history - kinship, caste and class

Class 12 - History

Kinship, Caste and Class


How important were gender differences in early societies? Give reasons for your answer.


It is seen that in early societies families were generally patriliny. Patriliny means tracing descent from father to son and to grandson and so on. Matriliny family was k generally not in use. But exception was also available. As exception, Satavahanas of Andhra can be mentioned. Historical sources mention the name of some rulers from inscriptions associated with the names of the mothers of the king. As Gotami-putra means’ son of Gotami’. Gotami and Vasistha are the feminines of Gotama and Vasistha. Sons were considered important for the continuity of the family. Attitudes towards daughter were different. They had no claims towards the resources of the household. But marrying them into the families outside the kin was considered desirable. This system of marriage was called exogamy. According to this system, the lives of the young ‘girls and women belonged to those families which claimed that high status were often carefully regulated to ensure that they were married at the right time and to the right person. This gave rise to the tradition that in marriage Kanyadana was an important religious duty of the father.
After marriage women were supposed to give up their father’s gotra and adopt their husband’s.As per Manusmriti, the paternal state was to be divided equally amongst sons after the death of parents, with a special share for the eldest. Women were not given any share
in this state.
But women were allowed to keep the gifts with themselves which they received at the [ time of their marriage. This was called stridhana. This could be inherited by. their children and the husband had no claim over it. But at the same time Manusmriti also told women not to hoard family property or even their own valuables without the permission of their husband.
In fact, social differences were sharpened because ofthe differences in access of resources.Many texts suggest that while upper class women may have access to resources but l and, cattle, money were generally controlled by the men. Vakataka queen Prabhavati Gupta was a rich woman.

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Questions and Answers

Kinship, Caste and Class - Questions

This is what a famous historian of Indian literature, Maurice Wintemitz, wrote about the Mahabharata: "Just because the Mahabharata represents more of an entire literature…. and contains so many kinds of things….(it) give(s) us an insight into the most profound depths of the soul of the Indian folk."Discuss.


How important were gender differences in early societies? Give reasons for your answer.


The following is an excerpt from the Mahabharata in which Yudhisthira, the eldest Jandava, speaks to Sanjaya, a messenger:
Try and identify the criteria used to make this list – in terms of age, gender, kinship ties. Are there any other criteria? For each category, explain why they are placed in a particular position in the list.


Discuss whether the Mahabharata could have been the work of a single author.


Explain why patriliny may have been particularly important among elite families.


Compare and contrast the dharma or norms mentioned in the stories of Drona, Hidimba andMatanga.


In what ways was the Buddhist theory of a social contract different from the Brahmanical view of a society derived from the Purusha Sukta?(VBQ)


Discuss the evidence tliat suggests that Brahmanical prescriptions about kinship and F marriage were not universally followed.


Discuss whether kings in early states invariably were Kshatriyas.

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