NCERT Solutions Class 12 History Kinship Caste and Class
1. Explain why patriliny may have been particularly important among elite families.
• Patriliny had existed prior to the composition of the Mahabharata; however, the central story of the text strengthened the ideal of patrilineal succession.
• Most ruling elites and dynasties claimed to follow patrilineal succession.
• Under patriliny, sons could claim power and the resources of their fathers when the latter died.
• In ruling dynasties which had no sons, rulers of brothers succeeded one another or kinsmen claimed the throne.
2. Discuss whether kings in early states were invariably Kshatriyas.
• Kings in early states were not invariably Kshatriyas.
• Several important ruling lineages had different origins.
• For example, according to later Buddhist texts, social background of the Mauryas was Kshatriya, but Brahmanical texts described them as being of "low" origin. They established a mighty empire.
• Shakas were regarded as mlechchhas (barbarians or outsiders) by the Brahmanas. However, Rudradaman, the best-known Shaka ruler, was a powerful ruler.
• Powerful mlechchhas who were familiar with Sanskritic traditions could become rulers.
• Ruler of the Satavahana dynasty, Gotami-puta Siri Satakani claimed to be both a Brahmana and a Kshatriya.
3. Compare and contrast the dharma or norms mentioned in the stories of Orona, Hidimba and Matanga.
Orona, a Brahmana teacher, accepts Eklavaya, a forest dweller, as his pupil and defied the rule of dharma that non-Brahamanas should not be imparted education. However, by asking Eklavaya's thumb as fee, Orona ensured that Arjuna remained unrivalled among his pupil.
Dharma does not allow Brahmanas to have matrimonial alliance with non-Brahmana communities such as forest dwellers. However, the story shows that Yudhishtira and Shima agreed to marry Hidimba (sister of a rakshasa). Thus the dharma of gotras was not followed in this case.
In the story of Matanga (a Chandala beggar), Mandavya Kumara, son of the former, denies food to the latter. Mandavya who grew up learning three Vedas is not aware of the fact that the beggar seeking food, in fact, is his father. He strictly follows the dharma that outcaste should not be given food, and only Brahmanas deserve it.
4. In what ways was the Buddhist theory of a social contract different from the Brahmanical view of society derived from the Purusha sukta?
• Buddhists developed their theory of social contract to understand social inequalities, and wanted to create institutions to regulate sociaI conflicts.
• In Sutta Pitaka, they suggested that originally humans lived in peace without any inequality, and had harmonious relations with nature.
• They proposed that an authority ca lied mahasammata should be selected by the people to regulate social affairs.
•For the Buddhists, institution of kingship was based on human choice, and subjects could pay taxes as a form of payment for services rendered by the king.
• They strongly believed that humans could create and institutionalise economic and social relations.
• Contrary to Buddhist theory of social contract, Brahmanas asserted that the varna order was of divine origin, and it was determined by birth.
• To justify this myth, they argued all the elements of the universe and the four varnas emanated from Purusha, the primeval man.
• Brahmana was his mouth, of his arms was made the Kshatriya. His thighs became the Vaishya; of his feet the Shudra was born.
5. The following is an excerpt from the Mahabharata, in which Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, speaks to Sanjaya, a messenger:
Sanjaya, convey my respectful greetings to all the Brahmanas and the chief priest of the house of Dhritarashtra. Ibow respectfully to teacher Orona ... Ihold the feet of our preceptor Kripa ... (and) the chief of the Kurus, the great Bhishma. Ibow respectfully to the old king (Dhritarashtra). I greet and ask after the health of his son Duryodhana and his younger brother ... Also greet all the young Kuru warriors who are our brothers, sons and grandsons ... Greet above all him, who is to us like father and mother, the wise Vidura (born of a slave woman) ... I bow to the elderly ladies who are known as our mothers. To those who are our wives you say this, "I hope they are well-protected"... Our daughters-in-law born of good families and mothers of children greet on my behalf. Embrace for me those who are our daughters ... The beautiful, fragrant, well-dressed courtesans of ours you should also greet. Greet the slave women and their children, greet the aged, the maimed (and) the helpless ...
