Q.1. Read the following excerpt carefully and answer the questions that follow:
In praise of Samudragupta
This is an excerpt from the Prayaga Prashasti :
He was without an antagonist on earth; he, by the overflowing of the multitude of (his) many good qualities adorned by hundreds of good actions, has wiped off the fame of other kings with the soles of (his) feet; (he is) Purusha (the Supreme Being), being the cause of the prosperity of the good and the destruction of the bad (he is) incomprehensible (he is) possessed of compassing; (he is) the giver of many hundred thousands of cows; (his) mind has received ceremonial initiation for the uplift of the miserable, the poor, the forlorn and the suffering; (he is) resplendent and embodied kindness to mankind; (he is) equal to (the gods) Kubera (the god Varuna (the god of the ocean), Yama (the god of death).....
(i) Give the meaning of Prashasti.
(ii) ‘Samudragupta is compared to gods.’ Justify the comparison.
(iii) Name two sources used to reconstruct the history of Gupta rulers.
Ans. (i) Prashastis were inscriptions composed in praise of king by eminent poets.
(ii) Rulers were compared to gods and given divine status. By adopting high sounding titles, rulers sought to gain legitimacy and exercise control over the subjects. The prashasti equated the ruler to Kubera (the god of wealth), Varuna (the god of the ocean), Indra (the god of rains) and Yama (the god of death).
(iii) Two sources are coins and inscriptions. Some of the most spectacular gold coins were made by the Gupta rulers. Inscriptions found on stone and copper plants throw light about the Gupta rulers.
Q.2. Read the following extract carefully and answer the questions that follow:
Capturing elephants for the army
The Arthashastra lays down minute details of administrative and military organisation. This is what it says about how to capture elephants:
Guards of elephant forests, assisted by those who rear elephants, those who enchain the legs of elephants, those who guard the boundaries, those who live in forests, as well as by those who nurse elephants, shall with the help of five or seven female elephants, trace the whereabouts of herds of elephants by following the course of urine and dung left by elephants.
According to Greek sources, the Mauryan ruler had a standing army of 600,000 foot-soldiers, 30,000 cavalry and 9,000 elephants. Some historians consider these accounts to be exaggerated.
(i) Who composed Arthashastra? Mention any one information that it contains.
(ii) Why were the elephants captured?
(iii) Describe the process of capturing elephants?
(iv) Explain how did the Mauryan rulers manage such a huge force?
Ans. (i) The Arthashastra was composed by Kautilya or Chanakya, who was believed to be the chief minister of Chandragupta.
(ii) Elephants were captured for military activities and transport.
(iii) The elephants were captured by the forest guards. The guards took the help of those who raise elephants. Then some people enchained the legs of elephants. Sometimes four or five female elephants was also taken. The elephants were traced by following the course of their urine and dung.
(iv) Megasthenes mentioned that a committee with six sub-committees were set up for co-ordinating military activities. One committee looked after the navy, second transport and provisions, third foot soldiers, fourth horses, fifth chariot and sixth elephants.
Q.3. Explain the main features of the Mauryan administration.
Ans. (i) There were five major political centres in the empire. The capital was Patliputra and provincial centres were Taxila, Ujjain, Tosali and Suvarnagiri, all mentioned in Ashokan inscriptions.
(ii) All the inscriptions in the Mauryan Empire convey same message which suggest uniform administrative system.
(iii) Some historians don’t agree and suggest that far-off regions were ruled by different rulers but they had good relations with Magadha so the inscriptions were placed there as well.
(iv) Administrative control was strong in capital and and it was the centre of power.
(v) Taxila and Ujjain were situated as trade centres. Suvarnagiri was in Karnataka and contains gold mines.
(vi) Communication was done using land and river. Proper provisions and protection were given for travellers.
(vii) Army provided protection and security according to number of travellers. Megasthenes’ army was supervised by a committee which included six sub-committees and they are: Navy, transportation and provision, foot soldiers, horses, chariots and elephants.
(viii) Ashoka appointed special officers called “Dhamma Mahamattas” who were responsible for spreading the message of Dhamma.
Q.4. Explain the agricultural practices followed by the cultivators to increase productivity from 600 BCE to 600 CE.
Ans. Kings used several methods to increase the revenues. The most common practice was increasing agricultural production by:
(i) Improving irrigation (Repairing of Sudarshama lake by Shaka ruler Rudrama).
(ii) Transplantation—The production of rice increased in Ganga valley.
(iii) Use of iron ploughshare also increased the agriculture produce, but in some areas only.
(iv) Another strategy adopted to increase irrigation was by wells and tanks. The kings constructed lakes, which was mentioned in the inscription.
(v) Use of new technology created social difference in the rural society.
(vi) The number of large land owners also increased.
(vii) Village headman and big land holders became powerful figures in rural society.
