Settlement in Early Historic Ganga Plain

by Chirantani Das | 143,447 words

This page relates “Economic base for the growth of Varanasi” as it appears in the case study regarding the settlements in the Early Historic Ganga Plain made by Chirantani Das. The study examines this process in relation to Rajagriha and Varanasi (important nodal centres of the respective Mahajanapadas named Magadha and Kashi).

Part 1 - Economic base for the growth of Vārāṇasī

Summary: Economic base for the growth of a nodal point cum urban centre.

A rich urban bloc created in the modern east Uttar Pradesh comprising Vārāṇasī, Śrāvastī, Kauśāmbī, Kuśīnagara certainly calls for a closer scrutiny of the region that could have contributed for the concentration of mighty early states over here. The whole region can be divided into three geographical units of the Vindhya-Kaimur region, the Gaṅgā plain and the Sarayupar region. This mixed geology of the region put the region in an advantageous situation and was thickly dotted with small to large settlements. Continuous cultural contacts between the Vindhya-Kaimur and the middle Gaṅgā regions boosted up the economic activities. Perhaps multiplicity of economic activities helped the region to have the beginning of the Indian civilization here. Recent researches have figured out at least in five regions cultivation of crops began much before systematic agriculture arrived in the Indian subcontinent. Arguments even for an equitable agricultural growth in India have been offered by archaeo-botanists because wild varieties of many crops have been found here are undocumented elsewhere.

Archaeo-botanical evidences from some of the Neolithic sites of south Asia corroborated to this growth. Despite some crop remains found in the Mediterranean region south Asia showed high crop diversity. No wonder the middle Gaṅgā plains was one of the key centres of such agricultural activities in the earliest period. Rice took the central position among the crops produced in the middle Gaṅgā plain. It appears consistently in the cultural sequences of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites in this region. Nevertheless, these were the wild varieties of rice and the domestication of rice took place in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE, adopted from the East Asian (mainly China) rice varieties. This led to hybridization of rice and a consequent, exhaustive agricultural practice.

The early rice specimens of the Gaṅgā plains prove that they were essentially grown on seasonal rains. The wet-field irrigated rice type made their appearance only in the end of the 2nd millennium BCE and certainly by the Iron Age. Other secondary crops like wheat, barley were introduced roughly in 2400 BCE, within 20001400 BCE crops like mung bean, horse gram, flax, cotton started to be grown. An adjunct to that was the domestication ofgoat, sheep and even cattle. So as early as the Neolithic–chalcolithic times, a subsistent village life grew in this region, serving as a base for further economic advance.

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