2 Marks Questions
Answer : The Mauryan empire was regarded as a major landmark in the early Indian history because for the first time Chandragupta Maurya founded a vast empire which extended to the far North West to Afghanistan and Baluchistan. Moreover,Historians think that the messages on Ashoka inscription were very different from the other contemporary rulers.
Answer : The 6th century BCE often regarded as a major turning point in the early Indian history because:
(i) It is an era associated with the early states,cities, the growing use of iron , the development of coinage,etc.
(ii) This era witnessed the growth of diverse system of thoughts like Buddhism and Jainism.
Answer : James Prinsep was an officer in the mint of the East India Company .He contributed a lot in the Indian Epigraphy by deciphering two scripts,viz. Brahmi and Khartosi in the earliest inscriptions and coins.
Answer : The Kusana rulers issued the first gold coins in the 1st century CE.For example:
(i) The wide use of gold coins indicates that the enormous value of the transactions was taking place.
(ii) Hoards of Roman coins were found in South India which indicates that trade was extended beyond political boundaries.
Answer : The Kusana rulers wished to project the notions of kingship in their coins and sculptures. Colossal statues of Kusana rulers have been found installed in a shrine at Mat near Mathura and in Afghanistan .Many Kusana rulers adopted the title of ‘Devputra’ or ‘Son of God’.
Answer : Prashatis were important source for reconstructing the histories of Gupta rulers.Historians tried to draw factual information from such compositions. These were composed in praise of kings in particular and patrons in general by poets. Harisena, the court poet of Samudragupta,composed the Prayag Prashasti(also known as Allahabad pillar inscription) where he described Samudragupta as the most powerful king of Gupta empire who was equally powerful like God and the protector of his poor subjects.
Answer : Two main features of the administration system of the Mauryan mpire were:
(i) There were five major political centers in the empire viz, Pataliputra,Taxila,Ujjayini,Tosali and Suvarnagiri.
(ii) The administrative control was strongest in areas around the capital and the provincial centers and these centers were carefully chosen by the kings.
Answer : Historians explained the reason behind the emergence of Magadha as the most powerful mahajanapada in the following ways:
(i) Agriculture was very productive in Magadha.
(ii) Magadha was rich in iron mines which provided resources for tools and weapons. Further, elephants were found in large number in this region.
Answer : During the Mauryan period,communications along both land and riverine routes was vital because:
(i) The Mauryan empire was a very vast empire. Thus, for political control, military activity and people’s movement , both land and riverine routes were required.
(ii) Communication through roadways and waterways were necessary for trade and commerce and also for the exchange of ideas and knowledge,etc.
Answer : Ashoka was the most popular ruler of the 6th century BCE as:
(i) Historians found that the messages on Ashokan inscriptions were very different from that of most rulers and suggested that he was more powerful,industrious and humble than other rulers.
(ii) Ashoka tried to hold his vast empire together by propagating Dhamma, the principles that were universally accepted by all.
Answer : James Prinsep deciphered the Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts in 1838.
With the deciphered script, we know about the political,economic history and specially, the contribution of the king in that period.
Answer : In ancient times,many land grants were recorded as inscriptions. We know these from:
(i) Many land grants were given to religious institutions or Brahmanas. Some feel land grants were done to extend agriculture to new areas.
(ii) There were regional variations in the size of land donated,ranging from small to vast stretches of uncultivated land and the rights were given to donees,i.e. the recipients of the grant.
4 Marks Questions
Answer : Inscriptions are important source to know history. But there are certain limitations of inscriptions.These were:
(i) Several thousands of inscriptions were discovered, but not all of them were deciphered or translated.
(ii) Generally, inscriptions were composed in praise of kings and patrons,e.g. Prayag Prashasti was composed in Sanskrit by Harisena, the court poet of Samudragupta who was described as equal to different deities.
(iii) The context of the inscriptions invariably projected the perspective of the person who commissioned it. But it was not recorded what we consider politically and economically significant facts of that period. For example, routine agricultural practices, the joys and sorrows of the common people were not mentioned in these inscriptions. History is not only the histories of kings, it includes different social groups and even marginalised sections of our society.
