1. Observation / Analysis about History-Culture in Prelims-19
  2. Prelim-cum-Mains-2020 Strategy: History & Culture
  3. Old NCERTs = unnecessary
  4. Answerkey-2019: Ancient & Medieval India
  5. Answerkey-2019: Art Culture Religion
  6. Answerkey-2019: Freedom Struggle

Observation / Analysis about History-Culture in Prelims-19

UPSC conducted civil services IAS/IPS preliminary exam on 2nd June 2019. Total 15 out of 100 questions in General Studies Paper-1 were devoted to History-Culture.
UPSC History answerkey prelims 2019

History-Culture in Prelim 2018 and before Prelim-2019
There is an ‘alternate zig zag swing’ in number of questions asked from History-Culture. Every alternate year they’ll ask 14-15 question and on other alternate years they’ll ask 17-21 Qs. Same pattern continued. Last year 21 Qs so this year 15 Qs.
In 2017 and 2017, 30% of the History questions were in Easy category. 20% of History Questions in Easy category. Meaning, the difficulty level has increased.
Before 2018: Ancient / Medieval dictionary / occupations were asked: Mahattar, Pattakila, Araghatta, Eripatti, Taniyurs, Ghatikas etc.
2018: nothing asked from this genre.
Asked 2 Qs from this genre:  Vishti and Iqta.
There would be at least one question related to Southern dynasties or poets. Continued that ‘Tokenism’ by asking about Kalyaana Mandapas of Vijaynagar empire.
2017 and 2018: State specific obscure dance / festival / craft with special focus on North East. That Tokenism not continued this year.
Tough Qs from Buddhism, Jainism, Whose answers are not found in the routine preparation books. Examiner had a change of heart! Relatively easy question on Mahayan Buddhism.
2018: nothing from Indus Valley civilization, perhaps after the debacle of that IVC Horse in 2017 Asked undebatable question about Harappan site
There have been sporadic questions about Foreign travellers and what they saw in India, wrote about India. Thankfully that lunacy is not repeated this time.
2017 and 2018: Affection for low-profile freedom-organizations such as Madras Mahajan Sabha,  Swarajya Sabha. Asked one question from this genre. Match the following organisation with their founders
2017 and 2018: Communist Prem by asking about Trade disputes Act, Hind Mazdoor sabha. 2019: Asked about the general secretary of the Communist Party of India.
2018: two questions from under Post-Independent India: 1) Hind Mazdoor Sabha (1948) and 2) Chronology of Air India to Goa’s independence. Thankfully that lunacy is not repeated this time.
2013: Among Dadu Dayal, Guru Nanak and Tyagaraja- who was preaching when Babur took over. Then in 2014 again a question on Dadu Dayal. Sudden Affection for relatively less known Saint reappears in the heart of UPSC examiner by asking about Saint Nimbarka.
2018: atleast 10 out of these 21 MCQs (=48% of History MCQ) were of such nature that you’ve to know validity of 2, 3 or 4 statements / terms to arrive at the correct answer. This too makes history section not only tough but ‘lengthy to read’. 2019: 9/15 = 60% of History questions contained two statements or more. Takes more time and mental effort compared to just 1 question with 4 direct options.
2018: 2 MCQs could be solved from Nitin’s book and 8 from Spectrum. 3 MCQ from Nitin’s book, 5 MCQ from Spectrum. So, they’ve continued to be reliable source of preparation.
2018: 3 MCQs could be solved using Guessmastergiri without studying anything. UPSC has tightened the quality of paper-setting. Onlly 1 MCQ could be solved using Guessmastergiri.

To conclude: History section in Prelim-2019 while it’s not easier than previous years but it’s certainly ‘less lunatic’ than previous years. So, the preparation strategy for 2020 should remain more or less the same as usual, which is given as following:

Prelim-cum-Mains-2020 Strategy: History & Culture

[accordion id=”strategy-history”][accordion_item title=”Click to Expand to read about History strategy for 2020″ parent_id=”strategy-history”]

  • First cultivate the taste for History. The, best source is Tamilnadu board’s Class11 History Textbook (covering Ancient Medieval) and Class12 History Textbook (covering Freedom struggle & World History, however you may ignore world history given here.)
  • I recommend Tamilnadu 11-12 History Textbooks for three reasons:
    1. Freely available PDF. Click me.
    2. They have balanced mixture of factualGK and analytical history. Useful for both UPSC and State services alike.
    3. They move in a proper sequence and comprehensively cover the entire ancient-medieval-modern Indian history, unlike new NCERTs which completely ignore certain bloody/dark eras of India history, and directly jump from Harappa to Sufi/Bhakti to British-Indian-cities to attainment of freedom, as if nothing happened in between those events!

