There is no evidence to show that peasants in the donated villages had the
same position in relation to Brahmin landlords as peasants to their lords in
west European manorial villages. But in certain respects the Indian peasant
was completely subservient to the benefactor. In many cases, because of the
right of getting their land cultivated by others, the landlords could replace old
peasants by new ones, thus ousting their tenants.
    The Gupta grants from central and western India implicitly show that the
peasants had to render visti or forced labour to their king or land holder while
some land grants from the post-Gupta period make the landlord’s right to
forced labour quite explicit. A grant of the Valabhi ruler Dharasena I (AD
575) confers on the recipient of a religious grant the right to impose forced
labour if the occasion arose. Exactly the same concession is granted by
Siladitya I in his charters of the seventh century, the technical term conveying
the recipient’s right to forced labour is frequently mentioned in the Valabhi
grants and even in grants made by lesser chiefs such as the Sendraka chief
Allasakti of Gujarat. It also occurs in the land charters of the Chalukyas of
    Quite a few radical changes took place in the nature of the forced labour
in the Gupta and post-Gupta times. The practice was extended to the western
part of central India, Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka, as indicated by the
Vakataka, Rashtrakuta and Chalukya records. It assumed a wide magnitude
in central India, where it came to be known by the term sarva-visti. The right
to forced labour, formerly confined to the king alone, was now extended to
recipients of religious grants and their descendants. Its scope too was
widened and the various kinds of work done by means of visti are enumerated
in the contemporary texts. All this probably bore heavily upon the peasants.
    While the peasants under the landholders were reduced to a servile
position, the free peasants also lost status because of the imposition of several
new taxes and levies. It seems that during the Gupta and post-Gupta times the
villagers had to pay forced contributions of money or supplies to royal troops
and officials when they halted or passed through the villages. Further they
had to furnish cattle in relays for transport. They were also under the
obligation of supplying flowers and milk to the royal officers on tour. These
forced contributions which were not sent to the state treasury but were
consumed locally by royal troops and officers tended to set them up as