Test: UPSC Prelims (Past Year Questions) Ancient History 2015-20

25 Questions MCQ Test | Test: UPSC Prelims (Past Year Questions) Ancient History 2015-20

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With reference to the cultural history of India, which one of the following is the correct description of the term ‘paramitas’? (2020)

Solution: These are 10 perfections, including generosity, compassion etc. on the completion of which one gets nearer the path of a Bodhisattva.


With reference to the Scholars/literatures of ancient India, consider the following statements: (2020)

1. Panini is associated with Pushyamitra

2. Amarsimha is associated with Harshavardhana

3. Kalidasa is associated with chandragupta-II

Which of the above given statements is/are correct-

Solution: S1: Pushyamitra Shunga ruled c. 185 – c. 149 BCE, but Panini is dated to about 4th BCE. So, 1 is wrong. Also, as you would see below, since 2 is correct,

S2: Amarasimha (IAST: Amara-siṃha, c. CE 375) was a Sanskrit grammarian and poet from ancient India, of whose personal history hardly anything is known. He is said to have been “one of the nine gems that adorned the throne of Vikramaditya, not Harshavardhana.

S3: The noted Sanskrit poet Kalidasa is said to be the court poet of Chandragupta II.


With reference to the religious history of India, consider the following statements:

1. Sthaviravadins belong to mahayana Buddhism

2. Lokottaravadin sect was an offshoot of Mahasanghika sect of Buddhism

3. The deification of Buddha by Mahasanghikas fostered the mahayana Buddhism

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (2020)

Solution: S1: They were Theravadins.

S2: The Mahāsāṃghikas school was first located in the area of Vaiśālī and spread also to southern India, with centres at Amarāvatī and Nāgārjunakoṇḍa. Its texts were written in Prākrit. It further divided into several subsects, of which the best known was the Lokottaravāda (so called because of its views on lokottara). The Lokottaravāda was one of the early Buddhist schools according to Mahayana doxological sources compiled by Bhāviveka, Vinitadeva and others

S3: The Mahāsaṅghikas believed in a plurality of buddhas who are supramundane (lokottara) and held that what passed for Gautama Buddha in his earthly existence was only an apparition.


Consider the following events in the history of India:

1. Rise of Pratiharas under king Bhoja

2. Establishment of pallava power under Mahendravarman-I

3. Establishment of Chola power under Parantaka-I

4. Pala dynasty founded by Gopala

What is the correct chronological order of the above events, Starting from the earliest time? (2020)

Solution: S1: This was about mid 8-9th CE.

S2: Mahendravarman I reigned in early 7th CE as a Pallava king over the present day Andhra region and Northern regions of what forms present-day Tamil Nadu.

S3: Parantaka I reigned 907– c. 953.

S4: Gopala ruled c. 750s–770s CE.


With reference to the history of India, the terms Kulyavapa and dronavapa denote (2020)

Solution: According to epigraphic evidence, we have references of measurement units such as – “Kulyavapa”, “dronavapa”, “adhavapa” and “Pataka” from Bengal, nivratana” and “bhumi” from Central India and “nivartana and “padavarta” from Western India.


Who among the following rulers advised his subjects through this inscription? “Whosoever praises his religious sect or blames other sects out of excessive devotion to his own sect, with the view of glorifying his own sect, he rather injures his own sect very severely ” (2020)

Solution: Factual, but not hard to eliminate given Ashoka’s closeness with the spreading of dhamma and religious tolerance.


With references to the history of India, consider the following pairs:

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched? (2020)

Solution: S1: For e.g. Bhilsa topes about Bhilsa is a famous work on this site in MP.

S2: Dwarasamudra was in Karnataka, as a regal capital of the Hoysalas.

S3: This is straightforward.

S4: This is in Haryana. As of now, it is known to host a monastic cluster. Sthanesvara Mahadev Temple is also at Thanesar. It was here that the Pandavas prayed to Lord Shiva.


With reference to the period of Gupta dynasty in ancient India, the towns Ghantasala, kadura and Chaul were well known as (2020)


Which one of the following is not a Harappan site? (2019)

Solution: The Sohgaura copper plate inscription is an Indian copper plate inscription written in Prakrit in the Brahmi script. It was discovered in Sohgaura, a village on the banks of the Rapti River, about 20km south-east of Gorakhpur, in the Gorakhpur District, Uttar Pradesh.


Consider the following: (2019)

1. Deification of the Buddha

2. Treading the path of Bodhisattvas

3. Image worship and rituals

Which of the above is/are the feature/ features of Mahayana Buddhism?

Solution: Straightforward question. All three are major features. Buddhas and bodhisattvas are central elements of Mahāyāna. Mahāyāna’s vastly expanded cosmology, with various Buddhas and bodhisattvas residing in different worlds and buddha-fields. This is shown through the depiction of buddhas and bodhisattvas through image worship and rituals in monasteries and viharas.


