Fruits Of The Revolution
7. Fruits of The Revolution
GAUTAMA the Buddha was fortunate to see, in his own
lifetime, his doctrines being accepted and practised by thous¬ands of people in Koshala and the adjacent areas. He was also able to establish an order of monks and nuns to guide his followers on the path of Dhamma (Sanskrit Dharma). The Master’s influence did not cease to spread after his death. Within a couple of centuries the torch of the Buddhist Revo¬lution had reached every nook and corner of the Indian subcontinent, bringing both Aryans and non-Aryans under Its sway. . “If the foundations of the Mauryan dynasty by Chandrag~~ta (325-300 B.C.) was the culminating point of Aryan. polItical ~upremacy in India”, says E. B. Havell, “the acceSSIOn of hIS grandson, Ashoka about 268 BC and his subsequent proclamations of the Dharma of the Enlightened
One as the law of the land, :r;nust be taken to mark the final breakIng down of the racial barriers between Aryans and n~n.-Ar~an, and the beginning of the history of India as dIstmgUIshed from that of Aryavarta.”l
. The B.udd.hist Revolution wrought all-pervading changes In ~he SOCIal hfe of the Indian people. With its this-wordly ~ttltude and rationalistic view of the universe, new values of lIfe were evolved and the institutions set up by the Brahmins were .gradually replaced by the ones suited to the Buddhist doctrines.
With the decay and dissolution of the tribal society, republican forms of government were brought into existence in which the view of the majority prevailed even in the time of grave crisis. Where the kingship survived, it had to adapt itself to the changed conditions. A t the time of coronation the king had to take the oath of service to the people. “May I be deprived of heaven, of life, and the offspring if I oppress you”, he used to declare at the time of assuming rulership. Bad kings were deposed by vote of the people. “The Sakya Parliament”, writes Prof. R. K. Mookerjee, “had to decide by the vote of the majority the very vital question whether they should open the gates of their city and offer surrender to the invader, the Koshala King, revengeful Virudaka. This shows how this essential charac¬teristic of democracy marked the working of both political and religious organisations and was not confined to either.”2 Buddha encouraged the democratic spirit and, in fact, had the Samgha built on this basis. In supporting the republican Lichchhavis against Ajat Shatru who wanted to subdue them, Buddha laid down two points for good administration: first to hold full and frequent public assemblies and, second to meet together in concord and rise in concord and carry out all undertakings in concord. The Buddhist texts and other literature of the period furnish proof that the democratic spirit of taking deci~ions in public gatherings after frank and full discussion pervaded the society as long as BUddhism was preponderant in India. With the decline of caste system every adult without distinction of birth or sex, was involved in the process of debates dnd decision-making.
During the early Buddhist period there were a number of republican states such as Sakyas of Kapilavastu and the Vajjian confederation of which the Lichchhavis of Vaishali formed part as the most prominent member. The republics were ruled by assemblies consisting of both young and old elected members, which frequently met and discussed all important questions concerning the affairs of the state. There used to be a head of state elected for a term of years who also functioned as the chief executive officer. However, the theory of divine origin of rule prevailed. It was amended by the view
that the rule was a social contract between the ruler and ruled. But the notion that the king was irremovable master had been given up. He was no longer a hereditary naresh (lord of the people). Aryadeva, a Buddhist monk, making observations on contemporary statecraft, asked: “What is thy pride worth o king, who art a mere servant of the gana (multitude 0; body politic) and receiveth sixth part (of the grains) as thy wages ?”
With the divisive tendencies inherent in the theory of caste Brahminism had impeded the process of unification of th~ people set in by the concept of One God of the Upanishads. The climate generated now by the Buddhist Revolution opened the possibilities of uniting the people and bringing the country under one rule. “The laxity of social restrictions” says R. K. Mookerji, “imposed by the orthodox Brahminicai culture and the universal aspect of Buddhism and Jainism which found a congenial home in Magadha must have consi¬derably widened the political outlook of this region and contributed to make it the nucleus of a mighty empire.”3 At the time of Buddha’s death there were four big states each under a powerful and ambitious ruler: 1. Avanti (Malwa), 2. Koshala (Oudh), 3. Vatsa (near Allahabad) and 4. Magadha (South. Bihar) with their capitals respectively at Ujjayini, SravastJ, Kausambi and Rajgriha. But in the next two centuries when Buddhism had spread throughout Northern India big empires began to be founded. Sishunaga (c 411 to 393 B.C.), Chief of Kashi, annexed A vanti and enhanced his power. One of his successors, Mahapadma Nanda described as a man of low caste (shudra) conquered the whole of Northern India except the Punjab and Kashmir and became a mighty emperor.
