(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "India During 300 – 700 A.D."

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit

Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: India During 300 – 700 A.D.

Administrative System

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.

Economic Condition

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.

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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 century onwards.\

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