The Economic Life of Northern India: C. A.D. 700-1200

Rs. 895.00
  • Book Name The Economic Life of Northern India: C. A.D. 700-1200
  • Author Lallanji Gopal
  • Language, Pages English, 366 Pgs. (HB)
  • Last Updated 2023 / 05 / 16
  • ISBN 9788120803022, 8120803027

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The Economic Life of Northern India: C. A.D. 700-1200
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The topics dealt with are of as varied nature as those in his other Studies. The approach of most writers to the problems relating to Indian religions is based on literary sources; but in respect of the majority of topics discussed in the volume with the exception of the first few chapters, Prof. Sircar depends primarily on inscriptions and supplements epigraphic evidence by the testimony of literary and numismatic records wherever necessary. A few of the studies incorporated in the volume exhibit the author's search for truth spread over a number of years. Thus his investigation relating to the god Purusottamajaganna.tha of Puri began when he noticed the dominions of Gafiga Anarigabhima III (1211-39 A.D.) described as Purusottama's empire' in an inscription, in 1939. In the course of its progress, he found out, in 1946, how Bharru II (1305-27 A.D.) is represented in his records as a feudatory of the god Purusottama-Jagannatha and, in 1953, how a literary work speaks of the dedication of the Ganga kingdom to the god by king Anatigabhima. Finally in 1963, Prof. Sircar traced in a tenth century epigraph of the Satna District, Madhya Pradesh, how the god of Puri attracted pilgrims from distant regions. The chapter on Purusottamajagannatha in the volume is thus the result of a study of about quarter of a century.


About the Author

D.C. SIRCAR (1907-1984) was an epigraphist, historian, numismatist and folklorist, known particularly for his work deciphering inscriptions in India and Bangladesh. He was the Chief Epigraphist, Archaeological Survey of India (1949-1962); Carmichael Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, University of Calcutta, (1962-1972) and the General President of the Indian History Congress. In 1972, Sircar was awarded the Sir William Jones Memorial Plaque.



Socio-economic history represents a relatively recent develop-ment especially in the world of Indian historiography. It is noticeable, however, that in the post-Independence era increasing attention has been devoted in this direction. It would not be too much to connect this tendency with the current emphasis and preoccupation with the problems of socio-economic planning and growth. A study of the past inevitably sheds light on the present. It was with this view of investigating the past to illumine the present and the future that a scheme of research on the social and economic history of ancient India was planned at the University of Allahabad many years ago and I had the privilege of helping several brilliant young scholars in producing a series of dissertations which also included Dr. Gopal's effort on the earlier economic development of ancient India. Seeking to continue his research, he later proceeded to England and the present work is the outcome of that effort. I welcome the present publication with particular happiness as it represents for me the beginning of a fulfillment of hope entertained for some time from one of my most brilliant pupils and colleagues at Allahabad.

Despite its increasing vogue significant socio-economic history is exceedingly difficult to write and remains a tricky business. Conceptual and methodological problems abound and are hardly susceptible of general and standardized answers. The researcher either tends to produce an inventory of well-known or little-known facts from documents or, if ambitious, tends to use a conceptual and interpretational framework derived from some standard work on western social history. It has, however, to be remembered that social being and consciousness, external relations and values, are inextricably mixed up and the genuine economic historian must be able to penetrate the hardened film of a long process of 'reification'-ancient and modern-to be able to communicate a socio-economic awareness without disturbing its inbuilt articulations so that it should scintillate with vital significance.



The unique importance of the period under study consists in the fact that it links ancient to medieval India and sheds light on both by a sort of debali-difiaka-gayal. It represents the cul-mination and degeneration of the classical traditions of ancient Indian culture and thus its study is important for determining the causes which sapped the vitality of Indians and rendered their resistance to the Muslim invaders surprisingly weak. On the other side, in order to have a proper understanding of the origins and true nature of the polity under the Turko-Afghan Sultans one cannot ignore the institutions of the early medieval period. The Turko-Afghan rulers had as a matter of necessity to use much of the machinery of administration already in existence.

But the attention which this period has received from scholars of Indian history has not been proportionate to its importance. Like a man with two wives it has to face the scornful neglect of the historians alike of ancient and medieval periods of Indian history. Many historians of ancient India have not bothered to follow the course of events after the decline of the Guptas or in any case after the reign of Harsa. On the other hand historians of medieval India have often concentrated on the period beginning with the establishment of the power of the Mamluk Sultans and have paid little attention to Sanskrit sources, which most of them were not competent to handle.

