Impact of Vedic Culture on Society

by Kaushik Acharya | 2020 | 120,081 words

This page relates ‘Land donation’ of the study on the Impact of Vedic Culture on Society as Reflected in Select Sanskrit Inscriptions found in Northern India (4th Century CE to 12th Century CE). These pages discuss the ancient Indian tradition of Dana (making gifts, donation). They further study the migration, rituals and religious activities of Brahmanas and reveal how kings of northern India granted lands for the purpose of austerities and Vedic education.

Land donation

Land donation requires both donors and recipients. We have already discussed the kings who were the donor of all the gifts in this case. Interestingly, the charters from Bengal[1] refer to the land having been granted after purchasing the same from the king and after appealing to the king for the grant of that land. The king is stated to have given his approval as Dharmaśāstras say that 1/6 of the merit of granting even a tiny piece of land that is even such land that has been lying waste goes to the king. The grantor agreed to pay the taxes on the property.[2]


The donees usually were learned vedic brāhmaṇas as we mentioned several times during our discussion. One inscription of the time of Sivagupta Balarjuna[3] referred to several qualifications of the brāhmaṇas to be eligible to succeed to the land granted to brāhmaṇas. They were not to be addicted to gambling, harlots, etc. and had to have their mouth clean. Besides, they had to perform Agnihotra and should be scholars in all the Vedāngas. Even they had been barred from serving, gifting, or mortgaging the land. An inscription[4] had made the grant as gudadānam to the temple of goddess Kottammahikadevi-pada. It is not clear what gudadānam meant. Whatever it is, the receivers of lands were always brāhmaṇas that evidenced from the inscriptions of northern India. This is because maybe it was a matter of great pride for those who had appointed brāhmaṇas to the highest caste to donate lands and many other things to brāhmaṇas. This tradition has been going on for ages, and kings are no exception. Thus we may notice the kings were donating for their religious merits and fame to brāhmaṇas.

Cāturvidyāsāmānya / Sāmānya:

Often the charters use the phrase while stating the antecedents and credentials of the brāhmaṇa-grantees. Catur-vidya-sāmanya usually denotes one who learned in four Vedas. Instead of this phrase, it is addressed in another way that is sāmanya, which indicates common to the four Vedas. Again, this phrase is seen juxtaposed to the name of a particular place. Hence it can be understood that the site mentioned was familiar to the adherents of all the four Vedas or that the place concerned had a vedic institution imparting instruction in all the four Vedas of which the grantee brāhmaṇa or brāhmaṇas were alumni.[5]

Brahmacārī and Sa-Brahmacārī:

The grantee brāhmaṇas in the charters are often seen described as sa-brahmacārī. Brahmacārī is ordinarily understood to refer to a bachelor or a youth who is still at the stage of learning and education. It seems possible that these grantee-brāhmaṇas were bachelors who had just come out of the vedic school and that it was the practice of the kings to equip such youths with the financial where-withal (land) to get a wife and settle down in life. But sometimes even the fathers of the grantees seem to be referred to as sabrahmacārī. So it is possible that the brāhmaṇas concerned were or were expected to continue their studies of the Vedas and such even after coming out of the vedic school and marrying and settling down in life. This is probably indicated by the clauses found in many of the charters that the grant was made to enable the donee to perform five great sacrifices viz. pañca-mahāyajñas. [6]

The Rituals and Pañcamahāyajñas:

Brāhmaṇas were given land mainly to perform some vedic sacrifices on behalf of the king. These five great sacrificeswere the main ones among them. Pañcamahāyajña consisted of bali, caru, vaiśvadeva, Agnihotra and atithi, the last of which is ordinarily omitted mention. Sometimes it has been mentioned as atithya or havana. [7] These sacrifices are meant to propitiate, Brahmayajña, Devayajña, Pitṛyajña, Mainuṣyayajña and Bhūtayajña as described in the Vedas. Bali-The term Bali denotes an offering of portions of food, such as grain, rice, etc., to beings. Caru- caru, or caruka indicates offering to Manes. Vaiśvadeva-vaiśvadeva is offering made to all Deities. AgnihotraAgnihotra is an oblation to Agni, and Atithya/ Atithi denotes reception of guests consisted offeeding and receiving guests, especially brāhmaṇas.

Dharmadeya and Bharmadeya:

Dharmadeya or dharmadāya is a religious gift or a general donation to the fulfillment of one’s duty as prescribed by the codes of behavior in life. And brahmadeya or brahmadāyika is referred to as the holder of the land under brahmadeya’s tenure.

When Mahārājādhirāja Jayanāga of Karṇasuvarṇa granted a village to a brāhmaṇa; he gave it as per akṣayini-dharma. [8] We find the words satka and ganganika in this inscription. The term akṣayini-dharma is found in two more places, the charter of Sambhuyayyan[9] refers to the grant made as akṣaya-nivi-dharma and the charter of Mādhavarāja, of Sailodbhava[10] dynasty refers to a donation made as akṣayaniyo(dharma). It seems that akṣayini-dharma is similar to dharmadāya, or it belongs to dharmadeya.

