http://www.jstor.orgBeginnings of Feudalism in BengalAuthor(s): Vijay Kumar ThakurSource: Social Scientist, Vol. 6, No. 6/7, Special Number of West Bengal, (Jan. - Feb., 1978),pp. 68-82Published by: Social ScientistStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3516544Accessed: 09/06/2008 15:03Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=socialscien.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We enable thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com.
VIJA KUMAR THAKUR Beginnings of Feudalism in Bengal THE ORIGINS and even the existence of feudalism in the Indian context are matters of great controversy among Indologists. While some scholars explicitly mention that "feudalism is a misnomer in the Indian context,"' others hold an altogether different view. R S Sharma identifies certain features of feudalism which are clearly noticeable from the Gupta, and more so from the post-Gupta period onwards.2 He specifically asserts that during the post-Mauryan period, and especially from Gupta times, certain political and administrative developments tended to feudalise the state apparatus.' In the light of these changes, D C Sircar's attempt to equate feudalism with landlordism and thereby to negate the very existence of an important sociological formation' seems to be biased and untrustworthy. The origins of feudalism in India and consequently in Bengal, have been sought in the land grants of the pre-Gupta period, which manifested itself from the Gupta and especially from the post-Gupta period onwards.6 This new development was mainly a result of the large scale transfers of land revenues and land to both secular and religious elements by princes and their vassals. The administrative rights over land were given up for the first time in the grants made to the Buddhist monks by the Satavahana king, Gautamiputra Satakarni, in
FEUDALISM IN BENGAL the 2nd century AD.6 From the 5th century AD onwards the ruler even gave up his control over all sources of revenue accruing from the granted land.7 Control over mines which formed an important insignia of the king's sovereignty,8 was also transferred to the donee.9 This process reached its logical culmination when in later times the king made over to the brahmanas even the right to punish all offences against family, property, person, and so on?1. This led to the growth of powerful inter- mediaries weilding considerable economic and political power, a development which can be best characterised by the term feudalism.1 Land Grants Since the Gupta Period The earliest land grants of this type in Bengal were issued by the Guptas. The Dhanaidaha copper-plate Inscription of Kumaragupta I (AD 432-33)records a grant of land to a Chandogya brahmana. 2 Similarly the two Damodarpur copper-plate inscriptions of the time of Kumara- gupta I (AD 44418 and AD 4481) refer to the lands granted to the brahmanas in Bengal. Numerous similar grants to religious donees were forthcoming from this area. By the time of Ramapala in the 11th century AD lands came to be granted with the rights to enjoy all dues there- from."5 The process reached its logical culmination when by the 11th century AD the donees were also empowered to punish criminals.16 Of the seven organs of state power mentioned in various epigraphic and literary sources of ancient India, taxation and the maintenance of law and order, were rightly regarded as two vital elements and their abandonment implied the disintegration of royal power. This is exactly what happened as a consequence of the land grants made to the brahmanas. The fiefs were usually granted for as long as the existence of the sun and the moon leading thereby to the permanent break-up of the integrity of the state. The grants to priests were not a new thing, for Kautilya recommends the same according to the brahmadeya tenure. But the situation changed in the Gupta period when the brahmadeya grant came to carry with it judicial and administrative rights."7 As a result, these land grants paved the way for the rise of brahmana feudatories, who performed administrative functions not under the authority of the royal officers but almost independently.l8 The functions of the collection of taxes,19 extractions of forced labour,20 maintenance of law and order,21 supervision over irrigational works,22 and so on which were hitherto performed by the state were now gradually abandoned in favour of the donees. The grant of villages to priests in Bengal can be compared to the practice of benefices given to the Church in medieval Europe. The two copper-plate grants of Ashrafpur from East Bengal, roughly assignable to the 7th or 8th centuries, indicate such a practice.28 They record the donation of certain plots of land to the head of a Buddhist monastery after alienating the same from several persons who were enjoying them, 69
