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Gupta Period – Economic Condition

  • Kamandaka wrote Nitisara.
  • It emphasises the importance of the royal treasury and mentions various sources of revenue.
  • The many ambitious military campaigns of kings like Samudragupta must have been financed through revenue surpluses.
  • Gupta inscriptions reveal some details about the revenue department.
  • The akshapataladhikrita was the keeper of royal records.
  • Gupta inscriptions mention the terms klipta, bali, udranga, uparikara, and iranyavesti meant forced labour.

Agriculture and Agrarian Structure

  • Agriculture flourished in the Gupta period due to establishment of irrigation works.
  • Apart from the state and individual cultivators, Brahmins, Buddhists and Jain sanghas brought waste lands under cultivation when they were donated to them as religious endowments.
  • Cultivators were asked to maintain their crops properly from damages and those who indulged in damaging the crops were punished.
  • Likewise, crops and fields were fenced.
  • The crops cultivated during the Gupta period were paddy, wheat, barley, peas, lentils, pulses, sugarcane and oil seeds.
  • From Kalidasa, we come to know that the south was famous for pepper and cardamom.
  • Varahamihira gives elaborate advice on the plantation of fruit trees.
  • The Paharpur copper plate inscription indicates that the king was the sole proprietor of the land. Even when he made land grants, he reserved his prerogatives over it.
  • The location and boundaries of individual plots were marked out and measured by the record keepers and influential men in the locality.
  • As stated in Paharpur plates, an officer called ustapala maintained records of all the land transactions in the district and the village accountant preserved records of land in the village.
  • During the Gupta period, the land was classified as detailed below.


  • The importance of irrigation to agriculture was recognised in India from the earliest times.
  • From the Narada Smriti, we understand that there were two kinds of dykes: the bardhya, which protected the field from floods, and the khara, which served the purpose of irrigation.
  • To prevent inundation, jalanirgamah (drains) were constructed, which is mentioned by Amarasimha.
  • Canals were constructed not only from rivers but also from tanks and lakes.
  • The most famous lake was the Sudarsana lake at the foot of Girnar Hills in Gujarat.

Position of Peasantry

  • The position of peasantry was undermined.
  • They were reduced to the position of serfs due to the caste classification and also due to the granting of various privileges and lands to others.
  • The practice of lease-holding reduced the permanent tenants to tenants at will (which means tenants could be evicted without notice).
  • The farmers were required to pay various taxes.

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