12 Best Books on the History of Ancient India You Must Read

An exhaustive list of ancient Indian history books detailing each phase – prehistoric, ancient, medieval, modern and post-independence, forms an integral part of this discourse.

It is no secret that India’s history is captivating, and many epics, narratives, and essays have been written over the centuries to commemorate the country’s rich heritage.

These legacies have remained untouched by time and are available to those who want to learn about our history.

12 Books that Map India’s Glorious Past within Different Facets

Unsurprisingly, thousands of books, both academic and popular, have been written about India’s history. As a result, finding books on this ancient civilization and its history can be challenging.

So, in order to assist and guide our readers, we have compiled this list of Indian history books. There are 12 books on the list:

1. Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From by Tony Joseph

ancient indian history books

What and who are we Indians?

What is our origin?

These are the questions that have plagued the minds of millions of Indians, and perhaps even you at some point. Tony Joseph has combined the old and the new to write an account of how our forefathers influenced who we are today in more ways than we can imagine.

He’s also used a tool that many historical accounts overlook: DNA data. This fascinating account of our evolution is built on the foundation of genetics.

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2. Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas by Romila Thapar

 Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas by Romila Thapar

Sculpture, art, architecture, and even scripture flourished during the Mauryan empire’s reign, and are still regarded as testaments to Indian history today.

According to some Buddhist accounts, the name of the dynasty came about when the Mauryan kings’ ancestors settled in areas where there was an abundance of peacocks. This is how they got the name ‘Moriyas.’

While it is unclear whether this legend is true, the Mauryas were a significant dynasty in Indian history, and Romila Thapar honors the legacy they left behind.

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3. The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History by Sanjeev Sanyal

ancient indian history books

The Indian Ocean has long been a focal point for those attempting to comprehend civilizations and societies. This is because it spans a region of the world with some of the most diverse cultural histories.

While most history books focus on the culture being discussed, this one focuses on the instrument responsible for shaping the cultures of the Indian Ocean.

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4. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak, David Frawley

In Search of the Cradle of Civilization by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak, David Frawley

There has been much discussion about what truly was the “cradle of civilization,” or the point at which the concepts of society and culture evolved.

This book is a game changer in this regard because it debunks myths about the subject and makes some startling revelations about the theory of Aryan invasion.

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5. Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Ancient India by Nayanjot Lahiri

ancient indian history books

The book perfectly depicts the evolution of Indian culture in relation to the people that populated its land.

It does so by detailing the Stone Age, where spears and arrows were the tools of life, and how Sanskrit and education eventually replaced them.

The book also sheds light on how ancient society was different from the present day, in that our ancestors spent a great deal of time focusing on personal growth.

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6. The Penguin History of Early India by Romila Thapar

The Penguin History of Early India by Romila Thapar

Said to be a work of art, the chapters in this book explore the archaeology of the country.

One can find accounts of how the subcontinent has been transformed by invasions, and different dynasties, and how every ruling power has left a legacy behind.

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7. The Wonder That Was India by A L Basham

ancient indian history books

“Every Indian student should read this book as a primer to Indian history. Once you have background knowledge as per this book, then when you read other Indian history books, it will broaden your horizon of understanding the ancient Indian culture,” reads one review on Amazon.

Rightly so. Author Arthur Llewellyn Basham’s accounts in the book have not only been influenced by his own understanding and study of Indian culture and society, but also by the first-hand accounts of his father, who served in the Indian Army.

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8. A History of South India by  Sastri K.A.Nilakanta

A History of South India by  Sastri K.A.Nilakanta

For anyone wishing to gain an in-depth insight into the dynasties, kingdoms, and rulers of South India, this book is a treasure trove of information.

What sets this book apart is that it caters to even those who are looking to know of interesting legends associated with southern India, such as the Agastya and Parasurama.

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9. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer

ancient indian history books

The Harappan Civilisation is arguably the most talked about, and one that archaeologists keep going back to in order to draw similarities between present-day society and the one that existed then.

What makes this book a fascinating read is that Kenoyer himself has led excavations at Harappa in Punjab, Pakistan for over a decade. Thus, the learnings from the book are not merely theoretical but rooted in evidence found on-site.

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10. Coromandel: A Personal History of South India by Charles Allen

ancient indian history books

The book is a deep dive into the coast of Coromandel, a Southeastern coastal region of India called Cholamandalam, meaning the land of the Chola Dynasty.

“The role played by women in history is as underwritten in India as anywhere, so it is only right to end with a mention of another woman of Kerala whose part in its history has only recently been publicly recognized,” writes Charles Allen in the book as he goes on to tell the story of Velathu Lakshmikutty, a woman who fought against caste discrimination.

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11. A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India by Upinder Singh

A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India by Upinder Singh

Because there are pictures corresponding to the events mentioned in the chapters, readers can truly immerse themselves in the contents of the book.

Along with this, the book sheds light on the evolution of language, focusing on the writings of European scholars known as Orientalists and how translation, textual study, epigraphy, and so on became commonplace.

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12. Prehistoric India: Its Place in the World’s Cultures by Panchanan Mitra

Prehistoric India: Its Place in the World’s Cultures by Panchanan Mitra

The book tells the story of an earlier India, with history etched on every page and line.

While a story about an intriguing cave painting may pique your interest, you will also find information about intriguing excavations and their findings.

Fasten your seat belts as you travel through time to discover the mysteries of India.

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Which of the above books piqued your interest the most? Let’s get your comment in the box below.

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