Class System

Class System

This article deals with Class System’ . This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


  • Class  is an economic concept which is decided by economic factors like Income, wealth, occupation .
  • Before arrival of British there was  no vivid classes as caste system  was the basis of social structure.

British rule & emergence of Class System

After arrival of British class system developed in India due to

  1. Agricultural reforms
  2. Urbanisation
  3. Industrialisation
  4. Education

Agricultural reform : after arrival of Britishers Indian revenue system was overhauled into Ryotwari  , Mahalwari  and Permanent system which divided rural society into two classes

  1. Zamindars & Mahajans
  2. Farmers, Ryot, small animal husband, landless labourers


Industrialisation and urbanisation divided society into

  1. Industrialists and investors
  2. Labour class.


After independence, there was more development of class system in India due to reasons like

  1. Green revolution
  2. IT revolution
  3. LPG Reforms
  4. Vocational education

After 1990 , even three classes were subdivided thrice each  into lower, middle and upper.

  • Upper class(upper,middle and lower)
  • Lower class (upper,middle and lower
  • Middle class(upper,middle and lower)

Generally three classes broadly identified in India has following characteristics

  1. Upper class: those people which control and regulate wealth & investment and gain profit from wealth & investment .
  2. Middle class : those people which do white collared jobs, or are in technical or administrative sectors  .
  3. Lower class : these people do unskilled or semi-skiled work .

Middle Class

The middle class in  India is decided mainly by three factors

  • Income : range 15000 to 1.5 lakh / month . Income is such that basic requirements of life like food, housing, clothing, education and even entertainment are easily met.
  • Occupation: middle class generally do white collared, technological or administrative jobs .
  • Education : well educated and ambitious.


The reasons for expansion of middle class in India are

  • Macaulay’s education policy
  • Industrialisation and urbanisation
  • Green revolution : middle class created in OBC
  • Reservation and education : middle class in SC and STs
  • LPG reforms : middle class in women as  separate identity
  • Globalisation : Middle class in states like Kerala, Punjab etc. with help of remittances send from abroad.

The structure of middle class in India is quite complex and around 35 crore people come under it, which is double the total population of US.

Importance of Middle Class

  • Initiator of Reforms : French Revolution was result of Middle Class .
  • Economic Development : Demand of Middle Class is highest . Apart from that, they are the main contributors of tax in the country.
  • Political Accountability : Middle Class demands accountability making government responsive and transparent .
  • Promotes formation of human capital (as they spend on education of their children) .

But Indian Middle Class is criticized because

  • Self Centric : Indulged in preserving and promoting only their own interests .
  • Self Exclusivist : Instead of demanding accountability from Political System they have started living in gated communities.
  • Not paying back to society and don’t accept the fact that they have benefited from highly subsidized education system .
  • Excessive indulgence : consumerism has plagued Middle Class  .

But even after that, most of the social movements are led by Middle Class .

Mauryan Empire

Mauryan Empire

This article deals with Mauryan Empire’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


  • The Mauryan Empire is the first largest empires that was ever established on the Indian soil .
Mauryan Empire

Sources of Mauryan Empire

The sources include literary sources, epigraphical sources , foreign accounts and other materials obtained from archaeological excavations.

1 . Literary Sources

1.1 Arthashastra

  • Arthashastra means ‘science of statecraft‘ .
  • It was written by Kautilya / Chanakya in the 4th century BCE during the reigns of Chandragupta Maurya (although there is debate about the authorship).
  • It consist of 15 books  dealing with Internal Administration, Inter-state relations and miscellaneous topics.
  • It gives us information like administrative system, officers, role of King etc.
  • However, it must be remembered that the Arthashastra was a prescriptive text, which laid down the guidelines for good administration.

1.2 Megasthenes Indica

  • Megasthenes was the Ambassador of Seleucus Nikator (Indo-Greek king) in the court of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Megasthenes wrote book INDICA . Although the original book has not survived & fragments are preserved in later Greek  works (of Diodorus, Strabo, Arrian , Plutarch & Pliny )  .
  • But we have to keep in mind that India is seen through double filter – first through Megasthenes interpretation of what he saw or heard & second Graeco-Roman writers interpretations of Megasthenes accounts .

1.3 Puranas

  • Puranas include list of Mauryan Kings.
  • Eg : “Vishnu Purana’ throws light on the origin of Nandas and their overthrow by Chandragupta with the assistance of Kautilya.

1.4 Buddhist Texts

  • Ashoka was a celebrated figure in Buddhist texts because he was a patron of Buddhism .
  • He figures in later Buddhist texts like Divyavadana , Ashokavadhana , Mahavamsa  and Deepavamsa .
  • But all the information from Buddhist texts can’t be accepted on face value because these books tend to exaggerate accomplishments of Ashoka as he was their patron .

1.5 Jaina Texts

  • Jaina text named ‘Parisisthaparvan‘ by Hemachandra throws light on the early life of Chandragupta, conquest of Magadha, his conversion to Jainism and a famine during later part of his reign.

1.6 Patanjali’s Mahabhashya

  • It was written in the last phase of Maurya Period .
  • Mahabhashya is a major commentary on Panini’s Grammar by Patanjali.

1.7 Mudrarakshasa

  • Mudrarakshasa is a 5th century historical drama written by  Vishakhadatta .
  • It revolves around a clever plot of Chanakya against Rakshasa, minister of Nanda.
  • In the drama, Vishakhadatta referred Chandragupta as ‘Vrishala’ and ‘Kulahina’ which means he was a person of humble origin.
  • But historicity of this drama remains uncertain .

2 . Ashoka’s Inscriptions

There are 14 Major Rock Edicts, 7 Pillar Edicts and some Minor Rock Inscriptions . 

Ashokan Edicts
Major Rock Edicts Shahbazgarhi
Kalsi (Dehradun)
Sopara ( Thana district)
Pillar Edicts Delhi (originally located at Topara near Ambala)
Lauriya Araraj
Lauriya Nandangarh
Lumbini / Rummindei
Minor Rock and Minor Pillar They were many but had unusually large concentration in Deccan.  

The geographical spread of the edicts essentially defines the extent of the vast empire over which Ashoka ruled.

What do these inscriptions contain

  • Explanation of Dhamma .
  • King’s efforts to propagate it .
  • Own assessment of his success in doing so .
  • His allegiance to Buddha’s teachings & close relationship with Sangha .
  • They also  offer insights into Ashoka’s idea about his role as king , his administration and various social & economic aspects .

Content of Rock Edicts

1st Major Rock Edict Prohibition of animal sacrifice.
2nd Major Rock Edict Related to measures of social welfare.
3rd Major Rock Edict Respecting one’s parents.
4th Major Rock Edict Impact of Dhamma, Non-violence towards animals.
5th Major Rock Edict Appointment of Dhamma-Mahamattas to spread Dhamma.
6th Major Rock Edict Welfare measures of efficient administration .
7th Major Rock Edict Peace, balance of mind , faith and tolerance .
8th Major Rock Edict Details of Bodhi tree .
9th Major Rock Edict Ceremony of Dhamma.
10th Major Rock Edict Ashoka’s desire to popularize Dhamma.
11th Major Rock Edict Appraisal of Dhamma and Religious tolerance.
12th Major Rock Edict Promoting religion of different faith.
13th Major Rock Edict Kalinga’s destruction and mention of Greek rulers.
14th Major Rock Edict Nature of all other rock edicts.

Language and script used in Inscriptions

These inscriptions were written in

Prakrit Language and Brahmi Script Most of the scripts found in India .
Prakrit Language and Kharosthi Script North-western regions (like Manshera and Shahbazgarhi).
Aramaic Language and Greek Language (bilingual) Lampaka and Kandahar .
Aramaic Language and Aramaic Script Laghman and Taxila .

Mystery of name Devampiya & Priyadarsi

  • James Princep  decoded Brahmi script but mystery remained regarding king to which these inscriptions were referring . Name Ashoka doesn’t appear in the inscriptions . Ashoka was mentioned as Devampiya (beloved of Gods) & Priyadarsi (pleasant to behold) .
  • This mystery was solved when minor edict at Masaki (Karnataka) was found containing personal name of Ashoka along with prefix Devampiya and Priyadarsi.

3 . Archaeological evidences

  • The remains of the palaces of Chandragupta have been excavated at  Kumrahar and Bulandibagh.
  • Number of caves of Mauryan period have been found in the ranges of Barabar Hills and Nagarjuna.
  • Stupas have been found at Banaras, Prayag, Kannauj etc. which were built during Mauryan period and give  us detailed information on the religious condition during the Mauryan period.
  • Middle & late Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) pottery belong to Mauryan period .
  • Statues like that of a woman at Besnagar and the elephant statue at Dhauli reveal an indigenous technique in sculpture during the Mauryan times.

4. Numismatic Evidences

  • ‘Punch marked coins’ were in circulation during the Mauryan period. They do not bear the name of any ruler nor carry any date. But they were issued by a central authority indicated by the uniformity of  symbols used.
  • These punched marked coins have been found at Atranjikhera , Sanchi, Patna , Hastinapur , Taxila , Tripuri and Sarnath.
Mauryan Coins

Controversy about origin of Mauryas

According to various sources, origin of Mauryas was as follows

Buddhist books like Digha Nikaya , Mahavamsa and Divyavadana Belonged to Kshatriya clan called Mauryas who ruled Pippalivana  .
Parishishtaparvan Chandragupta was son of daughter of chief of a village of peacock tamers .
Mudrarakshasa Refers Chandragupta to be belonging to low caste .
Dundiraja (Commentator of Vishnu Purana) Chandragupta was eldest son of Nanda king Sarvarthasiddhi by Mura , daughter of hunter  .
Vaishya Origin theory Following facts point towards the fact that Mauryas were Vaishyas
1. Name ending ‘Gupta’ in Chandragupta’s name.
2. Asoka’s marriage to the daughter of a merchant of Vidisha .

Kings of Mauryan Empire

1 . Chandragupta Maurya (324 -297 BCE)

  • Chandragupta Maurya had ruled during the period of 324-297 BCE.
  • Chandragupta , with the help of Chanakya , defeated the last Nanda King and captured his empire. In this, Chandragupta took the advantage of the disturbances caused by the invasion of Alexander and his sudden death in 323 BCE in Babylon. With the help of Kautilya , Chandragupta raised a large army
    1. First of all, Chandragupta launched campaigns against the Nandas .
    2. Later, he shifted his concentration against Indo-Greek Governors / Kshatrapas ruling over north-western India.
    3. In 305 BCE, he defeated the army of Seleucus Nikator who was ruling eastern part of Alexander’s empire after his death. After the defeat of Seleucus, a treaty was signed between Chandragupta Maurya and Seleucus Nikator under which territories of Kandahar, Kabul, Herat and Baluchistan was given to Chandragupta . Chandragupta presented 500 elephants to Seleucus . Apart from this, a matrimonial alliance was also signed and Seleucus married his daughter with Chandragupta Maurya. An ambassador named Megasthenes was also send to court of Chandragupta Maurya.
    4. Chandragupta expanded his empire westward as far as Gujarat corroborated by the Junahgarh / Girnar inscription.
  • Detailed information about the rule of Chandragupta Maurya is obtained from Kautilya’s Arthashastra . Kautilya was the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya and is considered as the real architect of the Mauryan Empire .
  • Megasthenes came in the court of Chandragupta Maurya as an ambassador of the Seleucus Nikator (an Indo-Greek King).
  • The “Sandrakottus”or “Sandrakoptus”, mentioned in the Greek literature has been identified as Chandragupta Maurya .
  • According to Plutarch, he had army of 600,000 .
  • According to Jaina tradition, Chandragupta Maurya abdicated his throne and retired to Shravanabelagola in Karnataka with his teacher Bhadrabahu (Jain ascetic) where he committed Sallekhana .

More about Chanakya

  • Chanakya = renowned teacher at Taxila University. 
  • He saw Chandragupta  when he was passing by his village . He was attracted by his personality and trained him for 8 years for war against Greeks & overthrowing Dhanananda . Earlier, Dhanananda insulted Chanakya when he approached him for help against Greeks .
  • Contemporary Jain and Buddhist texts hardly have any mention of Chanakya. But popular oral tradition ascribes the greatness of Chandragupta and his reign to the wisdom and genius of Chanakya.
  • Chanakya, also known as Kautilya and Vishnugupta, was a Brahmin and a sworn adversary of the Nandas. He is credited with having devised the strategy for overthrowing the Nandas and helping Chandragupta to become the emperor of Magadha .
  • He is celebrated as the author of the Arthashastra, a treatise on political strategy and governance .
  • His intrigues and brilliant strategy to subvert the intended invasion of Magadha is the theme of the play, Mudrarakshasa.

2 . Bindusara (297 – 273 BCE)

  • He was the son of Chandragupta Maurya and ascended throne after his father.
  • He is also known as ‘Amitraghata‘ in Indian texts or ‘Amitrochates’ in Greek texts.
  • According to Tibetan historian named Taranath and Jain scholar named Hemachandra,  Chanakya continued as the minister of Bindusara after death of Chandragupta Maurya as well.
  • During his reign, a revolt broke out in Taxila. Ashoka was sent to suppress the revolt and restore peace .
  • Greek Texts refer to his diplomatic relations with western kings .
    • Antiochus (king of Syria) sent ambassador named Deimachus to his court .
    • Ptolemy II (ruler of Egypt) sent an ambassador named Dionysius .
    • Famous Story :Bindusara requested Antiochus (king of Syria) to buy & send some sweet wine, dried figs & sophist (philosopher specialised in debate & argumentation) . He send wine & dried figs & replied that Greek laws didn’t permit sophist to be bought .
  • He died in 273 BCE .

3. Ashoka (273 / 269 – 232 BCE)

  • There is a general agreement that  Ashoka was not the crown prince (Yuvaraja) . He sat on the throne after winning 4 years long war  of succession following Bindusara’s death.
  • According to various texts,  Susima was crown prince but Ashoka was supported by Ministers especially Radhagupta. Ashoka killed 99 brothers sparing only one named Tissa .
  • During Bindusara’s reign
    • He served as a Viceroy at Ujjain and also at Taxila.
    • He was sent to Taxila to quell a revolt.
    • In Ujjain, he married the daughter of merchant of  Vidisha  . Two children i.e. Mahinda and Sanghamita were born out of this union. His stay at Ujjain is described in the Sri Lankan chronicles  as his son Mahinda introduced Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
  • Until hundred years ago in India, Ashoka was merely one of the many kings mentioned in the Mauryan dynastic list . In 1837, James Princep deciphered an inscription written in Brahmi but King was referred to  as Devampiya Piyadassi (the beloved of the gods, pleasant to behold). We came to know about Ashoka in 1915, from Masaki Edict where King calls himself Devampiya Ashoka .

Kalinga War and it’s impact

  • Rock Edict XIII describes the horrors and miseries of the Kalinga war .
  • Although , Ashoka’s predecessors brought Deccan and South under control but  Kalinga was still outside Mauryan control.
  • Kalinga had a strategic importance as it controlled the routes to South India both by land and sea.
  • Kalinga war took place eight years after Ashoka’s consecration .
  • According to the inscription, one lakh people were slained in the war. These figures are likely to be exaggerated , nevertheless, war was  very devastating  .Although on the battlefield Asoka, was victorious, the inscription goes on to describe his remorse . The violence of the war completely changed the personality of Ashoka and he left the policy of aggression .Policy of conquest through war was given up and replaced by a policy of conquest through Dharma/Dhamma i.e. Dhammavijaya.

