NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History Chapter 3: Kinship, Caste and Class

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Chapter3. Kinship, Caste and Class Early Societies
TextbookThemes in Indian History-I
CategoryNCERT Solutions for Class 12

It is important to use NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History as they can give students a clear understanding of the syllabus. Class 12 History has fifteen chapters, and our NCERT Solutions are a detailed guide that covers each of them. It provides step-by-step solutions to all the questions in the textbook. On this page, we have provided you with complete Solution of Chapter 3 – Kinship, Caste and Class Early Societies.

NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History Chapter 3

Kinship, Caste and Class Early Societies Solutions

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

Answer) Patriliny means tracing descent from father to son, grandson and so on. While ; patriliny had existed prior to the composition of the Mahabharata, its central story reinforced the idea that it was valuable. It was important among elite and ruling families to avoid conflicts over land, power and resources including the throne in the case of kings of their fathers when the latter died as had happened between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, who belonged to a single ruling family.

There were, however, variations in practice. Sometimes if there were no sons, brothers succeeded one another. Sometimes other kinsmen claimed the throne, and in very exceptional ; circumstances, women such as Prabhavati Gupta exercised power.

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 Drona, Hidimba and Matanga.

Answer) The following principles of dharma or norms have been mentioned in the stories of Drona, Hidimba and Matanga:

  • Story of Drona : To teach Kshatriyas only, to take fee or guru dakshina from the pupils, and to keep his words.
  • Story of Hidimba : Marriage of Bhima with Hidimba against the principles of marriage.
  • Story of Matanga : To treat chandalas at the very bottom of the hierarchy of vamas due to handling of corpses and dead animals and treating them as “polluting” by those who claimed to be at the top of the social order.

In all the three stories the dharma or norms as mentioned in the Dharmasutras and Dharmashastras have been violated in one way or the other. In case of Drona, he refused to have Ekalavya as his pupil because he was a forest dwelling nishada who did not fit into the fourfold varna system. It was considered a jati. Ekalavya acquired great skill in archery that was perhaps better than Arjuna before the image of Drona. He acknowledged Drona as his teacher. So, when Drona approached him and asked for his right thumb as his fee, he did not hesitate and offered it to his teacher. This shows that Drona followed a double standard towards Ekalavya. He refused to treat him as his pupil but in order to keep his words that no one would be better than Aijuna, he demanded the right thumb from Ekalavya as his fee. It was against the principles of morality.

In case of Hidimba, Yudhisthira agreed to the marriage conditionally. After giving birth to a rakshasa son, the mother and son left the Pandavas. This was in violation of the norms for marriages because rakshasa were the people whose practices differed from those laid down in Brahmanical texts.

In case of Matanga, on his first encounter with Dittha Mangalika, he was beaten as she had seen something inauspicious. Later on Matanga attained spiritual powers and married her. They had a son named Mandavya Kumara who treated Matanga unworthy of alms and treated him badly. When Mangalika learnt about the incident, she sought his forgiveness. This story shows that chandalas were regarded as “polluting”. At the same time this proves that they did not accept the life of degradation prescribed in the Shastra. Matanga attained spiritual powers. He gave a bit of the leftover from his bowl to Dittha Mangalika and asked her to give it to Mandavya and Brahmans which hint that occasionally the social realities were different from the Brahmanical texts. The above stories reflect the realities of social condition of that period.

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:

Sanjaya, convey my respectful greetings to all the Brahmanas and the chief priest of the house of Dhritarashtra. I bow respectfully to teacher Drona… I hold the feet of our preceptor Kripa … (and) the chief of the Kurus, the great Bhishma. I bow respectfully to the old king (Dhritarashtra). I greet and ask after the health of his son Duryodhana and his younger brother .. Also greet all the young Kuru warriors who are our brothers, sons and grandsons … Greet above all him, who is to us like father and mother, the wise Vidura (bom of a slave woman)… bow to the elderly ladies who are known as our mothers. To those who are our wives you say this, “I hope they are well-protected” … Our daughters-in-law bom of good families and mothers of children greet on my behalf. Embrace for me those who are our daughters … The beautiful, fragrant, well-dressed courtesans of ours you should also greet. Greet the slave women and their children, greet the aged, the maimed (and) the helpless …

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.

