Question 1: Explain why patriliny may have been particularly important among elite families.
Answer: Patriliny is the system through which descent from father to son and grandson is traced.
The principle of patriliny would have been essential for the elite families for the following reasons:
1. Continuity of Dynasty:
- As per the Dharmashastras, it was an established belief that the son carried forward the dynasty.
- That was the main reason that the families wished for sons not for daughters. A couplet of Rigveda also substantiates this view.
- In this couplet, a father at the time of the marriage of his daughter wishes that she should have best sons with the grace of Lord Shiva.
2. Inheritance: In royal families, the acquisition of throne was included in the inheritance. After the death of a king, his eldest son was supposed to inherit the throne. After the death of the parents, the property was to be equally divided among all the sons. In fact, parents avoided disputes in the family after their death. Most of the royal families followed the patriliny since 600 B.C. But sometimes this system had exceptions also.
- The brother of the king ascended the throne in case the former had no son.
- Relatives also claimed inheritance of the throne.
- In some special cases, women also ascended the throne-like Prabhavati Gupta.
Question 2: Discuss whether kings in early states invariably were Kshatriyas.
Answer: As per the Dharmashastra, only Kshatriyas were supposed to be the kings. But it was also to be noted that many important ruling lineages perhaps had different origins. Mauryas were considered Kshatriyas by many people.
- Some Brahmanical texts described Mauryas as of low origin. The Shungas and Kanvas who were immediate successors of the Mauryas were Brahmanas.
- In fact, those sections of the society controlled the political power which enjoyed support and resources.
- It did not depend on the question of being born as Kshatriya.
- There were other rulers like Shakas who came from Central Asia. But the Brahmanas considered them as mlechchhas, barbarians, and outsiders.
- Similarly, Gotami-putra Satkami, the best-known ruler of the Satavahana dynasty, became a destroyer of the pride of kshatriyas.
- This we see that the Satavahanas claimed to be Brahmanas whereas the Brahmanas were of the opinion that the king should be Kshatriyas.
Question 3: Compare and contrast the dharma or norms mentioned in the stories of Drona, Hidimba, and Matanga.
- Drona was a Brahmanas. As per the Dharmashastras, it was the duty of the Brahmana to impart education.
- It was considered a pious deed of the Brahmanas. Drona was also following that system. He was imparting education.
- He taught archery to the princes of the Kuru Dynasty. In those days, people of low caste were not entitled to get education. Keeping this view in mind, Drona refused to impart education to Ekalavya.
- But in the course of time, Ekalavya learnt archery and acquired great skills. But Drona demanded the right thumb of Ekalavya as his teaching fee. This was against religious norms.
- In fact, Drona did this just to ensure that no one could be a better archer than Arjuna in the field of archery.
- Hidimba was a lady demon, that is rakshasi. In fact, all the rakshasas were man-eaters. One day her brother asked her to catch Pandavas so that he may eat them.
- But Hidimba did not follow this. She fell in love with Bhima and married him. A rakshasa boy was born to him, named Ghatotkacha.
- In this way, Hidimba did not keep; the norms of rakshasas.
- Matanga was Boddhisatta who was bom in the family of a chandala. But he married Dittha Mangalika who was the daughter of a merchant.
- A son was bom to him named Mandavya Kumara. In the course of time, he learned three Vedas. He used to offer food to sixteen hundred Brahmanas every day.’
- But when his father appeared before him dressed in rags with a clay alms bowl in his hand, he refused to offer food to him.
- The reason was that he considered his father as outcast and his food was meant for Brahmanas only. Matanga advised his son not to be proud of his birth. After saying this, he disappeared into the air.
- When Dittha Mahgalika knew this incident, she went after Matanga and begged his forgiveness. This way acted as a true wife.
- She performed her duty religiously. A donor is considered generous. But Mandavya failed to follow the norms of religion and generosity.
Question 4: In what ways was the Buddhist theory of a social contract different from the Brahmanical view of a society derived from the Purusha Sukta?(VBQ)
- The Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda says that the four Vamas emerged because of the sacrifice of Purusha, the primeval man. The four vamas were Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. These Vamas had different jobs.