Try and identify the criteria used to make this list - in terms of age, gender, kinship ties. Are there any other criteria? For each category, explain why they are placed in a particular position in the list.
• The criteria used to make this list are that of dynastic hierarchical order.
• First, the list begins with salutation to Brahmanas, the chief priest and teacher, highly venerated by the rulers.
• Then, the eldest Pandava goes on greeting the chief of the Kurus, the old king, brothers, warriors, elders, mothers, wives, sons, daughters and children. He aIso greets courtesans.
• The list ends with his greetings to slave women and their children, the aged, the maimed and the helpless. These categories are placed at the end of the list as they were considered inferior in the social order.
• Other criteria used in the list is that of socio economic order; slave women and their children, the aged, the maimed and the helpless were placed at the bottom of society as they were labouring groups.
6. Write a short essay (about 500 words) on the following:
This is what a famous historian of Indian literature, Maurice Winternitz, wrote about the Mahabharata: "just because the Mahabharata represents more of an entire literature ... and contains so much and so many kinds of things, ... (it) gives(s) us an insight into the most profound depths of the soul of the Indian folk." Discuss.
• Mahabharata gives us an insight into the most profound depths of the soul of the Indian folk.
• It was composed over a period of about 1,000 years (500 BCE onwards).
• Though its central story is about two sets of warring cousins (the Kauravas and the Pandavas) for wealth and power, the text also contains sections laying down norms of behaviour for various other social groups.
• Some of the stories it contains may have been in circulation even earlier; they depict a wide range of social categories and situations.
• While using the text, historians ask careful questions- who composed what and for whom.
• They also consider the language used, and the ways in which the text circuIa ted.
• By analysing the nature of family and kinship depicted in the text, various cultural practices that shaped social histories can be understood.
7. Discuss whether the Mahabharata could have been the work of a single author.
• Mahabharata is not the work of a single author.
• Original story in the text was composed by charioteer-bards known as sutas who accompanied Kshatriya warriors to the battlefield.
• They composed poems celebrating their victories. These compositions circuIated orally. From the fifth century BCE, Brahmanas wrote down them.
• There was another phase in the composition of the text between c. 200 BCE and 200 CE.
• This phase in the text depicts the worship of Vishnu and Krishna, one of the important figures of the epic.
• Between c. 200 and 400 CE, large didactic sections resembling the Manusmriti were added.
• The original text with less than 10,000 verses grew to comprise about 100,000 verses.
• According to myth, Vyasa dictated the text to the deity Lord Ganesha who scribed it.
8. How important were gender differences in early societies? Give reasons for your answer.
• Gender differences in early societies were maintained for depriving women of equal share in property.
• In some cases, women were treated as property.
• According to Mahabharata, in a dice game between Duryodhana and Yudhisthira, the latter stakes Draupadi along with gold, elephants, chariots, slaves, army, treasury and kingdom and loses her to the former.
• It shows that women in early societies were treated as property by ruling dynasties.
• According to Manusmriti, paternal estate was to be divided amongst sons, and women could not claim a share of it.
• However, women were allowed to retain their marriage gifts (stridhana), but only with husband's permission.
• This could be inherited by their children, and husband had no claim on it.
9. Discuss the evidence that suggests that Brahmanical prescriptions about kinship and marriage were not universally followed.
• Brahmanical prescriptions about kinship and marriage were not universally followed.
• For example, Satavahana ruler, Gotami-puta Siri Satakani, who claimed to have ensured that no intermarriage amongst members of the four varnas, entered into a marriage alliance with the kin of Rudradaman, who was a mlechchha (barbarian or outsider).
• Brahmanical texts classified people in terms of gotras.
• Women were expected to give up their father's gotra and adopt that of their husband on marriage and members of the same gotra could not marry.
• However, Satavahana rulers were polygynous (married more than one wife). Women who married them retained their father's gotras.
• Many of them belonged to same gotras. It was against the ideal of exogamy prescribed in the Brahmanical texts.
10. Compare the map in this chapter with Map 1 in Chapter 2. List the mahajanapadas and cities located near the Kuru-Panchala lands.
• Mahajanapadas: Kuru, Shurasena and Matsya
• Cities: Hastinapura, Indraprastha, Mathura and Virata