Which among the following is / are features of the Post-Gupta society of India?
1. Presence of wide range of semi-autonomous rulers
2. Rise of secular as well as religious land grants
3. Exorbitantly high rates of taxation
4. Increased spatial and occupational mobility
Choose the correct option from the codes given below:

Answer: [A] Only 1, 2 & 3

The summary of the societal conditions in early medieval India are as follows:
• Political decentralization: The new polity is characterized by decentralization and hierarchy, features suggested by the presence of a wide range of semi-autonomous rulers, Samantas, Mahasamantas and others and the hierarchized positioning of numerous Rajapurushas employed by royal courts.
• Emergence of Landed intermediaries: This is the hallmark of Indian feudal social formation and is seen to be linked both to the disintegration and decentralization of state authority and to major changes in the structure of agrarian relations. The emergence of landed intermediaries- a dominant landholding social group absent in the early historical period- is linked to the practice of land grants which began with the Satavahanas. The earliest land grants belonging to the first century BC were given to the Buddhist priests and Brahmans and other religious establishments. However, in the post- gupta period even administrative officials were granted land. The landed beneficiaries were given both powers of taxation and coercion, leading to the disintegration of the central authority. The secular recipients of the grants and the autonomous holders of land are generally termed as fief holders and free holders.
• Localization of economy: There was a economy to self-sufficient villages as units of production. Thus, ruralisation was an important dimension of the transition process. This change was the result of the decline of early historical urban centres and commercial networks leading to the practice of payment in land grants instead of earlier practice of remuneration in cash, migration of different urban social groups to rural areas, expansion of agrarian space and the crystallization of Jajmani type of relationships in the rural areas. According to one formulation, fief holders and free-holders in rural society emerged as agents of social change in the later phase of early medieval society, generating once again such features of early historical economy as trade, urbanization and a market economy.
• Subjection of the peasantry : Likened sometimes to serfdom, characterizing the of the subjection of peasantry , such as immobility, forced labour (vishti) and the payment of revenue at exorbitantly high rates- all point to the nature of stratification in Post-Gupta society. The condition of the peasantry in this pattern of rural stratification was in sharp contrast to what the agrarian structure in early historical India represented, since that structure was dominated by free vaishya peasants and labour services provided by the Shudras. It is important to note here that although the earliest example of sharecroppers being transferred along with the land can be traced in the third century pallava inscription from Andhra, Orissa and Deccan, from the sixth century AD onwards sharecroppers and peasants were particularly asked to stick to the land granted to the beneficiaries. The custom became fairly common in the post-gupta period and the villages transferred to the grantees are known as dhana-jana-sahita, janata-samriddha and saprativasi-jana- sameta. Thus the artisans and peasants were asked not to leave the village granted to the beneficiaries or migrate to tax-free village.
• Proliferation of castes : A striking social development from about the seventh century onwards was the proliferation of castes. The Brahmavaivarta Purana, a seventh century work, counts 100 castes including 61 castes noted by Manu, but the Vishnudharmottara Purana (8th century) states that thousands of mixed castes are produced by the connection of vaishyas women with men of lower castes. In fact, proliferation affected the brahmanas, the Rajaputs, and above all, the shudras and untouchables. Increasing pride of birth, characteristic of feudal society, and the accompanying self-sufficient village economy, which prevented both spatial and occupational mobility, gave rise to many castes. The guilds of artisans gradually hardened into castes due to lack of mobility in post-gupta times. The absorption of the tribal peoples into the brahmanical fold, though as old as vedic times, was mainly based on conquests. Coupled with the process of large-scale religious land grants. Acculturation assumed enormous dimensions and considerably added to the variety of the shudras and so-called mixed castes.
• According to Prof. R.S. Sharma social changes were mainly the product of certain economic developments, such as land grants and large scale transfers of land revenues and land to both secular and religious elements, decline of trade and commerce, loss of mobility of artisans, peasants and traders, unequal distribution of land an power etc. He holds the economic factor responsible for the emergence of certain new castes and decline of certain old ones. Thus the constant transfer of land of land revenues made by princes to priests, temples and officials led to the rise and growth of the scribe or the Kayastha community which undermined the monopoly of Brahmans as writers and scribes. Similarly, the decline of trade and commerce led to the decline in the position of the Vaishyas. The process of proliferation and multiplication of castes was yet another marked feature of the social life of the period.

This question is a part of GKToday's Integrated IAS General Studies Module