Major Dynasties of North India/Feudalism

Major Dynasties of North India (7500-1200) Indian Feudalism

Major Dynasties of North India

• The period between AD 750 and AD 1200 is referred to as an early medieval period of Indian History.
• It was earlier treated by historians as a ‘dark phase’ because during this time the whole country was divided into numerous regional states which were busy fighting with each other.
• But recent studies have indicated that, though politically divided, India witnessed a growth of new and rich cultural activities in the fields of art, literature and language.
• In fact, some best specimens of temple architecture and Indian literature belong to this period.
• Thus, far from being ‘dark’ it may be treated as a bright and vibrant phase of Indian history.
• There were Gurjara Pratiharas in north India, Palas in eastern India and Rashtrakutas in South India. These powers were constantly fighting with each other with an aim to set up their control on Gangetic region in northern India.
• This armed conflict among these three powers is known as ‘Tripartite struggle’.
• Later on, the breakup of these powers resulted in the rise of many smaller kingdoms all over the country.


Major Dynasties of North India

The Pratiharas (8th to 10th Century)

• The Pratihars were also called Gurjar-Pratihars because they originated from Gurjarat or Southwest Rajasthan.
• It is believed that originally they were a branch of the Gurjaras, which was one of the nomadic central Asian tribes that poured into India along with the Hunas following the disintegration of the Gupta Empire.
• As rulers, the Pratiharas came into prominence in the middle of the eight century when their King Nagabhatta I, defended western India form the Arab incursions from Sindh into Rajasthan. He was able to leave to his successors a powerful principality comprising of Malwa and parts of Rajputana and Gujarat.
• After the Nagabhatta I reign, the Pratiharas suffered a series of defeats mostly at the hands of the Rashtrakutas.
• The Pratihara power regained its lost glory only after the succession of Mihirbhoja, popularly known as Bhoja.
• Bhoja had a long reign of 46 years and his eventful career drew the attention of the Arab traveller, Sulaiman. He re-established the supremacy of his family in Bundelkhand and subjugated Jodhpur.
• The Daulatpura copper plate of Bhoja shows that the Pratihara king had succeeded in reasserting his authority over central and eastern Rajputana.
• Mihirbhoja was succeeded by his son Mahendrapala I whose most notable achievement was the conquest of Magadha and northern Bengal.
• Mahehdrapala I was a liberal patron of literature. The most brilliant writer in his court was Rajasekhara who has to his credit a number of literary works- Karpuramanjari, Bala Ramayana, Bala and Bharta, Kavyamimamsa.
• Mahendrapala’s death was followed by a scramble for the possession of the throne.
• Bhoja II seized the throne, but half brother, Mahipala soon usurped the throne.
• The Rashtrakutas again challenged the strength of the Pratihara empire and its ruler, Indra III, completely devastated the city of Kanauj.
• However, the withdrawal of Indra III to the Deccan enabled Mahipala to recover from the fatal blow.
• Mahendrapala II, son and successor of Mahipala, was able to keep his empire intact, but it received a shattering blow during the reign of Devapala, when the Chandalas become virtually independent.
• The process of decline of the Pratihara Empire which had begun with Devapal accelerated during the reign of Vijayapala.
• The Arab traveler Al-Masudi, who visited India in the year 915-16, also refers to the power and resources of the King of Kanauj whose kingdom extended up to Sind in the west and touched the Rashtrakuta kingdom in the south.

The Palas (8th to 11th Century)

• Sulaiman, an Arab merchant who visited India in the 9th century has termed the Pala empire as Rhumi.
• The Pala Empire was founded by Gopal in 750.
• He was elected as the king by the notable men of the area to end the anarchy prevailing there after the death of Sasanka of Bengal.
• Gopala was an ardent Buddhist and is supposed to have built the monastery at Odantapuri (Sharif district of Bihar).
• Gopala was succeeded by his son Bharmapla who raised the Pala kingdom to greatness.
• The kingdom expanded under him and it comprised the whole of Bengal and Bihar.
• The kindom of Kanauj was a dependency, ruled by Dharmapal’s own nominee.
• Beyond Kanuja, there were a large number of vassal states in the Punjab, Rajputana, Malwa and Berar whose rulers acknowledged Dharmapala as their overlord.
• After a reign of 32 years Dharmapal died, leaving his extensive dominions unimpaired to his son Devapala.
• Devapala ascended the throne in 810 and ruled for 40 years. He extended his control over Pragjyotishpur (Assam), parts of Orissa and parts of Modern Nepal.
• Devapal was a great patron of Buddhism and his fame spread to many Buddhist countries outside India. As a Buddhist, he founded the famous Mahavihara of Vikramaúîla near Bhagalpur. He also credited with the construction of a vihara at Somapura (Paharpur). He also patronised one of the great Buddhist authors Haribhadra.
• Balaputradeva, a king of the Buddhist Sailendras, ruling Java, sent an ambassador to Devapala, asking for a grant of five villages in order to endow a monastery at Nalanda.
• Devapala granted the request and appointed Viradeva, as head of Nalanda Monastery.
• Devapala’s court was adorned with the Buddhist poet Vijrakatta, the author of Lokesvarasataka.
• The rule of Devapala’s successors was marked by a steady process of disintegration.
• A series of invasions led by the Chandellas and the Kalachuris dismembered the Pala Empire.