(iv) From mid 20th century, historians become more interested in political and economic changes of society(e.g. the ways in which social groups emerged). this lead to fresh investigations of old sources and in this respect,inscription had its own limitations to interpret political and economic history of India.
Answer : Historians have used a variety of sources to reconstruct the history of Mauryan Empire.These were:
(i) Things found in archaeological excavations,specially sculpture are regarded as an important source.
(ii) Contemporary works like writings of Megasthenes,Arthashastra by Chanakya are important sources regarding this period.
(iii) The Mauryans were also mentioned in later Buddhist,Jaina,Puranic and Sanskrit literature.
(iv) Moreover the inscriptions of Ashoka on rocks and pillars are regarded as the most valuable sources.
Answer : The role played by coins in the decipherment of Kharosthi script was:
Analysis of Indo-Greek coins the coins of Indo-Greek kings who rule over the north west part of the sub-continent in 2nd century BCE were analysed by the epigraphists.
Comparison with Greek script The Indo-Greek coins contain the names of kings written in Greek and Kharosthi scripts. the Kharosthi script was compared with the Greek one.
The European scholars who could read Greek, compared it with Kharosthi . There were few similarities e.g. letter ‘a’ was used in both scripts for writing names such as ‘Apollodotus’.James Prinsep identified the language of Kharosthi as Prakrit.After that ,it became possible to read longer inscriptions easily.
Answer : In the 1st century BCE Kushanas ruled over a vast kingdom extending from central Asia to North -West India.Their history has been reconstructed from inscriptions and textual traditions.the notions of kingship they wished to project are perhaps best evidenced in their coins and sculptures.The colossal statues of Kushana rulers were found in Mathura and Afghanistan.
According to some historians,this trend indicates that the Kushanas thought themselves like God.Several Kushana rulers assumed the tittle ‘Devputra’ or’Son of God’,perhaps they were influenced by Chinese leaders who called themselves ‘Sons of Heaven’.
On the other hand,histories of Gupta empire have been taken from literature,coins and inscriptions,including Prashastis. Prashastis were composed in praise of kings and patrons in general. The Prayag Prashasti composed by Harisena ,court poet of Samudragupta,is a powerful document to know about the Gupta rulers.
Answer : To increase agricultural production,some strategies were adopted from 6th century BCE to 6th century CE. These were:
(i) There was a shift to plough agriculture,The iron tipped ploughshare was used to turn the alluvial soil in areas which had high rainfall.
(ii) Irrigation through wells,tanks,canals, were started to irrigate fields to increase agricultural production.
Answer : The sources used to reconstruct the history of the Gupta rulers were:
Inscriptions Inscriptions are writings engraved on hard surfaces like stones,metals etc. These are generally composed in praise of kings in particular,and patrons in general by poets.for example,Allahabad pillar inscriptions for Prayag Prashasti were composed in Sanskrit by Harisena,the court poet of Samudragupta in praise of him.
Coins Coins are also an important source of reconstructing the history of Gupta rulers,as they include elements like scripts,images and the context in which they are found. Some of the most spectacular god coins were issued by the Gupta rulers.these coins facilitated long distance transactions from which the expansion of trade and commerce was known.
Literature historian attempted to draw factual information from compositions of Prashastis .those who composed these,often treated them as works of poetry,rather than an account that were literally true. These were written in praise of king and patron in general .Thus,historians have to constantly asses the statement made in inscriptions to judge whether they are true plausible or exaggerations.
Prashastis They contribute prominently in reconstructing the histories of the Gupta rulers,e.g. Prayag Prashasti was composed in Sanskrit for Samudragupta.
8 Marks Questions
Answer : For sources to reconstruct the history of Mauryas,refer to Q.No. 14.
System of Mauryan Administration
The growth of Magadha culminated in the emergence of the Mauryan empire. Chandragupta Maurya who founded the empire (321 BCE),extended control as far as North-West as Afghanistan and Balochistan, and his grandson Ashoka,arguably the most famous ruler of early India ,conquered Kalinga(present day Odisha).
