Indian society over millennia—typified in the concepts of village
communities, Asiatic Mode of Production and Oriental Despotism—was
effectively contested by this scheme. The perception of its development in
three stages further marks its departure from the earlier model. Though the
formulation was principally based on evidence from north India, the
advocates of Indian feudalism deem this to be an all-India phenomenon,
albeit with regional variations. The recent studies of Indian feudalism,
however, concede that economic situation began to improve after 1000 and
especially since 1100 AD.
Segmentary State
Criticism of Marxist Depiction of Indian Feudalism The formulation of
Indian feudalism did not, however, go unchallenged. Several shortcomings in
the making of Indian feudalism have been identified on both empirical and
conceptual grounds. Marxist historians have been criticised for grafting the
European historiography onto the conditions of early medieval India. Instead,
the critics propose the presence of segmentary state, in sharp contrast to the
fragmented feudal polity in South India, roughly from the time of the Cholas
to the last days of the Vijayanagar empire. The segmentary state is said to
have continued till it succumbed to the rise of English East India Company.
Projection of Nadus as the Basis of the Segmentary State The theoretical
formulation also repudiates the previous image of the Chola state, having a
peculiar combination of an extremely powerful and nearly Byzantine
monarchy at the top level and the active presence of local-self bodies at
grassroots level. Drawing largely from inscriptions and also the quantifiable
data about the importance of nadus in South Indian polity, the nadus were
projected by these proponents as the prime unit of social and agrarian
organisation and as the very basis of the segmentary Chola state. The nadus
stood over individual villages and therefore, functioned as locality level
centres. In their role as the local agency and the peasant macro-region the
nadus are depicted as the real foci of the administration. This conceptual
framework, in its turn, gives little scope for the exercise of actual
bureaucratic control of the central Chola power, which is inferred to have
enjoyed little, if any, control over the realisation of revenue.