Discuss whether kings in early states were invariably Kshatriyas.
Patriliny means tracing descent from father to son, grandson and so on. The elite families included the royal families or the families of the rich. The principle of patriliny would have been essential for them on account of the following reasons:
(i) To Carry Forward the Dynasty : According to Dharamshastras, it is the son who carries forward the dynasty and daughters cannot do so. That is why, all the families wish for sons and not daughters. This also becomes clear from a couplet of Rig Veda. In this couplet, the father wishes for, at the time of the marriage of his daughter that she should bear best sons with the grace of Lord Indra.
(ii) To Escape from Disputes Concerning Inheritance : The parents did not like that there should be disputes in their family after their death. In the royal families, the acquisition of throne was also included in the inheritance. After the death of the king, his eldest son was entitled to inherit the throne. Similarly the property of the parents was equally divided among all the sons after the death of their parents. Most of the royal families followed the patriliny since 600 B.C.E. No doubt, this tradition had a diversity.
(i) If there was no son, the brother of the king sat on the throne.
(ii) Sometimes the relatives put forward their claim to sit on the royal throne.
(iii) In some special situations, the women like Prabhavati enjoyed the authority.
Discuss whether kings in early states were invariably Kshatriyas.
According to the Dharamshastras, only Kshatriyas could be kings. However many important
ruling lineages perhaps had different origins. Some people considered the Mauryas to be
Kshatriyas. But some Brahmanical texts described them to be of low origin. The Shungas and
Kanvas, the immediate successors of the Mauryas, were Brahmanas. In fact, the political
power went in the hands of those who could had support and resources. It did not depend on
birth as a Kshatriya.
There were other rulers like Shakas who came from Central Asia. But the Brahmans considered them as Mlechchhas, barbarians and outsiders. Similarly, Gotami-puta Siri Satakani, the best known ruler of the Satavahana dynasty, became a destroyer of the pride of Kshatriyas. Thus, we see that the Satavahanas claimed to be Brahmanas whereas according to the Brahmanas, the kings should be Kshatriyas.
Compare and contrast the dharma or norms mentioned in the stories of Drona, Hidimba and Matanga.
Drona. Drona was a Brahmana teacher. He taught archery to princes of the
Kuru dynasty. According to Dharamshastras, imparting education was the pious deed of the
Brahmanas. In this way, Drona was performing his duty. At that time, the low caste people
could not get an education and therefore he refused Eklavya to have him as his pupil. As
Eklavya had acquired a great skill in archery, Drona demanded his right thumb as his fee
though it was against the religious norms. It means that at last Drona had accepted Eklavya
as his pupil. In fact, Drona did such a low act just to keep his word that no one was better
archer than Arjuna.
Hidimba. Hidimba was a rakshasani (ogress). All rakshasas were man-eaters except Hidimba. One day her brother asked her to capture the Pandavas so that he may eat them. But she did not follow her religion and fell in love with Bhima and married him. She gave birth to a rakshasa boy named Ghatotkacha. Thus, she did not keep up the norms of rakshasas.
Matanga. Matanga was a Boddhisatta. He had taken birth in the house of a Chandala but married Dittha Mangalika, the daughter of a merchant. After some time, a son named Mandavya Kumara was born to them. As he grew up, he learnt the three Vedas. He offered food to 16,000 Brahmanas every day. However he refused to offer food to his father, when he, dressed in rags, reached at his door steps with a clay alms bowl in his hand. He considered his father like an outcaste and claimed him to be unworthy of his alms. He said that his food was meant only for the Brahmanas. Matanga advised his son that he should not be proud of his birth. Then he rose in the air and disappeared. When Dittha Mangalika came to know about this incident, she went after Matanga and begged his forgiveness. She acted like a true wife and performed her duty religiously. There was a tinge of pride in the behaviour of Mandavya. A donor is often generous. But Mandavya did not follow the norms of religion and generosity.
In what ways was the Buddhist theory of a social contract different from the Brahmanical view of society derived from the Purusha Sukta.