With reference to forced labour (Vishti) in India during the Gupta period, which one of the following statements is correct? (2019)


Building ‘Kalyaana Mandapas’ was a notable feature in the temple construction in the kingdom of (2019)

Solution: Kalyaana Mandapas were halls used for marriage or other ceremonies in Vijayanagara empire.


Consider the following statements:

1. Saint Nimbarka was a contemporary of Akbar.

2. Saint Kabir was greatly influenced by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (2019)

Solution: Nimbarka, was a Hindu philosopher and commentator, known for propagating the Vaishnava doctrine of bhedabheda dvaitadvaita, duality in unity. According to the Vedic scriptures, he was born in 3096 B.C.E., but modern historical research places him in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. So, 1 is clearly wrong.


With reference to Mian Tansen, which one of the following statements is not correct? (2019)

Solution: The title of ‘Tansen ‘ was given by Raja Vikramjit Singh of Gwalior. Akbar gave the title of ‘Mian’.


With reference to the religious practices in India, the “Sthanakvasi” sect belongs to (2018)

Solution: Sthānakavāsī is a sect of Śvētāmbara Jainism founded by a merchant named Lavaji in 1653 AD. It believes that idol worship is not essential in the path of soul purification and attainment of Nirvana/Moksha. The sect is essentially a reformation of the one founded on teachings of Lonka, a fifteenth-century Jain reformer. Sthānakavāsins accept thirty-two of the Jain Agamas, the Śvētāmbara canon. Śvētāmbarins who are not Sthānakavāsins are mostly part the Murtipujaka sect.


With reference to Indian history, who among the following is a future Buddha, yet to come to save the world? (2018)

Solution: Maitreya is regarded as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, he is referred to as Ajita. According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor to the present Buddha, Gautama Buddha (also known as Śākyamuni Buddha). The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya refers to a time in the future when the dharma will have been forgotten by most on the terrestrial world Maitreya has also been adopted for his millenarian role by many non-Buddhist religions in the past, such as the White Lotus, as well as by modern new religious movements, such as Yiguandao.


With reference to the difference between the culture of Rigvedic Aryans and Indus Valley people, which of the following statements is/are correct?

1. Rigvedic Aryans used the coat of mail and helmet in warfare whereas the people of Indus Valley Civilization did not leave any evidence of using them.

2. Rigvedic Aryans knew gold, silver and copper whereas Indus Valley people knew only copper and iron.

3. Rigvedic Aryans had domesticated the horse whereas there is no evidence of Indus Valley people having been aware of this animal.

Select the correct answer using the code given below: (2017)

Solution: Statement 2: The Indus valley people knew the use of copper, bronze, silver, gold but not iron. So, 2 is wrong.

Statement 1: The Ramayana mentions chariots covered with leather. The Rig Vedic charioteers used varma (coats of mail) and sipra/sironastra (helmets). Equipped with asi (swords), hanas (arrows) and ilhianus (bows), the Kshatriyas on the chariots went to combat. Since statement 2 is wrong, given the options 1 must be correct.

Statement 3: The Rig Veda mentions horse-drawn chariots with spoked wheels. But there is very little archaeological evidence of horses during the Harappan era and none at all earlier. The existence of the Harappan horse is a hotly disputed topic among archaeologists. To say that “there is no evidence of Indus Valley people having been aware of this animal” is WRONG because there is no conclusive evidence that tells us whether they knew about horses, or whether they were aware of horses. We have insufficient evidence to claim anything about the connection between horses and Indus valley. Statement 3 is thus incorrect.


Which one of the following was a very important seaport in the Kakatiya kingdom? (2017)

Solution: There is dispute whether the answer should be B, C or D. Option B: Some texts suggest that Motupalli, now in the Krishna district, was an important sea-port in the kingdom of Ganpati (an important Kakatiya ruler), frequented by foreign merchants.

Option C: Marco Polo, who visited India probably some time around 1289–1293, made note of Rudrama Devi’s (a Kakatiya ruler) rule and nature in flattering terms. Marco Polo referred to the kingdom as Mutfili, which was the name for the area around a major port of the dynasty, now known as Masulipatnam. But, Marco Polo’s reference may actually be to Motupalli (Mutfilli). So, C is incorrect.

Option D: Nellore (a port town) was part of kakatiya kingdom in the 13th century. It changed hands between them and Pandyas few times until Prataprudra II defeated Pandyas. However, this does not seem as important as Motupalli. Answer will be B.


With reference to the religious history of India, consider the following statements:

1. Sautrantika and Sammitiya were the sects of Jainism.

2. Sarvastivadin held that the constituents of phenomena were not wholly momentary, but existed forever in a latent form.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (2017)

Solution: Statement 1: These are sects of Buddhism.