Ashoka and Buddhism

  • Ashoka had close connection with Buddhism . Buddhist tradition considers him exemplary king & devout Upasaka .
  • His generosity as patron of Sangha is reflected in following things
    • He is credited with redistributing relics of Buddha & enshrining them in stupas in important towns .
    • 84,000 Stupas were built by him .
    • He undertook pilgrimage to all major places connected with Buddha’s life . 
  • Ashoka was ardent follower of Buddha’s teachings
    • He had position of influence vis-a-vis Sangha  .
    • In Bairat Edict , Ashoka greets Sangha & profess his deep faith in Buddha , Dhamma & Sangha  .
    • Schism Edict  warns members of the order against causing any division in the ranks .
    • Rummindei & Nigali Sagar inscriptions point towards fact that  Ashoka visited Lumbini & announced tax concessions .
  • Ashoka in Buddhist texts
    • Buddhist texts present Ashoka as vile & evil man until he came under influence of Buddha’s dhamma & represent Ashoka’s following of Buddhism as sudden transformative event .

Ashoka & 3rd Buddhist Council

  • According to Theravada Chronicles,  Ashoka convened great (3rd) Buddhist council in 250 BCE at Pataliputra presided by Moggaliputta Tissa in order to purge Sangha of certain unacceptable practices .
  • An important outcome of this Council was the decision to expand the reach of Buddhism to other parts of the region and to send missions to convert people to the religion. Buddhism thus became a proselytizing religion.
  • Buddhist Missions by Ashoka were sent to following places
Sri Lanka Mahinda and Sangamitta (son and daughter of Ashoka).It is believed that they took a branch of the original bodhi tree to Sri Lanka.
Suvarnabhumi (South Easy Asia) Under Sona
North West  
Central India  

Ashoka’s Dhamma

  • Contents of Dhamma were selected in a way that it should be acceptable to majority of people of different communities .
  • It stressed on 
    • Showing consideration towards slaves and servants .
    • Obedience to elders .
    • Generosity towards needy Brahmanas and Sramanas.
    • Tolerance of different religious sects to create harmony.
    • Non-violence was to be practised by giving up war and conquests and restraint on  killing of animals.
    • Welfare measures, like planting of trees, digging of wells, etc.
    • Attack on ceremonies and sacrifices practised regularly on various occasions like birth, marriage etc .
  • Officers known as Dhamma Mahamattah were instituted to implement & publicise various aspects of Dhamma.

Interpretations of Dhamma

  • Ashokan policy of Dhamma has been issue of  debate & controversy .
  • Buddhist records credit him with the propagation of Buddhism in India and abroad. But one cannot, however, lay the charge of being partisan against Ashoka. There are two strong arguments to prove that Ashoka, as an Emperor, did not favoured Buddhism at  expense of other  faiths.
    1. Creation of institution of  Dhammamahamattas – Had it been to promote Buddhism ,  organisation of Sangha could be used to propagate Dhamma.
    2. Careful study of Rock Edicts depicts that Ashoka wanted to promote tolerance & duty of  Dhammamahamattas included working for the Brahmanas and the Sramans.
  • Some historians believe that
    • Ashoka’s banning of sacrifices and the favour that he showed to the Buddhists led to a Brahmanical reaction. This in turn led to the decline of the Mauryan Empire (HC RAYCHAUDARY) .
    • Others believe that the stopping of wars and emphasis on non-violence crippled the military might of the Empire. This led to the collapse of the empire, after the death of Ashoka.
  • It has been shown by Romila Thapar that Ashoka’s Dhamma, apart from being a superb document of his essential humaneness was also an answer to the socio-political needs of the contemporary situation.
    • That it was not anti-Brahmanical is proved by the fact that respect for the Brahmanas and Sramans was an integral part of his Dhamma.
    • His emphasis on non-violence did not blind him to the needs of the state. Thus, addressing the forest tribes he warns them that although he hates to use coercion he may be required to resort to force if they continue to create trouble.

By the time Ashoka stopped war, the entire Indian sub-continent was under his control. In deep south he was on friendly terms with the Cholas and Pandyas. Sri Lanka was an admiring ally. Thus, Ashoka’s no to war came at a time when his empire had reached its natural boundaries.

4. Post Ashoka rulers

  • The subsequent history of the Mauryas under his successors is very inadequately known. This is because a state of disintegration seemed to have set in immediately after Ashoka’s death.
  • The tenth and the last of the Mauryas was Brihadratha who  was murdered by his general Pushyamitra and who ascended the throne in 187 BCE. The empire founded by him is known as Sunga Dynasty.
  • With Brihadratha’s death (187 BCE) this historic rule of the Mauryas came to an end within less than half a century of Ashoka’s death and 137 years since its foundation by Chandragupta Maurya.

Polity and Administration of Mauryan State

  • Mauryan state was an Empire. Empire is a political system which has  vast expanse of territories under it’s control, not all of which is culturally homogeneous . They are different from the Kingdoms in following ways  :-
    • Kingdoms  draw maximum profit from existing resources and do not make  attempt at restructuring access to resources.
    • Pressures on the Empire are many as administrating a large empire with vast administrative machinery requires huge financial resources . According to the Arthasastra, the salary of chief minister, the purohita and the army commander was 48,000 panas, and the soldiers received 500 panas. If we multiply this by the number of infantry and cavalry, we get an idea of the enormous resources needed to maintain the army and the administrative staff. Hence, Empires try to restructure economy in order to increase the revenue base of the state .
  • Mauryan Empire tried to increase their revenue base by 
    • Extension of agriculture 
    • Setting new cities
    • Promoting trade
  • Although they rarely succeed, Imperial Systems attempt to erase variation in favour of homogeneity . Ashoka’s dhamma was an attempt to bring homogeneity .

1 . Central Administration


  • Maurya Empire was a Monarchy with king as Supreme authority  .
  • He took all important decisions concerning the empire.
  • He was assisted by a council of ministers who acted as the king’s advisors.
  • King started to have  paternal attitude towards his subjects. In the Dhauli inscription Asoka states , “All men are my children and just as I desire for my children that they should obtain welfare and happiness both in this world and the next, the same do I desire for all men.”
  • By adoption of the title Devanampiya (beloved of the Gods) by Asoka; according to Romila Thapar,  “an attempt was made to emphasize the connection between kingship and divine power.”

Council of Ministers

  • Arthashastra & Ashokan inscriptions mention Council of Minister. Megasthenes also mentioned  SUMBOULAI .
  • Arthashastra quotes that it was impossible for King to rule single handedly (like Single Spoke cant turn  wheel) .
  • Primary role of Council of Minister was that of an advisory body. Final authority was vested with the King.
  • We do get references about 18 departments  of the central government in the Arthasastra. 

2. Regional Administration

  • After its territorial expansion , state established administrative control at the Provincial and Local Levels.

Provincial Administration

  • Each province was headed by – Kumara (Royal Prince) , who was King’s representative in Province .  Eg Ashoka was Kumara of Ujjain & Taxila  .
  • Kumara was assisted by Mahamatyas & a Council of Ministers.
  • From Asokan edicts –  names of four provincial capitals were
    • Tosali (in the east)
    • Ujjain (in the west)
    • Suvarnagiri (in the south)
    • Taxila (in the north)

District  Administration

  • Province was further divided to Districts .
  • Officials listed at the level of district during this period were
    • Pradeshta (overall incharge of district), 
    • Rajuka : Survey of lands (rajuka derived from rajju, meaning rope)
    • Yukta
  • King was in direct touch with these officers. In the 4th Pillar Edict -Ashoka grants to the Rajuka  “independent authority” to carry out some of his instructions in relation to public welfare.

Village Administration

  • Local people were involved in the Village Administration.
  • Village head was known as Gramani. He was assisted by Gram Sabha .
  • Apart from that, there were intermediaries between district and village administration . These were Gopa (administer 5-10 villages) and Sthanika (administers 800 villages)  .

3. City Administration

City Administration according to Megasthenes

  • Megasthenes has described administration in Palibothra (Patliputra)
  • According to Megasthenes, there was 30 membered city council  divided into six committees of 5 members each  to administer city. These were
    1. 1st committee looked after industry  and crafts
    2. 2nd Committee looked after  foreigners ( arranging food,stay & comfort,security, etc.)
    1. 3rd Committee looked after registration of births and deaths.
    1. 4th Committee looked after inspection of weights and measures .
    2. 5th Committee looked after inspection of  manufactured goods .
    3. 6th Committee collected taxes on goods sold at rate of 1/10th.

City Administration according to Arthashastra

  • No mention of such committees is found  in the Arthashastra . But reference of equivalent Officers in Arthashastra were present . Eg :
    • Work of 4th  committee  was performed by Pautavadhyaksa .
    • Collection of taxes (Sixth Committee) was performed by Sulkadhyaksha  .
  • According to Arthashastra
    • Head of the urban administration was Nagariaka.
    • He was assisted by two subordinate officials called Gopa and Sthanika.
  • Law enforcers in the city were called Rakshina .

4. Army

  • Retreat of Seleucus, descriptive account of army administration in Arthashastra and the violent Kalinga war   point towards a large and well organized military of Mauryas.
  • According to Pliny’s account  , Chandragupta’s army consisted of 9,000 elephants, 30,000 cavalry and 6,00,000 infantry.
  • According to Megasthenes 
    • There were 6 Branches of army – infantry, cavalry, elephants, chariots, transport & admiral of  fleet .
    • Each branch was looked after by a committee of 5 members.
  • Kautilya has referred to Chaturangabala (i.e. infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants) as the main components of the army –each under a commander . Eg
    • Rathadhyaksha headed chariots .
    • Hastyadhyaksha headed elephant force.

5. Espionage System

  • Espionage was important part of Mauryan Administration.
  • Main tasks of the spies recruited involved:
    • Keeping an eye over  ministers
    • Reporting on government officials
    • Collecting impressions regarding the feelings of citizens
    • Know the secrets of foreign rulers, etc.
  • Arthashastra  divided Spies (Gudhapurusha) into three type
Samsthan Positioned at one place
Sanchara Roamed about
Ubhayavetana Doubly Paid

6. Law & Justice

  • Arthasastra is full of codes listing punishments for various offences.
  • There were various kinds of courts to settle disputes at various levels.
Gramani Had judicial powers at village level .
Dharmasthiya Courts to decide civil cases .
Kantakasodhana Courts to decide criminal cases.
Kanhkmaba Courts which decided upon matters related to individuals and the state.
  • Punishment for crimes range from fines to mutilation of limbs to death.
  • Ashokan edicts mention that each 5th year king would despatch a gentle officer , neither fierce nor harsh on a tour to ensure that justice was being done  .

7. Revenue Administration

  • According to Arthashastra ,  different resources from where revenue flowed into the state treasury (Kosa) were rural areas, cities, roads , pastures , plantations, forests and mines.
  • Tax on agricultural produce constituted the most important source of revenue. Usually, the king was entitled to one-sixth of the produce.
  • Kosa/ Treasury was looked after by an official Sannidhata (Chief Accountant) .
  • The state was also empowered to impose taxes in case of emergency for increasing its earnings.
  • King had the right of granting remission of land revenue as Ashoka reduced the Bhaga of the village Lumbini to 1/8 and scrapped Bali altogether.

8. Public Works

State took keen interest in public works. Account  of Megasthenes and  Arthasastra corroborate this

  • Irrigation  : Tanks like Sudarshan Tadaga in Junahgarh .
  • Medical facilities were available to both men and animals.
  • State also helped its citizens during natural calamities like floods, famines, etc.
  • Laying down and repair of roads and opening of inns.

Society in Maurayan Empire

  • Arthashastra recommended 4 fold varna system in society but how far that was followed is debatable. Eg : Pushymitra Shunga , a Brahmin who overthrew Mauryan Empire was Commander in Chief of Mauryas .
  • Megasthenes divided Indian people into 7 strata  i.e. Philosophers, Farmers, Herdsmen & Hunter, Artisans & Traders, Soldiers, Overseers & King’s Counsellors . It seems Megasthenes’s own creation although it is possible to be modelled on Herodotus’s classification of Egyptian  society into similar 7 strata.
  • Untouchability
    • There was significant hardening of Brahmanical position on untouchability .
    • Well of Chandalas could only be used by them & none else .Chandalas  were known as Antavasayin (living at end) suggesting that they lived on margins of settlement .
  • Women
    • There reference of king’s women bodyguard in Arthashastra .
    • Women were also  employed by the state as spies and performers.
    • Women of the upper castes who had become widowed, deserted wives  or ageing prostitutes could get work from the state, such as spinning yarn .
    • Female ascetics were known, but were few and far between .
    • Kautilya in his Arthashastra argued that prostitutes should also be taxed  .
  • Surprisingly, there is no mention of either varna or jati in the Ashokan edicts, which may suggest that they were not yet so prominent as social categories. 
  • Tensions in Society
    • Ashoka’s emphatic plea for social harmony and repeated calls for equal respect towards brahmans and shramanas suggest that there were social tensions.

Economy during Mauryan Times

1. Agriculture

  • Mauryan State was producing substantial agriculture surplus because of use of iron  in agriculture started  and start of paddy cultivation in North India   .
  • The Greeks noted with wonder that two crops could be raised annually in India because of the fertility of the soil.
  • Due to growth in agriculture, cultivator  assumed  important role. Megasthenes in his seven classes mentions the farmers as the second class suggesting it was numerically large class .
  • Essential resources needed for Mauryan State could only be got from land revenue. Hence, Arthasastra is careful in designing efficient revenue system of the State.
Bhaga – King’s share of produce  .
Levied at the rate of 1/6th of the produce.
Bali – Tax on the area of land cultivated .
Udaka Bhaga – Water tax if irrigation facility of state is used
1/6 to 1/3 of produce
  • Lumbini(Rummindei)  Edict states that when Ashoka visited Lumbini i.e. birthplace of the Buddha, he exempted payment of Bali and reduced the payment of Bhaga to 1/8. Even Asoka’s great respect for the Buddha did not prompt the emperor to exempt the village totally from the payment of taxes.
  • State took steps to provide Irrigation . Eg:  Pushyagupta, governor of Chandragupta Maurya, built a dam in  Girnar (Saurashtra) known as Sudarshana tadaga (water tank).

2. Trade & Urban Economy

  • Mauryan state wanted to expand trade and commerce . For this, they established  new state founded walled  towns and markets .

Improved Transport

  • River transport was improved because forests around the Valleys were cleared .
  • There was an officer called Agronomoi whose function was to maintain Royal Road and put distance markers after every 10 Stadia (10 Stadia = 0.5 Mile)  . 

State Control on Trade

  • The sale of merchandise , in theory, was strictly supervised. Goods were required to be stamped (to distinguish between the old and the new) .
  • According to Megasthenes , tax was one-tenth of the sale proceeds and failure to pay this tax was punishable with death.
  • Arthashastra recommends  appointment of following officers related to Trade
    1. Panyadhyaksha : Superintendent of Trade to fix price of goods
    2. Pautavadyaksha : Superintendent of weights and measures
    3. Navadhyaksha : Superintendent of State boats
    4. Sulkadhyaksha : Superintendent of taxes , tolls and custom dues


  • According to Arthashastra, State enjoyed a monopoly in mines and trade in mineral products.
  • Arthasastra provides for a superintendent of mines called  Akara-dhyaksha   – to look for new mines & reopen old ones.

Causes of Decline of Mauryan Empire

Ashoka ruled for thirty-seven years and died in about 232 BCE . Subsequently, a political decline set in and the empire began to break up. The last of the Mauryas, Brihadratha, was assassinated during an inspection of the troops by the brahman Pushyamitra, the commander of the army. Pushyamitra founded the successor Shunga dynasty .

