on priests and temples as a result of land grants. The practice started with the
Satavahanas in the Deccan and became widespread in central India, in the
territories held by the feudatories of the Guptas and in those held by the
Vakatakas, although the Gupta emperors made very few grants. The new
fiscal concessions embraced transfer of royal rights over salt and mines,
which were royal monopolies and evident signs of sovereignty. The religious
beneficiaries were granted villages for ever and were entitled to all the taxes
accruing to the benefactor, without any responsibility of paying any portion
of it to the grantor in north India and the Deccan. What distinguished the land
charters of the Gupta period was the administrative privileges conferred on
the beneficiaries. They enjoyed freedom from the entry of royal agents,
retainers, etc., which is also found in the Satavahana charters. But now, they
were empowered to punish the criminals guilty of ten offences. In other
words, they were vested with magisterial and police powers. Further, the
inhabitants of the villages placed under the charge of the beneficiaries as a
result of gifts made to them, were asked by the king to obey their new
masters and to carry out their orders.
Feudal Nature of Polity Since a considerable area of imperial
administration was managed by feudatories and beneficiaries, the Gupta
rulers did not require as many officials as the Mauryas did; officials were also
rendered redundant because of the absence of state economic activities on
any big scale. Nor was a large standing army needed on the same scale as
was maintained by the Mauryas. The need for an elaborate administrative
establishment was further lessened by the participation of artisans, merchants,
elders, etc., in rural and urban administration – a feature not noticeable in
Maurya times. Villages assumed more authority, leaving less for the centre to
do. The Guptas therefore, neither needed nor possessed the elaborate
bureaucracy of the Maurya type, and in spite of the strong arms of the Gupta
kings, institutional factors working for decentralisation were far stronger in
the Gupta age than in pre-Gupta times. In many ways, the Gupta rule marked
the beginnings of the feudal polity, which became typical of early medieval