Vital Villages, Thriving Towns Class 6 History Notes

Iron tools and agriculture

  • Things made of iron (and steel) are a part of our daily lives.
  • The use of iron began in the subcontinent around 3000 years ago.
  • The largest collections of iron tools and weapons were found in the megalithic burials, about which
  • Around 2500 years ago, there is evidence for the growing use of iron tools.
  • These included axes for clearing forests, and the iron ploughshare.
  • The ploughshare was useful for increasing agricultural production.

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Other steps to increase pr ease production: irrigation

  • The kings and kingdoms you have been reading about could not have existed without the support of flourishing villages.
  • New tools and the system of transplantation increased production, irrigation was also used.
  • Irrigation works that were built during this time included canals, wells, tanks, and artificial lakes.

Who lived in the villages?

  • There were at least three different kinds of people living in most villages in the southern and northern parts of the subcontinent.
  • In the Tamil region, large landowners were known as vellalar, ordinary ploughmen were known as uzhavar, and landless labourers, including slaves, were known as kadaisiyar and adimai.
  • In the northern part of the country, the village headman was known as the grama bhojaka.
  • Men from the same family held the position for generations.

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  • The post was hereditary.
  • The grama bhojaka was often the largest landowner.
  • He had slaves and hired workers to cultivate the land.
  • He was powerful, the king often used him to collect taxes from the village. He also functioned as a judge, and sometimes as a policeman.
  • Apart from the gramabhojaka, there were other independent farmers, known as grihapatis, most of whom were smaller landowners.
  • And then there were men and women such as the dasa karmakara, who did not own land, and had to earn a living working on the fields owned by others.
  • In most villages there were also some crafts persons such as the blacksmith, potter, carpenter and weaver.

The earliest Tamil compositions

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  • Some of the earliest works in Tamil, known as Sangam literature, were composed around 2300 years ago.
  • These texts were called Sangam because they were supposed to have been composed and compiled in assemblies (known as sangams) of poets that were held in the city of Madurai
  • The Tamil terms mentioned above are found in Sangam literature.

Finding out about cities: stories, trtories, tr tories, travellers, ellers, sculpture and archaeology

  1. Intoduction
  • Jatakas were stories that were probably composed by ordinary people, and then written down and preserved by Buddhist monks.

2. Stories in  Sculpture

  • Sculptors carved scenes depicting peoples’ lives in towns and villages, as well as in the forest.
  • Many of sculptures were used to decorate railings, pillars and gateways of buildings that were visited by people.

3. Cities

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  • Many of the cities that developed from about 2500 years ago were capitals of the mahajanapadas that you learnt about in
  • These cities were surrounded by massive fortification walls.
  • Archaeologists have found rows of pots, or ceramic rings arranged one on top of the other.
  • These are known as ring wells.
  • These seem to have been used as toilets in some cases, and as drains and garbage dumps.
  • These ring wells are usually found in individual houses.
  • The accounts of sailors and travellers who visited them is a great source to find about cities.
  • One of the most detailed accounts that has been found was by an unknown Greek sailor.
  • He described all the ports he visited.

Punch-marked Coins marked Coins

  • Punch-marked coins were generally rectangular or sometimes square or round in shape, either cut out of metal
    sheets or made out of flattened metal globules (a small spherical body).
  • The coins were not inscribed, but were stamped with symbols using dies or punches.
  • Hence, they are called punch-marked coins.
  • These coins are found over most  parts of the subcontinent andremained in circulation till the early centuries CE


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  • The earliest coins which were in use for about 500 years were punch marked coins

Cities with many functions y functions

  1. Intoduction
  • Mathura has been an important settlement for more than 2500 years.
  • It was important because it was located at the cross roads of two major routes of travel and trade — from the northwest to the east and from north to south.
  • There were fortifications around the city, and several shrines.
  •  Farmers and herders from adjoining areas provided food for people in the city.
  • Mathura was  also a centre where some extremely fine sculpture was produced.

2. Importance Of Mathura

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  • Around 2000 years ago Mathura became the second capital of the Kushanas
  • Mathura was also a religious centre — there were Buddhist monasteries, Jaina shrines, and it was an important centre for the worship of Krishna.
  • Several inscriptions on surfaces such as stone slabs and statues have been found in Mathura.
  • Generally, these are short inscriptions, recording gifts made by men (and sometimes women) to monasteries and shrines.
  • hese were made by kings and queens, officers, merchants, and crafts persons who lived in the city.
  • Inscriptions from Mathura mention goldsmiths, blacksmiths, weavers, basket makers, garland makers, perfumers.

Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW)

  • NBPW is a hard, wheel made, metallic looking ware with a shiny black sur face.
  • The potter used to expose the earthenware to very high temperature in his kiln which resulted in the lackening of  its outer surface.
  • A fine black slip was also applied on this, which gave the pottery a mirror-like shine.

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Crafts and crafts persons

  • Crafts include extremely fine pottery, known as the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW).
  • It gets its name from the fact that it is generally found in the northern part of the subcontinent.
  • There were famous centres such as Varanasi in the north, and Madurai in the south.
  • Both men and women worked in these centres.
  • Many crafts persons and merchants now formed associations known as shrenis.
  • These shrenis of crafts persons provided training, procured raw material, and distributed the finished product.
  • Then shrenis of merchants organised the trade.
  • Shrenis also served as banks, where  rich men and women deposited money.
  • This was invested, and part of the interest was returned or used to support religious institutions such as monasteries.

A closer look — Arikamedu

  • Arikamedu was a coastal settlement where ships unloaded goods from distant lands.
  • A massive brick structure, which may have been a warehouse, was found at the site.
  • Other finds include pottery from the Mediterranean region, such as amphorae (tall double-handled jars that contained liquids such as wine or oil) and stamped red-glazed pottery, known as Arretine Ware, which was named after a city in Italy.
  • This was made by pressing wet clay into a stamped mould.
  • There was yet another kind of pottery which was made locally, though Roman designs were used.
  • Roman lamps, glassware and gems have also been found at the site.
  • Small tanks have been found that were probably dyeing vats, used to dye cloth.
  • There is plenty of evidence for the making of beads from semi-precious stones and glass.

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  • Beginning of the use of iron in the subcontinent (about 3000 years ago)
  • Increase in the use of iron, cities, punch  marked coins (about 2500 years ago)
  • Beginning of the composition of Sangam literature (about 2300 years ago)
  • Settlement in Arikamedu (between  2200 and 1900 years ago)

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