NCERT Solutions For Class 12 History Chapter 3 Kinship, Caste and Class Early Societies

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Q1. Explain why patriliny may have been particularly important among elite families.

Answer:• Patriliny had existed prior to the composition of the Mahabharata; however, the central story of the text strengthened the ideal of patrilineal succession.

• Most ruling elites and dynasties claimed to follow patrilineal succession.

• Under patriliny, sons could claim power and the resources of their fathers when the latter died.

• In ruling dynasties which had no sons, rulers of brothers succeeded one another or kinsmen claimed the throne.

Q2. Discuss whether kings in early states were invariably Kshatriyas.

Answer: According to the Shastras, only Kshatriyas could be kings. Their functions were to ‘ engage in warfare, protect people and administer justice. But the kings in early states were not invariably Kshatriyas. Several important ruling lineages probably had different origins as mentioned below :

Regarding the Mauryas, the Buddhist texts suggested they were Kshatriyas but Brahmanical texts described them as being of “low” origin.
The Shungas and Kanvas were Brahmanas.
The Shakas who came from Central Asia, were regarded as mlechchhas, barbarians or outsiders by the Brahmanas.
The best known ruler of the Satavahana dynasty, Gotami-puta Siri-Satakani, claimed to be both a unique Brahmana and a destroyer of the pride of Kshatriyas.
Thus, it appears that political power was effectively open to anyone who could muster : support and resources, and rarely depended on birth as a Kshatriya.

Q3. Compare and contrast the dharma or norms mentioned in the stories of Orona, Hidimba and Matanga.

Answer: Orona:

Orona, a Brahmana teacher, accepts Eklavaya, a forest­ dweller, as his pupil and defied the rule of dharma that non-Brahamanas should not be imparted education. However, by asking Eklavaya’s thumb as fee, Orona ensured that Arjuna remained unrivalled among his pupil.


Dharma does not allow Brahmanas to have matrimonial alliance with non-Brahmana communities such as forest­ dwellers. However, the story shows that Yudhishtira and Shima agreed to marry Hidimba (sister of a rakshasa). Thus the dharma of gotras was not followed in this case.


In the story of Matanga (a Chandala beggar), Mandavya Kumara, son of the former, denies food to the latter. Mandavya who grew up learning three Vedas is not aware of the fact that the beggar seeking food, in fact, is his father. He strictly follows the dharma that outcaste should not be given food, and only Brahmanas deserve it.

Q4. In what ways was the Buddhist theory of a social contract different from the Brahmanical view of society derived from the Purusha sukta?

Answer: The Brahmanical view of society derived from the Purusha sukta describes the four social .categories to have emanated from the body of Purusha : The Brahmana was his mouth. The Kshatriya was made of his arms. His thigh became the Vaishya and of his feet the Shudra was born. Thus, the four social categories or vamas – Brahmana, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras were result of a divine order. The Brahmanas often cited this verse to justify their claims for ideal occupations of four vamas. They also attempted to persuade people that their status was determined by birth.

On the other hand, the Buddhists in the Sutta Pitaka suggested that originally human beings did not have fully evolved bodily forms, nor was the world of plants fully developed. All beings lived in an idyllic state of peace, taking from nature only what they needed for each meal.

However, in due course of time, human beings became greedy, vindictive and deceitful. This led to deterioration of their condition. They felt some authority to control them and he would get something in return from the people. Thus, the institution of kingship came into existence and people could change it in future in accordance with their needs. It was, therefore, a social contract and not a divine order.

Q5. The following is an excerpt from the Mahabharata in which Yudhisthira, the eldest Jandava, speaks to Sanjaya, a messenger:
Try and identify the criteria used to make this list – in terms of age, gender, kinship ties. Are there any other criteria? For each category, explain why they are placed in a particular position in the list.

Answer: Not only age, gender and kinship ties but there were other factors too which were considered to prepare the list.
The Brahmana, the Purohits and the Gums were bestowed the highest honours. They all were widely respected.
Fraternal kins were also given respects who were considered like parents. People who were of equal age of younger were placed at the third rank. In the next order, the young Kuru warriors were respected.Women also received due place. Wives, mothers, daughters-in-law and daughters came in this order. Orphans and handicapped had also been taken care of. Yudhisthira also greets them.