SOCIAL SCIENTIST as can be inferred from the terms bhojyamana2a or bhujyamanaka.2 At times the same plot of land had been simultaneously used by more than one party and then transferred to the monastery of the Buddhist pre- ceptor Samghamitra.26 However, there was a difference between the two situations in that the brahmanas and the temples in Bengal were not organised groups. Grants as a Payment for Services Rendered Although in India the need for protection did not lead to any significant practice of commendation, instances of this type are readily forthcoming from our region. The Karnatas are mentioned as serving in the army of the Palas of Bengal from the 8th century AD onwards.27 The Sanskrit equivalent for commendation used in contemporary texts and inscriptions was avalaga.as It is held that the term avalaga or olaga is of Kannada origin and means military service to or attendance on one's lord.29 We can assume that it was the Karnatas who commended them- selves to the Palas and thereby introduced this term in the north. Hsuan Tsang also records that there already existed in the 7th century AD a practice of surrendering lands to landlords in lieu of protection.30 Further, though the secular counterpart of medieval European benefices was relatively rare in contemporary Bengal, instances of officials and vassals paid by land grants are known. All the individuals connected with these transactions have been mentioned though their identity is not clearly established. In one instance land was given to the queen,3' probably for her maintenance; in another to a womana2 for services rendered to the king; and in yet another to a Samanta" in lieu of services rendered to the overlords. This together with the absence of any compen- sation for the deprived parties suggests that in the 7th or the 8th century in East Bengal some services were remunerated by means of land which was granted for a limited period. A Pala inscription of AD 802 refers to an official in North Bengal called dasagramika,84 who, according to Manu, was paid one Kula of land.35 Another Pala record of AD 993 refers to the resumption of a grant of 200 standard measures of land once allotted to the Kaivarttas for maintenace in return for certain services which are not specified.'6 R S Sharma thinks rajas, rajaputras, ranakas, rajarajanakas, mahasamantas, mahasamantadhipatis and so on, mentioned in the Pala land charters were mostly vassals connected with land who had to perform military service in lieu of the lands granted to them.87 Thus it seems that the practice of remunerating services rendered to the state by granting rights over land started in Bengal in the 7th-8th centuries AD. Feudalisation of the Administration The growing feudalisation of the administrative apparatus of the state in Bengal from the Gupta period onwards is also reflected in the 70
FEUDALISM IN BENGAL existence of feudatories. In the Gupta period we come across two feudatories of Nainyagupta (AD 501-9) in Bengal Maharaja Rudradeva and Maharaja Vijayasena.88. A growth in the number of feudatories in the post-Gupta period can be inferred from contemporary epigraphic records.89 Sasanka started his career as a mahasamanta and when he became independent he himself came to have a number of feudatories.40 Lokanatha was also a feudatory before becoming independent. The institution of feudatories was further strengthened during the Pala period. The royal officials mentioned in the Pala and the Sena records include rajan, rajanaka, rajanyaka, ranaka, samanta and mahasamanta. The Khalimpur Copper-plate Inscription of Dharmapala refers to a mahasa- matadhipati Srinarayanavarman who presided over a certain janapada." The same inscription refers to various kings who came to the court to pay homage to the Pala king.42 Mahipala II and Ramapala also had a number of feudatories and even the decline of the Pala dynasty was brought about by its numerous feudatories.4' From the Khalimpur record it is obvious that the king summoned occasional meetings of his feudatories,44 many of whom were very powerful and practically inde- pendent.54 Naturally the king, when in distress, had to bend down before them as in the case of Ramapala who was in need of help against his adversary Bhima.46 The administration was further feudalised by the growing here- ditary character of official positions from the Gupta period onwards. The Gupta inscriptions refer to the hereditary character of the posts of sachiva and mantrin.47 The Palas also inherited this tradition from their predecessors. The post of mantrin or sachiva seems to have been occupied by members of the family of brahmana Garga from the time of Dharmapala to Narayanapala.48 Another family supplied Prime Ministers to the later Pala kings Yogadeva; the Prime Minister of Vigrahapala III, is said to have succeeded to this post on hereditary principles, and members of his family held the same position up to the reign of Kumarapala.49 Further, the surname datta of the uparikas in charge of the bhukti of Pundravardhana"5 suggests their common ancestry. Theoretically the emperor enjoyed the power of dismissing his officials, but in practice they continued largely due to their own influence. The practice of combining several offices in one, as is obvious from the instance of Vaidyadeva, who was both the minister and general under Kumarapala,51 further undermined the power and prestige of the central government. The epithets and designations of Pala kings and officials also smacks of feudal relationships. The titles paramabhattaraka, paramesvar and maharajadhiraja adopted by later Gupta rulers and then by Pala kings do not indicate any real increase in royal power but merely suggest the supremacy of the king over lords, chiefs and princes owing allegiance to him. The term maha (great or chief) affixed to the designations of 71
