Important Questions for Class 12 History Chapter 3 Kinship, Caste and Class (Early Societies)
Important Questions for Class 12 History Chapter 3 – 2 Marks Questions
Identify any two occupations to be performed by Kshatrivas as per varna order. (All India 2017)
Two occupations to be performed by Kshatriyas as per varna order were as follow:
- Kshatriyas were to engage in warfare and protect people i.e. they were soldiers.
- According to Shastras, only Kshatriyas could be kings.
Identify any two strategies evolved by Brahmanas to enforce the norms of varna order from C 600 BCE to 600 CE. (All India 2017)
The Brahmanas evolved tvvo or three strategies for enforcing the norms of varna order, which are as follows:
- The varna order was of divine origin.
- They advised kings to ensure that these norms were followed within their kingdoms.
State whether gender differences were really important in the early societies from C 600 BCE to 600 CE. (All India 2017)
Yes, it is seen in early societies that gender differences were important. Societies were generally patriliny. But matriliny family was also present. Sons were considered important for the continuity of the family and had share in paternal estate. But women could not claim a share of these resources.
Women were allowed to retain the gifts they received on the marriage ceremony. Women were also warned not to hoard family property without husband’s permission. In other words gender differences between men and women were sharpened due to unethical and biased rules.
Mention the rules about classification of people in terms of ‘gotra’ under Brahmanical practice around 1000 BCE onwards. (Delhi 2012)
The rules about the gotra are as follows:
- Women were expected to give up their father’s gotra and adopt their husband’s gotra on marriage.
- Members of the same gotra could not marry.
How did Brahmanas develop a sharper social divide? Give two examples. (HOTS; All India 2012)
Brahmanas developed a sharper social divide by suggesting the ideal occupations of the four varnas in society. For e.g.
- They classified certain social categories as ‘untouchables’.
- Those who considered themselves as pure avoided taking food from those designated as ‘untouchables’.
Mention one of the most challenging episodes in the Mahabharata. (Delhi 2009)
One of the most challenging episodes in the Mahabharata is Draupadi’s marriage with the five Pandavas. It is an instance of polyandry (the practice of a woman having several husbands) which is a central theme of the epic. Different authors attempted to explain it in a variety of ways.
Mention two ideal occupations of Brahmanas according to Dharmashastras. (Delhi 2009)
According to the Dharmashastras, the two ideal occupations of Brahmanas were as follows:
- To study and teach Vedas.
- To perform sacrifices and receive gifts.
Important Questions for Class 12 History Chapter 3 – 4 Marks Questions
Explain the language and content of Mahabharata. (All India 2017)
The language and content of Mahabharata are discussed below:
- Language: Mahabharata was written in Sanskrit language (although there are versions in other languages as well). However, the Sanskrit used in the Mahabharata is far simpler than that of the vedas.
- Content: Historians usually classify the contents of the Mahabharata under two broad heads:
Narrative This section contains stories.
- Didactic: This section contains prescriptions about social norms, designated as didactic.
But this divisison is by no means watertight as the didactic sections include stories and the narrative often contains a social message.
However, generally historians agree that the Mahabharata was meant to be a dramatic, moving story, and that the didactic portions were probably added later.
Interestingly, the text is described as an itihasa within early Sanskrit tradition. The literal meaning of the term is “thus it was”, which is why it is generally translated as “history”. Historians are in a doubt that the war really took place or not, which is described in the epic.
Some historians think that the memory of an actual conflict amongst kinfolk was preserved in the narrative while other point out that there is no other corroborative (authentic) evidence of the battle.
Explain how you will prove that the text of Mahabharata was a dynamic one. (All India 2017)
The following points prove that the text of Mahabharata was a dynamic one:
- The growth of the Mahabharata did not stop with the Sanskrit version.
- Over the centuries, version of the epic were written in a variety of languages through an ongoing process of dialogue between peoples, communities, and those who wrote the texts.
- Several stories that originated in specific regions or circulated amongst certain people found their way into the epic.
- The central story of the epic was often retold in different ways, and episodes were depicted in sculpture and painting.
- They also provided themes for a wide range of performing arts i.e. plays, dance and other kinds of narrations.