According to the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda, the four Varnas emerged because of the
sacrifice of Purusha, the primeval man. These Varnas were—Brahamans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas
and the fourth Varna. These Varnas had different jobs. The Brahmanas enjoyed the supreme
position in the society. They used to study Dharam Shastras. They also taught others. The
Kshatriyas were brave warriors who ran the administration and administered justice. The
Vaishyas were engaged in trade and agriculture. The fourth Varna was destined to serve the
above three Varnas. So there was inequality in the society. In this system, the birth of a
person was the basis of his/her status and prestige in the society.
The Buddhist concept was contrary to this Brahmanical notion. They accepted that there was an inequality in the society. But according to them, this inequality was neither natural nor permanent. They also rejected birth as the base of social prestige.
The following is an excerpt from the Mahabharata in which Yudhisthira, the eldest
Pandava, speaks to Sanjay, a messenger :
Sanjaya, convey my respectful greetings to all the Brahmanas and the chief priest of the house of Dhritarashtra. I bow respectfully to teacher Drona........ I hold the feet of our preceptor Kripa...... (and) the chief of the Kurus, the great Bhishma. I bow respectfully to the old king (Dhritarashtra). I greet and ask after the health of his son Duryodhana and his younger brothers.......... Also greet all the young Kuru warriors who are our brothers, sons and grandsons......... Greet above all him, who is to us like father and mother, the wise Vidura (born of a slave woman)...... I bow to the elderly ladies who are known as our mothers. To those who are our wives you say this, “I hope they are wellprotected.”...... Our daughters-in-law born of good families and mothers of children greet on my behalf. Embrace for me those who are our daughters...... The beautiful, fragrant, welldressed courtesans of ours, you should also greet. Greet the slave women and their children, greet the aged, the maimed (and) the helpless. Try and identify the criteria used to make this list in terms of age, gender, kinship ties. Are there any other criteria? For each category, explain why they are placed in a particular position in the list.
Besides age, gender, and kinship ties, there are many other bases to make this list. For
example, the respect for teachers, brave warriors, slaves and their sons. All these have
been given a due place in the list keeping in mind their social status :
(i) First of all, the highest honours have been bestowed on the Brahmans, the Purohits and the Gurus who were all widely respected.
(ii) Secondly, respect has been shown to fraternal kins who are also like parents.
(iii) Thereafter those have been placed who are younger or equal in age.
(iv) In this order, the young Kuru warriors have been respected.
(v) After this, the women have been given the due place. In this order come the mothers, wives, daughters-in-law and daughters. They also include beautiful dasis and their sons.
(vi) The orphans and handicapped have also not been ignored. Yudhisthira also salutes or greets them.
This is what a famous historian of Indian literature, Maurice Winternitz, wrote about he Mahabharata : “Just because the Mahabharata represents more of an entire literature... and contains so mush and so many kinds of things, ..... (it) give (s) us an insight into the most profound depths of te soul of the Indian folk.” Discuss.
There is no denying the fact that Mahabharata represents whole of literature and shows a very beautiful picture of all the aspects of public life of contemporary Indian folk. This epic thrws the following lights on the life of Indians :
(i) Social Life (a) Four Varbas : Society was divided into four Varnas and Varna system was not strict. There was no restriction on people to adopt their hereditary occupation. For example, Parshuram was known as a Kshatriya even if he was Brahmana. Brahman’s place in the society was not supreme.
(b) Status of Women : Women had very good status in the society. They were highly respected. They had the right to select their husband through the custom of ‘Suyamuas’.
(c) Age of Courage : Age of Mahabharata was an age of volour and bravery. Dying in the battlefield was considered very prestigeous. People believed that one who dies in the battlefield goes straight to heaven. Protection of weaker sections was also considered as an act of bravery.
(d) Social Evils : Some social evils also existed in the society. Playing the game of dice, endogamy, polygamy, betraying the enemy were common things that prevailed in the society.
(ii) Political Life :
(a) Large empires : King was the head of the state and all the power of the state rested in his hands. There was no restricion on these powers. However there were ministers to advice the king in administrative functions but the kings were not bound to accept their advice.
