Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya.

History of mediæval Hindu India (being a history of India from 600 to 1200 A.D.) .. (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryChintaman Vinayak VaidyaHistory of mediæval Hindu India (being a history of India from 600 to 1200 A.D.) .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 38)
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Before proceeding further it is necessary, as it would'
be convenient, to describe the condition of India which
obtained at this time in all its details The reign of Har-
sha was, so to speak, a brilliant ending to a period which
was passing away. Like the flame that bursts into brilli-
ance before it expires, the condition of the country in the
days of Harsha was flattering in every respect. But the
hey day of Aryan civilization had been reached and the
mediaeval period of Ancient Indian history was to com-
mence, in which Indo-Aryan civilization had its decline
and its fall. It would, therefore, be interesting as well as
proper at this place to take a stock of the condition of the
country at this time, in order that we may see whence and
wherefore India or rather Indo-Aryans declined and fell.

Fortunately, the materials for taking such a survey of
the condition of the country are ample and reliable. In
the first place we have the Records of the Chinese traveller
Hiuen Tsang who was a minute observer and a detailed re-
corder. Secondly, we have the Harsha Charita of Bana,
another contemporary writer of eminence and credibility.
The value of the Harsha Charita has beenmuch under-
estimated by European scholars who cannot go to the
original. His praise of Harsha is characterised by Sir
Vincent Smith, in constrast with that by Hiuen Tsang, as
fulsome and his performance is described as irritating,
although his power as a writer is admitted and his de-
scriptions are conceded as vivid. But if one dives beneath
the gingle of his words and the hyperbole of his concepts
one finds in the Hasha Charita an immense amount of de-
tailed information about the condition of the country
which can only come from a minute and accurate observer
of things. I cannot but remark here that I have drawn
much of my inspiration and information from Bana's
Harsha Charita and in depicting particularly the state of


the country and the people I shall have constantly to refer
to him. These two great authorities for this period are
supplemented and supported by epigraphic and other
materials for constructing a detailed description of the
country at this time. We proceed first to doscribe the
people of India, or rather their race and their castes, their
appearance and their occupations.

We will begin, of course, with the description recorded
by Hiuen Tsang. After stating that India was called
Shintu or Hintu ( a name which carresponds with the
Sind and Hind of the Arabs ) Hiuen Tsang says 'Among
the various clans and castes of the country, the
Brahmins were purest and most esteemed ; .so from their
excellent reputation the name Brahmins' country had
come to be a popular one for India." (Watters Vol. I p. 141).
It is indeed a matter of pride as well as regret to Brahmins
that they still maintained their pre-eminence by their good
conduct and intelligence and their reputation outside their
country in the seventh century was exactly the reverse of
what it is to-day. The land bore their name outside the
country and the name was even a popular one. Next to
the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas also maintained their charac-
ter for high morals and simplicity of life as also for valour.
At page 157 we find the further remark; "The Kshatriyas
and Brahmins are clean-handed and unostentatious, pure
and simple in their life and very frugal." Thus the Brah-
mins and the Kshatriyas, the two leading castes of India
were in those days deserving of the foremost rank which
has always been assigned to them in Indian society. At
page 168 the four castes of India are thus described by
Hiuen Tsang.

"There are four orders of hereditary caste distinctions.
The first is that of the Brahmins, they keep their principles
and livn continently, strictly observing ceremonial purity.
The second order is that of the Kshatriyas, the race of
kings. This order has held sovereignty for many genera-
tions and its aims are benevolence and mercy. The third
order is that of the Vaisyas or the class oi traders, who


barter commodities and pursue gains far and near. The
fourth order is that of the Sudras or agriculturists. These
toil at cultivating the soil and are industrious at sowing
and reaping. These four castes form classes of various
degrees of ceremonial purity. The members of a caste marry-
within the caste. Relations by the father's or mother's
side do not inter-marry and a woman never contracts a
second marriage." Here is a vivid description of Indian
caste in the first half of the seventh century, A. D., recorded
by an intelligent foreign observer who lived among the
people aud studied and understood their language. Indian
caste as we have observed elesewhere is based on both I'ace
and occupation. Both the factors are important and we
shall discuss them here in detail.

