Assessment of land ownership rights on the basis of epigraphical evidences of bhumidāna during Gurjara Pratihāra period

Manaviki (January-June 2018) ISSN : 0975-7880 371

Dr. Rajeev Pratap
Assistant Professor, Amity University, Uttar Pradesh
The period of my interest i.e. Gurjara-Pratihāra period covers quiet a long
period from c.750A.D. – 1000A.D. This period did not see many original Smiriti
writers. However, the period abounds in commentaries with high intellectual
creativity, which is a fact of great historical importance. Some of the Purānas were
also given a fresh look. Commenting on the original texts of the smritis, commentators
gave new interpretations to earlier laws by expanding or limiting their scope. Doing
so, they were influenced by their age. This period is also rich in digest writers.
Here let me draw your attention regarding the fact that, the information
available on the land ownership included the collection of information right from the
beginning since the development of the great part of law, if not the majority, of the
legal institutions is mentioned in dharmasāstras/smritis and these can be traced almost
to first century BCE. Here one thing is notable that, these laws were not static but
were harmonized with new social and economic conditions in various times in various
regions of India separately and later on were followed by a large part of the country.
Keeping this point in view, I am trying to give due importance to the smritis and other
works of the period, earlier and after both than that of interest-period also.
The land types that are prevalent in India, from Rigvedic to Modern times can
be divided into four classes namely: Homestead land, Arable land, Pasture land and
Forest. The first two types have traditionally been held in individual ownership or
under the ownership of some Matha/Vihāra/Temple. Pasture land was under
communal ownership and the forest was no man’s land or states’ property or king’s
property.
As far as my survey of inscriptional evidences of GurjarPratihar period is
concerned, I very often came across with the evidences indicating all the above
mentioned three types of land ownership. Inscriptional evidences show that when a
donor either an individual or a group intended to make a bhumidana to brahmanas or
temples or mathas, he had with him two options i.e.

  • To give his own land i.e. land owned by him, or
  • To invest the necessary amount in the purchasing of landed property and then gift it.
    We have with us the inscriptional evidences of both the cases of the gifting of
    landed property. In all 04 villages, several the fields, shops, residences were given as
    dana to 16 temples and mathas by 05 guilds and 91 individuals which included
    merchants, common men and even big land lords, and even the family members of the
    king. The selling, purchasing and donating of the land both by individuals and groups
    are very clearly indicate the individual or communal ownership over the land. A clear
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    mention of the boundaries of the donated land also corroborates the fact. Similarly, we
    come across the evidences of land grants given by kings to brahmanas or temples. 05
    villages were given to five brahmanas and a mat ha as bhumidana. This supports the
    royal king’s ownership over land and not the states’ ownership.
    Evidences of Individual land ownership
    Kamman Stone Inscription of c. 786-87 to 905-06 A.D. (E.I., XXIV, pp. 329-336):
    Document number III of c. 835 A.D. records the gift of two plots of lands inside the
    fort (kotta) by some one whose name is now missing.
    Document number VI of c. 826 A.D. registers that a man named Untata piously
    donated three plough measures of land in his own village. The land was previously
    tilled by some brahmanas.At the time of gift it was cultivated by Eduvaka. It was
    added that the produce of these plots should be added to the capital.
    Document number VII of c.786 A.D. records the donation of two avaris (enclosure)
    situated outside the fort by Bhadra, a worker by a written deed.
    Sivadoni Stone Inscription of c. 903-04 to 968-9 A.D. (E. I., I. pp. 162 -179):
    Document number III of c.907-8 A.D. registers the gift avasanik comprising of
    four houses bythree merchants named Chanduk, Savasa and Mahap.
    Document number VI of c. 910-11 A.D. records the gift of an avasanik (residence)
    and a houseby merchant Vasudeva.
    Document number VII of records the gift of five vithis (shop) along with the land by
    merchantChanduka.
    Document number VIII records the gift of a hereditary vithi by a betel seller kesava.
