important terms ancient, medival, modern india

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Terms/Glossary Meaning
Agnikula Certain Rajput clans who claim to have emerged from Yajna Havana-Kunda.
Agrahara Donation of land or taxes from a village by the king to the learned brahmans./ Tax-free villages granted to the learned Brahmanas in ancient India were known as Agrahara.
Ajivika A heterodox sect closer to Jainism which flourished at the time of the Buddha
Akot A town, about 42 km from Akola, from where a stone idol of Lord Adinath, the first Jain Teerthankara, was found in 1993
Amarasimha was one of the nine gems in the court of the legendary Vikramaditya. His work Amarkosha occupies a dominant position in Sanskrit lexicography.
Amatya Official designation for a high official used right from the Mauryan Period.
Amoghavarsha-I The long ruling Rashtrakuta king (A.D. 814-78). He represented the height of development of his dynasty.
Aranyakas Vedic texts, traditionally composed by hermits.
Artha Prosperity and well-being, one of the four aims of life of a Hindu.
Arthashastra A treatise on polity by Kautilya, belonging to the Mauryan period.
Asanga A Buddhist philosopher. He was the origi­nator of Buddhist Yogachara idealism.
Ashramas The four stages of life; also a place where hermits live.
Ashvaghosha The spiritual adviser of Kanishka (the Kushan emperor) who took a leading part in the Fourth Buddhist Council at Srinagar which was presided by Vasumitra. He was a renowned Mahayana Sanskrit scholar and author of Sariputra-prakarana and Buddha Charitam. He was the greatest literary figure at Kanishka’s court.
Atisa Dipankara The most famous teacher of Vikramasila university founded in A.D. 810 by king Dharmapala of Pala dynasty.
Ayukta Designation of an officer frequently used in the Mauryan period.
Battle of San Thomas This battle during the Carnatic Wars (1746-61) definitely proved for the first time the superiority of European arms and discipline over the traditional Indian methods of warfare.
Battle of Waihand was fought between Mahmud Ghaznavi and jaipala
Bhagavata A sect devoted to Lord Vishnu.
Bhaskaravarman The king of Kamarupa (Upper Assam). He was a contempo­rary of king Sasanka of Gauda and was his arch-enemy. Bhaskaravarman was the east­ern ally of king Harsha.
Bhukti An administrative unit of a kingdom in the Gupta period.
Bilhana A Sanskrit historian and poet born in Kashmir. He left Kashmir about A.D. 1065 and became the court poet at Kalyana where he wrote an epic, Vikramadeva-charita to celebrate the reign of Vikramaditya-VI, the Chalukya king of Kalyana
Blue Water Policy The “Blue Water” policy is attrib­uted to Don Francisco de Almeida, the first Viceroy of the Portuguese possessions in India. His “Blue Water” policy was to be powerful at the sea instead of building fortresses on Indian land.
Bodhisattva A person who attains nirvana by working for the welfare of the world and voluntarily postpones release from rebirth; also regarded as an incarnation of the Buddha, prior to his own birth in the world
Boghaz Koi inscriptions are important in Indian history because inscriptions of the four­teenth century B.C. discovered here mention the names of Vedic gods and mentioned god and godesses are move towards east.
Brahmacharin Celibate studentship, the first of the four stages (Ashramas) of life.
Brahmagupta (598-660) of Ujjain, was a great mathemati­cian of his time.
Brahmanas Vedic texts dealing with rituals and sacrifice.
Brahui A language of Baluchistan. Linguistically, it is Dravidian.
Busa Munda Revolt occurred in Bihar.
Catching the butterflies and setting them free The prominent feature of the foreign policy of Samudragupta.
Chaitya A sacred enclosure. The term is also used for a Buddhist place of worship.
Chandernagore A French possession before its merger with India.
Charvaka Charvaka is known as the greatest of the materialistic philosophers of ancient India./A religious sect following a materialist philosophy.
Chauth A tax levied by Marathas—a contribution exacted by a military leader, which was justified by the exi­gencies of the situation
