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MHI-06: Evolution of Social Structures in India through the Ages

MHI-06: Evolution of Social Structures in India through the Ages

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2022-23

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Assignment Code: MHI-06/AST/TMA/2022-23

Course Code: MHI-06


Year: 2022-2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


Total Marks: 100


Note: Attempt any five questions. The assignment is divided into two Sections ‘A’ and ‘B’. You have to attempt at least two questions from each section in about 500 words each. All questions carry equal marks.




Q1. Discuss the role of archaeological and textual sources in writing the history of ancient India. 20

Ans) History is meant to shed light on the past. Finding and studying historical sources is how this is accomplished. Because there is a tonne of handwritten and printed material on and about the modern State and Society, it is relatively simple to find sources for writing the history of the recent past. The amount of information about mediaeval times is also sufficient.


The real challenge, though, comes with writing about ancient history. "History is that ancient description which contains instructions of virtue, wealth, desire, and salvation," according to the great Indian epic Mahabharata, is what is said about it. In other words, rather than emphasising actual events, India's ancient seers placed more emphasis on those that represented higher ideals.


There were historians in ancient Greece and Rome who recorded the events of the eras. But despite writing on a variety of topics in antiquity, history was rarely written. The majority of ancient writings have also been lost. Rediscovering India's ancient past is therefore a difficult task. However, history is written from certain sources.


There are two main categories for these sources. They are literary and archaeological. The Archaeological Source can once more be broken down into three categories: Coins, Inscriptions, and Archaeological Remains and Monuments. The literary sources can be further broken down into three categories: religious literature, secular literature, and foreigner accounts. Below is a brief description of these sources.

Archaeological remains and Monuments

Archaeological sources of history include ancient ruins, artefacts, and monuments that have been discovered through excavation and exploration. The radio-carbon method is used to scientifically date the archaeological artefacts. We can learn a little bit about the lives of the ancient people thanks to archaeological sources. India is home to many historic monuments, ruins, and artefacts.


There are a lot of ancient sites that are submerged in the ground. However, excavations are being done to reveal some of these locations. The physical ruins that have been found during excavations and ruins speak volumes about the past. For instance, the existence of the Indus Valley Civilization was made known to the world through the excavations at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.



History is valuable and is provided by inscriptions. Epigraphy is the study of inscriptions. Palaeography is the study of writings found on ancient inscriptions and records. On rocks, pillars, stones, slabs, building walls, and the body of temples, inscriptions can be found. They can also be discovered on copper plates and seals. We have many different kinds of inscriptions. Some inform the public at large of royal decrees pertaining to administrative, religious, and important decisions.


These are referred to as royal commandments and proclamations. Others are lists of the major religions' adherents. On the pillars, stupas, monasteries, and walls of the temples, these followers display their devotion. In prasastis, or eulogies, kings and conquerors' accomplishments are detailed. The poets of their court who wrote these never mention their flaws. Finally, there are numerous donations, or grants, made for religious purposes.


India's earliest writings can be found on the Indus Valley Civilization's Harappa seals. The massive Asoka inscriptions are the most well-known in India. As the emperor himself stated, he had his decrees inscribed on stone to ensure their longevity. The historical accounts found in the Hatigumpha Inscription of Kharavela, the Allahabad Pillar Inscription of Samudragupta, and numerous other rock and pillar inscriptions are of the utmost value. From these sources, information on political, administrative, and religious issues is gathered.


Q2. What do you understand by the process of domestication in the Neolithic period? Discuss. 20

Ans) Domestication is the hereditary transformation of wild animals and plants into domesticated and cultivated forms for human use. It refers, in the strictest sense, to the beginning of human control over wild animals and plants. Domesticated animals and plants are fundamentally different from their wild ancestors in that they were developed by humans to satisfy particular needs or whims and are tailored to the conditions of ongoing care and solicitude people maintain for them. Animal and plant breeding are also covered. The evolution of humankind and material culture has been greatly influenced by domestication. Agriculture now appears to be a unique method of producing plants and animals as a result of this. In comparison to their wild ancestors, it is the animals and plants that were used as agricultural commodities that have undergone the greatest changes.

Origins of Domestication

According to some evidence, the first attempts at domesticating plants and animals were made in the Old World during the Mesolithic Period. Dogs were first domesticated by hunters and gatherers of wild edible plants in Central Asia at least 15,000 years ago. Before 9500 BCE, the first successful domestication of plants, along with goats, cattle, and other animals, signalled the beginning of the Neolithic Period. However, domestication had already begun, and primitive agriculture had not yet become a form of social interaction until the Neolithic Period. (The Neolithic Period is generally believed to have started between 10,000 and 8,000 BCE, though it actually began at various times throughout the world.) A few notable examples first appeared later, even though the vast majority of domesticated animals and plants that still serve humans were chosen and developed during the Neolithic Period. For instance, it took until the Middle Ages to domesticate the rabbit; it took until the 19th century to cultivate sugar beet as an agricultural plant that yielded sugar; and it took until the 20th century for mint to be used in agriculture.