    Document number IX records the gift of two vithis along with the land by merchant
    Nagak.
    Document number X records the gift of a vithi by a merchant Siluka.
    Document number XIII records the gift of a vithi by merchant Nagaka.
    Document number XIV records the gift of three Vithis by merchant Nagaka.
    Document number XV records the gift of a hereditary vithi by a merchant Bhaila.
    Document number XVI records the gift of two houses along with the land by
    merchant Nagak.
    Document number XIX registers the gift of a vithi by Savasa.
    Document number XXIV records the gift of an avasanika, comprising of three
    houses bu themerchants Mahaditya and Nohal.
    Document number XXV of c.933-4 A.D. records the gift of an avasanik with the
    houses andvithi by Nagak, Dedaik, Vali and Rudak.
    Document number XXVI records the gift of a vithi by Dedaik, Valika and Rudak.
    Ahar Stone Inscription of c.864-904 AD. (EI. XIX. pp.52-62):
    Document number VI of c. 893 A.D. records the gift of a purchased avari to
    kanakshridevi by amerchant Sahak.
    Document number VII of c. 902 A.D. registers the gift of an avari situated in
    the town of
    Tattanaadapura by a Sauvarnnikamahajan to some brahamans for the maintenance
    of a temple.
    Manaviki (January-June 2018) ISSN : 0975-7880 373
    Document number IX of c. 867 A.D. states the gift of an avari to the Kanakshridevi
    temple by asauvarnikmahajan Sarvasva with his grandsons who purchased it on
    lease for 99 years from a merchant Madhava.
    Document number X of c. 904 A.D. states the gift of six avaris to the
    Kanakshridevi temple by san Varnikmahajan by a deed of 99 years to a brahman
    for the maintenance of a temple. The boundaries of the property purchased are duly
    mentioned.
    Uma Copper plate of c.894 and 899A.D. (E.I.IX. pp. 1-1)
    First part records the dana of Jayapura village, belonging to the group of
    eighty four to atemple of Sun by Mahasamanta Balwarman of Chalukya lineage.
    The boundaries of the village are well defined. It was given with all the share of
    produce according to Bhumichidranyaya.
    Second part records the dana of Amvulakha village belonging to the Nakshisapura
    eighty four inthe Saurastramandal by Mahasamanta Awannivarman II of Chalukya
    lineage to a temple of Sun.
    Partabgarh Inscription of c. 942 AD. (E.L. XIV pp.176-188):
    Second part mentions the bhumidana of a village in the favour of Indradityadeva
    by Madhava, the provincial governor of Mahendrapaladeva II at the request of
    ChahmanIndra Raja. A thither endowment of a field by the river side to the.
    north of village irrigated by a persianwheel is also recorded.
    Third part records the dana of field by Maharajadhiraj Bhartriputra in the
    village of
    Plaskupika in the favour of Indradityadeva for the spiritual merit of himself and his
    parents.
    Fourth part records a number of dana to different deities by different persons as:
     The gift of an arable field named Chittulaka which was irrigated by one leather
    bucket by
    Devaraja.
     The gift of a field named Umdiyakaby Indraraja.
     The gift of two arable fields Dhadivaha and Mochcha by a person not named.
    Rajor inscription of c. 960 AD. (E.I. III., pp. 263-67):
    This inscription records the dana of Vyaghrapataka village- up to its proper
    boundaries thegrass and pasture land alongwith the bhaga, bhogakara and hiranyakara
    etc. with all the share of the produce by Maharajadhiraj Parmesvara Mathandevaof
    Gurjar- Pratihara lineage during the reign of Pararn Bhattarak Maharajadhiraj
    Parmeswara Vayapaladeva
    Evidences of Communal land ownership
    Kamman Stone Inscription of c. 786-87 to 905-06 A. D. (E.I. XXIV pp.329-336):
    Document number VIII of c. 895 A.D. records the purchasing of two avarikas by
    a goshthikas,the rent of which was to be utilized for the maintenance of a temple.
