Teaching History Change and Continuity

Change and Continuity

Category : Teaching


Change and Continuity



  • Understand the emergence of new kingdoms with their nature
  • Familiarise the concept of change and continuity with reference of political and social aspects
  • Explore the process of establishment of empire with examples such as Chola Empire
  • Know and understand the administration of Chola empire



The time period from 7th century to 12th century CE was the time era of continuity. These changes and continuities happened in every aspect of life such as social, political, and economic. These changes played important role in the social, political, and economic life. This five-century period created the base for further social and political changes. Let us try to understand these changes and try to understand their importance in the Indian history.


In the 7th century CE, after the decline of Harshavaradhana empire, many new kingdoms emerged in all Indian subcontinents and some of them were continue. Chalukyas of Badami, Pallavas of Kanchipuram, and Pandyas of Madurai emerged as powerful dynasties. Chalukyas began their rule in Badami and Aihole. They extended their kingdom between Nasik and upper Godavari region. Pulakeshin II was the greatest king of Chalukyas and he ruled from 610 CE to 642 CE. Chalukyas was succeeded by Rashtrakutas. Dantidurga found the Rashtrakuta dynasty and he defeated Chalukyas in 752 CE. Gangas and Kadambas were other powerful emerging dynasties.

Gangas' king Durvinita was the prominent ruler and the scholar of Kannada and Sanskrit literature. Kadamba dynasty was found by Mayur Sarman. Kakusthavarman was the most powerful king and great administrator of Kadamba dynasty. He ruled from 435 CE to 455 CE. The southern peninsula was ruled by Pallava, Pandya, and Chola kingdoms.



Process of Emergence of New Dynasties

In the 7th century CE, the process of emergence of new powerful dynasty was different because 7th century was the era of big warrior chiefs and landlords. These warrior chiefs and warlords were in powerful situation and existing kings acknowledged them as Samantas. These landlords presented gifts to kings and provided necessary military help when the king is in need. These Samantas were given rights by the king. After sometime, they gained power and wealth. They became powerful and they themselves adopted the title of Mahasamanta and Mahamandalesvara.



Figure 5.1 New kingdoms from 700 CE to 1200 CE


These titles refer to the great lord of the region. Some of the landlords became more powerful than the kings and they announced themselves independent; for example, Rashtrakutas were the subordinates of the Chalukyas but in the mid of the 8th century, Rashtrakutas announced their land as an independent state. The Rashtrakutas chief Dantidurga was performed Hiranyagarbha ritual with the help'of Brahmanas. Hiranyagarbha rituals believe in the rebirth of sacrificer as Kshatriya. This ritual was performed by people who were not Kshatriyas by birth. This was not the only way to establish independent kingdom; in other cases, the use of military skills and strength is used to become independent powerful dynasties such as Kadamba Mayurasharma and Gurjara-Pratihara Harichandra. Kadamba Mayurasharma and Gurjara-Pratihara Harichandra were Brahmanas. They gave up their traditional professions and set themselves as a warrior. They established their kingdom in Karnataka and Rajasthan.

If we try to understand the process of formation of these states, there was a continuity and change. The legitimacy of state and the ruling dynasties was the biggest concern for the newly established kingdoms. The legitimacy of newly established kingdoms was depended on the religious approval. Ruler can only be Kshatriya. If non-Kshatriya became the king, they have to perform some religious rituals and then only their kingship gets legitimation. Hiranyagarbha ritual was one of the rituals, which was performed by those who were not born Kshatriya. The legitimacy depended on religious authority. This was in continuity of religious authority to legitimize the political authority. Most of the kings adopted titles such as Maharaja, Maharajadhiraja, Vikramaditya, and chakravartisamrat. Most of the kings performed some religious rituals that were not only related with the political supremacy but also related with religious legitimacy like Ashvamedha Yagna. It is also important to know that the process of change and continuity was not restricted to the polity; rather it was also deeply associated with society. The four Varna systems did not exist in this era. This was the era of caste. Most of the castes were based on the work that people do in their day-to-day life and gradually they shaped them into a particular caste. Kumhar, Lohara, Khati, and Sunar castes were based on their work skills. Caste system became vast and complex. We are not able to define which caste is Kshatriya and which is Vaishya or Shudra. The relationship with Brahmins played a crucial role in making some Kshatriyas, and during this process, social structure also affected.