Art and Culture:

Freedom Struggle:

World History (for Mains GSM1):

  • Pratik Nayak’s Youtube Lecture series on World History. In the Mains GSM1, weightage to World History has been reduced to just one question. Questions are either completely cliched or completely random e.g. “Why Industrial revolution occurred in England (2015)” versus “Role of Western Educated Africans in W.Africa’s freedom struggle! (2016).”
  • In this scenario, cost: benefit of studying advanced level world history books by Jain and Mathur or Arjun Dev= poor cost:benefit.

Post Independence (for Mains GSM1)

[/accordion_item] [/accordion]

Old NCERTs = unnecessary

  1. While some of the questions asked in 2019’s prelims, esp. from medieval and ancient India could be solved from the respective (old edition) NCERTs. They are available from private publishers namely:
    1. Ancient Past by R.S.Sharma
    2. Medieval India by Satish Chandra | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध
    3. Modern India by Bipan Chandra
    4. World History by Arjun Dev | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध
  2. But, the number of pages and amount of GK that you’ve to memorize from old-NCERT to gain the advantage of 1-2 MCQs… it’s has very poor Cost:Benefit. Even the World History-walli old NCERT has little utility in Mains ever since Pratik Nayak has released the entire World History youtube lecture series in a much better and comprehensive manner.

Krishna Reddy & Upendra Singh = unnecessary

Answerkey-2019: Ancient & Medieval India

(Pre19-SetA) Q7. Which one of the following is not a Harappan Site?
(a) Chanhudaro
(b) Kot Diji
(c) Sohagaura
(d) Desalpur
Difficulty: Medium. In the real exam difficult to take a call between C or D if you are unable to recall the factoids.

  • Every serious candidate (familiar with the map in New NCERT class12 page2) should be knowing that Chanhudaro and Kot Diji are Harappan sites so we are at 50:50 between C or D.
  • Nitin Singhania’s Art & Culture (Macgrawhill) | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध ch1: Sohgaura Copper Plate: The earliest known copper-plate, known as the Sohgaura copper-plate, is a Mauryan record that mentions famine relief efforts. So it can’t be a Harappan site, answer is C.
  • Random google book: Desalpur, a small settlement in Kutch, had a stone and rubble wall and may have been a port in the Indus Valley civilization.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q8. In which of the following relief sculpture inscriptions is ‘Ranyo Ashoka’ (King Ashoka) mentioned along with the stone portrait of Ashoka?
(a) Kanganahalli
(b) Sanchi
(c) Shahbazgarhi
(d) Sohgaura
Difficulty: Tough. Not given in routine books, and even if it was given- difficult to memorize and recollect all these factoids.  हर स्तंभ पर अलग अलग बात लिखी है, तो आदमी कितना याद रख सकता है!? As if students’ mind is not already burdened with 50 dozen abbreviated schemes and Apps of Modi-raj.

ANS: Page 333, Upinder Singh’s: History of Ancient and Early Medieval India (Pearson)

  • In autumn of 1993. a team of archeologists surveyed Sannai, Karnataka…. most dramatic evidence came from Kanagahalli. The discoveries at the site included a broken relief sculpture showing a king and queen flanked by female attendants. An inscription in brahmi letter read “Ranyo Ashoka” (King Ashoka), leaving no doubt about the central figure. Interestingly this site was also asked in CDS-2014, in pretext of ‘which is the only site with stone portrait of Ashoka’.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q10. With reference to forced labour(Vishti) in India during the Gupta period, which one of the following statements is correct?
(a) It was considered a source of income for the State, a sort of tax paid by the people.
(b) It was totally absent in the Madhya Pradesh and Kathiawar regions of the Gupta Empire.
(c) The forced labourer as entitled to weekly wages.
(d) The eldest son of the labourer was sent as the forced labourer.
Difficulty: Tough. Ancient/Medieval India Dictionary term / Administrative thing asked.
ANS: Page 508, Upinder Singh’s: History of Ancient and Early Medieval India (Pearson)

  • Forced labour (Vishti) became more common than before in this Gupta period. The fact that it is mentioned along with the taxes in the land grant inscriptions suggest that Vishti was considered as source of income for the state, a sort of tax paid by the people. The fact that most of the inscriptions referring to Vishti come from Madhya Pradesh and Kathiyawar regions may suggest this practice for more prevalent in this areas. So, A is right B is wrong.

g/m rule#1: extreme worded statements are wrong so B ought to be wrong but it doesn’t help even arrive at 50:50 stage, because we are still left with 3 options.

