CHAPTER-32 : Sequence of Social Changes

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Social Evolution in Ancient India: From Egalitarian to Feudal

Early Society (Pre-Vedic and Vedic Period):

  • Paleolithic Age:Small hunter-gatherer groups.
  • Neolithic and Chalcolithic Age:Settled communities near rivers and hills.
  • Rig Vedic Society (Pastoral and Tribal):
    • Cattle rearing as primary source of livelihood.
    • War and booty as means of wealth acquisition.
    • Semi-nomadic lifestyle with emphasis on kinship.
    • Early social classes: rajas (chiefs), warriors, priests.

Vedic Transition to Agriculture:

  • Shift from pastoralism to agriculture upon reaching western UP.
  • Peasants supported nobles, warriors, and priests.
  • Limited use of iron, no metal money, or professional army.
  • Peasant militia replaced tribal militia.

Post-Vedic Transformation (Iron Age):

  • Aryanization:Spread of Indo-Aryan languages and dominance of upper classes.
  • Ironization:Use of iron tools revolutionized agriculture, crafts, and warfare.
  • Urbanization:Growth of towns boosted trade, artisans, and state income.
  • Varna System:Consolidation of social hierarchy around 5th century BC.

The Gangetic Empires and Social Crisis (1st-3rd Century AD):

  • Flourishing empires, trade, and urbanism.
  • Art reached a peak.
  • Crisis in the 3rd century AD:
    • Described as “Kali Age” in Puranas.
    • Referred to as “varnasankara” (mixing of varnas).
    • Peasants and laborers refused assigned roles.

Rise of Landed Classes (from 3rd Century AD):

  • Difficulty collecting taxes led to land grants for maintenance of elites.
  • Positive aspects of land grants:
    • Spread of agriculture, medicine (Ayurveda), writing, and languages.
    • Increased cereal production.
    • Integration of aboriginal people.
  • Negative aspects:
    • Emergence of a landed elite living off peasants.
    • Deterioration of women’s status in upper classes (Sati practice).


  • Ancient Indian society transformed from egalitarian to feudal.
  • Land grants became a turning point in social structure.
  • Women’s roles diverged between classes.

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