(Notes) Civil Services (Prelims) Examination : Trade and Commerce in the Pre-Gupta and Gupta period - Quick Revision Notes (III)

Quick Revision Notes : Civil Services (Prelims) Examination Special

Social Changes

51. Rig Vedic society was chiefly pastoral and semi-nomadic. Their chief wealth was the gau (cow) and a wealthy person was called gomat, the king or head was called gopati or gopa.

52. Vedic society in early period had no such serving class like the shudras.

53. Early literature of the Buddhists provides a picture of a settled agricultural economy and an emerging commerce in urban centres.

54. Mauryas saw a tremendous increase in trade.

55. The Gupta period saw changes in agrarian structure due to system of land grants.

56. Varna Samkara denotes mixed castes, considered ritually impure, included tribes or descendants of intercaste marriages.

57. A child born out of brahmin and vaishya combination was called ambastha and that of brahmin and sudra as nisada, vaishya and sudra as ugra, brahmin and sudra as parsava.

58. In the later vedic period, there were as many as 17 kinds of priests looking into various sacrifices. The Brahmin was one such priest, who gradually surpassed them and became their representative.

59. Besides the four varnas, there was a Panchamvarna (5th varna), comprising the untouchables.

60. The principal tax-payers were the vaishyas.

61. The social transformation of vaishya and sudras was under crisis in the 3rd century A.D., due to refusal to stick to their occupations and pay taxes. The practice of land grants was started by a few rulers to relax the tax collections, now entrusted to grant holders.

62. The term Rajanya, existing in literary sources as well as in coins, signifies kshatriyas.

63. In the Buddhist texts, the social order is denoted as: kshatriya, brahmin, vaishya and sudra (i.e. brahmins at 2nd place, not first). Vaishyas are called grahapatis or householders.

64. The samskaras were important religious sacraments for the human body. They are generally 16 in number.

65. There are eight forms of marriage, according to the Dharmasastras. The approved ones are: Brahma, Prajapatya, Daiva and Arsa. Divorce was severely condemned. The unapproved ones were: asura, paisacha, rakshasa and gandharva (love marriage). Re-marriage was allowed by the Brahmanical law givers as well as by Kautilya.

66. Polygamy was generally practiced by the socially upper classes.

67. Intercaste marriages were generally in Anuloma system (marriage of high caste male with low caste female).

68. There were several mixed castes also, arising out of tribals and foreigners.

69. The asura form of marriage (marriage by purchase) was quite prevalent, even though not approved by the shastras.

70. The position of women declined during the pre-Gupta and Gupta times and further more in later periods.

71. The use of veils (purdah) by women can be noticed near Harsha’s times (his sister Rajyasri used it) and increased during the advent of Muslims.

72. Some smritis encourage the practice of sati. The first definite historical incident of sati is recorded in 510 A.D., in the case of wife of Goparaja (a general of Bhanu Gupta). It existed mostly in Deccan and Central India.

73. Smritis recommend an austere life for widows. The skanda purana advocates the shaving of heads of widows.

74. During post-Gupta period, Vaishnava Dharma was prevalent in India. Lalitaditya of Kashmir, Sens of Bengal, Chandels and Chauhans were mostly Vaishnavites. However, the epicentre of Vaisnavism was the Tamil region.

75. Alwar saints brought the worship of Vishnu to new heights, mainly in the 9th and 10th centuries. Two famous female Alwar saints were Andal and Namallalwar.

76. Among Hindus, Shaivites were most numerous. The Pala rulers of Bengal were Buddhists, but their inscriptions begin with Om Namah Shivaya.

77. Ganesha became a popular deity of the Hindus in the 10th century A.D., especially in the western States, where Ganapati cult arose and held Ganesha as higher than other deities. Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations (mentioned in Agni Purana) are believed to originate somewhere around 9-10th century A.D.

78. Huen Tsang, speaks of a flourishing Buddhist faith, even in the 7th century A.D., besides other faiths, especially in U.P., Bihar and Bengal.

79. The Kayastha caste was also born somewhere during Gupta period. They were usually scribes under State service. First mention of Kayasthas is made by Yajyavalkya. During Guptas, they existed only as a social class and later they got converted into a caste.

80. Antayajas were a class of people living outside the town, as they were considered untouchables. The synonym Chandala has also been used for them. They were considered even lower than the sudras.

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