    Siyadoni Stone Inscription of c. 903-04 to 968-9 A.D. (E.I. I.pp. 162-179.):
    Document number I of c. 903-04 A.D. records the gift of a field measuring 200 by
    225 hastas toa temple.
    374
    Ahar Stone Inscription of c.864-904 AD. (E.I.XIX. pp.52-62):
    Document number II of c.864 A.D. records the gift of the rent of a purchased apart by the community of sauvarnnika traders along with two persons Bhadra and
    Maumak for the maintenance of the temple to the management committee of the
    temple.
    Document number V mentions the gift of a purchased building site and two avari
    from two individuals to a temple for its maintenance by a goshthi with money
    belonging to Kanakshree by a deed of 99 years.
    Gwalior fort inscription of 875A.D. (E.I.I. pp.154-162):
    This inscription registers the gifts made by the inhabitants of the Gwalior town to
    two temples which were perpetual in nature. These danas included 270 royal hasta
    by 187 royal hasta of land situated in Chudapallika village, two cultivable fields
    in Jayapuraka village previously cultivated by Dallak and Memaka. The
    boundaries of the fields are clearly defined.
    Evidences of Royal/State land ownership
    Barah Copper plate of 836 AD. records the gift of a village Valakaagrahara to a
    brahmana born in the family of Bhattakacharswamin with all the share of produce
    upto its boundaries in Udumbara Visaya of Kanyakubjabhukti. It is actually a
    renewal of previous dana given by Sarwavarmandeva. This dana was made by
    King Bhoja I for the support of education and the maintenance of the brahmanas.
    Daulatpura Copper Plate of 843 A.D. registers the gift of Siva village in
    Dendvanak Visaya of Gurjaratbhumi to brahmana Bhatta Vishnu and Bhatta
    Vasudeva for the support of education and the maintenance of brahmanas. This is
    also a renewal and approval of previous dana given by Vatsarajdeva; The dana
    included all the share of produce up to its boundaries and was given by King Bhoja
    I.
    Dighwa Dubali Copper Plate of 898 A.D. registers the gift of Painyaka village in
    Valayika Visaya of Sravasti Bhukti to brahmana Padmeswara for the support of
    education and the maintenance of brahmanas. The dana included all the share of
    produce up to its boundaries and was given by King Mahendrapala I.
    Varanasi Copper Plate of 898 A.D. registers the gift of Tikkarika village in
    Varanasi Visaya of Pratisthan Bhukti to brahmana Bhullaka for the support of
    education and the maintenance of brahmanas. The dana included all the share of
    produce up to its boundaries and was given by King Vinayakapala deva I.
    Partabgarh Inscription of 946 A.D. registers the gift of Kharaparapadrak village
    in Pathaka Visaya of Daspura Bhukti to the Matha of Hari Risiswara and temple
    of Vatayakchini Devi for the support of repairing and maintenance of temple and
    Matha and the brahmanas associated with it. The dana included all the share of
    produce up to its boundaries and was given by King Mahendrapala II.
    Here, we see all the three types of land ownership. But the minute observation
    of these evidences indicates the individual ownership over the land. With the
    increasing demand of the landed property, Smriti writers were now protecting the
    ownership rights of the individuals over the landed property.
    Manaviki (January-June 2018) ISSN : 0975-7880 375
    The early medieval period, sees the emergence of samantas, land lords and
    intermediaterieswhich ultimately resulted in to different types of rights of various
    people like king, samant, donor, done, cultivator and the state ovet of particular piece
    of land. Before Mauryan period, the general concept regarding the ownership was that
    land belonged to all and it could not be transferred. Jaiminisutra (400-300 BC) in the
    context of visvajit sacrifice, says that where the sacrificer has to donate everything that
    belongs to him, but even the greatest king cannot make a gift of the whole earth of
    which he may be the ruler, since the earth is common to all. Sabara (4th century AD)
    also inhis Bhasya, says that men enjoy lordship with regard to fields, but not with
    regard to the whole earthand hence there is no difference between a paramount ruler
    and an individual with regard to the objects received as fees for providing protection.
