old type of provincial governor in wealth and
hierarchy of the realm, they were often given high positions at the court of
the king. Thus the king of Valabhi in western India who was defeated by
Harsha not only gained recognition as a mahasamanta but rose to the high
positions of a mahaprathihara (Guardian of the Royal Gateway) and
mahadandanayaka (Royal Field Marshal). Conversely, the high officers of
the central court demanded similar recognition as the defeated kings and
princes and obtained it in due course. But magnificent title alone would not
do, the officers also wanted some territory to go with it. This then was the
process of the ‘samantisation’ of the realm, which we may regard as the
Indian variety of feudalism.
     This process of ‘samantisation’ was accelerated by two factors: the lack
of money for the payment of salaries and the new idea that royal prestige
depended on the size of a king’s samantachakra (circle of tributary princes).
Old treatises on the art of government, like the Arthasastra, provide detailed
list of the salaries of officers and Hiuen Tsang reported that certain high
officers received their salaries in cash even in the seventh century. But the
recession of international trade and the reduced circulation of coins made it
necessary for officers to be paid by the assignment of revenue of some
villages or of whole districts which they held as prefend. Some of the
contemporary works tell us that kings were eager to cancel such assignments,
particularly if the officer concerned had displeased the ruler. However, the
process of samantisation was generally stronger than the will of the central
Epigraphic Evidence
As early as the third quarter of the 5th century AD the term samanta was used
to mean vassal in south India for the phrase samantachudamanayah (best
feudatories) appears in a Pallava inscription of the time of Santivarman (AD
455–470). In the last quarter of the 5th century AD also, the term occurs in
some grants of southern and western India in the sense of vassal. In north
India the earliest use of the term in a similar sense seems to have been in a
Bengal inscription, and in the Barabar Hill Cave Inscription of the Maukhari
chief Anantavarman (early 6th century AD), in which his father is described as
samanta-chudamanih (the best