That the Indian people in their higher and many
'iower strata also, are Aryan by race, nobody can now deny
although mixture to a certain extent with the Dravidians,
the original inhabitants of the land, has taken place. The
prevailing type, however, was then and is still Aryan.
Measurements of the head and the nose taken at the cen-
cus of 1901 have indubitably proved that the people of
the Panjab and Rajputana are unmistakably Aryan and
those of the United Provinces and the Bombay Presidency
are mixed Aryans and Dravidians. The prominence and
length of the nose of the people of India is remarked even
by Hiuen Tsang. "They have long noses and large eyes",
(page 151). Bana too refers to the same pecularity when he
makes the poetical remark on Skanda Gupta's nose that it
was as long as the pedigree of his master's family.* The
people of India were then thus unmistakably Aryan and it
is therefore strange to observe that European scholars are
still labouring under the old bias of tracing the origin of
the Kshatriyas of India to Seythic and Hunic peoples.
This purity of race was greatly preserved in India in the
higher castes as well as the lower owing to restrictions im-

* In contrast with the high nose of the Aryans Bana maaks also the
low nose of the aboriginal people, sec his description of the Sahara youth
brought to Harsha in the Vindhya jungles " 3T^^r7-'m%^ f^I^?r«R^"
j)age 310 H.C.


posed on marriage by inveterate custom and legal
precept. Hiuen Tsang himself remarks that Indians marry
within the caste, and there arp several classes within the
four castes according to their degree of purity. Although
outside races like the Sakas and the Hunas came to India
these were always treated as separate classes of Kshatri-
yasand they rarely married with the old Kshatriyas, This
fact coupled with the paucity of the foreigners accounts
for the still distinctly preserved Aryan type in the peoples
of the Panjab and Rajputana though these parts had es-
pecially been the scenes of the inroads of foreign peoples.
It is interesting to observe that in the matter of marri-
age, there is a distinct difference in the remark of Megas-
thenes and that of Hiuen Tsang, the former belonging to
the time of Chandragup^a of 300 B. C. and the latter to the
time of Harsha of 600 A. D. Megasthenes remarks that the
Brahmins were allowed to marry wives from the lower
castes.* In fact this tallies with the provision of Manu
which allows the higher castes to marry into the lower, the
progeny when the lower order was immediately next
being of the same caste as that of the father. This rule of
Manu has, as we know, been abandoned in the later Smritis
and in order that the progeny may be of ,the same caste
both the husband and wife must be, it is now declared, of
the same caste. This view of the later Smritis is reflected
in the remark of Hiuen Tsang. But it must be noticed
here that the old order of things of Manu's days had not
yet passed away entirely in the time of Harsha. Caste
was still somewhat loose and higher orders were allowed
to marry in the lower next without the lowering of the
caste of the progeny. Hiuen Tsang reports that Harsha's
daughter was married to Dhruvabhata and that while the
former was a Vaisya the latter was a Kshatriya. So also
Bana records that Harsha's sister was married to Graha-
varma Mankhari of Kanauj and we shall see that while

*See Mc'CRindie's Ancient India Megasthenes and Arr ai i age 86
"No one is allowed to marry out of his caste or to exchange his profes-
sion for another. An exception is made in favour of the philosopher
who for his virtue is allowed this privilege."


Harsha's family name ended in Vardhana or Bhuti indi-
cating their caste to be Vaisya, the name of the Maukaris
ended in Varman showing that their caste was Khatriya.
Thus the times of Harsha were an intervening step in the
process of the rigidilication of caste ending in the next
few centuries in the total prohibition of marriage outside
the caste.

Anuloma marriages were not thus uncommon in the
times we are describing. Such marriages took place
usually in castes only one degree apart and rarely though
that may be, they took place even in castes two or more
grades apart. For Bana records that he had two Parasava
brothers i. e., sons of a Brahmin by a Sudra wife. Here
the word Parasava is used which shows that the progeny
is not treated as illegitimate. The ca-ste of the sons was
not that of the father, but in case of Brahmins marrying
Kshatriya wives or Kshatriyas marrying Vaisya wives the
caste of the progeny was treated the same as that of the
father. For it does not appear that Dhruvabhata's son by
the daugter of Harsha was treated as less than a Kshatriya.
Ample epigraphic evidence is available to show that
Brahmins actually married Kshatriya wives, or even
Vaisya wives without loss of caste, "^ by the progeny-

We have described caste in its racial aspect and shown
that though Anuloma marriages were allowed, even in the
times of Harsha, they were being gradually "disallowed
and that such marriages taking place among the three
higher castes which were Aryan, there was not much

