legitimisation of the numerous dynasties that captured political power and the
fact that their bureaucratic structures tended to imitate earlier models, the
Smriti theorists wanted to make sure that the social order with a set of
prescribed functions for the kshatriyas survived.
Royal Prasastis At the same time, however, the process of the
accumulation of political power bestowed an additional premium on the
virtue of military achievements. In the royal prasastis, the passages dealing
with royal conquests formed a stereotype throughout the history of a dynasty.
The ‘end of kingship tended to become more or less personal to the king’ and
the new kshatriya value was well expressed by Medhatithi who stated that
‘the highest end of royalty was the fulfilment of the desire of king for
conquest and the establishment of sole political supremacy’.
Hierarchical Political Structure To a large extent, such values were the
products of a hierarchical political structure which bred a sense of
competition between those placed differently in that structure. The twelfth
century work Aparajitapariccha, classified at least six major categories of
feudatories and vassals. Other works mention various other categories down
the scale and as their position and status depended on the size of areas or of
revenues, they commanded military valour, and aggrandizement became the
chief means of personal mobility within the structure. In such a condition, the
position of the overlord relied on preserving a balance in this structure. The
history of the collapse of numerous dynasties however reveals that such a
balance was very rarely established beyond a short period.
Nature of Political Structure
Feudalism became an essential feature of the polity of north India between AD
750 and 1200. This was so because the authority of the rulers came to be
limited in many ways. Firstly, the ministers in most cases were chosen on a
hereditary basis from selected families, which added to their importance, so
much so that the king could not reject their advice. Secondly, there were
numerous feudal barons, quite a number of whom had ties of kinship with the
ruling family. In the local and central government, the barons had special
privileges and powers which no ruler could safely disregard. This also
circumscribed the authority of