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1.The critical edition of the "MAHABHARATA" 

  •  A team comprising dozens of scholars initiated the task  of preparing a critical edition of  the Mahabharata under leadership of  V.S Suthankar 

  • common verses and elements Searched through the subcontinent Taken together, more than half the 13,000 pages are devoted to these Variations 

  • This project took 47 years to complete.

2. Kinship And Marriage,

Many rules and Varied Practices 

2.1 Finding out about Families 

  • Families are usually parts of larger networks of people defined as relatives or to use more technical term, Kinfolk

  •  According to Historians, families and kinship are as important because they provide an insight into people's thinking it is likely that some of these ideas would have shaped their actions just as actions may have led to changes in attitudes

2.2 The Ideal Of Patriliny

  • Under patriliny sons could claim the resources  (including the throne in case of kings) of  the fathers when the latter died

  • Around 6th century BCE onwards most ruling dynasties claimed to follow this system

  • Although there were variations  in practice

  • (a) no sons in  some Situations brothers succeeded one another

  • (b) Sometimes other kinsmen claimed the throne Whereas in exceptional circumstances, women Such as Prabhavati Gupta exercised power 

  • Patriliny is evident in mantras ritual texts Such as the in Rigaveda

2.3 Rules of Marriage

  • Sons were important for the continuity of the patrilineage, whereas daughters were viewed rather diffrently within the framework daughters had no claim to the resources of the household.

  • Marrying  them into families outside the kin was Considered desirable This type of marriage known as "Exogamy" This gave rise to the belief that Kanyadana or the gift of a daughter in marriage was an important religious duty of the father.

  • A Questioning of  earlier beliefs and practices led to laying codes of  Social behaviour in  great detail by brahmans 

  • These were meant to be followed by Brahmanas in particular and the rest of Society in general.

  • From c. 500 BCE, these names were compiled

  • In Sanskrit texts known as Dharmashastras and Dharmasutras 

  • One of such important works, the Manusmriti was compiled between C 200BCE - 200CE

  •  Brahmans had given themselves universal validity and what they prescribed had to be obeyed by everybody 

There were eight kinds of marriages mentioned in Dharmashastra Or Dharmasutras. Those were : 

1) Brahma form of marriage

2) Daiva form of marriage 

3) Arsha form of marriage

4)Prajapatya form of marriage

5) Asura form of marriage 

6)Gandharva form of marriage.

7) Rakshas a form of marriage 

8) Paishacha form of marriage

2.4 The Gotra Of Women 

  • One Brahmanical practice, evident from (1000 BCE used to classify people in terms of gotras)

  • Each gotra was and all those who after a Vedic Seer belonged to the Same gotra were regarded as his descendants

  • There were two rules about gotra 

a) women were expected to give up their father's gotra and adopt that of their husband on marriage

b)Members of same gotras couldnt marry

  • Sometimes names of men and women were derived from gotra, For instance: Satavahanas who ruler over parts of western india and the Deccan 

  • raja Gotami puta Si Satakani 

  • raja Gotami puta Sami Siri-Yana Satakani

  • Some of the Satavahanas rulers were polygynous

  • Names of the women who married satvahanas rulers indicates that many of them had  names derived from gotras such Gotama and Vasistha, their fathers gotras

2.5 Were mothers important ? 

  • Satavahana rulers were identified through metronymics whereas we know there Succession to the throne was  generally patrilineal 

3. Social Differences Within and beyond the framework of Caste

3.1 The "right" occupation

  • The Dharmasutras and  Dharmashastras contained rules about the ideal "occupations" of the four categories or varnas, these were :

1) Brahmanas (at the apex) & To study and teach the vedas, perform sacrifices and get sacrifices performed and  give and receive gifts

2) Kshatriyas - To engage in warfare, protect people administer justice, study the vedas, get sacrifices performed

3) Vaishyas To engage in  trade , agriculture and pastoralism

4) Shudras To Serve the three higher varnas These were at the bottom.

  • Brahmanas adopted Some strategies for enforcing these norms

A) to"Assert that the Varna order was of divine origin

b) They advised  kings to ensure that the norms were followed within their kingdoms 

C) They attempted to persuade people that their Status was determined by birth. So in this way they ensured legitimacy in Society

3.2 Non-kshatriya Kings

  • Only kshatriyas could be kings according to The Kshatriya Brahmanas 

  • This perception was changed by many ruling lineages probably had different origines. for instance mauryas who were not kshatriyas for Brahmanas but for buddhists they were considered as kshastriya 

  • The Shungas and kanvas, the immediate Successors of mauryans  were Brahmanas The Shakas who Came were from Central Asia regarded as mlechchhas, barbarians or outsiders by the Brahmanas

  • In contrast of this earliest inscriptions in Sanskrit described how Rudradaman, the best known Shaka ruler (C.2nd century CE) rebuilt Sudarshana lake.

