Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, was one of the prominent figures during the Indian freedom struggle. He started writing letters to his daughter Indira when she was ten years old. He wrote to her about diverse topics, ranging from the origin of the Earth to history of races and faith.
In a collection of 30 letters, Pandit Nehru imparted wisdom to his growing up daughter, while steering the movement to Indian freedom.
Here’s an excerpt from the book.
We saw in our last letter that the chief difference between man and the other animals was the intelligence of man. This intelligence made him cleverer and stronger than enormous animals who would otherwise have destroyed him. As man’s intelligence grew, so also grew his power.
To begin with, man had no special weapons to fight his enemies. He could only throw stones at them. Then he began to make out of stone: axes, spears and many other things, including fine stone needles. We saw many of these stone weapons in the South Kensington Museum and also in the museum in Geneva.
The Ice Age, about which I said something in my last letter, slowly ended and the glaciers disappeared from Central Europe and Asia. As it became warmer, men spread out.
In those days there were no houses or other buildings. People lived in caves. There was no cultivation, that is working in the fields. Men ate fruits and nuts and the animals they killed. They had no bread or rice because they did not grow anything in the fields. They did not know cooking but perhaps they just heated the meat on the big fires they had. They had no cooking vessels or pots and pans.
One thing is very curious. These savage men knew how to draw. Of course they had no paper or pens or pencils or brushes. They simply had their stone needles and pointed instruments. With these they scratched or drew animals on the walls of caves. Some of their drawings are quite good but they are almost all profiles. You know that it is easier to draw profiles, and children usually draw in this way. As the caves must have been dark it is probable that they used some kind of simple lamp.
These men that we have described are called Palaeolithic men, or the men of the old Stone Age. That period is called the Stone Age because men made all their tools with stone. They did not know how to use the metals. Today most of your things are made of metals, specially iron. But iron or bronze was not known then, and so stone, which is much more difficult to work with, was used.
Before the Stone Age came to an end, the climate of the world changed greatly and became much warmer. The glaciers had gone far back to the Arctic Ocean, and in Central Asia and Europe great forests arose. Among these forests we find a new race of men living. These people were cleverer in many ways than the Palaeolithic men whom we have just described. But they still made their tools out of stone. These men also belonged to the Stone Age but it was the later Stone Age. They are called Neolithic men or men of the new Stone Age.
We find when examining these Neolithic men that great progress has been made. The intelligence of man is making him go ahead fast compared to the other animals. These Neolithic men made the very great discovery of cultivation. They started tilling fields and growing their food there. This was a great thing for them. They could now get their food more easily instead of having to hunt animals all the time. They got more leisure, more time to rest and think. And the more leisure they had, the more progress they made in discovering new things and methods. They started making earthen pots, and with the help of these they began to cook their food. The stone tools were much better and were beautifully polished. They also knew how to tame animals like the cow, the dog, the sheep and the goat. They also knew how to weave.
They used to live in houses or huts. These huts were very often made in the middle of lakes as the wild animals or other men could not attack them easily there. These people are therefore called lake-dwellers.
You will wonder how we know so much about these people. They wrote no books of course. But I have already told you that the book where we read the story of these men is the great book of nature. It is not easy to read it. It requires great patience. Many people have spent their lives in trying to read this book and they have collected large numbers of fossils and other remains of old times. These fossils are collected together in the great museums, and we can see there the fine polished axes and the pots and stone arrows and needles and many other things which were made by the Neolithic man. You have seen many of these things yourself but perhaps you have forgotten them. If you see them again you will be able to understand them better.
There was, I remember, a very good model of a lake-dwelling in the Geneva museum. Wooden poles were stuck in the lake, and on top of these poles a wooden platform was made. On the platform the wooden huts were put up and the thing was connected by a little bridge to the land.
These Neolithic men clothed themselves with the skins of animals or sometimes with a rough cloth of flax. Flax is a plant which has a good fibre used for making cloth. Linen is now made out of flax. But in those days cloth of flax must have been very rough.
These men went on making progress. They started making tools of copper and of bronze. Bronze, as you know, is a mixture of copper and tin and is harder than either of these. They also used gold and were vain enough to make ornaments out of it!
These people must have lived about 10,000 years ago. Of course, we do not know the exact dates or periods. All this is largely guesswork. You will notice that so far we have been talking of millions of years. We are now gradually getting nearer and nearer to our present age. From the Neolithic man to the man today there is no break or sudden change. But still we are very different from him. The changes came slowly, as is nature’s way. Different races developed and each race went its own way and lived its own life. The climate being different in different parts of the world, people had to adapt themselves to it and changed greatly. But we shall talk about this later.
One thing more I want to tell you today. About the end of the Neolithic age a very great disaster happened to man. I have told you already that at that time the Mediterranean was not a sea at all. There were just some lakes there and in these lakes many people lived. Suddenly, the land near Gibraltar, between Europe and Africa, was washed away and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean poured into the low valley of the Mediterranean. The water went on pouring and filling it up, and large numbers of the men and women living near or over the lakes must have been drowned. They could not escape anywhere. There was water all over the place for hundreds of miles. The Atlantic Ocean continued to pour in till it had filled up the valley, and the Mediterranean Sea came into existence.
You have heard, of course, and perhaps read, about the great flood. The Bible speaks about it and some of our Sanskrit books also refer to it. It may be that this mighty flood was the filling up of the Mediterranean. It was such a terrible disaster that the few people who managed to escape must have told all about it to their children, and they to their own children, and so the story was handed down from generation to generation.