The Subordination of peasants in late ancient and early medieval times was striking development connected with the socio-economic dimensions of feudalism. It can be explained by the several factors which are given below:-
First, most important factor which was the increase in the burden of taxation on the villagers. The grants indicate as many as eleven taxes in the villages; if all these were extracted by the state. Perhaps the peasants were left with even a bare subsistence. In addition to the transfer of these taxes in many cases the doneness were given the right to fix or unfix the right or wrong taxes. The beneficiary were authorised to collect the taxes covered by the term “adi” or “et-cetra” and sources of income.
They could make new impositions. In this way, whatever peasants were paying as revenue to the state it was converted (as a result of grants) into rents to the beneficiaries, many of whom, being priests or religious institutions, did not have to pay any portion of their income as tax to their donors or kings.
Second factor that excavated the situation of the peasants was the imposition of forced labour. During the Mauryan period slaves and hired labourers were subjected to such labour. But from the second century A.D. the practice seems to have been extended to all classes of subjects.
Down to the tenth century the grants of Western and central India mention the prevalence of “Visti”. Occasionally, forced labour imposed by the ruling chief upon the villager impressed labour was bound to prove oppressive when transferred to local beneficiaries who had a direct interest in the exploitation of the neural resources.
Third factor which worsened the condition of the peasants was the right of sub infatuation. The beneficiaries or donees were authorised to cultivate land and get it cultivated. In some late ancient and early medieval law books refers to as many as four stages of landed interests between the king and the actual tiller of the soil, which can also be concluded from the epigraphs.
The right to cultivate the land or get it cultivated also implies the right to eject. From fifth century to twelfth century, there was a well established practice in Malwa or Malava, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, which tended to reduce the permanent tenants to the position of tenants-at will.
The transfer of communal rights, presumably from the villagers to the donees was adversely affected the peasants in the donated areas. The boundaries of many “gifted-villages were not defined and beneficiaries could have taken advantages to increase the land in their possession.
Similarly they fixed the tax for the use of barren land, jungles, pastures, trees and water-reservoirs falls in their “gift land”, the transfer of such rights obviously flowed from the theory of royal ownership which came to be emphasised in Gupta and post-Gupta periods.
There were certain communal rights existed can be inferred from the fact that in Gupta times, land could not be sold without the consent of the community in Bengal.
Thus the transfer to the beneficiaries of agrarian rights enjoyed by the village tended to erode peasants rights and created new property titles.
These factors may be considered as various modes of extracting surplus from the peasants for the benefit of either the king or his secular and religious beneficiaries.
They give rise to the new property relations and a new mechanism of economic subordination from which there was no escape.