What do you know about the authors and the period when Mahabharata was compiled? Explain. (All India 2017)
Who composed the original story of the text of Mahabharata? Describe the various stages through which Mahabharata was completed between the 5th century BCE and 400 CE? Delhi 2012
The Mahabharata was composed over a period of about 1000 years between 500 BCE and 400 CE. The original story of the Mahabharata was composed by charioteer bards popularly called as Sutas.
The various stages were:
- Brahmanas began to unite its story from the 500 BCE.
- During this period, the chiefdoms of the Kurus and Panchalas were becoming kingdoms step by step.
- Between 200 BCE and 200 CE, the worship of Vishnu was becoming important.
- Krishna was one of the important figures of the Mahabharata and was coming to be identified with Vishnu between 200 C and 400 CE.
Between 200 and 400 CE, several didactic sections resembling the Manusmriti were added. This epic had about one lakh verses and this enormous composition is attributed to a sage named Vyasa.
Mention any two features of gotra as per the Brahmanical practice. What evidences do we get from the Satavahana inscription regarding the inheritance of gotra? Explain. (All India 2014)
From 1000 BCE onwards, one Brahmanical practice was to classify people in terms of gotras. The two important features of gotra were:
- Each gotra was named after a Vedic seer, all those who belonged to the same gotra were regarded as his descendants.
- Women were expected to give up their father’s gotra and adopt their husband’s gotra at the time of marriage. Again members of the same gotra could not marry.
The evidences we get from the Satavahana inscriptions regarding the inheritance of gotra are as follows:
- Inscriptions provide information which permits historians to get the family ties, including marriages.
- Several women who married Satavahana rulers had retained their father’s gotras. They had names derived from gotras such as Gotama and Vasistha which were their father’s gotra, instead of adopting the name from their husband’s gotra.
- Some of the women of Satavahana belonged to the same gotra which was against the ideal of exogamy, which refers to marriage outside the unit.
Critically examine the duties as laid down in ‘Manusmriti’ for the Chandalas. (HOTS: Delhi 2011)
Chandalas or ‘untouchables’ were placed at the very bottom of the hierarchy. They had to live outside the village, use discarded utensils and wear clothes of the dead and ornaments of iron. They were not permitted to walk in villages and cities at night. They served as executioners and had to dispose of the bodies of those who had no relatives. They had to sound a clapper in the streets, so that people could avoid seeing them. Chinese scholars admitted that the Chandalas led a life of degradation.
Describe how, according to Manusmriti, paternal estate was to be divided after the death of the parents with special reference to the rights of women. (All India 2011)
According to the Manusmriti, after the death of the parents, the paternal estate was to be divided equally amongst sons, with a special share for the eldest son. Women had no right to claim the share of the property.
Further, the scripture suggested that women were allowed to retain the gifts they received on the occasion of their marriage as stridhana (literally, a woman’s wealth). This could be inherited by their children, but the husband could not claim it. Further this scripture warned women against hoarding family property, or even their own valuables without the permission of the husband.
“The Dharmasutras and Dharmashastras also contained rules about the ideal occupations of the four categories of varnas.” Critically examine the statement. (HOTS, All India 2009)
The Dharmasutras and Dharmashastras contained rules about the ideal occupations of four categories of varnas.
These categories are as follows:
- Brahmanas were supposed to study and teach the Vedas, perform sacrifices and get sacrifices performed and give and receive gifts.
- Kshatriyas were to engage in warfare, protect people and administer justice, study the Vedas, get sacrifices performed and make gifts.
- Vaishyas were also assigned to study the Vedas, get sacrifices performed and make gifts as the Kshatriyas and in addition were expected to engage in agriculture, pastoralism and trade.
- Shudras were assigned only one occupation i.e. of serving the three ‘higher’ varnas.
In addition to assigning these occupations to the four varnas, the Brahmanas evolved two or three strategies for enforcing these norms.
Describe the position of the untouchables in ancient society. (All India 2008)
The Brahmanas developed a sharp social divide by classifying certain social categories as untouchables. The Chandalas, according to the Brahmanical norms, were considered as ‘untouchables’. This rested on a notion that certain activities, especially those connected with the performance of rituals, were sacred and by extension pure. Those who considered themselves pure avoided taking food from those designated as untouchables.
