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Contribution to the History of the Wheeled Vehicle in India

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Jean Deloche

Introduction

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1The history of the wheeled vehicle in India remains unexplored. Given the present state of our knowledge, it is not possible to explain the origin of the form of draught animal equipment or of the types of vehicles used in Ancient and Medieval India. All we can say is that, in the various representations of carriages we have collected, certain characteristics have been preserved through the Ages until today. It is not a rare occurrence to note devices still known to village cart-wrights in these documents.

2A careful examination of today’s farm carts would allow us to partly overcome the inadequacy of the ancient documents and throw light on certain obscure problems raised by the sources.

3The main features of material civilisation are the fruits of long development and, for lack of extensive and precise information, we believe that to question the past through today’s facts is a method which is not only legitimate but fecund, and explains the plan of our study.

4In the first part, we examine the present carriages, their types and their distribution. Then, in the light of these clearly discernible facts, we intend to interpret the sources concerning, on the one hand, the wheeled vehicles from Protohistory to the Mughal period, and on the other hand, the changes introduced by the transport revolution of the middle of the nineteenth century.

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2014

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