(c) Life of Kings : Kings used to live with great pomp and show. They had splendid palaces and used to adopt many titles. They had an ambition to become Chakravarti King. For this, they used to organise Ashvamedha yajna. There were many dancers in their courts. Drinking liquor and gambling were a part of their characters.
(iii) Economic Life :
(a) Agriculture : Agriculture was the main occupation of the people. Even kings themselves used to plough the land. Land was very fertile.
(b) Animal Rearing : Animal rearing was another occupation of the people. Cow, bull, horses and elephants were important rearing animals.
(iv) Religious Life :
(a) Worshipping New Gods and Goddesses : In Mahabharata age, people started to worship new gods and goddesses, except Vedic gods and goddesses, and some of them were Parvati, Durga, Vishnu, Brahma, etc.
(b) Believe in Incarnation : People also belived that god takes birth. It was believed that god Vishnu took birth in the form of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna and people started to worship them them as well.
(c) Karma theory and Reincarnation : People also believed in Karma theory and reincarnation. They believed that one has to face all of his good or bad deeds of this life in his next life or birth.
(d) Stress on Yajnas : People in this epic age greatly stressed on Yajnas.
Many new methods of yajnas were started in this age.
Actually, like any other epic, Mahabharata in an epic which shows a live picture of wars, forests, palaces and towns. Culturally also Mahabharata is very important. This epic has given a content to sculptors, plays and dance forms.
Discuss whether the Mahabharata could have been the work of a single author.
Who composed the original story of Mahabharata? Describe the various stages through which Mahabharata was completed between the fifth century BCE. and 100 CE.
What do you know about the authors and the period when Mahabharata was compiled?
It is not possible for a single author to compose the entire Mahabharata. It seems to have been composed between 500 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. As a result, many episodes have been incorporated in it from time to time. Some of the stories mentioned in it were already popular among the people. As Mahabharata was written in a very long time, it seems as if no single author would have written it.Different Authors
The following suggestions are given regarding the authors of Mahabharata :
(i) The original story of Mahabharata was written by Bhatt-Sarthis. They were called as Sutas. They generally accompanied Kshatriya warriors to the battlefield. So they composed poems to celebrate the victories and achievements of various warriors. These compositions were circulated through oral method.
(ii) From the 5th century B.C.E., the Brahmanas took over the story and began to write it in the form of an epic. The story moved around the Kurus. As the Kurus and Panchalas had attained kingdom from chiefdom, it is possible that these new kings might have wanted their history to be recorded and preserved in a more systematic way. Besides, old social values were replaced by new norms. So it is possible that such upheavals might have necessitated the re-writting of the epic story.
(iii) Another phase in the composition of the epic task of Mahabharta started between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E. This was the time when the worship of Vishnu was becoming quite important. Krishna who was one of the most important characters in the epic, was identified with Vishnu.
(iv) Therefore between 200 and 400 C.E., many didactic sections resembling the Manusmriti were added in the main story. Originally the text of Mahabharata had 10,000 verses. But after addition of didactic section, it comprised of 1,00,000 verses.
(v) However the enormous composition of Mahabharata is traditionally attributed to Vyasa, a famous sage.
How important were gender differences in early societies? Give reasons for your answer.
State whether gender differences were really important in the early societies from C. 600 BCE to 600 CE.
“Brahmanical texts reinforced gender access to property in the early societies.” Analyse the statement with examples.
Describe the ideal of patriliny and Gendered access to property prevailing during 6th century B.C.E. to 6th century C.E.
There were three main reasons of gender differences in early societies and these were :
(i) Gender inequality, patrilineal system
(ii) Gotra of woman
(iii) Right over property
(i) Gender inequality : Earlier societies were male dominated and were run according to the patrilineal system. That is why male child was desired in every type of family as sons were important for the continuity of the partilineage. Daughters were viewed rather differently in this system. They had no right over ancestral resources. They were expected to marry out of their gotras. This custom of marriage is known as ‘exogamy’. It means that young girls and women of reputed families were regulated in a way that they could marry at right time and with right person. This gave rise to the belief that Kanyadana was an important religious duty of the father.
