How R.S. Sharma's Early Medieval Indian Society PDF Reveals the Secrets of Feudal India
Early Medieval Indian Society by R.S. Sharma PDF Download
If you are interested in learning about the history and culture of India from the 6th to the 13th century CE, you might want to read Early Medieval Indian Society: A Study in Feudalisation by R.S. Sharma. This book is a classic work of Indian historiography that analyses the transition from the ancient to the medieval period in polity, economy, caste system and culture. It also examines the forms of peasant protest and the reasons for their failure and infrequency. Moreover, it explores the development of tantrism and the mentality that feudalism created.
Early Medieval Indian Society Rs Sharma Pdf Download ((INSTALL))
In this article, we will give you an overview of the book, its main features, and how you can download it for free in PDF format. We will also provide you with some recommendations for further reading on the topic.
Who is R.S. Sharma?
R.S. Sharma (1919-2011) was one of the most eminent historians of India, who specialized in ancient and medieval Indian history. He was a professor at Patna University, Delhi University, and the Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was also the founding chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and a recipient of several awards and honors, including the Padma Shri, the highest civilian award in India.
R.S. Sharma was known for his Marxist approach to Indian history, which challenged the dominant nationalist and colonialist narratives. He was also a pioneer of social history, which focused on the lives and struggles of ordinary people rather than elites and rulers. He wrote more than 20 books on various aspects of Indian history, such as Aspects of Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient India, Sudras in Ancient India, Material Culture and Social Formations in Ancient India, Urban Decay in India, Looking for the Aryans, and India's Ancient Past.
What is the book about?
Early Medieval Indian Society: A Study in Feudalisation is one of R.S. Sharma's most influential books, which was first published in 2001 by Orient Blackswan. It is based on his lectures delivered at Oxford University in 1979 as part of the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lectures series.
The book covers the period from the 6th to the 13th century CE, which is often considered as a dark age or a period of decline in Indian history. However, R.S. Sharma argues that this period was actually a phase of transition from ancient to medieval India, marked by significant changes in polity, economy, society and culture.
The book analyses these changes from a historical materialist perspective, which emphasizes the role of productive forces, class relations, modes of production, and property rights in shaping historical processes. It also uses a variety of sources, such as inscriptions, coins, literary texts, archaeological evidence, and comparative studies, to support its arguments.
Why is the book important?
The book is important for several reasons. First, it provides a comprehensive and critical overview of the early medieval period in India, which is often neglected or misrepresented in conventional histories. Second, it challenges the dominant views that attribute the changes in this period to external factors, such as invasions, migrations, or religious movements. Instead, it shows how the changes were rooted in the internal dynamics of Indian society and economy. Third, it offers a new perspective on the origins and nature of feudalism in India, which has been a controversial and debated topic among historians. Fourth, it sheds light on the forms and causes of peasant protest and resistance in this period, which have been largely ignored or dismissed by mainstream historians. Fifth, it explores the economic and social basis of tantrism, which was a popular religious and cultural movement in this period. Sixth, it examines the feudal mind and culture, which influenced the worldview and values of the people in this period.
In short, the book is a valuable contribution to the understanding of Indian history and culture, which can help us to appreciate the diversity and complexity of our past.
Main features of the book
Transition from ancient to medieval India
One of the main themes of the book is the transition from ancient to medieval India, which R.S. Sharma traces through various aspects of polity, economy, society and culture. He argues that this transition was not abrupt or sudden, but gradual and complex. He identifies four phases of this transition:
The first phase (c. 6th-7th century CE) was marked by the decline of the Gupta empire and the emergence of regional kingdoms and tribal republics. This phase also witnessed the expansion of land grants to brahmanas and temples, which eroded the royal authority and revenue.
The second phase (c. 8th-9th century CE) was marked by the consolidation of large feudal states under the Rashtrakutas, Palas, Pratiharas, Chalukyas, Cholas and others. This phase also witnessed the intensification of land grants to various beneficiaries, such as feudal lords, military chiefs, officials, merchants and artisans. These grants created a hierarchy of rights and obligations among the landholders and peasants.
The third phase (c. 10th-11th century CE) was marked by the fragmentation of large feudal states into smaller ones under the Chahamanas (Chauhans), Chandellas, Kalachuris, Paramaras and others. This phase also witnessed the proliferation of land grants to various groups and individuals, such as subordinates, relatives, friends and servants. These grants led to the subdivision and fragmentation of land and property rights.
