Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev

History for UPSC (Civil Services) Prelims

UPSC : Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev

The document Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC (Civil Services) Prelims.
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Indian History is an essential part of General studies for any examination. So, knowledge of the subject is a must. Now, we will discuss it in detail and also we will see the questions asked since its inception till now. Comparison and analysis of previous year's questions are must for success. First of all, we will see the pattern of questions of the pre-1990 period.

The questions were as follows:

Question 1:Seleucus Nikator sent Megasthenes to the court of ?

Question 2:The Saka era is generally considered to have been started by .............?

Question 3:Rajatarangini, a book on the history of Kashmir’s Kings, was written by ...........?

Question 4:What philosophy is associated with Ramanuja?

Question 5:What was Khutba?

Question 6:Adi Granth was compiled in the age of which Guru?

Question 7:Akbar built Buland Darwaza to commemorate .............?

Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRevBuland Darwaja

Question 8:Which ruler ruled Delhi as the Lieutenant of the Khalifa?

Question 9:Which dynasty is associated with the construction of the Mahabalipuram rock temple?

Question 10:The father of local self-government is considered to be  .............?

Question 11:Lord Ripon is regarded to have been the father of local self-government in India.

Question 12:Who was the commander of the British troops in the Battle of Buxar (1764)?

Question 13:Who succeeded Dupleix as the Governor-General of the French possessions in India in 1754?

Question 14:Who set up the United Indian Patriotic Association in August 1888?

Question 15:Who was the first principal of M.A.O. College, Aligarh?

Question 16:Who was the president of the All India Trade Union Congress in 1920?

We feel that during this period the questions were simple and straight-forward. Questions were there more from the cultural history of India. Only cramming habit was enough for preparation. But as the pattern of questions changes from 1990 onwards, a thorough reading and understanding of the subject are very much necessary.

Before 1990 History part was very important for C.S. General Studies because the number of questions asked was more as compared to the following years. You can do well in G.S. if you are good at Science, Geography and Indian History. Now Indian History stands in the third place on the basis of a number of questions asked.

In the year 1991, some of the typical questions were:

Question 17:Kalhana’s Rajatarangini is a ............. ?

Question 18:Mitakshara is a book on .............?

Question 19:Ramanuja was born in .............?

Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRevRamanuja

In the post-1990 period, typical questions were: 

Question 20:Who was the leader of several anti-British revolts in Sambalpur?

Question 21:Which one of the following is a language of Balochistan but linguistically Dravidian?

Question 22:“Live well, as long as you live. Live well even by borrowings, for, once cremated, there is no ‘return.” This rejection of after-life is an aphorism of which of the following sects?

Question 23:In ancient Indian history, which of the following geographical feature denotes by ‘Ratnakara’?

Question 24:The name of the poet Kalidasa is mentioned in which of the following inscriptions?

Question 25:The Nagara, the Dravida and the Vesara are representing which of the following?

Question 26:Who among the following were famous jurists of medieval India?

1. Vijnanesvara
2. Hemadri
3. Rajasekhara
4. Jimutavahana

Choose the correct answer from the codes given below:

According to Mimamsa system of Philosophy, liberation is possible by means of the radical wing of the Congress party with Jawaharlal Nehru as one of its main leaders, founded the ‘Independence of India League’ in opposition to Bronze icons of Nataraja cast during the Chola period. This invariably show the deity with, the term ‘Yavanpriya’ mentioned in ancient ‘Sanskrit text denoted. 

Question 27:Which one of the following was an Emigree Communist Journal of M.N. Roy?

Question 28:Hooghly was used as a base for piracy in the Bay of Bengal by which of the following rulers?

Question 29:Who among the following is known for his work on medicine during the Gupta period?

Question 30:The Sufi saint who maintained that devotional music was one way of moving closer to God was

Question 31:Which of the following is denoted by the term apabhramsa used in medieval Sanskrit texts?

Question 32:Which one of the following texts of ancient India allows the divorce to a wife deserted by her husband?

Question 33:Who among the following was the first European to initiate the policy of taking part in the quarrels of Indian princes to acquire territories?

Question 34:The river most mentioned in early Vedic literature is:

Question 35:Who among the following led the Sarabandi (no tax) campaign of 1922?

Question 36:Which scripts of ancient India was written from right to left?

Question 37:The medieval Indian writer who refers to the discovery of America is:

Question 38:The famous dialogue between, Nachiketa and Yama is mentioned in which of the following writings?

Question 39:In Mahayana Buddhism, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was also known as:

Question 40:Which one of the following edict mentions the personal name of Ashoka?

Few matching type questions were there based on dynasty and their seats, committee on education, language spoken and their places.
Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRevEight-fold path

Question 41:Why most of the Greeks, Kushans and Shakas embraced Buddhism rather than Hinduism when they established their rules in India?

