Feudalism - Agrarian Structure in the Post-Gupta Period UPSC Notes | EduRev

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The document Feudalism - Agrarian Structure in the Post-Gupta Period UPSC Notes | EduRev is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC (Civil Services) Prelims.
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Feudalism

  • The Post-Gupta period is regarded as an age of feudalism in Indian history. But Indian feudalism did not originate from the establishment of a military class over the peasantry and as such it was not a replica of the western phenomenon.
  • Indian feudalism arose out of the womb of the Indian society and its origin lay in the course of the evolution of the Indian people.
  • Feudalism may be defined as a form of social order in which possessing class appropriates the surplus produce of the peasants by exercising superior rights over their land. Its political essence lay in the organisation of the whole administrative structure on the basis of land and its economic structure lay in the institution of serfdom. 
  • Peasants were attached to the soil held by landed intermediaries between the king and the actual tillers.

Essential Features of Indian Feudal System

  • Theoretical ownership over entire land by the rulers.
  • Land grants to various persons, viz. (a) Princes and members of the royal family (b) Civil and military officers as payment for their services (c) Priests and temples (d) Fields on conditions of supplying troops (e) Vassal states etc.
  • Fiefs were granted on condition of payment of fixed tribute of rendering military service.
  • Feudal grants were tax-free and fief holders enjoyed full administrative and heriditary rights—they assigned fiefs to their subordinates and thus helped sub-infeudation. Feudal state paid through fiefs.
  • Feudal hierarchy with different strata of a landed aristocracy between the peasant and the king-Mahasamanta-Samanta-Ranaka-Thakura-Bhogika-Kutumbina etc.
  • In India, feudalism meant ruralisation of artisans and craftsmen and the emergence of traditional Indian village community.
  • The broad features of feudalism in India may be categorised in the following manner: (i) granting of land, (ii) transfer of peasants (iii) extension of forced labour (iv) paucity of coins, restriction on the movements of the peasants, artisans and merchants  (v) abandonment of fiscal and criminal administration and growth of the obligation of the Samantas. Peasants had to be completely subservient to the land.

Few More Informations

  • In South, agrahara was popular in the sense of rent-free holding in possession of Brahmanas. At one place the fief holder is represented as governing an agrahara (village). According to Tribhogaabhyantra-Siddhi, that he was enjoying only one-third, the other two-third going to the Brahmanas and Gods.
  • Satavahana record (Myakadoni Inscription) refer to a village owned by a Gaulmika included in the ahara of a superior officer (Mahasenapati) indicating certain features of feudalism.
  • A Satavahana inscription of the first century B.C. surrenders the right of administration in the land granted to Buddhist monks. Even the administration of justice was made over to the grantees who could exploit the population at will.
  • The creation of Dasabandham tenure by the Reddy kings of Andhra has been characterised as a remarkable feature of medieval Andhra feudalism.
  • Administrative rights are given for the first time in the grant of Gautamiputra Satkarni. According to Buddhaghosha Brahmadeya grants carried judicial and administrative rights.
  • Kalahana gives an account of the various types of feudal oppressions. Commendation, immunity, forced labour, feudal dues and occasional demands are all found in Indian feudalism and also the established institution of sub-infeudation.
  • According to Kausambi, the ideological basis of the feudal society was provided by the doctrine of Bhakti which advocated unflinching loyalty and the feudal ideology which links together in a particular chain of serf and the retainer to a feudal lord.
  • Feudatories are recognised in legal literature and other writings.
  • According to Mitaksara the privilege of making a gift of land belonged only to the king and not to the fief holder.
  • According to Brihatkathakosa service tenure villages were not necessarily always permanent grants.
  • Fields which were owned by cultivators them selves are generally described as kautamba-ksetra, owned by certain individual as Sakta and tilled by a certain individual as prakrsts or krsta.
  • Terms like Rajasamatavisaya-bhogika, Samantaraja visesaratna, are indicative of high status of the feudal nobility who not only monopolised administrative functions at all levels but also controlled other functionaries.
  • During the heydey of feudalism, Mahasandhi-vigrahika came to hold charge of royal policy towards vassals and feudatories of all kings and was responsible for land grants to the Brahmanas and secular charters.
  • Visti is known as Begari in Hindi language. Monier Williams has translated this word as “forced labour or service, compulsory work and drudgery.”
  • In the Amarakosa, the word visti is a synonym for aju, visti also stands for corvee labour.
  • The Agnipurana prescribes that the king must provide food to those from whom forced labour is to be taken.
  • Kalhana refers to the fact that during the movement of the army, people were forced to carry loads, make roads, and render many other types of miscellaneous services.
  • “Those who cultivate the royal estate pay a sixth part of the produce as tribute”-Hiuen-Tsang.
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