Even today it is recongnised that India is a country of villages, of the 54.82 crore people, who constituted the 1971 population of India 43.90 crore or about 80 percent live in villages and 10.92 crore or 20 percent in cities and towns. It may therefore be safely remarked that India is a country predominantly with rural community.
In history, mythology and literature there is abundant description above village life and community since the birth of Indian society villages have been there and so has been the rural or villager community.
If we go into the country’s mythology and history we find that villages have been the basis unites of the economic and political set up. Before we proceed to study the attempts made by modern social thinkers and scholars to study the rural community we should go into the historical re-prospect. It would be convenient to divide it under the following heads:
1) Rural Community or Rural Society during ancient period.
2) Rural Society in India during the medieval period.
3) Rural Society in India during the modern period.
Let us take up each of them:
1) Rural Community in ancient India:
India as we have already seen has been the country of rural community. As soon as the family was born, as a result of the need of the human beings to live together these villages came into being. The families decided to live together these villages came into being. The families felt the need of coming together and living together in the interest of there security and preservation.
It was this thing that marked the beginning and creation of the villages. This was the period which was probably much before the Vedas. In the Vedic literature it there is a detailed and comprehensive description of village community. The most ancient among the Vedas is the Rig-Veda. Here also there is a detailed mention and description of villages.
In the villages of Rig Vedic time various groups lived together. The smallest unit of social life was the family and village was composed of several families. Several villages, when they combined together became a nation. In those days the concept of nation was comparatively a narrower one. Village in those days was only a collection of families and the leader of the village was known as ‘Gramin” since people living in villages were born out of the same fore father they had common truits.
Apart from the Vedic literature the description of villages is to be found in other literature, that throw light on the village society in ancient India. We would, therefore study the situation of these villages in ancient India. For the convenience of study this history may be divided into the following heads:
1) Village in India during mythological period or Mahabharata kal.
2) Description of villages in past Vedic period or Pauramic and Smarti Kal.
3) Villages or village community during Buddha Period.
4) Rural community in India during Maury; Gupta and later periods.