In sharp contrast to the purity aspect, some activities were regarded as particularly ‘polluting’. These included handling corpses and dead animals. Those who performed such tasks, designated as Chandalas, were placed at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Their touch and in some cases even seeing them was regarded as polluting by those who claimed to be at the top of the social order. The Manusmriti laid down the ‘duties’ of Chandalas which determined their status in the society
Describe the various stages through which Mahabharata was compiled in the 20th century. (Delhi 2008)
The work of compilation of Mahabharata started in 1919 under the leadership of noted scholar vs Sukthankar. The team comprised of dozens of scholars. They initiated the task of preparing a critical edition of the Mahabharata. The various stages of compiling Mahabharata were:
- They collected Sanskrit manuscripts of the text, written in a variety of scripts, from different parts of the country.
- They compared verses from each manuscripts. They selected the verses that appeared common to most versions.
- These common verses were published in several volumes, running into over 13,000 pages.
- The project took 4 years to complete.Two things became clear from this project:
- There were several common elements in the Sanskrit version of the story and these were found all over the sub-continent.
- More than half the 13000 pages had these types of variations which were documented in footnotes and appendices to the main text.
Important Questions for Class 12 History Chapter 3 – 8 Marks QuestionS
What are the rules of gotra as given in Brahmanical practice? Give some example to show that these rules were not always followed. (Delhi 2013)
Brahmanical practice from 1000 BCE onwards classified people in terms of gotra. Each gotra was named after a vedic seer. All those who belonged to the same gotra were regarded as the descendants of the particular vedic seer. Two rules about gotra were particularly important.
1. Women were expected to give up their father’s gotra and adopt their husband’s gotra on marriage.
2. Members of the same gotra could not marry.
But always these rules were not followed. Many women who married Satavahana rulers retained their father’s name instead of adopting names derived from their husband’s gotra. For example, there were Satavahana rulers who were recognised by their mother’s name, like Gotami-puta Siri-Satakani, Vasithi-puta (Sami) Siri-Pulumayi, etc. This meant that these women did not adopt their husband’s gotra name and rejected the Brahmanical rules. Moreover, some of these women belonged to the same gotra, i.e. the gotras of their father and husband were same. This was against the rules of exogamy (referred to marriage outside the unit), recommended by the Brahmanieal seriptures.
Important Questions for Class 12 History Chapter 3 Source Based Questions
A Tiger-Like Husband
This is a summary of a story from the Adi Parvan of the Mahabharata.
The Pandavas had fled into the forest. They were tired and fell asleep; only Bhima, the second Pandava, renowned for his powers, was keeping watch. A man-eating rakshasa caught the scent of the Pandavas and sent his sister Hidimba to capture them. She fell in love with Bhima, transformed herself into a lovely maiden and proposed to him. He refused. Meanwhile, the rakshasa arrived and challenged Bhima to a wrestling match. Bhima accepted the challenge and killed him. The others woke up hearing the noise. Hidimba introduced herself and declared her love for Bhima.
She told Kunti, “I have forsaken my Am. friends, my dharma and my kin; and good lady, chosen your tiger-like son for my man…whether you think me a fool or your devoted servant, let me join you, great lady, with your son as my husband.” Ultimately, Yudhisthira agreed to the marriage on one condition that they would spend the day together, but that Bhima would return every night. The couple roamed all over the world during the day. In due course,
Hidimba gave birth to a rakshasa boy named Ghatotkacha. Then, the mother and son left the Pandavas.
Ghatotkacha promised to return to the Pandavas whenever they needed him.
Some historians suggest that the term rakshasa is used to describe people whose practices differed from those laid down in Brahmanical texts.