Coinage in Ancient India Coins in ancient India were made of metal—copper, silver, gold, or lead. Nishka and Satamana in the Vedic texts were taken to be names of coins, but they seem to be only prestige objects. Coins made of metal first appeared in the age of Gautama Buddha. The earliest were made largely of silver though a few copper coins also appear. Coins made of burnt clay belong to the Kushan peri­od i.e., the first three Christian centuries.
Dadu The saint from Gujarat who preached non-sec­tarianism in medieval times. He founded the “Brahma-Sampardaaya” (the sect of Brahma)
Dahar (or Dahir) The Brahmana king of Sind who was defeated by the Arab inva­sion in A.D. 712 by Mohammad­bin-Kasim, nephew and son-in­law of al-Hajjaj, governor of Irak. The Indian ruler (Dahar) offered a brave resistance in the battle near Raor but was defeat­ed and killed.
Darius The Iranian ruler who penetrated into north-west India in 516 B.C. and annexed Punjab, west of Indus, and Sindh
Devadana Donated revenue assigned to a temple.
Devapala (A.D. 830-850) was successor to Dharmapala, the famous Pala ruler. He estab­lished the third important Pala university of Somapura. He shifted his capital to Monghyr from where he maintained diplomatic relations with the Sailendra kings of Sumatra.
Dhammapada The first major work to say that sal­vation by means of devotion is open to humans regardless of birth, gender or station in life
Dharma Piety, Morality – a way of life.
Dharmachakra In the Gandhara art, it is the preaching mudra associated with the Buddha’s First Sermon at Sarnath
Dharmasastras Texts on laws relating to society and religious observances of the Hindus.
Digambara A Jain sect whose followers do not believe in keeping even a small piece of cloth on themselves.
Doab The area between two rivers.
Dvija The twice-born; referring to the first birth which is the physical birth and the second the initiation into educational status.
First metal used by man Copper.
First Muslim invaders of India Arabs were the first Muslim invaders of India.
First Sultan of Delhi was Qutb-ud-din who succeeded Muhammad Ghuri as sovereign of the new Indian conquests, and from 1206 may be reckoned as the first Sultan of Delhi
First to issue gold coins in India Mauryas.
First to set up department of agriculture Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq was the first to set up a department of agriculture in India.
First to start sea trade with India Portugal.
Garbhagriha The sanctum of the Hindu temple.
Gautamiputra Satakarni The great king of Satavahana dynasty.
Gayatri mantra is con­tained in Rig Veda.
Gayatrimantra The verses of the RigVeda wherein the request has been made to illuminate one’s mind with knowledge.
Gopuram It has been the main feature of the South Indian temple architecture.
Grama A village.
Hasan Gangoo entitled Zafar Khan was founder of the Bahmani kingdom in Deccan.
Hinayana One of the two major Buddhist sects.
Ibadat Khana A build­ing at Fatehpur Sikri where Akbar held discussions on reli­gious matters.
Ibn-Batuta A great scholar and traveller from South Africa who came to India in A.D. 1333 during the reign of Mohammad Tughlak and wrote about him.
Iqta It was the land-grant system adopted by Ala-ud-din Khilji to grant his officers as reward for services rendered. Qutabuddin Aibak was assigned the first iqta in India by Mohd of Ghor.
Jati Family or a group of people defined by their profession.
Jimutavahana A famous jurist of medieval India (fifteenth century). His work Dayabhaga is a commentary on the srutis, specially on Manu.
Kalachuri era counted from A.D. 248, it was mostly current in Central India. Their capital was Tripuri near Jabalpur. Kalachuris were the feudatories of the Pratiharas but soon acquired independence.
Kaliyuga The fourth and final age of the aeon.
Kalpa A day- of Brahma equivalent to 4,320 million earth years.
Karma Action or deed, and also the theory of conditioning one’s future births by the deeds of the present or the previous lives.
Karshapana The most commonly used coin in the Chola kingdom.
Kayastha A jati associated with revenue records, first found in the Mauryan period and frequently mentioned in the medieval period
Kharoshthi A script in which Ashokan inscription of Shahbazgari and

Manashera are written.

Khiraj The land tax imposed by Mohd-bin-Qasim after the Arabs’ occupation of Sind.
Kottom An administrative unit.
Kula The clan or extended family.
Kumaramatya An official designation of a high official.
Magazines started by National leaders Young India (M.K. Gandhi); Kesari (B.G. Tilak); New India (Annie Besant); Bengali (S.N. Bannerji).
Mahakshatrapa ‘Great governor’, a title taken by rulers, mainly by Saka


Maharajadhiraja ‘Great king of kings’, an imperial title.
Mandalam An administrative unit, frequently used in south India.
Maski Rock edict This minor Rock-edict is the only edict in which Ashoka refers to himself as the king of Magadha.
Matha A centre of education attached to a temple or religious


Matsyanyaya A political theory where, in a state of anarchy, the strong

devour the weak.

Maya Illusion.
Moksha Release from the cycle of rebirth.
Moplah Rebellion broke out in Malabar (Kerala) in August 1921.
Nadu An administrative unit, frequently used in south India.
Nagara Style of temple architecture developed in central and

northern India.

Nastaliq A Persian script used in medieval India.
Nauroj festival in India Balban introduced the famous Persian festival of Nauroj in India.
Nicolo Conti The Italian foreign traveller who vis­ited Vijayanagar about A.D. 1420 during the reign of Deva Raya-II.
Nirvana Release from the cycle of rebirth.
Nishaka The term used for a coin.
Palas who controlled most of Bengal and Bihar, was the third power involved in the three-sided conflict between Rashtrakutas and Pratiharas over the control of Kanauj. Pala dynasty was established by Gopala in the eighth century A.D. He attained renown from the fact that he was not hereditary king but was elected.
Pali A Sanskrit-based language in which the Buddhist

scriptures were recorded in Ceylon.

Pana A term used for coin.
Paragana During the rule of the so-called Slave dynasty in India, the empire was divided into provincial units called Paraganas placed under the charge of a military officer.
Pasupata A Saivite sect.
Prakrit This language received royal patronage during the reign of Satavahanas.
Puranas The Hindu text containing the history of various dynasties.

Purohita Chief priest.

Rajsekhar The Sanskrit poet who lived in the court of Mahendrapala-I.
Rajuka An official designation used in the Mauryan period.
Rashtra Country
Ratika or rati is a weight between 1.5 to 3 Gunjas; between 5 to 8 grains of rice. It was the basic weight (measure) in ancient India.
Ratnakara denoted the Arabiasn Sea in ancient Indian historical geography.
Rishabha is supposed to be the mythical founder of Jainism.
Sabha An assembly of a few select ones/elders first found in the RigVeda.
Samiti A larger assembly.
Samkhya One of the six major schools of philosophy in ancient India.
Sangam The earliest phase of Tamil literature.
Sardeshmukhi An additional levy of 10%, which Shivaji demanded on the basis of his claim as the hereditary Sardeshmukh (chief headman) of Maharashtra.
Satamana A silver coin which weighed about 180 grains.
Sati A virtuous woman; one who has immolated herself on the funeral pyre of her husband.
Senapati Commander of the army.
Shahrukh It was silver coin of the Mughals.
Sharada script The Kashmiri language was origi­nally written in Sharada script.
Shikhara Tower surmounting a temple.
Shreni Guild, organisation of craftsmen and merchants.
Stupa Domical structure containing relics of the Buddha.
Subuktigin The first Turkish invader of India.
Svetambara One of the two major Jaina sects, which follows the code of wearing white clothes.
Tanka A silver coin of the Sultanate period of India.


Tantne A religious cult.
Tehqiq-i-Hind Alberuni’s work on India. It contains obser­vations on Indian civilization which are remarkably incisive and acute.
Theravada A Buddhist sect.
Turushkadanda A tax collected by the Gahadavalas during the early medieval India.
Upanishads The philosophical texts included in Vedic literature.
Vagbhata is regarded as unrivalled in his knowledge of the basic principles of Ayurveda.
Varna Four-fold division of Hindu society.
Vatapi (or Badami) now in the Bijapur district of Karnataka, where Pulakesin I, founder of the Chalukya dynasty in the middle of the sixth century, established him­self as lord of Vatapi or Badami (capital of Chalukyas). It is well-known for Chalukyan sculpture found in the cave temples here.
Vedanta One of the six major philosophical schools in ancient India.
Vidushaka the constant companion and confidant of the hero in Sanskrit dramas, was nearly always a Brahmin.
Vihara Buddhist monastery.
Vikramasila University A great Tantrik University founded by the Pala king Dharmapala in A.D. 810. It was a hotbed of moral corruption, sorcery and idolatry. In A.D. 1198, the soldiers if Ikhtiar Khilji raised the structure to the ground and killed every monk in the University.
Wood’s Despatch of 1854 It related to educational reforms. Lord Dalhousie took measures to carry out the scheme embodied in the famous despatch of Sir Charles Wood (July 1854) which embraced ver­nacular schools throughout the districts, and above all the glori­ous measures of grants-in-aid to all schools, without reference to caste or creed.
Yakshagana The south Indian dance tradition that appeared for the first time in the Vijayanagar period.
Yavana Term used in Indian sources for the people of western Asia, Greeks and Romans.
Yoga One of the six major schools of philosophy in ancient India.
Yuga Any of the four ages of the life of the world.
Zabti System was intro­duced by Akbar for land rev­enue administration. In Zabti system, land was measured and assessment of land revenue was based upon it.


