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The Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture, and Archaeology under the Faculty of Social Sciences was among one of the first departments established in the newly formed university in 2008. The Department is offering B.A. (Hons.) Program since its inception. M.A. degree course was started in the session 2011-12 and Ph.D. The program is to be started from the next session 2014-2015. According to the Objective of the University, much emphasis is given on tribal history, culture, art, architecture, tradition, customs, economic activities, beliefs, technologies, and resources in the course content. The continuity, relevance, and significance of tribal institutions are being taught in a historical context. An onslaught of time, climate, and nature peoples of all cultures have expressed their emotions, experiences, and thoughts through an assortment of means. The earliest expressions of humankind are depicted in the form of rock paintings. A global phenomenon, rock art is found in many different regions of the world, having been produced in many different contexts throughout human history, although the majority of rock art that has been ethnographically recorded has been produced as a part of the ritual. Such artworks are often divided into three forms: petroglyphs which are carved into the rock surface, pictographs that are painted onto the surface, and earth figures engraved into the ground. Rock art seems to be influenced by socio-cultural conventions. There is ample evidence to establish the impact of Indian rock art on tribal rural paintings both in subject and technique. Drawings found in the rock shelters of Central India resemble in subject matter, colour style and technique to the drawings of tribal peoples of this region. The common features in both the traditions are simplicity, directness, unbounded nature of execution, limited colours and use of natural drawing material. The two traditions share the same roots which can be seen in common subject matter also. While teaching prehistoric art to the students comparisons are made with the styles and techniques of peoples who are living in adjacent area. The continuity of tradition alongwith time is underlined in the course content of M.A. (Second Semester) and M.A. (Third Semester).
It is always a hard task for an archaeologist to reconstruct the realistic model of past cultures and their functions. But reliable model of the past culture can be made by the application of ethnoarchaeological approach, because until recently, tribal people are using traditional techniques for their economic and ritualistic activities. It is assumed that contemporary primitive societies represent examples of past stages of human culture. Analogies between living societies and ancient societies can yield important information to construct realistic models of ancient societies and their functions. The practice of this discipline provides a great understanding about ancient artifacts and the people who made them. It is not only the recording of material remains but also the interpretation of them by quantitative analysis, sampling strategies and observations. Therefore this approach gives extremely valuable insight into prehistoric and protohistoric human behavior. In this respect Ethnoarchaeology makes a live link between human and their artifacts. This approach is mainly used by archaeologists for the explanation of pottery, stone tools and architectural remains, but it is also useful for the reconstruction of cultural system. Reconstruction of manufacturing techniques and use behavior associated with them can also be traced by this approach. The application of ethnoarcheological approach on tools manufacturing, hunting, ceramic production, preparation of dwellings, cultivation, domestication of animals, fishing etc. yield fruitful insight into the patterned human behavior and material culture of pre and protohistoric cultures. Micro study of tribal culture has opened an exiting field for exploring the pre and protohistoric potential in the present communities. It normally describes manufacturing techniques, functions, aspects of division of labour, social organization of production, scalar and spatial aspects of production and distribution. In a broader perspective it involves social, ecological, economical and functional factors. Ethnoarchaeological approach and Tribal culture is incorporated in the syllabus of M.A. ( Fourth semester).
History of ancient Indian tribes and physical features of aboriginals are also included both in Under Graduate and Post Graduate Courses. While teaching inscriptions and coins of ancient India, stress is given on the references of tribal groups and communities. Role of some tribal powers in ancient Indian political history is highlighted during the study of dynastic history. The tribal republics of the Punjab, the Audumbara, Kunida and Yaudheya had almost similar administration. They issued coins in the name of their presiding deities and this practice continued even in the medieval period.
Before the rise of the Magadha Empire, a number of tribal republics existed in Punjab. They had lost their independence during the imperial supremacy, but as soon as the empire collapsed, they returned to their own republican system and started issuing coins. The tribes that issued their coins in the second century B.C were the Agreya, Kshudraka, Rajanya, Sibi, Trigarta and Yaudheya. The early tribal republics of the second century B.C called themselves `janapada` and referred to their names and the places on their coins in the Brahmi script. The other republics had their names on the coins along with some personal name with the title `Raja` or `Maharaja`. In some cases the coins bore their presiding deities. Copper was the prime issue of all republics. Each tribe seemed to have had its own weights for their coins and a number of them issued coins in more than one weight and sometimes multiples or sub multiple weights were also found. Silver coins were also issued by some of the tribes during this time.
The coins of tribal republics throw light on the history, culture, religion, economy, polity, trade, commerce, technology, symbolic use, metallurgy, movements, etc. of the various tribes in ancient India. These coins are the representation of various aspects of the life and culture of the tribal republics existed in ancient India. Several excavations have enriched the numismatic history and elucidated newer techniques of analysis which were rendered unspoken. Various symbols of tribal coins can be seen in contemporary tribal groups. This similarity and traditional continuity is accentuated in the syllabus of paper 11 entitled Numismatics in M.A. (Third Semester). A brief out line of tribal coins is also taught in the paper IX of B.A. (Hons. Sixth Semester).
Field Work and Practical is an indispensable part of the Post Graduate Syllabus. Field training is imparted to the students during their studies. Students perform their field work among living communities for the analysis of unearthed artifacts and material remains. Acquaintance of all the theoretical and methodological aspects of comparing ethnographic and archaeological data, including the use of ethnographic analogy and archaeological ethnography is given to the students for the better understanding of ancient culture through contemporary tribes.
The Departmental Proposal for Archaeological Exploration has already been approved by the Standing Committee of Central Advisory Board of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, Government of India and the Department is going to conduct Archaeological Exploration of District Anuppur (M.P.) during the Field Season 2013-14.