1. Who was Hidimba? Why was she sent to Pandavas and what did she do? Explain.
2. How did Hidimba plead with Kunti for her love?
3. Why were Pandavas sent to the forest?
4. On what conditions did Bhima agree for marriage with Hidimba? (Delhi 2016, All India 2012)
1. How did the story from Adi Parvan play an important role in shaping the value and ethos of the society?
2. How is this story a unique example of exogamy?
3. How did Hidimba and Yudhisthira interpret dharma in their context? (Delhi 2016)
1. Hidimba was the sister of a man-eating rakshasa. She was sent by her brother to capture the Pandavas. Later, she fell in love with Bhima and married him with some conditions.
2. Hidimba pleaded with Kunti in order to declare her love for Bhima. She told Kunti that she left her family, friends and dharma for the sake of Bhima and requested Kunti for the approval to her marriage with Bhima.
3. The Pandavas were sent to the forest due to the conspiracy led by their cousin Duryodhana against them.
4. Bhima agreed for marriage with Hidimba on the conditions that they would spend the day together, but Bhima would return every night.
1. The story from Adi Parvan suggested that there was diversity in this sub-continent. There were people whose livelihood and social practices did not match with the Brahmanical thoughts, e.g. the rakshasa class in this story7. But society accepted them with some reservations. Here also, Hidimba was accepted with some preconditions.
2. Exogamy refers to marriage outside the unit. Here, Hidimba belonged to rakshasa class and Bhima belonged to Kshatriya class. Their marriage and conjugal life is a unique example of exogamy.
3. Hidimba gave up her friends, kin and dharma for the sake of her love for Bhima. She considered her love as the ultimate goal in her life. On the other hand, Yudhisthira agreed to the marriage of Hidimba with Bhima by seeing the love of Hidimba for Bhima. Here, Yudhisthira went beyond the regular boundary of dharma in our society.
Drupada, the king of Panchala, organised a competition where the challenge was to string a bow and hit a target; the winner would be chosen to marry his daughter Draupadi. Arjuna was victorious and was garlanded by Draupadi.
The Pandavas returned with her to their mother Kunti, who, even before she saw them, asked them to share whatever they had got. She realised her mistake when she saw Draupadi, but her command could not be violated. After much deliberation, Yudhisthira decided that Draupadi would be their common wife.
When Drupada was told about this, he protested. However, the Seer Vyasa arrived and told him that the Pandavas were in reality incarnations of Indra, whose wife had been reborn as Draupadi and they were thus destined for each other. Vyasa added that in another instance a young woman had prayed to Shiva for a husband, and in her enthusiasm, had prayed five times instead of once. This woman was now reborn as Draupadi and Shiva had fulfilled her prayers. Convinced by these stories, Drupada consented to the marriage.
- How does this story reveal that mother was considered as the highest guru?
- Why did Kunti not save Draupadi from the dire situation?
- Why did Drupada and Seer Vyasa agreed Draupadi’s strange marriage . with five men? (All India 2016)
1. After marriage of Arjuna with Draupadi, the Pandavas returned with her to their mother Kunti, Before seeing her, Kunti asked them to share whatever they had got. Kunti’s command could not be violated. So, the Pandavas married Draupadi and she became their common wife. This story reveals that mother was considered as the highest guru by the Pandavas.
2. Kunti was considered as the highest guru by her sons. The command of the highest guru could not be violated. Although, Kunti realised her mistake but she did not save Draupadi from the dire situation.
3. The Seer Vyasa told Drupada that the Pandavas w’ere in reality incarnation of Indra, whose wife has been reborn as Draupadi. So, they were destined to each other. Further, Vyasa said that according to other version, a young woman had prayed to Shiva for a husband five times. Shiva fulfilled her wish and the woman was reborn as Draupadi. Hearing this, Draupada agreed to Draupadi’s strange marriage with five men.
Draupadi is supposed to have asked Yudhisthira whether he had lost himself before staking her. Two contrary opinions were expressed in response to his question. Once, that even if Yudhisthira had lost himself earlier, his wife remained under his control, so he could stake her. Two, that an unfree man (as Yudhisthira was when he had lost himself) could not stake another person. The matter remained unresolved; ultimately, Dhritarashtra restored to the Pandavas and Draupadi their personal freedom.
- How did Draupadi’s questions unsettle everyone in the assembly?
- What was the implication of her questions?
