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NCERT Summary: New Empires & Kingdoms - Notes | Study Social Studies (SST) Class 6 - Class 6

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Prashastis

  • Prashasti is a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘in praise of’ which were composed for some of the rulers.
  • In Samudragupta’s prashasti the poet praised the king in glowing terms - as a warrior, as a king who won victories in battle, who was learned and the best of poets.
  • Various maps are drawn as per the information provided by prashastis.

Genealogies

  • Most prashastis also mention the ancestors of the ruler.
  • Inscriptions and coins provides information about Chandragupta II, son of Samudragupta.
    • He led an expedition to western India, where he overcame the last of the Shakas.

Harshavardhana and Harshacharita

  • Some information are also provided from the biographies of kings.
  • Banabhatta, a court poet of Harshavardhana wrote his biography, the Harshacharita, in Sanskrit.
    • This gives us the genealogy of Harsha, and ends with his becoming king.
    • Xuan Zang also spent a lot of time at Harsha’s court and left a detailed account of what he saw.

The Pallavas, Chalukyas and Pulkeshin's Prashasti

  • During this period, the Pallavas and Chalukyas were the most important ruling dynasties in south India during this period.
  • The kingdom of the Pallavas spread from the region around their capital, Kanchipuram, to the Kaveri delta.
  • The Chalukyas was centred around the Raichur Doab, between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra.
  • Aihole, the capital of the Chalukyas, was an important trading centre.
  • The Pallavas and Chalukyas frequently raided one another’s lands.
  • The best-known Chalukya ruler was Pulakeshin II.
    • The information about him is provided by a prashasti, composed by his court poet Ravikirti.
    • According to Ravikirti, he led expeditions along both the west and the east coasts.
    • He defeated Harsha.

How were these Kingdoms administered?

  • Land revenue remained important for these rulers.
  • The village remained the basic unit of administration.
  • Administrative posts became hereditary, one person held many offices and important people influenced local administration.
    • They maintained a well-organised army.
    • Military leaders, called samantas, provided troops to the king.
  • Kings adopted a number of steps to win the support of men who were powerful, either economically, or socially, or because of their political and military strength.
    • For instance: some important administrative posts were now hereditary.
  • Due to this, some of these powerful men grew strong enough to set up independent kingdoms.

A New Kind of Army

  • Some of these kings maintained a well-organised army, with elephants, chariots, cavalry and foot soldiers.
  • Also, there were military leaders who provided the king with troops whenever he needed them.
    • They collected revenue from the land and used this to maintain soldiers and horses, and provide equipment for warfare. These men were known as samantas.

Assemblies in the Southern Kingdoms

  • The inscriptions of the Pallavas mention a number of local assemblies.
    • These included the sabha, which was an assembly of brahmin land owners functioned through sub-committees, which looked after irrigation, agricultural operations, making roads, local temples, etc.
  • The ur was a village assembly in the areas where the land owners were not brahmins.
  • The assemblies were controlled by powerful merchants and landowners.

Ordinary People in the Kingdoms

  • The lives of ordinary people can be taken from plays, and other accounts.
  • The plays of Kalidasa depicted life in the king’s court.
  • The kings and brahmins were shown speaking Sanskrit, while ordinary men and women spoke Prakrit in these plays.
  • The Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian noticed the practice of untouchability by the high and powerful people.
  • Banabhatta provided an account of the marches of the large armies of the king.
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