1 . Role of Ashoka

Debate 1Revolt of the brahmans because of his pro-Buddhist policy ( by HP Shastri)

  • But this can be challenged because
    • His general policy was not an active proselytizing in favour of Buddhism at expense of Brahmanism. 
    • Respect to both brahmans and shramanas was part of Ashoka’s Dhamma.
  • Buddhism’s more extensive spread happened in post Mauryan Period due to patrons in form  of Mercantile Community and not due to Ashoka.

Debate 2 : Pacific policy of Asoka (by HC Raychaudhary)

  • It is argued that his obsession with non-violence led to the emasculation of army,  laying the country open to invasion.
  • But Edicts prove that this was not the case. His open threat to Tribals to mend their ways otherwise they would be crushed & his advice to his sons and grandsons on the use of violence prove that army was still powerful .

However, a long reign marked by only one military campaign in the early years may have adversely affected the preparedness of the army, and this may have been a factor responsible for the success of the Greek invasions.

More probable reasons are to be found elsewhere.

2. Pressure on Mauryan Economy (By DD KAUSAMBI)

  • There was need for vast revenues to
    1. Maintain large army
    2. To finance the salaries of  upper levels of  bureaucracy
    3. Cost of establishing settlements on newly cleared land
  • This  strained the treasury. Debasement of silver coins in  later Mauryan period shows severe pressure on  economy and lack of resource to maintain the structure .

3. Structure of Mauryan Administration (By Romila Thapar)

  • Mauryan bureaucracy was centralized, with the ruler – or king – as the key figure towards whom loyalty was directed. A change of king meant a re-alignment of loyalty .
  • Recruitment was arbitrary, with local governors choosing their officers  hence, there was  possibility of particular social groups monopolizing administrative control in certain areas  .
  • Lack of representative institutions to stabilize public opinion . They used espionage to stabilise public opinion which must have created manifold tensions in the administration.

4. Invasions in North-West

  • After the demise of Ashoka, North-West saw invasion by Bactrian Greeks (because they were pushed by Parthians & Scythians) which destabilized the Empire  .

Absence of nationalism, the idea of loyalty to the state rather than to a particular king, and the lack of popular representative institutions and absence of Chinese-type examination system  in Maurya India  are not very helpful in explaining the decline of the Maurya empire.

All empires rely on mechanisms of integration and control over territory, resources, and people. These mechanisms include military force, administrative infrastructure, and ideology. In the case of the Mauryas, given the vast contours of the empire, all three must have been strained to their utmost. It was just a matter of time before the distant provinces broke away from the centre.

Persian and Macedonian Attacks

Persian and Macedonian Attacks

This article deals with ‘Persian and Macedonian Attacks’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.

Persian  Invasions

  • In 6th Century, Persian empire extended upto north-western borders of subcontinent .
  • Greek historian Herodotus mentions that  India (Indus Valley) was the 20th & most prosperous satrapy of Persian empire & tribute from province was more than tribute from all other provinces put together .


  • He was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire in Persia .
  • He invaded Indian border­land  and captured the Gandhara region

Darius (522 – 486 BCE)

  • Darius I (522-486 BCE)  made the real advance in India. He invaded India and occupied the territories in the North-Western Frontier Province, Sind and Punjab . These parts remained with the Persian Empire till Alexander’s invasion of India.
  • According to Herodotus (historian) , Gandhara formed the 20th satrapy of the empire of Darius paying a tribute of 360 talents of gold dust.  It was the most fertile and populous province of the Achaemenian Empire. Herodotus has also recorded that Darius sent a naval expedition probably in 517 BCE to explore the Indus basin.


  • Xerxes kept the control of Indian possessions but due to requisitioning of large number of troops for invasion of Greece, failed to make any advances in India.
  • Xerxes suffered defeat in Greece which led to the decline of Persian Empire . However, the Achaemenid rule over India continued up to 330 BCE . In that year Darius III, the last of the Achaemenid ruler summoned Indian troops to fight against Alexander . With the fall of the Persian power under the impact of the invasion of Alexander the Great, the Persian hold over India was lost.

Impact of Persian Invasions on India

Political Impact India learnt the necessity of a strong and united empire to repel the foreign invasions and realized how essential it was to join hands together to meet the common enemy.  
Encouragement to trade The Persian rulers did much to promote geographical exploration and promote trade. The exploration of the Indus and the Arabian Sea by Scylax opened a new water-route.  
Settlement of Foreigners on Indian Soil A large number of foreigners, Greek, Persians  etc. settled down in the North-Western parts of India. With the passage of time they were completely absorbed among the Indians.
On Architecture Traces of the Persian influence can be seen in the Mauryan sculptures and in the Ashokan pillars. The polish of the Mauryan pillars manifests the Persian influence. Ashoka also followed the Iranian custom of preaching ideals by inscribing them on the stone pillars.  Similarly, the pillared remains of the Palace in Pataliputra display a remarkable similarity to the pillared hall in the Achaemenid capital.  
Kharosthi Script The Aramaic form of writing which the Persians introduced in the north-western India after their conquest, gradually developed into the Kharoshti script. It was written from right to left .  
On Coinage The Persian silver coins were in circulation in India. This affected Indian coinage. The Persian coins were known for their refined minting and elegant looks. The Indian rulers adopted similar techniques to mint their coins on the Persian model.

Alexander Invasion (327-26 BCE)

  • In 327-26 BCE , North West Indian Subcontinent suffered the invasion of Alexander .
  • Persian hold over Indian provinces was nominal or non existent at that time . Alexander defeated the armies of Darius III (Persian king) established various outposts in Afghanistan & ventured into India . Greek historians make great deal of Alexanders siege of Hill fort of Arnos because tradition says that even god Herakles was unable to take that .
  • In 326 BCE , he ventured into India after crossing Indus . Ambhi, the ruler of Taxila, surrendered and accepted the suzerainty of Alexander. The most famous of Alexander’s encounters was with Porus, ruler of the region between Jhelum and Beas. The two armies met in the battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum) in which Porus was imprisoned. Later, impressed by the Porus’s dignity, Alexander restored his throne on the condition of accepting his suzerainty.
  • Alexander captured area till Ravi but movement beyond Beas was prevented because of resistance of his own soldiers who were tired by many years of wars & wanted to go back .
  • Alexander retreated back . Areas lying west of Punjab were entrusted with Satraps (governors) & Macedonian garrisons were placed there.
  • Alexander died two years later of a mysterious fever in Babylon.

One of the results of Alexander’s invasion was creation of Seleucid principality in North-West & establishment of several Greek settlements in that area including Boukephala, Nikaia & several Alexandrias  .

Effects of Alexander invasion

  • Trade routes opened up with the West. As trade contact increased, many Greek settlements were established in the northwest of India. Alexandria near Kabul, Boukephala near Peshawar in Pakistan and Alexandria in Sindh were some of the prominent Greek settlements.
  • Indirectly this invasion made possible the establishment of Indo-Bactrian and Indo-Parthian states, which at a later stage considerably influenced Indian architecture (Gandhara school of sculpture), astronomy, coinage etc.
  • The invasion opened the eyes of Indian politicians to the necessity of creating a unified empire
  • The date of the Invasion of Alexander is the ‘first reliable date in early Indian history’ and considerably helps in solving chronological difficulties. Greek historians began to write about India .

Rise of Magadha

Rise of Magadha

This article deals with ‘Rise of Magadha’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


Among the 16 Mahajanapadas, Kasi was initially powerful. However, Kosala became dominant later. A power struggle broke out between Magadha, Kosala, Vrijji and Avanti. Eventually Magadha emerged as the dominant Mahajanapada and established the first Indian empire.

Rise of Magadha under the Haryanka Dynasty

1 . Bimbisara

  • Bimbisara is the first known ruler of Magadha .
  • He was the first ruler to introduce matrimonial alliances for strategic purposes . He married following
Khema   Daughter of Madra king of Punjab
Mahakosala Sister of Prasenjit of Kosala  & got kashi in dowry
Chellna Lichchhavi Princess
  • He had great  army (according to Jain texts).
  • Bimbisara was contemporary of both Mahavira & Buddha and met Buddha 7 years before enlightenment . Buddha visited his capital after enlightenment as he promised earlier.
  • His capital was Girivraja (identified as Rajgriha)
  • He was killed by his son Ajatshatru  .

2 . Ajatshatru

  • He killed Bimbisara &  Mahakosala  died in shock . Her brother, King Prasenjit took back Kashi which was earlier given in dowry . This

led to a military confrontation between Magadha and Kosala. The struggle lasted until Prasenjit was overthrown .

  • Ajatashatru also fought and won the battle against the Lichchhavis. During this war, he sent his minister Vassakara to  create dissension . He also used new weapons named (1) Mahshilakantaka i.e. catapult to  throw large stones and (2) Rathamusala (chariot with blades attached on wheels).
  • On Buddha’s demise , Ajatshatru is said to have gone to Kusinagara to claim portion of his relics . He built many stupas around Rajgriha and organised first buddhist council
When Immediately after death of  Buddha
Where At hall erected by him outside Sattapani caves in Rajgir
Presided by Elder Mahakasyapa
  • He was also killed by his own son Udayen .

3. Udayen

  • Udayen developed Pataliputra as city .
  • He was killed by his own son .

Later kings

  • Later kings like  Anurudha and  Nagadaska also suffered PATRICIDE .
  • Hence, revolt broke and Haryanka dynasty was thrown away by Shishunaga Dynasty

Shishunaga Dynasty

1 . Shishunaga

  • Shishunaga was the Governor of Haryanka & did  coup d’état.
  • He ruled from Girivraja & seemed to have second capital at Vaishali  .

2. Kalashoka

  • During his reign Pataliputra became capital of Magadha .
  • He organised & sponsored 2nd Buddhist Council
Where Vaishali
When 383 BC
Headed by Sabakami
Disputes There was dispute on 10 points Storing salt in horn Eating after mid day Eating once Going to villages for alms Eating sour milk after one’s meal etc
Outcomes No consensus emerged and Buddhist sects began to appear for first time.
  • Last king of this dynasty was Nandivardhana . Shaishunaga dynasty came to bitter end . King and his sons were killed , making way for Nanda dynasty

Nanda Dynasty (345-321 AD)

  • Puranic , Buddhist & Jaina tradition agree that there were 9 Nanda kings . Mahapadma Nanda was succeeded by his eight sons, and they were together known as the navanandas or the nine Nandas.
  • Nandas build on the foundations of Haryanka & Shishunaga dynasty & emerged as the first great empire in North India .
  • Nandas were thought  of low origin with some sources stating that  dynasty’s founder, Mahapadma Nanda, was the son of a Shudra mother.

Mahapadma Nanda = Empire Builder

  • Mahapadma Nanda usurped the throne by murdering the last of the Shishunaga kings.
  • Mahapadma Nanda has been described in  Puranas as “the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas”. He defeated many other kingdoms, including Panchalas, Haihayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus , Surasenas etc.
  • He is known as Ekrat (Sole king).
  • He conquered Kalinga . Hathigumpha inscription of Kharvela (of Kalinga) also mentions the conquest of Kalinga by Nanda.
  • He also expanded his territory south of the Vindhya range, into the Deccan plateau .
  • Mahapadma Nanda is described as the first empire builder in the recorded history of India.
    • He inherited the large kingdom of Magadha built by Haryanka & Shishunaga dynasty .
    • But he wanted to extend it to yet more distant frontiers. For this he built up a vast army.  According to Diodorus and  Rufus (Roman historian) , his army consisted  of 2 lakh infantry, 20 thousand  cavalry, 2 thousand war chariots and 3,000 war elephants.
    • Such was the  fear of Nanda army that when Alexander  invaded India (Dhana Nanda was the ruler at that time ), he confined his campaign to the plains of Punjab as his forces were frightened by the prospect of facing Nanda army & mutinied at Hyphasis River (the modern Beas River) .
Rise of Magadha

Reasons why Magadha emerged as strongest of all Mahajanapadas

  1. In Republics of North-eastern India (Malla, Vajji) , there was no centralisation due to common ownership of land by the kshatriyas . On the other hand, in the Monarchies of upper Ganga , Vedic sacrifices led to wasteful consumption . Magadha  located in the mid Ganga plains had no such limitations.
  2. Magadha had the advantage of
    • Rich soil &  history of rice cultivation .
    • Good rainfall, irrigated land and bandhs used as water reserves .
    • It was close to the mines and minerals of Singhbhum .
    • Forest of Rajmahal hills for procuring timber and elephants.
  3. Geographical Position
    • Old capital Rajgriha was surrounded by perimeter of 5 easily defendable hills .
    • New capital Pataliputra was protected due to location at Ganga & Son .
  4. Both Uttarapatha & Dakshinapatha passed through Magadha leading to high volumes of trade . River Ganges  which flowed through the heart of Magadha was the high route of trade   .
  5. Due to foreign invasions like
    • Achaemenians in 6th century B.C
    • Macedonians in 4th Century B.C.
    • infiltration of foreign races
    • Demands started to raise that there was need of central paramount power on the subcontinent  to defend it from foreign invasions. It  prepared the country to submit to Magadhan hegemony.
  6. An unbroken chain of very able and extraordinary monarchs ascended the Magadhan throne like Shishunaga, Bimbisara, Ajatasatru, Mahapadma and Chandragupta . They were fortunate in having great ministers and diplomats like Vassakara, Kautilya and Radha Gupta .

This marks the end of our article on topic ‘Rise of Magadha.’



This article deals with ‘Mahajanapadas’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


  • During this period , people began to settle on lands and started to call certain areas to be their own  . Hence, Janapadas emerged .
  • Kings, Monks and monarchs emerged on the stage of history.
  • This was the age of intense philosophical speculation . Buddhism, Jainism and many other heterodox sects emerged  as well.

Sources of Information

1 . Literary Sources 

Literary sources include

  1. Brahmanas : Brahmanas (eg Shatapatha Brahmana) are the category of Vedic texts which deals with the methods of performing Vedic rituals. 
  2. Puranas :Puranas provide useful dynastic history .
  3. Upanishads : Upanishads deal with the philosophical problems of the period and were composed 800 BCE onwards.
  4. Buddhist Texts : Sutta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka were composed during this period and they  give us graphic descriptions of the contemporary society.
  5. Ashtadhayayi : It is the book on Sanskrit grammar written by Panini in 5th-4th century BCE. Panini mapped out the grammatical rules as it existed in his time .  His book became landmark in history of Sanskrit from Vedic Sanskrit to Classical Sanskrit . Ashtadhayayi is work of grammar but in order to illustrate the rules of grammar , Panini referred incidentally to many aspects of his time – places, people, customs, institutions, coins, weights & measures .

2. Archaeological sources

  • Iron objects such as hoes, sickles, knives, hooks, nails, arrowheads, vessels and mirrors confirm the widespread use of iron technology.
  • Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) is the characteristic pottery of this period.
  • Textiles, beads,, ivory objects, ceramics and glassware and artefacts of other metals are found.
  • A large number of terracotta artefacts have also been found.
  • Sites belonging to this period include series of punch marked coins which marked use of money in subcontinent .

Developments in the Gangetic Plains

Development of Agriculture

  • Agriculture improved during this phase in the middle Gangetic plains creating the necessary surplus as
    1. Wet rice cultivation began to yield more produce of rice than other crops.
    2. Iron technology also played a crucial role.
  • Reasons for improvement of agriculture were 
Use of Iron Iron axes could be used to clear forests and iron plough shares could facilitate agricultural operations. Iron ploughshare increased the productivity of land .
Practice of wet rice cultivation This was especially useful in the Middle Gangetic Valley. Wet rice cultivation is substantially higher than those  of wheat or millet in traditional agriculture, leading to creation of large surplus .
Rise of Organised State State helped in establishment of new settlements by shifting surplus population from overpopulated areas, providing  cattle, seed, money and irrigational facilities and providing remission of taxes and other concessions to peasants in new establishments
Role of Buddhism Buddhism was against sacrifices . It insisted on the protection of cattle and preservation of cattle wealth for agricultural purposes was encouraged .
  • Leisure time provided by agricultural surplus and technology led to growth of crafts, which in turn aided vibrant trade.

