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Trade Centers of Early Medieval Eastern India and Their connectivity

Show simple item record Kumar, A. 2018-05-11T04:43:32Z 2018-05-11T04:43:32Z 2017
dc.identifier.citation Kumar,A.(2017). Trade Centers of Early Medieval Eastern India and Their connectivity. The International Conference on Land Transportation, Locomotive Heritage and Road Culture - 2017, Centre for Heritage Studies,University of Kelaniya,Sri Lanka. p.04-06. en_US
dc.description.abstract The Post Gupta social formation was marked by the emergence of regional identities. Right from the time of the Guptas, and more so during the post Gupta time the process of the origin and evolution of states which was till then confined to the upper and middle valleys of Ganga with some activities on this front also going on in some other parts of the sub-continent, came to acquire a regional dimension. This was preceded by a large-scale agrarianisation of the erstwhile peripheral areas and this in turn set in motion the beginnings of differing patterns of regional economies during the period. In the case of eastern India, despite sub-regional variations, one encounters the emergence of a cultural idiom that can be said to have assumed an identity of its own. While talking about eastern India, one needs to take into consideration the differing conjunction of forces that operated in its three sub-regions – Mithila, Bengal and Orissa. While a large part of Bihar constituting the mid-Ganga valley had hitherto been the core area of economic development, the area of Bengal was yet to undergo that process of the exploitation of natural resources. Despite the Magadhan intrusions into these areas and the emergence of localized state systems the developed elements of material culture had at best made only a nominal presence with their major segments remaining in the backwaters of economic development. Bengal was either commercial or administrative, but the situation started changing during the Gupta period. There are references indicating that such centres continued to exist during Gupta and the post-Gupta period with changed character. Most of the urban centres were converted into either religious or fortified administrative nuclei during this period. This change in character itself is indicative of their dissociation from the mercantile activities. There is hardly any convincing evidence of large scale external trade in the early eastern India. The decline in trade is attested by the decline in the fortunes of both Tamralipti and Saptagrama by the early medieval times. Seemingly, the expanding agrarian economy along with the on-going process of state formation in the area sustained the urban centres that also emerged as centres of community activities in different regions. Responses to these queries shall, no doubt, assume the centrality in any discourse related to the making of early medieval India. Such an exercise needs to explicate the concern that all region-specific developments, if these have to have any bearing on the attempts to construct our past, have to be related to the broader processes of the concurrently dominant social formation. A negation of this reality would tantamount to the denial of the elements of commonality in regional formation in north India. Such a stance leads to the projection of a pattern of cultural evolution characterized by the insolubly situated and spatially fragmented societies. Adherence to such a formation brings one face to face with a number of questions that are conceptually uncomfortable. If the process of evolution of regional cultures is exclusively rooted in the complexities of their respective spatial context, then why is it that such a process, almost in every region, starts during the same period, i.e. the 5th-6th centuries A.D.? Has it anything to do with the social restructuring that the upper and middle valleys of Ganga underwent during this period? Moreover, how to rationalize for those elements of regional cultures, too intelligibly articulated to be ignored, that were obviously disseminated from the mid-Ganga valley? The construction of an “alternate mode” of analysis, therefore, cannot afford to disengage itself from the dominant historical process of the times. It is with these concerns at the centre stage that the present paper seeks to explore the twin issues of the differential pattern of urban growth in north India during the Gupta period and the factors responsible for the emergence of cultural nuclei (the contemporary urban pattern being one of its manifestations) in the erstwhile peripheral regions. An archaeological survey of northern India of the times brings to the fore a significant chronological dimension of the habitational pattern of the early Indian urban centres. Despite suggestion to the contrary fitted into any universally applicable and chronologically standardized format. The dominant stand in the current debate on the question of urban decay in early India, however, ignores this variant chronological schema of decline obviously to buttress the hypothesis of the emergence of the homogenetic and chronologically uniform feudal formation of the Gupta/post-Gupta period. This dichotomy between urban tradition and feudal formation has been accorded such an absolute relevance in Indian historiography