Short Note on Maitrakas

A probe into the landgrant charters of the first seventy years of Maitraka male reveals that Saurashtra witnessed the formation of a regional state for the first time in the sixth century. The inscriptions of this period suggest the difficulties of territorial and political integration and the mechanisms devised by the Maitrakas in their attempts to achieve the political unification of Saurashtra. A probe into the territorial distribution of the landgrants of the first seventy years clearly indicates the gradual integration of the areas that constitute the districts of Bhavnagar, Amreli and Kheda. The epigraphic evidence also suggests the integration of important non- Maitraka chiefs into the Maitraka state. Landgrants to brahmanas, Buddhist viharas and occasionally to temples, legitimized the authority of the Maitrakas in Bhavnagar, Amreli and Kheda, and facilitated the mobilization of resources from the countryside.

The landgrant charters carry the images and demonstrate the prerogatives of kingship and governmental power of the Maitrakas who were emerging as the first regional dynasty of Gujarat. Charters, when repeatedly read out in the countryside, would have not only introduced the Maitrakas as the new ‘sovereigns’ of the region with royal titles and an impressive genealogy, but would also have implied their territorial claims. The political motifs in the charters helped sanction royal status to the Maitrakas in their transition from ‘chiefship’ to ‘kingship’. When the Maitrakas made grants of land for the first time in Saurashtra, they began the process of extending Maitraka sovereignty into the countryside of the region. As grants were made only in the districts of Bhavnagar, Amreli and Kheda in the first seventy years, their location indicates a neat pattern of step-wise territorial integration. The titles of the Maitraka kings suggest the process of the political incorporation of local chiefs, which ran parallel to territorial integration. Lists of officials and taxes that form a part of these charters need not be understood as instruments for the exploitation of rural society; they could be interpreted as a means of familiarizing people with royal norms and the administrative apparatus of the newly emerging government of the Maitraka dynasty. Finally, the grants of Maitrakas were not responsible for the emergence of brahmana landlord; pre-Maitraka Sourashtra had a highly stratified rural society that already included brahmana and non-brahmana landlords.

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