SOCIAL SCIENTIST Pala officials mahadaussadhasadhanika, mahasandhivigrahika, mahakarta kritik,"2 and so on shows that they were being brought in line with feudal vassals such as mahasamanatha and maharaja. Another interesting fact which emerges from the early medieval history of Bengal is the absence of any fixed capital of the Palas. Patali- putra, Mudgagiri,58 Ramavati,54 Vataparvataka, Vilasapura or Harad- hama,65 Sahasaganda,6" Kanchanapura67 and Kapilavasaka68 are mentioned as their jayaskandhavaras. This constant shifting of the seat of power was certainly a factor leading to the disintegration of the kingdom and indicates an administrative decentralisation typical of feudal polity. Transfer of Administrative Rights An important development typical of feudal polity was the admi- nistrative rights conferred upon the donees by the Pala kings. It is remarkable that the Pala writs in Bengal granted the religious benefici- aries the right to punish thieves, a right which was earlier never delegated even in Central India. The Pala donees were, in fact, empowered to punish ten offences. These were: (1) the appropriation of things that are not given, (ii) killing in a manner that is not in accord- ance with precept, (iii) the pursuit of wives of other men, (iv) harshness of language, (v) untruthfulness, (vi) slandering in all directions, (vii) incoherent conversation, (viii) coveting the property of others, (ix) think- ing of things that are wrong, and (x) tenacity of that which is not true."6 The list covers almost all offences against family, property and person. Fleet thinks that dasaparadhadanda implied the right to the proceeds from ten offences,6" but the use of the terms danda can be better appreci- ated if taken in the sense of punishment. Thus the practice of granting the right of administration of criminal law and justice began from the middle of the 8th century and became a common feature leading to the feudalisation of judicial organisation in Bengal. The feudalisation of political institutions became so complete that it led to a total fragmentation of political power by the end of the 12th century AD. At the time of the Kaivaratta rebellion around AD 1075 the whole of Bengal and Bihar was split up into ten principalities, which owed only a nominal allegiance to the Pala overlord. The situation only worsened in the post-Pala period.61 Growth of Intermediaries The land grants issued by the Guptas and their successors in Bengal created powerful intermediaries in land. Both Yajnavalkya62 and Brhaspati68 attest the existence of such a land owning class above the peasantry. The endowments made by the Bengal kings were enjoyed by Vaishavite,64 Saivite66 and Buddhist66 temples. Besides, we know of several brahmanas endowed with villages.67 It has been argued that such 72
FEUDALISM IN BENGAL grants accounted only for a fraction of agricultural land in Bengal and that they did not touch the mass of cultivators.68 But this definitely is unacceptable for even the surviving Pala grants clearly indicate that a sizeable number of villages was held by priests, temples and monasteries. Moreover, as a result of the process of land grants these temples and monasteries developed as semi-independent areas enjoying immunities on religious grounds, and were gradually converted into medieval mathas rich enough to tempt Turkish invaders. The beneficiary could also take advantage of the terms of the grants to acquire fresh areas of land. In those cases where the boundaries of the fief were defined, as in the case of four villages granted by Dharmapala in North Bengal69, it was difficult for the beneficiary to expand his arable land or reserve outside his estate. But where granted areas were not specified he could extend his demesne. Most Pala charters from Bengal do not specify the boundaries of the village but merely record that it was granted with its boundaries up to its pasture grounds and shrubs. Hence, the donee was in a position to push the boundaries further to add to the fields which were personally exploited by him. In Bengal the process of individual occupation of land was furthered at the cost of the agrarian rights enjoyed by the village com- munity. Whereas in Gupta times land could not be purchased for reli- gious grants by individuals without the consent of the local community and payment of royal officers, the Palas paid only formal regard to this right. No doubt, along with vassals and officials all the inhabitants of the village, right from the brahmanas down to the aborigines and Chandalas, were asked to give their consent to the grant made