Historical Time

Romila Thapar

in Time as a Metaphor of History: Early India

Published in print September 1996 | ISBN: 9780195637984
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081912 | DOI:
Historical Time

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This chapter discusses the use of eras as well as dating by regnal years, which gained currency simultaneously in astronomy and cosmology. The use of regnal years as marker go back to the earliest historical inscriptions, the edicts of the Mauryan emperor Aśoka, issued in the third century BC. At the functional level, regnal years introduced more precise dating in official documents. More importantly, it helped separate cosmological time reckoning from the functional, although the former was not discarded. Official documents, biographies, and genealogiers, too, began to carry these dates. Among these documents are inscriptions which are in effect the annals of Indian history. Issued by individual rulers and by members of the ruling class in the main, they include votive records relating to grants and gifts as well as statements of events, especially those important to politics and administration.

Keywords: historical eras; regnal years; cosmology; astronomy; time markers; time-reckoning; time in biographies; time in genealogies

Chapter.  2392 words. 

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