village or small towns called vithis. No land transactions could be effected
without their consent, and this may have been also true of other important
affairs. Thus, while villages in Maurya times were managed from above,
those in Gupta times seem to have been managed from below.
Town Administration The urban set-up of north India is no longer marked
by the existence of such towns which issued coins as in post-Maurya times.
They now issued only seals to enforce their authority. The seals from Vaisali
clearly show that artisans, merchants and bankers served on the same
corporate body, and in this capacity, obviously managed the affairs of the
town; corporations of artisans and bankers existed separately too. In addition
to this, we hear of numerous separate guilds of artisans, traders, etc., at Bhila
and Vaisali. The guild of silkweavers in Mandasor and that of oilpressers in
Indur (Bulandshahr) are celebrated in Gupta inscriptions. The professional
guilds were different from family organisations and showed considerable
mobility, as can be inferred from the example of the Mandsor silkweavers.
Guilds were guided by their customs and usages observed by their officers,
without any interference from the state. It, thus, appears that in Gupta times,
guilds looked after the affairs of their members as well as of the towns in
which they were situated. Consequently, the state was partly relieved of the
burden of administering the towns, and inscriptions do not speak of any state
officers who may have been specifically charged with such responsibilities.
Indirectly Ruled Areas Although north Bengal, Bihar and UP were ruled
directly by the officers appointed by the Gupta king, the major part of the
empire was held by such feudatories as the Parivrajaka and Uccakalpa
princes and many others subjugated by Samudragupta. The vassals, who
evidently lived in the outer fringe of the empire, carried out their obligations
in three ways. They offered homage to the sovereign by personal attendance
in his court, paid tributes to him and presented to him daughters in marriage.
The Allahabad Inscription of Samudragupta mentions all these practices, but
in addition, the vassals apparently supplied troops to their overlord, who
extended protection to their proteges in times of war. The leading feudatories
of the Guptas included the Maitrakas of Valabhi, the Vardhanas of Thaneser,
the Maukharis of Kanauj, the Later Guptas of Magadha, the Chandras of
Bengal, etc., who set up independent states on the ruins of the Gupta empire.