by the Pala rulers; but that was an empty formality involving wasteful expendi- ture. Whereas the Guptas granted only revenues from the village and certain mineral rights to the donees, the Palas transferred to the bene- ficiaries all agrarian rights such as the use of pasture lands, fruit trees, reservoirs of water, bushes and thickets, forests, barren land, lowland, land under occasional flood, and so on.70 Thus the communal belongings of the villagers could now be easily converted into the private property of the donee-a significant development in the direction of feudalism. Emergence of serfdom Serfdom, which was a basic feature of European feudal economy, appeared in early medieval Bengal too. The earliest epigraphic evidence of the transfer of peasants along with land comes from a 7th century AD record. The Ashrafpur grants from East Bengal refer to the persons who held the rights over a plot71 and name the cultivators who were tilling it.72 They imply that while the plot was taken away from the holders and given to the Buddhist monastery headed by Samghmitra the cultivators were left undisturbed, for the monastery would have to get its land cultivated by some peasants. They also record the grant of 73
SOCIAL SCIENTIST another plot cultivated by two persons to the same recipient.73 Thus it seems that the cultivators came to be tied down to the soil. The practice seems to have become more widespread in Bengal in the post-Pala period. 7 We do not know much about the exact relationship between the peasants and the beneficiaries in a donated village, but in certain respects they stood exactly in the same relation as peasants to their lords in English manorial villages. In certain cases because of the right of getting their land cultivated by others the donees could replace old peasants by new; thus they might oust their tenants.75 Again, the peasants were forced to render labour to their lords.76 The practice existed only on a very limited scale in the pre-Gupta times but its scope came to be gradually widened from the Gupta period onwards. The land charters of Pala period coming from Bengal indicate that the peasants were subjected to sarva-pida77, which the king abandoned in the case of the villages made over to the brahmanas, temples and monasteries.78 The donees were thus empowered to levy this oppressive tax. The position of the peasantry was fur ther undermined due to the increase in taxes levied upon them. The Pala grants specify only a few taxes but cover the rest by the term etcetera (adi)79 and thereby leave clear room for imposition of fresh taxes on the villagers by the grantees. Though they refer to the obligation of paying all dues (samastapratyaya) by the villagers to the beneficiaries, yet in the absence of any specific mention of these dues they could be multiplied and increased by the grantees.8 Although the peasants were required to fulfil certain obli- gations towards the grantees, the same was not true in case of the grantees themselves; the grantees did not have any obligation towards the villagers. Thus, the villagers lost almost all their traditional agrarian lights which brought about a further deterioration in their economic position. This together with subinfeudation, insecure tenancy rights, imposition of forced labour, levy of additional taxes and the helplessness of the villagers in the face of oppression by the grantees rendered the economic subjection of peasants in beneficies as complete as that of their European counterparts. Self-sufficient Economic Units The independent and self-sufficient economic units, which were the hallmark of medieval European feudalism, also came into existence in medieval Bengal. The various economic ai,d political rights conferred upon the beneficiaries sapped the economic ties between the central authority and the primary cultivators of the donated areas which made the beneficiaries more dependent on the local artisans and cultivators than on the royal officials for the continuity and development of their economy. If the two forged copper plates of the 7th century AD ascribed to Samudragupta, are to be relied upon, then it becomes clear that the 74
FEUDALISM IN BENGAL tax-paying peasants were prohibited from leaving their own villages81, a situation which definitely encouraged localism. Moreover due to the rise of local units of production and administration even irrigation tended to become a local responsibility in Bengal by the time of the Palas82. This development naturally undermined the central authority and helped the rise of independent economic units. The emergence of local units of production is also evidenced by the paucity of coins from the Gupta period onwards. Not even a single silver coin of the immediate successors of the Guptas in Bengal have been discovered. Even the few gold coins bearing the legends of Sasanka, Jaya (-naga?), Samacha (radeva) and other kings88 found in different parts of Bengal are badly debased. The succeeding period up to the rise of the Palas has yet to yield a coin. Even the Palas, who seem to have tried to re-introduce minted currency