Ancient society was transformed into medieval society and the most important cause responsible for the emergence of a new agrarian economy in the post Gupta period was the increasing practice of land grants. In fact, the land grants had its origin in the pre-gupta period.
Land grants were made for achieving religious merits by the kings. These grants were made to monks and priests for their up keep and for performing religious rites in the Mauryan period but in later times particularly from third and fourth century A.D. the very social crisis necessitated land grants.
In this way the religious merit was often quoted as the reason for making these land-grants practice, really came into being because of a serious crisis that affected the ancient social order. The “varna” society was based on the division of works defined by “Varna System” or caste- system.
“Vaishyas” were mainly engaged in economic activities and the taxes paid by them were utilized in meeting the needs of the royal functionaries and religious institutions.
In other words, the “vama Society” was based on the producing activities of peasants who were called “Vaishyas”, “Sudras” provided labour force and service to the three upper classes or “varnas”, “Brahmanas” and “Kshatriya” performed the religious and political duties respectively but they depended on “Vaishyas” and “sudras” for the payment of taxes and economic support. Thus, under the “Vama” system each “Varna” people had specified duties to perform.
The “Vamas” system was deeply afflicted by a crisis in the third-fourth centuries A.D. The different “vama” or caste people discarded their assigned duties. Contemporary “Puranic-text” complain of a situation in which “Vamas” or social classes discarded the functions assigned to them.
The lower orders attempted to arrogate to themselves the status and functions of the higher orders. In other words, they refused to pay taxes and render labour services. This led to “Varna-Samkara” or inter mixture of social classes.
“Vama” barriers were attacked because the producing masses were oppressed with heavy taxes and impositions, and were denied protection by the kings. This state of affairs is known as “Kaliyuga” in the “Puranic passages” of the third- fourth centuries A.D.
Among the several measures adopted to overcome the crisis, the almost contemporary law-book of Manu advises that the “Vaishyas” and “Sudras” should not be allowed to deviate from their duties. This may have led to coercive
measures. But a most crucial one was to grant land to priests and officials in lieu of salaries and remuneration. Such practice had the advantage of throwing the burden of collecting taxes and maintaining law and order in the donated areas on the beneficiaries. They could deal with revolting peasants on the spot.
This practice could also bring new lands under cultivation. More over by implanting “Brahmanas” in the new conquered areas the people of those areas could be taught the “brahmanical” way of life and the need of obeying the king and paying taxes to him.