Kingdoms' Administration

Administration is the base of state; without good administration, the state cannot run properly. We all are well-known about the titles such as Maharaja, Maharajadhiraja, Chakravarti Samarat, and Tribhuvana Chakravarti. These are not titles but these are helpful in understanding the administration also. Samantas were the reality of this era. They were subordinates of these kings. Revenue was the most important thing for the state to sustain. Revenue was collected by these big Samantas for peasants, herders, artisans, and traders. The taxes are imposed by the king and there are different types of taxes imposed by the king. For example, the inscriptions of Cholas were found in Tamilnadu. In this inscription, 400 types of taxes were mentioned. Most of the taxes were not taken in cash but those were mentioned as vetti (forces labour and sometimes used as part time soldiers) and kadamai. Kadamai means land revenue. The taxation was different from the present tax system. These taxes were imposed on houses, palm trees, property, cattle, and so on. The king used these sources for establishment and construction of forts and temples. The revenue collection work was done by specially recruited officials. These officials were from influential families. Most of them were king's relatives. In military, top positions were held by king's close relatives. The Samantas served military services for king.



Prashastis was different form of inscription. They did not contain full details but they projected the view of the kings. The prashastis were informative and contained the ideology of the king. They offer an overall view of an ideal king of different times and different regions. Most of them were composed by administrator.



Chola kingdom was the oldest kingdom in south India. From 2nd century BCE to around 5th century CE, they ruled as a powerful kingdom. The region of Kanchi was also part of Chola kingdom, which is known as Cholamandalam. The Chola kingdom was situated towards the north-east of the Pandya kingdom. The Chola kings had some remarkable victories in that region; for example, during the 2nd century BCE, the Chola king Elara conquered Sri Lanka and ruled it over almost 50 years. The most distinguished Chola king was Karikala. Karikala defeated Chera and Pandya kings in the great battle of Venni, near Tanjore. Karikala had a powerful navy and he conquered Sri Lanka. He built 160-km long irrigation channel, and all these developments led to the growth of agriculture, craft, trade, and commerce. He was a great patron of literature and promoted education. After Karikala, the successors of Karikala were weak and family members fought with each other for the power. The Cholas declined and after the defeat by the Pallavas, and the Cholas were reduced to a small ruling area. Almost three centuries, the Cholas ruled in south India as a small kingdom.


In these three centuries, Cholas ruled in small area of Uraiyur. They are the subordinates of Muttaraiyar, Pallava king of Kanchipuram. Vijayalaya belonged to ancient Chola family and he was ruling in small area of the Uraiyur. There was a conflict between the Pandya dynasty and Pallava dynasty. Vijayalaya took advantage of their conflict, and in 850 CE, he captured Tanjore from Muttaraiyar. He established imperial land of Chola dynasty. Nothing is wrong if we say Vijayalaya was the founder of medieval time of Chola kingdom. After Vijayalaya, Aditya I was the second king of the dynasty. In 885 CE, he defeated the Pandya king and occupied the Karnataka dynasty of Pandya. After his death, his son Parantaka-I became the king. In 925 CE, he conquered Sri Lanka, which was known as Hangai.

Rajaraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola were the greatest rulers of the Chola dynasty. Rajaraja Chola was the great administrator and had good control on the kingdom. He conducted two-time


Figure 5.2 The Chola Empire from 9th century to 12th century CE


land survey; one of the surveys was conducted in 1000 CE. He built Brihadeeswarar temple in 1010 CE. Rajendra Chola was the greatest king of the Chola dynasty. He extended the boundaries of Chola kingdom from Tamil area to other areas; for example, he conquered Odisha, defeated the Pala dynasty of Bengal, and reached to Ganges River. He expended his kingdom in the northern India. In celebration of his victory on northern India, he built a new capital Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Now, his territory was falling from Ganga-Hooghly-Damodar basin in the north as well as in Sri Lanka and Maldives. He had good relations with other countries; for example, he sent diplomatic mission to China in 1016 CE, 1035 CE, and 1077 CE. After Rajendra Chola, the Chola kings ruled almost 200 years.


Brihadeeswarar Temple and Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple:

Their Importance in Chola Kingdom

Brihadeeswarar temple of Tanjore was built by Chola King Rajaraja Chola I in 1010 CE. Brihadeeswarar was not only the temple but it was the symbol of power of the Chola kingdom. These temples were not only good examples of the Chola art and architecture, but these were the centres of crafts and artisans. These temples were empowered from land and other sources. The lands were granted by the kings and other people. The production of these land grants was tax free and their production was only used in maintaining temples day-to-day routine works. The temple hired large number of specialised peoples such as cooks, sweepers, musicians, dancers, and priests. These people lived at the nearest places of the temple. These temples were not only the worship places but also they emerged as social, cultural, and economic centres. A large number of artisans and craft persons were giving their services to pilgrims and temples. These temples were situated in the capitals of the kingdom, which means that these cities were political centres also.


These temples are best examples of the Dravida style architecture. The Brihadeeswarar temple complex was spread in vast area. Its complex was built like a fortress. The temple had fivestorey Gopuram. The main shikhar of the temple was massive in size; it was 60-m high with 16 complicatedly articulated stories. The main entrance of Gopuram is built on exactly 30-m high. Normally, the Gopuram was smaller than Vimana. The Gopuram was built with 400 pillars. In Garbhagriha was circumambulation wraps around the massive lingam. The primary deity of the Brihadeeswarar temple was Lord Shiva. There are some of other statues situated in the temple. There are statues of Ashta Dikpalakas and these are Indra, Agni, Varuna, Kubera, Isana, Yama, and Vayu. The big structure is indicating that the temple had large number of special people such as cooks, priests, musicians, and sweepers.


Some of the bronze idols were also found near the temple areas. These bronze idols are good examples/of the finest works of bronze. Most of these bronze idols were deities. This means that these temples were promoters of arts and crafts. One of the finest examples of the Chola bronze work was the Lord Nataraja's dancing statue.



Chola Empire: Agriculture and Irrigation

The Chola empire mainly stands on the revenue collection. The larger part of revenue was the agricultural production. Without good agriculture production, larger revenue collection was not possible. The Chola kings tried different polices to increase the agricultural production. Chola king RajaRaja I did the land survey twice during his regime. These land surveys were helpful not only to assess the production but also they helped to understand the problems of peasants. The agriculture was mainly based on rain water. Other sources were also used; however, their uses were limited. Chola king knew that the Kaveri River flows into several small branches before it lays down in the Bay of Bengal. These branches were useful because the overflow of these branches help to deposit fertile soils on the bank of these branches. These branches provide necessary moisture for the agriculture. In this area, mainly rice cultivated. Most of the areas of the kingdom were cultivating only two crops in a year. Further, most of these areas' crops destroyed because of the less availability of water. If they wanted to increase production, they have to develop other sources of irrigation. The Chola king developed canals in larger area. The irrigation was helpful to increase rice and other crops' cultivation. Agricultural production increased and the revenue increased. Chola kings developed larger level irrigation systems that indicate that they had vision of planning, source, and labour.