in Bengal failed in this end- eavour. A few copper and silver coins of doubtful authenticity have been ascribed to them84 which are extremely scarce and badly debased. When we think of the long rule of the Pala dynasty and the extent of its kingdom, the lack of a currency system becomes more conspicuous. In fact, in this period the coins were being replaced by cowries,85 indicating a decline in monetisation. The above survey makes it clear that there was a general paucity of coins in this period which was probably a direct outcome of the feudalisation of tile economic structure and the state and the decline of trade in this period. The rise of local units of production resulted in the growth of local production for local consumption, thereby rendering obsolete internal exchange on any considerable scale which explains the absence of coins 86 and prevalence of cowvries87 Decline in Trade That internal trade was not prospering in early medieval Bengal is attested by various developments. Mithilc in North Bihar was touched by eight trade routes in ancient times one of which was the Mithila- Tamralipti route88. But surprisingly not a single reference is made about them during the early medieval period89, suggesting perhaps that it had become defunct by that time. Even the references to internal trading activities in the inscriptions and literature of Bengal are few and far bet- ween and they mainly refer to local periodical hatas (markets)90. We can surmise that the trade routes declined because internal trade itself was declining. Another indication of this trend is an inscription of Dharma- pala, who handed over to the grantees even the markets attached to the villages91. These grantees naturally would not have allowed the traders to operate as freely as the state would have done. The very idea of granting a village along witlh its market place underlines the strictly local character of internal trade in this period92. The process of disintegration of internal trade was further facilitated by tile decline of foreign trade in this period. 75
SOCIAL SCIENTIST The foreign trade of Bengal which was prospering up to the 6th- 7th centuries AD subsequently started to decline. This process had already started from the middle of the 7th century AD93 and the com- mercial activities of Tamralipti must have declined sometime during this century. Both Hsuen Tsang and I-tsing have referred to the pros- perity of this port in the 7th century AD, but there is no reference to Tamralipti as a sea port from the 8th century AD onwards94. Moreover, not even a single commercial centre sprang up in Bengal between the 8th and the 13th centuries AD and it appears that Bengal had no place in external trade for at least 500 years.95 The decline in foreign trade must have weakened the economic links between the coastal towns and interior towns as well as between towns and villages96 and this might have acted as another adverse influence on the already languishing internal trade.97 The decline in trade and commerce is also indicated by a lowering of the status of merchants, traders and craftsmen. The sarthavaha, who is mentioned in our sources as an important figure till the Gupta period98 is no longer heard of and it seems that the average vaisya found his status comparatively lowered in a society which was dominated by the landed aristocracy. Nihar Ranjan Ray draws attention to a significant passage in this connection. In the reign of Laksmanasena in connection with the unfurling ceremony of the trader's banner, called sacradhvaja, a writer says, "O Sakradvaja! Where are the traders who once held you aloft? The people are trying to use you as plough or animal-post."99 This passage clearly indicates the decline and even total collapse of the commercial class in this period. It seems that the lower section of the business community came to be gradually bracketed with the sudras.l00 The artisans and craftsmen had a similar fate in store.'0l Thus, whereas in earlier times the various crafts and industries were ordained for the sudras,'02, in the early medieval period the artisan class came to be despised.'?8 It is to be noted that in the feudal societies of Japan, China and Europe also artisans occupied a very low status. The decline of crafts and commerce is also indicated by the changing meanings of certain technical terms which formed part of the vocabulary of this branch of economic activity. The terms sreni, nigama, vithi and vaidehaka or vaideha lost their economic connotation and generally came to signify social groups (generally untouchables) or rural units.l04 The Decline of Towns The decline in commerce in this period is also attested by the decline of towns. From a number of recent studies it emerges that the economic basis of the early urban centres of northern India was an agri- cultural surplus generated by the introduction of iron technologyl09 and by the gradual crystallisation of a power structure which ensured the production of surplusT06 as well as its appropriation. A certain amount 76