Second Urbanisation

  • Agricultural surplus, the growth of crafts and trade, and the growing population led to the emergence of towns in the Gangetic plains. This is called the second urbanisation in Indian history after the first urbanisation evident  in the Harappan Civilization.


  • The Later Vedic period (1000–600 BCE) witnessed the transition from a tribal polity based on lineage to a territorial state.  The loyalty of the people shifted from  Jana (tribe or clan) to Janapada (territory). The Janapadas fought with one another for resources and political dominance. Some Janapadas extended their territories and brought various Janas within their jurisdiction. Such Janapadas grew into Mahajanapadas .
  • In Mahajanapadas,
    1. The king headed the government aided by a centralised administration.
    2. The king was also the sovereign ruler.
    3. The king levied taxes out of agricultural surplus and redistributed it and ensured maintenance of law and order in a hierarchical society by force and coercion.

16 Mahajanapadas

  • According to Puranic, Buddhist and Jaina traditions, there were 16 Mahajanapadas. These were
    1. Gandhara
    2. Kamboja
    3. Assaka
    4. Vatsa
    5. Avanti
    6. Shurasena
    7. Chedi
    8. Malla
    9. Kuru
    10. Panchala
    11. Matsya
    12. Vajji (Vrijji)
    13. Anga
    14. Kasi
    15. Kosala
    16. Magadha
  • The Mahajanapadas are further classified as Gana-Sanghas and Monarchies based on the nature of their polity.


  • Gana-Sanghas were oligarchies, which were centred on clans.
  • These kingdoms did not come under the single decision-making authority of a king but decisions were taken on a collective basis by the heads of the different clans together.
  • Powerful monarchies have large standing armies but such organisation may be absent in Gana-Sanghas . Their  military defeats from monarchical states was because of  inability  of military system to meet challenge of empire building.
  • Varna organisation did not determine social status . Two broad categories were those who owned land and those who laboured on it. Brahmans might not have enjoyed same prestige as there was hardly any reference of gift to Brahmana .
  • Two Mahajanapadas –  Vajji & Malla were Gana-Sanghas.

Side Topic : Were Gana-Sanghas Republic?

  • Translation of this as Republic is misleading . These were oligarchies where power was vested in heads of leading Kshatriya families with no single hereditary monarch  .
  • Early studies on ganas by nationalist historians tended to glorify them by exaggerating their democratic features . Comparisons were made with republics of Greece & Rome & modern political institutions . Lot was to disprove the assertion of western scholars that Indians had never known anything other than despotic rule .
  • Their governance was marked by Corporate element . Arthashastra (a later text although) outlines special strategies that ‘to be conqueror’ could use to vanquish ganas (advise focussed on creating dissension among their ranks) .


  • Monarchical states had the king as head .
  • There was well developed taxation system with standing armies .
  • Vedic orthodoxy was an established practice in these kingdoms. The priestly class enjoyed a preeminent status in the Mahajanapadas .  The Brahman priests provided the legitimacy to the king through various rituals.
  • The kingship was hereditary and the succession was in most cases based on the law of primogeniture.
  • The king was assisted by councils called Parishad and Sabha. The councils were advisory in nature.
  • There was well developed taxation system in Monarchical states. The revenue thus raised was used to maintain elaborate administrative system and army.


Rural Economy

  • here was emergence of the  private property in land
  • Agriculture started to produce surplus which led to rise of urban centres.
  • State also encouraged expansion of agriculture .

Urban Economy

  • This period led to the start of 2nd Urbanism .
  • Formation of states gave impetus to Urban economy. Small aristocracy which extracted taxes started to demand luxurious items giving push to artistic activities and trade .
  • Age of barter trade was almost over. Punch marked coins  of copper & silver came to use  . 
Economy of Mahajanapadas


  • There was shift in geographical region to Upper & Middle Gangetic Plains .
  • This period led to the institutionalisation of inequality in the society and hardening of caste system  .
  • Practice of untouchability started . Dharmasutras equated them with crows & dogs. Contact even accidental was considered polluting .
  • Strict control over women’s sexuality was practiced as it was essential for the patrilineal transmission of property and for maintenance and perpetuation of  endogamous caste structure. 
  • Wandering Ascetics
    • Paribrajakas and Sramanas. These were people who had renounced families
    • They travelled from place to place and held discussions on  meaning of life, society and spirituality.
    • Among them were Buddha and Mahavira .  

Vedic Period

Vedic Period

This article deals with ‘Vedic Period’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


  • Decline of Harappan cities was followed by another great civilisation and culture known as Vedic culture.
  • Vedic culture was the culture of the speakers of Indo-Aryan language, Sanskrit, who would have entered  India from the north-west India.
  • Their initial settlements were in the valleys of the north-west and the plains of the Punjab. Later, they moved into Indo-Gangetic plains.
  • As they were mainly a cattle keeping people, they were mainly in search of pastures.
  • The period of Vedic Culture between 1500 B.C and 600 B.C may be divided into
    1. Early Vedic Period or Rig Vedic Period (1500 B.C -1000 B.C)
    2. Later Vedic Period (1000B.C – 600 B.C)

Debate around original home of Aryans

The original home of the Aryans is a debatable question and different scholars have different view regarding this

  1. European Theory : Supported  by scholars like Sir William Jones , this theory was based on the similarity of all Indo-Aryan languages like Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, German etc. It states that Continent of Europe was the homeland of Aryans.
  2. Central Asian Theory : Supported by scholars like Max Muller , it argues that Central Asia was the original homeland of Aryans based on the similarities in ‘Avesta’ (Iranian text) and the ‘Vedas’.
  3. Artic Region Theory : Main proponent of this theory was Bal Gangadhar Tilak . According to this theory,  the Aryans came from the Arctic region based on the astronomical calculations.
  4. Indian Theory : This theory was supported by Dr. Sampurnanand and A.C. Das. They argued that Aryans were indigenous to the subcontinent. They argue that there are definite literary evidences in the Vedas that the Aryans regarded the Sapta Sindhu as their original home. Along with that, the sacrificial rituals of the Vedic Aryans having similarity with Harappan practices point towards their  Indian origin.

The most accepted view is that Aryans came to India from Central Asia from what is known as Andronovo culture . This is corroborated by similarities in the language of Rigveda and  Avesta ( oldest Iranian texts) along with other features like Cremation , Fire Cult etc. Apart from that, Genetic Marker called  M17 , found in 40% of Central Asian Steppe people is found in Speakers of Indo Aryan Language .

Also, there wasn’t any Aryan invasion but  there was a series of Indo-Aryan Immigrations and they came to the sub-continent as immigrants.

Sources of Vedic Period

There are two type of sources i.e. Archaeological and Literary Sources.

1 . Archaeological Sources

  • Early Vedic culture is correlated with some  Chalcolithic cultures of India especially Ochre Coloured Pottery Ware cultures.
  • On the other hand, Later Vedic culture is correlated with the Painted Grey Ware Culture of the Iron Age in North India.
  • But in contrast to Harappan Civilization, when the urban sites and farming cultures were present in a limited area, there was agricultural  expansion in many parts of India accompanied with growth of craft production and population.

2 . Literary Evidences

2.1 Vedas

Vedas (Vid = to know, Vidya) are one of the earliest known texts composed in India. The language of the Vedas is  Vedic Sanskrit. There are four Vedas i.e.  Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. The Vedic texts were memorized and orally transmitted by Brahmins from generation to generation. They were written down in the later period, after the introduction of writing.  The earliest known written manuscripts of the Vedas date to the 10-11th century CE.

a . Rig Veda

  • It is world’s oldest surviving poetry with extraordinary beauty & philosophical depth .
  • Total number of hymns are 1028 , arranged in 10 Books or Mandalas. These hymns personify forces of nature and try to control and appease them .
  • Books of Rig Veda are as follows
Books 2-7  – They are the oldest books & known as Family Books .
These books are dated between 1500 and 1000 BCE and represent the Earlier Vedic Age.
Their composition is attributed to families of seer poets – Gritasamada, Vishvamitra , Vamadeva, Atri, Bhardwaj & Vasishtha  .
Books 1,8,9,10 These books seems to be of younger age i.e. 1000 BCE onwards.

b . Sama Veda

  • There are total of 1810 hymns .
  • Most of the hymns are borrowed from Rig Veda & arranged according to needs of musical notations .
  • These hymns were used for singing in connection with sacrifices .

c . Yajur Veda

  • Yajur Veda consists partly of hymns & partly of prose sentence (yajus) . Most of hymns of Yajur Veda are taken from Rig Veda.
  • Yajur Veda deals with performance of rituals .

d . Atharva Veda

  • Atharva Veda is the latest Veda among four.
  • It consists of 781 hymns which are divided into 20 books.
  • It contains hymns ,  spells and charms which reflect the  popular beliefs  .
  • Great importance of Atharva Veda lies in the fact that it is the invaluable source of knowledge of the real popular belief as yet uninfluenced by the priestly religion 

Note : Tradition of Vedic chanting is included in the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

2.2 Brahmanas

  • Each Veda has Brahmanas which are prose explanation of the Samhita portions in terms  of sacrificial rituals & their outcomes. They reflect the spirit of an age in which all intellectual activity was concentrated on the sacrifice  .
  • Among most important Brahmanas are
Rig Veda Aitareya  Brahmana
Sama Veda Jaiminiya Brahmana
Yajur Veda Taittiriya Brahmana 
Atharva Veda Gopatha Brahmana

2.3 Aranyakas

  • Aranyakas are also known as ‘Forest Books.’ 
  • They were probably composed for the old men who had retired into forest & were unable to perform elaborate sacrifices requiring many articles . For them meditation became of superior merit .
  • These books interpret sacrificial rituals in a symbolic & philosophical way.

2.4 Upanishads

  • There are total of 108 Upanishads but 14 are considered principle .
  • Upanishads literally means to sit near someone &  is understood as referring to pupils sitting near  their teachers . Knowledge that was to be imparted  was not ordinary knowledge . It was all encompassing the key to liberation from cycle of birth, death & rebirth , something that could be taught to select deserving pupils .
  • In Upanishads , Indian society started to question the traditional Vedic religious order. The materialistic aspect of religion was discarded and Vedic religion was raised to realm of philosophical doctrine involving around the new concept of Atman (the indestructible soul) and  ‘Brahman’.
  • Note : Satyameva Jayate is taken from Mundaka Upanishad.

2.5 Vedangas

  • Vedangas are also known as the  limbs of the Vedas.
  • They include work such as
Srauta Sutras Deal with major rituals such as Ashvamedha and  Rajasuya .
Grihya Sutras Which lay down the norms for domestic rituals including rites of passage .
Dharma Sutras that lay down social norms .
Sulba Sutras laying down principle of geometry that were used for constructing the sacrificial altar .
  • These texts were also composed over a very long period of time, between c. 800 BCE to c. 200 BCE.

3 . Zend Avesta

  • Earliest part of Zend Avesta is attributed to 1400 BCE .
  • Zend Avesta deals with fire worship, horse sacrifice, cult of soma (or haoma in Avestan language) and there is similarity in name of gods and social classes with Vedas.

Horse Centeredness in Vedic Culture

  • Horse is indispensable trait of Aryan culture .
  • In Vedic & Avestan Texts , personal names are horse centred . Various Iranian chiefs in Avesta & various Iranian tribes mentioned by Herodotus were named after Horse .
  • In Rig Veda, name ASVA comes in various forms 215 times . No other animal was named so frequently. Even Cow (Go) word occurs 176 times.
  • Rig Veda has prayers to god to grant King with ‘Swift Horses’ and ‘Strong Sons’.
  • Various sacrifices and ceremonies involved Horse. Eg : Ashvamedha & Rajasuya (chariot race) Yajnas.

Arguments to prove that Harappan & Rig Vedic people werent’ same

  • Mode of living was different
    • Harappan civilization was an urban civilisation.
    • Rig Vedic people were pastoral and rural in nature.
  • Archaeological evidences show that
    • Harappan phase ended in 1900 BCE .
    • Aryans arrived in India around 1500 BCE .
  • Rig Vedic people were only aware of barley but Harappans were aware of wheat , sesamum, peas etc.
  • Vedic Chiefs were horse centred but Harappans weren’t aware of this animal.
  • Writing of both Civilisations was different. Rig Vedic people spoke Vedic Sanskrit whereas Harappan Script has not been deciphered yet.
  • Harappans practiced earth burials whereas Vedic people cremated the dead ones.

Culture reflected through Rig Veda Samhita

  • Historians divide Rig Vedic Corpus into two parts 
    • Early Vedic Texts : Family Books of Rig Vedic Samhita .
    • Later Vedic Texts : Books 1,8,9 & 10 of Rig Vedic Samhita  + Samhita of Sama, Yajur & Atharva Veda + Brahmanas, Aranyakas & Upanishads .
  • Cultural stages reflected in two broad strata of early & later Vedic texts have come to be known as early & later Vedic cultures .

Part 1 : Early Rig Vedic Culture (1500 – 1000 B.C.)

During the Early Vedic period, the Aryans were mostly confined to the Indus region. They lived in the area of eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan, Punjab and fringes of Western Uttar Pradesh. Rig Veda mentions some of the rivers of Afghanistan like river Kubha along with Indus and it’s tributaries. It also mentions Saraswati which has been identified as Ghaggar-Hakra channel in Haryana and Rajasthan , but it’s Rig Vedic description shows it to be Avestan river Harakhvati or present day Helmand in Afghanistan.

Vedic Period

The political, social and cultural life of the Rig Vedic people can be traced from the hymns of the Rig Veda.

Political Organization

  • Rig Veda is pervaded with aura of wars .
  • Kinship was the basis of the social structure of Rig Vedic society. People were identified with specific clans and the clans formed the tribe or jana. People’s primary loyalty was to the tribe. About 30 tribes/Janas  have been mentioned in the Rig Veda . Purus & Bharatas were two dominant tribes. They initially seem to be allies but at some point fell apart .
  • Rig Vedas speak about not only the Aryans, but also about the non-Aryan people, whom the Aryans referred to as Dasas or Dasyus . Dasyus were dark native people who had different cultural practices. When the Rig Vedic people moved into India they came into conflict with these people .  
  • Prayers to Indra to defeat not only Dasa but also Arya enemies indicate there were conflicts between Aryans too .
  • Aryans are associated with introducing Age of Chariot , spoked wheel and were equipped with better weapons and horses. This gave them edge over original inhabitants.
  • Word Rajan occurs many times . Since full fledged monarchical state hadn’t emerged , it is best translated as chieftain  . His main task was to protect his people & lead them to victory in war.
  • Reference to Chieftain as Gopa /Gopati i.e. Lord of Cattles indicate protecting and increasing herd was his major role .
  • Royal priest accompanied Rajan to Battle , recited prayers & supervised performance of rituals.
  • Rig Veda mentions Sabha & Samitis . Such assemblies might have played important role in redistribution of resources . Apart from that, it acted as check on Rajan and Rajan couldn’t do anything without the approval of these bodies.
Sabha Seems to be smaller & more elite gathering
Samitis Larger assembly presided by Rajan

Social Life

Absence of strict social hierarchy (Caste)

  • In family books, ‘Varna’ word occurs but it means ‘Colour’ . Word Brahmana & Kshatriya is frequently used in family books but word Varna in context of fourfold divided society is never used . Word Vaishya & Shudra is altogether absent .  (Purushasukta Hymn of Book 10 of Rig Veda was the first to speak about 4 fold division)
  • Absence of strict social hierarchy & existence of social mobility is suggested in book 3 by hymn –   ‘O Indra , fond of Soma , would you make me the protector of people or would you make me a king , would you make me a sage who drink soma , would you impart me endless wealth?’ 