In .the opinion of Radha Kumud Mookerji, known as an authonty on Hindu civilization, the history of Buddhism and Jainism shows that rapid changes in orthodox ideas were as true in religion .a~ in politics. “Perhaps both were inspired by a common spmt of revolt against the conservative hierarchy which had hitherto dominated Church and State. An ~nor~hodox spirit in religion, which was already launched on Its trIumphal career was ably seconded by an equally hetero- dox view of politics. In any case sixth and fifth centuries B.C. hold out strange phenomena before us, Kshatriya chiefs founding popular religious sects which menaced the Vedic religion, and shudra leaders establishing a big empire in Aryavarta on the ruins of kshatriya kingdom. These two events might not have been altogether isolated or unconnected.”4
The Nandas were destroyed by Chandragupta Mauraya who seized the throne in 325 B.C. Besides northern India, he annexed the western provinces of Sind, Kathiavad, Gujarat and Malwa to his empire. Seleucus Nikator, ruler of Syria, attacked India in 305 B.C. but was defeated and had to accept a humiliating treaty by which he ceded Afghanistan and Baluchistan to Chandragupta and gave his daughter to the conqueror in marriage. Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara in 300 B.C. who ruled until his death in 274 B.C. when his son, Ashoka, ascended the throne.
Chandragupta is said to have embraced Jainism and Bindusara was an Ajivaka both of which, as we know, were heterodox creeds and antagonistic to Brahminical dogmas and tenets. Eight years after Ashoka came to power, he launched upon a military expedition to conquer the neigh¬bouring state of Kalinga (modern Orissa). He succeeded but not before rivers of blood had flown and millions of innocent men were either killed or made destitute. In Ashoka’s own words “a hundred and fifty thousand people were deported, a hundred thousand were killed and many times that number perished.”5 The indescribable misery which followed the war made Ashoka remorseful and he embraced Buddhism. “Afterwards, now that Kalinga was annexed, the Beloved of the Gods (Ashoka) very earnestly practised Dhamma, desired Dhamma and taught Dhamma.”6 Never again in his lifetime did the emperor attempt to annex any territory by armed force. Following strictly the humanist philosophy of Buddha Ashoka built his domestic and foreign policies on the principles of social justice and brought peace and prosperity to India it had never enjoyed before. For the first time in Indian history the subcontinent was united and an empire established from Afghanistan in the North, to Mysore in the South,
from Gujarat in the West, to the boundaries of Bengal in the East.
Fortunately, we possess abundant information about Ashoka’s rule for he had chosen an ingenious method of COIl¬veying his messages to the people. He set up seven pillars in different parts of the country on which he engraved inscriptions. He also got surfaces of fourteen rocks smoothened for the same purpose. These are known as the Pillar Edicts and Rock Edicts and give comprehensive information about the principles and policies which governed the Emperor’s administration. All of the edicts are in Pali, excepting the one at Kandhar which is bilingual, in Greek and Aramaic.
Some historians have stated that Ashoka declared Buddhism as the state religion and caused conversion of people to it. Far from being a proselytiser, he respected all creeds and opposed none. He had grasped the essence of rationalist culture and imbibed the spirit of the Buddhist Revolution. He was least interested in the spread of formal religion. What he aimed at was the acceptance of human values which he called Dhamma (Sanskrit Dharma) by the people living not only within his empire but beyond its borders. He earnestly and untiringly devoted his entire energy to the achievement of this objective.
Ashoka’s conception of Dhamma was simple yet sublime.