Ignorance as to the true historical details of the period ex-plains the misconceptions which can be seen in earlier works on the period. Thus V. A. Smith described Harp as the last emperor in the history of ancient India, after whom it is only a confased story of "a medley of petty states, with ever-varying boundaries and engaged in unceasing internecine war"2. Such a view implies an utter misunderstanding of the history of the early medieval period, the imperial ambitions of the important dynasties and, above all, the extent of the Pratihara kingdom, which at its height covered a larger area than could possibly be claimed by an eulogist of Harsal.

With a view to appraise correctly any aspect of social life we have to keep in mind the frame-work of the political history of the period. We can easily trace two dominant threads in the fabric of the political history. The period can be studied from the view-point either of the attempt of the native powers to achieve imperial glory, or of the gradual establishment of the political power of Islam. The death of Harsa created a temporary vacuum on the political stage and there followed several attempts on the part of different kings and dynasties to establish their political supremacy. In the earlier part of the period Kanauj had come to acquire an imperial halo and was the most coveted prize for those participating in the contest for imperial supremacy. At the beginning of our period we find Yaovarman ruling over Kanauj. With Lalicaditya Kashmir also entered into the arena ,of the politics of north India. Tibet also seems to have attempted to gain hegemony over some parts of north India. It is not un-likely that the activities of Kashmir and Tibet reflect the greater struggle for the control of the trade between the East and West fought on a larger scale in Central Asia2.

But soon north Indian politics came to be dominated by the tripartite struggle for supremacy among the Rastrakutas, the Pallas and the Pratiharas. Though both the Pallas and the Prati-haras had alternate moments of rejoicing, the Palas established their dominance over almost the whole of north India only under Dharmapala and Devapala. The Pratiharas no doubt achieved the zenith of their power during the reigns of Bhoja and Mahendra-pala, but they long enjoyed the position of the chief imperial power in north India. The struggle between the Pratiharas and the Palas was intercepted by the occasional outburst of the military might of the Rastrakutas, whose armies at least on three occasions, under Dhruva, Govinda III and Indra III, overran northern India. But they do not seem to have attempted a serious and lasting occupation of the conquered areas, and were satisfied merely to force the defeated kings to accept their temporary subjugation. The attempted thrust of the Arabs of Sind towards Gujarat, the victories over the Arabs claimed for some of the Pratihara kings, the feeling of animosity towards Islam which the Arab geographers ascribe to the Pratihara kings and the sympathetic and patronising attitude of the Rastrakuta kings towards the Arabs make a good case for the view that the struggle in northern India may well be described as a quadrangular one. Obviously the desire for martial glory and imperial supremacy was the dominant motive force behind this struggle. But the participation of the Arabs would suggest that the concern for economic gains was also to some extent an important reason.

About the middle of the tenth century the Pratihara empire disintegrated and gradually came to be confined to Kanauj and its neighborhood. The history of the eleventh century is do-minated by a number of states which had started their careers as the feudatories of the Pratiharas. These include the Caharn5nas in Rajasthan, the Caulukyas in Gujarat and the Paramaras in Malwa. Other important dynasties which participated in the imperial game were the Gahadavdlas, the Candellas and the Kalacuris. The history of the period is a record of continuous rivalry among these kingdoms, without any lasting success for any one of them. Be-sides these there were other smaller states. This political fragmen-tation sapped the vitality of the country and rendered it incapable of putting up an effective and combined resistance to the Muslim invaders.

The period under study can be described as forming the necessary background for the establishment of Muslim power in Here also we can point out several stages in this process. Arabs conquered Sind in 712 A.D. but their attempts to -Dv other interior areas were utterly unsuccessful. The Muslim state in Sind had a precarious existence, often threatened by the might of the Pratiharas. The Arab occupation was only an epi-sode, of no importance to other parts of the country ; for the narrative of the establishment of Muslim authority it is equally without much real value. The final conquest of northern India was effected by Muslim armies that came through the north-western frontiers. The period roughly before 1000 A.D. was one of successful resistance to Muslim invaders. The Muslims, however, never gave up the idea of extending their victorious arms to India. For over two hundred years they had continuously to hammer against the petty states of Kabul and Zabul, which offered stubborn and heroic resistance before they went down to the greatest military power of their times. The slow progress of the arms of Islam, which had brought under its mantle a con-siderable part of three continents, redounds to the credit of these two states. The next stage in this connection is marked by the date 997, when Mahmad, son of Sabuktigin, captured Ghazni and turned his attention to India. His conquests established Muslim power over Punjab, which thus served as the spring-board for the complete success of the Muslims. Even then the Muslims had to wait for some two hundred years until in 1193 A.D. Mu'izz-ud-din Ghari defeated Prthviraja Uhamana in the battle of Tarain. Now there was nothing to stop the onrush of the Muslims and the year 1206 witnessed the establishment of the Mamlak dynasty.

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