(Pre19-SetA) Q12. Consider the following statements :
1. In the revenue administration of Delhi Sultanate, the in-charge of revenue collection was known as ‘Amil’.
2. The Iqta system of Sultans of Delhi was an ancient indigenous institution.
3. The office of’ Mir Bakshi’ came into existence during the reign of Khalji Sultans of Delhi.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Medium to Tough. Medieval India Dictionary term / Administrative Thing asked. Although I don’t put it is ‘completely tough’ question, unlike Vishti these administrative posts are given in many books on competitive exams.
ANS: Krishna Reddy’s Indian History (Mcgraw-hill) Ch.10 Delhi Sultanate & Ch.12 Mughal Empire

  • EVOLUTION OF THE IQTA SYSTEM First Stage (1206– 1290) The system started with the assignment of different regions as iqtas (territorial areas or units whose revenues were assigned to officials in lieu of salaries) to military commanders, out of whose revenues they could maintain themselves and their troops as well. So, it means Iqta started in 1206 itself and it was not an ancient indigenous Indian institution. #2 is wrong. B and D eliminated.
  • Mughal Central Administration: Mir Bakshi was Head of the military department. So, #3 is wrong. We are left with answer A:1 only.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

Answerkey-2019: Art Culture Religion

(Pre19-SetA) Q9. Consider the following :
1. Deification of the Buddha
2. Treading the path of Bodhisattvas
3. Image worship and rituals
Which of the above is/ are the feature/ features of Mahayana Buddhism?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Easy to Medium. Jainism and Buddhism are favourite topics of UPSC examiner. So basic features of Hinayana Vs. Mahayana Buddhism should be known to every serious UPSC aspirant.
ANS: Nitin Singhania’s Art & Culture (Macgrawhill) | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध ch.12 Religions in India

  • The Mahayana followers believe in idol or image worship of Buddha. So 1 and 3 are correct.
  • The concept of Bodhisattva is the result of Mahayana Buddhism. So 2 is also correct.

Guessmastergiri Rule#4: A 3TF MCQ with 1-2 words= all correct without studying anything. If you ignore and/of/the then it fits this format, and you arrive at correct answer ‘D’ #Without-Studying-Anything.

(Pre19-SetA) Q11. Building ‘Kalyaana Mandapas’ was a notable feature in the temple construction in the kingdom of
(a) Chalukya
(b) Chandela
(c) Rashtrakuta
(d) Vijayanagara
Difficulty: Medium to Tough. While it is given in Nitin’s book but very difficult to memorize and recollect all small things in real exam.
ANS: Nitin Singhania’s Art & Culture (Macgrawhill) | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध ch1. Indian Architecture

  • Vijayanagara School: More than one mandaps were built in each temple. The central mandap came to be known as Kalyan Mandap. Alternatively,
  • TN Class11 page 215: The chief characteristics of the Vijayanagara architecture were the construction of tall Raya Gopurams or gateways and the Kalyanamandapam with carved pillars in the temple premises.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q13. Consider the following statements :
1. Saint Nimbarka was a contemporary of Akbar.
2. Saint Kabir was greatly influenced by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi.
Which of the statements given above is/ are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Difficulty: Tough. While these names are available in the TN and Nitin’s book but very difficult to recall and connect the dots. This reminds me of UPSC examiner’s fascination with lesser known Saint Dadu Dayal in 2013 and 2014 Prelims.

  • TN Class11 page 203: “In the thirteenth century, …Nimbarka and Vallabhacharya were also other preachers of Vaishnavite Bhakti in the Telangana region”. Akbar was 15th Century, so unlikely to be contemporaries. #1 is wrong.
  • Krishna Reddy’s Indian History (Mcgraw-hill) ch12: Mughal Empire: “Naqshbandi school degraded Sufism to the status of a handmaid of orthodox Islam. Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1563– 1624) became the leading spokesman of this school after Akbar’s death. His teachings were not confined to the reform of Islam; he advocated a crusade against the Hindus.”  So, it’s unlikely that Kabir would be ‘greatly influenced’ by such hardcore radical element. #2 is wrong. Besides, Kabir Das timeline is (1398 or 1440-1518) so he was long dead before Sirhindi was even born.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q16. With reference to the Mian Tansen, which one of the following statement is not correct
(a) Tansen was the title given to him by Emperor Akbar
(b) Tansen composed Dhrupads on Hindu god and goddesses
(c) Tansen composed songs on his patrons
(d) Tansen invented many Ragas
Difficulty: Tough because while Tansen’s name is mentioned in routine books but his detailed biography is not available in them. Question is directly lifted from TheHindu
ANS: 2018-March, TheHindu.

