Chapter 9 Notes
New Empires and Kingdoms
Class 6 – Social Science
|Chapter Name||New Empires and Kingdoms|
|Chapter No.||Chapter 9|
|Category||Class 6 History Notes|
Question 1 Who was Samudragupta and Harishena?
Question 2 What does Samudragupta’s prashasti tells about?
Question 3 Name four different kinds of rulers described by Harishena.
Question 4 Who was the first ruler of Gupta dynasty?
Question 5 What was mentioned in Genealogies?
Question 6 From where we have learned about the Gupta rulers?
Question 7 Write a short note on Harshavardhana.
Question 8 What is Harshacharita?
Question 9 Name most important ruling dynasties in south India during this period.
Question 10 Write a short note on Pallavas and Chalukyas.
Question 11 What do you mean by Prashtastis and how did they help?
Question 12 What were the important posts of Harishena?
Question 13 What were the new administrative arrangements during this period?
Question 14 Who were Samantas?
Question 15 What were the assemblies in the southern kingdoms?
Question 16 What was Kalidasa famous for?
Question 17 Mention two authors who wrote about the king and lives of ordinary people.
Question 18 Who was Pulakeshin II?
Question 19 How was the money spent which was collected in the form of revenue?
Question 20 What do you think were the causes of the downfall of the Gupta Empire?
Question 21 How did the poet of Prashastis praise Samudragupta?
Question 22 Name the place which was the capital of Chalukya rulers.
Question 23 Describe in brief the administrative system prevalent during the Gupta period ?
Question 24 Explain the new developments in the field of administration after the Gupta period.
We know about Samudragupta, a famous ruler of a dynasty known as the Guptas from a long inscription, inscribed on the Ashokan pillar at Allahabad. It was composed as a Kavya by Harishena, who was a poet and a minister at the court of Samudragupta.
This inscription is of a special kind known as a prashasti, a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘in praise of’.
In Samudragupta’s prashasti the poet praised the king in glowing terms — as a warrior, as a king who won victories in battle, who was learned and the best of poets. He is also described as equal to the gods. The prashasti was composed in very long sentences. Here is a part of one such sentence:
Samudragupta the warrior Whose body was most charming, being covered with the plenteous beauty of the marks of hundreds of scars caused by battle-axes, arrows, spikes, spears, barbed darts, swords, iron clubs, javelins, barbed arrows, long arrows and many other weapons.
Harishena described four different kinds of rulers and told us about Samudragupta’s policies towards them.
1. The rulers of Aryavarta – There were nine rulers who were uprooted, and their kingdoms were made a part of Samudragupta’s empire.
2. The rulers of Dakshinapatha – There were twelve rulers who surrendered to Samudragupta after being defeated and he then allowed them to rule again.
3. The inner circle of neighbouring states, including Assam, coastal Bengal, Nepal, and a number of gana sanghas in the northwest. They brought tribute, followed his orders, and attended his court.
4. The rulers of the outlying areas perhaps the descendants of the Kushanas and Shakas, and the ruler of Sri Lanka, who submitted to him and offered daughters in marriage.
Genealogies mentions Samudragupta’s great grandfather, grandfather, father and mother. His mother, Kumara devi, belonged to the Lichchhavi gana, while his father, Chandragupta, was the first ruler of the Gupta dynasty to adopt the grand title of maharajadhiraja, a title that Samudragupta also used.
His great grandfather and grandfather are mentioned simply as maha-rajas. Samudragupta in turn figures in the genealogies (lists of ancestors) of later rulers of the dynasty, such as his son, Chandragupta II. We know about him from inscriptions and coins. He led an expedition to western India, where he overcame the last of the Shakas.
Harshavardhana and the Harshacharita
We can learn about the Gupta rulers from their inscriptions and coins, we can find out about some kings from biographies.
(1) Who ruled nearly 1400 years ago.
(2) His court poet, Banabhatta, wrote his biography, the Harshacharita, in Sanskrit. This gives us the genealogy of Harsha, and ends with his becoming king.
(3) Xuan Zang also spent a lot of time at Harsha’s court and left a detailed account of what he saw.