Chola Empire: Administration

Administration is the spinal cord of the empire. If administration is not working properly, the king will not be able to rule properly. The Chola empire administration was one of the remarkable and distinguished parts. It was well-maintained and well-regulated. The Chola administration gives strength to the Chola kings to govern the entire empire easily. The Chola empire had some distinguished features. Let us try to understand those features and their works. The Chola empire was not centralised. They called their kingdom Rajyam/Rastrayam. The Rajyam was divided into number of subdivisions. These subdivisions were known as Mandalam. Mandalam means provinces. The main administrators in those Mandalam were close relatives of the king. Mostly, the important mandalams were under the control of Rajkumar (prince) or the noble families. Vengi and Madura, the two mandalams, were governed by the Chola prince. Other mandalams were administered by those families, which gave tribute to Chola king and merged themselves as part of the Chola King, The mandalams were also divided into another subdivision. This was known as Valanadu or Kottam. The Chola state used another subdivision: Nadu and Nagarams. Here, Nadu used for districts and Nagarams used for towns. Nadu was a group of villages.


There were assemblies of different levels such as Nattra and Nagarattar. Nattra was the assembly of the Nadu and Nagarattar was the assembly of the Nagaram. The assembly of merchant and artisan groups was also known as Nagaram. Unfortunately, we do not have detail of their rules and regulations. In Nagaram, we had evidences of existence of Guilds or Srenis, Pugas. Guilds, Srenis, and Pugas were some of the examples of the different autonomous corporate organisations. These autonomous cooperative organisations were constituted by the artisans and craft persons.


The village administration was well-organised and that was different from the Nagaram administration. The Chola inscriptions mentioned the presence of the assemblies on village level. There were three types of assemblies present: Ur, Sabha, and Mahasabha. The members of these assemblies were adult male members of the community. Ur was basically used for the most fertile land and had good irrigation system for agriculture. Further, it was also used for assembly that had an executive body like Abunganam. Ganam and Miyalunganam words are used as synonyms of the Abunganam.


The village society was mainly constituted by peasants. In Ur, peasants of the villages were divided into some categories like Vellalar word used for the cultivator groups. Vellalar was used for all peasants those who were involved in cultivation. In Vellalar, there were two types of peasants: Kaniyudaiyar and Ulukudi. Kaniyudaiyar was used for the land-owning farmers and Ulukudi was used for the tenant farmers. Vallas was identified for Shudra Varna. The Shudras in the Chola kingdom were not same as in the north. They are economically powerful and they hold lands that are the important base for the wealth. Other service groups such as potter and blacksmith had control on small plots of the land. The right to transfer land rights was an important aspect of the village community. The land transfers were done via sale or gifts. The rights of the land transfer was known as the Kani rights. The Kani rights signified the rights of possession over land. The Chola and Pandya land grants refer two sorts of the land rights: Karanmai and Mitatchi. Karanmai right was the right to cultivate and also the right to occupancy. It was also divided into two other rights: Kudi Nikki and Kudi Ninga. Kudi Nikki rights means a person previously situated in a village and removed or deprived from their rights. Kudi Ninga right for such peoples who were not to be disturbed. Mitatchi was a superior possessive right.

In Chola empire, land was divided into many categories such as Brahmadeya, Vellanvagai, Shalabhoga, Pallichchhandam, Devadana, and Tirunamattukkani. Brahmadeya lands were those land grants that are given to Brahmanas by the kings. Because of these land grants, Brahmanas settled in large number at Kaveri valley. Vellanvagai lands were owned by the nonBrahmana peasants. Shalabhoga lands were granted for school and Pallichchhandam lands are those lands that are donated to Jain institutions. Devadana and Tirunamattukkani lands were those lands that are granted for temples. Their revenues were used for temple-related works. Meanwhile, Brahmadeya landholders became powerful. Sabha was the pure Brahmana assembly. The selection of a new member to the Sabha was done by the lucky draw. These assemblies had important role to maintain the administrative works. Their meetings and decisions were documented.

Mahasabha was an important institution of the Chola Empire. Two records of king Parantaka I give us the detailed information about how Mahasabha work and the types of issues they dealt. These records mention that the local Mahasabha organised to decide the selection criteria of the members of Variyams. Variyams mean executive committee. The Mahasabhas had jurisdictional rights over the communal lands and the private lands. Mahasabha had ownership of village lands. Assemblies always tried to protect cultivators from harassment. They had right to transfer their jurisdiction to other organisations. Mahasabha had rights to reclaim on forest and water lands. They cooperated with the royal officials in land surveys and revenue collections. It had some rights to taxation.