FEUDALISM IN BENGAL of commercialisation of this surplus was necessitated by the presence of specialised labour and surplus appropriating social groups. Thus it would seem that trade and a power structure which needs it, and in turn pro- motes it, are essential factors in urban growth. We know it for sure that trade was languishing and that the feudalisation of the political structure had undermined central authority in this period and hence, even if viewed from a theoretical perspective the decline of urban centres in our period seems quite logical. In fact, recent excavations show that from the 4th century AD onwards urban sites were in a state of decay and disappearance in northern India.'07 Tamralipti which was a very famous urban centre seems to have lost its importance after the 7th century AD after which it has not been referred to in contemporary sources for about five centuries.108 A geographical analysis of the towns of Bengal shows that they were mostly situated on the banks of rivers'09 and presumably depended on sea-borne trade. The decline in trade must have adversely affected these urban centres. Thus in early medieval Bengal trade was languishing as is proved by the decline of towns, lowering of the status of merchants and crafts- men and the paucity of coins"0. This situation thoroughly ruralised the society as is obvious from the growing dependence on land in this period. A picture of extreme dependence on land also emerges from a study of the list of Pala officials. In the long list of officials, excepting naukadyaksa saulkika and tariza, none are connected with trade and commerce. And whether these three were totally dependent on trade and commerce can not be said with certainty. On the other hand, besides a few connected with war and general administration, the Pala officials were mainly con- nected with land and agriculture. Moreover, due to the decline of towns and trade, city-dwellers as well as merchants must have flocked to the countryside in search of agricultural lands. This tendency probably resulted in the increase in pressure on land, a fact attested by contempo- rary epigraphs. An epigraphic record of the 5th century AD shows that in Northern Bengal even one and a half Kuilyavapas of land had to be purchased in smaller plots at four different places.l" Again, the Kalai- kuri Copper-plate inscription of the Gupta year 121 mentions that 9 Kulyavapas of land had to be purchased from 5 villages."2. This increas- ing pressure on land clearly indicated trends towards ruralisation, a characteristic feature of medieval European feudal societies, in medieval Bengali society. Response of the Peasantry The process of feudalisation and the consequent impoverishment of peasants probably did not go unchallenged. A land charter of the middle of the 6th century AD lays down that it should be protected from the phrase sudrakare(a) draksu(a) nah used there"'. Thus danger to the grant was apprehended from below and it seems that the sudra 77
SOCIAL SCIENTIST peasants did not take kindly to the grants made to the brahmanas. The Kaivartta rebellion of Bengal that took place in the 1 lth-12th centuries AD can be better appreciated in this light. This is a solitary instance of peasants reaction and rebellion against the oppressive feudal conditions of those times. It has been described by Sandhyakaranandi in the Ramac- harital4. Hitherto it has been seen either as a disturbance against the rightful rulers who had been raised to the throne with the consent of the people or as a popular revolt in which the people asserted their rights against a tyrannical ruler115. The feudal content of this rebellion however becomes obvious if one keeps in mind that the Kaivarttas were deprived of their plots of land given as service tenures"6 and subjected to heavy taxes17. That the Kaivarttas were simple peasants can be gathered from the fact that they fought literally naked with bows and arrows riding buffaloes"8. Equally illustrative is the absence of chariots in the army of Bhima, who led the abortive revolt against Ramapala'9. The popular character of the revolt can be further gauged from the fact that in spite of the lack of resources the Kaivartta rebels proved so formidable and their resistance so strong that Ramapala had to mobilise not only his own resources but also those of all his feudal lords120 to quell their resi- stance. It was in all probability a peasant uprising directed against the feudal tyrannies of the Palas, who made a common cause with their vas- sals against the Kaivarttas. But much cannot be made of this single event for we hardly have anything else to illustrate this form of reaction on the part of the peasants. This single instance, however, makes it clear that feudalism with all its manifestations was deeply entrenched in the medieval soil of Bengal; the people were conscious of it and, at times, even resisted feudal tyrannies. 1 D C Sircar, Landlordism and Tenancy in Ancient and Medieval India as Revealed by Epigraphical Records (1969), p 48. 2 'The Origins of Feudalism in India (c. AD 400-650)', Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Oriert; Vol I, pt III, p 327. 