Land still remained the main source of tax revenue for the kings. Villages remained the basic unit of administration. But many changes were happening which changed the balance of power during this period.
There was no single ruler who was enough powerful to have total control over the Indian subcontinent. Kings usually took steps to win powerful people. They often chalked out power-sharing agreements. There were many people who were economically, socially or militarily powerful. The following examples illustrate this fact:
Some posts were made hereditary. This meant that the son got a particular post after the death of this father. Let us take the example of poet Harisena. He was a Maha-danda-nayaka (Chief Judicial Officer) and his father held the same post.
There were many instances when a single person held many posts. Let us take the example of Harisena once again. He also held the posts of Kumar-amatya (important minister) and Sandhi-vigrahika (minister of war and peace).
Many important men exercised authority in local administration. Some examples of such persons are; the nagara-shreshthi (chief banker or merchant), sarthavaha (leader of the merchant caravan) and the heads of the kayasthas (scribes).
These policies appear quite effective in keeping a control over the kingdom to certain extent. But, gradually, the local satraps grew in power and eventually set up their own independent kingdoms.
Some of the kings continued to maintain a well organized army. A new trend also emerged during this period. Some military leaders maintained an army and provided the army to the king when required. Such military leaders did not get salary. But they got grants in the form of land. They also got the right to collect land revenue. The revenue was utilized to maintain the soldiers, horses and battle equipments. Such military leaders were known as samanthas. When a ruler became weak, a Samantha tried to become independent.
The assembly of Brahmin landowners was called the sabha. Such assemblies functioned through various sub-assemblies. The sub-assemblies looked after different aspects; like irrigation, road construction, farming operations, temple construction, etc.
The assembly of non-brahmin landowners was called the ur. The organization of merchants was called the nagaram. Usually, these assemblies were controlled by rich merchants and landowners. Such local assemblies survived for centuries in south India.
While most of the authors and poets sang hosannas about the kings, some of them also mentioned about ordinary people. Many stories, plays and poems tell us about the life of common people.
Sanskrit had become the language of the kings and the Brahmins. Prakrit was the language of ordinary men and women.
Condition of Untouchables: Fa Xian had written about the condition of untouchables in India during that time. People who were not allowed to mix with mainstream society were considered as untouchables.
According to Fa Xian; when an untouchable person entered the village he needed to warn others about his presence. He constantly beat a stick to the ground to alert others. This ensured that people could avoid coming anywhere close to him. The untouchable lived outside the city or the village.
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