The Senas (11th to 12th century)

• The Sena dynasty ruled Bengal after the Palas and its founder was Samantasena described as a ‘Brahmakshatriya’.
• The title Brahmakshatriya shows that Samantasena was a brahmin, but his successors called themselves simply Kshatriyas.
• Samantasena’s son Hemantasena took advantage of the unstable political situation of Bengal and carved out an independent principality.
• Vijayasena, son of Hemantasena, brought the family into the limelight by conquering nearly the whole of Bengal.
• Vijayasena assumed several imperial titles like Paramesvara, Paramabhattaraka, and Maharajadhiraja.
• Vijayasena had two capitals, which was one, at Vijaypuri of Bangladesh.
• The famous poet Sriharasha composed the Vijayaprasasti in memory of Vijayasena.
• Vijayasena was succeeded by his son, Ballalasena, who was a great scholar.
• Ballalasena wrote four works of which two are extant, the Banasagara and the Adbhutasagara. The first is an extensive work on omens and portents, and the second on astronomy.
• Lakshmanasena, who succeeded Ballalasena in 1179, reign was remarkable for patronizing literature.
• Lakshmanasena was a devout Vaishnava and, Jayadeva, the famous Vaishnava poet of Bengal and author of the Gita Govinda lived at his court.
• Lakshmanasena’s reign saw the decline of the Sena power because of internal rebellions.
• The invasion of Bakhtiya Khalji gave it a crushing blow. A detailed account of the invasion of Bakhtiya Khalji has been given in Tabakat-i-Nasiri.
The Rajaputa’s Origin
• The anarchy and confusion which followed Harsha’s death is the transitional period of Indian history.
• This period was marked by the rise of the Rajput clans who began to play a significant part in the history of northern and western India from the 8th century AD onwards.
• The term Rajput denotes a tribe or clan, the members of which claimed themselves as Kshatriyas belonging to the ‘solar’ or lunar’ dynasties.
• According to some scholars the origin of the Rajputs is connected with that of the Gurjaras.
• In the early years of the 6th century AD, a tribe known as the Khazars poured into India along with the Hunas.
• These Khazars were known as Gurjaras. According to the bardic tales, the Pratiharas (Pariharas), the Chalukyas (Solankis), the Paramaras (Pawars) and the Chahamanas (Chauhans) are ‘fire-born’ (Agnikula), originating from a sacrificial fire-pit at Mount Abu in southern Rajputana.
• The Hunas, Gurjaras and the other allied tribes who entered India during the 5th and 6th centuries merged themselves with the Indians, just as their predecessors, the Greeks, the Kushanas and the Sakas had done.
• In the southern group, the principal clans are the Chandels, Kalachuris or Haihayas and Gaharwars. They apparently descended from the so called aboriginal tribes like the Gonds, and the Bhars.
• The evidence of a close connection between the Chandels and the Gonds is particularly strong. The Chandel Rajputs were originally Hinduised Bhars or Gonds or both, who became Kshatriyas on attaining political power.
• The Gaharwars similarly are associated with the Bhars; the Bundelas and the northern Rathors are offshoots of the Gaharwars.
• As a general rule, the Rajputs formed by the social promotion of aborigines were inimical to the Rajputs descended from foreigners.
• After the break-up of the Pratihara empire, the Chandellas rose and established their rule over Bundelkhand.
• Like most medieval dynasties, the Chandellas claim their descent from Chandratreya, a descendant of the ‘Moon dynasty’.
• The earliest capital of the Chandella kings was Khajuraho, the splendour of which reached its zenith in the 10th century.
• Yasovarman, also known as Lakshavarman was the greatest of Chandella rulers.
• The decline of the Pratihara power made Yasovarman free to defy the former and to launch the Chandellas to aggressive militarism.
• The Khajuraho inscription describes with obvious exaggeration the extensive conquests made by Yasovarman.
• Though an element of doubt attaches to the achievements of Yasovarman, there is no doubt that he made extensive conquests in north India and made the Chandellas a formidable power.
• Yasovarman built a magnificent temple at Khajuraho, identified with the Chaturbhuja temple, in which he installed the image of Vishnu.
• There were several branches of the Chahamana dynasty annd the main branch ruled in Sakambhari, modern Sambhar, in Jaipur and the others ruling in different places, were collateral.
• Some of these were unquestionably the feudatories of the Pratiharas.
• Vasudadeva founded the main line in the middle of the 6th century AD with Ahichchhatra as the seat of his power.
• Taking advantage of the weakness of the Patiharas consequent to their struggle with the Rashtrakutas, the next important ruler Vakpatiraja defied the authority of the Pratiharas.