- What makes Draupadi’s question admirable? (Delhi 2015)
1. Draupadi’s questions unsettled everyone in the assembly because she asked the unpredictable questions that women during those times were not supposed to ask. She asked whether Yudhisthira had the right to stake her although he had lost earlier and a lost person could not stake another person.
2. The implication of her questions was that whether wives could he treated as property of husband and whether she enjoyed her own freedom and identity.
3. Draupadi’s question is admirable because she has questioned the male dominated system prevailing during those times. She had also questioned the unlimited control exercised by men over their wives, which in turn made the wives as the property of their husbands. Her question raised the justification about personal freedom and dignity of women.
‘Proper’ Social Roles.
Here is a story from the Adi Parvan of the Mahabharata.
Once Drona, a Brahmana who taught archery to the Kuru princes, was approached by Ekalavya, a forest-dwelling Nishada (a hunting community).
When Drona, who knew the dharma, refused to have him as his pupil, Ekalavya returned to the forest, prepared an image of Drona out of clay and treating it as his teacher, began to practise on his own. In due course, he acquired great skill in archery. One day, the Kuru princes went hunting and their dog, wandering in the woods, came upon Ekalavya. When the dog smelt the dark Nishada wrapped in black deer skin, his body caked with dirt, it began to bark. Annoyed, Ekalavya shot seven arrows into its mouth. When the dog returned to the Pandavas, they were amazed at this superb display of archery.
They tracked down Ekalavya, who introduced himself as a pupil of Drona. Drona had once told his favourite student Arjuna, that he would be unrivalled amongst his pupils. Arjuna now reminded Drona about this. Drona approached Ekalavya, who immediately acknowledged and honoured him as his teacher.
When Drona demanded his right thumb as his fee, Ekalavya, unhesitatingly cut it off and offered it. But thereafter, when he shot with his remaining fingers, he was no longer as fast as he had been before. Thus, Drona kept his word no one was better than Arjuna.
- Do you think Drona’s action was justified? Explain.
- Examine the story and explain the character of Ekalavya.
- After giving his thumb to Drona did he (Ekalavya) repent. Explain your opinion. (All India 2015, Delhi 2010)
1. Drona promised to Arjuna that no one would beat him in archery. In order to fulfil his promise, Drona demanded Ekalavya’s right thumb as his fee. In this way, he kept his word, no one was better than Arjuna. But from the humanitarian point of view, it was completely unjustified. Drona never taught Ekalavya, so there was no question of fee for teaching. Doing harm to anyone for the sake of other is not justified.
2. Ekalavya was a forest-dweller who was called as Nishada. He was very keen to learn archery, for this he approached Dronacharya, but Dronacharya refused to have him as his pupil.
Ekalavya started to practise on his own in front of Drona’s image made of clay, prepared by himself. He acquired great skill in archery. It shows the strength and power of Ekalavya. His sense of gratitude made him cut off his thumb unhesitatingly even though it would cost him loosing his acquired skills.
3. No, Ekalavya did not repent. Ekalavya honoured Drona as his teacher. He obeyed his word and fulfilled his teacher’s wish of having his right thumb. In this way, he had proved himself a sincere and faithful student.
Why Kinfolk Quarrelled?
This is an excerpt from the Adi Parvan (literally, the first section) of the Sanskrit, Mahabharata, describing why conflicts arose amongst the Kauravas and Pandavas.
The Kauravas were the…sons of Dhritarashtra and the Pandavas…were their cousins. Since Dhritarashtra was blind, his younger brother Pandu ascended the throne of Hastinapura.. . However, after the premature death of Pandu, Dhritarashtra became king, as the royal princes were still very young. As the princes grew up together, the citizens of Hastinapura began to express their preference for the Pandavas, for they were more capable and virtuous than the Kauravas.
This made Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas, jealous. He approached his father and said, “You yourself did not receive the throne, although it fell to you, because of your defect. If the Pandava receives the patrimony from Pandu, his son will surely inherit it in turn and so will his son and his.
We ourselves with our sons shall be excluded from the royal succession and become of slight regard in the eyes of the world, lord of the Earth!”
Passage such as these may not have been literally true, but they give us an idea about what those who wrote the text thought. Sometimes, as in this case, they . contain conflicting ideas.