“What is Dhamma?” he asked and then answered himself:
“It is having few faults and many good deeds-mercy, charity, truthfulness and purity.”7 “There is no practice of Dhamma without goodness”, he declared.s
Again : “There is no gift comparable to the gift of Dhamma, the praise of Dhamma, the sharing of Dhamma, fellowship of Dhamma. And this is good behaviour towards slaves and servants, obedience to mother and father, generosity towards friends, acquaintances and relatives and towards Sramanas and Brahmans, and abstention from killing livinO’ beings.”9 ”
Ashoka prohibited killing of animals, particularly with the int~ntion of sacrificing them for holding of harmful (Brahmin) feshvals.l0 He provided medical facilities for men and beasts and got medicinal herbs planted all over the empire and even
in lands not ruled by him.ll He instructed yuktas (subordinate officials), rejukas (rural administrators) and pradeshikas (district heads) to go on tour every five years to meet people and know their problems and solve them.l2 He himself not only toured widely but was always available to the humblest at any time, for public hearing. His orders were to keep him informed of all important developments.13 He asked his officers to get interested in welfare of prisoners and get such of them released as have children or are afflicted or aged.l4 During his rule of 26 years he ordered the release of prisoners 25 times.l5
Ashoka believed that men have no doubt varying desires and passions “But even a generous man who has no self¬control, purity of mind, gratitude and firm faith is regarded as mean.”16 Himself a Buddhist, the Emperor honoured all sects. He appreciated love for one’s faith but remarked : “This is good, but better is to control one’s speech so as not to extol one’s own sect or disparage another’s on unsuitable occasions or at least to do so mildly on certain occasions.” He stressed: “Be well-informed and learn the fundamentals of all sects; that is Dhamma.”17
Ashoka thought that people generally saw their own virtues and not vices. It was difficult to be conscious of this failing. Nevertheless, he advised to take note of this and to under¬stand that “cruelty, harshness, anger, pride and envy are productions of sin and let them not be the cause of my fall.”lS
Dhamma was the be-all and end-all for Ashoka but he never t~ought of using force or compulsion in making people follow It. That would have been incompatible with the basic p’rinciple on which his State policy was built. He said:
The advancement and Dhamma amongst men has been achieved through two means-legislation and persuasion. But of these two legislation has been less effective and persuasion mOre so. I have proclaimed through legislation for instance that certain species of animals are not to be killed, and other such ideas. But men have increased their adherence to Dhamma by being persuaded not to injure living beings and not to take life. “19
Addressing officers and city magistrates, Ashoka told them:
“You are. in charge of many thousands of living beings. You shoul.d galll the affection of men. All men are my children, and Just as I desire for my children that they should obtain welfare and happiness both in this world and the next the
same do I desire for all men.”20 ‘
In brief, this was Ashoka’s concept of Dhamma. He said that he wanted fame and glory to the extent that people may follow Dhamma.21 He was so attached to his ideal as to declare:
“No h’ .
appllless without Dhamma … the principle is : to
protect through Dhamma, to administer affairs according to Dha~ma, to please the people with Dhamma, to guard the empire with Dhamma.”22
Ashoka did not try to convert his subjects to Buddhism but he did encourage and reward those people, both men and wom~n, who followed Dhamma. “The rajukas (rural officers) are ~PPolllted over many hundred of thousands of people. I have lllstructed them duly to encourage those people devoted to Dhamma. With the same idea in mind I have made pillars of ~hamma, appointed officers of Dhamma and made procla¬matIOns of Dhamma.”23
. Ashoka was powerful enough to extend his empire and brmg . the neighbouring lands under his subjugation. But he desisted from doing so as he considered this worthless and futile. He did not even try to conquer the extreme south of the Indi~n subcontinent which remained outside his empire and consisted of Cholas, Pandyas and Kerala Putras. He left the frontier people in a semi-autonomous state and was reluctant to subdue them. He believed his mission was fulfilled if the people living in the frontier areas and beyond the confines of his ,empire understood Dhamma and followed it. His burning desIre was “that humble and great should make progress and tha~ the neighbouring people should know that the progress is lastmg.”24 He built hospitals for men and beasts and got medicinal herbs planted in the countries of Cholas, Pandyas Satyaputras, Kerala Putras and even in Ceylon and in Greek lands of Antiochus with the purpose of spreading Dhamma.26
The edicts of the Emperor were to be read in public gathe¬rings all over the empire at intervals of four months. But if
even a single person at any time and at any place wanted to hear any of the Emperor’s edict the orders were that it should be read to him.26
Ashoka was convinced that his policy of Dhamma had
fully succeeded in both domestic and foreign spheres and that it had brought peace and prosperity to the world known to him. In this he was not far from being right. He observed:
“In the past kings sought to make the people progress but they did not. I have made them hear proclamations of Dhamma and instructed them with the knowledge of phamma. When they have heard this, they will endorse it and will be elevated and will greatly progress in Dhamma.”27 Later on he declared:
“Love of Dhamma has grown through my efforts and that of my officers.”28 The Thirteen th Rock Edict records: “The Beloved of the Gods considers Dhamma to be the foremost victory. And moreover the Beloved of the Gods has gained this victory on all his frontiers to a distance of 600 yojanas (about 1500 miles), where reigns the Greek king Antiochus, and beyond the realm of that Antiochus, in the lands of the four kings-Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas and Alexander; and in the south over the Cholas and Pandyas as far as Ceylon. Likewise here in the imperial territories among the Greeks and the Kam¬bojas, Nabhakas, Nabhapanktis Bhojas and Pitinikas, Andhras and Parindar, everywhere the people follow the Beloved of the Gods’ instructions in Dhamma. Even where the envoys of the Beloved of the Gods have not gone, people hear of his conduct according to Dhamma, his precepts and his instructions in Dhamma and they follow Dhamma and will continue to follow it.”29 Ashoka believed that “the gods, who in India upto this time did not associate with men, now mingle with them, and this is the result of my efforts.”