(4) Harsha was not the eldest son of his father, but became king of Thanesar after both his father and elder brother died.
(5) His brother-in-law was the ruler of Kanauj and he was killed by the ruler of Bengal. Harsha took over the kingdom of Kanauj, and then led an army against the ruler of Bengal. Although he was successful in the east, and conquered Magadha and probably Bengal also, he was not as successful elsewhere.
(6) He tried to cross the Narmada to march into the Deccan, but was stopped by a ruler belonging to the Chalukya dynasty, Pulakeshin II.
The Pallavas, Chalukyas and Pulakeshin’s Prashasti
The Pallavas and Chalukyas were the most important ruling dynasties in south India during this period.
The kingdom of the Pallavas spread from the region around their capital, Kanchipuram, to the Kaveri delta, while that of the Chalukyas was centred around the Raichur Doab, between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra.
Aihole, the capital of the Chalukyas, was an important trading centre. It developed as a religious centre, with a number of temples. The Pallavas and Chalukyas frequently raided one another’s lands, especially attacking the capital cities, which were prosperous towns.
The best-known Chalukya ruler was Pulakeshin II.A prashasti, composed by his court poet Ravikirti tells us about his ancestors, who are traced back through four generations from father to son. Pulakeshin evidently got the kingdom from his uncle. According to Ravikirti, he led expeditions along both the west and the east coasts. Besides, he checked the advance of Harsha. Harsha means happiness. The poet says that after this defeat, Harsha was no longer Harsha!
Pulakeshin also attacked the Pallava king, who took shelter behind the walls of Kanchipuram. But the Chalukya victory was short-lived. Ultimately, both the Pallavas and the Chalukyas gave way to new rulers belonging to the Rashtrakuta and Chola dynasties.
Land revenue remained important for these rulers, and the village remained the basic unit of administration.
Kings adopted a number of steps to win the support of men who were powerful, either economically, or socially, or because of their political and military strength.
(1) Some important administrative posts were now hereditary. This means that sons succeeded fathers to these posts.
For example, the poet Harishena was a maha-danda-nayaka, or chief judicial officer, like his father.
(2) Sometimes, one person held many offices.
Besides being a maha-danda-nayaka, Harishena was a kumar-amatya, meaning an important minister, and a sandhi-vigrahika, meaning a minister of war and peace.
(3) Important men probably had a say in local administration. These included the nagarashreshthi or chief banker or merchant of the city , the sarthavaha or leader of the merchant caravans, the prathama-kulika or the chief craftsman, and the head of the kayasthas or scribes.
A new kind of army
(1) kings maintained a well-organised army, with elephants, chariots, cavalry and foot soldiers.
(2) There were military leaders who provided the king with troops whenever he needed them.
(3) They collected revenue from the land and used this to maintain soldiers and horses, and provide equipment for warfare. These men were known as samantas.
Whenever the ruler was weak, samantas tried to become independent.
Assemblies in the southern kingdoms
The inscriptions of the Pallavas mention a number of local assemblies. These included
(1) The sabha, which was an assembly of brahmin landowners. This assembly functioned through sub-committees, which looked after irrigation, agricultural operations, making roads, local temples, etc.
(2) The ur was a village assembly found in areas where the landowners were not brahmins.
(3) The nagaram was an organisation of merchants. It is likely that these assemblies were controlled by rich and powerful landowners and merchants.
Ordinary People in the Kingdoms
Kalidasa is known for his plays depicting life in the king’s court. An interesting feature about these plays is that the king and most brahmins are shown as speaking Sanskrit, while women and men other than the king and brahmins use Prakrit.
His most famous play, ‘Abhijnana Shakuntalam’, is the story of the love between a king named Dushyanta and a young woman named Shakuntala.
The Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian noticed the plight of those who were treated as untouchables by the high and mighty. They were expected to live on the outskirts of the city. He writes: “If such a man enters a town or a market place, he strikes a piece of wood, in order to keep himself separate; people, hearing this sound, know what it means and avoid touching him or brushing against him.”