- Why did the citizens of Hastinapura , express preference for Pandavas?
- Explain the reactions of Duryodhana against Pandavas.
- Explain the criterion of patrilineal succession. (Delhi 2012)
1. The citizens of Hastinapura preferred the Pandavas to the Kauravas because the Pandavas were more capable and virtuous than Kauravas.
2. The preference of citizens for the Pandavas made Duryodhana jealous. He told his father that he lost the throne due to his defect. But if the Pandavas would get the throne as the patrimony of Pandu, then the Kauravas and their sons would lose their respect in the eyes of the world.
3. As per the criterion of patrilineal succession, it comes from father to son, grandson and so on. Consequently; sons could claim the resources of their fathers when the latter died.
The Wealthy Shudra
This story based on a Buddhist text in Pali known as the Majjhima Nikaya, is part of a dialogue between a king named Avantiputta and a disciple of the Buddha named Kachchana. While it may not be literally true, it reveals Buddhist attitudes towards varna.
Avantiputta asked Kachchana what he thought about Brahmanas who held that they were the best caste and that all other castes were low; that Brahmanas were a fair caste while all other castes were dark: that only Brahmanas were pure, not non-Brahmanas; that Brahmanas were sons of Brahma, born of his mouth, born of Brahma, formed by Brahma, heirs to Brahma.
Kachchana replied “What if a Shudra were wealthy….would another Shudra,.,..or a “Kshatriya or a Brahmana or a Vaishya… speak politely to him?” Avantiputta replied that if a Shudra had wealth or corn or gold or silver, he could have as his obedient servant another Shudra to get up earlier than he, go to rest later, to carry out his orders, to speak politely; or he could even have a Kshatriya or a Brahmana or a Vaishya as his obedient servant.
Kachchana asked, “This being so, are not these four varnas exactly the same?” Avantiputta conceded that there was no difference amongst the varnas on this count.
- What did Avantiputta want to know from Kachchana about Brahmanas?
- What was Kachchana’s reply? Explain
- If a Shudra had wealth, would Brahmanas and others speak to him politely? Give reasons. (All India 2010)
1. Avantiputta wanted to know’ from Kachchana his thought about Brahmanas, whether the Brahmanas were the best caste having fair skin while other castes were dark; whether they were sons of Brahma or born of Brahma’s mouth.
2. Kachchana replied that if a Shudra were wealthy then he could have another Shudra or Kshatriya or a Brahmana as his servant.
3. Yes, if Shudra had wealth, Brahmanas and others would speak to him politely because he had power of wealth.
How could Men and Women acquire Wealth?
For men, the Manusmriti declares, there are seven means of acquiring wealth inheritance, finding, purchase, conquest, investment, work and acceptance of gifts from good people.
For women, there are six means of acquiring wealth what was given in front of the fire (marriage) or the bridal procession or as a token of affection and what she got from her brother, mother or father.
She could also acquire wealth through any subsequent gift and whatever her ‘affectionate’ husband might give her.
- Explain the means how men could acquire wealth, according to Manusmriti?
- Explain the means of acquiring wealth by women.
- Explain the result of having different ways of acquiring wealth by men and women.
- Do you agree with such division of acquiring wealth or not? Give one reason. Delhi 2009
1. According to Manusmriti, men could acquire wealth by inheritance, finding, purchase, conquest, investment, work and acceptance of gifts from good people, etc.
2. Women could acquire wealth by six means what was given in front of the fire (marriage) or the bridal procession or as a token of affection and what she got from her brother, mother or father and also as a gift from her husband.
3. The following are the result of having different ways of acquiring wealth by men and women:
- The gender access to property leads to a low economic and social position of women.
- The dependency of women remained on the goodwill of the men in the family to have access to wealth.
4. No, I do not agree with such a division of acquiring wealth as it is gender-biased, which leads to inequality in the society.
