AGRARIAN STRUCTURE IN THE POST-GUPTA PERIOD


The debate on feudalism:

Prof. R.S. Sharma uses the term feudalism to characterize the socio-economic formation in the post-gupta period.

In this system, the landlords extract surplus through social, religious or political methods, which are called extra-economic.

Herarchial control over land was created by large-scale infeudation, especially from the eighth century onwards.
Medhatithi mentions at one place that the king was the ‘lord’ of the soil, and elsewhere states that the field belonged to him, who made it fit for cultivation by clearing it.

Fields which were owned by cultivators themselves are generally described as kautambakshetra, owned by certain individuals as sakta and tilled by certain individuals as prakrsta or krsta.

Land and land tenure

Chata and bhata (substituted by the word chhatra in some vakataka ins’s), which are often explained as regular and irregular troops respectively, but may actually signify policemen and peons.

In some cases, the dones were allowed to enjoy the dues from the permanent tenants only (mukt-oparikara in certain charters).

Mitakshara are commentaries on manu, yajnavalka smiritis etc writing during the post-gupta period.
“together with treasures hidden underground” (sa-nidhi saopanidhi), “together with fish and grass” (sa-matsya sa-trina).

Agriculture

Special mention has often been made of the produce of particular areas, e.g., the sugarcane and sugar candy of gandhara; grapes and saffron of uddiyana; pulse and wheat of bolor; sugar-cane, grapes, mango, udumbara, and plantain of parnotsa; upland rice and spring wheat of takka; upland rice of jullundur; upland rice and sugar-cane
of kausambi; jack fruit of pundravardhana; jack fruit and cocoa of kamarupa.

Magadha produced a kind of rice with large grain of extraordinary savour and fragrance called by the people ‘the rice of the grandee’, while the country about the pariyatra mountain produced, besides spring wheat, a peculiar kind of rice which became ready for cutting in sixty days.

The imp crop of Bengal was paddy.

Interesting in this connection is the history of the sudarsana lake, and the activities of the engineer suyya during the reign of king avantivarman of Kashmir.

Revenue system

The land grants of the period referring to revenue or taxes refer to a term – bhagabhogakara.

Prof. A.S.Altekar, after splitting the term into two parts, opines that bhagakara was the land tax and bhogakara represented petty taxes paid in kind to the king or local officers.

Prof. L.Gopal is of the view that “the expression bhagabhogaka or bhagabhoga did not always indicate a single fiscal expression and their competent parts, bhaga, bhoga, and kara, stood for three different taxes”.

Kara has been interpreted as regular revenue, periodical tax or oppressive tax like vishti or forced labour.

Another term which appears almost universally in the land grants of the period is hiranya, literally meaning gold.

Some scholars are of the view that hiranya was a tax on mines. But it appears to be a lumpsum assessment in cash upon villages rather than upon the individual cultivators.

In the grants of the post-guptan period the terms udranga and uparikara also appear. The former was the tax levied on permanent tenants and the latter was the tax on temporary cultivators.

Uparikara was an extra tax charged over and above the land revenue.

In the donated villages the donee had also the right to impose fines on the villagers for the commission of ten offences falling under dasaparadha.

Besides, taxes were also imposed on water, animals, etc; there were also contributions (prastha) payable by the villagers to the officers.

Cutoms, and tolls, ferry dues, tax on ploughs (hala-danda), etc. are also mentioned in several land grants and epigraphs of various dynasties of the period.

Hiranya, bhagabhoga, uparikara, and danda were the most common taxes.

In Gujarat, private persons were granted grama pattaka upon agreeing to pay a fixed amount of land revenue in cash for the entire village.

The manasara gives a list of the increasing rates of revenue realized by various categories of rulers and vassal chiefs in the descending order. Thus, it is stated that the chakravarti, maharaja or adhiraja, narendra, parsnika and pattadhara received one-tenth, one-sixth, one-fifth, one-fourth and one-third of the produce as revenue.

A2 Huen-tsang, taxation was light and forced service sparingly used; the king’s tenants paid one-sixth of the produce as rent.

A2 the smriti writers, the king could demand one-third or one-fourth of the crops in time of distress.

Manu and others permit the king to take one-sixth, one-eighth or one-twelth of the yield grain, one-eight of grain in pods, one-tenth of crops grown on recently cultivated fallow land, one-eigth from lands sown in the rainy season, and one-sixth from those that had spring crops.

The revenue was paid once a year or once in six months, according to the custom prevailing in the area.

As regards minerals, huen-tsang has often made special mention of them in respect of particular countries, e.g. gold and iron of uddiyana; gold of darel; gold and silver of bolor; gold, silver, bell-metal, copper, and iron of takka; and gold, silver, redcopper, crystal lenses, and bell-metal of kuluta.

Various land measures were used in different, parts of the country.

Unfortunately, the area of a particular unit was not the same everywhere.

Measuring rods of different length were in use in different localities.

Some of the most popular land measures were the nivartana, pattikahala, kedara, bhumi, khandukavapa, pataka, gocharma, kharivapa, kulyavapa, dronavapa, adhavapa, nalikavapa, etc.

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