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Targa, Sergio (1999) The Pala Kingdom: Rethinking Lordship in Early Medieval North Eastern India. MPhil thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Often historians, conceiving the early 'state' as distinct from its 'society', project onto pre-modern social formations concepts meaningful only to the present, capitalist context. Categories such as society, economy and religion are anachronistically 'discovered' in die evidence and construed as separate entities. The debates then turn to die degree of political and administrative 'centralisation' of those early political formations. By examining available evidence, this dissertation seeks to reconceptualise the early medieval North Indian kingdom as a system of dynamic and interactive social relations. Combining both the Marxist concept of Mode of Production and a phenomenological approach the dissertation identifies the notion of lordship as the key category underpinning the polities of early medieval India. The early medieval Indian state was the total system of social relations constructed on and organised by agrarian relations of production. The dissertation develops this argument in specific reference to the Pala kingdom, while also analysing and comparing it with the Gupta 'empire'. In the early medieval period the latter in fact sets the pattern of social organisation. A system of multiple ownership of land shaped the agrarian structure of both the Pala and Gupta polities. A different entitlement to ownership rights distinguished landlords, landowners and cultivators and constituted them in a hierarchy of agrarian, political and ideological ranks. Ownership rights were themselves 'apportioned' on the basis of a cosmo-moral order known as dharma. Varnadhanna, the order of social 'classes', functioned as the ideological template for social relations. It was this ideological construct which empowered the king as both the supreme proprietor of all land and the supreme protector of dharma/var?adharma. In fact, neither the varna template nor the agrarian relations which it sustained could possibly exist outside a kingdom. The king's double relation of dependence on and 'supremacy' over dharma fashioned lordship in early medieval India. The dissertation argues that the early medieval Indian state was a hierarchical chain of encompassing and encompassed lordships. By implication it makes little sense to speak of 'centralisation', 'decentralisation', 'bureaucratisation' and 'administration'. Lordship, at once an ideological, economic and political category, structured the totality of social relations. In the polity which emerged the reaches of the political and its contexts were far deeper and extended than in modern, capitalist social formations.

Item Type: Theses (MPhil)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:19

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