Saturday, 2 January 2010


Research Scholar,
Rajshri Tandon Open University, Allahabad.

The  period of 5th -6th cen. BC was period of socio-religious turmoil. In it the existing Brahmanical religion lost its earlier appeal because of the rise of new religions like Jainism and Buddhism. This is also significant because it was a period of the growth and development of new cities which is now termed as ‘Second Urbanization’. (As regards rise of new cities especially in the Gangetic Valley in the pre Budhist stage of Indian History.)
The Most productive force of development of urban life in the later Vedic period was familiarity of the Indian people with iron and its multiple use. The succeeding period of the next 200 years extending from the later half of the 6th cen BC to the first half of the 4th cen BC was marked by the rise of great monarchies in North India. This period is to be characterized by the rise of the Magadhan imperialism. A picture of material life in North India, especially in eastern U.P. and Bihar can be drawn on the basis of the Pali texts and the Sanskrit sutra literature in combination with archaeological material. Archaeologically, the 5th cen BC marks the beginning of N.B.P.W. phase in the Gangetic Plains. In association with this pottery there are found iron implements especially those, which are meant for crafts and agriculture. This phase also saw the beginning of metal money, use of burnt bricks and ring wells. A study of Kanpur district shows that the settled area in PGW phase was thrice the area in B.R.W. phase. This settled area expanded over two and a half times during the NBPW phase. As settlement expanded the population kept increasing. Thus the NBPW phase starting around 500 BC saw a considerable increase in both settlements and population.1
The NBPW phase marked the beginning of the second urbanization in India. The Harrapan town disappeared in 1900 BC. Following that for about 1500 years, no towns were established in India. However, from about 1200 BC, we notice settlements in the Doab and the neighboring area. We find two types of settlements in the lower Doab in 100-600 BC based on size and location. This settlement hierarchy is regarded as the most important indicator of urbanization. Large settlements may enjoy some advantages over the smaller ones but without crafts, coins, trade and agricultural surplus even a large settlement cannot grow into a town. Many towns mentioned in the Pali and Sansrit texts such as Kaushambi Sravasti, Shringaverpur, Ayodhya, Kapilavastu are the towns of second Urbanization.2
Many towns were seats of government but whatever be the causes of their origin, they eventually became markets and came to be inhabited by artisans and merchants. The city of Champa near Bhagalpur is called Vaniyagama in Prakrit text, and means a settlement of merchants, Artisan acquiring further proficiency in handling iron tools and implements and their method of working to serve the needs and requirements for city architecture and planning are well documented in the contemporary literature. Both artisans and merchants became organized into guilds known as ‘Silpisangha’ under their respective headmen like ‘Vishvakarma’ Sthapati’ ‘Taksak’ ‘Sutragrahi’ and many others. We hear of 18 guilds of artisans but only the guilds of smiths, carpenters, leather workers and painters are specified. Both artisans and merchants lived in fixed localities in towns. Thus the team ‘Vessa’ was used for merchant street. Thus specialization in crafts developed on the strength of the guild system as well as localization. Generally crafts were hereditary and the son learned his family trade from the father.3
The city life promoted some special features like public food houses and also gambling centers attached with those for the particular advantage of peoples who had to leave their houses to earn their livelihood elsewhere. But such new developments were against social norms as ‘Apastambh’ an ancient jurist, has remarked in his book ‘Vadurika’ that people belonging to higher social classes should not dine outside their family lineage. This adversely affected the feelings of the Bhikshus who used to take cooked food in the from of ‘Bhiksha’ in accordance with their code of law.4
The products of crafts were transported by merchants over long distance and we could see that all important cities of the period were situated on river banks and the trade routes were connected with one another.
Trade was facilitated by the use of money. The coin or metal money bearing the stamp of an authority, was invented in the 7th cen BC in Lydia in Asia Minor.5 The terns ‘niksha’ and ‘satamana’ in the vedic texts are taken to be names of coins but they seem to have been prestige objects made of metal. It appears that in the vedic times exchange was conducted through barter and the mutual gift system served as a mode of exchange in pre Buddhist times. Sometimes cattles served the purpose of currency. Coins made of metal appear first in the age of Gautam Budha. The earliest were made largely of silver though a few copper coins also existed. They are called punch marked because pieces of silver and copper were punched with certain marks such as a hill, tree, fish, bull, elephant and crescent.
The grammarians speak of iron plough share whose emergence was landmark in the history of agriculture in India. This made the tilling of hard soil much easier and its introduction resulted in surplus food production.6
If the history of this period is to be marked for expansion and consolidation of power as represented by the Magadhan imperialism in the fortification and new warfare weapons and techniques in the political sphere, it is also to be characterized by agricultural surplus, industrial excess, their mutual exchange between the rural and urban population,  rise of improved trade routes and transport facilities and spatial and occupational mobility of the craftsmen in the economic life of the country. The city architecture gives us the record of allotment of wards on economic basis. It was an important landmark in the history. By this period of Indian history, land and water transport facilitated by extensive use of iron resulted in the growth of trade and commerce. It led to the evolution of metropolitan cities on important land routes of the country and sea coasts.
It may be observed here that traders from distant land used to flock to these trade and mercantile centers. City was clearly identified as a populous centre, essentially depending on trade, commerce and industrial products. The village was primarily a cluster of agriculturist and grain producing people. The city, on the other hand, was a well planned settlement. It was characteristically representing a conglomerate.
This distinction is clearly reflected in the observation of ‘Baudhyana’. It speaks of ‘pura-renu’ ie dust of the city or urban hatred for city life by observing that the mind of urbanite is defiled and senses are rendered impure due to the dust of the use.7 Panini had also visualized the two contradictory features of city life in the early 5th cen. BC and consequently had composed an aphorism to this effect (Nagarat kutsana-prayina yoh) i.e. commendable. It has condemned several aspects of city life. The citizens were noble, polite, polished and contained worthy qualities in them. The condemned aspect of city life was represented by the livelihood of thieves, gamblers, drunkards, prostitutes and go between.
