term for a town and mahanagara used more
only with the settlement of a lineage segment but also an urban centre.
Whereas in brahmanical sources, names of cities are often said to derive from
names of kings, in Buddhist literature their names are associated with rishis,
plants and animals, as in Kapilavastu and Koliyanagara.
Characteristic Features of Urbanism
Size of Urban Centres The city was identified in contemporary literary
sources by its size. An average of thirty to fifty square kilometres was
regarded quite normal for a city, though the size of the existing mounds is
often as small as five kilometres in circuit. Conceding the fact that much of
the original city may have spread well beyond the inner core, the tendency to
exaggerate the size is apparent.
Uniformity in Material Culture Archaeology also points to the early
phase of urbanisation having a certain similarity in material culture. There is
evidence of an improvement in living conditions, concentrations of people of
a higher density than before and therefore, the need for drains and refuse
disposal. Mud-brick was the main building material, which was probably
augmented with timber. Kiln-fired bricks and stone occur more frequently in
the subsequent period. The extensively used black pottery (NBPW) might
well have been luxury-ware and consequently, an important item of trade.
Lay-out of Cities The lack of a central market indicates the general lay-out
of the middle Ganga town. It grew around the intersection of two main
highways or along a river bank. The main roads formed the spine of the urban
centre linking it to rural areas. They also provided the processional paths on
ceremonial occasions, with the balconies of houses becoming view-stands for
the audience. Such scenes are frequently depicted in Buddhist sculpture.
Market areas or nigamas in the larger cities were located at the main
gateways. The nigama in large cities like Rajagrha and Sravasti may indicate
an area which was once a market town before it was engulfed by the growth
of the mahanagara.