Position of Women

  • 19th century socio-religious reformers & 20th century  nationalist historians  represented Vedic age as golden age for women . They pointed out that 
    1. Vedic people worshipped goddesses .
    2. Rig Veda contains hymns composed by women .
    1. Presence of women sages .
    2. Women took part in rituals along with their husbands .
    3. Women took part in chariot races .
    4. Women attended Sabha & various social gatherings .
    1. Rig Veda attaches importance to institution of marriage . Rituals indicate post puberty marriage & there are references of women choosing their husbands . Women could remarry if his husband disappeared  .
    1. Polyandry was present as Maruts are represented as living with Rodasi and two Asvin brothers lived with daughter of sun god .
  • But other scholars challenge it on following account
    1. Great part of discussion is about elite women ignoring less privileged ones.
    1. Although Rig Veda mentions goddesses but none of them is as important as major gods.
    2. Social implication of worship of female deities is complex . It shows ability of society to visualise divinity in women form but it doesn’t automatically mean that real women enjoyed power or privilege .
    3. Proportion of hymns attributed to women are minuscule 12-15  out of over 1000 .
    4. Women participated in Vedic rituals & sacrifices but as wives on behalf of his husband  .
    5. Vedic society was patrilineal &’patriarchal – women enjoyed little control over material resources .
    6. Rig Vedic prayers are for son & not daughter & absence of sons is deplored .

Nature of Household

  • Household was called  Dam which was under joint control of  husband and wife, called  dampati (dual).
  • Both sons and daughters seem to have been welcome in the dam.

Joint Family

  • There is single word to denote nephew, grandson , cousin etc. This imply that differentiation in family relationships leading to the setting up separate households had not occurred and family was a large joint unit.


  • Wheat and barley, milk and its products like curd and ghee, vegetables and fruits were the chief articles of food.
  • However, the eating of cow’s meat was prohibited since it was a sacred animal and  was considered aghnya (not to be killed).
  • Drink known as SOMA consisted of the juice of Soma plant, mixed with milk, sour milk or yava (cereal) was their favourite . SURA seems to be intoxicating drink made by fermenting grain.

Leisure time

  • There are references to singing , dancing & musical instruments eg vina , vana &’drums. Dramas , Chariot racing & gambling with dice  were  source of entertainment .

Economic Condition


  • Prayers in Rigveda suggest that Early Vedic Economy was predominantly , if not exclusively , Pastoral in nature. It is corroborated by the references to cattle as wealth  and typical kind of animosity shown towards urbanity as Indra known as Purandara (breaker of Forts / Cities) .


  • Pastoralism was no doubt important but Agriculture cant be altogether ignored .
  • Archaeological evidence points to the development of agriculture among the Rig Vedic people.
  • The ploughshare is mentioned in the Rig Vedas. There are hymns in Rig Veda referring to levelling of fields for cultivation, desire for fertile fields  & producing rich harvests . There are prayers to Indra to  grant or enrich fields . Indra is also referred to as protector of crops and winner of fertile lands .
  • They cultivated barley (yava).

Craft Production

  • Rig Veda mentions artisans such as carpenters, chariot-makers, weavers and leather-workers.
  • Weaving of clothes of cotton and wool is also mentioned.
  • Copper metallurgy was one of the important developments of this period.
  • Word Ayas occur in many contexts like Indira’s thunderbolt of Ayas , Agni compared to edge of Ayas etc.  . But it is not clear which metal these objects were made of . Some scholars  interpreted Ayas as Iron artefacts which is not true as Early Rig Vedic Age was chalcolithic in nature .  Ayas could have meant copper, bronze or may be general term for metals .

No notion of private property

  • Notion of private property ownership didn’t exist . Clan as whole enjoyed rights over major resources like land & herds .


  • Although trading activities were limited but traders referred to as ‘Panis’ were present during the Early Vedic period. 
  • Coinage system was not developed and most of the trade was carried in Barter.


  • Bullock carts, horses and horse-drawn chariots were used for transport.
  • There are references to the sea (samudra) and boats (nau) indicating riverine transportation as well.

No formal taxation system

  • There was no regular revenue system although Rig Veda mentions the voluntary gifts (bali) received by Rajan from the members of clan . 
  • War booty was major source of wealth .


  • Rig Vedic Aryans worshiped the natural forces like earth, fire, wind, rain and thunder i.e. Rig Veda reflects Naturalistic Polytheism. They personified these natural forces into many gods and worshipped them. The important Rig Vedic gods were Indra (thunder) ,Agni (Fire),  Prithvi (Earth),  Vayu (Wind) and Varuna (Rain) .
  • Religion followed by the Early Rig Vedic people was ‘sacrificial’ in nature. Animal sacrifice is way to kill older animals with no economic utility and lessen the burden on their owner.
  • Indra was the most important and most frequently invoked god in Rig Veda . 250 Rig Vedic hymns are attributed to him. He was vigorous & strong , great warrior . His weapon was thunderbolt (Vajra)  & he led Aryas to victory in Battles . He loved to drink Soma . The most important  myth associated with him was his win over serpent demon Vritra who was hiding water. Indra finally killed him with his Thunderbolt & released the water. According to (historian) DD Kosambi, these stories originated from the clashes between Aryan Tribes whose chief was envisaged as Indra and Non-Vedic original settlers and breaking of agricultural dams built by these settlers.
  • Next in importance was Agni who was regarded as an intermediary between the gods and people.
  • Varuna who personified water was supposed to be the upholder of the natural order.
  • There were female gods like Aditi and Ushas as well.
  • There were no temples and no idol worship during the early Vedic period.

Part 2 : Later Vedic Period (1000 – 600 BC)

  • The Later Vedic culture is dated to the period between 1000 BCE and 700–600 BCE.  The Satapatha Brahmana refers to the expansion of Aryans to the eastern Gangetic plains
  • The Painted Grey Ware Culture of  the Iron Age is associated with the Later Vedic culture.
  • The Aryan speakers expanded till Ganga-Yamuna doab in the Later Vedic period.
  • The Bharatas and Purus, the two major tribes, combined and thus formed the Kuru people.  Soon the Kurus occupied Delhi and the upper reaches of the doab, the area called Kurukshetra or the land of the Kurus. Gradually they coalesced with a people called the Panchalas who occupied the central part of the doab. The authority of the Kuru–Panchalas people spread over Delhi ,and the upper and central parts of the doab. They set up their capital at Hastinapur situated in Meerut district. The history of the Kuru tribe is important for the battle of Bharata, which is the principal theme of the great epic called the Mahabharata. This war is supposed to have been fought around 950 BC between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Since both of them belonged to the Kuru clan, as a result of war virtually the whole of the Kuru clan was wiped out.
Later Vedic Period

Political Organization

Larger Kingdoms

  • Later Vedic people led a settled life leading to formation of territorial units.
  • Larger kingdoms were formed during the later Vedic period. Many Jana or tribes were amalgamated to form Janapadas.
  • The wars were no longer fought for cows, but for territories.

Hereditary Kings

  • Hereditary Kingship was emerging & Shatapatha Brahmanas refer to kingdom of 10 generations
  • In absence of firmly established principles of heredity & primogeniture, rituals became  important for  ruler to assert his authority. Ceremonial sacrifices like Rajasuya (consecration ceremony), Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) and Vajpeya (chariot race) were performed on lavish scale and were thought to give  Super-Human status to chiefs , legitimising their rules.


  • Taxes were not yet formally collected although Bali  was possibly acquiring an obligatory character.
  • The king received voluntary or compulsory contribution called Bali from the people .


  • Although well developed bureaucracy was still absent but number of officials increased than Early Vedic Culture.  Some of the officials include
    1. Purohita : Chief Priest
    2. Charioteer or Suta : Companion of Raja in his exploits & who narrate tales of valour on a number of occasions.
    3. Senani : Leader of the Army
    4. Sangrahitr : Associated with gathering resources.
  • At the lower level, the administration was possibly run by village chief called Gramini.
  • Even in later Vedic times the king did not have a standing army. Tribal units were mustered in times of war .

Reduced powers of Sabha and Samiti

  • Sabha & Samiti continued to exist but with increase in power of king , power of these assemblies decreased.
  • Membership was also reduced to chiefs and rich nobles, and women were no longer permitted to sit in the Sabha .

Social Conditions

Varna Hierarchy

  • Purushasukta Hymn in Book 10 of Rig Veda for the first time refers to 4 social groups – Brahmana , Rajanya (or Kshatriya) , Vaishya & Shudra  .  Varnas are described as being created at same time as that of earth , sky , sun & moon indicated this was considered a part of natural & eternal order of world .
  • The two higher classes – Brahmana and Kshatriya enjoyed privileges that were denied to the Vaisya and Sudra.
  • The concept of dvija (twice-born) developed and the upanayana (sacred thread) was limited to the upper sections of the society. This ceremony marked the initiation for education. The fourth varna was denied this privilege and the Gayatri mantra could not be recited by the Sudras. Women were also denied upanayana and Gayatri mantra
  • Although there is no indication of practice of untouchability but in later Vedic texts groups like Chandalas were looked upon with contempt by elites . In Chandogaya  Upanishad ,  they are described as victims to be offered in symbolic Purushamedha (human sacrifices) & dedicated to deity Vayu (wind) suggesting they lived in open air .

Position of woman

  • Position of woman started to deteriorate compared to the Early Vedic Period corroborated by following facts
    1. Women lost their political rights of attending assemblies.
    2. Child marriages became common.
    3. According to Aitreya Brahmana, a daughter has been described as a source of misery.
    4. Polygyny became frequent.
    5. Society became strictly patrilineal and patriarchal .
    1. Atharva Veda contains charms for changing a female foetus into a male one .
  • But at some places, Women were  praised & exalted in  in later Vedic texts . For instance
    • Shatapatha Brahmana states that  wife is half the other half of her husband & completed him .
    • A few women like Gargi & Maitreyi  participated in the philosophical debate with Upanishadic Sages .
    • Vishpala was a women warrior who lost a leg in battle  but such references were far apart & minuscule .

Nature of Household

  • Household was called  Griha which was under the control of husband called Grihapati.
  •  Griha had three components: a patni,  cattle  and sons.


  • Apupa was the cake mixed with ghee .
  • Milk products were consumed.
  • Meat was eaten on special occasion like honouring guests .
  • There are references of intoxicants like Sura .
  • Soma plant become difficult to obtain . Hence, substitutes were allowed .

Economic Conditions

Use of Iron

  • Earliest references to iron  found are  during Later Vedic Period
    • Term Krishna Ayas in Yajur Veda & Atharva Veda  refers to Iron.
    • Taittariya Samhita   mentions ploughs driven by 6 or even 12 oxen (made of iron) .
  • Iron was used extensively in this period and this enabled the people to clear forests and to bring more land under cultivation.  Iron is believed to have played an important role in the conversion of the forests of the Ganga Valley into agricultural lands.


  • Agriculture became the chief occupation as iron helped to clear the forests.
  • Improved types of implements were used for cultivation.
  • Satapatha Brahmana mentions rituals related to ploughing.  The god Balarama is depicted with a plough, which suggests the importance of cultivation.
  • Besides barley , rice and wheat were grown.

Property rights

  • Land was owned and occupied by extended families .

Craft Production

  • Arts and crafts proliferated during the Later Vedic age and craft specialization took deep roots.
  • Metal work like iron and copper became important.  Weaving was undertaken by women. Leatherwork, pottery and carpentry were well known.
  • Bow makers, rope makers, arrow makers, hide dressers, stone breakers, physicians, goldsmiths and astrologers are some of the specialized professional groups mentioned in the texts.


  • Vaisyas  carried on trade and commerce. They organized themselves into guilds known as ganas.
  • No evidence of coins has been found and therefore barter must have been the medium of exchange. The introduction of coins took place after about 600 BCE.


  • Gods of the Early Vedic period like Indra and Agni lost their importance. Prajapati (the creator), Vishnu (the protector) and Rudra (the destroyer) became prominent during the Later Vedic period.
  • Sacrifices  became  very elaborate. The importance of prayers declined and that of sacrifices increased.  It was believed that sacrifices could solve many problems.  The correct performance of sacrifices was stressed. Stress was laid on paying dakshina to the Brahmins performing the sacrifices.
  • The rise of Buddhism and Jainism and upanishadic philosophy within hinduism was the direct result of reaction to these elaborate sacrifices. Upanishads stress the importance of realising the atman or inner self and heterodox faiths such as Buddhism and Jainism  emphasized on correct human behaviour and discipline.

Harappan Civilisation

Harappan Civilisation

This article deals with ‘Harappan Civilisation’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


  • Indus Valley Civilisation represents the first phase of urbanisation in India contemporaneous with the civilisations of Mesopotamia and Egypt
  • This civilisation did not appear all of a sudden. It developed gradually on the foundations provided by Neolithic villages in the area.  For example, Neolithic villages in this region go back to about 7000 BCE at the Neolithic site of Mehrgarh.
  • It is known by various names like
    1. Indus Valley Civilization : It was mainly spread in valley of Indus and it’s tributaries.
    2. Harappan Civilization  : As Harappa was the first site of this civilisation to be discovered.

Area of spread

  • Civilization was spread over nearly 1.5 million sq. km area.
  • Its core area was in the regions of Pakistan, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
  • It is spread between
    1. Sutkagen-dor (on Pakistan-Iran border) in the west 
    2. Manda (Jammu and Kashmir) in the north
    3. Alamgirpur (Uttar Pradesh, India) in the east
    4. Daimabad (Maharashtra, India) in the south 

Phases of Harappan Civilisation

Harappan civilisation is dated between c. 2600 and 1900 BC. There were earlier and later cultures, often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan. The Harappan civilisation is sometimes called the Mature Harappan culture to distinguish it from these cultures.

Early Harappan 3000 to 2600 BCE It is known as ‘Period of Regionalisation‘. It was proto-urban formative phase . Settlements had fortifications and craft specialisation started to develop. But large cities were absent. 
Mature Harappan 2600 to 1900 BCE It is known as ‘Period of Integration ‘. It was full fledged Urban phase. Settlements were large and high degree of craft specialisation was reached.
Late Harappan 1900 to 1700 BCE It is known as ‘Period of Localisation‘. It was post-urban phase . Settlements were small , more in number but rural in character. Single Harappan Culture fragmented to 3local phases
1. West Punjab Phase (Cemetery- H Culture)
2. Jhukar Phase Rangpur Phase
3. Ganga Yamuna Doab Phase

Note : The urban phase was prevalent in the mature Harappan period and began to decline afterwards.

Town Planning

1 . Planned Towns

  • Harappan Cities were well planned .   
  • There was Grid Pattern of streets cutting each other at right angles . The streets were wide enough for too and fro movement of traffic.
  • City was divided into two distinct parts i.e.
    • Citadel : Small , higher &  fortified (walled) which housed important  buildings like Granaries, Great Bath etc.
    • Lower Town : Bigger , lower and separately walled housing common public .  
  • Since the city was walled, it meant that once the wall was built, it couldn’t be expanded. It corroborates the fact that city was first planned and then built according to the plan.