Important Questions for Class 12 History Chapter 3 Value Based Questions
“The Mahabharata is a good source to study the Kinfolk values of ancient times.” Justify the statement with suitable arguments. (Delhi 2013)
The Mahabharata is a good source to study the Kinfolk values of ancient times. This statement can be justified in the following ways:
1. Families are usually parts of the larger networks of people defined as relatives, or to use a more technical term Kinfolk. While familial ties often regarded as ‘natural’ and based on blood, they are defined in many different ways. Some societies regard cousin as being blood relations, some others do not. The Mahabharata was a story of Kinship relations.
It narrated a feud over land and power between two groups of cousins, viz, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Both of the cousins had different set of ideal which shaped their actions and led to changes in their attitude of life.
2. Mahabharata reinforced the idea of patriliny, i.e. tracing descent from father to son, grandson and so on. Under patriliny, sons could claim the resources (including the throne in the case of kings) of their father when the latter died. In Mahabharata, both the Kauravas and the Pandavas believed that they were the real successor of the throne.
3. Draupadi’s marriage with the five Pandavas was the most challenging episode in the Mahabharata. It indicated polyandry (the practice of a woman having several husbands) among elites in that period.
It is evident that literature gives us an idea about the perception of the writer, but sometimes it contains conflicting ideas. Thus, epic like Mahabharata does not always depict the real picture of the society.
“Historians find it particularly a difficult task to understand a text as complex as the Mahabharata.” Justify this statement, (All India 2008)
Historians find it particularly a difficult task to understand a text as complex as the Mahabharata because:
- Historians classified the contents of the Mahabharata under two broad heads i.e. narrative section, which contains stories and didactic section which contains prescriptions about social norms. The historians suggested that the Mahabharata had a dramatic story and the didactic portions were probably added later.
- Historians consider several dements when they analyse text to examine the language of the text.
- The historians have to find out about the authors, whose perspectives and ideas have shaped the text, as well as the intended audience, as very often, authors keep in mind the interests of their audience while composing their work.
- They also have to ascertain the possible date of the composition or compilation of the texts as well as the place where they may have been composed.
Read the following passage and answer the questions that follow.
Given the diversity of the sub-continent, there were, and always have been, populations whose social practices were not influenced by Brahmanical ideas. When they figure in Sanskrit texts, they are of ten described as odd, uncivilized or even animal-like. In some instances, these included forest-dwellers for whom hunting and gathering remained an important means of subsistence. Categories such as the Nishada, to which Ekalavya is supposed to have belonged, are examples of this,
- Which ideas were considered supreme which influenced social practices of all people in ancient times?
- Due to which reason there were populations whose social practices remained unaffected by Brahmanical ideas? Who were these people?
1. The Brahmanical ideas were considered supreme and mandatory to be followed by people. These ideas influenced the social life of all the people of ancient times.
2. Due to the diversity of the Indian sub-continent, there were and always have been populations whose social practices were not influenced by Brahmanical ideas.
In some instances, these people included forest- dwellers for whom hunting and gathering remained an important means of subsistence. Categories such as Nishada, are example of this. These people are often described in Sanskrit texts as odd, uncivilised or even animal-like.
Read the following passage and answer the questions that follow.
These complexities are reflected in another term used in texts to refer to social categories jati. In Brahmanical theory, jati, like varna, was based on birth. However, while the number of varnas was fixed at four, there was no restriction on the number of jatis.
In fact, whenever Brahmanical authorities encountered new groups-for instance, people living in forests such as the Nishadas or wanted to assign a name to occupational categories such as the goldsmith or suvarnakara, which did not easily fit into the fourfold varna system, they classified them as a jati. Jatis which shared a common occupation or profession were sometimes organised into shrenis or guilds.
- Which different terms were used in Brahmanical text to refer to social categories?
- Why did Brahmanical authorities classify new groups as a jati and not as varna? Give a suitable reason.
1. The Brahmanical texts used different terms to refer to social categories like varna, which were composed of four groups like Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras in terms of decreasing in social status. Another terms used in these texts were jati and shrenis.
2. When Brahmanical authorities encountered new groups such as people living in forests i.e. Nishadas or wanted to assign a name to occupational categories such as goldsmith or suvarnakara, they classified them as a jati. It is because the varna system was fixed at four and could not be altered. As new groups did not early fit into the fourfold varna system, they classified every new group as a jati and not as varna.