    We see that the general concept before the Gupta period was that, there could be no
    division in the landed property and it could not be transferred but all these were
    permitted later on.
    Katyayan, a post Gupta smriti writer says that, king has the right to receive one
    fourth ofthe total produce because he is the lord of the land and since men live on that land, he
    is the lord of men also. Here one thing is notable that earlier, it has been said that king has the
    right to get the tax because he provides protection to the subject and now he is receiving the
    tax in the capacity of the owner of the land. Bhatta Swamin, a commentator of 12th century
    says that king is the owner of bothland and water and !common men can own anything except
    these two. Narad Smriti says that, king can take the land from any one. The account of Fahien
    and Hieu-t- Sang also indicates the king’s ownership over the land. We see a lot of land grants
    made by kings. during the period and these donations also included the transfer of ownership
    right along with some administrative rights relatedto the donated land. Mitaksara describes the
    transfer of ownership rights during this donation. Here it is clear, that kings started taking land
    taxes because of their ownership over the land and not because of the protection he is providing
    to their subjects and so was the case with samantas and intermediateries.
    All the evidences support the king’s ownership over the land but it was different from
    that of state’s ownership. He was now acting in the individual capacity and the main motive
    behind the gift was not the betterment or upliftment of the society or state but for the spiritual
    or earthly meritof himself and his family members. Now, the king was donating the land in
    capacity of a land lord. This resulted in the emergence of donee turned land lords. Now, they
    started enjoying the real ownership over the land. They even donated the land without the
    proper consent of the king also.All these facts indicate the decline of state’s and communal
    ownership over the land and the emergence of individual ownership over the land. In the
    changing scenario, law makers alsopermitted the division of land owned by the family and
    even the pasture land. They permitted the selling and purchasing of the land.
    In conclusion we can say that, this period witnessed the decline of state’s and
    communal ownership over the land and the increase in the trend of individual ownership over
    land. What is notable here is that, king is now in the role of a big land lord with some special
    rights over the landed property and that he was doing the capacity of the head of the state.
    References :
  1. Arthasastra of Kautilya, tr. R.P. Kangle, 3 Vols, 1997, reprint Motilal Banarsidas,
    New Delhi
  2. Dayabhaga of Jimutvahana tr. H.T. Colebrook, 1910, Calcutta.
    376
  3. Manusmriti, The Laws of Manu with the Bhasya of Medhatithi, 5 Vols, tr., Gangnatha
    Jha, reprint,Motilal Banarasidas, New Delhi.
  4. Sukranitisara ed.JivanandaVidyasagara, 1890, tr.B.K. Sarkar, 1975, MotilalBanarsidas, New
    Delhi,
  5. Williams, M. M., 1994, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, MunshiramManoharlal, New Delhi.
  6. Datta, S., 1989, Migrant Brahmanas in Northern India, Their Settlement and General
    Impact c. A.D.475-1030, Motilal Banarsidas, New Delhi.
  7. Dikshit, S.K., Some Early Gurjar Settlements, J.Gu. RS, Volume I.
  8. Nath, V., 1987, Dana : Gift System in Ancient India : A Socio-Economic Perspective,
    MunshiramManoharlal, New Delhi.
  9. Sircar, D.C., 1973, Studies in the Political and Administrative System in Ancient and
    Medieval India,Motilal Banarasidas, New Delhi.
  10. Sircar, D.C., 1983, Select Inscriptions Bearing on Indian History and Civilization, 2 Vol.,
    2
    nd ed.,Motilal Banarasidas, New Delhi.
  11. Yadava, Sima, 2005, The Myth of Indian Feudalism, B.R. Publications, Delhi.

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