There were five major political centers in the empire i.e. the capital Pataliputra and the provincial centers of Taxila,Ujaayini,Tosali and Suvarnagiri,that are all mentioned in Ashokan inscriptions.
Due to the vastness of the empire ,administration system of the empire was not uniform.It is likely that administrative control was strongest around the capital and the provincial centers.These centers were carefully chosen ,both Taxila and Ujayyini being situated on important long-distance trade routes,while Suvarnagiri(literally,the golden mountain) was possibly important for tapping the gold mines of Karnataka.
Communication along both land and riverine routes was vital for the existence of the empire. It is obvious that the army was an important mean for ensuring the latter.
Megasthenes mentions a committee with six sub committees for coordinating army activities.Of these ,one looked after the navy,the second managed the transport and provisions,the third was responsible for foot-soldier,the fourth for horse,the fifth for chariots and the sixth for elephants.The activities of the second subcommittee were rather varied-arranging for bullock carts to carry equipment, and recruiting servants and artisans to look after the soldiers.
Ashoka also tried to hold his empire together by propagating Dhamma,the principles of which were simple and virtually universally applicable.This,according to him ,would ensure well-being of people in this world and the next. Special officers ,known as the Dhamma Mahamatta,were appointed to spread the message of Dhamma.
Answer : Agricultural practices were transformed from 6th century BCE on wards because of increasing burden of taxes imposed by the state.The kings demanded considerable taxes from the subjects,from 6th century BCE onward. In order to fulfill this demand the farmers started finding new means to increase productivity of their crops.These new means were:
Shift Towards Plough Agriculture Agricultural practices were significantly transformed by the shift to plough agriculture which spread in the fertile alluvial river valleys of Ganga and Kaveri.
Use of Iron tipped Ploughshare In the areas of high rainfall ,the use of iron tipped plough share turned the alluvial soil into highly fertile ground.
Use of Paddy Transplantation Paddy transplantation technique was used in which seeds were first broadcast then the saplings were transplanted in water logged fields. This ensured higher ratio of survival of saplings and higher yields and dramatically increased the production of paddy crop.Although,this process requires higher degree of manual labour.
Use of Irrigation to Increase Productivity Irrigation was another strategy to increase agricultural production.the irrigation was done through wells,tanks, and sometimes canals.Committee as well as individuals organised the construction of irrigation works.The process of construction of irrigation was often recorded in the inscription of the kings.
The use of such technologies led to an increase in agricultural production which ultimately led to a growing differentiation amongst the people engaged in agriculture. The large landholders and village headmen emerged as powerful figures who exercised control over the cultivator or agricultural labourers. Thus,there was a remarkable change in the field of agriculture from 6th century BCE.
Answer : From the early centuries,the grants of land were recorded in inscription. Some inscription were recorded in copper plates.The records that have survived,give us the following facts:
(i) The land grants were given to religious institutions or Brahmanas. The Brahmanas were usually exempted from paying land revenue and other due to the king.The Brahmanas were often given the right to collect these dues from local people.
(ii) Women were not supposed have independent access to resources like land.But aristocrat women like Prabhavati Gupta,daughter of Chandragupta II had access to lands.
(iii) All people in rural areas had to obey the new head of the village and pay him all the taxes.
(iv) Some historians claim that land grants were indicative of weakening political power,as kings were loosing control over their samantas. Sometimes ,kings tried to win allies by making grants of land.
(v) Land grants provide some insight into the relationship between cultivators and the state.
The system of trade from 600 BCE to 600 CE can be explained in the following ways:
(i) Land and river routes criss-crossed the sub-continent and extended in different directions from 6th century BCE. The ruler tried to control these routes by offering protection for a price.
(ii) These different routes were traversed by peddlers who traveled by foot.But the merchants traveled by caravans of bullock carts and pack animals.
(iii) There were seafarers.Their ventures were risky but highly profitable.
(iv) Successful merchants,designated as Manattuvan in Tamil and Setthis and Satavahanas in Prakrit were very rich.