There is no doubt that Ashoka’s success was great and his desire was noble when he declared that “these inscriptions of Dhamma have been engraved so that any sons or great grandsons that I may have should not think of gaining new conquests.” He advised bis descendants “to realize that conquest by Dhamma to be a true conquest, and (tberefore) delight in Dhamma should be their whole delight for this is of value in both this world and the next.”30 But Ashoka was
overconfident and only romantic when he thought that the practice of Dhamma which he had fostered would last for ever.
Scholars have been, despite the description in the edicts, at pains to find out the precise connotation and significance of Dhamma. Rhys Davids remarks that “it never means exactly religion, but rather when used in that connection, what it behoves a man of right feeling to do or on the other hand what a man of sense will naturally hold. It lies quite apart from all questions either of ritual or of theology.”31 Romila Thapar explains: “It (Dhamma) was the building of an attitude of mind in which social behaviour, the behaviour of one person towards another, was considered of great importance. It was a plea for the recognition of the dignity of man and for humanistic spirit in the activities of society.”32 Dhamma, in brief, meant inculcation of a rational outlook on life. The key-note of Ashoka’s teachings is moderation in thought and action. “That is all”, adds Rhys Davids. “There is not a word about God or the soul (in the edicts), not a word about Buddha or Buddhism. The appeal is made, in apparent confidence, that the statements are self-evident to all the subjects of the empire.”33
Ashoka’s method was to seek consent by persuasion and by appeal to faculty of reason and sense of justice. “The Ashokan edicts clearly provide the first constitutional check against crown”, says Kosambi, “the first Bill of Rights for the citizen. This is made clear by the special instruction to officials that the edicts were to be read out and carefully explained to large public gatherings at least three times a year.”34
Those who know little about the high level of moral and intellectual culture which India had attained in the Buddhist period, and came in contact with the Indians after the seventh or eighth century A.C. when the country had plunged into darkness after the rise of neo-Brahminism (to be discussed in the following chapter), have generally inferred that Ashoka was much in advance of his time. This is not correct. As Rhys Davids points out: “Had there been then anything new or strange in this view of life (which now seems so strange to a European reader) there would have been phrases in the Edicts
striving to meet the natural objection that must certainly have arisen. There is nothing of the kind. It follows that the doctrine, as an ideal, must have been already widely accepted, though men did not always act up to it.”35 The same view has been expressed by Romila Thapar. “His (Ashoka’s) greatest claim to recognition lies in the fact that he understood his age, and in terms of the Indian background, realised the requirements it demanded.”36 “Buddhism and Jainism were essentially democratic movements”, writes Havell, “and Ashoka in putting himself at the head of tbe one and extending state patron~ge to the other made himself a great popular leader, while he disarmed the hostility of the Brahman priesthood by his tolerant attitude towards all religious sects. “37
Ashoka died at an advanced age in 232 B.C. after having ruled with vigour and wisdom for forty one years. The fairest tribute paid to him is by H.G. Wells in his Outline of History:
“Amdist the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnes¬ses, and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines and shines almost alone, a star. From the Volga to Japan his name is still honoured. China, Tibet and even India, though it has left his doctrine, preserve the tradi¬tion of his greatness. More living men cherish his memory today than have ever heard the names of Constantine or Charlemagne. ”
The third council of the Buddhht Sangha was held under the presidentship of Tisa in Ashoka’s reign and under his patronage. It decided to send missionaries for preaching of Dhamma to Gandhara, to the Himalayan states of Tibet and Nepal, to the borderlands of the Indus, to the coast of Burma, to South India and Ceylon. Each party consisted of a leader and four assistants.
While Ashokan Edicts convey a clear view of the ideological and ad~inistrative changes that were brought about by the Buddhist Revolution, other sources speak of the radical trans¬formation that had taken place in the social cultural and
economic life of the people.