The fourth phase (c. 12th-13th century CE) was marked by the invasion of Muslim rulers from Central Asia and Afghanistan, who established their rule over parts of northern India. This phase also witnessed the resistance and adaptation of Hindu feudal states to the new political situation. Some Hindu states continued to exist as independent or semi-independent entities under Muslim suzerainty, while others were incorporated into Muslim administration.
Social crisis and peasant protest
Another theme of the book is the social crisis and peasant protest that occurred in this period due to various factors. R.S. Sharma argues that these factors included:
The decline of trade and urbanization due to political instability and foreign invasions.
The increase in taxation and exploitation by feudal lords and officials.
The degradation of land and environment due to over-cultivation and deforestation.
The oppression and discrimination by brahmanas and upper castes.
The emergence of new religious sects and movements that challenged the brahmanical orthodoxy.
R.S. Sharma shows how these factors created discontent and unrest among the peasants and other oppressed sections of society. He also shows how these sections expressed their protest and resistance in various forms, such as:
Refusing to pay taxes or rent.
Fleeing from their villages or lands.
Joining rebel or bandit groups.
Participating in peasant uprisings or revolts.
Converting to other religions or sects.
R.S. Sharma analyses some of the major peasant movements in this period, such as:
The revolt of Dantidurga against Rashtrakuta rule in Maharashtra (c. 8th century CE).
Nature and impact of feudalism
A key concept that R.S. Sharma uses to explain the changes in this period is feudalism. He defines feudalism as a mode of production characterized by the following features:
The dominance of land as the main source of wealth and power.
The fragmentation of political authority and sovereignty among various feudal lords.
The prevalence of land grants as a means of rewarding and controlling various beneficiaries.
The emergence of a hierarchy of rights and obligations among landholders and peasants.
The decline of trade and urbanization and the rise of self-sufficient rural units.
The exploitation and oppression of peasants by feudal lords and officials.
The rigidification and differentiation of caste system and social structure.
R.S. Sharma argues that feudalism had a profound impact on the economic, social, political and cultural aspects of Indian society. He shows how feudalism:
Reduced the royal power and revenue and increased the local autonomy and authority of feudal lords.
Created a complex network of intermediaries between the king and the peasants, who extracted surplus from the latter.
Encouraged the growth of regional languages, literature, art and architecture, which reflected the local identities and aspirations of feudal elites.
Facilitated the spread of Hinduism and Brahmanism in new areas and among new groups, who sought legitimacy and status from them.
Led to the emergence of new religious sects and movements, such as tantrism, bhakti, sufism and sikhism, which challenged the brahmanical orthodoxy and offered alternative paths to salvation.
Paucity of metallic coinage
Another feature of this period that R.S. Sharma highlights is the paucity or scarcity of metallic coinage, especially gold and silver coins. He argues that this was a result of several factors, such as:
The decline of trade with foreign countries, especially with Rome, China and Central Asia.
The depletion of indigenous sources of gold and silver due to over-mining and deforestation.
The hoarding or melting of coins by feudal lords, merchants, temples and moneylenders.
The invasion and plundering by foreign rulers, such as Mahmud of Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori and others.
R.S. Sharma shows how the paucity of metallic coinage affected the economy and society in various ways. He shows how it:
Led to the use of alternative forms of currency, such as cowries, copper coins, grains, cloth, etc.
Caused inflation and price fluctuations in the market.
Discouraged trade and commerce and encouraged barter system.
Reduced the purchasing power and standard of living of the people.
Increased the dependence on land grants as a source of income and wealth.
Royal land charters and property rights
A major aspect of this period that R.S. Sharma analyses is the royal land charters or rajasasanas that were issued by various kings to various beneficiaries. He argues that these charters were not only a means of rewarding or controlling loyal supporters, but also a means of creating or modifying property rights over land. He explains that these charters:
Granted various types of rights over land, such as ownership (svamitva), possession (adhipatya), control (adhikara), enjoyment (bhoga), etc.
Specified various conditions for holding land, such as payment of taxes (raja-bhaga), performance of services (raja-seva), maintenance of order (raja-danda), etc.
