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
6.1 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