NCERT Textbook - Kings, Farmers and Town Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

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Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Kings, Farmers and Town Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


 THEMES IN INDIAN HISTORY 28
THEME TWO
There were several developments in different parts of the
subcontinent during the long span of 1,500 years following
the end of the Harappan civilisation. This was also the
period during which the Rigveda was composed by people
living along the Indus and its tributaries. Agricultural
settlements emerged in many parts of the
subcontinent, including north India, the
Deccan Plateau, and parts of Karnataka.
Besides, there is evidence of pastoral
populations in the Deccan and further
south. New modes of disposal of the dead,
including the making of elaborate stone
structures known as megaliths, emerged in
central and south India from the first
millennium BCE. In many cases, the dead
were buried with a rich range of iron tools
and weapons.
From c. sixth century BCE, there is
evidence that there were other trends as well. Perhaps
the most visible was the emergence of early states, empires
and kingdoms. Underlying these political processes were
other changes, evident in the ways in which agricultural
production was organised. Simultaneously, new towns
appeared almost throughout the subcontinent.
Historians attempt to understand these developments
by drawing on a range of sources – inscriptions, texts,
coins and visual material. As we will see, this is a complex
process. You will also notice that these sources do not
tell the entire story.
Kings, Farmers and Towns
Ear Ear Ear Ear Earl l l l ly S y S y S y S y St t t t tat at at at ates and Economies es and Economies es and Economies es and Economies es and Economies
( ( ( ( (c. c. c. c. c. 600  600  600  600  600 BCE BCE BCE BCE BCE-600 600 600 600 600 CE CE CE CE CE) ) ) ) )
Epigraphy is the study of
inscriptions.
1. Prinsep and Piyadassi
Some of the most momentous developments in Indian
epigraphy took place in the 1830s. This was when
James Prinsep, an officer in the mint of the East
India Company, deciphered Brahmi and Kharosthi,
two scripts used in the earliest inscriptions and
coins. He found that most of these mentioned a king
referred to as Piyadassi – meaning “pleasant to
behold”; there were a few inscriptions which also
THEME
TWO
Fig. 2.1
An inscription, Sanchi
(Madhya Pradesh),
c. second century BCE
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


 THEMES IN INDIAN HISTORY 28
THEME TWO
There were several developments in different parts of the
subcontinent during the long span of 1,500 years following
the end of the Harappan civilisation. This was also the
period during which the Rigveda was composed by people
living along the Indus and its tributaries. Agricultural
settlements emerged in many parts of the
subcontinent, including north India, the
Deccan Plateau, and parts of Karnataka.
Besides, there is evidence of pastoral
populations in the Deccan and further
south. New modes of disposal of the dead,
including the making of elaborate stone
structures known as megaliths, emerged in
central and south India from the first
millennium BCE. In many cases, the dead
were buried with a rich range of iron tools
and weapons.
From c. sixth century BCE, there is
evidence that there were other trends as well. Perhaps
the most visible was the emergence of early states, empires
and kingdoms. Underlying these political processes were
other changes, evident in the ways in which agricultural
production was organised. Simultaneously, new towns
appeared almost throughout the subcontinent.
Historians attempt to understand these developments
by drawing on a range of sources – inscriptions, texts,
coins and visual material. As we will see, this is a complex
process. You will also notice that these sources do not
tell the entire story.
Kings, Farmers and Towns
Ear Ear Ear Ear Earl l l l ly S y S y S y S y St t t t tat at at at ates and Economies es and Economies es and Economies es and Economies es and Economies
( ( ( ( (c. c. c. c. c. 600  600  600  600  600 BCE BCE BCE BCE BCE-600 600 600 600 600 CE CE CE CE CE) ) ) ) )
Epigraphy is the study of
inscriptions.
1. Prinsep and Piyadassi
Some of the most momentous developments in Indian
epigraphy took place in the 1830s. This was when
James Prinsep, an officer in the mint of the East
India Company, deciphered Brahmi and Kharosthi,
two scripts used in the earliest inscriptions and
coins. He found that most of these mentioned a king
referred to as Piyadassi – meaning “pleasant to
behold”; there were a few inscriptions which also
THEME
TWO
Fig. 2.1
An inscription, Sanchi
(Madhya Pradesh),
c. second century BCE
© NCERT
not to be republished
29
referred to the king as Asoka, one of the most famous
rulers known from Buddhist texts.
This gave a new direction to investigations into
early Indian political history as European and
Indian scholars used inscriptions and texts
composed in a variety of languages to reconstruct
the lineages of major dynasties that had ruled the
subcontinent. As a result, the broad contours of
political history were in place by the early decades
of the twentieth century.
Subsequently, scholars began to shift their focus
to the context of political history, investigating
whether there were connections between political
changes and economic and social developments. It
was soon realised that while there were links, these
were not always simple or direct.
2. The Earliest States
2.1 The sixteen mahajanapadas
The sixth century BCE is often regarded as a major
turning point in early Indian history. It is an era
associated with early states, cities, the growing
use of iron, the development of coinage, etc. It
also witnessed the growth of diverse systems of
thought, including Buddhism and Jainism. Early
Buddhist and Jaina texts (see also Chapter 4)
mention, amongst other things, sixteen states
known as mahajanapadas. Although the lists vary,
some names such as Vajji, Magadha, Koshala,
Kuru, Panchala, Gandhara and Avanti occur
frequently. Clearly, these were amongst the most
important mahajanapadas.
While most mahajanapadas were ruled by kings,
some, known as ganas or sanghas, were oligarchies
(p. 30), where power was shared by a number of
men, often collectively called rajas. Both Mahavira
and the Buddha (Chapter 4) belonged to such ganas.
In some instances, as in the case of the Vajji sangha,
the rajas probably controlled resources such as land
collectively. Although their histories are often difficult
to reconstruct due to the lack of sources, some of
these states lasted for nearly a thousand years.
Each mahajanapada had a capital city, which was
often fortified. Maintaining these fortified cities as
well as providing for incipient armies and
bureaucracies required resources. From c. sixth
Inscriptions
Inscriptions are writings
engraved on hard surfaces
such as stone, metal or
pottery. They usually record
the achievements, activities
or ideas of those who
commissioned them and
include the exploits of kings,
or donations made by
women and men to religious
institutions. Inscriptions are
virtually permanent records,
some of which carry dates.
Others are dated on the
basis of palaeography or
styles of writing, with a fair
amount of precision. For
instance, in c. 250 BCE
the  letter “a” was written like
this: . By c. 500 CE, it was
written like this:  .
The earliest inscriptions
were in Prakrit, a name for
languages used by ordinary
people. Names of rulers such
as Ajatasattu and Asoka,
known from Prakrit texts and
inscriptions, have been spelt in
their Prakrit forms in this
chapter. You will also find
terms in languages such as Pali,
Tamil and Sanskrit, which
too were used to write
inscriptions and texts. It is
possible that people spoke in
other languages as well, even
though these were not used
for writing.
Janapada means the land
where a jana (a people, clan or
tribe) sets its foot or settles. It
is a word used in both Prakrit
and Sanskrit.
KINGS, FARMERS AND TOWNS
© NCERT
not to be republished
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