• During the reign of Vakpatiraja the Chahamana family acquired a distinctly higher status as is revealed by his assumption of the title Maharaja. He built at Pushkara a temple for Siva.
• Vakpati had three sons—Simharaja, Vatsaraja and Lakshmana.
• Simharaja was the first prince of the family who assumed the title Maharajadhiraja. This indicates that he made himself independent of the imperial Pratiharas.
• Simharaja’s son and successor Vigraharaja II was the real founder of the future greatness of the family. He overran Gujarat, forced the Chalukya Mularaja to take refuge at Kanthakot in Kutch. He extended his conquests as far south as the Narmada.
• Prithviraja I is reputed to have killed a body of 700 Chalukyas who had come to Pushkara to rob the Brahmins.
Prithviraja III
• One of the early exploits of Prithviraja III was to suppress the revolt of his cousin, Nagarjuna.
• He invaded the Chandella kingdom and defeated its King Paramardi.
• Thereafter, he invaded the Chalukya kingdom of Gujarat and forced Chalukya, Bhima II to conclude a treaty.
• Prithviraja III also entered into hostility with Jayachandra, Gahadvala ruler of Kanauj. It is said that Jayachandra organised a svayamvara ceremony for the marriage of his beautiful daughter Samyukta. Prithviraja was not invited. Prithviraja succeeded in carrying off the Gahadvala princess by force.
• It was not till the capture of the strong fort of Tabarhindah, identified with Sirhind, by Muhammad Ghori that Prithviraja became conscious of the gravity of the situation.
• Prithviraja met the enemy at the fateful field of Tarain in 1190-91.
• The first battle of Tarain was disastrous for the Sultan Muhammad Ghori.
• Despite this victory, Prithviraja III did not take adequate steps to guard the north-western frontier of his empire and allowed himself to dissipate his energy in fighting the Gahadvala king Jayachandra.
• Meanwhile, Muhammad Ghori came to Tarain in 1192 practically unopposed by passing through Multan and Lahore. One lakh soldiers were killed in the battle, including Govindaraja, chief of Delhi. Prithviraja himself was taken prisoner and executed thereafter.
• Many a distinguished scholar and poet from different parts of the country gathered round the court of king Prithviraja III who himself became the theme of two great poems, viz. Prithvirajavijaya and Prithviraj Rasa, written by his court poets Jayanaka and Chanda (Chandbardai) respectively.
• The emergence of the Gahadvalas in Kanauj in the latter part of the 11th century is so sudden that it is difficult to determine their origin.
• The well-known theory of their connection with the dynasties of the Sun and the Moon cannot be accepted as true, although traditions trace them back to an obscure descendant of Yayati.
Early Rulers
• The Gahadvala dynasty was founded by Yasovigraha.
• Yasovigraha’s son Mahichandra, also called Mahindra and Mahitala, was a ruler of some consequence who ruled in some part of Uttar Pradesh.
• Mahichandra’s son, Chandradeva, took hold of the opportunity afforded by the departure of Mahmud from northern India and inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Rashtrakuta ruler, Gopala, on the banks of the Yamuna.
• Chandradeva conquered all the territory from Allahabad to Banaras and made Banaras the second capital of the Gahadvalas.
• Chandradeva imposed a tax called turushkadanda possibly to defray the expenses of war against Muslim invasions or to make annual payments to the latter.
• Chandradeva was succeeded by his son Madanachandra, also known as Madanapala.
• Vijayachandra’s son and successor, he came to the throne in 1170.
• His career and achievements, known from his copper-plates and the panegyrics of the Prithviraja Raso, are illumined by the Muslim chronicles and other independent sources.
• Jayachandra was the last great monarch of Kanauj whose power and resources must have impressed the Muslim historians.
• Jayachandra’s peaceful reign was seriously menaced by Muhammad Ghori, who, after conquering Delhi and Ajmer from the Chahamanas, advanced with a large force against Kanauj in 1193.
• Jayachandra met him on the plain between Chandwar and Etawah, and fell fighting.
• Jayachandra’s name is associated with the history of Sanskrit literature for the liberal patronage extended by him to Sriharsha, who wrote the well-known Naisadhaeharita, Khandana-khanda-khadya, the latter being the most famous and important of those Vedanta treatises which emphasise the negative or skeptical side of the system.
• The defeat and death of Jayachandra did not lead to the annexation of the kingdom of Kanauj by the Muslims.
• Harishchandra, son of Jayachandra, was allowed to rule as a vassal to Muhammad Ghori.
• Harishchandra’s successor, was deprived of his ancestral kingdom by Iltutmish which ended the glory of imperial Kanauj after six centuries of political domination in northern India.