(ii) Gotra of Women : From C. 1000 B.C.E. onwards, people were classified into gotras by Brahamanas. Each gotra was named after a Vedic seer as all the members of that gotra were assumed as the descendants of that seer. There were two important rules of gotras:
(a) Woman had to adopt gotra of her husband after her marriage.
(b) Members of same gotra could not marry with each other.
But some evidences have been found in which these rules were not obeyed. For example, some
of the Satavahana rulers had more than one wife (polygamy). A study of the names of wives of
Satavahana rulers revealed that a few of them had names derived from gotras such as Gotama
and Vasistha which were their father’s gotras. They probably had retained these names
instead of adopting names of their husbands gotras. Some women also belonged to the same
gotra as of their husbands. This fact was against the rules of exogamy. This fact actually
exemplified an alternative practice that of endogamy or marriage within the kin group. This
type of marriage still exists in many communities of South India. These sorts of marital
relations give strength to organised communities.
Satavahana rulers were identified through the names derived from that of the mother. Although this may suggest that mothers were important but we should note down the fact that succession to the throne, among Satavahanas, was generally patrilineal.
(iii) Access to Property : According to Manusmriti, ancestral property of
parents should be distributed (after their death) equally among all the sons. But eldest son
should be given special share. Women could not demand their share in these ancestral
resources. But they had the right over the gifts given to them at the time of their
marriage. It was known as stridhana or woman’s wealth. This wealth could be inherited by her
children. Their husbands had no right over this wealth. But Manusmriti restricts women to
secretly collect any valuable goods or familial property without the permission of their
Some evidences indicate that yet women of upper class had resources within their reach but still land, animals and wealth were under the control of males. In other words, social differences among men and women were increased because of the difference in access of resources or property.
Discuss the evidences that suggest that Brahmanical prescriptions about kinship and marriage were not universally followed.
Describe the rules of marriage during the period C. 600 B.C.E. — 600 C.E.
“Because of the diversity of the Indian subcontinent there have always been population whose social practices were not influenced by the Brahminical ideas during 600 B.C.E. — 600 C.E. Examine the statement.
The Brahmans considered their view-point as universally accepted. They believed that their rules were followed every where. But in reality, it was not so. In fact, there was no universal impact of the Brahmanas because of regional diversities and lack of proper communication. In other words, we can say that the rules framed by the Brahmanas were not adhered every where. The following evidences have been found in this regard:
(i) Diversity in Family Life. We accept family life usually with ease. But
all families are not the same. There is always diversity in human relations and activities.
In reality, family is a part of a big group. It is a part of larger network of people
defined as relatives or kinfolk. However, the familial ties are natural as they are based on
blood relations. For example, such relations are kept in different ways. Some societies
regard cousins as blood relatives whereas others do not think so.
We can know a lot about elite families. But it is very difficult to have a full view of the relationships of ordinary people. The historians have made efforts to analyse and examine attitude towards family and kinship. The Mahabharata is a story of a war between two groups of cousins, i.e., the Kauravas and the Pandavas. This war was fought for land and power. It was fought for eighteen days in which the Pandavas emerged victorious.
(ii) Rules of Marriage. The sons were considered important to continue the
patrilineage. So the daughters had no claims to the resources of the household. They were
married into families outside the kin. This system was called exogamy which literally meant
marrying outside one’s kin or gotra. The women of high status families were married to the
right persons at right time. Thus, Kanayadana or the gift of a daughter in marriage was an
important religious duty of the father.
As the new towns emerged, the social life became more complex. The people bought and sold their products in the cities. So they shared the views with each other. Hence the Brahmanas laid down codes of social behaviour in great detail. They expected all the Brahmanas in particular and the others in general to follow these rules. Later on, these rules were enshrined in Dharamashastras. These texts recognised eight forms of marriage out of which four were considered as good and the other four were considered as condemnable. The condemnable marriages were solemnised by those who did not accept Brahmanical norms.
Inscriptions of Satavahana rulers indicate that they did not followed the method of exogamy of Brahmanas. They had many queens and even from their own gotra. This fact is an example of endogamy method or marital relations within kinfolk.