3 Indian Feudalism: C.300-1200 (1965), p 1. 4 Op. cit., pp 32-48. 5 R S Sharma, 'The Origins of Feudalism in India (CAD 400-650) op. cit. p 327; Idem, Indian Feudalism, pI. 6 DC Sircar, Select Inscriptions Bearing on Indian History and Civilisation (1942) pp 192, 194-5. 7 Ibid. p 422. 11, 26-29. 8 Kalidasa, Raghuvamsa, XVII-66. 9 J F Fleet, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol III (1929), no 41, 1.8, DC Sircar, op. cit., p 422, 1.29. 10V V Mirashi, Inscriptions of the Kalacuri-Chedi Era (Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum), Vol IV, 1955, no 31,1.45. 11 K Anatova has marked out the following essential features of feudalism: (i) theo- retical ownership of land by King; (ii) direct ownership of an immense area of land by the monarch; (iii) tax-free enjoyment of the bulk of the land or levies therefrom by the superior classes-the princes, priests, warriors and officials; (iv) subinfeudation; (v) economic immunities granted to the superior classes; (vi) 78
FEUDALISM IN BENGAL commendation. (vii) collection of oppressive taxes, and (viii) forced labour. ('K Vaprosu O Razvitu Feodalizma V Indii, AK Nauk USSR IKratkie scobschenia instituta Vostokovedeniya, III, 1952, pp 23-32). Most of these features were present in the Indian context also. CfHussaini, Economic History of India, Vol I (1962), pp 152-242; RK Choudhary, 'Problems and Methods of Socio-Economic History of Ancient India in a New Perspective', Journal of the Bihar Research Society, Vol LIV, 1968, pp 115-26. 12 R Mukherji and SK Maity, Corpus of Bengal Inscriptions, 1967, pp 42-43. 18 Ibid, pp 45-46. 14 Ibid, pp 47-48. 15 Ibid, p 229. 16 Ibid, pp 269, 293. 17 Pali-English Dictionary (Pali Text Society), brahmadeva. 18 R S Sharma, op. cit., pp 4-5. 19 R Mukherji and SK Maity, op.cit, p 229. 20 SK Maity, Economic Life in Northern India in the Gupta Period, 1970, pp197-98. 21 R Mukherjee and SK Maity op.cit., pp 269-293. 22 Ibid, pp 47-48. 28 Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal Vol I, no 6, p 86. 24 Ibid, p 90, plate A, 1-4. 25 Ibid, 11,5-6. 26 Ibid, plate B, 11. 8-9. 27 RS Sharma, op. cit., p 33. 28 Ibid. 29 Summaries of Papers, Silver Jubilee iession of the Indian History Congress, 1963, p 15. 80 Cited by S A QHussaini, The Economic History of India Vol I, p 210. 11 Ibid, Plate A, 1.4. 82 lbid, 11. 4-5. 88 Ibid, 1.5. 84 Epigraphia Indica, Vol IV, no 34, 1-47. 85 VII, 118-19. 8B Epigraphia Indica, Vol XXIX, no I B. 11. 28-29. ;7 op. cit, pp 84-85. :8 N R Ray, Bangalir Itihasa (Adi Parva), 1948, p 396. S9 For specific instances, see Ibid, p 404. 40 Ibid. 41 R Mukherji and S K Maity op. cit.. pp 96-102. 42 op. cit. 43 N R Ray. op. cit., p 410. 44 R Mukherji and S K Maity, op. cit. pp 96-102. 45 R C Majiimdar (ed), The History of Bengal Vol 1, 1963, p 275. 48 N R Ray, op. cit., p 418. 47 D C Sircar, op. cit., pp 282-283, II. 6-7. 48 R C Majumdar (ed) op. cit., p 273-74. 49 Ibid. p 274. 50 R Mukherji and S K Maity, op. cit. p 45; p 59; p 62. 1 R C Majumdar (ed) op. cit, p 274. 52 Epigraphia Indica, Vol XVII, no 17 IT. 26-33; Vol XXIX, no lB, 11. 31-34. 58 'The Bhagalpur Copper-plate Inscription of Narayanapala,' R Mukherjee and S K Maity, op.cit pp 164-69. 54 'Manhali Copper-plate grant of Madanapala', Ibid., pp 211-17. 65 Indian Antiquary, Vol XIV, pp 166-68, Vol XXI, pp 97-101. 46 Epigraphia Indica, Vol XXIX, No I, B, 1.26. 79
SOCIAL SCIENTIST 57 Ibid, No 7, 1.24. 58 Ibid, Vol XXXIII, No 47, 1.2. 9 J F Fleet, op.cit., p 189, fn. 4. 60 Ibid, p 189. 61 cf R S Sharma, op.cit., p 156. 62 rajnavalkya Smrti, II. 158. 63 Brhaspati Smrti, XIX, 54-55. 64 Epigraphia Indica, Vol IV, no 34, 11. 30-52. 65 Indian Antiquary, Vol XLVII, pp 304 ff. 11. 39-46. 66 Epigraphia Indica, Vol XXIII, no 47, 11. 17-24. 67 Ibid, VolXVII, no 17,11. 33-40. 68 RC Majumdar (ed), op. cit, p 647. 69 Epigraphia Indica, Vol IV, no 34, 11. 30-52. 70 Ibid, Vol XXIX, nol, B, 11. 4-2. 71 Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol 1, no 6, p 90, Plate A, 1-8. 72 Ibid, 11.8-9. 73 Ibid, Plate B, 11. 9-11. 74 cfR S Sharma, op. cit., p 232. 75 VV Mirashi, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol IV, p CLXXI. 76 For details of forced labour in the Gupta period cf. V K Thakur, Forced Labour in the Gupta Period, Paper presented to the Bhubaneshwar Session of the Indian History Congress, 1977. 77 Epigpaphia Indica, Vol XXIX, no 1, B, 1. 42. 78 Ibid, Vol XVII, no 17, 1.35. 79 Ibid, Vol XXIX, no 7, 1.42. 80 RS Sharma, op. cit., p 265. 81 JF Fleet, op. cit., no 60,11. 12-13. 82 R Mukherji and SK Maity, op. cit, pp 47-48. 83 RC Majumdar (ed), op. cit., pp. 53-54. 34 Ibid, pp 667-68. 85 Ibid, p 667. 86 For other probable reasons for paucity of coins in this period, see S M Devi, 'Paucity of Coinage in North-Eastern India', Coins and Early Indian Economy, A M Shastri (ed), 1976 p 136. Surprisingly the rise of local units of production in this period has not drawn her attention. 87 For details, cf U Thakur, Mints and Minting in India 1972, Chap I. 88 M Aquique, Economic History ofMithila (c. 600 B C 1097 AD) (1974), pp 141-44. 