Chapter 2 Kings, Farmers and Towns Early States and Economies
Discuss the evidence of craft production in Early Historic cities. In what ways is this different from the evidence from Harappan cities ?
Various evidences of craft production in Early Historic cities have been found. These include fine pottery bowls and dishes, with a glossy finish, known as Northern Black Polished Ware, probably used by rich people and ornaments, tools, weapons, vessels, figurines, made of a wide range of materials – gold, silver, copper, bronze, ivory, glass, shell and terracotta. Iron was also used for making plough share, weapons and tools as well as to meet the growing demands in the cities.
On the other hand, the craft production in the Harappan cities included bead-making, shell¬cutting, metal-working, seal-making and weight-making. The material used was stones, jasper, crystal, quartz, copper, bronze, gold, shell, faience and terracotta.
The evidence of craft production in the Harappan civilisation have been found from excavations. The evidences for the Early Historic cities have been found from excavations as well as from inscriptions.
Another difference is that there were guilds in the early Historic cities. These were organisations of craft producers and merchants. These guilds or shrenis probably procured raw materials, regulated production and marketed the finished product.
Describe the salient features of Mahajanapadas.
Mahajanapadas were states that existed between 6th and 4th BC centuries. Buddhist and Jain texts mention sixteen Mahajanapadas. The name of all these are not uniform in all texts but some names are common and uniform which means they were the powerful ones. These Mahajanapadas are Vajji, Magadha, Kaushal, Kuru, Panchal, and Gandhar.
The important features of the Mahajanapadas are as follows.
- Most of the Mahajanapadas were ruled by powerful kings. However, there were some Mahajanapadas where rule was in the hands of people, we call them republics. In some states the king and the subject had collective control on the economic resources of the state.
- Every Mahajanapadas had its own capital. The capital normally would be surrounded by fort. The fortification of the capital was needed for protection and economic resources.
- It was around 6th Qentury BC, Brahmins began to compile scripture called “Dharmshastra” which states rules of morality including that of monarch. Herein it was mentioned that the king should be Kshatriya.
- The main job of the king was collection of taxes from farmers, traders, craftsmen. They also accepted donations.
- It was considered fair to plunder neighbouring countries for riches.
- Gradually Mahajanapadas began to have full time army and officials. Soldiers were from the ranks of farmers.
How do historians reconstruct the lives of ordinary people?
Ordinary people rarely left accounts of their thoughts and experiences. The historians reconstruct their lives by examining stories contained in anthologies such as the Jatakas and the Panchatantra. For example, one story known as the Gandatindu Jataka describes the plight of the subjects of a wicked king. The subjects included elderly women and men, cultivators, herders, village boys and even animals. When the king went in disguise to find out what his subjects thought about him, each one of them cursed him for their miseries, complaining that they were attacked by robbers at night and by tax collectors during the day. As a result of it, people abandoned their village and went to live in the forest.
Compare and contrast the list of things given to the Pandyan chief (Source 3) with those produced in the village of Danguna (Source 8). Do you notice any similarities or differences?
(a) The defeated people gave the following things to the Pandya chief as a mark of respect to the victorious king : Ivory, fragrant wood, fans made of the hair of deer, honey, sandalwood, red ochre, antimony, turmeric, cardamom, pepper, coconuts, mangoes, medicinal plants, fruits, onions, sugarcane, flowers, areca*nut, bananas, baby tigers, lions, elephants, monkeys, bear, deer, musk deer, fox, peacocks, musk cat, wild cocks and speaking parrots.
(b) The village of Danguna produced the following things : Grass, animal hides, charcoal, fermenting liquors, salt, khadira trees, flowers and milk.
- Similarities : Both the lists contain the things of daily use such as honey, turmeric, i cardamom, pepper, mangoes, fruits, onions, flowers (Source 3) and grass, salt, flowers and milk (Source 8).
- Differences : The things given to the Pandya chief included precious things such as ivory, fragrant wood, sandalwood and wild animals like tigers, lions, elephants, wild cocks. These things and animals prove that the forest people were brave and their economic condition was good. On the other hand, the things of the Danguna village did not include precious things. It included things such as grass, animal hides, flowers and milk which prove that they were ordinary people and their economic condition was bad. That was probably the reason for granting them various exemptions by Prabhavati Gupta.