Satka, Kuṭumbi and Uparivāṭaka:

Satka seems to have had a technical connotation concerning a person’s association with a piece of land. Usually, it is loosely rendered as “(land) in possession of.”154

Kutumbi is understood as referring to “a cultivator, or an agriculturist householder; a householder or a ryot.”[11] The context of occurrence of this term suggests that it referred to an agriculturist-householder holding land without any privileged tenure.

R.G. Bhandarkar has translated uparivāṭaka[12] as “a district,” but in the context, this translation does not suit in many cases. In the instant case of kikkatāputra, as described in Bhavnagar Plates, it may be referred to as a hamlet or small countryside of a bigger village.[13]

Vāpī and Kṣetra-khaṇḍa:

The term vāpī denotes step-well. The term vāpī usually referred to a step-well, irrigation well[14] but sometimes the vāpī occupying an area of some padāvarttas could have been only a lake with ghātas having steps leading to the water. In the context of granting a vāpī may indicate some amount of land attached to it.

Kṣetra-khaṇḍa [khaṇḍam] is a piece of a kṣetram or field as used here suggests that kṣetram referred to a plot of land of specific dimensions.

Arddhika, Arahatta, and Mayābhadrabhogīnaiva:

A charter issued by Śiladitya -I mentions arddhika-pratyayavapi among the boundaries. Arddhika is understood as the land where a cultivator was expected to share at the rate of 50/50 of the produce with his landlord. He was associated with a vāpi or step-well. An inscription of Dhavalāppadeva, from Dabok (Udaipur), mentions graiśmika and saradya lands.[15] This record also suggests arahatta or a device for drawing water from a well and land under irrigation from such arahatta.

Mayābhadrabhogīnaiva is another technicality mentioned in some charter. It seems to have meant that the king had been enjoying the territory under him, in a very righteous manner.

Footnotes and references:


Egra Plates of the time of Sasanka (ibid., no. 24).


Ibid., vol. III, no. 280.


Sirpur Stone Inscription of the time of Mahasiva-gupta Balarjuna (ibid., vol. IV, part I, no. 85).


Ibid., no. 101. [Bhamodra Mohota Plates of Dhruvasena II of the family of Maitrakas dated (Gupta) year 320].


Indupurevu had a ghatika which is definitely known to have been a vedic institution and a brāhmaṇa was a sāmānya of that ghatika. (Incidentally this inscription also clarifies that unchasa referred to a plot of land). It is also possible that the gotra the name of which occurs in sequence in the contexts concerned was common to the adherents of all four Vedas (i.e. Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva). This phrase is found mentioned in association with Sthalakanagara (ibid., no. 23. Thalner Plates of Bhanushena-A & B) Simhapura (ibid., no. 85. Sirpur Stone Inscription of the time of Mahasiva-gupta Balarjuna, 102. Nogawa Plates of Dhruvasena -A, 113. Bhavnagar Plates of Dharāsena (IV)-A) Valabhī (ibid., vol. IV, part I, no. 88. L.D. Institute Copper Plate of Dhruvasena II) Jambusara (ibid., no. 110. Kaira Plates of Vijayaraja) Vanikpura (ibid., no.111. Dabok Inscription of Dhavalappadeva) Kanyakubja (ibid., no.117. Umeta Plates of Dadda II) Anarttapura (ibid., no. 118. Alina Plates of Dharāsena IV) Udumbara-gahvara (ibid., no.119. Kheda (Kaira) Plates of Dharāsena IV). The inscription from Gavidhumat (ibid., no. 122. Stone Inscription from Kudarkot (Gavi Dhumat)) refers to traividyamandiram-an institution which was specializing only in three Vedas.


Though the term brahmacāri, ordinarily meant “a pupil studying sacred learning of Vedas, while practicing continence or chastity” in these instances, the term might have referred to “Dignitaries learned in the Vedas” or a brāhmaṇa living strictly adhering to the duties prescribed for a brāhmaṇa (brahmam caratīti).

It is possible that these sa-brahmacārins as mentioned in these cases were pupils of the Vedas who had just finished studies and came out of the hermitage of their gurus or institutions imparting education in all the four Vedas (catur-vidya-sāmānya) and these grants of land or villages as made to them by the rulers was meant to equip them to enter a householder’s life and duty observe the routine laid down for that stage of a brāhmaṇa’ s life. Sa-brahmachārī, very frequently given as an attribute of brāhmaṇa -recipients of the donations and members of their’ ancestry, could not have meant that they were still students while they were conferred the grantor that they were still celibate. It seems to have stressed only that they were good, brāhmaṇas strictly adhering to the rules of conduct prescribed for brāhmaṇas. Hence, the translation, orthodox, appears to be appropriate.


Mankani Plates of Taralasvamin, 107, Sankheda Plates of Dadda II (B), ibid., no. 5.


Vappaghoshavata Grant of Jayanaga, ibid., no. 13.


Patiakella Grant of Maharaja Sivaraja, ibid., no. 35.


Ibid., no. 61. Ganjam Plates of Sasankaraja Silodbhava Madha-varaja.


D.C. Sircar, Indian Epigraphical Glossary, p. 169.


IA, vol. I, p.16.


USVAE, vol. IV, part I, p. 566.


D.C. Sircar, op. cit., p. 362.


land cultivated during summer and autumn (śarad) respectively.

Let's grow together!

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: