Ancient History Sources of Himachal Pradesh

The captivating history of Himachal Pradesh is shrouded in mystery, much like many other regions of India. The lack of precise historical records has obscured the ancient past of Himachal, leaving it largely unexplored. The region, as it exists today, was once a territory under the dominion of local rulers such as Rajas, Ranas, and Thakurs. Ravaged by natural disasters and foreign invasions, the land bore witness to frequent battles, resulting in the destruction of invaluable historical records. What remains are archaeological and literary sources that provide glimpses into the region's past. From stone tools and coins to Sanskrit texts and accounts by Greek and Chinese travelers, these sources offer intriguing insights into the culture and life of the Vamsavalis people.

The sources from which we learn about the history of Himachal Pradesh can be categorized into two groups:

  1. Archaeological Sources
  2. Literary Sources

Archaeological Sources

The ancient lands of Himachal Pradesh hold a treasure trove of archaeological wonders that unveil the rich culture and religious practices of its early inhabitants. Imprints of the stone age have been found in various sites such as Guler, Dhaliara, Dehra, Masrur, and many others, each offering a captivating glimpse into the region's past. From the Balh valley to Kullu, and from Naggar to Khokan, Himachal Pradesh boasts an abundance of historic monuments including forts and temples that paint a vivid picture of its intriguing heritage.


Until 1973-74, little attention was given to numismatics, the study of coins. The only museum at that time was the Bhuri Singh Museum at Chamba, which showed little interest in numismatics. However, with the establishment of the State of Himachal Pradesh after Independence, there was a growing awareness of the importance of coin collection. In 1973, Dr. V.C. Ohri, the curator of the Himachal State Museum, started focusing on coins. Since then, both the Himachal State Museum and the Bhuri Singh Museum have been acquiring coins from the region. These museums now house large collections of coins from ancient tribal kingdoms such as Trigarta, Adumbara, Kulutas, and Kunindas, dating from the second century B.C. to the second century A.D.


The Bhuri Singh Museum in Chamba preserves a large number of copper plates and other relevant materials. The earliest inscriptions have been found in "Pathyar" and "Kanijara" in Kangra district, Soopur, Hillok cave inscription of Hatkoti in Shimla district, and Salanu near Manglor in Mandi district. One notable item is the Nirmand copper plate, issued by Mahasamanta Maharaja Samudrasena in the 7th century AD.

Stone Inscription

The state of Himachal Pradesh contains four types of stone inscriptions: rock inscription, fountain inscription, slab inscription, and sati stone inscription. These inscriptions play a significant role in piecing together the history of Himachal Pradesh. They have been written in various scripts including Sharda, Kharoshti, Brahmi, Tankri, Kutila, Nagari, Sankha, Bhotia (Tibetan), and Sidhamatrika. The largest number of inscriptions, totaling 36, have been found in Chamba. Most of these inscriptions are written in the Sharda and Tankari scripts. 

Literary Source

Himachal Pradesh (Places of Himachal) found mention in some of the earlier writings.

Persian Source

The penetration of Turkish forces into the Shivalik hills is documented in various Persian sources, such as the "Tarikh-i-Yamini" and "Kitabul-Yamini." The "Tabaqat-i-Nasiri" and "Tarikh-i-Feruz Shahi" chronicles frequently mention rebels seeking refuge in the lower regions of Himachal Pradesh. Additionally, the autobiography of Mongol invader Amir Timur (1369-1414 AD), the "Tezuk-i-Timuri," makes reference to Raja Ratan Sen of the Shivalik Hills. Books like "Akbar Nama" and "Ain-i-Akbari" are important sources of information regarding the Muslim period of Indian history. 

Sanskrit Litrature

The Himalayan foothills were home to various tribes around 1800 B.C., as mentioned in the Rig Veda. Additionally, the Puranas, Brahminas, Aranyankas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata also make references to the Himalayan region. Sanskrit literature such as Panini's "Ashtadhyayi," Kalidasa's "Raghuvansham," Vishakhadutta's "Devichandra Guptam," "Mudrarakshasha," and Kalhan's "Rajtarangini" provide insight into the life of the people in this region.

Khalsa Litrature

The majority of modern Himachal Pradesh is made up of the former Punjab hill states, which is why there is a significant amount of information in Sikh historical and religious literature. The 'Guru Granth Sahib' (The Adi Granth), which is the holy scripture of the Sikhs, the 'Bachitra Natak' of Guru Govind Singh, the 'Janam Sakhis' (biographies) of Sikh Gurus and other writers, the 'Gur Sobha' of Sena Pat, the 'Gur Bilas' of Bhai Sukha Singh, and Mohsin Fani's 'Dabistan-i-Mazahib' provide detailed history of the spread of Sikh religion in the Himalayan foothills. 


Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveler, visited India from 630 to 648 AD and provided valuable historical references about the Himalayan region. He mentioned the states of Kuluta, Jalandhara, and Shrughna. Other travelers who visited the region include European travelers such as William Finch and Thomas Coryat during Aurangzeb's reign. Foster visited in 1783, J.B. Fraser in 1815, Alexander Gerard in 1817-18, W. Moorcraft in 1820-22, Captain Monday in 1829, Major Archer in 1829, and Baron Charles Hugel visited in 1835-39.

Vamhsavalis or Geneological rolls

The genealogical rolls contain the names of the rulers with tenure and the various activities performed during that period. These rolls were prepared by the Rajgurus or Kulpurohits.

In conclusion, the history of Himachal Pradesh is a fascinating and complex tapestry woven from a variety of archaeological and literary sources. Despite the lack of precise historical records, the region's past comes to life through archaeological wonders, inscriptions, coins, and literary works. These sources provide valuable insights into the rich culture, religious practices, and the lives of the people who inhabited this captivating land. From ancient stone tools and coins to Sanskrit texts and accounts by travelers, Himachal Pradesh's history continues to intrigue and captivate. The treasure trove of historical information preserved in museums and literary works sheds light on the region's past, making it a subject of enduring fascination and study.

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