‘Early medieval’ when used as an historical phase and marked off from others historical faces such as ‘Ancient’,’ ‘Medieval’ and ‘Modern’ may not be of very recent usuage in Indian historiography.
According to B.D. Chattopadhyay, N.R. Ray urged almost three decades ago that the practice of using chronological terms in descriptive sense needed to be replaced. Discussions around the appropriateness or otherwise of chronological labels are now expected to relate to the theme of periodization. The problem therefore now involves- given the obvious elements of continuity in Indian history the selection of of variable which would purport to separate one historical phase from another.
According to R.S. Sharma, Several scholars have questioned the use of the term feudalism to characterize the early medival socio-economic formation in India. But Harbans Mukhia suggested that, unlike capitalism, feudalism us not a universal phenomenon.The diffusion of the feudal system happened in some cases. Ex. Normal feudalism in England was a result of the Norman conquest.
According to D.N.Jha, the myth of millenary stagnation of early Indian society has been ably exploded by D.D.Kosambi and R.S.Sharma who marks definite stages in the development of its social polity till the beginning of the feaudalism from about the middle of the first millennium.
By accepting the idea of the medieval or more specifically early medieval we subscribe to one way of looking at the course of Indian history.
B.N.Datta was the first Indian Marxist historian to refer clearly to the growth of feudalism in early India.
Systemic studies of the archeological material, likewise have proved the existence of many towns and several phase of urbanisation have been postulated in different parts of the country.
As early as 1950 Kosambi against the mechanical application of Marx’s scheme of periodization to the history of India and assert that Marxism is a tool of analysis and not substitute for thinking.
By accepting the idea of the medieval or more specifically early medieval – as a phase in the transition to medieval we subscribe to one way of looking at the course of Indian history.
For the present discussion,three points need to be noted, First the nature of change which is the critical subject of debate. Second,it involves providing a construct of early medieval. Third,it involves the methodological problem of causation,for if we use a term ‘early medieval’ to suggest a time span as well as historical phase.
To put it in terms persistently used,the route to medievalism, in what currently the dominant school of ancient Indian Historiography,was through Indian feudalism.
One type of statement on the transition by Niharranjan Ray, attempts a multi-dimensional characterization of medievalism. He locates the beginning of the process in the seventh century and says it became more pronounced from the eight century,he envisages three sub-periods within the medieval (i) seventh to twelfth century,(ii) twelfth to the first quarter of the sixteenth century,and (iii) first quarter of the sixteenth to the close of the eighteenth century.
D.D.Kosambi’s idea of the dual processes operating towards the emergence of the Indian feudalism. He characterized it by a two-stage development,namely feudalism from above and feudalism from below.
Segmentary State and the period of social crisis :-
Aidan southhall formulated the segmentary state model for his study of the Alur in highland East Africa in 1956 for the same reason that Burton Stein adapted his formulation for cholas of South India almost two decades later. Older historical views insisted on seeing polities of the time as centralized and to a degree bureaucratized, lurking behind much of the writing of that time was a very modern,unitary state form. At the time that Burton Stein adopted the segmentary formulation. He was insufficiently alert to a major discordant theoretical element which still remain a part of southhall’s formulation. This is the relationship between what he was calling political segmentation and something called segmentary society. The segmentary state refers to a political order which is distinguished from others. In positive terms,the segmentary state is a political order in which:-
- There are numerous centres
- Political, power and sovereignty are differentiated in such a way as to permit appropriate power to be wielded by making,but full royal.
- All of the numerous centres or domains have autonomous administrative capabilities and coercive means.
- There is a state in the recognition by lesser political centres,often through ritual forms,of a single ritual centre.
Three types of localities which he designated as ‘central’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘peripheral’ zones of segmentary political system of chola times.Such critics offer no research hypothesis, no Historiographical formulations to be examined seriously and confronted with evidence. First among these strong criticisms of the segmentary state formulation those from S.J.Tambiah and Herman kulke with both of whom Burton Stein have had rewarding and challenging discussion over the years. Like Tambiah who gives major importance to forms of ritual incorporation,kulke has considered my formulation,but in the end rejected it for its lack of fit with the specific polity he was examining that of medieval orissa.
In the early seventies B.D.Chattopadhyaya,on the basis of epigraphic material alone,argued that Prthidaka(Pehoa),Tattānandapura(Ahar),
siyadoni(near jhansi) flourished as urban centres with extensive market networks during the extensive market networks during the early medieval period.
Ancient Indian thinkers themselves held a changing view of their society and its values. This is demonstrated by their speculation regarding the creation of the world and the creation of kingship which had to be set up in order to protect family and property. Although in post- Vedic times Dharma based on the varna division was the ideal to be achieved. According to a words occurring in the sants parva,dharma becomes adharma in response to the needs of tim and place. The Puranas and the Smrtis point out that the perfect thermic consists of four feet and is found only in in the Krta age. The Krta age was an age of perfect happiness to the state of nature depicted by Rousseau. R.C. Hazra Believes that the earliest such description to the third century AD, the second set of descriptions to the eight century. In the Kali age we noticed two types of contractions:- the one between the brahmanas and ksatriyas on the one hand and the vaisyas on the other between the brahmanas and the sudras. The Kali age is marked by insecurity and widespread lawlessness. The reason for the levy of oppressive taxes by the kingship the third and in the beginning of the 4th century AD. The practice of employing slaves in agriculture production practically stopped in Gupta times. The Kali crisis of the late third and fourth centuries appears at a prelude to the feudalization of Indian society.
The point that B.D.Chattopadhyay have tried to make is that the historiography on the transition to what is considered the feudal phase has been ever shifting and essential dependent on the directions of European historiography.
The argument that B.D.Chattopadhya have been trying to develop starting with a statement on historiography can now be rounded off two points,need to be underlined-
First, all the an overview of Indian society of say the period between the sixth-seventh and twelfth-thirteenth centuries would show it to be vartly different from Indian society of the early historical period.
Regional elements begin to take shape through local assimilation as well as through the adoption of Trans regional idioms.
the opinion of K.R.Van Kooji too,when he refers to the division or rather multiple manifestations, of the one goddess as five separate goddesses:-
kamakhya, mohatsaha,tripura, kamesvari and sarada.The present collection of articles lays stress on those aspects of early India feudalism which have continue to generate controversy among scholars.