• This period (from 750 to 1200) in Indian history has been termed as a period of ‘Indian Fedualism’ by a few historians who believed that a number of changes took place in Indian society.
• One significant change was the growing power of a class of people who were variously called Samantas, Ranaks, Rauttas, etc. Their origins were very different.
• Some were government officers who were defeated rajas who continued to enjoy the revenue of limited areas.
• Others were local hereditary chiefs or tribal leaders who had carved out a sphere of authority with the help of armed supporters.
• In course of time, these revenue-bearing lands began to be considered hereditary and monopoly of a few families.
• The hereditary chiefs began to assume many of the functions of the government. They not only assessed and collected land revenue but also assumed more and more administrative power such as the right lands to their followers without the prior permission of the rulers. This led to an increase in the number of people who drew sustenance form the land without working on it.
The salient features of Indian feudalism were as follows:
1. Emergence of hierarchical landed intermediaries: Vassala and officers of state and other secular assignees had military obligations and were called Samanta. Sub-in-feudation (verying in different regions) by these donees to get their land cultivated led to the growth of different strata of intermediaries. It was a hierarchy of landed aristocrats, tenants, share croppers and cultivators. This hierarchy was also reflected in the powers, administrative structure, where a sort of lord vassal relationship emerged. In other words, Indian feudalism consisted of the unequal distribution of land and its produce.
2. Prevalence of forced labour: The right of extracting forced labour (Vishti) is believed to have been exercised by the Brahmanas and other grantees of land. Forced labour was originally a prerogative of the king or the state. It was transferred to the grantees, petty officials, village authorities and other. As a result, a kind of serfdom emerged, in which agricultural labourers were reduced to the position of semi-serfs.
3. Curtailment of land rights of peasents: Due to the growing claims over them by rulers and intermediaries, peasants also suffered an curtailment of their land rights. Many were reduced to the position of tenants facing ever-growing threat of eviction. A number of peasants were only share- croppers (ardhikas). The strain on the peasantry was also caused by the burden of taxation, coercion and increase in their indebtness.
4. Extra economic coercion: Surplus was extracted through various methods. Extra economic coercion was a conspicuous method, new mechanisms of economic subordination also evolved.
5. Relatively closed village economy: It was relatively a closed village economy. The transfer of human resources along with land to the beneficiaries shows that in such villages the peasants, craftsmen and artisans were attached to the village and, hence, were mutually dependent. Their attachment to land and to service grants ensured control over them by the beneficiaries.
• Recently, the validity of the feudal formation in the context of medieval India has been questioned.
• It has been suggested that the medieval society was characterized by self dependent of free-peasant production.
• The peasants had control over the means and the processes of production.
• It is added that there was relative stability in social and economic structure and there was not much change in the level of techniques of the surplus than over a redistribution of means of production.
• The appropriation of agrarian surplus to the state formed the chief instrument of exploitation.
• The high fertility of land and the low subsistence level of the peasants facilitated the state appropriation of the surplus in condition of relative stability.
• This line of approach does not take note of superior right and inferior rights of one party or another over land.
• In fact, in early medieval times, in the same piece of land the peasant held inferior right and the landlords held superior right.
• The land grants clearly made the position of the landlords strong over the land as compared to that of peasants.
• The critique of feudal polity does not take note of massive evidence in support of the subjection and immobility of peasantry, which is an indispensable element in the feudal system.
• Some of these factors are stated below:
1. It weakened the position of the ruler, and made him more dependent on the feudal chiefs, many of whom maintained their own military forces which could be used to defy the ruler.
2. The internal weaknesses of the Indian states became crucial in their contest with the Turks later on.
3. The small states discouraged trade, and encouraged an economy in which villages or groups of villages tended to become largely self-sufficient.
4. The domination of the feudal chiefs also weakened village self-government.
5. The feudal order had a few advantages as well. In an age of disorder and violence, the stronger feudal chiefs protected the lives and property of the peasants and other without which daily life could not have functioned. Some of the feudal chief also took an interest in the extension and improvement of cultivation.
