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Sharma, Ram Sharan (1956) Position of the sudras in Ancient India to 500 A.D. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis presents a chronological survey of the position of the sudras down to circa A.D. 500. The first chapter discusses the reasons for the absence of works on the sudras, whose disabilities could not be justified by modern standards. The second chapter questions the theory that the sudras were pre-Aryans, and suggests that large groups of Aryans were also reduced to that position. The third chapter reviews the ambiguous position of the sudras in the later Vedic period, when they could participate in some Vedic rituals and were excluded from others. This seems to have been the result of their old membership of Aryan tribal society and later degradation in varna society. The fourth chapter shows that during the pre-Mauryan period the heterogeneous elements included in the sudra community finally became the working class of varna-divided society, and that various economic, politico-legal, social and religious disabilities were imposed on them. In this and subsequent chapters attention has been paid to the study of their material conditions and their connection with slaves. The fifth chapter throws light on the large scale employment of slaves and hired labourers in state farms and the requisitioning of sudra labour in bringing virgin soil under cultivation by the Mauryan state. The sixth chapter examines the nature of the extremist measures of Manu against the sudras in the post-Mauryan period and suggests that they were probably the product of internal and external convulsions, which undermined the old position of sudras as semi-slaves. The seventh chapter deals with the question of their transformation into peasants, their growing importance as artisans and traders and their admission to certain religious rights, which meant a radical change in their position. The last chapter indicates the possible reasons for the comparative calmness of the labouring masses in ancient Indian society.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:17

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