What is Feudalism in The Post-Gupta Period 800-1200 AD Full Guide

Feudalism in post-Gupta

  • One of the important features of the post-Gupta agrarian structure was feudalism. The term ‘feudalism’ is derived from the Latin word ‘feodum’ which means land.
  • In Europe, it was used to describe the kind of society that was based on the distribution of land. In India, it come to be used to denote a new politico-economic structure that dominated North India in the first instance and South India in a later period.
  • Feudal tendencies begin to emerge even towards the closing years of the Gupta period. It all began with the practice of donating land to the brahmana priest and Buddhist monk for religious purposes.
  • The Brahmanas performed sacrifices for the king. In those days it was believed that one-sixth of the merit from such religious activities went to the donor the king.
  • Lands were donated to Buddhist establishments for their maintenance thus the Nalanda University was given 200 villages for its upkeep.
  • Generally, cultivable lands were donated. At times virgin Land was also given. The land was given to government officials in ‘lieu’ of salaries.
  • Feudalism was widely prevalent in India during the period 800 -1200 A.D.
  • Some writers object to the use of the term feudalism in the Indian context. They point out that the kind of feudalism that is said to have prevailed in India during the 9th 10th and 11th centuries was not identical to the feudal system which prevailed in other parts of the world.
  • This made some historians to use the term quasi-feudalism to describe the new political-economic structure that emerged after the political fragmentation of Northern India and the Deccan leading to the rise of regional kingdoms.
  • The truth is that the basic requisites of the feudal system were present in India even though Indian feudalism did not emphasize economic contact to the same extent as European feudalism.
  • Thus we find the king granting the revenue from the land to his officers or selected holders in return for their services. The position of these officers or selected holders resembles that of the vessels of feudal Europe.
  • The work of cultivation was carried out by peasants who are generally the Shudras. These peasants were almost tied to the land.
  • Their position is comparable to that of the serfs of feudal Europe.
  • The peasants handed over a fixed share of their produce to the landowner. In Europe, the serf worked on the land of the lord for a certain number of days in a week (week work) and in seasonal times (boon work).
  • The feudatories Were are allowed to hire out of the land assigned to them to cultivators and collected the revenue agreed upon from them.
  • A portion of the revenue from the land was sent to the king.
  • The feudatories were expected to maintain feudal armies out of the revenue returned by them. They were made to see that they would send their armies to fight for the king in times of need.
  • The total subordination of the feudatories to the king was insured in other ways too.
  • They might be compelled to give their daughters in marriage to the king. In Europe, the king could choose the husband for the vassals’ daughter.
  • The feudatory was forced to use the currency of the feudal Lords they also mentioned the names of their feudal Lord in such monuments, inscriptions, etc. which they caused to be made.
  • There were other obligations that the feudatories Where are expected to fulfill. Thus they were made to attend the royal Court on certain occasions like the king’s birthday.
  • There were to get the permission of the King before effecting any change in the administration of their property.
  • In return, the feudatories were allowed to use titles and symbols of feudal dignity Like The Throne a specially designed Palanquin the riding on the elephant in state procession, etc.
  • Titles differed according to the rank of the feudatories. Titles like Mahasamantha, Mahamandaleshwar, etc, were used by important feudatories Others used the titles of Raja, Samanta, Ronaka, Thakura, Bhogta, etc.
  • While the relationship of the feudatories to the king remained closed and subordinate its precise terms depended on how the relationship originated.
  • Those who were conquered in the war did not have much freedom of action. Some of the feudatories were allowed to grant land in their turn.
  • This was known in Europe as sub-infeudation. A feudal hierarchy thus came into being.
  • The king could confiscate the land granted to the feudatories if they failed to fulfill the terms of the grant. In Europe, it was called the right of forfeiture further the grant was only for the life of the tenant and was subject to the re-assignment on his death.
  • In practice, the land held by the feudatories became hereditary this tendency was great when the king was weak. Once it came to be regarded as hereditary it became easy to dispose of both the revenue and the land itself through Law did not permit it.
  • As in Europe, the whole of the kingdom was not granted to feudal holders. The king retained a considerable part of the land the Crown land was known as land in Europe.
  • To facilitate the proper assessment of the income of a particular area villages were grouped together into convenient units. Thus in the Deccan kingdoms, they were grouped together in units of Ten. The Pala Grants speak of assignees getting the revenue of 10 villages.
  • In certain areas in North India, The villages were grouped into units of 12 or 16 or multiples of these. The Pratihara divided villages into groups of 84 and letter such a group became the standard size of the estate of a clan Chief in Rajasthan.
  • The feudatories and the kings live in Palatial homes with the help of surplus wealth. Their houses were richly ornamented money was also spent on building temples.
  • Indian feudalism tended to weaken the power of the king the increasing number of sub-feudatories of different levels in the feudal system resulted in a wider diffusion of income from the land. What would have reached the king went into the pockets of the intermediaries loss of revenue places the king politically in an awkward position.
  • Feudalism contributed to the economic depression of the peasant. As the number of Sub feudatories increased at different levels the peasants suffered a loss of revenue because of the wider diffusion of the income from the land he was forced to pay taxes levied by the feudal tenants for maintaining roads. irrigation works, etc, and pay dues levied by the temple authorities.
  • Further, as the Brahmin was given lands free of taxation the loss of revenue on account of this was compensated by levying other taxes on the peasants. The land tax was very high the peasant paid One-third of the produce to the landowners the normal assessment was only one-sixth apart from these taxes the peasant was called upon the contribute free labor which was another kind of payment, in-kind.
  • Further, a lot of peasants Became more miserable when the feudal intermediaries used their growing influence to appropriate common lands of the villagers such as pasture.
  • As the villagers were based on a self-sufficient economy where production was limited to local requirements there was no incentive to produce more.
  • Further surplus production would not have benefited the peasant for if he produced more he would be required to pay the longest share to the landowner.
  • Administrators will also the village community suffered on account of the emergence of feudalism. The privileges and powers of the landowners hampered the workings of the village assemblies.
  • In villages held by the feudatories, the assemblies slowly died out socially feudalism led to the emergence of an aristocracy consisting of the feudatories including the Brahmin.
  • The secular feudatories generally came from families which rose to prominence on account of their military powers as possession of the land was essential to the legitimacy of leadership claimed by the aristocracy feuds overland became common and often lead to families’ vendettas that went on for generations.
  • The landed aristocracy lived on the revenue without engaging themselves in cultivation.
  • Their control over the peasantry increased as time passed on this was due to the fact that political and economic power came concentrated more in the hands of the landed aristocracy on account of the decline of trade.
  • Increasing self-sufficiency of villages which discouraged communication with other villagers also reduced the number of people entrusted with political and economic power there was very little mobility of the peasant population.


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