CHAPTER-26 : Spread of Civilization in Eastern India

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Signs of Civilization in Gupta Era

  • Defining Civilization:
    • Writing system
    • Tax collection and order maintenance
    • Social classes with specialists (priests, administrators, producers)
    • Surplus production to support non-producers
  • Advancements (4th-7th Centuries AD):
    • Developed rural economy
    • State systems formed
    • Social classes established (Eastern MP, Orissa, Bengal, Assam)

Orissa and Eastern/Southern MP

  • Kalinga (Coastal Orissa):
    • Rose to prominence under Ashoka (3rd century BC).
    • Strong state existed by 1st century BC (ruler Kharavela).
    • Ports active in 1st-2nd centuries AD (pearls, ivory, muslin trade).
    • Roman objects found at Shishupalgarh suggest trade with Roman Empire.
  • Mathara State (4th-5th Centuries AD):
    • Dominated the area between Mahanadi and Krishna rivers.
    • Developed systems for taxation, administration, and military.
    • Used gold coins for large transactions.
    • Created districts (Mahendrabhoga, Dantayavagubhoga).
    • Made land grants (agraharas) to support Brahmanas.
  • Writing and Language:
    • Writing known in coastal Orissa since 3rd century BC (Prakrit).
    • Sanskrit adoption began around 350 AD.

Bengal in 4th-7th Centuries AD

Political Developments:

  • North Bengal (4th Century AD):
    • Maharaja ruled Pokharna (Bankura district), follower of Vishnu (Sanskrit inscription).
  • Gupta Period (5th-6th Century AD):
    • Guptas became independent, controlled North Bengal.
    • Local rulers (samanta maharajas) emerged in the Ganges-Brahmaputra region (future Bangladesh).
    • Shashanka (Gauda) ruled independently by 600 AD.
  • Land transactions:
    • Copperplate documents record land sales in Pundravardhanabhukti (North Bengal) using gold coins (dinara) between 432-3 AD.
  • Southeast Bengal:
    • Samatata kingdom (Brahmaputra delta) acknowledged Samudragupta (Gupta emperor) in 4th century AD.
    • Vanga kingdom (west of Samatata) developed by 525 AD.
    • Rulers like Sama Haradeva issued gold coins (6th century).
    • Khadgas (Dhaka area), Lokanatha (Brahmana ruler, Comilla), Ratas (Comilla) – all issued land grants (6th-7th century).
  • Administration:
    • Dandabhukti (border of Bengal-Orissa) formed for tribal control and cultural influence (Sanskrit etc.).
    • Similar unit – Vardhamanabhukti (Burdwan).

Social and Economic Developments:

  • Monasteries:
    • Land grants to Buddhist monasteries in Faridpur (tax-exempt due to waste/waterlogging).
  • Brahmana settlements:
    • Large land grants to Brahmanas in Comilla (forest region).
  • Military:
    • Kingdoms maintained infantry, cavalry, elephants, and boats.
  • Administration:
    • Fiscal and administrative districts with tax collection and law enforcement.
    • Increased land endowments led to the appointment of an “agraharika” (officer) to manage them.

Assam: Early History

Kamarupa Kingdom (7th Century CE Onwards)

  • Gained prominence in the 7th century, though settlements existed near Guwahati from 4th century CE.
  • Evidenced by Ambari excavations and inscriptions showing use of Sanskrit and writing.
  • Kings adopted the title “Varman” (meaning warrior) used by Kshatriyas.
  • Buddhism flourished; visited by Chinese traveler Hsuan Tsang.

Formative Phase (5th-6th Centuries CE)

  • Influenced by Gupta Empire’s cultural reach.
  • Spread of civilization in eastern regions (North Bengal, Northwest Orissa).
  • Use of Gupta era dates in inscriptions suggests influence.
  • Rise of new states with large-scale writing, Sanskrit use, Varna system, and growth of Buddhism and Brahmanical sects (Shaivism, Vaishnavism).
  • Decline of Gupta Empire coincided with progress in outlying regions, including Assam with its alluvial soil and heavy rainfall.

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