  • He invented the night raga Darbari Kanhra, morning raga Mian Ki Todi, mid-day raga, Mian ki Sarang, seasonal raga Mian ki Malhar. So #D is right, therefore eliminated, because we’ve to find wrong statement.
  • He composed many dhrupads on Ganesha, Shiva, Parvati and Rama. He also composed songs on his patrons. So B and C also eliminated.
  • Tansen was the title given to him by Raja Vikramjit of Gwalior. So, A is wrong, and therefore it’s the answer.

Counter argument:

  • Random Google book Music of India By Reginald Massey page 51: ‘Tansen’ is madeup of two words: ‘Taan’, a succession of notes; ‘Sena’, army. So, ‘Tansen’ would mean roughly “He who  commands an Army of notes. It is said that Akbar himself bestowed this title upon his favourite musician.” So A is right but Question requires us to find the wrong statement. But rest of the statements are correct as per Hindu article so entire question is invalid. You may complaint to UPSC via http://upsconline.nic.in/miscellaneous/QPRep/

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q17. Who among the following Mughal Emperors Shifted emphasis from illustrated manuscripts to album and individual portrait?
(a) Humayun
(b) Akbar
(c) Jahangir
(d) Shah Jahan
Difficulty: Tough. While these Kings patronized painters but the specific information asked the question is difficult to find from routine books.
Ishani Pandya Lecture
ANS: Ishani Pandya’s Art & Culture lecture series AC3/P1: Painting : Jahangir started Portrait Painting. So, C is correct. Alternately,
Random research paper / PHD thesis from Shodhganga

  • Page5: Under Akbar, painting appears to have been confined only to manuscript illustration. So B is wrong.
  • Page8: Portrait reached great heights during Jahangir’s reign. The portrait were painted with great care of details and finesse of drawing and modeling.
  • Page21: Jahangir had portraits made of his nobles which he gathered together in albums. Jahangir sent an artist to Iran especially to prepare portraits of Shah Abbas and his nobles’. He had similarly a number of portraits prepared of Uzbek rulers and nobles.
  • Page22: In Jahangir’s time, miniatures came to be made for preservation in folios rather than merely as book illustrations. Portraits became increasingly popular and Jahangir presented his portrait to all those he wished to honor.  He also started the practice of having his courtiers wear miniatures of himself on a brooch that was attached to the front of the turban.

All these factors point out that Jahangir was obsessed with portrait just like a modern teenager with selfies on Instagram. Answer should be ‘C’.
GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q1. With reference to Mughal India, what is/are the difference/differences between Jagirdar and Zamindar?
1. Jagirdars were holders of land assignments in lieu of judicial and police duties, whereas Zamindars were holders of revenue rights without obligation to perform any duty other than revenue collection.
2. Land assignments to Jagirdars were hereditary and revenue rights of Zamindars were not hereditary.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Difficulty: Easy. Covered verbatim in Rajiv’s Book.
ANS: Spectrum: Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध Page 70

  • Two classes shared power of the State with Mughal emperor: zamindars and the nobles.  The zamindars were hereditary owners of their lands who  enjoyed certain privileges on hereditary basis. They occupied an important place in the empire because they  helped in the collection of revenue and in local administration,  for which they maintained soldiers.
  • The nobility comprised people who were either assigned  large jagirs / Mansabs or appointed Subahdars.
  • Thus, both 1 and 2 are wrong.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

Answerkey-2019: Freedom Struggle

(Pre19-SetA) Q4. Consider the following statements about ‘the Charter Act of 1813’ :
1. It ended the trade monopoly of the East India Company in India except for trade in tea and trade with China.
2. It asserted the sovereignty of the British Crown over the Indian territories held by the Company.
3. The revenues of India were now controlled by the British Parliament.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1,2 and 3
Difficulty: Medium. Depending your memory power of all the charter acts and their features.
ANS: Spectrum: Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध page 566

