Ancient History is the first part of the UPSC History syllabus and it is crucial for the Prelims and the Mains. History is a factual subject and it is thus important that one pays attention to the subject and its syllabus. With the right preparation and ample time for note-making and revision, history can prove to be one of the most scoring subjects. It is important that you cover the important topics for Ancient History as it accounts for at least 4-5 questions in the UPSC Prelims and Mains every year.

In this article, you can find out where one can find the notes for ancient history, the ancient history books that can prove to be helpful for the exam, and the syllabus for ancient history. You can also find out the ways you can cover the ancient history syllabus for UPSC.

Ancient History Notes and Books

The History Syllabus for UPSC Civil Services exam roughly consists of ancient history, medieval history and modern history of India and the world. The major topics in Ancient History to be covered are as follows-

  • Archaeological and Literary Sources including Foreign Accounts
  • Pre-history and Proto-history
  • Indus Valley Civilisation
  • Megalithic Cultures
  • Aryans and the Vedic Period
  • Period of Mahajanapadas
  • Mauryan Empire
  • Post-Mauryan Period (Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushanas, Western Kshatrapas)
  • Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan, and South India
  • Guptas, Vakatakas, and Vardhanas
  • The regional states during the Gupta Era
  • Themes in Early Indian Cultural History

Important Books for Ancient History

Some of the important books that you can refer to for Ancient History include-

  1. India’s Ancient Past by Ram Sharan Sharma
  2. The Wonder that was India by Arthur Llewellyn Basham
  3. Ancient and Medieval India by Poonam Dalal Dahiya
  4. A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century by Upinder Singh
  5. The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to 1300 AD by Romila Thapar
  6. NCERT Class VI-X
  7. NCERT (Old) Class XI
  8. NCERT Class XI-XII
  9. Tamil Nadu State Board History Book Class XI
  10. Center for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) website

Important Topics to Cover for Ancient History

While every part of the UPSC syllabus is important, you can pay more attention to the following topics that have been recurring in the exam in recent years.

  • Stone Age
  • Chalcolithic Period
  • Sources and Historical Constructions
  • Harappan Culture- Indus Valley Civilisation
  • The Aryans
  • Vedas and the later Vedic Period
  • Jainism and Buddhism
  • Magadha Empire (Mauryas, Guptas, etc.)
  • Mauryans
  • Literary accounts of foreign travellers
  • Satavahanas
  • Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras
  • Gupta Age
  • The Tripartite Struggle- Palas, Pratiharas, and Rashtrakutas
  • Rajputs
  • Turkish Conquest of India
  • The Delhi Sultanate (Khilji, Tughlaq, Lodhi, Sayyid Dynasties)
  • Bahmani Dynasty
  • Vijayanagara Empire
  • The Mughal Rule (Early rule, the famous/ great Mughals, later Mughals)
  • The Marathas (Chatrapati Shivaji)

Also Read: Previous Years’ Questions on Ancient History from UPSC Prelims 2017-2020

How to Cover the Syllabus for the Exam?

One of the most important things to keep in mind while studying for History or taking the exam is that you need to keep an eye on the details. The dates for particular eras are important and often referred to in the Prelims exam. There are several questions that are based on religion, and architecture as well. Art & culture are some foundational topics and questions can be asked based on the cultures of different regions. The basis of these topics, the foundations, the dates and the principals are mostly covered in the exams.

The ancient and medieval kingdoms in the history of India are vast and it is important that you learn chronology and their salient features. The history of colonialism in India is one of the most sought after concepts; everything starting from the invasion, to early rule, change in-laws, to the freedom struggle and independence should be studied.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • The paper is purely factual, you don’t have to refer to current affairs for the topic
  • Make flowcharts and mind maps to structure different topics and concepts
  • Connect and correlate topics as much as possible so that it’s easy to remember topics
  • You can start your preparation by studying the syllabus, taking a look at the previous papers, and shortlisting the books you would like to follow
  • Instead of studying everything in detail, you need to take a smart approach towards the preparation and focus on important topics


Now that you are familiar with the important materials and strategy for making notes for Ancient Indian History, you should remember that you need not give a lot of time for the preparation. Ancient History is just a part of the History syllabus and you need to focus on other papers as well. For more such study help, you can subscribe here and get regular updates on UPSC topics.

Also Read: How to Start Studying for UPSC History Optional? Find the Preparation Strategy and Study Tips Here. 

Ancient History Notes for UPSC: How Do You Cover Ancient History for UPSC Exam?
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Ancient History Notes for UPSC: How Do You Cover Ancient History for UPSC Exam?
How can you make notes for ancient history? How do you prepare for the UPSC history paper? What strategy can you follow for your preparation? Click here to find out.
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UPSC Pathshala
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