Statement 2: While, like all Buddhists, the Sarvastivadins consider everything empirical to be impermanent, they maintain that the dharma factors are eternally existing realities. The dharmas are thought to function momentarily, producing the empirical phenomena of the world, which is illusory, but to exist outside the empirical world.


With reference to the religious history of India, consider the following statements :

1. The concept of Bodhisattva is central to Hinayana sect of Buddhism.

2. Bodhisattva is a compassionate one on his way to enlightenment.

3. Bodhisattva delays achieving his own salvation to help all sentient beings on their path to it.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (2016)

Solution: Statement 1: It is central to the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. In non-Mahayana Buddhism, it usually refers either to Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, or to the historical Buddha Gautama prior to his enlightenment. Statement 2 and 3: A bodhisattva is literally a living being (sattva) who aspires to enlightenment (bodhi) and carries out altruistic practices. The bodhisattva ideal is central to the Mahayana Buddhist tradition as the individual who seeks enlightenment both for him- or herself and for others. Clearly 2 is correct.

1. Compassion, an empathetic sharing of the sufferings of others, is the bodhisattva’s greatest characteristic.

2. It is held that the bodhisattva makes four vows expressing a determination to work for the happiness of others: “However innumerable sentient beings are, I vow to save them; however inexhaustible the passions are, I vow to master them; however limitless the teachings are, I vow to study them; however infinite the Buddha-truth is, I vow to attain it.”

3. Clearly 3 is correct.


In the context of the history of India, consider the following pairs:

Term : Description

(1) Eripatti : Land, revenue from which was set apart for the maintenance of the village tank

(2) Taniyurs : Villages donated to a single Brahmin or a group of Brahmins

(3) Ghatikas : Colleges generally attached to the temples

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?


Solution: Statement 1: A special category of land Eripatti or tank land, was known only in south India, This was land donated by individuals, the revenue from which was set apart for the maintenance of’ the village tank, which indicates the dependence of the village on the tank for irrigation.

Statement 2: Taniyurs were distinct revenue units under Cholas.

Statement 3: In South India centres of higher learning were known as Ghatikas. There was a famous Ghatika at Kanchi, drawing students from far and near. These Ghatikas were run in temples.


With reference to the cultural history of India, the memorizing of chronicles, dynastic histories and Epictales was the profession of who of the following? (2016)

Solution: Excerpts from Romila Thapar, Ancient India, “The memorizing of chronicles, dynastic histories, or epic tales was the work of a group of people, the sutas and magadhas.”


Regarding the taxation system of Krishna Deva, the ruler of Vijayanagar, consider the following statements:

1. The tax rate on land was fixed depending on the quality of the land.

2. Private owners of workshops paid an industries tax.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (2016)

Solution: Statement 1: Land revenue was the chief source of income. Land was divided into four categories for purposes of assessment, wet land, dry land, orchards and woods. Usually the share was one sixth of the produce. Land revenue could be paid in cash or kind. The rates varied according to the type of the crops, soil, method of irrigation, etc. So, 1 is clearly correct.

Statement 2: Besides land tax, many professional taxes were also imposed. There were on shopkeepers, farm servants, workmen, posters, shoemakers, musicians etc. There was also a tax on property. Grazing and house taxes were also imposed. Commercial taxes consisted of levies, duties and customs on manufactured articles of trade were also levied. Private owners of workshops paid an industries tax, which means 2 is correct.


Which one of the following books of ancient India has the love story of the son of the founder of Sunga dynasty? (2016)

Solution: It is a Sanskrit play by Kalidasa. It is based on some events of the reign of Pushyamitra Shunga. The play tells the story of the love of Agnimitra, the Shunga Emperor at Vidisha, for the beautiful hand-maiden of his chief queen.


With reference to Indian history, which of the following is/are the essential elementary elements of the feudal system?

1. A very strong centralized political authority and a very weak provincial or local political authority

2. Emergence of administrative structure based on control and possession of land

3. Creation of lord-vassal relationship between the feudal lord and his overlord Select the correct answer using the code given below. (2015)

Solution: The terms feudalism and feudal system were generally applied to the early and central Middle Ages—the period from the 5th century, when central political authority in the Western empire disappeared, to the 12th century, when kingdoms began to emerge as effective centralized units of government Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour (lord-vassal relationship). Use of the term feudalism to describe India applies a concept of medieval European origin, according to which the landed nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villeins or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection. The term Indian feudalism is an attempt to classify Indian history according to a European model. Feudalism, in its various forms, usually emerged as a result of the decentralization of an empire: especially in the Carolingian empires which both lacked the bureaucratic infrastructure necessary to support cavalry without the ability to allocate land to these mounted troops.

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