Vital Villages, Thriving Towns

Sources of History

The thought of village often sends students into a state of disease. Their idea of a village comes from the mud roads and mud houses. You know how they say that the best thing about living in a village is that even if you do not know what is going on in your life, someone else definitely does! But these villages also make up important sources of history.  On a serious note, though development of any nation starts from a single village.

If you consider the villages of ancient India, you will realize that they were far more organized than your present-day towns. They are in a real sense the sources of history for all of us. Archaeologists, in their studies of civilization, found several relics of the past. These help historians build up an idea of what villages and towns were like back in the day. Let us explore the sources of history these villages and nearby towns more!

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Agriculture and Tools of the Trade

Iron has been recorded to be in use for 3000 years or more. Researchers have recovered largest iron tools collection from the megalithic burials. Sometime around 2500 years ago, iron tools became the weapon of choice. They were used as an axe to clear the forests. Ploughs for agricultural use.

Drainage and Irrigation

Waterworks are a crucial aspect of any development plan. When agriculture started flourishing people started building tanks, canals, and wells for irrigation purpose. With a rise in agriculture, people started building residential colonies which required drainage systems. We already know that Indus Valley Civilisation had an immaculate drainage and irrigation system.

Sources of History

Residents of the Villages

Villages in the northern part of the country had village headmen who were called gram bhojak. This post was traditionally handed down within the family. The head man was often the owner of the largest lands and was the tax collector for the king. Later on, they were also called zamindars.

Further, down south owners of large lands were called Vellalar. Ordinary plowman were called uzhavar and those who worked on these lands as land labors and slaves were called kadaisiyar and adimayi respectively.

Those who were independent farmers were called grihapatis and who worked on lands of others were called dasas and karamkara. They did not own any lands. The villages also had potters, blacksmiths, and carpenters as other occupations.

About Towns

Record of the oldest towns is believed to be 2500 years ago. Some of these towns were capitals of Mahajanapads, surrounded by fortified walls. Archaeologists have found sculptures depicting scenes of town life and villages. Pots and ceramic rings arranged on top of them were found.

It is believed that these ring wells must have been used as garbage dumps, drains or toilets. Not much has been discovered in terms of wooden or mud houses which housed ordinary folks. They may have been destroyed over the period of time.

Currency

The currency has developed over the years. Earliest of them were in use for at least 500 years. They were punch marked on metal i.e. much like the coins of today, but cruder.  At one point in time, even leather was used to make currencies. The barter system is one of the oldest forms of currency.

Mathura- An Important Town

The town of Mathura was located at the crossroads and catered to two important travel and trade routes of India. One from north to south and another from north-west to east. The town and several shrines within it were properly fortified.

Some 2000 years ago Mathura was declared as the second capital of Kushanas. Mathura was famous as a religious center with several shrines and monasteries. It is also hailed as the hometown of Krishna, and hence is a holy place for the Hindus.

Art and Artisans

Remains of beautiful pottery were found. The pottery known as Northern Black Polished Ware was also found. These pots were usually black in color and had a fine texture. Ancient texts tell us that cloth manufacturing was an important industry.

Varanasi in north and Madurai in the south were centers of cloth manufacturing. Records have been found of associations formed by these artisans. These associations were called shrenis. These shrenis also doubled up as banks. Rich people deposited money in these banks which were then invested in various places. The interest thus derived were partly used to support religious institutions.

Question For You

Q. What was the function of the gram bhojaka? What according to you, made him powerful?

Ans: The gram bhojak is the village headman. He was often the owner of the largest land in the village. Gram bhojak could hire land laborers to work on the field. Further, he was also responsible for collecting taxes from other villagers on behalf of the King.

In case of conflicts, the gram bhojak also functioned as a judge. He also acted like the policeman. With so many roles under his belt, the gram bhojak was a very powerful and respected man in the village.

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