Second Urbanisation: 6th Century BCE

Age of Second Urbanisation

As we have read that in Later Vedic Period agricultural economy came into existence. So, the change in the economic structure laid the foundation of the Second Urbanisation. Because of the Iron Revolution of 1000 BCE and Paddy cultivation (Rice Plantation in water logged condition), Later Vedic Period had agricultural surplus. As there was agricultural surplus, so the production centres turned into urban centre.

It was an age of Second Urbanisation as we have read that the most ancient or the First Urbanisation was Indus-Valley Civilisation: Bronze Age Civilisation. The Indus-Valley Civilisation saw the tools of Bronze Metal. Whereas in the Second Urbanisation Iron was the most important metal used for making agricultural tools.

Second Urbanisation: Internal and External Trade

Second Urbanisation: External Trade Link
Second Urbanisation: External Trade Link

Because of the agricultural surplus, external trade, as well as internal trade, got the promotion.

  • External Trade: During this period Northern Path (Uttarapatha) got directly connected to the Silk Route. It was because of the Role of Darius-I (Persian Ruler) and Alexander. Both of them occupied North-Western India and connected it with the Silk Route.
  • Internal Trade: Because of the agricultural surplus Gahapati (Rich Farmers) came into existence. And this increased demand in the economy and gave promotion to the internal trade.

In this way, increase in internal and external trade laid the foundation of Second Urbanisation. The important features of Second Urbanisation are as follows.

Economic Changes

Second Urbanisation: Economic Changes
Second Urbanisation: Economic Changes

A new currency system came into existence. Punch Marked Coins came into the scene. Mainly Silver Punch Marked Coins were common but in few places, we find evidence of copper coins also.The Guild System came into the scene.

Guild was the union of different craftsmen like Potter, Weaver, Iron Smith, Carpenter, Barbar etc. Guild used to frame socio-economic laws and regulations for their particular subjects.

The Guild System eventually gave birth to the caste system, which we are going to discuss in Gupta Period. Change in the economy led to the change in the political structure.

Political Changes

As we know in the Later Vedic Period people started setting their families near their farms and these settlements were Janapada. But after the agricultural surplus and 6th Century BCE people started living in big cities or towns which were Mahajanpada.

Second Urbanisation: Political Structure
Second Urbanisation: Political Structure

One found mention of 16 Mahajanpada of this age. Anguttar Nikaya (Buddhist Text) and Bhagwatisutra (Jaina Text) mention about these 16 Mahajanpada. The emergence of Mahajanpada created the requirement for the organised administrative system. Second Urbanisation also created the potential for the strong taxation system and the strong army base.

16 Mahajanpada
16 Mahajanpada

The important feature of the political changes was,

  • King became Despot.
  • Strong Taxation System came into existence. Bhaga: Agricultural Tax (generally 1/6th of the produce), Shulka: Tax on Trade and Commerce.
  • Standing Army (Greek Historian Plutarch and Justin mentioned about this).
  • Organised Bureaucracy. The Bureaucrats were called Amatya. There was a strong judiciary system. And it was based on the Manusmriti or Dhramashastras.

Important Mahajanpada

Out of these 16 Mahajanpadas, 4 were very important. Example, Magadha (Bihar), Avanti (Ujjain), Koshala (Eastern Uttar Pradesh), Vatsa (Kausambi, Allahabad). Out of these 4, Magadha turned into an Empire because of the following reasons,

  • Capable and Ambitious Rulers like, Bimbisar (Haryanka Dynasty), Ajatshatru (Haryanka Dynasty), Mahapadmananda (Nanda Dynasty).
  • The area was near to the Chhota Nagpur Plateau, which was the region of Iron Ore and Coal Mines.
  • The extensively fertile plains of the river Ganges and its tributaries like Son, Punpun, Gandak, Kosi etc.
  • Elephant wing in the Army.
  • Pragmatic Population. The leader of Renaissance was born in this region like Siddhartha Gautama and Mahaveera.

Change in the economy and political system led to change in society and culture.

Social and Cultural Changes

Second Urbanisation increased the status of Shudras and Women which was once deteriorated in the Later Vedic Period. As the economic status of Shudras and Women increased which in turn improved their social structure. This is evident in many Buddhist and Jaina Texts. As they both were having equal status in these new religions.

This was the age of Sutra Literature.

  • Sulvasutras: Deals with the measurement and the building of places of sacrifice and fire altars.
  • Grihyasutras: Rules regarding domestic rites. While domestic rituals connected with birth, naming, sacred thread ceremony, marriage, funeral etc.
  • Dharmasutras: Deals with Dharma or Law.
  • Shrautasutras: Grand public sacrifices to be performed by rulers are recorded in the Shrautasutra.

There was development in the education system. We have found evidence of residential universities. Example: Taxila.

Emergence of New Religions

In the 6th Century BCE or Second Urbanisation age, there was the change in the economy, political structure and society. So, this once again prepared the ground for the amendment in the constitution i.e. Religion (In the Rigvedic Period Religion was the constitution). So, this became the cause for the birth of the religious movement in the 6th Century BCE. Example: Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivakas.

So, in coming posts, we will have a look in these new religions.

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