2 . Fortified Towns

  • Harappan cities were fortified
  • These fortifications could have served following purposes :-
    • Protection from attacks .
    • Exclude outsiders  .
    • Helps  to control activities inside the fortification.
    • If traders bring goods from places faraway they can demand share for allowing  access to potential buyers inside

3 . Impressive drainage system

  • It was the most complete ancient drainage system  seen in any ancient civilization.   Perhaps no other Bronze civilization paid such emphasis on health and cleanliness as Harappans.
  • Every house was connected to street drains.
  • Main channels were made of bricks set in mortar and  covered with loose bricks that could be removed for cleaning. House drains first emptied into a sump or cesspit into which solid matter settled while waste water flowed out into the street drains.
  • Drainage systems were not unique to the larger cities, but were found in smaller settlements  as  well. 

4 . Extensive use of standardised baked bricks

  • Size of bricks was uniform (ratio = 4:2:1).
  • Standardised size of bricks indicate that brick making was organised on large scale.
  • Various brick laying techniques were used including ENGLISH BOND STYLE (for maximum strength).
  • Note : In contemporary Egyptian Culture, dried bricks were used . Although, baked bricks were used in Mesopotamia but they were used much widely in Harappan culture.

5 . Houses

  • People lived in houses of different sizes showing that stratification was present in the society.
  • Staircases were present in some houses which might have led to roof .
  • Although most of houses were single storied . But two and three storied houses were also present.
  • Floors were made of high packed earth. 
  • Small houses attached to large ones might have been quarters of service groups  .
  • Toilets & Bathrooms : Houses  had separate bathing & toilet areas . Floor of these was made of tightly fitted bricks .
  • Houses were without much decoration showing utilitarian outlook of Harappan people .

Crafts and Techniques

  • Harappans mass – produced standardised items.
  • Some were quintessentially Indus, i.e. they are neither found prior to the advent of civilization nor after its collapse. Eg : Indus seals .

1 . Harappan Pottery

  • Harappan Pottery reflects efficient mass production .
  • Features of typical Harappan Pottery were
    • Harappan pottery was well baked .
    • Harappan Pottery was made with potter’s wheel.
    • Pottery has bright red slip decorated with black designs .
    • Shapes – There was great variety of shapes like pots,  large Jars  (to store grains or water), flattish dishes (used as plates), perforated jars (use not clear) etc.
    • Decorative designs on pottery includefish scales, pipal leaves , horned deity , intersecting circles, zig-zag lines  etc.
Harappan Pottery

2 . Copper Objects

  • Harappan civilisation was a ‘Bronze Age civilisation’ and Harappans knew how to make copper and bronze tools. They did not have the knowledge of iron.
  • Harappans used pure copper as well as  copper alloyed  with Arsenic , Tin or Nickel .
  • Artefacts include vessels , spears, knives, short swords, mirrors , rings & bangles etc.
  • With time %age of bronze increases.

Side Topic : Dancing Girl

  • Most of metal objects found are Utilitarian .
  • Most important Non-Utilitarian Copper Object excavated from Harappan Civilization is Dancing Girl found at Mohenjodaro .
  • It was made using   LOST WAX TECHNIQUE  .
  • Features of Dancing Girl
    • She is standing in Tribhanga posture .
    • She is naked .
    • She is wearing a necklace, 24-25 bangles in left arm & just 4 on right arm .
  • John Marshall called it DANCING GIRL (thought her to be equivalent of Nautch Girl dancing on music) . Although name struck , but she might not have been dancing at all .
Dancing Girl

3 . Seals

  • Use of seals was to facilitate long distance communication. They might have been used
    • For stamping on bag’s rope knot .
    • Insignia / images on seal conveyed the identity of sender.
  • Seals were square or rectangular .
  • Average size of square seal was 2.54 cm  .
  • Material used  –  Steatite  
  • Carvings are in intaglio ie sunken engravings with impression appearing in relief
  • Motifs on seals include elephant, tiger, humped bull, rhinoceros , one horned  unicorn etc.
  • Most seals have short inscription.     The longest inscription has about twenty six signs.
Seals of Harappan Civilsation

4 . Beads and Bangle making

  • This craft was known in earlier cultures too but Harappans  used new materials and better techniques 


  • Material used included Steatite, Carnelian , Lapis Lazuli ,etc.
  • Harappan long barrel cylinder carnelian  beads were  so beautiful that they are found in royal burials of Mesopotamia.
  • Main centres of Bead making were  Chanhudaro & Lothal . Bead making tradition in Gujarat today give us clue on how Harappan craftsmen might have made beads
Carnelian Beads


  • Bangles were often made from conch shell .
  • Nageshwar (near Jamnagar) and Balakot , situated near the coast, were  exclusively devoted to Bangle making from shell .
  • Dancing girl found at Mohenjo-Daro is shown wearing bangles in large numbers .
Bangles of Harappan Civilisation

Water Management System

Harappan sewage & drainage was far more advanced than any other  found in contemporary urban sites in the Middle East.

Sewage  System

  • Every house was connected to street drains.
  • Main channels  was made of bricks set in mortar and was covered with loose bricks that could be removed for cleaning.
  • House drains emptied into cesspit where solid matter settled and waste water flowed into street drains

Water Management in various cities

Mohenjodaro Almost all houses had private wells (700 wells found in city).
– It also had the Great Bath  .
Lothal It had port  with a dockyard .
Dholavira – System of water management was architectural marvel .
– Two seasonal streams – Manhar and Mansar – was dammed and diverted to the large reservoirs within the city walls . It had  16 water reservoirs  covering as much as 36 % of the walled area. 
Shortughai – Canal for irrigation brought water from nearby Kokcha river .
The Great Bath (Mohenjo daro) 
Water Wells (Lothal)


  • Harappans were producing enough food to sustain urban population which was engaged in activities other than agriculture. Their subsistence base was wide and diverse as it was situated on alluvial plains , mountains , plateaus & sea coasts .
  • Today the rainfall in Sindh is about 15 cm, but in the fourth century BCE , one of the historians of Alexander informs us, that Sindh was a fertile part of India. In earlier times, the Indus region had more natural vegetation which contributed to rainfall. Along with that , annual inundation of Indus made the region very fertile. Just as the Nile created Egypt and ​supported its people, so too the Indus created Sindh and fed its people
  • Crops : Harappans cultivated diverse crops such as
    • Wheat
    • Barley
    • Lentil
    • Chickpea
    • Sesame
    • various millets
    • Note : although rice husk has been found at sites like Rangpur but it wasn’t the main crop of Harappan civilisation.
  • Cotton : Cotton was cultivated in Harappan civilisation . Following evidences prove this fact
    • Figurines wearing clothes (eg : Priest King, Mother Goddess).
    • Mesopotamian texts state that cotton was important import from Meluha .
  • Ploughing :  Harappans used ploughs. They ploughed the land and then sowed the seeds increasing the agricultural output. Ploughed fields have been found at Kalibangan. Terracotta models of the plough have been found at at Banawali (Haryana).
  • Irrigation : Most Harappan sites are located in semi-arid lands, where irrigation was probably required for agriculture. Harappans built embankments and dams for irrigation. For example :-
    • Irrigation canals have been found at Shortughai .
    • Water drawn from wells was also used for irrigation.
    • Water reservoirs found in Dholavira (Gujarat).

Animal Domestication

  • Animals were domesticated by the Harappans for meat, milk and draught purposes.
  • They domesticated  sheep, goat, buffalo , fowl etc.
  • They also ate fish . In states like Gujarat, Molluscs were widely consumed. Marine catfish bones have been found at Harappa showing coastal community traded in dried fish  .
  • Evidence from seals show region also housed humped bulls, rhinoceros, ibexes , boar, deer and gharial .
  • Issue of Horse is controversial
    • Horse remains have been reported from  Harappa , Lothal, Surkotda & Kalibangan . But analysis of bones is questioned by other scholars .  
    • In any case, the Harappan culture was not horse-centered. Representation of horse has not been found  on seals or pottery .
    • For UPSC exam, we can say that horse was not known to them.

Trade and Exchange

  • Harappans did not use metal money, and in all probability carried exchanges through a barter system.
  • Two types of trade was going on
External Trade With Mesopotamia & Persian Gulf
Internal Trade Between different Harappan sites and various other cultures of India .

External Trade

  • Evidences showing External Trade are as follows
    1. Harappan seals and materials  found in the Sumerian and Mesopotamian sites as well as  in Oman, Bahrain and Iran.
    2. Mesopotamian  inscriptions mention the trade between Mesopotamia and Harappans. The mention of “Meluha” in the Mesopotamian  inscriptions refers to the Indus region.
  • Important exports were
    • Carnelian beads – found even in Mesopotamian Royal Graves
    • Textile – Mesopotamian Records of King Sargon mention this
    • Ivory & Ivory objects 
    • Lapis Lazuli,Gold, Silver , copper, tortoiseshell , chicken like bird
  • Import imports were
    • Fish, grain , wool, woollen garments & silver from Mesopotamia

Internal Trade

  • Harappans also interacted with various regions of India and acquired raw materials and processed them.
  • These regions were as follows
Copper Khetri deposits in Rajasthan
Tin Tosam area of Haryana
Gold Kolar mines of Karnataka
Most semi precious stones except Lapis Lazuli Gujarat
Lapis Lazuli Shortughai in Afghanistan 

Weights and Measures

  • Harappans had developed proper weights and measures. Since they were involved in commercial transactions, they needed standard measures.
  • Cubical weights made of chert, chalcedony, black stone etc. have been found at excavated sites.
  • Weights exhibit a binary system. The ratio of weight is doubled as 1:2:4:8:16:32.
  • They also used a measuring scale in which one inch was around 1.75 cm. Sticks inscribed with measure marks have been found, and one of these is made of bronze.

Faiths and Belief System

Harappan people had wide faiths and belief systems.

1 . Nature worship

  • Harappan seals, sealings, amulets & copper tablets depict number of trees , plants & animals . Some might have cultic significance as well and these include
    • Pipal (Ficus Religosa) 
    • Bull which is symbol of male virility . Seal from Chanhu-daro depict a bull bison with erect penis, fecundating a supine human figure. 
    • One horned animal probably Unicorn.
    • Composite animals like Tiger-Human. Conception of composite gods like Narsimha can be traced back to this .

2 . Mother Goddess

  • Worship of female goddesses is historically associated with fertility  .
  • Mother Goddess is slim female with  fan shaped headdress & wearing short skirt . She is heavily ornamented with necklaces and  earrings. 
The Mother Goddess

3 . Proto Shiva

  • Harappans also worshipped male god represented on  seal discovered at Mohenjodaro known as Pashupati Seal. The god is surrounded by an elephant, a tiger, a rhinoceros, and below his throne there is a buffalo, and at his feet two deer.
  • Note : It resembles with Shiva who is Mahayogi (the great yogi) & Pashupati( lord of animals)
Pashupati Seal

4 . Priest King

  • Found at Mohenjo Daro known as Priest king
  • He was called Priest King because archaeologists were familiar with Mesopotamian history and its “priest-kings” .
Priest King

5 . Fire Alters

  • Citadel at Kalibangan consists of  fire alters where offerings were made into fire.
  • Fire Alters have also been reported at Banawali, Lothal, Amri & Rakhigarhi .
  • Fire ritual was central to Vedic religion . These evidences indicate that Aryans might have adopted this from Harappans when they came & settled down in these areas .

6 . The Great Bath

  • The Great Bath found at Mohenjodaro might have  religious significance as well.
  • The Great Bath was a large rectangular tank with two staircases  on the north and south leading into the tank. There were rooms on three sides, in one of which was a large well. Water from the tank flowed into Great Bath . Across  a lane to the north lay a smaller building with eight bathrooms. The uniqueness of the structure and fact that it was found on citadel  led scholars to suggest that it was meant for some kind of a special ritual bath.
The Great Bath

Burial Systems

  • Harappans buried the dead.
  • The Harappan burials have grave goods in the form of pottery, ornaments, jewellery, copper mirrors and beads. This suggest their belief in an afterlife.
  • Compared with other civilisations, it can be said that on the whole, it appears that the Harappans did not believe in burying precious things with the dead.
  • Note : Although Harappans buried their dead but Harappan civilisation hasn’t yielded a monument for the dead which could equal Pyramids of Egypt or Royal Cemetery of  Ur .

Nature of Writing

  • The biggest mystery  about the Harappans is which language(s) they spoke.
  • Harappan script consists of 400-450 basic signs.
  • Harappan script was pictographic in nature (i.e. picture used to represent a word).   
  • It was written from right to left corroborated by the fact that some seals show a wider spacing on the right and cramping on the left. 
  • Although larger inscriptions were rare. In large inscriptions , they followed Boustrophedon Style (i.e. first line in right to left , then next line in left to right)
  • Nature of Language 
    • Some scholars argue that Harappan script and language belonged to Dravidian family . Father Heras  was strong advocate of this view . He argued that Brahui , language  still spoken in this region , belongs to Dravidian family .
    • Others historians believe that  it belonged to Indo-Aryan languages .
    • Yet others believe that it belonged to the Sumerian language.
  • Harappan script has not been deciphered yet .  Mortimer Wheeler writes the conditions requisite for the interpretation of the script are (1) bilingual inscriptions with known language and (2) long inscription with significant recurrent features . Both these conditions aren’t present in Harappan inscriptions.

Nature of Polity

State was present in Harappan Civilisation . Following things prove the existence of state

  1. Uniform culture over such a large area wasn’t possible without central authority.
  2. Granaries at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa where surplus was collected and stored , most probably by the rulers.
  3. Control of labour  as indicated by elaborate drainage system, citadels and public buildings which were made by mobilising labour on large scale.   
  4. Standardisation  , site specialisation  and establishment of trading outpost at Shortughai .
  5. Common system of writing across wide area .
  6. FORTIFICATIONS  especially imposing ones like Dholavira, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
  7. We have no clear idea of an organized force or standing army, but a heap of sling stones and the depiction of a soldier on a potsherd at Surkotda may suggest a standing army.
  8. Harappan civilisation lasted for 700 years &  artefacts continued unaltered which suggests strong political stability . 

Side Topic : A Priest King 

  • In ancient Mesopotamian & Egyptian civilisations,  rulers were portrayed extensively in stone reliefs & sculptures to proclaim their power . But Harappan case is strikingly different because here no such things have been found .
  • Taking view from Egypt & Meso Civilisation , stone bust of Male found at Mohenjodaro is given label of  Priest King . However whether he represent priest or king or both is far from certain.
Priest King

Contemporary Cultures of the Harappan Civilisation

  • While the Indus Civilisation was flourishing in the north-western part of India, several cultures were developing in different parts of India..


  • Kashmir was under Neolithic culture during this phase. Sites like Burzahom belong to this phase.

Deccan and Western India

  • Chalcolithic cultures were prevalent in Deccan and western India.
  • Chalcolithic culture in the form of Ganeshwar-Jodhpura culture was prevalent in Rajasthan. Harappans imported copper from here (Khetri copper mines).

South India

  • Kerala and Sri Lanka were still under  hunting and gathering phase.
  • Northern part of South India, i.e. the Karnataka and Andhra region, had Neolithic cultures, engaged in pastoralism and plough agriculture.
  • Harappans used to send expeditions to South India to import gold especially from region surrounding Kolar gold fields.

Morphology of Harappan Cities

Harappan Civilisation

1 . Mohenjo Daro

Region Sindh (Pakistan)
River Indus
Excavator RD Banerji (1922)
Important points It was the second site to be discovered after Harappa.
It was spread over area of 125 Hectare  and at it’s peak , used to house population of around 35,000.
Important things excavated here includes
1. Great Bath
2. College of Priests
3. Granary
4. Large Pillared Hall
5. Dancing Girl
6. Pashupati Seal
7. Superficial evidence of horse (although refuted by many historians)
8. Model of ship/large boat

Problem  – water levels in Mohenjodaro has risen high . As a result, it is  not possible to determine whether early Harappan levels were present  

2. Harappa

Region Punjab (Pakistan)
River Ravi
Excavator Rai Bahadur Dayaram Sahni (1921)
Important points It was the first site to be discovered .
Important things excavated here include
1. 6 Granaries
2. Cemetery H with urn-burials
3. Large number of wells
4. All other Harappan features like Citadel, sewage system, fortification etc.
Issue : most of the citadel buildings was already destroyed (bricks used in railways &  robbed by brick  robbers). Clear profile of main citadel is lacking  .

