Krishi Desh

For Bharat and Bharati

History of Agriculture in Bharat

Posted by संदीप नारायण शेळके on November 21, 2009


I was sitting at home an evening after having hard day at work and surfing through news channels on TV to update myself. One of news caught my attention, that, ‘Toor Dal’ is now Rs. 110/kg. I was shocked and the same ways got serious about the monthly budget of poor families. Then I decided to dig into the agricultural scenario in Today’s and Ancient Bharat. And this is a first post on those lines.

*** The excerpts from Shri. V V Bedekar’s  Agriculture in Ancient Bharat ***

Agriculture was a part of the whole system. A non-agricultural section of the society was equally responsible for agriculture and those who were involved in agricultural operations were equally accountable to the non-agricultural happenings in the society. Every trade or vocation was important and complementary to each other. The concept of India as a purely agricultural country is also far from truth, and is just a product of modern ldealogical theory and jargon of economics. All ancient Indian literature and historical evidence goes contrary to this belief and suggests India as a very powerful agricultural as well as commercial and industrial power on the earth prior to the advent of the British. There are innumerable references to Indian products all kinds exported to all parts of the world. I quote below a few glaring examples which speak for themselves.

In the early days of the Christian era (lst century A.D. – say about 2000 years before) Roman women’s passion for Indian cloth was so intense that they decorated themselves in seven folds of Indian muslin (called ‘Nubula’ by the Romans) and paraded in the streets, which brought an embarassing situation to the city fathers and the Roman Senate had to intervene and put an embargo on the import of that fine stuff from India. Pliny, a Roman writer, complained in the early 2nd century A.D. that “… in no year does India drain our empire of less than 550 millions of sesterces”, whicb was approximately equivalent to about pounds 1,400,000 in the 19th century. Another author has noted that in the year of Aurelian, i.e., around the latter half of the third century A.D., this cloth was worth its weight in gold. The Indian exports to Europe of all commercial and agricultural products were much higher at the time of tbe arrival of the British than in the post-British period. Peter the Great of Russia (1682-1725 A.D.) considered the commerce of India as the commmerce of the world, and ….. be who can exclusively control this is the dictator of Europe. While Indian exports were so high, Europe almost had nothing to sell to India except bullion. The East India Co., which was chartered in 1600 A.D. used to send to India pounds 400,000 to pounds 500, 000 a year to buy Indian goods for exports before 1757 A.D. It was in 1757 A.D. that the Battle of Plassey was fought and the victorious British started extending their tentacles in India. I quote Sir George Bidwood, who observes-

The whole world has been ceaselessely pouring its bullion for 3000 years into India to buy products of her industries.

It is said, history repeats itself. The drain of British bullion was so painful and again tbe Indian textiles, which had become very popular in England became the victims of enactments for their prevention from entry into England.William III of England in 1700 A.D. prohihited the entry of Indian textiles by imposing a fine of pounds 200 to the wearer or the seller of Indian silk and calico.

*** Excerpts from India Once Plentiful….***

“Between 1762 and 1766 there were villages which produced up to 12 tons of paddy a hectare. This level of productivity can be obtained only in the best of the Green Revolution areas of the country, with the most advanced, expensive and often environmentally ruinous technologies. The annual availability of all food averaged five tons per household; the national average in India today is three-quarters ton. Whatever the ways of pre-British Indian society, they were definitely neither ineffective nor inefficient.”

……

The Chengalpattu data was a Godsend for the Centre, and has allowed them to support many of their central theories about pre-British India. The accounts detail a complete economic, social, administrative and religious picture of the society. Every temple, pond, garden and grove in a locality is listed, the occupation, family size, home and lot size of 62,500 households meticulously recorded. Crop yields between 1762-66 are tallied. Per capita production of food in this region (which is of average fertility) was more than five times that achieved on average today.

….

The British government changed this system. In some areas they calculated a percentage figure of total tax revenue going to the institutions and fixed it as a dollar amount, in 1799 dollars. Some institutions still receive this same government allotment–worth next to nothing today. Others became owners of the land from which a share of production once came. This introduced its own set of problems, also still with us today, where temples are unable to collect the rent. The collective result was that the great religious and cultural institutions of the 18th century decayed and lost touch with the community. The British taxes were so high there was no money left to support the administration or cultural establishments. School teachers, musicians, dancers, and keepers of the irrigation works, moved away, or took to farming. By 1871, 80% of the area was engaged in agriculture (up from less than 50% earlier), and many of the services and industrial activities that dominated the Chengalpattu society of the 1770s ceased to exist. The value of the Centre’s research is obvious: India, and Hinduism with it, flourished in the not-so-distant past–without the Green Revolution or the Industrial Revolution or the Worker’s Revolution. Shri Dharampalji, Shri Bajaj and their associates want India to look back at this time, dissect and understand it, and use that indigenous knowledge to reinvigorate the world’s largest democracy.

So I’m now compelled to realise that all that we have today is far less in proportion with what we had. And we need to learn our history very keenly to restore the self respect and faith in Bharat.

Some  interesting links:

The Mode of Production Debate Revisited

Welcome your views and comments. Also add any information that you might have.

Jai Hind!

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9 Responses to “History of Agriculture in Bharat”

  1. संदीप नारायण शेळके said

    Bharat has the history of sophisticated irrigation system. Here are few excerpts from other websites and blogs:
    “The Indus Valley Civilization in Pakistan and North India (from circa 2600 BC) had a sophisticated canal irrigation system. Agriculture was practised on a large scale, and an extensive network of canals was used for the purpose of irrigation. Sophisticated irrigation and storage systems were developed, including the reservoirs built at Girnar in 3000 BC”
    “Kosi floods in Bihar, India- Different methods to minimize flood must be adopted”

    “In Assam, Bengal and Bihar – all flood-prone states, there is evidence of a massive network of canals that allowed both effective drainage to prevent flooding during the heavy monsoon months, and also provide for fishing, transportation and irrigation arteries in the dry seasons”
    “Indian Agriculture in a Historical Context”

    Jai Hind!

  2. dieta dukan…

    [...]History of Agriculture in Bharat « ॥ कृषी देश ॥[...]…

  3. sujatha said

    Like the information you have given.

  4. satya said

    now again we are looking back to organic farming, sustainable agriculture, integrated farming systems

  5. Sharath said

    S the information given is right

  6. Very true. Till the 18nth century, India was the second largest economy in the world (after China). However, the Europeans got the upper hand, due to constant innovations in agricultural, military and commercial techniques, a process that began as early as 500 A.D, culminating in European colonialism. Colonialism in turn provided Europe with the necessary raw material to usher in an Industrial Revolution, with implications in all spheres of human activity including agriculture. India on the other hand, remained in a relative state of stasis and even stagnated, creating ripe conditions for subsequent British rule. Point that should have been learned——the need for constant innovation through research, something which is still missing in post colonial India. Hardly any research is carried out in India, and politicians and the government set aside miniscule funds for it.

  7. Shayla said

    Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward
    to new posts.

  8. संदीप नारायण शेळके said

    Hi, Thank you for visiting.
    Yes I’m on twitter please find me @SandeepShelke

  9. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this site.

    I really hope to check out the same high-grade content from you later on as well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal site now ;)

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