*The Mandsaur stone inscription given in Corp. Ins. Ill pages lbi-4
shows that Ravikirti a Brahmin married Bhanugupta a Vaisya itnd
had three sons one of -whom Abhayadatta was a viceroy in the
Nerbudda province of Emperor Yasodharraan. Dr. Fleet adds "we have
an epigraphical instance of this practice in the Ghatotkacha cave ins"
cription of Hastibtioja, a minister of the Vakataka Maharaja Devasena.
It tells us that Hastibhoja's ancestor, a Br.hmin married according to
the precept of revelation and tradition a Kshatriy a wife through whom
Hastibhoja was descepded, in addition to some other wives of the Brah-
min caste whose sons and descendants applied themselves to the study
of the Vedas." See Arch. Sur. Re. Western India vol, IV page 140.


deterioration of race. We shall now advert to caste in its
occupational aspect, and the first prominent remark to
make is, that while the occupation of the first two castes
ramained much the same as in the ancient days of Manu,
the occupation of the Vaisyas had undergone a restrictioD.
They were husbandmen and cattle-breeders pre-eminently
as well as traders in the days preceding the Christian era ;
but now they remained only traders. " l^r?JTt^ ^cjlfii^4 'k^-
^ ^*n^JT/' says the Bhagavadgita but the krishi and
(jorakskya or agriculture and cattle-rearing had ceased to
be the occupation of tne Vaisyas and had now become the
occupation of the Sudras. Hiuen Tsang distinctly says
that trading was the only occupation of the Vaisyas and
agriculture was the occupation of the Sudras. The result
was, that notwithstanding that the race of many of the
agricultural classes in India was distinctly Aryan, they
came to be classed as Sudras or fourth grade of the people.
The fact that the lowest population of the Panjab and
Rajpatana is still distinctly Aryan in type also proves that
many of the peoples, now and even then looked upon a f
Sudras were in reality Aryan by race. The peoples who
have most suffered in this way are the Jat populations of
the Panjab, Sind and the United Provinces and the Gur-
jaras who were cattle breeding Vaisyas have suffered most
in the same manner and it may be added that the Mara-
thas have suffered still more in this manner on our side.
That the Jats are distinctly Aryan no body even now
doubts. " If appearance is any index, the Jats are clearly
of Aryan origin ", says the Muzzuffernagar Gazetteer.
They are fair, tall and with long heads and noses. Their
Aryan race is admitted by Sir H. Risley also in the
Census report for 1901. It seems, therefore, strange that
historians still assign to them a Scythian origin. The
Gurjaras also are in appearance Aryan though they are
darker in complexion. The Marathas too are in appear-
ance Aryan though their noses are less distinctly Aryan
there being in their case some mixture with the Dravidian
races. Unfortunately these three peoples have suffered
at the hands of both Indian and European savants. Indian


Shastris of later days with their bias against agriculture
and cattle-rearing and the custom of widow marriage
which obtains among the three have treated them as
Sudras.* And European scholars have treated them as
Scythic in origin, being influenced by the strange bias
that the manlines which these races displayed in later his-
tory could not have belonged to the long settled people of In-
dia but could only have characterised fresh hordes of inva-
ders like the Kushanas and the Huns who were known to be
of the Scythian race. It is, however, undoubted that the Jats
most distinctly and the Gujars and Marathas in lesser
degree are undoubted Aryan in race and their being treated
asSudras by Indian Shastris and as Scythians by European
scholars is, historically and ethnically, incorrect.

Though these names, it must be admitted, came into
use or prominence at this time, this cannot be an argu-
ment to hold that they were new races come into India
at or a little before this time. New names arise from
various causes as we shall find in later history; and it
need not surprise us that the names Jat, Gujar and Mara-
tha came into use in the sixth or sometime before the
seventh century. The word Jat is found, first in Chandra's
grammar, where he uses the word in the sentence 3T^rt-
«T2t ipiH, given to illustrate the use of the Imperfect, Gur-
jara and Maharashtra are words used by Hiuen Tsang to
denote two kingdoms, Bana also uses the word Gurjara
as the name of a people or king in the 'word g^^El^TRR. As
already shown the word Gurjara appears in a grant of
Dadda also, Maharashtra is a name which we do not find
used earlier, though the language Maharashtri is mentioned
even by Vararuchi of the first century A. D, As applied to
the present Maratha country Maharashtra is used by
Hiuen Tsang only, previous Indian writers such as

*Hiuen Tsarg's remark that women never contract a second marri-
age must be understood as relating to the three higher grades only, as
there can be no doubt that Sudras allowed widcw mirriage even in his
days. It is possible to suppose that the Jats, Gurjars and Marathas
though Aryans have borrowed this custom from the Sudras with whom
as agriculturists or cattle grazers they must have come inte a close and
constant contact.


