Essay on the Role Of Early Feudalism during ancient times in India

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The role of early feudalism was important for several factors. First, land grants served as an important means of bringing uncultivated land under cultivation in Central India or “Madhyadesha”, Orissa and Eastern Bengal.

This was true about the South India. At least, early feudalism was a phase of agrarian expansion. Adventurous and enterprising Brahmanas were given useful employment in the backward, earliest,

tribal tracts where they could spread new methods of cultivation. Some beliefs and rituals started by the priests helped the material progress among the backward and tribal peoples.

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They taught the tribal and backward people not only the use of plough and manure but also fostered agriculture by giving them the knowledge of seasons and planets especially of the recurrence of the rains.

Most of this knowledge was written down in the form of the “Krisi Parasara”, which seems to have been a product of this period.

Secondly, these land grants beneficiaries or feudals provided the administrative mechanism for maintaining law and order in the donated areas in Which all such powers were delegated to the beneficiaries or donees, who inculcated among the inhabitants a sense of broad loyalty and sincerely to the established order.

On the other hand secular vassals or land grantees helps their lords or kings by governing their fiefdoms or regions and supplying the troops in the time of needs or war.

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Thirdly, those land grants led to Brahmanisation and acculturation of the tribal peoples, who were given scripts, calendar, art, literature and a new way of life.

In this sense feudalism worked for the integration of the country. The old Brahmanical order was modified because of the social changes occurred in the social organisation. Four Varnas were the basis of the social status in society as the Varahamihira an astrologer of sixth century, prescribed houses in sizes varying according to the “Varna” as was the old practice.

But he fixes the size according to the grades of various classes of ruling chiefs. Thus formerly all things in society were graded according to the “Vamas”. These four “Varnas” proliferated into numerous castes and number or mixed castes increased up to about a hundred.

According to the “Brahmaniavarta Puranas”, it was the necessity of finding a place in Brahmanical society for various aboriginal tribes which were brought into direct contact with the Brahmanas through land grants.

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Thus, Indian feudalism gradually passed through the several distinct stages. The age of the Guptas and the following two centuries saw the beginning of land grants to the Brahmanas, temples and monasteries. But the number of such land grants increased and their nature was changed during the reign of the Palas, the Pratiharas and the Rashtrakutas.

In the beginning only property right were usually given-but from the eighth century onwards proprietary rights were transferred to the beneficiaries. But the practice of land grants reached at the peak during the eleventh and twelfth centuries when the Northern India was divided into numerous political and economic units largely held by the secular and religious beneficiaries who enjoyed the gifted villages as little better than fiefs.

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