brought waste lands under cultivation when these were donated to them as
religious endowments. We find in Kalidasa that even the hermits utilised
lands for the purpose of agriculture and produced different kinds of food
grains for their own maintenance.
Keeping the importance of agriculture in view, both Narada and
Brihaspati laid down rules for drastic punishment of those guilty of either
damaging crops or stealing food grains. Even herdsmen were subject to
punishment, if due to their negligence, cattle damaged crops. At the same
time the cultivator was also asked to fence and protect his field properly.
Though we find numerous references to prosperous agriculture during the
period, there are equally frequent references to droughts, floods, crop failures
In the Gupta period the agricultural holdings were probably small and were
cultivated by the owner himself with the help of his family members. But
there were also some landholdings, like eleven patakas of land mentioned in
the Gunaigarh plate where the owner hired labour for its cultivation or let out
the land to share-croppers.
Narada as well as Brihaspati laid down certain rules to govern the
relations between the land owner and the hired labour or share-cropper. These
rules were essentially meant to safeguard the interests of both the parties
Crop patterns and Crops
Since rainfall played a crucial role in agriculture in most of the areas,
Brihatsamhita of Varahamihira deals elaborately with meteorological
observations providing guidelines to cultivators. There were, according to
Varahamihira, three harvests at least in some parts of India—the summer,
autumn and spring crops.
Both Varahamihira and Amarasimha frequently mention various crops
cultivated during the period, such as rice, wheat, barley, peas, lentils, pulses,
sugarcane and oil seeds. From the works of Kalidasa it is evident that south
India was famous for pepper and cardamom. There were also various fruits