Question 42:The member of Shivaji's Ashtapradhan who looked after foreign affairs was:

Question 43:Which of the following Ashokan major rock edicts which tell us about the Sangam Kingdom include rock edicts?

Question 44:The loss of Qandahar was a big blow to the Mughal empire from the viewpoint of?

Question 45:Which of the following best explains the meaning of Fawazil in the Sultanate period?

Question 46:Which of the following was the first venture of Gandhi in all-India politics?

Question 47:The term ‘Aryan’ denotes which of the following races?

Question 48:Which one of the following ports handled the north Indian trade during the Gupta period?

Question 49:Abhinav Bharat' a secret society of revolutionaries was organised in 1904 by

Question 50:Which of the following was the Indo-Greek kingdom set up in northern Afghanistan at the beginning of the second century BC?

Mere collection of facts is not enough. You have to be very careful in synthesizing the facts and concepts and preservation of the synthesized product in your mind in chronological order is very important.
The pattern of questions in the year 2009 and 2019 was just the continuation of the process started in the post-1990 era. For this part concentrate yourself on the socio-cultural history of ancient and medieval India and on freedom struggle. Most of the questions are asked from the above field. Now we will discuss the chapters separately.

1. Indus Valley CivilisationAdvice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRevExtent of Indus valley civilizationThis chapter can be divided into the following heads :
(i) Origin
(ii) Extent
(iii) Major cities and their characteristics
(iv) The progress (economic, social, political, religious, and art and architecture)
(v) The decline
(vi) The survival and continuity

Generally, the questions are asked from the above heads. Now we will survey the last thirty-two years’ questions of Indian History. Before 1985 the pattern of the question was very simple. Direct questions were asked. But gradually the matching-type, two of the four options are correct or three of the four options are correct-type questions, and assertion and reasoning-type questions were asked.

  • In the year 1985 and 1986, the questions were asked on the findings of different objects—like rice husk and skeleton of horses.
  • In the year 1987, the examinees had to identify the Harappan script. The color of pottery was asked and had to identify the Harappan places marked on a map. In the following year, questions were on Harappan seals (made of), woven cloth and furrows (found at). 
  • In the year 1989 and 1990, the questions were from the causes of decline, weight, and measures, and different articles found at different Harappan cities or adjoining areas. 
  • From 1991 to 1998 the pattern was more or less the same. The questions were from the trade and commerce, causes of decline, art, animals found in the seals, evidence of the cultivation of wheat, barley and rice, Indian seals found in different foreign countries and import and export of different metal to and from different countries etc. Map questions become a regular phenomenon.
  • In 1996, the questions were: about a most westerly outpost of the Harappan Culture, A terracotta replica of a plow has been found at, the most common type of Harappan seal is, the city which was most extensive in the area etc.
  • In 1997, the questions were about the use of metal, the specialty of the Harappan city, matching questions about the city and its findings etc.
  • From 1998 to 2010, the pattern of questions was the same and from the above heads mentioned.
  • From 2011 onwards, conceptual questions in objectivity appeared. In 2011 the only question from this chapter was: It was predominantly a secular civilization and the religious element, though present, did not dominate the scene. During this period cotton was used for manufacturing textiles in India. What is right?
  • In 2012 there was no question from this head.
  • In 2013 one question was: Which characterize the people of Indus Civilization? They possess great palaces and temple, worship both male and female deities III. They employed horse-drawn chariot in warfare.
  • In 2014, 2015, 2016 there was no question from this topic.
  • In 2017 there was a question from this topic, actually, it was a comparison between Indus Valley civilization and Vedic culture. 

So far as ancient and medieval history is concerned focus on the cultural part of it i.e. philosophy, art and architecture, and literature. Comparative reading is the must. So we will cover the chapter with subjective material, objective questions, and some boxes, with special information keeping in mind the pattern of the UPSC. Our main thrust will be on the six heads written above.

2. Vedic Culture
In the Civil Services Preliminary Examination generally questions are asked from this chapter. Till 1989 the questions were straightforward like:

  • What was Vista ?
  • What was Bali ?
  • What did Gotra mean ? 
  • What was Yadav ?

Till then most of the questions were based on the economic and social system. But from 1990 onwards there was a shift in the pattern of questioning. 

Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev

Historical Vedic religion

The questions were asked from the geographical background of the Rigvedic Aryans, Tribal Wars, Religion, and literary works. For example

  • It was asked in 1990 that "The Rig Vedic Aryans had the knowledge of the sea is confirmed by.....", and one another question was: "What is Hota?". The same pattern is followed by 1995.
  • In 1996, the questions were: "A question about the Rig Vedic god Indra". During the period of the sutras, the Brahmanas were allowed to marry..... , Sudas belong to the tribes of ..... , The vedangas consist of, “A bard am I, my father is a leech, and my mother grinds corn”, this passage occurs in the... etc. 
  • In 1997 — In early Vedic period there were no regular land tax, The evidence of four varnas comes first from ..... , In the Boghazkoi inscription the Aryan gods were ..... , Which of the following were Vedic sabhas? 
  • From 1998-2010, the same pattern followed.
  • In 2011, there was a question on Dharma and Rita — Dharma was a conception of obligations and of the discharge of one's duties to oneself and to others and Rita was the fundamental moral law governing the functioning of the universe and all it contained.
  • In 2012, there was a question on the religions of Vedic Aryana on which it was based.
  • In 2014, the national motto of India Satyamev Jayate was taken from.
  • In 2017, a question was on the comparison of Indus Valley and Vedic Culture etc. 

Seeing the pattern of the questions we have decided to go into the minutest details. You have to keep so many things (macro and micro) in your mind, for that, the simple process is cramming. The conceptual questions are not expected from this chapter. Our main stress on this chapter will be on the socio-economic, geographical, and religious field including the literary activities.

3. The Sangam Age
This chapter is also important for Civil Services Preliminary examinations. We see a change of pattern from 1989 onwards. Before that, the focus was on the literature and economy only.

  • From literature, the literary works of different authors were included in the papers and also the subject matter of some prominent works was asked.
  • From the economy, the questions were mainly on trade and commerce, especially of metals and clothes. Sometimes they're used to be questions on the kings, cities, ports like Senguttuvan belonged to which dynasty, What was the important port in the eastern coast? etc.

Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRevSangam periodAt that time only the Gazetteer of India was enough for preparation (for this chapter). The change which we see from 1989 onwards is only to make the paper tougher so that they (UPSC) can screen easily. Now the questions are asked from a political condition, economy, geography, religion and even about the characters of prominent works like Manimekalai. 

The meaning of Tamil words used by the people of that period is also asked.


  • In 2016 you had to define the term Eripatti, Taniyurs and Ghatikas. 
  • From 2011, onwards emphasis on the  Chapter become less.

So from this chapter, you have to read anything from earth to sky. Be prepared for cramming. We have tried to cover-up this chapter in that way.

4. Religious Movements
Indus Civilization and Vedic culture, this chapter is also very important for Civil Services Prelims. From this chapter, generally one or two questions are asked. In this chapter also we discern a gradual change of the pattern of questions.

  • Actually, from 1985 to 1989, the pattern was more or less the same except 1986 when some unexpected questions were asked from this topic. 
  • Before 1990 the questions used to be very simple and direct, like, the Triratna of Jainism is, rules of Buddhist monastic discipline are contained in, the turning of the wheel symbolizes, Nirgrantha were associated with, many Jain texts were compiled at, etc. 

Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRevVedic civilization: Religious activityNowadays this sort of questions is not asked. Currently, the questions are generally based on the economy, literature, art and architecture, and philosophy. 

  • Example: Syadvada is the philosophy of; Arrange them chronologically: Buddha, Parsava, Mahavir, Bhadrabahu; The Sutta Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka, and Abhidhamma Pitaka contains etc. Sometimes even quotations are given like 

The living and the non-living, by coming into contact with each other, forge certain energies which bring about birth, death and various experiences of life; this process could be stopped and energies already forged destroyed, by a course of discipline leading to salvation.” 

It may be due to the concept of secular history. Read the history chronologically and comparatively. If you read the history in that way, we are sure, you can answer sixty percent of the questions without hindrance.

For rest of the part, you have to develop a cramming habit. We are preparing the material keeping in mind the above facts:

  • Till 1995 the question from this chapter was very complicated. But the questions of 1996 and 1997 were very simple and straightforward. Like what is Dharma chakra pravartana? According to Buddha how nirvana is achieved?
  • In the year 2011, there was a question on Jain Philosophy.
  • In 2012, the questions about Bhumisparsha Mudra of Buddha is an which trait was common to Jainism and Buddhism. 
  • In 2013, the question was about the concept of Nirvana of Buddhism and difference between the Chaityas and Viharas and on Jaina doctrines;
  • In 2014, a question was on painting based on Buddha's mahaparinirvana, another was on Buddhist history tradition and culture i.e Tabo monastery, Lhostsava Lhakhang temple and Alchi temple complete, and also one more question about the Kingdom associated with the life of Buddha. This question was again asked in 2015.
  • In 2016, a question was asked on the concept of Bodhisattva.
  • In 2017, there was a question on Sautrantika, Sammitiya and Sarvastivadins and Bodhisattva and Bodhisattva. Padmapani painting is found at Bhagavatism And Brahmanism.