• Economically, the first phase, i.e, AD 750–AD 1000, is believed to be one of decline which is evident from the absence of coins for exchange and the decayed condition of towns in northern India.
• But in the second phase after AD 1000, revival of trade activities took place.
• Not only new gold coins came into circulation, there are also numerous references to trade goods and towns.
• There seem to be two main reasons for it.
– There was increase in agricultural activities on account of land grants in fresh areas. It led to surplus production of goods for exchange.
– The Arab traders had emerged on the coastal areas of India as important players in international sea trade.
• The Arabs had acquired a foothold in Sind in AD 712 and later, gradually, they set up their settlements all along the sea from Arabia to China.
• These settlements served as important channels for the sale and purchase of Indian goods, and thus helped in the growth of Indian external trade.
• In south India, the Chola kings maintained close commercial contact with Southeast Asia (Malaya, Indonesia etc) and China.
• For administrative purposes, the kingdom was divided into a central region, directly ruled by the king, and many fiefs ruled by the feudal lords.
• The central region was divided into bhuktis or rashtras, which were under viceroys, vishayas under vishayapatis, and finally the villages under gramapatis.
• The administration of the fiefs also followed the same pattern.
• The village self-government in north India weakened during this period due to the domination of the feudal chiefs, while at the same time it was at its best in south India under the Cholas.
Military Administration
• The army consisted of royal retainers or the personal army of the king and the contingents supplied by the feudal lords.
• The lack of cohesion in the army was, in fact, responsible for the lack of unity in the armies of the rulers of this period.
• The army consisted of an infantry, cavalry and war-elephants, but the cavalry was neither numerous nor there were majority of horses of fine breed.
• Military service practically came to be the monopoly of Rajputs.
• Consequently 90 per cent of the people had no opportunity of sharing in the defence of their land and they did not put up any strong opposition to the authority of any military usurper.
Revenue Administration
• Taxation during this period was heavier compared to the ancient times. This was so because expenditure over the royal household and the court continued to increase.
• The military budget also continued to be inflated because of ceaseless fighting.
Judicial Administration
• Provision for justice had been laid down as one of the principal duties of the state in India, but the rulers during this period did not pay adequate attention to it.
• In the bhuktis there was a dandanayaka who seems to have been in charge of justice, police and prisons simultaneously.
• There is no mention of any other officer who might have been principally in charge of justice. So it seems that most of the disputes were settled by arbitration through the caste and village panchayats.
Different Types of Feudal Chiefs
• Some feudal lords were government officers who were increasingly paid not in cash but by assigning to them revenue-bearing villages.
• Others were defeated kings and their supporters who continued to enjoy the revenues of limited areas.
• Some others were local hereditary chiefs or military adventurers who had carved out a sphere of influence with the help of armed supporters.
• Still others were tribal or clan leaders.
• The actual position of these people varied. Some of them were only village chiefs; some dominated a tract comprising a number of villages, while others dominated an entire region.
• Thus, there was a definite hierarchy among these chiefs and they constantly contested against each other and tried to enhance their position.
Caste System
• The caste system formed the basis of the society as in earlier periods, but now the Kshatriyas and the Brahmins were given more privileges, while more and more social and religious disabilities were placed on the Sudras and other lower castes than in the earlier period.
• Contemporary writers mention a large number of sub-castes such as potters, weavers, goldsmiths, musicians, barbers, and fishermen.
• Some of the castes were earlier guilds of workers which now began to be classified as castes (Jatis).
• It is significant to note that the Smriti writers of the period regard handicrafts as low occupations. Thus, most of the workers were also classified as untouchables.
Position of the Women
• The very high standard of learning, culture and all round progress reached by Indian women during the Vedic age is a well-known fact.
• The best proof of this is the fact that the Rigveda, the oldest known literature in the whole world, contains hymns by as many as twenty-seven women, called brahmavakinis or women seers.
• Saunaka in his Brihaddevata (5th century BC), a work on the Rigveda, has mentioned the name of these twenty-seven women seers.
