NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History Chapter 2 - Kings, Farmers and Towns—Early States and Economies

Question 1:

Discuss the evidences of craft production in early historic cities. In what ways is this different from the evidences from Harappan cities?


The towns of Harappa have been widely excavated. From excavations, we have found evidences about the Harappan craftsmanship. Contrary to it, the excavation of the early historical towns is not possible because in these regions, people still live. Even then, we have found a wide range of artefacts. There are certainly other evidences of things produced by the craftsmen.

The craft production in early towns :

(i) From these sites, fine pottery bowls and dishes have been found. They had a glossy finish. They were known as Northern Black Polished Ware. They were probably used by the rich people.

(ii) There have been evidences of ornaments, tools, weapons, vessels and figurines. There were also a wide range of things which were made of gold, silver, copper, bronze, ivory, glass, shell and terracotta.

(iii) The donor inscriptions tell us that the washermen, weavers, scribes, carpenters, potters, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, officials and religious teachers lived in these towns. The blacksmiths made things from iron. There are no evidences of iron in the towns of Harappa.

(iv) The craft producers and merchants had formed their guilds or shrenis. They bought the raw material and went in for regulated production. In the end, they marketed the finished goods.

Question 2:

Describe the salient features of Mahajanapadas.


State any three features of Mahajanapadas.


In the early texts of Buddhism and Jainism, we find a mention of sixteen states under the name of Mahajanapadas. Though the names of all these Mahajanapadas are not uniform in these books, yet the names of Vajji, Magadha, Kaushal, Kuru, Panchal, Gandhar and others have been noted. It indicates that all these Mahajanapadas must have been very important.

Main Characteristics : The main features of the Mahajanapadas are as follows :

(i) Most of the Mahajanapadas were ruled by a king. But a group of people ruled those states which were known as Republics. Every person of this group was called a king. Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha had relation with this Republics. Like the Republics of Vajji, in some other states, the king and the people had a collective control over the economic resources.

(ii) Every Mahajanapada had its own capital and was often surrounded by a fort. The fortification of the capital was needed for the maintenance of its border forces and economic resources for the officials.

(iii) Approximately in the 6th century B.C.E., the Brahmans started composing a religious book in Sanskrit called Dharamshastras. In it, the rules were determined for all social sections including the king. It was also expected that all the rulers should be Khastriyas.

(iv) The main job of the rulers was to collect tax from the farmers, merchants and craftsmen. They also accepted offerings.

(v) It was legitimate to attack the neighbouring countries to raise money from them.

(vi) Slowly and steadily, some states started keeping their regular armed forces and other officials whereas other states were still dependent on assistant armies. The soldiers were often recruited from the farmers.

Question 3:

How do historians reconstruct the lives of ordinary people?


Common masses or ordinary people left behind very few written information about their lives. That is why historians have to use different types of sources to reconstruct the lives of ordinary people. Following are some of the given resources :

(i) Different types of foodgrains and animal bones have been found during the excavation. It gives us information about the dietry practices of the people.

(ii) Remains of houses and pots inform us about their daily and household life.

(iii) There is a mention of different types of crafts and craftsmen on certain inscriptions. It is a very good source of knowing about the economic life of people.

(iv) Some inscriptions and scriptures inform us about king-subject relations, different types of taxes and miseries or happiness of people.

(v) Changing agricultural tools and equipments throw some light on changing life of the ordinary people.

(vi) Merchant guilds indicate towards protection of interests of producers.

(vii) Historians also use famous folk tales to get information about the life of common masses.

Question 4:

Compare and contrast the list of things given to the Pandyan Chief with those produced in the village of Danguna. Do you notice any similarities or differences?


The gifts given to Pandyan Chief include things like ivory, fragrant wood, fans made from the hair of deer, honey, sandalwood, red ochre, antimony, turmeric, cardamom, pepper, etc. Except these, mangoes, coconut, medicinal plants, fruits, onions, sugarcanes, flowers, areca nut, bananas and many birds and animals were also given as gifts. Contrary to it, things produced in the village of Danguna include grass, skin of animals, charcoal, salt and other minerals, fermenting liquors, produces of khadira tree, flowers and milk.

Similarities : Except flowers, there is no similarity between both the lists. Probably the Pandyan kings could have used animal skin like the people of Danguna village.

Differences : Many differences have been found in both the lists. The main difference is the method of obtaining these things. People used to willingly and happily give gifts to the Pandyan chiefs. On contrary to it, before land grants, people of Danguna village had to give these things to the State and its officials because it was their duty.

Question 5:

List some of the problems faced by epigraphists.


Give any two limitations of inscriptional evidence to construct the past.


Critically examine the limitations of the inscriptional evidences in understanding political and economic history of India.


Describe the limitations of the inscriptional evidences.


“There are limits to what epigraphy can reveal.” Justify the statement with suitable arguments.


The scholars who study the inscriptions were often very wise people. They faced the following problems :

(i) Sometimes the words are engraved in very light colours. It is very hard to decipher them.

(ii) Sometimes the inscriptions are damaged. Many words are lost due to this damage.