List some of the problems faced by the epigraphists.
The specialists who study inscriptions are called Epigraphists. Some of the important problems they encounter when they try to decipher inscriptions are as follows:
- Many of the inscriptions are not found in proper shape, they are partly damaged, hence deciphering them becomes a knotty problem.
- The inscriptions are written from the point of view of those who have created it. Hence, in order to get an impartial understanding, we need to go beyond the written words, get into its interpretations.
- Many of the inscriptions have descriptions in symbolic words. Hence deciphering them have become difficult.
- Sometimes the inscriptions are engrafted in very light colors. Hence, deciphering them becomes difficult.
6. Question 6.
Asokan inscriptions mention all the main features of the administration of the Mauryan Empire. Thus, the features of the administration are evident in the inscriptions of the Asokan age. The important features of the same are as follow:
1. The capital of the Mauryan Empire was Pataliputra. Apart from the capital there ‘ were four other centres of political power in the empire. They were Taxila, Ujjaini,
Tosali and Suvamagiri.
2. Committee and subcommittees were formed to run the administration and safety of boundaries. Megasthenes has mentioned that there were one committee and six sub-committees. The six subcommittees and their areas of activities are as follows:
(i) The first sub committee looked after navy.
(ii) The second sub committee looked after transport and communications.
(iii) The third sub committee looked after infantry.
(iv) The fourth sub committee had the responsibility of horses.
(v) The fifth had the responsibility of chariots.
(vi) The sixth had the responsibility of elephants.
3. Strong network of roads and communications were established. It is notable that no large empire can be maintained in the absence of the same.
4. Asoka made an attempt to keep the empire united by the philosophy of Dhamma. Dhamma are nothing but moral principles that actuated people towards good conduct. Special officers called Dhamma Mahamtras were appointed to propagate Dhamma. In fact Romila Thapar has made it the most important element of the Asokan state’s governing principle.
This is a statement made by one of the best-known epigraphists of the twentieth century. D.C. Sircar: “There is no aspect of life, culture and activities of the Indians that is not reflected in inscriptions.” Discuss.
(a) The statement of D.C. Sircar that there is no aspect of life, culture and activities of the Indians that is not reflected in inscriptions does not seem to be correct because not everything that is politically or economically significant was necessarily recorded in inscriptions. Some examples are given below :
- Routine agricultural practices and the joys and sorrows of daily existence find no mention in inscriptions.
- The inscriptions generally focus on grand, unique events.
- The content of inscriptions almost invariably projects the perspective of the person who commissioned them. For example, in some inscriptions Asoka claims that earlier rulers had no arrangements to receive reports about the people. This does not seem to be correct.
(b) The inscriptions give us only the following information :
- Information about the administration particularly major political centres.
- Asoka’s Dhamma and its propagation by special officers known as the dhamma mahamatta.
Discuss the notions of kingship that developed in the post-Maury an period.
- The main notion that developed in the post-Mauryan period was that of divine kings. The kings identified themselves with a variety of deities to claim high status. This strategy was adopted by the Kushanas who ruled over a vast kingdom extending from Central Asia to northwest India.
- Colossal statues of Kushana rulers were installed in a shrine at Mat near Mathura and in Afghanistan. This indicates that the Kushanas considered themselves godlike.
- Many Kushana rulers adopted the title devaputra, or “son of god”. It was possibly inspired by Chinese rulers who called themselves sons of heaven.
To what extent were agricultural practices transformed in the period under consideration?
The agricultural practices were transformed in the period under consideration i.e., 600 BCE – 6OO CE in the following ways :
- There was a shift to plough-agriculture in fertile alluvial river valleys such as those of Ganga and the Kaveri from c. sixth century BCE.
- The iron-tipped ploughshare was used to turn the alluvial soil in areas which had high rainfall.
- In some parts of the Ganga valley, production of paddy was dramatically increased by the introduction of transplantation.
- Those living in hilly tracts in the north-eastern and central parts of the subcontinent practised hoe agriculture, which was much better suited to the terrain.
- Irrigation was used to increase agricultural production. Wells, tanks, and canals were used for this purpose. Communities as well as individuals organised the construction of irrigation works.