New experiments and techniques were developed in the urban life for their settlement. It shows the growth of six big cities like Pataliputra, Vaisali, Varanasi, Kausasmbi, Sravasti and Ujjain.
With these developments a new class called the Vigrahikas (Shopkeepers) emerged.They sold food items. So, a change in the attitude towards food habits is evident. According to the SuttaPitaka, (20:16:6) this class of people helped a lot in the economic progress in the exiting society. This economic progress led to the independence of women, who were now holding an important position in the society. This also led to the fragmentation of family ties and gave birth to a class of women known as the ‘Ganika’.They have played a vital role in the political history of that period. Successful workers under this category are ‘Amrapali’ of Vaishali and many others mentioned in ‘Baudhayan’, a Pali text.8 The Budda was aware of the fact that people were being stopped to interact with these Ganikas, who were charging 50 karshapans for a night and were rather considered as auspicious and brought to the function with great pomp and show. It is interesting to note that Gautama Buddha despite imposing restrictions on the entry of women in his order, stayed with Amrapali at her palace gifted by Nagar shresthi. That amply shows his warmth towards her(Ganika) in other words, it was the toleration shown by the Buddha towards people considered as ‘low’ by the Brahmanical society (including the Surdas).It has injected a new self confidence among the wider masses including traders and the down trodden.
Although rural settlements of the NBPW phase have not been excavated. Shreds of this ware have been found at over 400 sites in the plains of Bihar and those of eastern and central U.P.9 The beginning of crafts commerce and urbanization in the Mid Gangetic Basin was not possible without a strong rural base. Princes, Priests, artisans, traders, administrators, military personnel and numerous other functionaries could not live in town unless taxes, tributes and tithes were available in sufficient measure to support them. Non agriculturists living in towns had to be fed by agriculturist living in villages. In return, artisans and traders living in towns made tools, cloth and make them available to the rural folk. A substantial number of them related to the layers of about the 5th or 4th cen BC and were probably meant for the use of the peasants who bought them with cash or kind.
Numerous villagers are mentioned in the Pali texts and towns seen to have been situated amidst the cluster of villages. It seems that nucleated rural settlement in which all the people settled at one place with their agricultural lands wer mostly outside. The settlements were first established in the Mid Gangetic plains during the age of Gautam Buddha. The Pali texts speak of three types of Villages. Firstly, the typical village; secondly, the suburban village; Thirdly, the border villages. The village lands were divided into cultivable plots which were allowed to each family.
The peasants had to pay 1/6 of their production as tax. Taxes were collected directly by royal agents and generally no intermediate landlords existed between the peasants and the state.
Rice was the staple cereal produced in eastern U.P. and Bihar during this period. Various types of paddy and Paddy fields are described in the Pali texts It appears that paddy transplantation on large scale began in the age of Buddha.12 Until 500 BC, Paddy seeds were sown and grown exclusively in watery areas. Subsequently, however the Paddy seedlings were removed from their original field and planted some else where on a good scale.
This method revolutionized rice production. Wet Paddy products added enormously to the yield. In addition, the peasants also produced barley, pulses, millets, cotton and sugarcanes. Agriculture made great strides through the use of the iron plough share and with the immense fertility of the alluvial soil of the area.
It is also pointed that the process of socio-economic changes leading to the emergence of urbanization was technology also with agricultural exposition and intensification. Technology became central to the progress of the rural and Urban economy. Iron played a crucial role in opening the rainfed forest, hard soil areas of the Mid Gangetic basin to the clearance of the cultivation and settlement.
The production of low carbon steel began from about 600 BC. The picture of the economy that emerges form a study of the Mid Gangetic material remains. And the Pali texts are very different from the rural economy of later Vedic times in Western U.P. It also differs from the economy of the chalcolithic communities in Bihar and U.P. For the First time, an advanced food producing economy spread over the alluvial soil of the Mid Gangetic plains. It led to the beginning of an Urban economy in this area. It was an economy that provided subsistence not only to direct producers but also to many others who were neither farmers nor artisans. This made the collection of taxes and the maintenance of armies possible on a long term basis and created condition in which large territorial state could be formed and sustained.
With the growth of trade and commerce the city life brought a drastic change in the existing social ideology like an act of lending money on interest to the traders for their business and artisans to buy the raw material for their finished goods.
Buddhism being the religion propounded by the Khastriya class made a inclignation of the Khastriyas towards this religion. They with their utmost power helped in spreading the Buddhism. As Buddha had quoted that ‘Religion is a’ seed and rain is Discipline.13
The Bhikshus should follow these motto in their life by citing these examples. He came nearer to the common people especially the peasants, who were treated as low class people in the existing Brahmanical Society.
Buddhism rejected animal sacrifice and propounded the theory of Ahimsa towards animals. It was also followed the neo agriculturist society.
Thus, we would see that how 5th and 6th cen BC brought a drastic change in the prevalent society and brought openness of mind and attitude in the wider society. The liberal attitude of Buddha matched very well with the progressive spirit of Urbanization.
1. India’s  Ancient past- R.S.Sharma, Oxford Publication, Chap-17, pg.-157-163
2. Urbanization in Ancient India- U.N.Roy, Raka Prakashan, Chap-4, pg.-55-66
3. Vadurika edited by S.R.Sharma, pg.-68-71
4. Sutta Pitaka- Vol XX, pg.-16-18:6
5. Majjim Nikaya- 18-16:6
6. Baudhayan Dharmasutra 2,3,4,5,17