The caste system had been weakened, its rigidity was no longer there. The Brahmins had lost their prestige and authority. Manyof them worked as cultivators, craftsmen, messengers, cattle breeders and story-tellers. Dasa-Brahman¬Jataka says that they even served as wagon-drivers, policemen, gopas (milkmen) and nishadas (hunters) killing hares, catching fish tortoises and the like as also digging the soil wearing long hai;s and nails covered with dust and dirt. The kshatriyas became potters, basket makers, reed-workers and cooks.38
Reference has already been made to shudras becoming kings; they were elevated to the status of administrators, of politicians and teachers. Harsha Vardhan who built the last big empire in India, was, according to the Chinese pilgrim, Hieun-Tsang (630-645 A.D.), of vaishya caste by birth. In fact he has mentioned in his travelogue many kings of whom some were Brahmins other kshatriyas, vaishyas or shudras.
The condition of women improved and from being treated as inferior species under the sacerdotal supremacy they attained a social status in many respects equal to that of men. When Buddha at the request of his chief disciple, Ananda, allowed nuns to join his order it was of tremendous significance. Women were no longer regarded primarily as childbearers; they could freely participate in social and religious activities and they could, if they so liked, remain unmarried.
Education ceased to be the monopoly of the Brahmins or the selected few taught by them. It was no longer confined to the gurukulas (family of the preceptor) as in the Brahminical age. “In the Buddhist system education was imparted in the viharas or monasteries, giving scope to a collective life and spirit of brotherhood among the many resident monks, who came under a common discipline and instruction. The Buddhist vihara was built up as a self-sufficient colony, growing its own food by agriculture and dairy-farming, in its own grounds which came into its possession as gift from its supporters. “39
While the language of the Brahmins was Sanskrit which had ceased to be the common language, the Buddhists addressed the congregations in Pali and wrote books on different subjects in this language which the masses spoke and easily understood.
“It is symptomatic of the attitude of the followers of Mahavira and Gautama that they should address the people in their own dialect and not hieratic Sanskrit. Thanks to the exertions of the heterodox sects, the prakritas (vernaculars) grew as literary languages and became powerful rivals to the Sanskrit.”4o
In pre-Buddhist days, Atharva Veda was the source of medical knowledge. It taught that diseases were caused by demons and, therefore, prescribed spells as cure. But unlike the followers of the idealistic systems of Indian philosophy who belittled the importance of the body and laid emphasis on the liberation of the soul, the rationalists and materialists with their concern for worldly advancement, conceived liberation in terms of development of physical science. Thus arose alchemy and medical science in India. During the period of the Buddhist Revolution the causes of illness were found out by study of body and its various organs. Experiments were made both in medicine and surgery and with many discoveries various theories were laid down some of which have stood the test of time.
The oldest treatise on the medicine is the Samhita by Char¬aka who, according to tradition, was the physician of the Buddhist Emperor Kanishka. Another famous book is of Sushruta which was translated into Persian and Arabic. A manuscript of it belonging to 4th century A.C. found at Kashgar in 1890 (Bower Manuscript), enumerates several writers on medicine as Atriya Ksherpani, Jatukarna, Parahara, Bheda and Herita who flourished in different periods though none of their works are extant. The lost books dealt with elixirs for prolonging life and recipes for external and internal application to fight different diseases.
Surgery was a part of the ancient medical science. Instru¬ments had been invented for the purpose which were given functional names such as dhola yantram, svedani yantram and patna yantram. There is ample evidence that these instruments were widely used to perform operations. Says the author of Rudra¬yamala Tantra: “I have performed the aforementioned experi¬ments with my own hands and have seen them with my own eyes. These are not recorded from mere hearsay or from the
dication of a teacher. These are being promulgated for the benefit to mankind,”41
It is in the economic life of the Indian people that was see the radical changes brought about by the Buddhist Revolution. Even in earlier days toilers on the soil had started to produce food instead of gathering it. The Revolution accelerated the process. Vast forests were cut down or burned to have more land for growing grains. The enthusiasm for claring forests by fire became so uncontrollable that Buddha had to issue ordinances forbidding indiscriminate destruction. One of the Ashokan edicts also refers to it saying that “forests must not be burnt either uselessly or in order to destroy living beings.” Big and small estates arose all over Northern India. From the time of Buddha we come across isolated large estates side by side with small farms. “No stigma was attached to labour”, writes Atindra Nath Bose. “The Indian yeomanry put their hand to the plough along with their men as much as their less fortu¬nate brethren. They were not attracted by the luxuries of the town to leave their prosperous farms to ruin under the care of indifferent agents. The smaller farmer as well was never squeezed out of existence under the remorseless pressure of a superior economic caste standing in haughty segregation … legally the big land owner and the small husbandman stood on equal footing. “42
Dependence on agriculture, however, created new problems.
