Kosambi-a
well renowned mathematician- introduced multi-disciplinary approach in Indian
Historiography. His profile as historian also credited with two other books- An Introduction to the Study of Indian
History and Myth and Reality.  The
Culture and Civilisation of Ancient India in Historical Outline is a remarkably
unique work on cultural history of India. The main features of the Indian
character and the standard stages of man’s progress are traced as the natural
outgrowth of a historical process from the primitive states to later stages in
a scholarly fashion yet not making the narrative heavy.

Kosambi traced Indian history from primitive ages,
taking Indian civilization as a base line for the study. He had
adopted prism of cultural history – stretching canvas of cultural history as
presentation in chronological order of successive changes in the means and relations
of production- to study the two most striking features of Indian civilisation
i.e., continuity and unity. His Marxist approach strikes from the beginning to
the reader, as he reciprocated the formation of cultural in the availability of
surplus food supply, depending on the moods of production. It manifested an
agenda to comprehend culture and civilization with relation to the production;
a theoretically diverse perspective from the understanding of cultural by the
orthodox historians. While criticizing the existing historiography as episodic
history or romantic fiction, he had adopted the qualitative approach for the
analysis of data, coupled with comparative study of the

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On border aspect, Kosambi narrative about the
culture and civilization of Ancient India seemed to solely concern with the
issue of identity formation of the Hindu. He indicated a unique survival and
expansion of the pre-historic social character and cultural pattern in the
modern industrial society. Talking about the nature of acculturation in India,
he tries to link the development or what we may call transformation or
promotion of prehistoric man into an Indus civilization. Tribal cultivation,
emergence of deities and gods for psychological satisfaction, and caste system
altogether served as a catalyst which led to the appearance of the first Indian
city during the first millennium B.C. As Prehistoric civilization of Indus
valley moved to Gangetic valley, a historical gap of over 600 years between the
end of the Indus civilization and the beginning of new Indian cities during
Aryans, drawn his attention. Kosambi tries to trace the continuity of the
missing urban cultural, which had once witnessed well planned and organized
civic life, through interpretation of Rigveda, as an authority, along with the
archaeological excavations. His approach to an extent is acceptable until the
Sanskrit texts are indecipherable.

He regarded Buddhism as an only social religion
which had witnessed the historical cycle of rise and growth of Indian empires
till 1500 years. Although during the first dictatorial absolute monarchy of
Magadhans Buddhist moral philosophies were to a great extent superseded by the
Arthsastran political philosophy, being a standard justification of its
imperial motives. During Ashoka’s time it’s regained its power as state owned
religion. It is pertinent to note, Ashoka’s 
inclination towards Buddhism didn’t hinder in his performance to the
state affairs, as Kosambi rightly mentioned the details.The Mauryan Empire had
enjoyed further socio-cultural and political progress headed towards the
brahmanical reaction and declined of Buddhism. The appearance of small scale
village production instead of tribal or commodity production played a vital
role. After which the indianized version of feudalism had emerged with support
of Hinduism. This process continued till the Arabs invasion.

The overall book is informative and gives unique
taste of cultural history other than political history of Ancient India. Kosambi
dealing with religion, art and literature as a medium to comprehend
socio-economic structure was remarkable. Though, while presenting his vision
coupled with Marxist ideology, he became skeptic of the psychological impact of
ideas on the growth of Ancient character. His attitude towards caste system as
baseless and debased system and worst form of superstition, showed his
deliberate negligence towards the idea of spirit of the ages. Moreover, despite
having flaws, caste system emerged out of the psychological needs of the
ancient Indians.  In addition to it,
while dealing with Buddhism he portrayed the purpose of Buddhist teachings were
to maintain social and economic balance. No doubt it had maintained social
order as its ‘unintended outcome’ but its primary motive was the attainment of
Nirvana. The language is quite simple but interpretation is quite philosophical
which sometimes bitter the taste of reading.

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