In village level, some duties were imposed by the state, such as Eccoru, Muttaiyal, and vetti.

                1.         Eccoru duty: This refers to the villager's obligation to provide food for state officials.

               2.         Muttaiyal and vetti: They refer to the villager's obligation to provide labour service for state works. Further, Kudimai was another form of    labour service. The land revenue records were wellmaintained by Mahasabha.



In north India, from 9th century to 12th century CE had frequent changes. The new powers emerged in the north India and they fought continuously. Around 750 CE to 1000 CE, three major powerful dynasties emerged in India: Gurjara-Pratihara in north India, Palas in the east India, and Rashtrakuta in the south India. Kanauj was the centre of the power. Therefore, these three powerful dynasties continuously fought to capture the Kanauj. Kanauj was the centre of the trade and culture. The Chandela dynasty was one of the Rajput dynasties. They settled their kingdom in Bundelkhand. Most remarkable thing of the Chandela was their temples. In the time of Chandelas, they gave land grants to Hindu and Jain temples.

In the end of 10th century, the ruler of Ghazni (Afghanistan), Sultan Mahmud, started to invade in central Asia. Mahmud of Ghazni ruled from 997 CE to 1030 CE. He started a new trend of the war, that is, war of money. He invaded India many times. Some of the selective attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni were Thanesar in 1014 CE, Mathura in 1018 CE, Kanauj in 1021 CE, Lahore in 1023 CE, and Somanath in 1025 CE. The purpose of these attacks was only looting. He paid

good money to those soldiers who fought for him. He started the trend of war for money. Further, he attacked and captured large part of India but he never tried to establish his kingdom in India. His prime purpose of attacks was money. They looted and returned to their land. Mahmud of Ghazni's attack on Somanath was one of the most valuable attacks for him. He set a benchmark for other invaders, that is, for those only wanted money. One of the notable scholars of Ghazni, AI-Biruni, came to India with the Mahmud of Ghazni. He was keenly interested in knowing about the Indian society. He wrote a book named Kitab-al-Hind. His writings were a good source to understand the contemporary political, social, and economic aspects.

Chahamanas or Chauhans emerged in Rajasthan and Gujarat around 11th century. The Chahamanas were divided into many clans such as Chahamanas of Shakambhari, Chahamanas of Naddula/Nadol, Chahamanas of Lata, Chahamanas of Dholpur, Chahamanas of Pratapgarh, Chahamanas of Jalor: branch of Nadol, and Chahamanas of Ranthambore: branch of Shakambhari. Chahamanas of Shakambhari became more powerful and they established themselves. They established themselves in Ajmer. The kingdom ofAjmer became powerful under the rule of Prithviraj III. He was also known as Prithviraj Chauhan or Rai Pithora. He ruled from 1178 CE to 1192 CE. He expanded his kingdom in entire Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, and some parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

In 1175 CE, Shihabuddin Muhammad Gori became the ruler of Ghur (Afghanistan). He was an ambitious ruler. Further, he wanted to expand his Sultanate. After his succession, he started invasion in north western part of the Indian subcontinent. From 1175 CE to 1178 CE, he conquered Multan and Sindh. In 1178 CE, he conquered Ahivara; however, in the Battle of Kayadara, Bhimdev defeated Muhammad Gori. From 1179 CE to 1186 CE, he conquered whole Punjab. In 1192 CE, the first Battle ofTaraori was fought between Prithviraj III and Muhammad Gori. However, Gori was defeated by Prithviraj III. In the Second Battle of Taraori, Prithviraj III was defeated by Gori. This battle changed the future of India. Gori established his empire in India. This period was the starting point of the emergence of new powerful dynasties in India.


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Change and Continuity

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