Social Scientist. v 19, no. 214-15 (Mar-April 1991) p. 19.


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VIVEKANAND JHA4

Social Stratification in Ancient India:

Some Reflections^

With the Indus script still undeciphered,1 in spite of nearly sixty years of excavations and substantial evidence relating to varied aspects of life, much of the reconstruction of the social organization of the Bronze Age Indus Valley or Harappa Culture,2 covering parts of Punjab, Haryana, Sindh, Baluchistan, Gujarat and fringes of western Uttar Pradesh,3 during the third-second millennia BC,4 is hypothetical. Though its exact relationship with the pre-existing cultures in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent has not been established so far,5 its emergence as a result of a West Asian stimulus is being widely discounted now,6 and it is regarded sui generis7 an Indigenous development among peoples of mixed origin and diverse racial types,8 who had resided in the Indus Valley for centuries.

Scholars have distinguished Early, Mature and Late periods within the chronological framework of the Harappa Culture,9 with pronounced rural traits in its Early and Late periods,10 and a high level of urbanism in its Mature period.HA wide agrarian base with surplus foodgrains produced by the peasants in the countryside being stored in the granaries at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro to feed the sizeable non-food-producing urban population;12 and extensive long-^ distance trade with West Asia,13 flourishing trade with Baluchistan, Afghanistan and the Central Asian region,14 and a^ lively internal trade, both regional and inter-regional, characterized this period.15 We also come across developed copper and bronze technology; a highly professional blade industry; adequate use of objects of silver, gold, precious stones and faience; crafts like bead making, shell working and

* Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi.

** This is a slightly modified version of the Presidential Address to the Ancient India section of the 51st session of the Indian History Congress held in the University of Calcutta in December 1990.

Social Scientist, Vol.19, Nos. 3-4, March-April



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