Pre-Mauryan Economic and Social Systems and important Invasion
In the Pre-Mauryan period, we notice for the first time, an advanced food- producing economy spread over the middle Gangetic plains and the beginning of an urban economy in this area. Cattle rearing, e.g. was no longer the primary occupation and was replaced by agriculture. Rice was the staple cereal produced in Eastern Utter Pradesh and Bihar in this period. Iron played a crucial role in opening the rainfed forests, for clearance, cultivation and settlement.
A strong rural base was necessary for the beginning of urbanization and crafts as taxes and tributes were required in a sufficient measure. This Period saw the Second urbanization in India with the coming of the towns as centre of Industry and trade. The use of burnt bricks and ring wells appeared in the middle of the NBPW phase, in the 3rd century BC.
Specialized craftsmen tended to form guide because it facilitated the carriage of raw materials and the distribution of finished articles. We hear of 18 guilds of the artisans. The guild at this stage was not the highly developed mercantile system, which it was to become later. Each guild inhabited a particular section of the town. The introduction of the monetary system considerably facilitated trade. Coins made of metal appear first in the age of the Gautama Buddha. The earliest hoards have been found in Eastern Utter Pradesh and Magadha, although some have been found at Taxlia. Most probably, they were referred as Nishka and Satamana.
The Pre-Mauryan Social System
The tribal community had been clearly divided into four Varnas Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. The Dhramshutras laid down the duties of each of the four Varnas and the civil and criminal laws came to be based on the varna division. They condemned the Vaishyas for lending money. All kinds of disabilities were imposed on the Shudras. They were deprived of religious and legal rights and were relegated to the lowest positions in the society. Patriarchal tendencies became dominant. Women were looked down in comparison to men. They were to remain under the tutelage of the male members and were not entitled to either education or the Upanayana ceremony.
Iranian or Persian Invasion
The Achemenian rulers of Iran, who expanded their empire at the same time as did the Magadhan kings, took advantages of the political disunity of the North-Western frontier. Herodotus, the Greek historian, also known as the Father of History states that in 516 BC, Darius (552-486 BC), the grandson of Cyrus, sent a naval expedition to explore the valley of the Sindh. The Indian soldiers formed a part of the Achaemenian army that conquered Greece in the time of the Persian ruler Xerxes (465-456 BC). The successors of Darius I, Darius II, Darius III also enlisted Indian soldiers and sent them to them fight Alexander.
Effects of the Persian Invasion
• Introduction of the Aramaic form of writing, which later developed into the Kharosthi alphabets.
• Promotion of Indo-Iranian trade.
• Geographical exploration of the Indus and Arabian Sea, leading to the opening up of a new water route.
• Fusion of the Persian features, quite visible in the Mauryan Art.
Alexander’s Invasion (The Greek Invasion)
In the 4th century BC, the Greeks and the Iranians fought for the supremacy of the world. The Greek ruler Alexander conquered not only Asia minor and Iraq, but also Iran. From Iran, he marked to India, attracted by its wealth.
Alexander conquered the major principalities one by one. Among the rulers of these territories, two were well known Ambhi, the prince of Taxila and Porus, whose kingdom lay between the Jhelum and the Chenab.
After the conquest if Iran, Alexander moved on to Kabul, from where he marched to India through the Khyber Pass. Ambhi, the ruler of Taxila, readily submitted to the invader, augmented his army and replenished his treasure. Porus fought bravely, but was defeated.
Effects of the Greek Invasion
• It opened up the trade route between the North-West India and Western Asia and Europe came into contact.
• Opening up of four distinct routs between India and Greece by land and sea paved the way for increased trade and cultural contacts between the two regions.
• Not only did the Greek invasion led to the coming up of guilds (shreni), but also facilitated trade due to the fact that money also got introduced post the invasion. The Greek Art influenced the architecture of the period, for instance, the Ashokan pillars have been influenced by the same.
• Many Greek scholars came to India and wrote on Indian History, now of immense relevance in the reconstruction of the then contemporary socio-religious aspects.
• The Greek invasion also furthered the expansion of the Mauryan Empire in North-West India, since the local powers were already destructed by Alexander.