How To Study Ancient and Medieval History For UPSC Prelims?

UPSC Prelims: For the UPSC Prelims examination, history is one of the core General Studies Papers. Ancient and Medieval Indian History is covered in the UPSC Prelims history curriculum, with an emphasis on issues related to India’s cultural and socioeconomic past as one of the world’s oldest countries. 

According to the UPSC exam, Indian heritage, art and culture, architecture, and so on are very important. Religion is incredibly essential, and it has been the subject of numerous questions in both the prelims and mains.

The importance of social life and society cannot be overstated. This is how the questions are posed. UPSC does not want you to recall facts but rather to grasp history from these perspectives (religion, philosophy, and society). If you know the relative time periods of different kingdoms or ideas, you can answer questions. You don’t have to remember the specific day.

What is the Significance of Terminologies while Preparing for Ancient and Medieval History?

  • Terminologies are particularly important in ancient and mediaeval history. These areas generate a lot of inquiries. You must recall the names of ancient or mediaeval officers, customs, literature, and authors, among other things.
  • The importance of revision is crucial in this case. The only way to remember everything you learned in the exam is to go over it again and again.
  • It is more clearly specified in the mains exam. Modern history is prominently displayed. However, art and culture are referenced in relation to ancient and mediaeval history.
  • It is necessary to remember the names of ancient or medieval officers, customs, books, authors, etc. For reference, check the below question asked by UPSC in 2016.

Ques: With reference to the economic history of medieval India, the term ‘Araghatta’ refers to: 

  1. Bonded labour
  2. Land grants made to military officers
  3. Waterwheel used in the irrigation of land
  4. Wasteland converted to cultivated land

Answer: C

Strategy for Preparation of an Ancient and Mediaeval History 

Indian history is a huge subject that spans many centuries. To develop knowledge and insight about the subject in general, the events related with the periods must be well comprehended. As a result, getting productivity by studying the subject necessitates a methodical analysis and preparation process. Thus, while studying Ancient and Medieval History for UPSC Prelims 2021, a schedule is essential.

  • Allow yourself at least 15-20 days before the exam date to read the subjects. Despite the fact that the chapters are extensive and contain a wide range of topics, methodical studying, taking crucial notes, and preparing theoretical answers related to Ancient and Medieval History may be accomplished in the time allotted.
  • Learn the terminology, names of ancient and mediaeval officials, books, authors, and customs of the historical period, among other things.
  • Use secondary sources of information such as the CCRT, NIOS materials, and the TNSB History Book for Classes XI and XII.
  • Examine your limited resources. If you consult a wide range of books, there’s a good risk you’ll become confused about the contents of the many volumes. When it comes to thoroughly examining the resources, periodic revision is critical. As a result, you should study regularly.
  • Finally, check over the question papers from past years’ Prelims Examinations. This will give you a sense of how the marks are distributed and how the required responses should be written.


  1. UPSC Prelims Syllabus
    1. History of India and Indian National Movement
  2. UPSC Mains Syllabus
    1. Indian Heritage and Culture (from ancient to modern), Modern Indian History, World History (from 18th century)

Important Topics of Medieval History

  1. Focus on the Religious Movements
    1. Saints, Sufi, Bhakti movements
    2. Doctrines and practices of them
    3. Impacts of these movements
    4. Revival of Hinduism
  2. Empires
    1. Dynasties & Empire’s rise and decline
    2. Their art and architecture
    3. Political, Social, and Economic organization during the rule
  3. Terminologies (names of officers/books, etc.)
  4. Religion (basic tenets of religions, philosophies, philosophers)
  5. Culture
  6. Art and architecture (features of different schools, time period, examples of art forms/styles)
  7. The social life of people
  8. Contribution of kings towards art, literature, architecture, etc.

Important Topics of Ancient History

  1. Prehistoric age
    1. Their classification
    2. Domestication & other things
  2. Civilization- Indus valley, Harappan
  1. Sites, Scripts, and language
  2. Social, Religious, and cultural activities
  3. Trade and other economic activities
  1. Art and crafts
    1. Vedic age
    2. Society, Culture, and Religion
  2. Important Gods and their significance
  3. Literatures
  4. Economic life
  5. Early and later Vedic differences
  6. Buddhism & Jainism
    1. Types of Buddhism and Jainism
    2. Reasons for their growth
    3. Their teachings, Philosophy, contributions
    4. Literatures
    5. Councils
    6. Differences between both
    7. Reason for the decline
  7. Kingdoms
    1. Rise and fall of kingdoms- their reasons
    2. Important rulers and battles
    3. Works- Literature, art, architecture, science, and other technology
  8. Foreign travellers and their works
  9. Social and Economic conditions of people

Tips to Prepare for Ancient and Medieval History

  1. Set aside 15 to 20 days solely for learning. Given their relative importance in recent years, it is adequate to study the fundamentals in the time allotted.
  2. Limit the number of resources available. It’s all about the numbers. Master it by revising as much as you can on a regular basis.
  3. Don’t attempt to jam everything in. This section will be easy to score if you plan ahead.
  4. Make a list of all the topics and make notes on them.
  5. Learn the terminology, names of ancient and mediaeval officials, books, authors, historical practises, and so on.
  6. Finally, once you’ve finished each topic and are ready to move on, glance at the previous year’s questions.

Important Sources for Revising Ancient and Medieval History

  1. History NCERT of Classes VI, VII and VIII 
  2. Ancient India Class XI NCERT by R S Sharma.
  3. Medieval India Class XI NCERT by Satish Chandra.
  4. Tamil Nadu State Board history textbook of Classes XI and XII
  5. Facets of Indian Culture – Spectrum
  6. CCRT Website
  7. NIOS material
  8. General Knowledge by Lucent’s 

UPSC Previous Year Questions on Ancient and Medieval History

With reference to the economic history of medieval India, the term ‘Araghatta’ refers to: (2016)

  1. Bonded labour
  2. Land grants made to military officers
  3. Waterwheel used in the irrigation of land
  4. Wasteland converted to cultivated land

Answer: c

What is common to the historical places known as Ajanta and Mahabalipuram? (2016)

  1. Both were built in the same period.
  2. Both belong to the same religious denomination.
  3. Both have rock-cut monuments.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. None of the above

Answer: b

With reference to the religious history of India, consider the following statement: (2016)

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 2 only
  4. 1, 2, and 3

Answer: b

Which of the following statements is/are applicable to Jain doctrine? (2013)

  1. The surest way to annihilate Karma is to practice penance.
  2. Every object, even the smallest particle has a soul.
  3. Karma is the bane of the soul and must be ended.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: d

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