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Evolution of Social Structures
in India Through the Ages
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Note : Attempt any five questions. The assignment is divided into two sections ‘A’ and ‘B’. You have to
attempt at least two questions from each section in about 500 words each. All questions carry equal marks.
Q. 2. Write a note on the process of domestication of plants and animals in the Mesolithic-Neolithic
Ans. Mesolithic-Neolithic Continuum and the Process of Domestication: The Mesolithic points to the changed
environmental circumstances which forced the early man to pattern their living in a new way. Of course, it was a
transitional stage in the history of the evolution of early society, Moreover, the changes of the early man was from
the Palaeolithic to the Neolithic stage of life. The Mesolithic studies the early society between the hunting-gathering
and food producing stage of life. Besides, we find in these period there was still a reliance on hunting-gathering and
fishing as well as the mobile existence of the early man. However, one may come across some kind of settled pattern
of life around a home base.
With regard to India the Mesolithic stage of life is not so clear. From the chronological point of view the dates
are more diffused. Of course, some sites related to Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures have been found in India.
Chopani Mando in the Belan Valley (6000 B.C.) and Bangor in Rajasthan (5000-2800 B.C.) are such sites where we
find the transitional culture of the Neolithic Mesolithic culture. These sites show the presence of advanced Mesolithic
culture also. Here we find permanent or semi-permanent groups of small huts. The walls of these huts are made of
earth. We also find hearths and the walls of wattle and daub. Among the tools there are grinding stones, hammer
stones, querns and Microliths. Animal bones of both wild and domesticated species have been found which indicate
that they might have been used as the source of food during this period.
Gradually, there was a shift from the hunting of big games to small animals. The early human societies began to
evolve around the water sources on a permanent basis. This paved the way for the domestication of plants and
animals. Of course, domestication was a gradual process which helped the human beings in creating a new form of
plants and animals. In the case of plants, plants bearing certain attributes were preferred. The early farmers had
adopted the plant that kept their seeds till they were harvested and those plants whose seeds bunched together at the
stage. The seeds gettings dispersed all along the stalk of the plants would have created a problem for them. Therefore,
the early farmers had preferred the plants with bearing harder seeds over more delicate varieties of plants, the plants
which could grow easily and had higher yields proved advantageous to the early man. For instance, wheat and

In the same manner the early man started taming the animals for various usages. The domestication of animals
involved attracting them to the human company so that they could easily be penned and protected from the other
animals. For this, the early man selected more docile and friendly animals such as the goat or sheep.
There is no doubt that the special feeding habits of animals checks their easy domestication; so the animals
bearing social attributes were first domesticated by the early man. In this connection the submissive behaviour of the
goat and sheep enabled the early man to domesticate them. Besides, they are relatively placed and slow moving
foragers and not confined to a particular area. There is no denying the fact that they are highly sociable and follow
a dominant leader. Hence, these animals’ goat and sheep become an easy target of human control for domestication.
Of course, the steps taken by the early man towards domestication had a deep influence on the early society. V.
Gordon Childe is of opinion that it was certainly a Neolithic Revolution. It is a fact that the process of domestication
certainly acted as the relation of early man with their ecology. Then, the early human society was placed in much
control of its food supply. The early man was able to take the plants and animals from their original habitat and
develop them as per their desire, at the different places which expanded the area of habitation on a more permanent
In fact, the settled societies encouraged the growth of population. There were no needs to limit the size of the
family. In such families, even the children were quite useful in protecting growing plants and rearing animals. The
village, of course, expresses the presence of such population. Besides, in the Neolithic villages we find a group of
houses with hearths and storage facilities. But in the case of animals, the storage of fodder was generally arranged on