Write a Short Essay (About 500 Words)


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

Answer) The above statement of Maurice Wintemitz about the Mahabharata seems to be correct because it is one of the richest texts of the subcontinent. It is a colossal epic running in

its present form into over 100,000 verses with depictions of a wide range of social categories and situations. It was composed over a period of about 1000 years and some of the stories it contains may have been in circulation even earlier. The text also contains sections laying down norms of behaviour for various social groups. Occasionally, the principal characters seem to follow these norms. Over the centuries, versions of the epic were written in a variety of languages. Several stories that originated in specific regions or circulated among certain people found their way into the epic.

The central story of the epic was often retold in different ways. Its episodes have been depicted in sculpture and painting. They also provided themes for a wide range of performing arts – plays, dance, and other kinds of narrations. Its central story describes a feud over land and power between two groups of cousins. It reinforces the principle of patriliny. It mentions rules of marriage too. Thus, it is correct that it contains so many things and gives us an insight into the most profound depths of the soul of the Indian folk.

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.

  1. The Mahabharata could not have been the work of a single author because a text which initially perhaps had less than 10,000 verses grew to comprise about 100,000 verses. This enormous composition is traditionally attributed to a sage named Vyasa. There is also a tradition that Vyasa dictated the text to the deity Ganesha.
  2. The original story was probably composed by charioteer-bards known as sutas who generally accompanied Kshatriya warriors to the battlefields. They used to compose poems celebrating their victories and other achievements. These compositions circulated orally.
  3. Then from the fifth century BCE, Brahmanas began to commit it to writing.
  4. This was the time when the Kurus and Panchalas became kingdoms and perhaps the new kings wanted their itihas to be recorded and preserved systematically. Social values were often replaced by new norms and these have been mentioned in the Mahabharata.
  5. The next stage was between 200 BCE and 200 CE when worship of Vishnu grew in importance and Krishna was identified with Vishnu.
  6. Between 200 and 400 CE, large didactic sections resembling Manusmriti were added. Thus, the epic was neither written by one author nor was it written during one period.

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

Answer) It is seen that in early societies families were generally patriliny. Patriliny means tracing descent from father to son and to grandson and so on. Matriliny family was k generally not in use. But exception was also available. As exception, Satavahanas of Andhra can be mentioned. Historical sources mention the name of some rulers from inscriptions associated with the names of the mothers of the king. As Gotami-putra means’ son of Gotami’. Gotami and Vasistha are the feminines of Gotama and Vasistha. Sons were considered important for the continuity of the family. Attitudes towards daughter were different. They had no claims towards the resources of the household. But marrying them into the families outside the kin was considered desirable. This system of marriage was called exogamy. According to this system, the lives of the young ‘girls and women belonged to those families which claimed that high status were often carefully regulated to ensure that they were married at the right time and to the right person. This gave rise to the tradition that in marriage Kanyadana was an important religious duty of the father.

After marriage women were supposed to give up their father’s gotra and adopt their husband’s.As per Manusmriti, the paternal state was to be divided equally amongst sons after the death of parents, with a special share for the eldest. Women were not given any share in the state. But women were allowed to keep the gifts with themselves which they received at the [ time of their marriage. This was called stridhana. This could be inherited by. their children and the husband had no claim over it. But at the same time Manusmriti also told women not to hoard family property or even their own valuables without the permission of their husband.

In fact, social differences were sharpened because ofthe differences in access of resources.Many texts suggest that while upper class women may have access to resources but l and, cattle, money were generally controlled by the men. Vakataka queen Prabhavati Gupta was a rich woman.

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

Answer) The following evidence suggests that Brahmanical prescriptions about kinship and marriage were not universally followed:

  • Change in kinship relations : There was change in kinship relations. For example, the Mahabharata is a story of a feud over land and power between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Ultimately, the conflict ended in a battle, in which the Pandavas emerged victorious.
  • Patriliny : Patriliny means tracing descent from father to son, grandson and so on. But there were variations in practice. Sometimes, if there were no sons, brothers succeeded one another. Sometimes other kinsmen claimed the throne. In very exceptional circumstances, women such as Prabhavati Gupta exercised power.
  • Marriages : The Dharmasutras and Dharmashastras recognised as many as eight forms of marriage. Of these, the first four were considered as “good” while the remaining were condemned. These were perhaps practised by those who did not accept Brahmanical norms.
  • Gotra of women : According to Brahmanical practice, women were expected to give up their father’s gotra and adopt that of their husband on marriage and members of the same gotra could not marry. This was not followed universally.
    For example, names of many women who married Satavahana rulers had been derived from gotras such as Gotama and Vasistha, their father’s gotras. They did not adopt their husband’s gotra. Not only this, some of them belonged to the same gotra that was against exogamy. The system of endogamy or marriage within the kin group was too prevalent among several communities in south India.

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