Chapter 8. Vital Villages, Thriving Towns

Iron tools and Agriculture
• use of iron began in subcontinent around 3000 years ago. Some of largest collections of iron tools and weapons discovered in megalithic burials.
• Around 2500 years ago, there is evidence of growing use of iron tools. These included axes for clearing forests and iron ploughshare.
• existence of kings and kingdoms was possible because of flourishing ancient villages. Irrigation was used, Irrigation works built during this time included canals, wells, tanks & artificial lakes.

Who lived in villages?
• Three different kinds of people used to live in Indian villages in southern and northern parts of subcontinent.
• In Tamil region, large landowners were called vellalar, ordinary ploughmen were called uzhavar and landless labourers, including slaves, were called kadaisiyar and adimai.
• In northern part of country, village headman was called grama bhojaka.
• grama bhojaka was often largest landowner. Generally, he had slaves and hired workers to cultivate land. He was a powerful person; king often used him to collect taxes from village. He functioned as a judge and sometimes as a policeman.
• Men and women such as dasa karmakara, who did not own land and had to earn a living working on fields owned by others.
• In most villages, there were some crafts persons such as blacksmith, potter, carpenter & weaver.
• Around 2300 years ago, some of earliest works written in Tamil, called Sangam literature, were written. These texts were called Sangam because poets were thought to have written and put them together in groups called sangams that met in city of Madurai.

Finding Out about Cities
• Jatakas were stories probably composed by ordinary people and then written down and preserved by Buddhist monks.
• Another piece of evidence to know about life in early cities was Sculptor. They were used to depict daily lives of people during those years. Statues depicted people’s lives in towns, villages & forests.
• Many of these sculptures were used to decorate railings, pillars & gateways of buildings that were visited by people.
• Another way of finding out about early cities is from accounts of sailors and travellers who visited them.
• Many of cities developed 2500 years ago were capitals of Mahajanapadas and were surrounded by fortification walls.
Ring Wells: In many cities, archaeologists have found rows of pots or ceramic rings arranged one on top of other. These are called ring wells. These seem to have been used as toilets in some cases and as drains and garbage dumps. These ring wells are generally found in individual houses.
• Wealth is measured in terms of coins and archaeologists found several thousands of coins belonging to this period.
• earliest coins were in use for about 500 years with punch-marked coins that are usually rectangular or sometimes square or round in shape, either cut out of metal sheets or made out of flattened metal globules.
• Punch-marked coins discovered over most parts of subcontinent and remained in circulation till early centuries CE.

Cities with Many Functions
• Mathura is an important settlement for more than 2500 years because it was located at crossroads of two major routes of travel and trade – from northwest to east and from north to south.
• Mathura became centre of extremely fine sculpture and it was an important religious centre for Buddhist, Jainas & Krishna devotees. We have found short inscriptions from Mathura mentioning goldsmiths, blacksmiths, weavers, basket makers, garland makers and perfumers.

Crafts and Crafts Persons
• Northern Black Polished Ware was one of famous potteries found in ancient Indian subcontinent. pottery is commonly found in northern part of Indian subcontinent.
• NBPW is a hard, wheel made, metallic looking ware with a shiny black surface. potter used to expose earthenware to very high temperature in his kiln which resulted in blackening of its outer surface. A fine black slip was applied on this, which gave pottery a mirror-like shine.
• Varanasi and Madurai were famous cloth manufacturing centres. Both men and women worked in these centres.
• Shrenis were associations of crafts persons and merchants. These shrenis of crafts persons provided training, procured raw material and distributed finished product.
• Shrenis served as banks, where rich men and women deposited money. It was invested and part of interest was returned or used to support religious institutions such as monasteries.

Rules for Spinning and Weaving
• rules describe how spinning and weaving could be done in workshops under supervision of a special official.
• Widows, young women who are differently-abled, nuns, mothers of courtesans, retired women servants of king, women who have retired from service in temples, may be used for processing wool, bark, cotton, hemp & flax. They should be paid according to quality and quantity of work.
• Women who are not permitted to leave their homes can send maidservants to bring raw material from superintendent and take finished work back to him.
• Women who can visit workshop should go at dawn to give their work and receive their wages.
• If a woman does not complete her work, she will have to pay a fine and her thumbs can be cut off.’

• Rome is one of oldest cities in Europe and developed around same time as cities in Ganga valley.
• Rome was capital of one of largest empires — one that spread across Europe, North Africa and West Asia.
• Augustus, one of most important emperors, who ruled about 2000 years ago, said that he found Rome a city of brick and made it into a city of marble. He and later rulers, built temples and palaces.

A closer look: Arikamedu
• There was a coastal settlement in Pondicherry which existed between 2200 and 1900 years ago called Arkimedu. It was a coastal settlement where ships unloaded goods in warehouses from distant lands.
• Other objects found at Arikamedu were pottery from Mediterranean region, such as amphorae and stamped red-glazed pottery, called Arretine Ware, which was named after a city in Italy.
• Roman lamps, glassware, cloth dyeing tanks have been found at site. There is plenty of evidence for making of beads from semi-precious stones and glass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *