Sudras in Ancient India: A Social history of the lower order down to circa A.D. 600

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Item Code: IDE801
Author: Ram Sharan Sharma
Language: English
Edition: 2002
ISBN: 8120807065
Pages: 403
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
Weight 600 gm

Book Description

From the Jacket:

Sudras in Ancient India tries to show how the labouring class in ancient times came to be known as sudras. It explores their social and economic relations with the members of the higher varnas. It also tries to tackle several other problems: Was ancient Indian society a slave society? How far did the ritual status of the sudras correspond to their economic status? How did the vaisyas come to be reduced to the level of the sudras and the sudras placed on a par with the vaisyas? What accounts for the proliferation of the servile orders in Gupta and post-Gupta times? Why were social revolts comparatively absent in ancient India?

Although the study hinges on the history of the sudras, it also works out a framework for the history of social differentiation and marks the main stages in the evolution of ancient Indian society. Since social history cannot be studied without appreciating material life, at various stages the impact of settled agricultural life, thriving trade, and land grants on the social formation has been made with developments in other ancient societies and also with tribal practices and institutions known to anthropology.

About the Author:

Professor R.S. Sharma (b. 1920) was mostly educated in the institutions affiliated to Patna University, under which he taught for 30 years till 1973 when he moved to Delhi University. He retired from Delhi University in 1985 and is now Emeritus Professor of History at Patna University. He did his Ph.D. at the School of Oriental and African Studies where he also served as a research associate. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Toronto. He was the first chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research. His well-known book Ancient India (1977) was withdrawn by the Indian Government under the pressure of obscurantist elements in May 1978. Sharma's other publications include Indian Feudalism: 300-1200 (1980); Perspectives in Social and Economic History of Early India (1983); Material Culture and Social Formations In Ancient India (1983); Urban Decay in India (c. 300-c.1000), (1987); Communal History and Rama's Ayodhya (1992); Aspects of India Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient India(1995); Looking for the Aryans (1995); The State and Varna Formation in the Mid-Ganga Plains (1996) and Early Medieval Indian Society (2001). His publications appear in fifteen languages, Indian and non-Indian.

Excerpts From Reviews:

This is an outstanding piece of research and authentic history of Sudras in ancient India. Professor Sharma has made use of all published sources, literary as well as archaeological, bearing on the social and economic position of Sudras. It gives a lucid and comprehensive account of all aspects of the anguished career of Sudra community.

L.M. Joshi
Journal of Religious Studies
Vol. 10, No. I & II, 1982

The facility and confidence with which Sharma makes his arguments and conclusions comforting, it weaves together scattered references into the first connected account of the Sudra varna and places this within a broader historical framework.

Upendra Singh
Contribution to Indian Sociology,
Vol.26, No.1, Jan-June, 1992

Sharma co-relates the phases of economic development with social organization and social change. He rightly calls the Rigvedic society as 'basically tribal', pastoral and egalitarian and 'a pre-class society' and contends that 'the defeated and disposed sections of Aryans and Non-aryan tribes were reduced to the position of Sudras'. The later-vedic society was food producing and agricultural, but their agricultural technology was primitive; consequently differentiation between haves and have-nots could not be intensified… The Sudras continued to form the labour force of a labour-intensive economy; they also supplied surplus produce as peasants. There were no violent social upheavals… because their minds were enchained by the Karma theory.

In ancient India, the cultural apparatus of the Sudras, more so of the untouchables or the 'asat' Sudra, was very primitive, consequently their response was usually of abject submission.

