Historians depend on a variety of sources to explore the past. For Medieval Period, there are two main sources i.e., Archaeological and Literary.

Archaeological Sources

The archaeological sources can be classified into various types:

  • Building, sculptures, etc., (Monuments)
  • Numismatic evidences (Coins)
  • Epigraphic evidences (Inscriptions) Artistic evidences (Paintings)


Monuments include Temples, Mosques, Forts, Tombs, etc. They not only tell us about the religious practices but also about the society, its architecture, economic and political conditions. Some of the famous monuments are the Red Fort in Delhi, the Taj Mahal in Agra and various temples in the South.


Coins from medieval period gives us information about the different rulers of that time, their interests, achievements, etc. For example, coins belonging to Mughal period depict the portraits of Mughal rulers. The study of coins is called ‘Numismatics’.


The study of inscriptions or epigraphs is known as ‘epigraphy. The inscriptions or epigraphs are the writing engraved on hard surfaces. The inscriptions were written in various languages and scripts. In the Ancient Period, epigraphy was made on cave walls, rocks, stones, pillars, etc. Later on, it was made on copper plates. These inscriptions give details about temples or statues in the form of poems written in praise of kings called ‘Prashastis’.


Paintings are very important source of history. They tell us about the customs, rulers and socio-political life of the period. Earlier paintings depicted the religious beliefs. During Mughals, paintings were a blend of Persian and Indian styles.

Literary Sources

The literary sources can be divided into two types:

→Indigenous sources                   → Foreign sources

Indigenous Sources

These sources were created within the country, these include Manuscripts and Chronicles. The manuscripts were mainly written on palm leaves, cloth, brick, bark and later, on paper as well. The chronicles were the record of rule of kings and their kingdoms. Bards (Poet) were appointed by the kings for this purpose. They used to record all the proceedings at the king’s court, thus giving valuable information about the administration of that period. The Languages used in these chronicles were mostly Persian and Turkish. Hence, the indigenous sources reflects the lifestyle of rulers, their families and wars which they fought.

Famous chronicles, autobiographies and biographies are as follows:

  • Rajatarangini by Kalhana: A chronicle of the kings of Kashmir
  • Shahnama by Firdausi: A historiography
  • Tuzk-e-Babri or Baburnama by Babur: An autobiography
  • Akbaranama and Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazi: Description of
  • Akbar’s life and administration
  • Prithviraj Raso by Chand Bardai: Gives an account of life of the famous Rajput ruler ‘Prithviraj Chauhan’.

Foreign Sources

The account of foreign travellers proved to be an important sources to know about the life of ordinary people. Some of the well known travellers were:

  • Ibn Battuta: A traveller from Morocco who wrote about Muhammad-bin Tughlaq’s rule in his travelogue, Rihla’.
  • Marco Polo: The Italian ambassador in the court of the Chinese Emperor Kablai Khan, visited India in 1292 CE and wrote an interesting account on social customs and traditions that were prevalent in South India.
  • Sir Thomas Roe: An ambassador of British king James I, stayed at the court of Mughal Emperor, Jahangir’.
  • Domingo Paes: He was a Portuguese traveller who visited Vijayanagara Empire around the year 1520 CE.
  • Abdur Razzaq: He was a Persian. He was the ambassador of ‘Shah Rukh’, the Timurid dynasty ruler of Persia to Calcutta, India.

The writings of these travellers are thus valuable and vital sources of information about the Medieval India.