The sixth century Be is seen as the beginning of the phase of the Northern Black Polished (NBP) ware. (The third century Be being associated with the mid-NBP phase when burnt bricks and ringwell began to be used). What is called as the 'second urbanisation in India' following the end of the Indus Valley Civilisation, is said to have begun in this period. Pataliputra was founded in the fifth century. Gties such as Banaras, Vaisali, Taxila, Ayodhya, Ujjain, Kausambi, Rajagriha and Mathura, mainly established along the banks of rivers, became well-connected trade routes. Important towns were fortified. Houses were constructed of wood or even brick. Trade was practised by using money as the names of coins, nishka and satamana, in the Vedic texts suggest.
The beginnings of the legal and judicial systems in India are traced to this period. The tribal community was replaced by the class-distinct society. The duties of the four varnas-brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaisyas and sudras-were prescribed in the Dharmasutras. The varna classification I provided the basis of civil and criminal law. The highest varna was considered the purest and hence was prescribed a higher order of moral conduct. The emergence and spread of Jainism and Buddhism could not improve the social status of the sudras though they were embraced by the new religious orders. The age of the Buddha is significant in that ancient Indian polity and social set-up actually originated at this time.
A food-producing economy emerged with the practice of agriculture on a wide scale by using iron implements. There was 'peasant proprietorship' in rural areas as there were no landlords. But a landowner could. not sell or mortgage his land without the permission of the village council. Of the agricultural products, rice was the staple food-crop in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The king received the tithes and his share, which varied from onesixth to a twelfth of the produce, from the headman. The village residents, endowed with a sturdy civic spirit, unitedly undertook tasks such as laying irrigation channels, building mote-hills, rest houses, etc. The women extended their full cooperation in these works of public utility. On the whole, each village was self-sufficient, and life was simple and unsophisticated.
Considerable progress was also made in such crafts as wood-work, architecture, pottery, weaving, ivory-work, etc, H was the general practice of the people to follow the occupation of their ancestors. Castes did not always determine crafts.
The guild system was becoming popular. People from the same profession normally organised themselves into guilds and often lived, or had their business centre, in one ward or street of the town. The Jatakas name at least eighteen such groups.
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