This chapter was not so important for C.S. Prelims. Off and on we find some question from this topic. Only one or two questions were asked, sometimes the setter skipped this topic. But 1989 onwards this chapter is getting prominence. Mostly the questions are based on Saivism and Vaishnavism. 

The name of different gods, cults, their importance in different periods, the mention of different gods, cults etc. in the literary works, the avatars, name of the founders of the sects, teachings of different literary works and the philosophy of different sects are covered.
So, simply go through the chapter. Much stress is not needed. Keep in mind the above division of fields and try to cover the chapter accordingly. Enough material has been given for that.

5. The Mauryan Empire
This chapter was very important for C.S. Prelims. But nowadays lesser prominence. Questions are asked related to Buddha. The political question is avoided. After going through the question papers of the past thirty years we come to the conclusion that the pattern of questions is more or less the same. 

There is continuity in it with slight changes, like the matching questions, quotations and the political, social and economic conditions reflected through the literature of that period. We feel that the questions are generally centered around the personality and achievements of Ashoka. Secondly, it is the Megasthenese’s Indica and Kautilya’s Arthashastra. 

The other important portions are Rocks and Pillars inscribed by Ashoka, the religious texts of Buddhists and Jains, Puranas, architectural monuments and finally the dynastic history. To cover-up, the whole chapter in a few pages is not possible. 

Here we have tried to collect the most important and topical information for you. The subjective materials, objective questions and the information put in the boxes are collected from nine reputed books. Remember—each and every line is an information and that should be there in your mind.

6. Trade and Commerce in The Pre-Gupta and Gupta Period
This chapter is very important. Since 1990 onwards we are getting more questions from this topic. When we read this chapter, we also read the whole political, social and religious conditions of the Satavahanas, Indo-Greeks and the Guptas. 

It is very important for Continuity and systematization. Two simple readings of the two periods, Pre-Guptas and Guptas covering all the systems, are necessary. When the blueprint of the whole chapter is prepared in your mind, concentrate on the topic given in the syllabus and prepare it separately for the Prelims. We are covering the topic in that way only.

From this chapter, questions are generally asked on the coins (gold, silver, lead etc), cloth-making, silk-weaving, luxury articles, guilds, Roman-trade, the articles of import and export, and land-grants etc.  

Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev

Nowadays, focus is more on art architecture, painting and trade and commerce of this period. In 2012 one question was asked on Nagara, Dravida and Vesara style.
So concentrate yourself more on the above sub-heads. Remember—scientific approach in preparing history is very much needed. Here projection is more important than the absorption.

7. Agrarian Structure in The Post Gupta Period
This chapter is very important for C.S. Prelims because this period is regarded as an age of feudalism in Indian history. You may expect questions from this chapter which are very difficult to answer. It is because we do not prepare separately for this chapter.
The political, economic and religious history of Harsha is not included in the syllabus but often questions are asked from this chapter. So it will be wise to go through the achievements of Harsha.

Indian feudalism arose out of the womb of the Indian society and its origin lay in the course of the evolution of the Indian people. Its political essence lay in the organization of the whole administrative structure on the basis of land and its economic structure lay in the institution of serfdom. In India, feudalism meant ruralization of artisans and craftsmen and the emergence of a traditional Indian village community. So, our preparation should be concentrated on:

(i) Granting of land viz

  • Princes and members of the royal family.
  • Civil and military officers as payment for their services.
  • Priests and temples.
  • Fields on condition of supplying troops.
  • Vassal states.

(ii) Transfer of peasants

(iii) Extension of forced labour

(iv) Paucity of coins

(v) Abandonment of fiscal and criminal administration and growth of the obligation of the Samantas

(vi) And finally the produce and the taxation

Advice to the aspirants: Must Read (Part -1), History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRevCoins used in Gupta periodChanges in Social Structure of Ancient India

  • Society changes according to the nature of challenges it has to respond to and the requirements it has to answer. Ancient Indian social structure underwent numerous changes. 
  • These changes mainly related to the caste system, marriage, and position of women. It is not easy to mark the main contours and landmarks of changes in the social structure of ancient India because the social changes were not like the chronologically linked political changes. 
  • Some of the well-marked phases of change in the social structure of ancient India, however, are Rig Vedic to Later Vedic and the age of the Dharmasutras, the Buddhist, the Mauryan, post-Mauryan, the Kushana and the Gupta ages.
  • There is no authentic social history of ancient India and the vast corpus of secular and religious literature is our main source of information.

From this chapter, you may expect questions. As the questions are generally asked from the caste system, marriage and position of women in different phases, we will concentrate our study mainly on these topics. We will also throw light on social institutions, the position of labor and ashramas which are also important.

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