- The Brahmanas had a supreme position in society. They were also considered teachers. Kshatriyas were considered warriors. They also ran the administration. The Vaishyas were the masters of the trade.
- The Shudras were at the lowest strata. Their duty was to serve the above three vamas. Under this Brahmanical system, birth was the only criteria to judge the status and prestige in the society.
- But the Buddhist theory of a social contract was different. As per the Buddhist concept, there was inequality in society. But they also opined that this inequality was neither natural nor permanent. They did not favor the idea of birth being the criteria of social status.
Indian Caste System
Question 5: The following is an excerpt from the Mahabharata in which Yudhisthira, the eldest Jandava, speaks to Sanjaya, a messenger:
Try and identify the criteria used to make this list – in terms of age, gender, kinship ties. Are there any other criteria? For each category, explain why they are placed in a particular position on the list.
- Not only age, gender, and kinship ties but there were other factors too that were considered to prepare the list.
- The Brahmana, the Purohits, and the Gums have bestowed the highest honors. They all were widely respected.
- Fraternal kins were also given respect who were considered like parents. People who were of equal age or younger were placed at the third rank. In the next order, the young Kuru warriors were respected.
- Women also received a due place. Wives, mothers, daughters-in-law, and daughters came in this order. Orphans and handicapped had also been taken care of. Yudhisthira also greets them.
Q.1. Critically examine the duties as laid down in Manusmriti for the chandalas. (HOTS)
- Chandalas or ‘untouchables’ were placed at the very bottom of the hierarchy. They had to live outside the village, use discarded utensils and wear clothes of the dead and ornaments of iron.
- They were not permitted to walk in villages and cities at night.
- They served as executioners and had to dispose of the bodies of those who had no relatives.
- They had to sound a clapper in the streets, so that people could avoid seeing them. Chinese scholars admitted that the Chandalas led a life of degradation.
Q.2. Identify any two strategies evolved by Brahmanas to enforce the norms of varna order from C 600 BCE to 600 CE. (All India 2020)
The Brahmanas evolved two or three strategies for enforcing the norms of varna order, which are as follows:
- The varna order was of divine origin.
- They advised kings to ensure that these norms were followed within their kingdoms.
Q.3. Explain how you will prove that the text of Mahabharata was a dynamic one. (All India 2020)
The following points prove that the text of Mahabharata was a dynamic one:
- The growth of the Mahabharata did not stop with the Sanskrit version.
- Over the centuries, version of the epic were written in a variety of languages through an ongoing process of dialogue between peoples, communities, and those who wrote the texts.
- Several stories that originated in specific regions or circulated amongst certain people found their way into the epic.
- The central story of the epic was often retold in different ways, and episodes were depicted in sculpture and painting.
- They also provided themes for a wide range of performing arts i.e. plays, dance and other kinds of narrations.
A terracotta sculpture depicting a scene from the Mahabharata
Q.4. Describe how, according to Manusmriti, paternal estate was to be divided after the death of the parents with special reference to the rights of women. (All India 2011)
- According to the Manusmriti, after the death of the parents, the paternal estate was to be divided equally amongst sons, with a special share for the eldest son. Women had no right to claim the share of the property.
- Further, the scripture suggested that women were allowed to retain the gifts they received on the occasion of their marriage as stridhana (literally, a woman’s wealth).
- This could be inherited by their children, but the husband could not claim it. Further this scripture warned women against hoarding family property, or even their own valuables without the permission of the husband.
Q.5. Describe the position of the untouchables in ancient society. (All India 2020)
- The Brahmanas developed a sharp social divide by classifying certain social categories as untouchables.
- The Chandalas, according to the Brahmanical norms, were considered as ‘untouchables’. This rested on a notion that certain activities, especially those connected with the performance of rituals, were sacred and by extension pure.
- Those who considered themselves pure avoided taking food from those designated as untouchables.
- In sharp contrast to the purity aspect, some activities were regarded as particularly ‘polluting’.
- These included handling corpses and dead animals. Those who performed such tasks, designated as Chandalas, were placed at the very bottom of the hierarchy.
- Their touch and in some cases even seeing them was regarded as polluting by those who claimed to be at the top of the social order.
- The Manusmriti laid down the ‘duties’ of Chandalas which determined their status in the society.