To cultivate it, for raising crops, land needed water. In the beginning the monsoon provided sufficient water but then, as now, not infrequently the rains failed causing drought and help¬lessness. “With the clearance of forests, increase of population and rise of class divisions, famine became a major agrarian problem before the dawn of Christian Era,” observes Bose. In the Brahrninical age people would have resorted to making sacrifices to the gods, praying to the Supreme Power or to fasting. Not so after the Revolution. Now the people turned to mechanical devices to ward off such calamities as drought and flood. Bose remarks: “Passing on to the earliest Buddhist literature, a gradual change in outlook is marked, when states and people awaken to action. By careful diagnosis of the causes of famines and injury to crops, they began to explore
FRUITS OF THE REVOLUTION
ecifics and apply preventive and remedial measures instead of
sp h h f h d “43
trustina overmuch on t e urn ours 0 t e go s.
Dr;ught can be fought and subdued by planned irrigation and not by holding yajnas to appease the wrathful denizens of the heaven. “In Buddha’s time, the khetas (agricultural lands), of Magadha were intersected by a network of canals and ridges¬rectangular and curvilinear-which marked the boundaries of arable plots and which resembled a patchwork robe (chivar) such as is prescribed by Buddha as a pattern for the order.”44 Irrigation schemes provided not only against drought but also against flood and excessi ve rainfall. 45
As the population increased the demand for food became gr eater occasioning shortage of foodstuffs. Kautilya, the famous adviser of Chandragupta Mauriya, prescribes recla¬mation and colonization of waste land. The cultivators were warned to properly use the irrigation projects which were the outcome of mature engineering skill. He goes to the extent of saying that any offender who breaks the dam of a tank full of water shall be drowned in that very tank (udakadharnam setum bhindate).46
The Greek writers, like Diodorus and Megasthenes who stayed in India during this period describe it as a land of perennial plenty. They confess that the prosperity was the fruit of the admirable irrigation and river systems no less than of the timely monsoon and natural fertility of the soil. They affirm that there has never been a general scarcity of nourishing food, and famine is unknown. There were special officers who kept a watch on the rivers, measured land and inspected the sluices by which water was let out from the main canals into their branches so that everyone might have an equal supply of it. Megasthenes said the arrangement was similar to the one in Egypt.47
The Mahavagga enumerates among textile goods khomam (linen), Kappasikam (cotton), koseyjam (silk), kamnalam (woolen garments), sanam (hemp) and bhangam (hempen cloth).48 Pannini mentions Kapsia as the vine growing district of India.49
Land revenue was one sixth of the produce and collected in kind. The king was enjoined by thinkers of all shades of
opinion to give surest guarantee against famine and consider it to be his duty in return for the revenue which the agricultural land brought in to his treasury. The other responsibilities of the king were colonisation, road-building. town-planning and reclamation of virgin land. These works were either under¬taken directly by the state or private agencies were subsidized to do them.5o
Next to agriculture in importance was animal husbandry.
Both Buddhism and Jainism had popularised the ethical prin¬ciple of ahimsa or non-injury to all forms of life. Despite the rapid progress in clearance of primeval forests, animals were meticulously protected and preserved. Slaughter of animal for flesh was allowed and in fact even Brahmins are known to have resorted to the profession of slaying oxen (goghataka) but this was done only in abettoir (parisunam). Cruel pastimes among herdsmen such as bull-fighting were outlawed.51
Greek writers have with one voice praised the rich Indian fauna and the fact is that rearing animals was one of the most paying professions. “The animal husbandry was among the systematic occupation of all classes of people-from the pedi¬greed royal race down to the gipsy tribes, and it was a respect¬able profession not unbecoming of a young grandee (kulaputto). For some it was the sole profession, for others it brought supplementary income with agriculture which was the main and habitual support of the farmer. Some maintained extensive farms and rose to the highest rung of the economic ladder as pastoral magnates, akin to the multi-millionaire (astikotidhanam) agricultural and industrial lords. “52
The spirit of enquiry and adventure fostered by the Revo¬lution gave impetus to the growth of industry in both the towns and the villages. “The villages were the productive units of the country given to tillage and small handicrafts. The towns were the centres for distribution and exchange of big business and industrial combines where, besides their own wealth, the wealth of the country accumulated and attracted in its turn learning and culture as well as luxuries and parasite professions like stage-acting, dancing, singing, buffoonery, gambling, tavern-keeping and prostitution.”53 Cultivation of
sugarcane and development of sugar industry was a remarkable feature.
