can be referred to the second half of the sixth century AD, when the Valabhi
ruler Dharasena II records the gift of plots of varying sizes held by five
persons, all of whom are mentioned by name in the grant. Probably along
with the plots their holders also changed hands, otherwise there was no point
in mentioning their names. The successor of Dharasena II, Dharasena Ill, also
made a grant (AD 623–24) of four plots of cultivated land of different sizes
held respectively by four cultivators who are mentioned in the grant. That the
peasants attached to the soil were transferred can also be inferred from the
Navsari plates of an early Gurjara ruler of Gujarat, Jayabhatta III (AD 706),
who bestowed a large field on a Brahmin along with its houses and movable
and immovable property. The above three instances concern the gift of fields
and not of villages. The earliest grant which unequivocally transfers the
villagers to the grantee is that of a feudatory ruler called maharaja
Samudrasena (seventh century AD). According to it, a village in the Kangra
area is made over as a grant with its inhabitants (sa-prativasi-janasameta).
    The earliest epigraphic reference to the transfer of peasants to a
monastery belongs to the seventh century AD. The Ashrafpur grants from East
Bengal, as noted already in some other context, mention the persons who
were in the enjoyment of a plot and the cultivators who were tilling it. They
indicate that while the plot was taken away from the enjoyers and given to
the Buddhist monastery, the cultivators were left undisturbed, for the
monastery would have to get its land cultivated by peasants.
    Serfdom, that is, the practice of transferring peasants along with land to
the beneficiaries, seems to have been a ‘feature of the grant of those pieces of
land which did not form part of organised villages but were held
independently by peasant families having their habitation in isolated houses
rather than in a cluster of dwellings. In these cases all the lands cultivated by
the peasants lay around their houses. When these lands were donated, the
peasants working on them had to be retained. Otherwise the beneficiaries
would be put to great difficulties. Some of these peasants were probably
ploughmen. It is, therefore, possible to think of two types of serfs—those
who possibly served as ploughmen and those who served as tenants living in
villages. The former (ploughmen attached to the land), may be equated with
the full-fledged serfs, while the latter (tenants specifically transferred along
with villages) may be treated