  • The best known ruler of the Satvahana dynasty, Gotami puta Sin Satakani claimed to be both unique Brahman a destroyer of the pride of kshatriyas 

  • Therefore political power was effectively open to anyone who tould muster Support and resources and rarely depended  on birth as kshatriya

3.3 Jatis and Social mobility

  • In Brahmanical theory, jati like varna, was based birth 

  • While the Number of varna was fixed, at four there was no restrictions on the number of jatis

  • Brahmanical authorities encountered many new groups which did not easily fit in the fourfold varna system, they classified as a jati

  • For instance people living in forests such as the nishadas goldsmith, etc. Jati which shared a Common occupation or profession were Sometimes organised unto Shrenis or guilds 

  • Many record the histories of these groups in inscription Such as Stone inscription found on Mondasor (MP) records the history of guild of Silk weavers

3.4 Beyond the four varnas Integration

  • Due to diversity of the Subcontinent, populations whose social practices were not influenced by Brahmanical ideas 

  • Sanskrit texts, they are often described as  uncivilised or even animal like.For instance Categories such as nishada, nomadic pastoralists etc

3.5 Beyond the four varnas Subordination and Conflict

  • Brahmanas Considered some people as being outside the system classified "untouchable"

  • Those Connected with  the performance of rituals were sacred and by extension "pure"

  • In Sharp contrast, some activities were regarded as 'polluting' including handling Corpses and dead animals. Those who performed such tasks, designated as chandals, placed at the bottom of the hierarchy 

The Manusmriti laid down the "duties" of the chandals, such as :

1)They had  to live outside. discarded utensils and wear cloths of dead 

2) They could not walk around the village, and  cities at night 

3)They had to dispose of the bodies of those who had  no relatives and serve the executioners


Polyandry is the practice of a woman having Several husbands.


Is the Practice of man  having several wives​

4. Beyond Birth Resources And Status

  • Slaves, landless agricultural labourers, hunters, fisherfald, pastoralists, peasants, village headman, craft person, merchants emerged as Social actors in  different parts of the Subcontinent their social positions were often shaped by their access to economic resources

4.1 Gendered access to property

  • According to the Manusmriti the paternal estate was to  be divided equally amongst Sons after the death of the parents with Special Share for the eldest women  Could not claim Share of these resources

  • Stridhana (women's wealth ) could be inherited by their children, without the husband having claim on it

  • Manusmriti warned women  against holding family property, or even their own valuables without the husband's permission

  • Epigraphic and textual  evidence suggests that upper class  women may have had access to resources  land ,Cattle and money were generally controlled by men.

4.2 Varna and access to property 

  • Varna was the another criteria for regulating access to property or wealth.

  • The wealthiest man were the * kings And the kshastriyas 

  • were the Brahmanas kings are almost invariably depicted as wealthy, priests are also generally shown to be rich, though there are Occasional depictions of the poor Brahmana .

  • Buddhists rejected the idea of claims to status the basis of birth.

4.3 An alternative Social Scenario

  • Sharing wealth People  either claimed or were assigned on the basis their wealth

  • However, there were other possibilites as well;

  • Situations where man who were generous were respected  while those were misenty or simply accumlated wealth for themselves were despised. 

  • One area where these values were cherished was ancient Tamilakam, there were several chiefdoms around 2,000 years ago.

5. Explaining Social Differences A social Contract 

  • Buddhists suggests an alternative understanding of the Social inequalities and  of the institutions required to regulate the social conflict

  • The Text known as the Sutta Pitaka suggested that all beings lived an "idyllic state of peace, taking from nature only what they needed for each meal 

  • If human beings were responsible for the creation of the system, they could also change it in time

6.Handling Texts

6.1 Historians and the Mahabharata 

  • Language and content version of  the Mahabharata we have been considering is in Sanskrit 

  • Historians usually classify the content of present day texts under two broad heads

i) sections that contain Stories, designated as the narrative

ii) sections that contain prescriptions about Social norms, designated as didactic 

  • This division is by no means watertight the didactic Sections include the stories and narrative often contains social message 

6.2 Author(s) and dates 

  • The original story was probably composed by charioteer bards known as Sutas who generally accompanied kshatriya warriors to the battlefield and Composed poems Celebrating  victory and other achievements

  • From the 5th century BCE, Brahmanas took Over the story and began to commit to writing

  • This was  the time when chiefdoms such as those of  kurus and the Panchalas around whom the story of  the epic revolves were gradually becoming kingdoms

  • Another phase in the composition of the text between C.200 BCE and CE, the period between when the worship of Vishnu was growing in importance and Krishna one of the important figures of the epic, was coming to be identified with Vishnu

  • Subsequently between C200 and 400 BCE, large didactic sections resembling the Manusmriti were added 

  • Composition of  Mahabharata traditionally attributed to a sage named Vyasa

6.3 The Search for convergence 

  • Mahabharata an epic contains vivid descriptions of battles, forests, palaces and settlements

  • In 1951-52 the archaeologist B.B Lal excavated at village named Hastinapura Meerut (UP) it suggests that it may have been the capital that the Kurus mentioned in the text 

  • lal found evidence of five occupational levels

  • Second phase (c. 12th 7th centuries BCE): "Within the limited area excavated, no definite plans of houses were obtained, but walls of mud and mud bricks were duly encountered.

  • For the third phase (C.6th-3rd centuries BCE) "Houses of this period were built of mud brick as well as burnt bricks Soakage Jars and brick drains were used draining out refuse water, while terracotta ring well  may have been used both wells and drainage pits." 

Draupadi's marriage with the Pandavas,

  • On instance  of polyandry that is central to the narrative. 

  • However, historians attempted to explain it in variety of ways.

  • Some suggest  that a polyandrous union indicates that polyandry may have been prevalent amongst ruling elites at some point of time whereas other suggests polyandry gradually fell disfavour amongst Brahmanas

  • Some historians suggest that the practice of polyandry may have  Seemed unusual from Brahmanical point of view 

  • it was prevalent in Himalyan region Other suggests that there may have been Shortage of women during times of warfare and this led to polyandry 

  • Some early sources note that polyandry was not the only or even the most prevalent form of marriage

7. A Dynamic Text

  • Mahabharata is a dynamic text as Several Stories that originated in Specific regions or Circulated among certain people found their way into the epic

  • The central story was often retold in different ways and such as in plays, dance  and other kinds of narrations.

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Dec 31, 2023
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Dec 19, 2023
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Great notes


Sep 14, 2023
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This is so great!

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