(v) A wide range of goods were carried from one place to another. These were salt,grain,cloth,metal ores and finished products,stone,timber,medicinal plants,spices and pepper and textiles. All these were transported across the Arabian sea to the Mediterranean.
Answer : Ashoka was the first ruler who inscribed his ,messages on stone surfaces i.e.e natural rocks and polished pillars.
The major rock edicts explain the Mauryans administration specially about Ashoka .Some of the important inscriptions are discussed below:
(i) The name Ashoka was not mentioned in the inscriptions.Instead, the title viz. ‘Devanampiya'(beloved of God) and ‘Piyadassi'([pleasant to behold) were mentioned.
(ii) Ashoka condemned the desire of fame and glory. He stressed on popularity of Dhamma.
(iii)Dhamma included respect towards elders.,generosity towards Brahmanas and those who renounced worldly life,treating slaves and servants kindly and respect for religions and traditions other than one’s won.
Limitations of inscriptional evidence are:
Technical Limitations Sometime letters are very faintly engraved and thus doubts arise for inscriptions may be damaged or letters missing.
Damaged or Missing letters Sometimes important letters are damaged or missing in the inscription.It makes the work for epigraphists more difficult.
Lack of Clarity It is not always easy to be sure about the exact meaning of the words used in the inscriptions,some of which may be specific to a particular place or time.So,scholars are constantly debating on alternative ways to read inscriptions.
Undeciphered Inscriptions Thousands of inscriptions have been discovered,but not all have been deciphered,published and translated.Many inscriptions were destroyed and what we have today ,probably a fraction of it.
Non-relevance of Inscriptions Inscriptions were composed in the praise of kings and patrons in general. Not everything that is economically or politically important was recorded in the inscriptions,e.g. routine agricultural practices,the joys and sorrows of common man were not mentioned in the inscriptions.Thus it is difficult of epigraphists to give a complete picture of a society by relying on the inscriptions only.
Answer : Numismatics is the study of coins,including visual elements such as scripts and images .metallurgical analysis and the contexts in which they have been found.
The study of coins has helped the numismatics to reconstruct the possible commercial networks in the following ways:
Introduction of Coinage for Trade Facilitation To some extent, exchanges were facilitated by introduction of coinage. A wide range of goods like salt,grain,cloth,metal ores and finished products ,stone,timber,medicinal plants,etc. were carried from one place to another.These certainly required some kind of currency for exchange.
Excavation of Punch marked Coins across the Sub-continent Punch marked coins made of silver and copper(16th century BCE onward) were amongst the earliest to be minted and used. These have been recovered from excavations at a number of sites throughout the sub-continent.Numismatics have studied these and other coins to reconstruct possible commercial networks.
Kings,Merchants and Bankers as Issuing Authority Attempts made to identify the symbols on punch marked coins with specific ruling dynasties ,including Mauryas suggest these were issued by kings. It is also likely that merchants ,bankers and town people issued some of these coins.
Similarity of Kushana Coins with those of Greek and Parthians The first gold coins were issued in 1st century BCE by the Kushanas .These were virtually identical in weight with those issued by contemporary Roman emperors and the Parthian rulers of Iran have been found from several sites in North India and Central Asia.
Close connection with Roman Empire The widespread use of gold coins indicates the enormous value of transactions that were taking place. Beside,hoards of a Roman coins have been found from archaeological sites in south India. It is obvious that networks of trade were not confined within political boundaries.South India was not a part of Roman empire,but there were close connections through trade.
Answer : Between the 6th and 4th century BCE Magadhan (in present day Bihar) became the most powerful mahajanapda. Modern historian explain this development in a variety of ways:
(i) Magadha was a region where agriculture was especially productive.
(ii) Besides,iron mines (in present day Jharkhand) were accessible and provided resources for tools and weapons.
(iii) Elephant, an important component of the army,were found in forests in the region.
(iv) Also,Ganga and its tributaries provided cheap and convenient communications.