that complete negation of urban form becomes a logical deduction in the context of the feudal mode of production. Is the antagonism between feudalism and towns, so intense? Does one negate the other so comprehensively? Or does it distinctly underline a pattern of urban decline that was both qualitative and quantitative in nature? What is then the specific form of the opposition between the two? Marx, in his apparently Eurocentric definition of the specificity of the feudal town, does lay bare the dynamics of the relationship: “The history of the classical antiquity is the history of the cities, but of cities founded on landed property and agriculture: Asiatic history is a kind of undifferentiated unity of town and countryside (the largest cities must be regarded here as royal camps as works of artifice created above the economic construction proper); the Middle Ages (Germanic period) begin with the land as the seat of history, whose further development then moves forward in the opposition between town and countryside; the modern age is the urbanization of the country, not the realization of the city as in antiquity”. This opposition need not be construed as a complete negation of towns in the feudal complex. The complexity of an inherent antagonism between feudalism and towns as well as the latter’s separation from the countryside finds an echo in the writings of Weber, Braudel and Sjoberg who delimit the town as an institutional expression of power. Taking the cue from Weber, Philip Abrams situates the town in a larger social context called the complex of domination, which is marked by a struggle to constitute and elaborate power. Such a concept of domination and power associated with the medieval European towns had a crucial bearing on the explanations related to the formation of the cultural and economic base for the origins of capitalism. The projection of these “non-feudal islands in the feudal seas” as the prime mover towards capitalism underlines this position. The more recent writings on this topic, however, do not talk in terms of an absolute antagonism between feudalism and towns; rather they underscore the changing functional nature of these settlements. Now the process of urbanization is sought to be situated within the feudal system and the medieval towns are seen as development integral to it. Significantly, it has been suggested that the feudal pattern of social control constrained economic within towns and instead of looking for urban origins of capitalism, one should look for its rural roots. A feudal society, therefore, does not negate the very tradition of urbanization; it only makes the town bereft of meaningful economic initiatives. The suggestion that some of the early towns declined and got transformed into centres of pilgrimage underscores a similar functional mutation. Trade primarily due to the new social context was sought to be localized, a development well-articulated with the popularity of hattas (local market). They were periodical in nature and near the religious centers. In the early medieval economic and social circumstances, religious centers developed, which further led to the construction of temples by the rulers as well as by the locally powerful communities. It must be noted that these temples were not as gigantic or of great artistic value either as compared to the Buddhist monasteries of contemporary eastern India. The reason behind this was probably the fact that the Buddhist monasteries were built by the state or supported directly by them as well as patronized by the rich business community. On the contrary few of the Brahmanical structures were getting these advantages and they were having support of the local followers. From the various excavation and exploration reports by archaeologists temple structures of this period have been reported very often. But the ancient historiography of eastern India, obsessed with the Buddhist, Jaina and other heterodox monuments, has tended to just ignore it. The question why such a large number of temples came up during this period, which is spread over the whole of modern Bihar and West Bengal, particularly near the important Buddhist sites, was never posed. Moreover, the question why the Pala rulers who were known for their Buddhist inclination later extended critical support to Brahmans has also remained unaddressed. References regarding local markets near these temples are examples of economic activities being carried out in these places. The growing importance of Tirthayatras succeeded to some extent in establishing a worthwhile contact between the other centres of the contemporary period. Religious centres were well connected to each other by the land and river routes. The majority of these centres was situated on the ancient trade routes of Bihar i.e. Mithila-Rajgriha, Mithila-Kapilavastu, Mithila -Champa, Mithila-Tamralipti, Pataliputra-Champa, Rajgriha-Gaya and Pataliputra-Gaya. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.publisher The International Conference on Land Transportation, Locomotive Heritage and Road Culture - 2017 en_US
dc.subject Trade Centers en_US
dc.subject Early Medieval Eastern India en_US
dc.title Trade Centers of Early Medieval Eastern India and Their connectivity en_US
dc.type Article en_US

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