A Changing Countryside notes
Popular participation of kings
- Ordinary people’s thought and experiences contained in anthologies such as Jataka and the Panchatantra in form of stories
- The Jataka was written in Pali around the middle of the first millennium CE.
- The ‘Gandatindu Jataka‘ describes the plight of the subjects of a wicked king.
- The story tells the relationship between the king and his subjects.
- King demands high taxes to fill their coffers.
Strategies for Increasing Production
- One strategy to increase production was the shift to plough agriculture by iron -tipped ploughshare.
- In some parts of the Ganga valley production of paddy was dramatically increased by the introduction of transplantation.
- Iron ploughshare was used in semi-arid regions such as part of Punjab and Rajasthan in the 20th century.
- Hilly regions in the north eastern and the central part of the subcontinent practiced hoe agriculture.
- Another strategy to increase agricultural production was to use irrigation through tanks and canals.
Difference in Rural Society
- The benefits of increased production lead to a growing differentiation amongst people engaged in agriculture as it was not equally distributed.
- The term ‘Gahapati‘ was often used in Pali texts to designate the small peasants and landholders.
- The large landholders and village headman exercised control over other cultivators.
- The village headman position was often hereditary.
- Early Tamil ‘Sangam’ literature also mentioned different categories of people living in the villages —
Vellalar -large landowners
Uzhawar – ploughmen
Adimai – slaves
Land grants and new rural Elites
- During the early centuries of the common era, grants of land were made.
- Land grants recorded in inscriptions on the stone but most were on copper plates.
- The record states that have survived are generally grants to religious institutions or to brahmanas.
- Most inscriptions were in Sanskrit while the rest were in local languages such as Tamil or Telugu.
The inscriptions indicate that Prabhavati had access to land which she then granted but common women had no access to lands.
The inscription also gives us an idea about the rural population- these included Brahmanas and peasants.
Land grants is a strategy to extend agriculture to new areas. Others thought it as the indication of weakening political power.
Town and trades
- Major towns were located along routes of communication.
- Some such as Patliputra on riverine routes. Some were near the coast, from where sea routes began, many cities like Mathura were bustling centres of commercial, cultural and political activities.
- A wide range of artefacts have been recovered from the excavation in these areas. these include fine pottery bowls and dishes with the 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.
- By the 2nd century BCE we found short votive inscriptions in a number of cities. These votives mentioned the name of the donor and his occupation as well.
Guilds or Shreni probably procure raw materials, regulated production and marketed the finished goods.
Trade in the subcontinent and beyond
Trade was extending into Central Asia, across the Arabian sea to east and North Africa and West Asia and through the bay of Bengal to South East Asia and China. rulers control these routes. These routes were used by peddlers, merchants who travelled with caravans.
There were seafarers, whose ventures were risky but highly profitable.
Successful merchants designated as —
Masattuvam in Tamil
Setthis, Satthavahas in Prakrit
Trading items were – salt, grains, cloth metal ore and finished products stone.
Pepper was in great demand in Roman empire; these were transported across the Arabian sea to Mediterranean sea.
Coins and Kings
Punch– marked coins made of silver and copper (6th century BCE onwards) amongst the earliest to be minted and used.
The first coin to bear the names and images of rulers were issued by the Indo- Greeks.
The Kushanas were the first to issue gold coins in the first century CE.
These were virtually identical in weight with those issued by contemporary Roman emperors and the Parthian rulers of Iran.
Hoards of Roman coins have been found at archaeological sites in South India. Coins were also issued by the tribal republic such as that of the Yaudheyas of Punjab and Haryana in 1st century CE.
Some of the most spectacular gold coin were issued by the Gupta rulers. The earliest issues are remarkable for purity.
Deciphering the Inscriptions
Most scripts used to write modern Indian languages are derived from Brahmi, the script used in most Ashoka’s inscriptions.
In deciphering Brahmi, the European scholars and the Indian scholars compared Devanagari and Bengali script with Brahmi script. After painstaking work James Prinsep was able to decipher the Ashoka Brahmi script in 1838.
Kharosthi was deciphered by studying coins which has both Greek and Kharosthi script.
Historical evidence from Inscription
The name of ruler not mention in the inscription, though their title were used such as:-
Devanampiya- beloved of the gods
Piyadassi- pleasant to behold
After examining all these inscriptions and finding that they match in terms of content, style, language, and palaeography, epigraphists have concluded that they were issued by the same ruler.
From the Ashokan inscription, we know the anguish towards warfare. These inscriptions have been found in Odisha.
The limitation of institutional evidence
Sometimes, there are technical limitation
- Letters are very faintly engraved
- Inscription may be damaged or letters missing
- It is not always easy to be sure about the exact meaning of the words used in inscriptions.
- What is available at present is probably only a fraction of what was inscripted
- The content of inscriptions almost invariably projects the perspective of the persons who commissioned them.
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