Q6. Write a short essay (about 500 words) on the following:

This is what a famous historian of Indian literature, Maurice Winternitz, wrote about the Mahabharata: “just because the Mahabharata represents more of an entire literature … and contains so much and so many kinds of things, … (it) gives(s) us an insight into the most profound depths of the soul of the Indian folk.” Discuss.

Answer:• Mahabharata gives us an insight into the most profound depths of the soul of the Indian folk.

• It was composed over a period of about 1,000 years (500 BCE onwards).

• Though its central story is about two sets of warring cousins (the Kauravas and the Pandavas) for wealth and power, the text also contains sections laying down norms of behaviour for various other social groups.

• Some of the stories it contains may have been in circulation even earlier; they depict a wide range of social categories and situations.

• While using the text, historians ask careful questions- who composed what and for whom.

• They also consider the language used, and the ways in which the text circuIa ted.

• By analysing the nature of family and kinship depicted in the text, various cultural practices that shaped social histories can be understood.

Q7. Discuss whether the Mahabharata could have been the work of a single author.

Answer: There are so much views about the author of the Mahabharata. Following views have been put forward regarding the authorship of the Mahabharata.
•It is believed that the original story was written by the charioteer-bards known as sutas. They generally accompanied Kshatriya warriors to the battle field and composed poems celebrating their victories and other achievements.
•It is also believed that in the beginning the text of the Mahabharata was orally circulated. Scholars and priests carried it from one generation to another. From the fifth century BCE, the Brahmanas took over the story and started writing.
This was the time when Kurus and Panchals were gradually becoming kingdoms.
The story of the Mahabharata also revolved round them. Some parts of the story reflect that old social values were replaced by the new ones.
• C. 200 BCE and 200 CE is another phase in the composition of the Mahabharata.
During this period worship of Vishnu was gaining ground Krishna came to be identified as Vishnu. Large didactic sections resembling the Manusmriti were added during the period between C 200 and 400 CE. These interpolations made the Mahabharata an epic consisting of 100,000 verses. This enormous composition is traditionally attributed to a sage named Vyas.

Q8. How important were gender differences in early societies? Give reasons for your answer.

Answer:• Gender differences in early societies were maintained for depriving women of equal share in property.

• In some cases, women were treated as property.

• According to Mahabharata, in a dice game between Duryodhana and Yudhisthira, the latter stakes Draupadi along with gold, elephants, chariots, slaves, army, treasury and kingdom and loses her to the former.

• It shows that women in early societies were treated as property by ruling dynasties.

• According to Manusmriti, paternal estate was to be divided amongst sons, and women could not claim a share of it.

• However, women were allowed to retain their marriage gifts (stridhana), but only with husband’s permission.

• This could be inherited by their children, and husband had no claim on it.

Q9. Discuss the evidence tliat suggests that Brahmanical prescriptions about kinship and F marriage were not universally followed.

Answer: Brahmanical prescription about kinship and marriage:
Prescription about kinship:
According to Sanskrit texts the term “kula’ was used to designate families and jati for the larger network of kinfolk. The term ‘vamsha’ was used for lineage. Very often people belonging to the same family share food and other resources they live, work and perform rituals together. Families were considered as the part of larger networks of people defined as relatives a technical term used to defined them was kinfolk. While familial ties were considered “natural” and based on blood they can be defined in different ways.

For instance, some societies regard cousins as being blood relations, whereas others, do not regard as from Historians retrieve information about elite families fairly easily from it is very hard reconstruct the familial relationship of ordinary people. Historians also try to analyse their attitudes towards family and kinship. These are important, because they provide an insight into people’s thinking. It is also expected ideas would have shaped their action because their actions may have led to changes in their attitudes.

Prescription about marriage:
For the continuity of the patrilineage the sons were considered important the daughters could not over the resources of their household. They were married into families outsidethe kin. This system was known as exogamy which means marrying outside one’s kin or gotra. The women of high status families were married to the right persons at right time. Kanayadana or the gift of a daughter in marriage was considered as an important religious duty of the father. With the emergence of new means of communication people came into contact with each other and they began to share their view. So the Brahaman said down codes of their social behaviour. These codes regarding social behaviour were later on enshrined in Dharmashashtra. These text recognised eight types of marriage. Among these types of marriage the four were considered as good while the rest four as condemnable. Satvahana ruler did not follow exogamy of Brahmans.

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NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History

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