S.N. Mishra
The Eastern Anthropologist
Vol. 37, No. 4, Oct.-Dec. 1984


Preface to the Second Editionv
Preface to the First Editionvii
Roman Equivalents of Nagari lettersxiii
I. Historiography and Approach
Western interest in ancient Indian society1
The place of the sudras in writings on ancient society1
Stating the questions and indicating the method3
II. Origin
Racial import of arya9
Difference between the Dasas and Dasyus 10
Fight between the Aryan and the pre-Aryan tribes12
Inter-tribal struggle among the Aryans16
The Panis19
Social adjustment between the Aryans and the pre-Aryan chalcolithic people21
Das as 'Aryan' tribe/slave in the age of Rigveda24
Mass migration of the Aryans attested by linguistic evidence and also by archaeology 27
Absence of sharp class divisions in Rigvedic society29
High status of artisans31
The Purusasukta and the sudras as a social order32
Sudras as a tribe35
Sudras as an Aryan tribe37
Were the sudras originally ksatriyas? 40
Etymological derivation of the term sudra42
The status of the sudra-varna at the time of its origin44
III. Tribes verses Varna (c. 1000 - 500 B.C.)
Later Vedic literature and Painted Grey Ware archaeology46
Sudras as serving class48
Sudras as 'serfs' and 'slaves'52
Dignity of manual work53
Sudras ratnins in the royal coronation54
Sudras in the rajasuya rituals56
Sudra soldiers in the asvamedha sacrifice59
King's desire for the support of all the four varnas61
Exclusion of the sudra from some coronation rituals62
An Aitareya Brahmanapassage regarding the sudras 64
Marital relations between the higher varnas and sudras/slaves68
Beginning of the assimilation of non-Aryan tribes71
The sudra and upanayana73
The sudra and Vedic sacrifice78
Sudras's participation in some religious rites79
Gods worshipped by the sudras81
Greater evidence against the sudras participation in the Vedic sacrifice83
Contradiction in the position of the sudras87
Material culture and constraints on class formation88
IV. Servility and Disabilities (c. 600 - c. 300 B.C.)
Nature of the Dharmasutras and early Pali texts 90
Material background from NBP archaeology95
Appropriation of land and labour96
Clear definition of the sudras as a serving class98
Crafts and craftsmen99
Sudras as agricultural labourers102
Slaves and hired labourers in production103
Living conditions of the sudras106
Dasas, pessas, kammakaras and bhatakas108
Economic disabilities according to the Dharmasutras112
Sudras as primary producers; their living standards114
Comparison with Greek slaves and helots116
Political-legal discriminations116
Social disabilities124
Exclusion from the rite of upanayana and from education133
Exclusion from sacrifices and sacraments134
Contempt of the higher varnas for manual occupations137
Five despised castes of the early Pali texts138
Origin of untouchability144
Religious reforming movements and the sudras146
End of the ambiguous position of the sudras152
Sudras reaction to disabilities154
V. State Control and the Servile Order (c.300 - c. 200 B.C.)
The date and authenticity of the Arthasastra of Kautilya157
The meaning of the term sudrakarsakapraya161
Slaves and agricultural labourers in state production163
Employment, control and wages of the artisans166
High posts as the preserve of the three higher varnas172
Sudras as spies and soldiers173
Varna legislation of Kautilya174
Status of the sudra vis-à-vis slaves in Kautilya177
Dasa and ahitaka178
Manumission and treatments of slaves179
Mauryan society, a slave-owning society 182
Asoka's vyavahara-samata and danda-samata183
Marriage practices of the sudras and the formation of mixed castes184
Religious condition of the sudras187
General conduct of the lower orders189
VI. Crisis in the Old Order (c. 200 B.C. - c. A.D. 300)
Sources for the post-Mauryan period191
Manu on the approximation of the sudras with vaisyas192
Artisans in the context of commerce and handicraft195
Epigraphic and literary records on artisans199
Manu's economic measures against the sudras201
Wages and living conditions of the labourers204
Adverse position of the sudras in law and polity207
Severe punishments for sudras offending against members of the superior varnas211
Discrimination against the sudra regarding inheritance, adultery and social intercourse214
Sudras and slaves in Manu216
Manu's ban on social intercourse between the sudras and the brahmana220
Marriage forms followed by the vaisyas and the sudras223
Sudden increase in mixed castes in Manu225
Untouchables in Manu227
Manu on sudra's exclusion from Vedic studies and performance of religious rites230
Some religious practices of the sudras and influence of Vaisnavism232
Role of Sudras in the crisis reflected by the descriptions of the Kali age233
Manu's violent anti-sudra measures236
Signs of weakening in the servile status of the sudras240
VII. Peasanthood and Religious Rights (c.A.D. 300-600)
Sources for the Gupta period245
Sudras as wage earners248
Weakening of the slave system252
Emergence of sudra peasants257
Causes of the sudra peasanthood260
Position of artisans262
Sudra traders267
The place of sudras in the political organization of the Gupta times268
Continuance of varna distinctions in the administration of law and justice269
Lessening of discriminations in the administration of criminal law and military recruitment274
The sudra hostility to the existing social order279
Some improvement in the social status of the sudra281
Continuance of the brahmana boycott of the sudra's food283
Food habits of the sudras285
Marriage practices of the sudras286
Mixed castes289
The condition of the untouchables290
Education of the sudras293
Religious rights and sacraments for the sudras295
Medieval texts on the social and religious conduct of the sudras305
The sudra's right of making gifts306
The contribution of Vaisnavism and Saivism to the religious elevation of the sudras307
Significance of the enlargement of religious rights of the sudras312
VIIIChange and Continuity
Main phases in history of the position of the sudras down to circa A.D.600314
Basic servility321
Causes of the comparative calmness of the sudras322
Appendix I
Date of the Manu Smriti with Special Reference to the tenth Chapter
Appendix II
Proliferation of Servile and Peasant Castes
Index (Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit Words) 369
General Index374

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