only represent the typical styles of different schools of the art, beauty they also stand as testimony of the age to which they belong. Right from the 12th to 18th century we come across several paintings which present Rajasthani culture inits true perspective, the account of which may be attempted through a few illustrated manuscripts and paintings. The Kalkacharya Kathas and the Kalpa Sutra manuscripts of private collections help us to study the life of the aristocrats, their dresses and ornaments from the 13th to 17th century. They also show the mode of living, equipments of the household and other aspect of life. Similarly the Bhavwat Purana MSS of Jodhpur and Udaipur may be used with profit to study the pattern of the house of the various classes of the people. The Ragini sets of Kota and Jaipur museums paint ladies with dresses and ornaments peculiar to their status. The Arsha Ramayan of the Saraswati Bhawan, Udaipur depicts the scenes of the town life, village life and life in hermitages. The illustrations of war and method of fighting by the footmen and charioteers of that age. Moreover, the manuscript is very important as regards the study of the costumes and ornaments of the ladies and men of different standard.


Rajasthan Information: History - Culture - Heritage - Music - Dance - Art - Architecture - Society

Sources of the History and Culture of Rajasthan
(From earliest times up to 1200 A.D.)

Rajput - Muslims Relations
 (1200 – 1526 A.D.)

Architecture in Rajasthan (1200 – 1800 A.D.)

Kalibangan - the largest prehistoric site in Rajasthan

Excavations at Ahar (South Rajasthan)

Origin of the Rajputs

Origin of the Guhilas, their Rise and Bappa Rawal in Rajasthan

Moguls & Chauhans Resistance in Rajasthan

Rawal Ratan Singh of Rajasthan and his Resistance against the Turks

Maharana Kumbha (1433 – 1468) and his Political Achievements

Maharana Kumbha & his Cultural Achievements

Maharana Sanga & his Achievements (1508 – 1528 A.D.)

Rajasthani Paintings Schools

Merger of Rajput states in the Indian Union

Resistance of Mahararana Pratap of Mewar Against Akbar

Maratha - Rajputs Relations

Raja Man Singh of Amber

Rathore – Sisodia Alliance & Achievements of Raj Singh in Mewar

Role of Durga Dass Rathor in the history of Rajasthan

Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur , Mughals and Marathas

Rajasthan’s Cultural Heritage


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16 Days Cultural Rajasthan Tour

17 Days Colorful Rajasthan Tour

17 Days Vacations in Rajasthan

18 Days Rajasthan Tour Package

19 Days Rajasthan - North India Tour

28 Days Heritage Tour of Rajasthan

31 Days Holidays in Rajasthan

31 Days Rajasthan Wildlife Tour

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