89 B D Chattopadhyaya, 'Trade and Urban Centres in Early Medieval North India', The Indian Historical Review, Vol I, No 2, p 218. 90 Cf R C Majumdar (ed.), op.cit., pp 659-60. 91 Epigraphia Indica, Vol IV, no 34, 11.52-3. 92 The oppressive taxes of the feudal lords (L Gopal, The Economic Life of Northern India, 1965 pp 250-53), the difficulties created for the merchants carrying on inter- state trade by the feudal thiefs who indulged in loot and plunder (Ibid pp 102-03) and the feudal wars (Ibid pp 254-56) were also responsible for the decline in internal trade. 93 N R Ray, op.cit, p 198. 94 Ibid, p 199. 95 For details cf Ibid, p 199. 96 R S Sharma, Social Changes in Early Medieval India, 1964, p 2. 97 Chattopadhyaya maintains that decline in foreign trade may not necessarily imply a decline in internal trade (op.cit., p 214). But this is a very generalised statement and does not seem to hold much ground in the present context. 98 A L Basham, The Wonder That Was India, Fontana Books, 1971, p 227. 80
FEUDALISM IN BENGAL to Op.cit., p 343, 100 cf Ibid.,p 342. 101 Ibid. 102 Manusmriti, X, 99-100; V S Agarwala, India as Known to Panini, 1953, p 78. 103 N R Ray, op. cit., p 342; Al-Beruni, I, p 101, Hemadri, Chaturvarga Chintamani, Prayaschitakhanda, p 998. 14 cf RS Sharma, 'Indian Feudalism Retouched, The Indian Historical Review, vol 1, No 2, pp 326-27. 105 Idem, Light on Early Indian Society and Economy, 1966, pp 57-59. 106 A Ghosh, The City in Early Historical India, 1973, pp 20-21. 107 R S Sharma, 'Decay of Gangetic Towns in Gupta and post-Gupta Times', The Journal of Indian History, 1973 pp 135-50. 10 NR Ray, op. cit., p 199. 103 Ibid., p 366. 10 D C Sircar thinks that there was neither a dearth of coins nor absence of trade and commerce in this period. He backs up this theory with the contention that numerous epigraphic and literary records mention various coins of gold, silver and copper which were prevalent in those days. He argues that even the cowries were used as coined money in this period. See Landlordism and Tenancy in Ancient and Medieval India, pp 33-34. I[his is untenable because a mere reference to coins in contemporary records does not indicate their prevalence, it merely implies the fact that it was known of by the people. Similarly cowrie-shells were, at the most, being used for simple daily transactions, L Gopal, Socio-Economic Implications of Feudalism in Northern India, p 4. Certain recent works on the subject also controvert ircar's argument. The work of Upendra Thakur mikes it clear that most coin moulds belong to the early centuries of the Christian era and they became practically non-existent in post-Gupta times(op. cit., pp 114-37). Similarly K K Thaplyal's examination of the seals shows that impressions of coin devices on the seals are not available after the Gupta period (Studies in Ancient Indian Seals, 1972, Appendix C). Even Sircar himself realises the "scarcity" of money in this period (Studies in the Political and Administrative System of Ancient and Medieval India, 1974, p 18). Sircar's argument regarding the prevalence of trade is based mainly on the evidence of various missions that passed between India and China (Ibid. p 19). These missions, religious or otherwise, do not give much indication of trade in early medieval times. It has been rightly pointed out by L Gopal that by the 8th century AD the most brisk period of India's intercourse with China ended (The Economic Life of Northern India, p 131). Active intercourse was revived towards the close of the 10th century, only to be disrupted again after 50 years (Ibid, p 132). Moreover, the volume of trade was definitely very low when compared to earlier times. It is significant that in Bengal between the 8th century, after Tamralipti's decline, and the 14th century, when the posts of Saptagram and Sonargaon are found to be of importance, there is no reference to any post for sea-borne trade (R S Sharma, 'Indian Feudalism Retouched' op. cit. p325). It is therefore difficult to support Sircar's theory of "flourishing internal and external trade" (op. cit., pp 19-20) in the early medieval period. 111 Epigraphia Indica, Vol XX, no 5, 11.5-11. 112 B C Sen, Some Historical Aspects of the Inscriptions of Bengal 1942, p XII. 11 Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (New Series), Vol V, p 164. While editing the Amauna plate of the Maharaja Nandana (Epigraphia Indica, Vol X, no 10), Bloch reads the phrase as Sudrakenotakiranamn (1.8), but this is not in accordance with the impression produced there; the reading is certainly sudrakared - raksunah, which of course is incorrect Sanskrit (R S Sharma, Indian Feudalism, p 63, fn. 4). 81
82 SOCIAL SCIENTIST 114 The Ramacharita cannot be accepted as a purely historical work. The personal idiosyncracies as well as affiliations of the poet should be borne in mind before analysing this text. Cf. R C Mazumdar (ed) op.cit., p 150. 115 For both these views, see Ibid., pp 151-52. 116 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XXIX, p 5. 117 Ramacharita, II. 40. 118 Ibid., 39-40. 19 Ibid., 40. 120 N R Ray, op.cit., p 418.