the roof because they were protected and used to be butchered when required. Moreover, no one can deny the
presence of craft form in the Neolithic society. The Neolithic pottery is the best example which could be used for the
storage purpose and the cooking of hard cereals. Besides, the Neolithic society was also well familiar with the
weaving of flax and cotton.
Besides the existence of the Neolithic villages, we also find the presence of seasonal settlements, pastoral
camps, camps for processing raw materials and so forth. Probably in such cases we cannot treat the Neolithic
villages as an isolated unit but they might contact with the other groups of villages for various reasons.
Q. 3. How do you view urbanism in the Harappan settlements? Discuss.
Ans. Harappan civilization takes a deviation from the earlier food gathering and food producing societies. In the
history of India the Bronze age civilization represents the Harappan culture. By this time we are introduced to the
nature of more complex societies. The evolution of urban centres during this period is the remarkable feature of this
civilization. The Bronge age gave a wide use to the tools made of copper and bronze and this was given due impor-
tance as it was used in making alloy. It can be said that the technological concept of the Harappan people was of high
grade. The historians have expressed that only the existence of some particular form of ruling could have maintained
such a high grade societies which were quite stratified.
Sherren Ranagar has opined that a city is a nodal centre where population chooses to concentrate. The purpose
behind this is to create a settlement larger and more dense than most other contemporary settlements. Such kind of
population concentration in cities does not aim at making food production more efficient but there is a wider scope
of engagement in non-subsistence activities such as crafts or trade, administration or ritual services. Moreover, the
kinship relations have no major role to play in the urban settlement. Most of the dealings are carried out between the
strangers and this practice of urban culture differentiates it from the rural settlements.
The two largest Harappan settlements are Mohenjodaro and Harappa and they fulfil nearly all the requirements
of urban settlements. In addition, the differences between the rural and the urban settlements are also visible in this
great civilization.
Mohenjodaro was a Bronze Age city and built on a well chocked out plan. There was at least two major sections
in this city and they were the citadel and the Lower Town. At the same time we should make them clear that the
citadel was a higher section of the town whereas the lower town symbolized the lower and larger areas similar to the
rural settlements. Additionally we should also know that most of non-residential structures were located on the
citadel. These two sections were clearly built, separated and individually walled. Moreover, it can be said that the
citadel might have served some special purpose of the people of this city as it had segregated its functions and
inhabitants from the other parts of the city.

Furthermore, social differences were apparently visible in the urbanism of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. The
types and size of houses have lack of uniformity. We find the large and small houses built together at a place in the
lower town. Even the material culture of this relevant civilization demonstrate a good amount of differences. Besides,
technology related to metallurgy, shell working, bead making and the production of seals and weights in Mohenjodaro
was of super quality. But these crafts were not followed in every house because they required a degree of skills and
By and large the historians have framed ideas that such high grade urban centres must need a well functioning
state. Hence, the existence of some well structured system of administration cannot be neglected.
Q. 4. Discuss the nature of the early medieval period in Indian history.
Ans. Early Medieval Society: The early medieval society was quite different from the ancient society. The
society during the medieval or the early medieval period was experiencing several changes. Unless we understand
the process of social formations properly, we will fail to understand the true nature of the early of the early medieval
society. In fact, the period can be marked by specially two unique features. They are a paradigm shift to the process
of state formation and the control over the resources mobilization. We find that these two characteristic features had
dominated the relevant period. The proper understanding of the society and polity of the early medieval period
greatly helps us in understanding the society in the early medieval period. We learn from the relevant sources that the
territorial kingdoms were transformed into a state system. It led to the spread of long distance trade and urbanism.
Besides, the village community had also played a great role during this period in the mobilization of resources.

Undoubtedly, the social order of Varna had taken a deep root in the society. In such a social order, the upper Varna
had established a strong control over the appropriation of surplus, and the lower social order was made to provide
service to them. Hence, the background of the early medieval period has contained the various facets of the medieval
society. And on that basis, we can better understand the nature of the early medieval society.
The historians have analysed these changes during the early medieval period in their respective ways. The
scholar like B.D. Chattopadhya has viewed the situations prevalent during this period in his own fashion. He has
accepted the importance of the continuity and integrity of social formation that this actively operating in the Indian
society for a long time. So, in his analysis the economic interpretation of social formation is not given too much
importance. During the course of the analysis of the early period, he has discovered three important elements which
have basically shaped the unique features of the early medieval period. The expansion of society, the peasantization
of tribes and the system of appropriation and integration are the three features of the period in the view of Chattopadhya.
Moreover, with regard to the peasantization of tribes, he thinks that it was a long journey for the tribes to become
castes. Therefore, B.D. Chattopadhya does not find himself in a strong position to attribute any single factor to be the
dominant feature of the early medieval society. Moreover, we can say that in the medieval context, the regional
identities played great roles as they were linked with the evolution of multicultural identities. We can better understand
them in the regional expressions at various levels. Besides, these differences prevalent in the early medieval society
can be better understand with reference to the system of periodisation which has operated the courses of Indian
The Asiatic mode of production has viewed the early medieval society in a new way. This school of thought has
absolutely denied the existence of the various levels of polities and vouched for the absolute power of the oriental
despot. In the philosophy of Asiatic mode of production. The early medieval society has been interpretated as a
strong unchanging society. Under this scheme, the early medieval society is expressed as unstratified society placed
under the heavy load of some despotic rule. In fact, the followers of this school had a poor knowledge of the Indian
subcontinent with regard to Karl Marx who had possessed not a sound knowledge of the medieval society was bound
in influence the thinking pattern of this school. Naturally, the Asiatic mode of production had to face problems from
within and the first voice emerged from the Indian Marxian named D.D. Kosambi, The Indian school of Marxian
gave this theory a decent burial which it deserved and influenced the course of historiography in the subsequent
As far as the early medieval society expressed by the nationalist school of thought is concerned more or less it
blindly adopted the thoughts provided by the Asiatic mode of production because the followers of this school of
thought had to catter the needs of freedom movement. So, they were bound to accept uncritically the Asiatic mode of