3. Kalibangan

Region Ganganagar district of Rajasthan (India)
River Ghaggar
Excavator Amalanand Ghosh (1953) and BK Thakur (1961)
Important points – Get its name from the thick cluster of black bangles lying all over  mounds .
Important things excavated here include
1. Fire Alters – Interpreted as sacrificial pits 
2. Ploughed fields – first of its kind in history 
3. Black bangles
It wasn’t as well developed as Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Lower town didn’t have well developed drainage system.
It survived till 1800 BCE when Ghaggar river completely dried up 

4. Lothal

Region Near  Khambat in Gujarat
River Between Sabarmati river & its tributary Bhogavo
Excavator SR Rao (1957)
Important points It was a sea-port .
Although , not big in size but it was economically important .
Important things excavated here include
1. Huge basin / dockyard to dock ships .
2. Evidence of rice husk .
3. Evidence of double burial i.e. man and woman buried together.
4. Fire altars
5. Bead factory

5. Dholavira

Region Kadir Island in Gujarat (Rann of Kutch)
Excavator JP Joshi (1990)
Important point It was a large city spanned over 160 hectares.
It is one of the newest site to be excavated.
Important things excavated here includes
1. Extensive use of stone (instead of bricks).
2. 16 water reservoirs within the walls of city covering 36% of walled area.
3. Largest number of inscriptions have been found here.

6. Chanhudaro

Region Near Mohenjodaro in Sind (Pakistan)
River Indus
Excavator NG Mazumdar (1931)
Important point It is a small settlement spread in just 7 hectares .
Important things excavated here includes
1. It was important craft centre devoted to bead-making, shell-cutting, metal-working, seal-making and weight-making. 
2. It is the only Harappan site without fortifications.  

7. Rakhigarhi

Region Hissar district of Haryana (India)
River Ghaggar
Important points It was large city  spread over 350 hectares.
Important things excavated here includes
1. Fire altars like those found at Kalibangan.
2. Redware similar to Dancing Girl.  

8. Banawali

Region Hissar district of Haryana (India)
River Rangoi
Excavator RS Bist (1970s)
Important points Important things excavated here includes
1. Barley of high quality.
2. Fire altars
3. Terracotta model of plough  

9. Ropar

Region Punjab (India)
River Sutlej
Excavator YD Sharma (1955)
Important points It was a small site.
Important things excavated here includes
1. Harappan seals
2. Cemetery where dead were buried.
3. Burial where man was buried with dog.  

10 . Rangpur

Region Near Lothal in Gujarat
River Madar
Excavator MS Vatsa (1931)
Important point Rice husk found here is important finding .

11. Surkotda

Region Gujarat
Excavator JP Joshi
Important point Bones of horse have been excavated from this site.

12. Suktagendor

Region Baluchistan (Pakistan) on Iran-Pakistan border
River Dasht
Excavator A Stein
Important point It is the western-most site of Harappan civilization .
Port town with trade links with Mesopotamia and Sumeria.

13. Shortughai

Region North-East Afghanistan
River Oxus and Kokcha
Important points It was small site (2 ha).
It was an isolated Harappan site .
Excavations include Pottery with Harappan Designs, Toy carts , Lapis Lazuli , Carnelian , shell bangles  etc.
Ploughed field covered with flax in area unsuitable for farming ( dry farming practiced here) .
Small irrigation canals drawing water from Kokcha .  
Reason for making isolated site 1. Lapis Lazuli mines nearby
2. Second Possibility –  Tin mines of Afghanistan
3. Third Possibility –  role to play in Camel Trade 

Decline of Harappan Civilization

It was a gradual decline

  • Roughly around 1900 BCE, there is a visible change in the material record.
    • Population seems to have either perished or moved away . Number of settlements in Core Harappan areas decreased but number of settlements in the outlying areas of Gujarat, East Punjab, Haryana and upper Doab increased (explained by the emigration of people from the core regions of Harappan Civilisation to outlying areas) .
    • In few Harappan sites that continued to be occupied after 1900 BCE, Material culture underwent a change – a far smaller, and that too more locally exploited raw materials was utilized . There was disappearance of  weights, seals, special beads, writing, long-distance trade, and craft specialisation .

Overall, artefacts and settlements indicate a rural way of life in what are called “Late Harappan”

  • Mesopotamian literature stops referring to Meluha by the end of 1900 BCE . 

Many theories are given for decline of Harappan Civilisation by various scholars

Reason 1 : Aryan Invasion

  • Theory was given by Ramaprasad Chanda in 1926 but elaborated by Mortimer Wheeler .
  • References to various kinds of forts of Dasas & Dasyus,  attacks on fortified cities & epithet Puramdara (fort destroyer) given to Indra reflect invasion of Aryans on Harappan cities .
  • Rig Veda mentions a place called Hariyupiya located on the bank of  Ravi where Aryans fought a battle . Name of the place sounds very similar to that of Harappa. Based on this, Wheeler concluded that it was the Aryan invaders who destroyed the city. 

Arguments against this theory

  • Historians like George Dale & BB Lal argue that  Rig Veda is a religious text of uncertain date & taking it as evidence on face value is not correct .
  • Harappans & Aryans are unlikely to have met each other. Harappan Civilisation declined around 1900 BCE whereas Aryans arrived in India around 1500 BCE.
  • No evidences of military assault have been found . Earlier Deadman Lane Theory of John Marshall has been discarded . Deadman lane is a street in Mohenjodaro where dead-bodies of 17 people were excavated. But later it was found that they didn’t belong to same period.  No bodies of warriors clad in armour and surrounded by the weapons of war have been found. The citadel, the only fortified part of the city, yielded no evidence of a final defence.

Reason 2 : Fall in Mesopotamian Trade

  • There was sudden end of long distance land and sea trade with Mesopotamia. Trade in luxurious items like lapis lazuli, beads etc. passed through Elam (located on eastern border of Mesopotamia) . In 2000 BC, Elam emerged as powerful state impacting Harappan exports to Mesopotamia and Mesopotamian Imports including tin to Harappa. Decline of trade led to decline of Harappan Civilisation as well.

Reason 3 : Raike’s Hypothesis – Floods 

  • RL Raikes was  famous hydrologist .
  • He believes that the Harappan civilization declined because of catastrophic flooding. But such flooding which could drown buildings 30 feet was not  result of normal flooding .  Geomorphologically ,  the Indus area is a disturbed seismic zone. Earthquakes might have raised the level of the flood plains of the lower Indus river along an axis roughly at right angles . This led to the ponding of the waters of the river Indus.

Reason 4 : Shifting away of Indus

  • Indus was  unstable river system which altered its course many times . 
  • River Indus shifted about 30 miles away from Mohenjodaro. People deserted the area because they were starved of water
  • But this cannot explain the decline of the Harappan civilization in totality. At best, it can explains the desertion of Mohenjodaro. 

Reason 5 : Drying up of Ghaggar

  • Ghaggar-Hakra area represented one of the core regions of Harappan  civilization. Ghaggar was a mighty stream . Rivers Sutlej and Yamuna used to be the tributaries of this river. Because of some tectonic disturbances, the Sutlej stream was captured by the Indus river and the Yamuna shifted east to join the Ganges. This kind of change in the river regime, which left the Ghaggar waterless, would have catastrophic implication for the towns located in this area.

Reason 6 : Increased Aridity

  • This theory was given by DP Aggarwal & Sood .
  • Basing their conclusions on the studies conducted in the U.S.A., Australia and Rajasthan , they have shown that there was an increase in the arid conditions by the middle of the second millennium B.C. In semi-arid regions like those of the Harappa, even a minor reduction in moisture and water availability could spell disaster. It would affect agricultural production which in turn would put the city economies under stress.

Reason 7 : Ecological Imbalance

  • “Harappans were over-exploiting their environment through over-cultivation, over-grazing, and excessive cutting of trees for fuel and farming. This would have resulted in decreasing soil fertility, floods, and increasing soil salinity.”
  • Deforestation was carried out on large scale for fuel to make bricks. Deforestation also reduced the rainfall in the area.
  • To sustain the city population, agriculture was to be done on large scale decreasing the soil fertility . Exhaustion of the soil may have diminished cereal production and starved the urban people.
  • Gradual movement away to other areas was already happening so as to reduce the pressure on the limited land. Harappan communities moved towards Gujarat and eastern areas, away from the Indus.

Localisation Phase

  • Debate on Terminology : Late Harappan vs Post Harappan
    • Those historians who are in favour of decline of Harappan Civilisation prefer to call it Post Harappan Civilisation .
    • Whereas those who argue for Transformation of Harappan Civilisation call it Late Harappan. Later Harappan terminology is preferred by most historians now a days.
  • Scholars working on the Indus civilization no longer look for the causes of its decline  because of the fact that the scholars who studied the Harappan civilization right upto the 1960s believed that the collapse of the civilization was sudden. It was towards the end of the 1960s  that scholars like Malik and Possehl focused their attention on various aspects of continuity of  Harappan tradition
  • Archaeologically speaking some changes are observable-
    • Some of the settlements were abandoned .
    • Tradition of uniform writing, seals, weights and pottery was lost.
    • Objects showing intensive interaction among the far flung settlements were lost.

In other words the activities associated with city-centred economies were given up.

  • But there was continuity as well.
  • Three prominent cultures which came after Mature Harappan Phase declined & Localisation Phase started were
    1. Cemetery H
    2. Jhukar/Late Kulli
    3. Rangpur 
Late Phase of Indus Valley  Civilisation

1 . Cemetery H

  • Cemetery H is a site in Harappa . Here, large Urn Burials dateable to Post Urban Culture were found.
  • Dated from 1900-1300 BCE.
  • Cemetery H Culture had Black on Red pottery with similar shapes of pottery as that of Mature Harappan Culture  , although motifs on pottery differed .

2. Late Kulli / Jhukar

  • Found in Southern Sindh, ChanhuDaro , Jhukar etc .
  • Some of typical Harappan elements like Stamp Seals continued but it was made of Terracotta or Faience .
  • They were still staying in brick houses but they gave up the planned lay out.

3. Rangpur

  • Found in Gujarat . Main sites were Rangpur & Lothal & Prabhas Patan (Somnath) .
  • There were fewer number of sites and settlements were smaller.
  • They were usingLustrous Redware characterised by bright & burnished slipped surface.

This marks the end of our article on ‘Harappan Civilisation’ .

Introduction to Drainage System

Introduction to Drainage System

This article deals with ‘Introduction to Drainage System ’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Channel A defined zone which has a certain depth in which there is continuous flow of water under normal conditions.
Drainage The flow of water in well defined channel is known as Drainage .  
Drainage System The network of channels which drains a region is known as Drainage System.  
Drainage Basin The drainage basin is the area drained by the river and it’s tributaries.  
Catchment / Catchment Area The river drains the water collected from a specific area. This area is known as the Catchment Area or Catchment .  
Water Divide / Watershed Watershed divides the one catchment area from other catchment area. It is also known as Water divide.  
River Regime The seasonal flow of water in a river is known as River regime. Hence, if the water availability is uniform around the year, it is known as Uniform River Regime. Whereas rivers where the water is seasonal, it is known as Non-uniform River Regime. Such seasonal rivers are also known as Ephemeral rivers.  
Inland Drainage Rivers which don’t reach the ocean . In desert or arid regions, such rivers lead to the formation of Salt Lakes or Playa Lakes .

Types of drainage pattern

Geometric system of streams in a region is determined by.

1. Slope 3. Hydraulic Variability.
2. Difference in rock resistance to erosion 4. Structural  control of Landscape.

1 . Antecedent or Inconsequent

  • Antecedent drainage pattern is one in which a  part of a river slope and the surrounding area gets uplifted but the river sticks to its original slope, cutting through the uplifted portion forming deep gorges
  • Eg : Those rivers which existed before upheaval of Himalayas like Indus, Satluj, Ganga, Brahmaputra, Arun, Tista etc. . These rivers originates in Tibet and cut across Himalayas forming deep gorges.

2. Consequent

  • Rivers which flow in direction of slope.
  • Most peninsular rivers like Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery etc.

3. Superimposed /Superinduced

  • In this, drainage pattern exhibits discordance with underlying rock because it originally developed on a cover of  rocks that has now disappeared .
  • The river has enough erosive power that it can cut through any kind of bedrock, maintaining its former drainage pattern.
  • Damodar, Subarnarekha, Chambal, Banas etc.

4. Dendritic

  • Drainage in which branches give appearance of tree .
  • Dendritic pattern develops in a terrain which has uniform lithology, and where faulting and jointing are insignificant.
  • Most rivers of Indo-Gangetic plain show Dendritic drainage pattern.
Introduction to Drainage System

5. Trellis

  • Rectangular pattern where two sets of structural control occur at right angle.
  • Eg : Drainage pattern of Singhbhum(Chotanagpur).
Trellis Drainage Pattern

6. Obsequent

  • In Obsequent drainage pattern, tributaries intend to flow upstream instead of downstream.
  • Eg : Arun river which is tributary of Kosi & Suru of Indus.

7. Rectangular

  • The main stream bends at right angles and the tributaries join at right angles creating rectangular patterns.
  • It differs from trellis as it is more irregular.
  • It is found in Vindhyan mountains.
Rectangular Drainage Pattern

8. Radial

  • Outflowing rivers , away from central point.
  • Radial pattern tends to develop on flanks of a dome or volcanic cone.
  • Rivers originating from Amarkantak hills , Chotanagpur Plateau & Mikir hills .
Radial Drainage Pattern

9. Annular

  • Subsequent stream flows curving prior to joining the consequent stream.
  • It is not very common . In India, it is found in Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu & Kerala.

10 . Parallel

  • Rivers flow parallel to each other. In this, rivers will not meet but keep on running parallel.
  • Small rivers originating in western ghats & discharging water in Arabian sea.

11. Deranged

  • Uncoordinated pattern of drainage, characteristic of a region recently vacated by ice sheet & has  not adjusted according to solid rocks underlying.
  • Eg : Drainage pattern found in glaciated valleys of Karakoram.
Deranged Drainage Pattern

Indian rivers

There are various ways to classify Indian Rivers.

1 . On basis of Discharge of Water

  • All Indian rivers discharge water either in Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal.
  • Nearly 77%  of the drainage area consisting of the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, the Mahanadi, the Krishna, etc. is oriented towards the Bay of Bengal while 23% comprising the Indus, the Narmada, the Tapi, the Mahi and the Periyar systems discharge their waters in the Arabian Sea.
  • They are separated from each other through the Delhi ridge, the Aravallis and the Sahyadri.
  • It should be mentioned here that the over 90% of the water carried by the Indian rivers is drained into the Bay of Bengal; the rest is drained into the Arabian Sea or forms inland drainage.

2. On Basis of Size of Watershed

Major River Basins Catchment area of more than 20,000 sq. km 14
Medium River Basins 2,000 to 20,000 sq. km 44
Minor River Basins Less than 2,000 sq. km 55

Ranking (catchment area)

Ganga Mahanadi
Indus Narmada
Godavari Kaveri
Krishna Tapi
Brahmaputra Pennar

3. On Basis of Mode of Origin

  1. Northern/Himalayan Rivers
  2. Peninsular Rivers.
    • Although it has the problem of including  Chambal,  Betwa, Son, etc. which are much older in age and origin. than other rivers that have their origin in the Himalayas, it is the most accepted basis of classification.