One of the earliest plants domesticated in India is a prime example of a multipurpose plant: its seeds are used to make oil, its stalk is used to make fibre, and its flowers and leaves are used to make the narcotic hashish. Some plants were domesticated specifically to produce narcotics; one such plant is tobacco, which was likely first used by American Indian tribes to make a narcotic drink and then only later for smoking. Another example of a plant domesticated solely for a narcotic is the opium poppy. Numerous types of beverage plants, such as tea, coffee, and cola, were found and cultivated.


Domestication of Animals

Domesticated animals' specific economic use did not immediately become apparent. Dogs most likely assisted hunters in the capture of wild animals and guarded human settlements, warning the occupants of potential danger. They were also consumed by humans, which was likely their primary function during the early stages of domestication. In the early stages of domestication, sheep and goats were also eaten, but they later gained value for producing commodities like milk and wool. In the past, the main goals of cattle breeding were to produce work animals, obtain meat and skin, and further the development of agriculture. When cattle were first domesticated, they only produced a small amount of milk, just enough to raise their calves. A later development in the history of domestication was the development of high milk yield in cows with their breeding specifically for milk production.


Q4. Comment on the socio-religious and intellectual ferment that marked the rise of Buddhism and Jainism. 20

Ans) The dominant religion in the area of religion was Vedic Brahmanism. However, in the hands of Brahmans, the ancient Vedic religion had been reduced to a highly formalised ritualism. The strict adherence to the regulations established for the performance of the sacrificial rites, which had grown to be the most significant aspect of the religion, was the focus. These sacrifices had developed into very time-consuming and expensive affairs that were only accessible to the affluent and upper classes of society. The dominant caste and most powerful group were the Brahmanas, who had exclusive access to reading and interpreting the Vedas.

The shifting politico-economic-social environment inevitably sparked significant intellectual change. Ascetic sects proliferated during this time, representing a wide range of ideologies, from materialism to annihilationism (ucchedvada), eternalism (sasvatavada), and fatalism. Although the ascetic tradition and the ideas it promoted have a long history, the changes in modern society in the sixth century B.C. led to the appearance of specific sects in a concrete form.


Many debates were sparked by the rise of the imperial state and the decline of the republics. Mainstream Brahmanical society, which promoted the idea of a "Universal Ruler," began to favour the kingdoms. A different way of thinking, which later became apparent in the philosophy of Buddhism and Jainism, objected to such dominance.



Between the formalistic, ritualistic tendencies of the Vedas and the new trend towards an esoteric and ascetic direction visible in the Upanishadas, a stark contrast had emerged within Brahmanism. The doctrine of ritual act was frequently replaced in these texts by that of knowledge, and occasionally by that of theistic devotion as well as moral behaviour. Ritualism was waning while asceticism, renunciation, and the belief in living a life of virtue and devotion were becoming more prevalent. As a result, there was growing ideological division within Brahman.


Rise of Asceticism

Asceticism, a long-standing religious movement, was a tradition that was similar to Brahmanism. This ascetic tradition's true roots are a mystery. Although there are legends about ancient teachers, many of whom lived in far-off times, their historicity has not yet been proven. Its definite history can be found beginning in the sixth century B.C. The most distinguishing aspect of the newly emerging religious life in the sixth century B.C. was the growth and spread of asceticism. The non-Brahmanas spearheaded this new movement. While some Brahmanas also joined, they did so at the expense of the Brahmanical tradition.


Sramana Philosophy

Even though there were several ascetic schools with unique ideologies, the majority adhered to a common pattern. They saw the universe as an organic phenomenon that developed naturally in accordance with known natural laws. It wasn't governed by gods or a God and hadn't been made by such supernatural forces. If there were gods, as some of them admitted there might be, they were natural beings on an equal footing with humans and other animals, inhabiting a different region but still being governed by the same natural laws that apply to humans. The gods had mortal lives and deaths; they were not immortal. The majority of schools, however, rejected God's existence.




Q6. Comment on the viewpoints of different historians on the rural society in India. 20

Ans) The stratified and intricate structure of rural society was present. Caste-based social relationships included interactions between brahmanas, non-brahmanas, and other lowly castes. The landed classes typically belonged to the higher castes. However, there were a number of landed classes (like Kunbis) who were influential in the village despite not belonging to a high caste. The rural labourers who did not own land belonged to the menial castes, while the peasants belonged to the lower castes. These castes are referred to as "dominant castes," a term coined by renowned anthropologist M.N. Srinivas.


