Political forms of Ancient India

Political
forms of Ancient India

The Indian sub-continent was the home
of one of the earliest civilizations of man. In the history of ancient

India we see many forms of society ranging from urban civilization of Indus

Valley to the Classical Age of Gupta Dynasty. During this period
we see a hierarchy of centralized and decentralized government.

Some of which were highly organized in their political structure and government
while others were merely weakened by internal problems and division of
power.

Indus Valley Civilization was one of the
world\'s oldest and greatest civilizations which took shape around 3000

BC to 2500 BC in the valley of the Indus River. Remains of more than

100 cities, towns, and villages of the Indus Valley civilization have now
been found from north of the Hindu Kush down the entire length of the Indus
and beyond into peninsular India. Harappa and Mohenjo Daro are the two
urban centers of Indus Valley civilization and the excavation of these
sites reveal standardization and ordered society and ten centuries of relatively
stable conditions.

The city was amazingly well planned with
broad main streets and good secondary streets. The houses of these
cities were solidly built of bricks and many were multi-storied and equipped
with bathrooms and lavatories. The high quality of the pottery, along with
hoards of gold and silver found at Indus Valley sites, suggest great accumulation
of wealth. Each city was laid out on a grid plan with a high citadel and
a lower city of domestic dwellings. Urban planning is evident in
the neat arrangement of major buildings contained in the citadel, including
the placement of a large granary and water tank or bath at right angles
to one another. The lower city, which was tightly packed with residential
units, was also constructed on a grid pattern consisting of a number of
blocks separated by major cross streets. The cities had an elaborate public
drainage system. Sanitation was provided through an extensive system
of covered drains running through the length of the main streets and connected
by chutes with most residences.

All these archeological evidences uncovered
a strong centralized authority. The urban civilization of Indus Valley
suggests a complex planning that undertook the region and the people lived
up to the standard of the time. The Indus civilization appears to
have declined rapidly in the early 2d Millennium BC. Archeological remains
further indicate intermittent and devastating floods around this time and
possible invasions by the Aryans, whose epics refer to their conquest of
walled cities.

The Aryans are said to have entered India
through the fabled Khyber pass, around 1500 BC and gave rise to another
civilization in Indian history, the Vedic period. The Aryans are
believed to have developed the Sanskrit language and made significant inroads
into the religion of the time. All these factors were to play a fundamental
role in the shaping of Indian culture. The Aryans did not have a
script but they developed a rich tradition. They composed the hymns of
the four vedas, the great philosophic poems that are at the heart of Hindu
thought.

The Aryans were divided into tribes, which
had settled in different regions of northwestern India. Tribal chiefmanship
gradually became hereditary, though the chief usually operated with the
help of advice from either a committee or the entire tribe. Tribal chiefs
bearing the title Raja or king were at first little more than war-lords,
and their principal duty was protection of their tribes. The power
of the king positioned with the higher authority of the priests.

Vedic kingship was the natural outcome
of the conditions surrounding the Aryans. A king was the leader of
the people in the war of aggression and defense. He is called the

"Protector of the people". A study of the Rigveda shows that the
king was no longer merely a leader of a primitive tribe, but occupied a
position of per-eminence among the people. The protection of the
people was the sacred duty of the king. In return, he expected and
received loyal obedience from his subjects in the sense of a tribute to
the king.

With work specialization, the internal
division of the Aryan society developed along caste lines. Their social
framework was composed mainly of the following groups: the Brahmana (priests),

Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (agriculturists) and Shudra (workers). The

Brahmanas were referred to as the receivers of gift. The Vaishyas
had to pay tribute for the lands that they got from the Kshatriya nobles.

It was, in the beginning, a division of occupations; as such it was open
and flexible. Much later, caste status and the corresponding occupation
came to depend on birth, and change from one caste or occupation to