Conferred various privileges or immunities over land, such as exemption from taxes (raja-bhoga-mukta), protection from interference (raja-danda-mukta), freedom from seizure (raja-hasta-mukta), etc.
R.S. Sharma shows how these charters had a significant impact on the agrarian structure and relations. He shows how they:
Created a hierarchy of landholders, such as feudal lords (samantas), military chiefs (senapatis), officials (amatyas), brahmanas (purohitas), temples (devasvamis), merchants (vanijas), artisans (silpis), etc.
Subordinated the peasants (raiyats) to the landholders, who extracted various rents, taxes, dues and services from them.
Transformed the nature and extent of property rights over land, from communal or collective to individual or private.
Generated conflicts and disputes over land among various claimants and competitors.
Changes in social structure and caste system
Another aspect of this period that R.S. Sharma studies is the changes in social structure and caste system that occurred due to various factors. He argues that these factors included:
The expansion of agriculture and settlement in new areas and among new groups.
The emergence of new occupations and professions in rural and urban areas.
The rise of new religious sects and movements that attracted different sections of society.
The influence of foreign cultures and peoples, such as Turks, Afghans, Mongols, etc.
R.S. Sharma shows how these factors brought about changes in social structure and caste system in various ways. He shows how they:
Led to the formation of new castes or sub-castes, such as Rajputs, Kayasthas, Jats, Ahirs, etc.
Caused the mobility or migration of castes or sub-castes from one region to another.
Enabled the rise or fall of castes or sub-castes in the social hierarchy.
Created new forms of inter-caste relations, such as alliances, conflicts, marriages, etc.
Economic and social basis of tantrism
A unique feature of this period that R.S. Sharma explores is the economic and social basis of tantrism, which was a popular religious and cultural movement in this period. He defines tantrism as a system of beliefs and practices that aimed at achieving worldly and spiritual goals through the use of mantras, yantras, mandalas, rituals, yoga, etc. He argues that tantrism had an economic and social basis that explained its origin and spread. He explains that this basis was:
The decline of trade and urbanization and the rise of ruralization and feudalization.
The impoverishment and oppression of peasants and other lower sections of society.
The dissatisfaction and disillusionment with brahmanical orthodoxy and ritualism.
The attraction and fascination with foreign cultures and peoples.
R.S. Sharma shows how tantrism had an economic and social impact on the society and culture in various ways. He shows how it:
Offered a means of material prosperity and spiritual salvation to the poor and oppressed sections of society.
Challenged the authority and monopoly of brahmanas and upper castes over religious matters.
Promoted a more egalitarian and democratic ethos among its followers.
Incorporated elements from foreign cultures and religions, such as Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, etc.
The feudal mind and culture
The final aspect of this period that R.S. Sharma examines is the feudal mind and culture that influenced the worldview and values of the people in this period. He argues that the feudal mind was a product of the feudal mode of production, which shaped the economic, social, political and cultural aspects of society. He explains that the feudal mind was characterized by:
A narrow and parochial outlook that focused on local interests rather than national or universal ones.
A conservative and reactionary attitude that resisted change and innovation rather than welcomed them.
A hierarchical and authoritarian mentality that accepted inequality and exploitation rather than opposed them.
A superstitious and fatalistic belief that attributed everything to fate or divine will rather than human agency.
R.S. Sharma shows how the feudal mind influenced the culture in various ways. He shows how it:
Limited the scope and quality of literature, art, architecture, science, technology, etc.
Glorified the past rather than the present or the future.
Emphasized loyalty rather than merit or ability.
Encouraged violence rather than peace or harmony.
How to download the book for free?
Steps to download the book from Internet Archive
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Summary of the main points
In this article, we have given you an overview of the book Early Medieval Indian Society: A Study in Feudalisation by R.S. Sharma, its main features, and how you can download it for free in PDF format. We have also provided you with some recommendations for further reading on the topic.
Recommendations for further reading
If you want to learn more about the early medieval period in India, you can read some of the following books that are available online or in libraries:
A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century by Upinder Singh. This book is a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the history and culture of India from the prehistoric times to the end of the Chola empire. It covers various aspects of polity, economy, society, religion, art and literature, using a variety of sources and perspectives.
The Making of Early Medieval India by Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya. This book is a collection of essays that explore the historical processes and factors that shaped the early me