Glossary of Hinduism Terms and Meanings

was a warrior who felt discouraged when going into battle and took advice from his chariot driver without knowing that he was Krishna, an incarnation of the Indian deity Vishnu

king nomads who entered India from the Central Asian steppes between 1500 and 1000 BCE and greatly affected Indian society

the idea of self denial, self sacrifice, even self mutilation that was done to communicate with the gods and began to take the place of sacrifice in ancient India

the individual soul

a ruler of the Mauryan Empire who converted to Buddhism

an incarnation of a god

a person who has attained enlightenment but who has postponed nirvana in order to help others achieve enlightenment

the priestly caste who led ceremonies

in Hinduism he was the universal soul, and in the trinity of gods in Hinduism he was the Creator

a religion that was started by Siddhartha Gautama who is also known as Buddha whose purpose was to stop suffering

means wisdom; Bodhi is achieved when worldly matters are abandoned, and is the source of the term “Buddhism.” Bodhi is a key step on the way to nirvana

Chandragupta Maurya
a king, founder of the Mauryan Empire

India’s rigid social system in which all members of that society are assigned by birth to specific ranks and inherit specific roles and privileges


a language; people who speak it mainly live in Southern India and were probably pushed there by the Aryan invasions

a river in India that flows into the Bay of Bengal; in Hinduism, it is known as a sacred river

a civilization that based itself on the Indus River

the main religion in India, it emphasizes reincarnation, based on the results of the previous life, and the desirability of escaping this cycle. Its various forms feature both asceticism and the pleasures of ordinary life, and it encompasses a multitude of gods as different manifestations of ultimate reality

a river in Pakistan that flows into the Arabian Sea

a religion that branched off from Hinduism and was founded by Mahavira; its belief is that everything has a soul, and its purpose was to cleanse the soul. Some were extreme aesthetics

sub castes; were groups of people within each caste that worked together for one economic function

consequences of actions that determine your reincarnation

political advisor to the Mauryans

in Hinduism, the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu

the warrior caste

Law of Manu
a book in which the rules for social behavior were written down; Manu is the mythical founder of India

an Indian king or prince that was ranked higher than a raja

a city in the Harappan civilization that is located on the Indus River

strong winds that change with the seasons. Monsoons symbolize the great god Indra

an extreme aesthetic who founded the religion Jainism and thought of several Hindu concepts, such as karma, in a very concrete way

one of the two Sanskrit epics of Ancient India. It is the longest epic poem in the world. It is translated as “Great India” and is primarily about wars

in Hinduism, it is seen as the liberation of the soul from the body

the Buddhist belief of the extinction of desire and individual consciousness, also spiritual enlightenment

the name of the group of people outside the caste system; they were the outcasts of society and untouchables, were not considered part of Indian society or the caste system

the title given in India to a king or prince

A Hindu epic written in Sanskrit that describes the adventures of the king Rama and his queen

a veda, which was a sacred writing of Hinduism that contained a collection of Hindu poems and hymns that were used for religious reasons

Rock Chambers
a room or building carved out of the side of a cliff. They were used for religious ceremonies and houses to monks and wandering ascetics

the Hindu cycle of death and rebirth; in Buddhism means rebirth

an Indo-European language that was the language of the Vedas

a ritual that required a woman to throw herself onto her late husband’s funeral pyre or burn herself. This was done gladly and if a woman did not comply with this she would be disgraced

an important Hindu deity who in the trinity of gods was the Destroyer

Siddhartha Gautama
founder of Buddhism who achieved enlightenment of the meaning of life while sitting under a tree and later preached his conclusions that came to be known as Buddhism

religious buildings that originally housed Buddha relics. Stupas developed into familiar Buddhist architecture

the second lowest of the five castes in the Indian social system and were not twice born; consisted of peasants and artisans which was most of the Indian population

mixed souce belief (religions that are a blend of two or more)

commentaries on the Vedas that are considered sacred texts in the Hindu religion

the name of the group of people in the caste system that were the outcasts of society; were not considered a part of Indian society of the caste system, also called pariahs

the third highest caste that was made up of merchants and commoners, twice born

sacred texts in the Hindu religion, they are a set of four collections of hymns and religious ceremonies transmitted by memory through the centuries by Aryan priests

Vishnu is a Hindu god who, in the trinity of gods, is the Preserver

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