Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit
Subject: History (Optional)
Topic: India During 300 – 700 A.D.
The Guptas, Chalukyas, and Pallavas, Pushyabhutis, Cholas, etc. reigned
during these centuries.
The kingdom (rajya) was divided for administrative
convenience into a number of provinces - bhukti in the north and mandala or
mandalam in the south. The provinces in turn were sub-divided into divisions -
vishaya or bhoga in north Kottams or valanadu in the south. The other units of
administration in the descending scale were the districts adhisthana or pattana
in north and nadu in the south; groups of villages i.e. modem tahsil called -
vithis in north and pattala and kurram in south Indian records. The villages
formed the lowest administrative units. The governor of bhukti called uparika
was appointed by the king. He, in turn appointed the officer in charge of
vishaya- known as vishayapati. Vishayapatis, had their headquarters in towns
where they had their own officers and were aided in their administrative work by
a Board of Advisors consisting of four members representing the various
important sections namely: (i) the nagarsresthis (chief of the guild of traders
and bankers) represented the guilds in particular and the urban population in
general, (ii) sarthavaha (the head of guild of traders) represented the various
trading communities, (iii) the prathamakulika (the chief of artisan)
representing various artisan classes, (iv) the prathamakayastha (the chief
scribe), who might have represented the Kayastha or government official like the
Chief Secretary of the present day. This body was known as Adhisthanadhikarana.
Two new classes of officers were introduced by the Guptas.
These were Sandhivigrahika - the minister of peace and war i.e. modern foreign
minister and kumaramatyas - a body of top ranking officials attached not only to
the king but the crown-prince and sometimes placed as in charge of districts.
Another class of important officials were Ayuktas, probably the same as Yuktas
mentioned in the Ashokan inscriptions and in Kautilya’s Arthashastra. The Gupta
period provided a landmark in the history of the administration of law and
justice in early India. For the first time, lawgivers of the period drew a clear
line between civil and criminal law.
The Brihaspatismriti enumerates eighteen titles of land and
adds that fourteen of these ‘have their origin in property (dhanamula) and four
in injury (himsamula). The list of taxes enumerated in the Arthashastra of
Kautilya is much bigger than that found in the Gupta inscription. This could
suggest that the burden of taxation decreased in Gupta times because of the
prosperity of the state. There is no trace of emergency taxes in this period.
Land tax was collected varying from one-fourth to one-sixth of the produce, both
in cash and kind.
The agriculture system was well developed during this period.
Scientific methods were followed for better and more agricultural production.
The Brihat Samhita and the Amarakosha contain special chapters on the study of
plants and gardens forest, crops and manure etc. Hiuen-Tsang classifies the
clothing material of Indians under the headssilk, cotton, linen, wool and goat
hair. Amarakosha mentions different terms in use for the finer and coarser
varieties of cloth as well as for unbleached and bleached silk and the like.
Dashapura, Banaras, Mathura and Kamarupa were great centres of textiles
production. Ivory work flourished as earlier. We come to know about the guilds
of ivory workers from a seal found in the excavation of Bhita. Leather industry
also flourished. We see the depiction of leather boots and shoes in the
contemporary sculptures and paintings.
According to Hiuen-Tsang’s testimony, brass, gold and silver
were produced in abundance. The Gupta period’s gold and silver coins, seals, the
Mehrauli iron pillar, a few statues belonging to this period are the best
examples of metal workmanships. Ship building was another big industry which was
well developed in the period that facilitated trade and communication
activities. During this period various guilds actively participated in the
administration of city. Public works were undertaken and executed by the state
as well as guilds. Reference may specially be made to the repairs of the dam on
Sudarshana lake and the connected irrigation canal, carried out in the province
of Saurashtra under the rule of Skandagupta’s provincial governor, Parnadatta
and his son, Chakrapalita.
Trade and commerce flourished during the entire period. Trade
was carried on between India on the one hand and eastern and western countries
on the other, both through land as well as coastal routes. During this period,
India maintained regular maritime relation with Sri Lanka, Persia, Arabia,
Byzantine Empire, Africa and further west. In the eastern part India developed
commercial relations with China, Burma and South East Asia. The important trade
items were silk, spices of various kinds, textiles, metals ivory, sea produce
etc. Tamralipti, Arikamedu, Kaveripattnam, Barbaricum, Muziris, Pratishthana.
Sopara and Brighukachchha were the important sea ports of the time. These were
well connected through island routes from all parts of India.
There was no decline in the urban and commercial centres nor
any paucity of coins.The tradition of land grant for charitable purpose
continued into the medieval period also. These were known as madad-i-mash,
suyarghal, milk and Idarar In fact in the medieval period ‘the total expenditure
under these heads went upto 5% of the total income of the state. During the post
Harsha period, the literary and inscriptional evidences show the advanced state
of agriculture, trade and economy. Abhidhanaratnamala mentions a large variety
of cereals and other food grains with their synonyms. From Abhidhanaratnamala,
we get the scientific knowledge of agriculture. It mentions that soils were
classified variously. It further mentions that different kinds of fields were
selected for different classes of crops.
Irrigation by the arahata (Persian wheel) and by leather
buckets are mentioned in the inscriptions. This shows that the so called Persian
wheel was very much present in India prior to the arrival of Muslim rulers. The
oldest one is that of textile in the field of industry. The records of this
period mention a great variety and qualities of textiles such as woollen and
hempen yarns, garments made of silk, deer’s hair and sheep and goat’s wool. Some
centres of metal industry were famous such as Saurashtra which was famous for
its bell industry while Vanga was known for its tin industry etc. Trade was
flourishing during this period as earlier. The Arab, Chinese, Indian sources
mention the flow of trade between east and west via India. As regard the list of
Indian exports, the Arab traveller, Ibn Khordadbah writing towards the end of
the ninth century mentions Indian exports consisting of diverse products of
aloe-wood, sandal wood, camphor and camphor water, nutmeg, clove pink, coconut,
vegetable, textures of velvety cotton and other variety, metals, precious and
semi-precious stones, pearls fisheries etc. In the list of import items, horses
were the most important. The best breeds of horses were imported from central
and western Asia. The ports along the west coasts of India referred to by Arab
geographers were Debal (in Indus delta) Cambay, Thana, Sopara and Quilon.
The trade with South East Asia increased enormously during
this period. The Sailendra kings established political, cultural and economic
relations with Indian Kings. From the south Indian inscriptions, we have the
evidence of the working of two famous trading corporations. The first is the
Manigramam whose history can be traced from the end of ninth century down to the
thirteenth century. Its activity carried on in the coastal as well as inland
towns of the south India. The second is the famous Nanadesha-Tisaiyayirattu
Ainnurruvar which was destined to expand its activities to Burma and Sumatra in
the eleventh and the twelfth centuries. It began its carrier from the ninth