as semi-serfs. For the latter did not have to
economic situations. On the basis of several epigraphic records, we can make
the following observations on serfdom in India which became fairly common
by the middle of the eighth century AD:
• It began in the peripheral areas and then gradually spread to the heart
of the country in northern India.
• It was organised in mountainous or backward regions which did not
have too many peasants to, run the local economy, but because of the
powers it gave to the landholders over the peasants it later spread to
• It began with the share-croppers and then covered peasants in general.
• Finally it began with plots of land and then came to embrace whole
Rise of Sudra peasants is another important development of the Gupta
and post-Gupta times. There is sufficient reason to believe that Sudras were
also becoming peasants in good numbers, though the traditional view that
Vaishyas were peasants recurs in the contemporary literature. Several
lawbooks show that land was rented out to the Sudra for half the crop. This
would suggest that the practice of granting land to Sudra share-croppers was
becoming more common. Narada includes the kinasa (peasant) among those
who are not tit to be examined as witnesses. A commentator of the seventh
century AD explains the term kinasa as a Sudra, which shows that peasants
were thought of as Sudras. Besides, Brihaspati provides very severe corporal
punishment for the Sudra who acts as a leader in boundary disputes relating
to fields, which again suggests that such Sudras were owners of fields.
Finally, Hiuen Tsang describes the Sudras as a class of agriculturists, a
description which is confirmed by the Narasimha Purana compiled before
the tenth century AD. Thus, this significant development, which began from
the Gupta period, covered all the Sudras by the first half of the sev- enth
century AD. The view that the farmer popula- tion was largely composed of
Sudras seems to be more true of the Gupta and post-Gupta times than of
earlier periods. Thus, from the point of view of the rise of feudalism the
transformation of Sudras from the position of slaves and hired labourers into
that of agriculturists should be regarded as a factor of great significance.
Results of Land Grants