Mining industry was developed. Arthashastra contains
some details on mineralogy regarding how mines were dis¬covered and exploited in plains and mountain slopes. The processes for smelting metals from ores have been discussed in books on the subject. People were variously occupied in seeking along the courses of mountain torrents precious stones like beryl, diamond, jasper, yellowstone, topaz or amethyst. Pearl-fishery was a flourishing industry in Tamil Nadu. Perfu¬mery was a highly specialised art, the commonest perfume was sandal. The wood was rubbed into paste or oil was extracted out of it which was used along with aloe (akalu) as toilet.54
The huge agricultural and industrial production brought affluence and gave rise to flourishing towns and cities. The area conquered by. Alexander in third century B.C. is reported to have contained no fewer than 5000 towns. Among the notable cities were Champa, Rajagriha, Sravastbi, Saketa, Kaushambi, Varanasi, Vesali, Mithila, Ujjaini, Takshashila, Pushkalavati, Kamplla, Srinagari, Dantpura, Mathura, Dwaraka, Indraprastha, Sagala, Kanya Kubja, Nalanda, and seaports like Bharukachha (Broach), Surparaka (Ophir) and Tamralipta (Tamluk).
Architectural science was well advanced as the treatises on town-planning show. The Arthashastra refers to them making suggestions to improve the art of building for better health of the inhabitants. The engineering skills were of high level. The great monoliths of the Mauriya epoch estimated at about 50 tons each, and their transport and erection at such distant places as Topra near Amballa, Sanchi in Bhopal, and Nepalese terrain are surprising feats of engineering. If the capital of Sarnath is a testimony of Mauriya craftmanship, there are also several standing monuments of mechanical developments.55
~ith the huge agricultural and industrial production the Indlan traders planned to carry their goods abroad and sell ~hem in the foreign markets. “Trade was both foreign and mland, sea-borne and river-borne, export and import”, says R~~ha Kumud Mookerji. ‘,’We read of prince Mahajantaka sal1mg from Champa to Suvarnabhumi, of a whole village of
defaulting wood-wrights escaping at night in a ship down the Ganga from Banaras out to the sea; of passengers safely brought by ships from the sea by river up to Banaras; of traders coasting round India from Bharukacchha on the west to Suvarnabhumi in the east and touching on the way at the port in Ceylon; of a newly arrived ship laden with cargo which was brought up at the landing place by a hundred waiting and competing merchants; and of ships large enough to carry 500 and 700 passengers. The eastern sea-borne trade was extended as far as China, and led to an extensive colonisation.”56
When the Roman Empire too encouraged direct sea trade with India, the traffic became regular; some seaports like Tamluk and Broach were constructed for the purpose. “From about the middle of first century A.C. India, more particularly the Deccan and the South”, says Nihar Ranjan Ray, “came quickly to share in a very rich maritime trade with the Mediterranean world, and gold and luxury products from Roman West began freely to flow into the country. Slowly, but surely, the Deccan and also the North began to develop, along the river valleys, big emporiums of trade and commerce out of their old cities, and rural agricultural civilisation began to be transferred into a mercantile one, at least in the large centres of life and activity.”57
By such commercial contacts Indians carried their culture, art and architecture to the far off countries and in return benefited by the intellectual and economic progress made by them; the influence was reciprocal and the advantage mutual.
