Society in Post-Mauryan period (200 BC To 300 AD) India

The Society in Post-Mauryan Period was characterized by a number of changes. Much higher degree of social rigidity developed during the Period. This change in social outlook was the outcome of number of challenges faced by Indian socio-cultural life during this age, such as:

  1. The repeated invasion post a number of serious challenges.
  2. A large number of new professions emerged during this age due to remarkable economic prosperity. With these new professionals emerge new casts. Each of these casts was looking for higher social status than others. As a result of which, a social crisis developed.
  3. Inter-varna marriage and assimilation of non-Aryans into brahminical society also created a serious challenge.

To counter these multiple challenges, the scope of lawful and unlawful activities were clearly defined during this period.

  • A large number of law books were written during this period in the form of Smriti/Dharmashastra. Manusmriti was the first in this category.
  • The status of Shudras declined. According to Manu Smriti, Shudras were expected to earn their livelihood by serving 3 higher varnas.
  • Untouchability emerged during this period. Social exclusion was imposed as punishment for prohibited / deviant social behavior.
  • In the beginning, the foreigners were not allowed to enter the brahminical system because there was no mechanism for the entry of outsiders into the brahminical system. Because of this foreign ruling group adopted Buddhism but later on Vratyastoma sacrifice was developed to facilitate entry of outsider in brahminical fold.
  • Foreign ruling groups given status of the 2nd class of Kshatriya.
  • The family was still the primary unit.
  • Varna Ashram Dharm system was the same as before.
  • No change education system.
  • The status of women declined to some extent during this age because of the beginning of child marriage. According to Manusmriti, the marriageable age for girls was 8 – 12 years.
  • Divorce was not allowed but widow remarriage was permissible.
  • Great emphasis was placed on chastity and obedience of the wife.
  • The marriage system was the same as before with the above two changes.
  • Slavery – nine types of slavery mentioned in Manusmriti.
  • Though the social life was marked by a high percentage of rigidity, but at sometimes liberal, progressive, and Cosmopolitan culture emerged in the coastal region as well as in centers of trade and Commerce

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