Early Medieval Society

  • During medieval times, there was division of Shudras into ‘pure’ (sat) and ‘impure’ (asat) categories, in South India.
  • Also typical of the south were the so called ‘left-hand’ (idangai) and ‘right-hand’ (velangai) castes.
  • A text counted hundreds of mixed castes (varnasankara).
  • Other than Rajputs, another caste that developed during this period was the Kayastha. Kayasthas were traditionally scribes who got transformed into a separate caste as all types of scribes got clubbed together to form one endogamous group.
  • Khatris, an important caste in Northern India, claim that they were of Kshatriya origin, but took to commerce, which brought them the contempt of their caste fellows and they had to accept Vaishya status.
  • Gurjaras, Jats and Ahirs all claim Kshatriya origin, the status they came to lose later.

Jajmani System

  • An important institution that developed during the early medieval period and continued till modern times in the rural society was the ‘Jajmani System.’
  • It was a complementary relationship between the groups of dominant peasant castes on the one hand and service and artisan castes on the other.
  • In this system the service castes rendered services to land-owning peasant castes and high and dominant castes. They were entitled to traditionally fixed shares of produce and in some cases to a small plot of land.
  • Thus, the leatherworkers, the barbers, the priests, the garland makers, the ploughmen, and various types of smiths worked for the high castes or dominant landowning groups and were paid in kind on certain occasions or in the form of a land allotment.
  • However, such service castes always retained some freedom to sell their goods and services.
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