production. They carried toward the periodisation of Indian into the three historical phases by Mill. They are the
Hindu, Muslim and the Christian. In this periodisation of Indian medieval history, as aspect of social formation is not
given its due place Rather, they exhibit the tone of communalization besides; the Indian society is expressed as
highly stratified and bureaucratized. The picture of Indian early medieval society fittingly emerges in the evolution
of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire.
The recent discussion on the nature of early medieval society has brought several facts to light. The early
medieval society is described by the scholars as the highly bureaucratized society in their discussion. But the modern
scholars have not arrived at any kind of agreement related to the facts of early medieval society. At the same time,
they have also expressed views in relation to the presence of some unifying quality inherent in the society. Hence, it
was a difficult question for the scholars to determine the extent to which the early medieval society was centralized.
We study the unitary picture of the early medieval society in the existence of the Samantas when the great western
scholar, Burton Stein has propounded the theory of segmentary state and society. Therefore, the early medieval
society is better expressed through the practice of feudalism we should not forget to point out the basic differences
inherent in the Indian feudalism which makes it different from the western feudalism.
Q. 7. Discuss the role and status of the village servants in the rural society of peninsular India.
Ans. The Village Servants: Deccan: The artisans were the village servants and formed the important section of
the rural society in Deccan. They were also known as balutedars. We can compare them with the kamins of North
India. In fact, their position was far superior in the Deccan rural society. They had definitely influenced the decision-

making process of the village.
The twelve balutas were grouped into three rows called kaas or oal. They were as given below:
(a) Thorali: They were the major rows and consisted of sutar, lohar, mahar and mang.
(b) Madhali kaas: They were the second rows. The kumbhar, Chambhar, parit and Nhavi had constituted this
(c) Dhakti kass: They represented the last row and this category included bhat, mulana, gurav and koli.
The balutedars were often engaged as carpenters, blacksmith, potter, leatherworker, ropemaker, bard, masjid-
keeper and bearer of burden. Sometimes the village officials were also included in this class of balutedars. Besides,
the traditional number twelve was not static in nature. It had a deep influence of regionalism.
In fact, the balutas were having the lower social status. However, there were some exceptions we have evidences
that the astrologer, bard and the accountant in the Maharashtra region had belonged to the brahman caste. We can say
that the occupation of a particular balutas caste was not the monopoly of that caste. Besides, there were some other
class of village servants who were called alutedars. They were not as important as the balutedars. We can find them
only in some villages. Hence, it can be said that their services were not considered indispensable for the villages.
Services and Remuneration of the Balutedars
The balutas were the servants of the village they served the village as a whole. However, sometimes they used
to serve the individual family also.
The balutas were of two kinds. The watandar or mirasi balutas and upari balutas. The nature of service of the
watandar baluta was hereditarily fixed. In fact, they had established monopoly over their respective occupations.
But the nature of services provided by the upari baluta was different. They were generally employed on the temporary
basis. They had to support the balutas in their work.
The holder was able to sell, divide or transfer the watan baluta. Such sale among the same occupational caste
was common. Besides, we should also know that if the village had only one family at serving caste, it was regarded
as the servants of the entire village. Contrary to this, if the village had several families of the occupational castes,
they provided service to the various families of village. At the same time, we should know that they were regarded as
the servants of the village instead of a particular family. The purpose behind this was to avoid the creation of the new
watan in an occupational watan but the multiple shares in a watan. In this regard we should know that every village
had a baluta watan for every occupation. The division of the service spheres was aimed at the division of emoluments
which were paid by means of house-sites, inam land, cash or kind. Moreover, it can also be said that the total amount
of emoluments always remained the same even though the divisions were made within the watan. However, the
individual family was invariably affected by this division.