This marks the end of our article on Introduction to Drainage System. For other articles on geography, CLICK HERE.

Digital Banking

Digital Banking

This article deals with ‘Digital Banking / Cashless Economy.’ This is part of our series on ‘Economics’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here .

More Cash in Circulation

  • India uses too much cash for transactions . Ratio of Cash to GDP is one of the highest in the world
    • India = 12.4% (2014)
    • Whereas – China = 9.4% or Brazil =  4%

Pros and Cons of Cashless Economy

Pros of Cashless Economy

  • It will be very difficult to evade taxes as all transactions can be tracked in cashless economy . Money laundering, black money and terrorist financing can be easily controlled .
  • No fear of physical theft : In Sweden , where 50%  transactions have gone cashless robberies have fallen to 30 years low because people don’t have any cash with them .
  • Cash transactions in small denominations can happen easily  . One can pay even single paisa (or cent)  .
  • No issue of counterfeit currency and wearing and tearing of currency notes  .
  • Working fine in Sweden & Norway where 50% transactions have gone cashless.
  • Ratan Watal Committee (in December2016) quoted that the dependency on cash costs the country about ₹1 Lakh crore on account of cost of printing new currency, operating currency chests, maintaining supply to ATM networks etc.
  • If small vendors start to take payment via digital means in Bank Accounts, their credit history will develop and he can use this to get credit from institutional lenders .

Cons of Cashless Economy

  • Extreme Surveillance – every payment you make will be traceable. The power this would hand banks & governments is enormous and the potential scope for Orwellian levels of surveillance is terrifying.
  • It can lead to exclusion of segments of the population who are slow to embrace new technologies especially the elderly.
  • Problem of electronic frauds increases  and whole system can be hacked .
  • Cashlessness may produce a peculiar human problem as people are sentimental about coins and notes.
  • For payment to happen cashlessly , infrastructure is required at point of sale destinations which small business cant afford.
  • Costs of digital payment, ultimately, are borne by consumers even when they are charged from producers or vendors. Charges can range from 0.1 per cent to as much as 4 per cent of the value of the transaction.

International Examples

In Kenya, M-PESA in partnership with Vodafone’s local operator Safaricom has ushered Cashless Revolution.

Digital Banking

Problems in adoption of Digital Payment in India

As seen by Chandrababu Naidu Committee & Ratan Watal Committee , problems associated with Digital Payment in India are

1 . Lesser Points of Sale

  • India has 160 ATMs per million (UK = 1000 / million) .
  • India has 1000 Point of Sale (PoS) per million (UK = 30,000 / million) .

2. MDR Issue

  • MDR = Merchant Discount Rate
  • Banks charge  around 2% from Merchant for providing Cashless Payment Services. Due to this , profit margin of merchants decrease . This restrict adoption of digital payment by Merchants .

3. KYC norms for Point of Sale Devices

  • Vendors cant buy Point of Sale devices as they don’t have any permanent address .

4. Interoperability

  • There is no interoperability between different payment systems (Eg : PayTM to FreeCharge) and also between different Financial Institutions (Eg: SBI to PayTM) .

5. Regulatory Problems

  • Banking Ombudsman doesn’t have required powers  to deal with Internet Banking Frauds.
  • IT Act is not comprehensive enough to deal with such financial frauds.

6. Government doesn’t act as Role Model

  • Although government is promoting Cashless economy but one cant pay taxes via mobile wallets like PayTM and bidding fees for various e-Tenders is to be paid in Cash (only)  . Hence, government doesn’t act as role-model.

7. Low Digital Financial Literacy

  • People aren’t aware enough that they can handle cashless system of payment .

8. Behavioural Issue

  • Changing behaviour to use cashless transactions is a complex process .

Issue : Interoperability

  • Interoperability is the ability of customers to transact across commercially and technically independent payment platforms.
  • Due to Legal  complications under Payment & settlement system act 2007,  we don’t have full interoperability ie
    • we can’t transfer money between one wallet to another (cant transfer money from Paytm to Phonepe) .
    • can’t use wallet to pay all types of taxes, fees, insurance premiums etc  .
  • This is an obstacle to ‘cashless-economy’.

In 2018, RBI issued guidelines for interoperability with Know Your Customer check, customer grievances redressal  mechanism etc. so that transactions can be made between different platforms.

Issue analysis : Regulation over Payment Settlement

Digital Banking
  • 1998: Banking Reforms / Narsimham-II Committee suggested regulatory framework for e- banking, card payment etc.
  • 2007: Payment & Settlement Systems Act enacted in accordance with Narsimha, II under which  RBI supervises e-banking, card payment and other digital money related issues through Board for Regulation and Supervision of Payment and Settlement Systems (BPSS).
  • All Payment system providers have to register with RBI’s BPSS – Whether bank, non-bank, wallet-PPI etc.
  • 2016: Ratan Watal Committee on digital payment suggested replacing this BPSS with a Payments Regulatory Board (PRB) in RBI, to look after Interoperability, Consumer protection, Innovation, R&D in digital payments (as BPSS looks after only Payment and Settlement).
  • 2018: RBI opposed formation of Payments Regulatory Board due to differences with Government over issue of who should be Chairman, how many members should be from Government side etc.

RBI made Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions (OSDT) in 2019 with following functions

  • To look into matters of Digital Payment like Consumer Protection  .
  • Consumer can make free complaint for matters upto Rs 20 lakh against Mobile Wallets, Payment Payment Instruments (PPI) and other digital transactions.
  • It can charge penalty of upto Rs 1 lakh to be paid to victim for his mental agony , loss of time etc.

Issue analysis  : Merchant Discount Rate

  • MDR is the fee that a merchant must pay to a bank for every credit / debit card transaction.
  • MDR hurts merchants’ profit margin, discourages them from adopting Point of Sale terminals, digital payment system.
  • 2017-18: RBI put ceilings on MDR fees to encourage digital economy.
  • WEF 1/1/18: Government of India started 100 % MDR-subsidy on payments made via Debit card, BHIM or Aadhar enabled payment system for bills upto Rs.2,000. Scheme was valid for 2 years. This will encourage digital payments ecosystem.
  • Budget 2019 : No MDR will be charged from firm whose annual turnover is less than Rs 50 crore . RBI and Bank will absorb this burden for not handling so much money.
Merchant Discount Rate

Developments Related to Cashless/Less Cash Economy

1 . Committees

1.1 Ratan Watal Committee

  • Formed in Dec 2016.
  • To suggest Medium Term Recommendations to strengthen digital payment eco-system in India .


  • Separate Regulator for Digital Payments under RBI known as Payments Regulatory Board .
  • Envisaged a prominent role for Aadhaar as the primary identification for (KYC) purposes  .
  • Government departments should levy a cash-handling charge to discourage cash transactions.
  • Give incentives like discounts to consumers to make cashless payments  .
  • It had also suggested interoperability between banks and non-bank digital payment gateways .
  • Rewards for government departments, state governments, districts and Panchayats for promoting  digital payments.
  • Create a fund proposed as DIPAYAN from savings generated from cash-less transactions to expand digital payments.
  • Reduce or eliminate  import duty on import of ATMs & Point of Sale machines  .

1.2 Chandra Babu Naidu Committee

  • Formed in Nov 2016 & submitted report in Jan 2017
  • Chief Minister’s Committee to promote Digital Payment in India  by NITI Aayog.


  • Tax incentives should be given for domestic production of Point of Sale machines & ATMs .
  • Banks should charge 0% MDR from Government Bodies like Railways, Electricity etc. .
  • Develop Common QR based payment system for Vendors (led to formation of BHARAT QR).

1.3 Nandan Nilekani Committee

  • Jan 2019 : RBI appointed Nandan Nilekani Committee for suggesting ‘how to deepen the digital payments.
  • It’s main recommendations were
    1. Government should extend MDR subsidy for two more years .
    2. Give tax incentives to companies using digital payments.
    3. Reduce the taxes on devices required for digital payments .
    4. Raise awareness about BHIM-UPI .
    5. Setup Computer Emergency Response Team for Finances (CERT-Fin).
    6. Prepare area-wise ‘Digital Financial Inclusion Index’ to monitor progress.

2. Schemes

2.1 Rupay Card

  • RuPay is the Payment Gateway started by National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) .
  • It will help in financial inclusion indirectly by decreasing the operating cost of Banks to service their customers using Debit & Credit Cards .

How Payment Gateway system work ?

Case 1 : If there is no payment gateway

  • Each bank has to separately tie up with merchants .
  • It leads to duplication of effort . 
Digital Banking

Case 2 : In presence of payment gateways

  • Each bank can tie up with payment gateway & payment gateway will tie up with merchant.
  • Banks are paying ₹300 cr per year to payment gateways   (Banks charge them from Merchants as Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) per transaction)

What Rupay will do ?

  • Rupay will  do the same work at 40% lower rates
  • Hence, User will have to pay lower Credit/ Debit card charges and Merchants will have to pay lower Merchant Discount rates to the banks.
  • Rupay is the 7th payment gateway in world .
  • 3 channel payment can be done using this :ATM, PoS(point of sale) and Online
  • They can tie up with any organisation : prepaid card by milk/ grain procurement agencies in Punjab.
  • Under Jan Dhan Scheme, Rupay Debit Card is given to the customers.

2.2. FastTag

  • FASTags are prepaid rechargeable tags  for automatic toll collection at  toll collection booths using RFID technology.
  • It helps in faster mobility by solving the issue of Jams at toll booths. Along with that it is issue in the direction of cashless economy.
  • From 15th January 2020, it shall be mandatory for all vehicles passing through tolls to have FASTags. Otherwise , vehicles have to pay double the normal rates .

2.3 NEFT System

  • Using bank, person can settle amount with other person even if he/she is having bank account in other bank. To settle these payments, NEFT (National Electronic Funds Transfer) system is used in the backend .
  • NEFT settles the net amount between banks at the interval of 30 minutes . It means , after interval of 30 minutes , it will check the  lakhs of transactions which were made between particular two banks throughout the country and will settle the remaining amount between two banks.
  • This system is operated by RBI.
  • Using this system, transactions of upto ₹10 lakhs can be made .
NEFT System

2.4 White Label ATMs

  • White Label ATMs are operated by private non-banking companies that own & operate their own brand of ATMs .
  • All the other Bank ATMs can use these White Label ATMs & get service but on nominal charge .
  • It is step towards Financial inclusion . ATM penetration will increase because of this  (present = 160/1million compared to US=  1400/1Million)
  • Eg Tata have Indicash , Muthoot Finance , Srei Infra, Vakrangee Software ,  Prizm Payments

2.5 Schemes by NPCI

NPCI is a not for profit company , made by 10 promoter banks in 2008 to provide cost-effective payment solutions for banks


NPCI is running various initiatives related to high end technology in Banking &  Payment Systems .

a. UPI

  • UPI = Unified Payment Interface
  • Started in 2016
  • It is  a technology for building digital payment apps (ie UPI is not an app but technology made by NPCI which is used by banks to make their apps) .
  • Features provided by UPI
    • Scan QR Code and pay directly to merchant’s account.
    • Link your bank account for direct transfer of money from your bank account without storing in e-wallet first. (unlike PayTM).
    • Facility of Push transaction (e.g. Sending Remittances to family).
    • Facility of Pull Transaction (e.g. Cable operator sending request for monthly bill within the app).
    • Bill sharing among friends.
  • Examples of UPI based app:  SBI Pay,  AxisPay and NPCi’s own BHIM.

b. UPI 2.0

  • Upgraded version launched in Oct 2018 with following additional features:
    1. Overdraft facility 
    2. Cash on Delivery
    3. User mandate for future date e.g. DTH 
    4. Invoice in the inbox.


  • BHIM = Bharat Interface for Money
  • It is app for ios & Android based on UPI (this is app in which UPI technology is used).
  • Made by NPCI
  • Benefits
    • No need to install multiple apps for each bank account (SBI Pay, AxisPay etc) . Single BHIM app can be used for using all  bank accounts.
    • App has 3 factor authentication system.
    • Your money stays in bank account . It is not stored in e-wallet outside bank like PayTM.  Hence, person can earn interest on his money.
    • No cards involved . Hence, no MDR or such hidden charges need to be payed.

d. Bharat QR Code

  • Started in Feb 2017
  • Bharat QR code has been developed jointly by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Visa, MasterCard and  American Express under instructions from Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Note – QR is two dimensional machine readable matrix. QR Code can store up to 7089 digits as compared to conventional bar codes which can store max 20 digits. 

Advantages of Bharat QR Code

  • It eliminates the need of using card swiping machines for digital payments. There is no need to have ‘Swiping Machines’ on shops. Just have QR printed & payments can be easily done via that.
  • Interoperability- Using BharatQR code, the merchants will be required to display only one QR code instead of multiple ones.
  • For buyer, there is no need to carry Card. Payment can be done via mobile.

Bharat QR


e. Aadhar Enabled Payment System  (AePS)

  • Customer simply has to tell  Aadhar number and name to the merchant or Bank Business Correspond who in return authenticate it using customer’s fingerprint .  Following this simple step, his transaction is completed.

f. Cheque Truncation System (CTS)

  • If somebody from Delhi gives Cheque of Delhi Bank Branch to person in say Chandigarh. Earlier that cheque was physically sent through post to Delhi Branch for settlement.
  • Under CTS, Scanned image of Cheque can be send to Delhi Branch and settlement can be done rapidly.

g. National Financial Switch (NFS)

  • ATM Card of one Bank can be used in other Bank too.  System that is working in the backend to make this possible is NFS .
  • NFS helps in re-routing transactions to Core Banking Solution Network of the Bank whose ATM card is being used.

h. NACH (National Automated Clearing House)

  • They help in Automated Payments which are to be paid periodically like each month or year like salaries, bills  etc. .
  • NACH is finding great attraction among Customers, Companies and Government Departments for payment of bills ,EMIs , salaries, pension etc.


  • IMPS = Immediate Payment Settlement System
  • It is available 24X7 . 
  • It is used for realtime Settlement of all  the Online  Payments  from Rs 1 to 2 lakh .
  • It is not free .  Service fee is charged on the transactions.

Side Topic : ATM security features introduced to prevent frauds

1. ATM Card Technology changed


Magnetic Technology 60s technology.
Data is stored on magnetic strip. Data can be duplicated, cloned, skimmed while swiping the card = increased chances of fraud.
So, RBI stopped such cards from 1/1/2019 using powers from Payment & Settlement Act.
EMV Technology Full form: Europay + Mastercard+ Visa 
Based on chip infrastructure with encryption.
RBI had ordered migration in 2013 => finally effective from 1/1/2019.
Two sub-types
1. EMV-Contact: cards must remain in Point of Sale (PoS) Terminal during transaction.
2. EMV-contactless cards: simply tap the card on terminal using RFID technology.
EMV Technology in ATM Cards

2. Card Tokenisation

  • When we do shopping on sites like Amazon, Flipkart etc. or pay bills using PayTM, they allow us to store our Debit or Credit Card information like Card Number, Expiry date etc. for future convenience. But this thing has security implications in case server of such company is hacked and user information is leaked.
  • To prevent such incidents, Card Tokenization has been introduced by RBI in Jan 2019
    • Tokenization = Token number is generated for a given credit/debit card.
    • Card customer gives the token number during any type of online / physical shop transaction  so that his original card number, its expiry date etc. remains hidden from the third party seller  .

Schemes for Digital Financial Literacy

1.Vitiya Shaksharta Abhiyan

  • Under MHRD
  • Encouraging students of University and Colleges to spread the message of moving towards digital payments going home to home.

2. Digishala TV Channel

  • MEITY has launched a TV channel named ‘DigiShala’
  • It is 24X7 Channel to increase Financial Literacy