However,early Buddhist and Jain writers who wrote about Magadha attributed its power to the policies of individuals,ruthlessly ambitious kings whom Bimbisara,Ajatshatru and Mahapadma Nanda are best known ,and their minister,who helped implement their policies.
The two capitals,i.e. Rajagriha(Rajgir) and Pataliputra(Patna) of Magadha had their own advantages. Rajagriha was a fortified settlement ,located amongst the hills,thus was not easily captured. Pataliputra was easily communicable through the Ganga and its tributaries.
Source Based Questions
Answer : (i) The Prayag Prashasti also known as the Allahabad pillar inscription was composed in Sanskrit by Harisen. This Prashasti said that Samudragupta was without an antagonist on Earth and was adorned by hundreds of good actions.
(ii) The qualities of the ruler described in the excerpt are:
(a) The ruler should be powerful with plethora of good qualities.
(b) He should bring prosperity.
(c) The ruler should have compassion and should try for the upliftment of the miserable,the poor and the forlorn.
(iii) The values shown in the,above mentioned passage are relevant to contemporary society to a great extent.The rulers ought to have positive attitude for the welfare of his countrymen. He should try incessantly to bring prosperity and equality in all walks of life.
Answer : (i)we get to know about the Sudarshana lake from a rock inscription(2nd century CE) in Sanskrit,composed to record the achievements of the Shaka ruler Rudradaman.
(ii) The Sudarshana lake required repair because a storm broke the embankments of the lake and water gushed out of it.
(iii) The rulers made arrangements for irrigation that included the repair of the lakes,etc. because irrigation was crucial for advancement of the agriculture and eventually food security.The irrigation was adopted to increase the productivity thorough lakes,wells,tanks and canals.
Answer : (i) The ignorance of the king to conceal the boundaries led to such controversies.
(ii) By concealing the boundaries by markers such as stones,bones,cow’s hair,chaff,ashes,potsherds,dried cow dung,bricks,coal,pebbles and sand.These substances do not decay ion the soil and will act as markers at the intersection of boundaries.
(iii) India faces such problems in villages where land records are poorly maintained and various stake holders try to claim their ownership of the disputed land.
Answer : (i) Emperor Ashoka was called”Devanampiya Piyadassi’.Ashoka was the most important ruler of the Mauryan dynasty.He captured Kalinga and later repented on it and established the notion of Dhamma.
(ii) Importance of Inscriptions Inscriptions provide valuable information about those who commissioned it.They tell us about social and political conditions of that time when they were inscribed.
Limitations Inscriptions are source of limited information.They do not project the opinion of common people.
(iii) After the war of Kalinga ,Ashoka devoted himself to intense study of Dhamma and started instructing people about the message of Dhamma.
(iv) The king repented after the war of Kalinga because it was very painful for him, as the war led to slaughter,death and deportations of thousands of people.
Map Based Questions
Value Based Questions
Answer : (i) The people who were not satisfied with their king were elderly women and men,cultivators herders,village boys and even animals.
(ii) The reasons behind their plight are given below:
(a) They were living in abject conditions and in insecurity.
(b)There was no one to hear their complains and see their sufferings.
(c) The people became aggressive due to their miseries.They were often attacked at night by robbers. And in the day tax collectors used to come to trouble them and collect more taxes imposed on them .
After this plight the people were forced to abandon their homes and live in the forest to protect themselves from the king.
Answer : (i) The new technologies transformed the nature of agricultural production.In semi-arid areas irrigation was done by wells,tanks an less commonly by canals.
But after all these back breaking efforts,the benefits share was very uneven. It broke the society among landless agricultural laborers,small peasants ,ploughman and large landholders.
Mostly large landholders had a large piece of land and due to their richness they were able to use new technologies and hire landless agricultural labourers,ploughmen and small peasant to work on their fields to get more profits.
Due to having no land, the condition of landless laborers became very poor.They searched for work everywhere.On the other hand,small farmers were not able to use new technologies in their fields due to lack of financial assistance.
This created uneven situation ,where large landholders became more powerful and enjoyed more benefits,whereas small peasants and landless labourers enjoyed less benefits.