From the relevant sources we come to know that three kinds of remuneration were in practice the baluto
remuneration was the main kind of remuneration and was given in cash or kind. The watan balutas and the upari
balutas were entitled to such kind of remuneration as long as the village was benefited by their services. If they
failed to provide their services to the village for a long time. We can say that they were entitled to receive the balutas
remuneration. Of course, this kind of remuneration had provided the very base to the service providers.
Hakk was some additional remuneration paid in cash or kind to the balutas. It was the second kind of remuneration
paid to them. The entire village and all sections of society was paying this kind of remuneration. The mode of
payment of this remuneration was also very interesting. It was paid in the form of offering to the shrine. However,
due to the absence of relevant evidence. We can say anything with regard to the uniformity of this payment. In fact,
variations had occurred from region to region. The revenue obtained from the Inam land was the third kind of
remuneration. Simultaneously, we should know that the same lands were held on the hereditary basis. So, only the
watan servants were eligible to receive their emoluments through this mode.
We learnt here that the balutas were paid in a particular fashion. The three different kinds of payment that we
learnt here are definitely related to the various mode of revenue which the state used to collect from the villages.
Status of the Balutedars
In fact, the balutedar in the rural society in Deccan enjoyed a higher status than his counterpart in North India.
Although they belonged to the lower caste, they greatly effected the decision-making process of the village. We learn
from the relevant sources from the 18th documents that the balutars had attended the village council and left their

mark on the decisions. Whenever, the concerns of the balutedar were the matters of issues, they attended the village
council along with the other village elites like kazis, Deshmukhs, Patils, etc. of the village.
Although the balutedars had some low caste status, they enjoyed a remarkable place in the village society. The
mahar, mang and mulana community enjoyed some special status in the rural society. For instance, the mahar was
paid in a particular fashion. They were paid in kind and also held the inam land, which was the tax free land granted
by the village. Besides, they served the village society in the other ways also. They were appointed as the watchman
of the village also. From the relevant documents of Maharashtra we find that they symbolized the intelligent race of
In this connection we are bound to mention the status enjoyed by the goldsmith in the rural society. His earning
was higher than the mahais and carpenters and enjoyed a higher status in the rural society when he belonged to the
low caste. Hence, we can say that the income and the skill of people also helped them earn a higher social status in
the rural society.
Q. 9. What was the impact of colonial forest policy on the indigenous communities?
Ans. Impact of Colonial Forest Policy on Indigenous Communities: The colonial forest policy had ruinous
effects on the nomadic and pastoral communities. It adversely affected the people surviving on hunting, gathering
and the tribals who practised shifting cultivation. In fact, the colonial forest policy brought about an unnatural
separation between agriculture and forest. The policy had abolished many of the customary rights enjoyed by the
rural and tribal people and given priorities to the commercial needs of the British Empire. Obviously, grazing and
shifting cultivation were banned by the Forest Acts formulated by the colonial ruler. Consequently, the colonial
policy had harmful effects on the daily life of the villagers.
The colonial forest policy produced ecological effects also. A certain plant species which served the needs of the
rural and tribal people were replaced by the trees having commercial value for the colonial ruler. Besides, the policy
banned the shifting cultivation because the British ruler had believed in the sedentary agriculture so that more
revenues for the state could be generated. Such actions taken by the colonial ruler adversely affected the traditional
lifestyle of the rural and tribal people. Moreover, the effort on their economic pattern of life cannot be denied. Apart
from this, a certain part of the forest was kept reserved for the British administrators, so that they could practise
hunting and keep themselves fit and healthy. Therefore, the easy access of the tribal people to the forests was
controlled through these policies.
Further, the forest policy of the colonial ruler drove the settlers to enter the areas inhabitated by the tribal groups.
The social and economic changes, conflicts and confrontations between them gave line to several questions such as
the control over the forest and pasture land, over the exercise of customary rights enjoyed by the local people and

many more. In some areas of the sub-continent the people became rebellion and protested the forest policy of the
colonial ruler.
The ecology of the country was badly affected by the forest policy followed by the colonial states. The state
needed them to fulfil its commercial requirements so the colonial encouraged only those species of trees which
could benefit the British Empire. During this process, countless eco-friendly trees were cut down and in their places
the trees having commercial importance were planted. Such practice followed by the colonial state proved harmful
to the country. Under their policy the colonial states also encouraged the practice of sedentary agriculture. The high
revenue demands of the colonial state were the motive behind such actions. Hence, a vast track of forest was cleared
off and made ready for cultivation. The tribal people were also encouraged to practise the sedentary agriculture.
The British administrators tried to represent themselves as the race of people who were culturally superior to the
indigenous people. They declared some portion of the forest as the protected area where they practised hunting to
keep them healthy and fit. The British officers intentionally practised such habits. In fact, they had no regard for the
valuable and tradition of Indian culture. Such habits definitely hurt the tribal people whose rights were curtailed by
the different Forest Acts.
Even the dangerous wild animals were not shown mercy by the colonial state. They were killed intentionally
because the colonial state treated them as the outlaws in the forests. We know the fact that a proper balance between
the flora and fauna is essential to maintain the ecology. The colonial state earlier disturbed this proper balance and
created problems for the other animals. Moreover, the forest policy left no stone unturned to exploit this resource.