SOCIETY IN GUPTA PERIOD


The supremacy of the brahmanas was increasing.

They were getting large-scale land grants not only from the rulers but from other people also.

The land was given along with administrative rights and tax exemptions.

Thus, a new class of brahmana landlords was created.

Supported by the king, they tended to exploit the peasants.

 

We also notice a proliferation of castes in this period.

While the foreigners and tribals heads were included as Kshatriyas, the ordinary tribals were given the status of shudras.

The position of shudras however improved somewhat during this period.

They were allowed to listen to the epics and the Puranas.

They could also perform some domestic rituals that were earlier prohibited for them.

In the seventh century, Hsuan Tsang calls shudras as agriculturists and the vaishyas as traders.

 

A distinction was also made between shudras and untouchables.

The untouchables were treated lower in status than the shudras.

The untouchables are referred to as chandalas.

They lived outside the village and dealt in unclean jobs such as scavenging or butchery.

 

References to slaves are found in the contemporary Dharmashastras (Law Books).

Slaves were mainly domestic servants employed in cleaning and sweeping.

The prisoners of war, debt bondsmen, born of a slave woman were all considered slaves.

 

The status of women continued to decline in the Gupta period.

The women were not entitled to inherit property.

The free representation of females in art suggests that there was no purdah system in society.

However, there is evidence of the presence of the sati system.

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