Sunday, March 25, 2012

Peasant revolt in the 6th century AD

I have been eagerly reading up a book by the eminent historian R.S.Sharma called India's Ancient Past. I may write down a review of the book and the reason why i picked up R.S.Sharma's book to know about India's ancient past at a later point of time. However, that is not the point of this post. While reading up the chapters on South India, i came across this interesting section called The Kalabhra Revolt.

R.S.Sharma says that Kalabhras are a tribe that overthrew the once powerful Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas of the South India, somewhere in the 6th century AD. The interesting aspect of their ascendancy to power was that it was not a traditional conquest, but more of a peasant revolt against the existing social order. He also says that this tribe had the patronage of the Buddhists, as that was a flourishing religion in the south at that time.

As a radical force that waged war against the existing social order, probably Kalabhras set the tone of the Dravidian fight against the Brahminical order, which is still thriving in the Tamil political landscape. Typical of the popular culture, this period in South Indian history is called the dark ages.

The land grants offered by the rulers greatly helped some sections of the society and the peasants, who were an integral part of the economy were marginalized by this unequal distribution of land. Sharma emphasizes that the ascendancy of Kalabhras and their 75 odd years of rule was forced out of the injustice meted out by the rulers at that time.

It is also interesting that the vestiges of the rulers ousted by the Kalabhras joined forces to oust them from power. The Chalukya's of Badami, the left over Pandyas and Pallavas fought together to bring an end to the so called evil empire of the Kalabhras.

This juncture in history is so important and fascinating because it shows that injustice meted out to people wont last long and the general populace will fight the tyranny at some point. It is also notable that not much of written evidence exists of this period. Kalabhras being a revolutionary state did not have much time to pen down their achievements, but were mostly tied up resisting the overtures of the rulers they dethroned trying to return back to power.

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