Varaha Mihira using other names to denote it.* The word
Maharashtra is a Sanskrit word which can well be inter-
preted as denoting a people or a country but what do the
words Jat and Gujar or their Sanskrit originals Jarta and
Gurjara mean? They are probably the names of peoples
and not countries according to any view. There were differ-
ent castes amongtheJats except Brahmins. So also among
the Gujars some were Brahmins, some Kshatriyas,
some Vaisyasand so on, much in the same way as there
are Maratha Brahmins, Maratha Kshatriyas and Mara-
tha Vaisyas. This subject is of a controversial chara-
cter and we leave it to be discussed in a note, but we may
mention here that there is a caste of Brahmins in Ujjain
which styles itself Gujar Gaud. They do not call themselves
Gujaratis as Gujarat! Brahmins do but Gujars, and it is
well known that among the many sub-sections of Rajputs,
there is at present a section by the name of Gujars. The
mention by Hiuen Tsang of a Kshatriya king in Gurjara
need not therefore surprise us.

To return to our subject, in the days of Hiuen Tsang,
agriculture had ceased to be the occupation of Vaisyas
and had become the occupation of the Siidras, a fact that
need not therefore compel us to look upon many of the so-
called Sudras of the present day as Dravidian in race
nor treat them as Scythic in race as European scholars
are disposed to do. This change in the occupational aspect
of caste differentiates the time of Harsha from the time of
Mahu. Another important change in occupation can be
gathered from another statement of Hiuen Tsang. At page
170 Waiters Vol. 1 wefind,"sovereignty for many successive
genarations has been exercised by Kshatriyas alone. Re-
bellion and regicide have occasionally arisen other castes
assuming the distinction " In the old caste organisation
of Manu's days Kshatriyas alone could be kings. And
native tradition asserts that thisbarrier was first overthrown
])y Chndragupta who destroyed, with Chanakya's help, the
line of the last truly Kshatriya kings, the Nandas. Since then

In a gr^nt of Piilakesin of this time, it first appears.


Sudras, Brahmins and Vaisyas have often become kings
in the history of India. But even if they become kings
their status in society or their caste does not rise. They
still remained what they originally were and retained their
caste by their own opinion and the opinion of the people.
It is hence we see that Hiuen Tsang mentions the different
castes of the ruling kings and his remark always should be
looked upon as neither haphazard nor erroneous. When he
«ays a particular king was a Kshatriya we must accept
the word in its true signification. For he does not make
«ven the great Harsha, his own benefactor and patron, a
Kshatriya, but states clearly that he was a Vaisya, a fact
which is also indicated by the suffix Vardhana assumed
by many kings of the family and also the suffix Bhuti''
in the name of Pushya-Bhuti, its founder mentioned by Bana.
We will presently enumerate the suffixes usually taken up
in their names by the different castes, but here this instance
of Harsha itself will suffice to show the corectness of
the information of Hiuen Tsang, as also the fact that not-
withstanding his kingly position, the caste of the ruler re-
mained what it was. We will now proceed to describe each
c&,ste separately and detail its characteristics during
this period, as can be gathered from the evidence available.
Weshallof course begin with the Brahmins who were by
long recognition at the top of the people and who
appear to have still deserved this position by their intelli-
gence and high morals. They were in fact the leaders of
thought both among the orthodox or Hindu people and
among the unorthodox or the Buddhists and the Jains.
The latter, though they in theory rejected caste appear to be
still caste-ridden and intelligent Brahmins and even
Kshatriyas without probably losing their caste joined their
ranks as teachers and thinkers for the sake of the high posi-
tion they attained to as heads of monasteries or congrega-
tions v Tho following remarks, however, should be taken to

•^prr ^a r^x'T TRf ^rirrr^ ^it = i ^j^^sa" ^ttft -^r^: ^;^w ^tn^ n ^m
quoted by Kulluka (also Vishnu P III, :0 v, Manu II 30).

t For example a brother of tho Brahmin king of Samatata was the
head of theNalanda monastery and a Buddhist teacher as mentioned by
Hiuen Tsang.


apply to those Brahmins who professed the orthod(a faith.
And the first thing we have to remark is that Brahminn
yet formed one caste without subdivision throughout
India; the modern distinctions based on territorial di visions
had not yet come into existence. The distinctions now
known as Pancha Dravidas and Pancha Gaudas had not
arisen; not to speak of the many still minor sub-caste»,
into which Brahmins are at present further subdivided. The
only distinction ^en known, appears to be that

Online LibraryChintaman Vinayak VaidyaHistory of mediæval Hindu India (being a history of India from 600 to 1200 A.D.) .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 38)