(iii) It is always not easy to find out the real meaning of the inscription. Sometimes the things are stated in relevance to a particular situation or time.

(iv) Thousands of inscriptions have been found. But not all of them can be translated or understood.

(v) There might have been many more inscriptions. It is possible that many of them would have been damaged. These inscriptions which are available may be a part of many more which have already been damaged.

(vi) There is another basic problem. What is important today both politically and economically may not have been mentioned in the inscriptions. For example, the inscriptions do not refer to agriculture and the joys or sorrows of daily life. They describe only special and grand occasions.

(vii) The inscriptions reflect the views of those who write them. So we must critically analyse all the inscriptions to find out the ultimate truth.

Question 6:

Discuss the main features of the Mauryan administration. Which of these elements are evident in the Ashokan inscriptions that you have studied ?


Examine the system of Mauryan administration.


Explain the main features of the Mauryan administration.


Describe any four features of the Mauryan administration.


Ashokan inscriptions mention all the main features of the Mauryan administration like king-subjects relationships, political centres, important officers and their duties, etc. Same sort of messages were engraved on inscriptions found in western frontier province of modern Pakistan, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand and other places. Some of the main features evident in the Ashokan inscriptions and few others are given below:

(i) Five main Political Centres : Largest political centre of the Mauryan empire was its capital, i.e., Pataliputra. Apart from this, there is a mention of four provincial centres in Ashokan inscriptions. These four centres were Taxila, Ujjayini, Tosali and Suvarnagiri.

(ii) Unequal Administrative System : The Mauryan empire was quite large and included areas in the empire that were of different types like mountaineous region of Afghanistan and coastal areas of Odisha. It was not possible to establish an equal or same administrative system in such a diverse empire. But probably strict administrative control could have been there in capital of empire and other provincial centres.

(iii) Selection of Provincial Centres : Provincial centres were selected very carefully. Taxila and Ujjayini were situated on important trading routes of long journey. Suvarnagiri was important for the gold mines of Karnataka.

(iv) Providing Easy Communication : Communication along both land and riverine routes was vital for the existence of empire. It took weeks or months to reach provinces from the capital. It is obvious that arrangement of diet and protection of people moving through the routes could have been an important issue.

(v) Committee and Sub-Committees : Megasthenes mentioned about one committee and six sub-committees for coordinating the military activities.
(a) First sub-committee looked after the navy.
(b) The second managed transport and provisions.
(c) The third sub-committee was responsible for infantry.
(d) The fourth was responsible for horses, the fifth for chariots and sixth for elephants.
Activities of second sub-committee were little bit varied. It arranged for bullockcarts to carry equipments, procuring fodder for animals and food for soldiers and recruiting artisans and servants to look after the soldiers.

(vi) Appointment of Dhamma Mahamatras : Ashoka tried to maintain unity within his empire. He did this by propagating Dhamma. Concepts of Dhamma were very simple and universal. He was of the view that obeying the Dhamma will be good for people in this world and beyond this world. That is why special officers called Dhamma Mahamatras were appointed. This activity is also mentioned in his inscriptions.

Question 7:

To what extent were agricultural practices transformed in the period under consideration?


Explain the agricultural practices followed by cultivatores to increase productivity from C. 600 BCE to 600 CE.


IThe demand for taxes by the kings had considerably increased during the period from 600 B.C.E. to 600 C.E. To fulfil this demand for more taxes, the farmers started finding all new means to increase the production of their crops. Consequently following changes took place in the means and methods of agriculture :

(i) Prevalence of Ploughs : One method that helped in increasing the production was the popularity of plough. The use of a plough started in 6th century B.C.E. in the valleys of Ganga and Cauveri. The plough with an iron tip was used in areas which received ample rainfall. It was used in fertile land which resulted in increasing the production of paddy. No doubt the farmers had to work a lot to achieve this target.

(ii) Use of Spade : Though plough helped in increasing the production yet its use was limited to only some areas. In Punjab and Rajasthan, which had less rainfall, the plough was used in the early period of the 20th century. Those farmers who lived in the north-east and mid-mountaineous regions, used spade to dig the fields. The spade was quite useful in such areas.

(iii) Artificial Irrigation : Another method to increase the production was artificial irrigation. For this purpose, the wells, tanks and canals were used. These were developed by the people individually. At some places, farmers also joined hands and worked collectively to develop these means of irrigation. However, kings and other dominating elite people developed wells, ponds and canals individually for irrigation of land. Impact of the new Methods of Agriculture : The production in the fields increased considerably because of these modern techniques but many differences also emerged among the people because of these new methods. In Buddhist stories, we find a mention of labourers, small farmers and big Zamindars. It shows diverse social classes and the position of different people in the society. In Pali language, the word for small farmers and Zamindars was Grihapati. The big Zamindars and village chiefs were considered very powerful and strong. They often had a control over small farmers. The post of village chief was often hereditary. The texts of Tamil Sangam also mention different classes of people in the villages. For example, there were Vellalar or big landlords, Halwaha or Ulwar and Das Animai. It is possible that these diverse positions were because of the differences in the ownership of land, labour and new technology. In such a situation, the ownership of land become quite important.