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Ancient India: Customs and Practices

Early Societies

  • The earliest inhabitants of India were hunters and gatherers.
  • The shift from a nomadic lifestyle to settled communities occurred with the introduction of agriculture.
  • This transition marked the beginning of village life.
  • Villages started to develop as a result of settled agricultural practices.
  • The skills of the inhabitants led to the planning and construction of cities, giving rise to civilizations like the Indus Valley Civilization.
  • Over time, people organized themselves into large kingdoms.
  • Central administrations were established to govern these kingdoms effectively.

Early Indian Regions


    • Earliest inhabitants: skilled gatherers.
    • Proficient in identifying plants and collecting roots, fruits.
    • Engaged in hunting animals for food.

Sulaiman and Kirthar Hills (Current Sindh):

    • Early cultivation of crops (wheat, barley) around 8000 years ago.
    • Commenced animal rearing practices.

Garo Hills & Vindhya:

    • Region where agriculture developed.
    • Introduction of rice cultivation to the north of the Vindhyas.


    • About 4700 years ago, witnessed the flourishing of some of the earliest cities.

Son (Ganga tributary):

    • Magadha rulers established a powerful kingdom in the region.

Early Human Sites and Tool Development

  • Factory Sites:
    • Places where stone was found and tools were crafted.
  • Habitation-cum-factory:
    • Some sites served as both living spaces and tool-making centers.
  • Kurnool Site (Current Andhra Pradesh):
    • Traces of ash discovered, indicating familiarity with the use of fire.
  • Paleolithic Period:
    • 2 million to 12,000 years ago.
    • Divided into Lower, Middle, and Upper Palaeolithic.
    • Encompasses 99% of human history.
    • Importance lies in the discovery of stone tools.
  • Mesolithic Period:
    • 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.
    • Environmental changes influence this period.
    • Stone tools become tiny, termed microliths.
    • Microliths likely attached to bone or wood handles for tools like saws and sickles.
    • Coexistence of older tool varieties.
  • Ostrich in India (Palaeolithic Period):
    • At Patne in Maharashtra, large quantities of shells found.
    • Some shells display engraved designs.

Changing life and Gradual Settlement: Food, Agriculture, Tools

  • Changing Climate:
    • The world’s climate was undergoing changes, influencing both plants and animals used as food.
  • Agricultural Practices:
    • People began to look after and grow plants, marking the emergence of farmers.
  • Animal Domestication:
    • The first animal to be tamed was the wild ancestor of the dog.
    • Later, relatively gentle animals like sheep, goats, and cattle were domesticated.
    • People who protected these animals from wild attacks were known as herders.
  • Gradual Domestication:
    • Domestication was a gradual process, initiating about 12,000 years ago.
  • Burzahom (Kashmir):
    • In Burzahom (present-day Kashmir), people built pit-houses, dug into the ground with steps leading into them.
    • These pit-houses may have provided shelter, especially in cold weather.
  • Neolithic Tools:
    • Stone tools from these sites differed from earlier Palaeolithic tools, earning them the term Neolithic.
    • Many kinds of earthen pots have been discovered at these sites.
  • Hunters and Gatherers:
    • Despite domestication, some places continued to have hunters and gatherers.
  • Combining Activities:
    • In some cases, people attempted to combine hunting, gathering, and early agricultural activities.

Culture of Early Human Societies

  • Farmers and Herders:
    • Many farmers and herders live in groups known as tribes.
  • Role of Women:
    • Women play a significant role in agricultural work, including preparing the ground.
  • Child Involvement:
    • Children often participate by looking after plants and driving away animals.
  • Leadership Roles:
    • Some men are regarded as leaders, varying from experienced elders to young, brave warriors or priests.
  • Cultural Traditions:
    • Tribes have rich and unique cultural traditions, often having their own gods and goddesses.


  • Mehrgarh Site

    • Located near Bolan Pass in current Balochistan, a crucial route into Iran.
    • One of the earliest villages known, where people learned to grow barley and wheat and rear sheep and goats.
    • Transition from hunting to herding evident in the excavation findings.
    • Remains of square or rectangular houses discovered.
    • Belief in some form of life after death reflected in burial grounds.
  • Daojali Hading

    • Site located in hills near the Brahmaputra Valley.
    • Stone tools, including mortars and pestles, indicate an agricultural lifestyle.
    • Use of jadeite, possibly brought from China.
    • Tools made of fossil wood also in usage.




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