• The position of women in India gradually deteriorated as the golden Vedic ideals of unity and equality began to fade off through the passage of time.
• During the period of the Smritis, women were bracketed with the Sudras, and were denied the right to study the Vedas, to utter Vedic mantras, and to perform Vedic rites.
• During early medieval period, there was distruption in women’s old privilege of choosing a life of celibacy and asceticism.
• Since women and property are bracketed together in several reference in the epics, Smritis and Puranas, there is no doubt that woman herself was regarded as a sort of property.
• Women could be given away or loaned as any item of property.
• Manu and Yajnavalkya, for example, hold that a woman is never independent. This was like the attitude of a typical patriarchal society based on private property. Because of this attitude, the Brahmanical law did not allow any proprietary rights to women; the provision for stridhana is of a very limited character and does not extend beyond the wife’s rights to jewels, ornaments and presents made to her.
• Manu declares that the wife, the son and the slave are unpropertied, whatever they earn is the property of those to whom they belongs to. This sort of social philosophy took strong roots in the Gupta and post-Gupta periods, although the institution of monogamous family and private property had been developed much earlier.
Education and Learning
• The attitude of the learned classes of north India became increasingly rigid during this period.
• They tended to repeat the past learning, instead of putting forward and welcoming new ideas.
• They also tended to isolate themselves from the main currents of scientific thought outside India. This is reflected in the writings of Al-Beruni, a noted scientist and scholar from Central Asia who lived in India at Mahmud Ghazni’s court.
• Although a great admirer of Indian sciences and learning, Al-Beruni also noted the insular attitude of the learned people of the country, viz., the Brahmins.
• The attitude of trying to confine knowledge among a very narrow group, and of taking an arrogant attitude towards new ideas, from whichever source they might come, was largely responsible for making India backward.
Religious Developments
• Both Buddhism and Jainism continued to decline during the period.
• It was during this period that Buddhism almost disappeared from the land of its birth after the fall of the Palas.
• There was a marked revival and expansion of Hinduism. This took many forms, the most important being the growing popularity of Siva and Vishnu. A number of popular movements arose around the worship of these gods, while at the intellectual level, the tenets of Buddhism and Jainism were challenged.
• In due course, Siva and Vishnu became the chief gods, and the worship of the Sun, Brahma, etc. declined in popularity.
• In eastern India, a new form of worship arose. This was the worship of Sakti, or the worship of the female principle as the cause of creation.
• Thus, the Hindus began to worship Durga, Kali, etc. who were associated with Siva, and the Buddhists worshipped Taras as the consorts of the Buddhas.
Nature of Society
• This society can be called a ‘feudal’ society, because the dominant position was held by those who drew their sustenance from land without working on it.
• The growth of such a society in north India during this period had far reaching effects.
Rise of Self-sufficient Village Economies
• A very important development of the period was the rise of a self-sufficient village economy where production approximated local requirements, with little attempt at producing a surplus to be used specifically for trade or exchange.
• This existing system led to accepting the standard of minimum production, since the incentive to improve production was absent.
• As the pressure on the peasantry increased, production stayed at a subsistence level only.
Decline of Trade
• The subsistence, economy of the village naturally led to a decline in trade, since there was little surplus production which could be traded or exchanged.
• Trade was further hampered by the emergence of a wide range of local weights and measures, making long distance trade more difficult.
• Lack of trade led to a decrease in the use of coins, and this decrease in turn led to a further decline in trade.
• The unstable political conditions and the ceaseless internal fighting in India only helped this process of decline in trade.
• There was also an important external development which contributed to this decline. This was the decline of the Roman and Sassanid empires which caused a setback to the external demand for Indian goods in the West.
Decline of Towns and Cities
• The decline in trade in turn affected the growth of towns.
• Those that had attained a certain economic momentum continued, but the founding of new towns was less frequent than before.
• The Arab geographers, writing of this period, have commented on the paucity of towns in India as compared with China.
• But in the coastal areas and Bengal, towns were prospering because they continued to trade with West Asia and South-East Asia.