Literary sources in ancient Indian history – 3

Written Accounts of Foreign Writers and Travelers: The historical accounts written by the foreign writers and travelers are valuable source materials for the re-construction of ancient Indian history. The Greek, Chinese, Roman, and Muslims travelled India extensively and stayed here for a number of years. Their accounts are a fusion of personal observations and hearsay stories.
The accounts of Greek and Roman authors, such as Megasthenes, Arian, Curtius, Plutarch, Diodorus, Dionysics, etc., gave valuable information of India’s Contemporary situation. The Greek writer, Herodotus, had never been to India and yet his book has reference to the conquest of north-western India by the Persian emperor. It constituted the twentieth province of the empire of Darius, the Persian emperor.
• Megasthenes’ famous work, ‘Indika’, gives us with a valuable account of Indian state and society in the Maurya age.
• The value of the works of the Chinese historians and travelers on Indian history in the post-Maurya period is undeniable. Numerous facts have been collected from the writings of such Chinese travelers as Fa-Hien, Hiuen-Tsang, and It-Tsin etc.
• The contemporary political history of India, and, especially, the accounts on Buddhism, cannot be complete without the Chinese source materials. The Chinese historian, Tsu-Ma-Fien in his historical works presents abundant materials on India, in the first century B.C. He was known as Herodotus of China.
• The narratives left by Hiuen Tsang about the reign of Harshavardhana are highly valuable. Hiuen has given invaluable information regarding the social, economic and political condition of India during the reign of Harsha.
• Alberuni, the celebrated Muslim scholar left an account on India. The work is comprehensive portrayal of the contemporary political and social conditions of the country.