(viii) Sangam text refers to different categories of people living in villages, based on their access to land. These were:
(a) Vellalar (landowners)
(b) Uzhavar (ploughman)
(c) Adimai (slaves)
(ix) Gahapati was basically large land holder and in some cases even peasants. Information was given in Pali text.
Q.5. What do you mean by Numismatics? How has the study of coins helped the Numismatics to reconstruct possible commercial network?
Ans. Numismatics is the study of coins, including the visual elements such as scripts and images, metallurgical analysis and the contexts in which they have been found. Numismatics have studied the punch marked coins made of silver and copper which have been removed from the excavation of many sites throughout the subcontinent and other places to reconstruct possible commercial networks. Attempts have been made to identify the symbols on the punch marking coins with specific ruling dynasties, including the Mauryas. This suggest that these were issued by kings. It is also likely that merchants, bankers and town people issued some of these coins. The first coins to bear the names and images of rulers were issued by the Indo-Greeks, who established control over the north-western part of the subcontinent in second century BCE. The first gold coins issued by Kushanas had been found from several sites in North India and Central Asia, indicating the enormous value of the transactions.
Hoards of Roman coins were also found from archaeological sites in south India, indicating that the trade was not confined within regional or political boundaries.
Some of the most spectacular coins were issued by the Guptas, known for their purity and long distance trade. Thus, the study of coins helped to reconstruct commercial network.
Q.6. Describe the economic and social conditions of the people living in rural areas from c. 600 BCE to 600 CE.
Ans. The economic and social conditions of the people in rural areas from c. 600 BCE to 600 CE are :
(i) Economic condition:
(a) According to Jataka and Panchatantra, the relationship between a king and his subjects could often be strained – kings frequently tried to fill their banks by demanding high taxes. The peasants found this demand as oppressive. Escaping into the forest is the only option.
(b) Different strategies such as (i) shift to pugh agriculture, (ii) iron ploughshare for the growth in agricultural productivity, (iii) the use of irrigation, through wells and tanks, and less commonly, canals were adopted for increasing production.
(c) From the early centuries of the Common Era, the grants of land were being made. For example, the inscriptions of Prabhavati Gupta.
(d) Some historians feel that land grants were part of a strategy adopted by ruling lineages to extend agriculture to new areas.
(e) Others suggest that land grants were indicative of weakening political power: as kings were losing control over their samantas, they tried to win allies by making grants of land. They also feel that kings tried to stand themselves as supermen.
(f) Land grants provide some insight into the relationship between cultivators and the state.
(g) There were people who were often beyond the reach of officials or samantas: pastoralists, fisherfolk and hunter-gatherers, mobile or semi-sedentary artisans and shifting cultivators.
(h) Any other relevant point.
(ii) Social condition:
(a) There was a growing differentiation amongst people engaged in agriculture – landless agricultural labourers, small peasants, as well as large landholders.
(b) The large landholders, as well as the village headman emerged as powerful figures, and often exercise control over other cultivators.
(c) Early Tamil literature (the Sangam texts) also mentions different categories of people living in the villages – large landowners or vellalar, ploughmen or uzhavar and slaves or adimai.
(d) It is likely that these differences were based on differential access to land, labour and some of the new technologies.
(e) Gahapati was the owner, master or head of the household and also owner of the resources – land, animals and other things – that belonged to the household.
(f) Sometimes, the term was used as a marker of status for men belonging to the urban elite, including wealthy merchants.
(g) Gendered assess to property.
(h) A variety of occupations followed by the people belonging to different caste /varnas.
(i) Buddhist literature tells us about people belonging to different caste / varnas acquiring wealth and power (becoming kings).
(j) Patriliny and polygamy.
(k) Any other relevant point.
Q.7. What does Ashoka’s inscriptions tell about the Mauryas? Describe the limitations of the inscriptional evidences.
Ans. The Ashoka’s inscriptions give the following information about the Mauryas:
(i) King Ashoka had used the inscriptions to proclaim what he understood to be Dhamma.
(ii) It included respecting elders, being generous towards Brahmans and those who had renounced worldly life.
(iii) To treat slaves and servants kingly and respect for religious and traditions other than one’s own.
Limitations of inscriptions as evidences:
(i) Sometimes, the letters are very faintly engraved and therefore there is uncertainty of reconstructions, the inscriptions may be damaged or may be even letters missing. It is not always easy to be sure about the exact meaning of the words used in the inscriptions, some may be specific to a particular place or time. This kept scholars constantly debating and discussing.
(ii) Although several thousand inscriptions had been discovered, not all had been deciphered, published and translated. Besides many more inscriptions must have existed, which have not survived the ravages of time. Hence, whatever is available at the present is just a fraction of what was inscribed.
(iii) Everything that was considered politically and economically significant was not recorded in inscription. This is one of the major issue like, the joys and sorrows of the common man are not mentioned. Besides, the content of the inscription project the perspective of the commissioning person.
Thus, epigraphy does not provide a full understanding of political and economic history for which the historians have often questioned both old and new evidences.