He asserts that "a caste is dominant when it is numerically the strongest in the village or local area and exercises a preponderant influence both economically and politically. Any caste can be dominant; this is not true of untouchables. It need not be the highest caste in terms of traditional and conventional ranking. Although the Okkaligas, a "dominant peasant caste" in the Karnataka village of Rampura, are the focus of this study's contemporary anthropological field analysis, the mediaeval era is also relevant to its findings. Reddis and Kammas were not ritually high castes, but they held power because they had superior land rights and the ability to levy taxes on the government's behalf.


They were therefore the dominant castes in this way. Caste relations used rituals to stratify rural society. There were numerous castes and subcastes, even among the peasants themselves. The land was rarely tilled by high peasant castes like the Velalas and Thakurs; instead, they employed wage labourers and sharecroppers. There were differences even within one caste of peasants. Settlement patterns were one of the most obvious ways that caste had an impact on rural society. Menial castes, non-brahman castes, and brahman castes all had their own settlements. Such segregated settlements are still present today in South India. Although rural society's norms and values dominated these relationships, the state also had a big impact on how they were shaped. For instance, the state developed a complex revenue-extracting mechanism in the relationship between landowners and tenants that changed and influenced the agrarian relations.


We will primarily talk about the rural society in the Tamil region in this section. Currently, Tamil Nadu, the southernmost portion of Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka make up the Tamil region. The corporate institutions of the brahmandeya, or brahmana-dominated village, or a non-brahmana village, temples, and guilds made up the rural society during the mediaeval era. Rural life was built on interactions between these institutions. Additionally, they developed into the tools that various political parties used to expand their political influence and strengthen their economic foothold in various Tamil localities. As a result, the mediaeval state was built on the foundation of the brahmadeyas, temples, and guilds—all institutions of rural society. Mandalams were large regions in the Tamil macro region (also referred to as sub-regions). Three of these mandalams were associated with the three principal kingdoms of the Tamil macro-region: the Pallavas, who had Kanchipuram as their capital in Tondaimandalam, the Cholas, who had Tanjavur as their capital in Cholamandalam, and the Pandya’s, who had Madurai as their capital in Pandiamandalam.

Q7. Discuss the origin and rise of the Rajput’s with reference to the research of B.D. Chattopadhyay and N. Ziegler. 20

Ans) According to some academics, there was no set pattern for how political power was distributed. The rise of political power in western India demonstrates how a network of lineages (kula, vamsha) could organise the distribution of power within the framework of a monarchical form of government. According to B.D. Chattopadhyay, the rise of the Rajput’s can be understood in light of the existing political structure's hierarchies. The proof comes from the dynastic records of the Chahmanas and Parmaras of southern Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Malwa.


The colonisation of that "inhospitable area" was brought about by the Chauhan’s' migration from Ahicchatrapura to Jangaldesa (Shakambhari). Lakshmana, the son of Vakpato-I of the Shakambhari Chahamana lineage, is said to have begun with a small group of supporters and engaged in battle against the Medas, who had been conducting raids against the locals near Naddula. The local brahmana masters were pleased and gave him the job of town guard in response. Lakshamana gradually amassed a small group of soldiers and confronted the Medas in their own territory.


Furthermore, B.D. Chattopadhyay contends that precise genealogies of ruling clans, which were only developed during the transition from a feudatory to an independent status, are hardly appropriate for determining actual origins. The various steps in the formulation of genealogical claims thus also reveal a political process, namely that of upward mobility from a starting feudatory position. Here, examples of Gujarat Gurjaras who started out in a feudatory position are given, such as those from Kishkindha and Dhavagarva, whose claims and titles appear to indicate allegiance to the Valabhi king. It was "clearly through the growth of military strength" that the country moved from a feudatory to an independent status.


According to Ziegler, the Rajput had two main categories for identification and reference during the mediaeval era. These were his marital relations and his brotherhood (Bhai bandh) (saga). In general, the brotherhood was a patrilineal unit of descent represented by clan (vamsha/kul), which included all individuals with ties to a common ancestor through male blood (vadero). The clan itself was dispersed throughout various regions of Rajasthan; it was not a traditional corporate group that shared control over a single region. The khamp or the nak were the corporate organisations present on the ground. These were made up of family members spanning three to five or six generations, along with their wives, sons, and unmarried daughters who were all closely related by male blood.


Ziegler continues, "Due to their centrality in defining who the Rajput was, Bhai bandh and saga continued to be important as primary or primodial units of reference and identification during the Mughal period. Additionally, they were groups of innate affinity that immediately prompted agreements on reciprocity, assistance, and support. In this way, they organised the fundamental allegiances of the majority of Rajput’s. However, they did not necessarily command all of his allegiances because the complexity of loyalties within the areas where certain brotherhoods were dominant displays complexity brought on by the structural characteristics of these groups themselves.

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