Question 6: This is what a famous historian of Indian literature, Maurice Wintemitz, wrote about the Mahabharata: “Just because the Mahabharata represents more of an entire literature…. and contains so many kinds of things….(it) give(s) us an insight into the most profound depths of the soul of the Indian folk.” Discuss.
Answer: Plenty of literary sources are available to reconstruct ancient Indian history.
Mahabharata is one of them.
- It is an important literary and historical source. Its importance has been recognized even by foreign writers. Its importance has also been recognized by Maurice Wintemitz because in his opinion the Mahabharata represents the entire literature.
- This great epic is full of various examples of different aspects of the Indian's life. The reading of the Mahabharata gives a profound depth of the soul of the Indian folk.
- It has been written in simple Sanskrit and therefore widely understood. Generally, historians classify the contents of the Mahabharata under two sections. They are narrative and didactic.
- The narrative section contains stories and didactic sections contain prescriptions about social norms. But in some instances, there was intermingling also. Many historians believe that the Mahabharata was a dramatic, moving story and that the didactic portions were a later interpolation.
- We get several different views about the authorship of the Mahabharata. It was believed that the original stories were composed by Sutas. Sutas was charioteer bards.
- They accompanied Kshatriya warriors to the battlefield and composed poems celebrating their victories other achievements. These compositions were circulated orally. From the fifth, century BCE onwards, Brahmanas took over the story and started writing a story.
- This great epic contains vivid descriptions of battles, forests, palaces, and settlements. It describes kinship, the political life of the said period, social priority.
- Major features of family life such as patriliny, different forms of marriage and rules related to marriage, the position of women in the society, social differences of the Indian society can be traced back to the period of the Mahabharata. This great epic also describes social mobility.
Question 7: Discuss whether the Mahabharata could have been the work of a single author.
Answer: There are so many views about the author of the Mahabharata. Following views have been put forward regarding the authorship of the Mahabharata.
- It is believed that the original story was written by the charioteer-bards known as sutras. They generally accompanied Kshatriya warriors to the battlefield and composed poems celebrating their victories and other achievements.
- It is also believed that in the beginning the text of the Mahabharata was orally circulated. Scholars and priests carried it from one generation to another. From the fifth century BCE, the Brahmanas took over the story and started writing.
- This was the time when Kurus and Panchals were gradually becoming kingdoms.
- The story of the Mahabharata also revolved around them. Some parts of the story reflect that old social values were replaced by new ones.
- C. 200 BCE and 200 CE is another phase in the composition of the Mahabharata.
- During this period worship of Vishnu was gaining ground Krishna came to be identified as Vishnu. Large didactic sections resembling the Manusmriti were added during the period between C 200 and 400 CE. These interpolations made the Mahabharata an epic consisting of 100,000 verses. This enormous composition is traditionally attributed to a sage named Vyas.
Question 8: How important were gender differences in early societies? Give reasons for your answer.
- It is seen that in early societies families were generally patriliny. Patriliny means tracing descent from father to son and to grandson and so on. Matriliny family was k generally not in use. But the exception was also available.
- As an exception, Satavahanas of Andhra can be mentioned. Historical sources mention the name of some rulers from inscriptions associated with the names of the mothers of the king.
- As Gotami-Putra means’ son of Gotami’. Gotami and Vasistha are the feminines of Gotama and Vasistha. Sons were considered important for the continuity of the family. Attitudes towards the daughter were different.
- They had no claims towards the resources of the household. But marrying them into the families outside the kin was considered desirable. This system of marriage was called exogamy.
- According to this system, the lives of the young ‘girls and women belonged to those families which claimed that high status was often carefully regulated to ensure that they were married at the right time and to the right person.
- This gave rise to the tradition that in marriage Kanyadana was an important religious duty of the father.
- After marriage women were supposed to give up their father’s gotra and adopt their husband’s.As per Manusmriti, the paternal state was to be divided equally amongst sons after the death of parents, with a special share for the eldest. Women were not given any share in this state.
- But women were allowed to keep the gifts with themselves which they received at the [ time of their marriage. This was called stridhana. This could be inherited by. their children and the husband had no claim over it. But at the same time, Manusmriti also told women not to hoard family property or even their own valuables without the permission of their husbands.
- In fact, social differences were sharpened because of the differences in access to resources. Many texts suggest that while upper-class women may have access to resources but land, cattle, money was generally controlled by the men. Vakataka queen Prabhavati Gupta was a rich woman.
Question 9: Discuss the evidence that suggests that Brahmanical prescriptions about kinship and F marriage were not universally followed.
Answer: Brahmanical prescription about kinship and marriage:
Prescription about Kinship:
- According to Sanskrit texts, the term “kula’ was used to designate families and jati for the larger network of kinfolk. The term ‘vamsha’ was used for lineage. Very often people belonging to the same family share food and other resources they live, work and perform rituals together.
- Families were considered as the part of larger networks of people defined as relatives a technical term used to define them as kinfolk. While familial ties were considered “natural” and based on blood they can be defined in different ways.
- For instance, some societies regard cousins as being blood relations, whereas others, do not regard as from Historians retrieve information about elite families fairly easily from it very hard reconstructs the familial relationship of ordinary people.
- Historians also try to analyze their attitudes towards family and kinship. These are important because they provide insight into people’s thinking. It is also expected ideas would have shaped their action because their actions may have led to changes in their attitudes.
Prescription about Marriage:
- For the continuity of the patrilineage the sons were considered important, the daughters could not over the resources of their household. They were married into families outside the kin.
- This system was known as exogamy which means marrying outside one’s kin or gotra. The women of high-status families were married to the right persons at the right time. Kanayadana or the gift of a daughter in marriage was considered as an important religious duty of the father.
- With the emergence of new means of communication, people came into contact with each other and they began to share their views. So the Brahman said down codes of their social behavior.
- These codes regarding social behavior were later on enshrined in Dharmashashtra. These texts recognized eight types of marriage.
- Among these types of marriage, the four were considered as good while the rest four as condemnable. Satvahana's ruler did not follow the exogamy of Brahmans.