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Kerala PSC Indian History Book Study Materials Page 867Book's First Page
Kshatriyas lived on the taxes, tributes, tithes These conflicts were, however, made up in face of the opposition of the lower orders. The ancient texts repeatedly emphasise the need for mutual help and cooperation between the two higher varnas. Around the third century AD a deep social crisis upset the Vaishya-Sudra social formation in particular and the varna system in general. The crisis is clearly reflected in the descriptions of the kali age in those portions of the Puranas which belong to the third and fourth centuries AD. Emphasis on the importance of danda (coercive mechanism) in the Santi Parva and the description of arajaka (anarchy) in the epics possibly belong to the same age and point to the same crisis. Vaishyas and Sudras either refused to stick to the production functions assigned to them or else the Vaishya peasants declined to pay taxes and the Sudras refused to make their labour available. This made the functioning of the society and state difficult, if not impossible. In order to overcome the crisis the practice of land grants was adopted by the rulers on a large scale. Priests and officials were granted land revenues which relieved the state of the responsibility of tax collection and eventually also of the maintenance of law and order in several parts of the kingdom. The practice was extended to both settled and backward areas. These land grants led to the spread of material culture and thus increased the overall agricultural production. In the process land grants brought to the Brahmanical fold a large number of aboriginal peasants who came to be ranked as Sudras. Sudras, therefore, began to be called peasants and agriculturists in late ancient and early medieval texts. Various samskaras (domestic rituals), vratas (religious vows) and tirthas (places of pilgrimage) came to be prescribed for the Sudras so that ordinary Brahmins and even priests of a lower category could get their dues on every occasion. The Sudras could now also listen to the recitation of the epics and the Puranas. The castes (jatis) proliferated at a rapid pace in Gupta and post-Gupta periods. For, more and more land grants were made in tribal areas, and every tribe was absorbed into the Hindu system as a Sudra caste. We find as many as 61 castes mentioned in the Manu Smriti, and more than 100 castes in Brahmavaivarta Purana. Though most of them were tribal peoples converted into castes, the Brahmanical law-givers explained their origins as a result of mixture between the varnas and called them varnasamkara or mixed castes.