  • The Company’s monopoly over trade in India ended,  but the Company retained the trade with China and the trade  in tea.  So #1 is right. This eliminates B.
  • The Company was to retain the possession of territories and the revenue for 20 years more, without  prejudice to the sovereignty of the Crown. So, #2 is right but #3 is wrong. Hence answer A: 1 and 2 only.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q5. With reference to Swadeshi Movement, consider the following statements :
1. It contributed to the revival of the indigenous artisan crafts and industries.
2. The National Council of Education was established as a part of Swadeshi Movement.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Difficulty: Medium because second statement requires mental recollection of a factoid. In real exam, student may have second thoughts about whether it was setup in Swadeshi period / afterward / by Indians / by British!?
Pratik Nayak History lecture

  • Pratik Nayak’s Youtube Lecture Series HFS7/P7: Both statements are right. Alternatively,
  • Spectrum: Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध Page 296: Programme of Swadeshi: On August 15, 1906, the National Council of  Education was set up to organise a system of education—  literary, scientific and technical—on national lines and under  national control. Page 297: The swadeshi spirit also found expression in the establishment  of swadeshi textile mills, soap and match factories, tanneries,  banks, insurance companies, shops, etc. So, both 1 and 2 are correct.
  • Alternatively Bipan Page 109 narrates the same story.
  • Ofcourse some people may counter that Swadeshi only revived Indian industries and not ‘indigenous artisan crafts’ So, let’s check further, Random Google Book Page 98: Boycott of Foreign goods also enabled something of a revival of artisanal crafts and industries. So, yes #1 is right. Hence Answer C both 1 and 2 are correct.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q6. Consider the following pairs :
Movement: Organization Leader
1.All India Anti-Untouchability League: Mahatma Gandhi
2. All India Kisan Sabha: Swami Sahajanad Saraswati
3.Self Respect Movement: E.V. Ramaswami Naicker
Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1,2 and 3
Difficulty: Easy. Big organizations, given in all routine books.
ANS: Rajiv

  • Page 438: While in jail, Gandhi set up the All India Anti-Untouchability  League in September 1932
  • Page 652: All India Kisan Congress/Sabha:  This sabha was founded in Lucknow in April 1936 with Swami  Sahjanand Saraswati as the president and N.G. Ranga as the  general secretary.
  • Page 224: During the 1920s in South India, the non-brahmins  organised the Self-Respect Movement led by E.V. Ramaswamy  Naicker.
  • So, D: all three are correct.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q14. With reference to the British colonial rule in India, consider the following statements :
1. Mahatma Gandhi was instrumental in the abolition of the system of ‘indentured labour’.
2. In Lord Chelmsford’s War Conference’, Mahatma Gandhi did not support the resolution on recruiting Indians for World War.
3. Consequent upon the breaking of Salt Law by Indian people, the Indian National Congress was declared illegal by the colonial rulers.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 1 and 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Tough. Because these are less known factoids asked. War conference not specifically mentioned in routine books.
ANS: Spectrum: Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध page 357

  • Not surprisingly Indian felt betrayed (by Montague-Chelmsford reforms). More so Gandhi, who had been at the  forefront in offering cooperation in the British war effort,  and who had even offered to encourage recruitment of Indians  into the British Indian forces. So we can infer if there was a ‘war conference’, Gandhi would have supported ercruitment. So, #2 is wrong. But just to be sure, let’s cross check further:
  • Random Google book Gandhi: The Man, His People, and the Empire By Rajmohan Gandhi, page 200: Called by Viceroy Chelmsford to a War Conference in Delhi in April 1918, Gandhi said in one-sentence speech that he supported recruitment for the war. So, #2 is wrong, by elimination we get answer B.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q15. With reference to Indian National Movement, consider the following pairs :
Persons: Position head
1. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru : President, All India Liberal Federation
2. K.C. Neogy : Member, The Constituent Assembly
3. P.C. Joshi : General Secretary, Communist Party of India
Which of the pairs given above is/ are correctly matched?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Medium to Tough. #3 PC Joshi is lesser known / less mentioned person in routine books. In real exam student might get confused whether it was PC Joshi or MN Joshi who was the general Secretary.

  • Sumit Sarkar, page 374: C.P.I. General Secretary P.C. Joshi, for instance, argued in the party organ National Front in April 1939 that ‘the greatest class struggle today is our national struggle’ of which Congress was the ‘main organ’—and so Congress-kisan unity had to be preserved. So, #3 is right.
  • K.C. Neogy was member of Constituent Assembly from W.Bengal. So, #2 is right. Only in Option ‘D’ this combination is available.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.
Stay tuned for the remaining subjects’ Answerkeys.