CULTURAL TRENDS (750–1200)
Second Great Transformation
By the middle of the first millennium of the Christian era, a second great
transformation in Indian history was well underway, the first being the early
historical phase spanning the Maurya and Gupta empires. The second
transformation spanned almost ten centuries, from early medieval to early
modern times, from the mid-eighth through the mid-eighteenth century. Its
early history took off from ancient trends but also left them behind. Its later
history would shape the character of modernity. This long medieval
transformation is first visible in a proliferation of inscriptions that record
social activity in dynamic regions of dynastic authority that embraced ever
more diverse populations. In this outline, we shall consider major innovations
that transformed societies and social identities inside them during early
medieval centuries, before 1200 AD.
Geopolitical Background
Like the Pallavas and Pushyabutis, other early medieval dynasties had ancient
genealogies. Like the Guptas, most medieval kings had their homelands in
fertile places along river basins. But in medieval societies, people built many
more of these fertile places by digging wells, by constructing dams, channels
and reservoirs, and by lifting water for crops with devices that were more and
more often powered by bulls in harness. Medieval domains of royalty that
emerged in these new fertile places were not mere offshoots of ancient
cultures: they were novel organisations of social power that produced new
kinds of social identities. Their  elites had various origins and spoke many