The Revolution with its stress on the principles of liberty and equality as also on self-confidence strengthened the sense of responsibility and fellow-feeling, spirit of cooperation and harmony. Voluntarily boulders were removed from the roads rough place~ smoothened, causeways built, highway~ c~nstructed, water tanks dug and public halls erected. The v~IIagers were closely knit together by economic ties of different kl~ds. It was th~ duty of every villager to render full coope¬ratIOIl for executIOn of works of public utility. The village shal~ (hall) was a shelter for the stranded, an asylum for outSIders and an inn for travellers. For the villagers themselves
it was the centre for recreation, administrative affairs and intellectual discussions. And it is here that the collective charity was organised.58
To run public affairs of the towns and cities, municipal committees were set up which undertook not only building of roads and irrigation works but also handling of communal charities on behalf of the indigent and relief for the destitute in times of famine and other general calamities.59 A.N. Bose says that “in public works and civic amenities, ancient tow~s even compare favourably with modern towns. Among public places the “Shanti Parvan” (of the Mahabharata) enumerates a market, a field for athletes, a haJl of the nobility, a pleasure¬garden, a garden for the assembly of officials and the council. “60
The municipal committee of the city was divided into six sub-committees of five members each. The first looked after everything relating to industrial arts, the second to the care of foreigners, the third to the registration of births and deaths, the fourth to control of trade, the fifth to sale and auction and the last to collection of revenue. Collectively, the committees attended to matters of general interest as maintaining public buildings and places in proper order, regulation of prices of commodities, the care of markets, harbours and religious places.61
As in Medieval Europe, there were industrial combines in
ancient India known as guilds. The guilds were meant to regulate distribution of profits and liabilities. The members of the guilds who carried on cooperative work divided their earnings (vetanam) either equally or as agreed. upon among themselves.62
Some of the best fruits of the Buddhist Revolution were gained to the field of Art. Once Buddha told his disciple, Ananda, that the whole of holy life of man and not half (as stated by Ananda) was “friendship with the lovely, association with the lovely and intimacy with the lovely.” The earnest artistic activity started with the passing away of Buddha. It is said that he gave instructions regarding the construction of reliquary mounds to be erected over his ashes. Soon chaityas (shrines) and viharas (monks, residences) began to be
built. But there was no attempt at iconography and Buddha’s image did not appear until at least many centuries after his death. “His presence in countless J ataka tales”, writes Christmas Humphreys, “and scenes from scriptures, which soon adorned each foot of available space on Buddhist architecture, was shown by a tree (Bodhi tree), a wheel (the wheel of law set turning at Sarnath), a stupa (burial mOLlnd), or else by the foot prints, or any saddle or throne, or even by his umbrella.”63 With the appearance of dissension among the Buddhists and the adoption of Mahayana doctrines images of Buddha were made at Mathura and other cultural centres. Gautama the man was translated in the arts into Buddha the incarnate principle of Englightenment ; the released spiritual energy had the opportunity to flower in the most beautiful Indian art. The spirit of man having been emancipated it gave the best of life in creative expression.
Traditionally, Hindu lawgivers have set four aims of human life: 1. dharma (morality), 2. artha (wealth) 3. kama (desire) and 4. moksha (liberation). During the heyday of the Revo¬lution the first three were regarded as the only ends in life to be simultaneously pursued without giving undue prominence to anyone of them. The fourth aim that of moksha was added to the list later on with the revival of Brahminism. Even the Brahmin statesman, Kautilya, insists that artha (wealth) was the chief of the three because the fulfilment of other two depended on it. Nevertheless, the harmony of the three pursuits of life was regarded as the ideal which formed the background of social life in Buddhist India.
The development of trade, industry and the arts as fruits of the Revolution is reflected in the general economic condition of the people and their habits of living. We have abundant references to very rich merchants-multi-millionaires of those ?ays-both in inscriptions and in literature. Frequent mention IS made of costly gifts given to different religious sects, parti¬cularly to Buddhist monks. From their dress, ornaments, houses and furniture described in books and reports of foreign travellers, the middle classes appear to have been well off. The relief sculptures in Bharhut, Sanchi, Sarnath, Ajanta, and Amravati bear this out. The sculptures and frescoes present
FRUITS OF THE REVOLUTION
the whole history in art from puritan severity to voluptuous riot of colour and form. In his Introduction to Indian Art, Ananda Coomaraswamy remarks that this art belongs “to an age which could afford to permit itself the fullest enjoyment of life by right of innate virtue.” Only a prosperous and free society could produce such things of beauty with gay abandon. Nihar Ranjan Ray observes: “The art of Amravati naturally reflects the disposition and attitude of mercantile social economy which manifest preference for transient pleasures and temporary values, exuberant expression of joy and passion, and courtly elegance and sophistication.”64
If the commercial magnates and trading classes lived in luxury and affluence the lower classes were not neglected or subjected to hardships and miseries as in the pre-Revolution days. “There is no reference to extreme poverty or paupers as a class”, observes Radha Kumud Mookerji. “On the whole people lived happily in peace and prosperity.”65
The Indians of the Buddhist period took life easily and fearlessly. The hells and the other-world created by Brahmin imagination had faded into oblivion and death did not concern the people much. The Revolution had taught them new values and the greatest of these was to enjoy life to its full. The Greek historian, Arrian, was struck by the light-heartednes& of the Indian race and remarked: “No nation is fonder of singing and dancing than the Indian.”