MODERN ASIAN STUDIES REVIEW Vol.5 新たなアジア研究に向けて5号
79/112

Inter-Asia Research NetworksSession 3 Formation of State and Society during the Period of the 5th–14th Centuries Variegated Adaptations: State Formation in Bengal from the 5th to the 7th CenturyFURUI Ryosuke(Associate Professor, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo)The recent discussions on the pre-modern history of South Asia have focused on the two interconnected processes of state formation and agrarian expansion, which diverse terrains of South Asia experienced at different points of time. In the early medieval period, both processes manifested themselves as secondary state formation which accompanied the expansion of sedentary agriculture and agrarian society towards the periphery. What was critical for this process was the adaptation of a particular form of monarchical state system to local contexts by ascending political powers, theorised as the spread of state society or the growth of tribal chiefdom to early kingdom (Chattopadhyaya 1994: 183–222; Kulke 1995). Such an adaptation presupposes the existence of established state power at the centre, which exerted influence over the periphery and provided it a model to be followed. In North India, this role was fulfilled by the Guptas, whose influence reached wider areas from the early fourth to the mid-sixth century. Many peripheral regions witnessed the emergence of local rulers accepting their suzerainty and imitating their administrative apparatuses, as attested by contemporary inscriptions.Bengal, a region located to the eastern extreme of North India, also experienced the process of secondary state formation from the fifth century onwards. The influence of the Gupta kings on this process is obvious in the copper plate inscriptions issued in their reign and aftermath. Their influence, however, did not reach the sub-regions of Bengal evenly, as they had different environmental conditions and attained different levels of agrarian development during this period. The powers ascendant in those sub-regions adapted the Gupta state system to their own localities in diverse forms. In the present study, I would like to discuss those “variegated adaptations” with which state formation in Bengal proceeded in the period between the fifth and seventh centuries.According to their geographical characteristics and historical experiences, the region of Bengal can be divided into four sub-regions: Pun.d.ravardhana or Varendra to the north, RΣd.ha to the west, Van.ga to the south and Samatat.a to the east. These are demarcated from each other by the great rivers and their tributaries, which, at the same time, functioned as channels of communication connecting those sub-regions (Bhattacharya 1977; Morrison 1970). Pun.d.ravardhana and RΣd.ha have relatively higher elevation and mainly consist of paradeltas and elevated grounds. Due to the relative ease of reclamation and the proximity to the Mid-Ganga heartland, they saw the earliest development of sedentary agriculture and agrarian society among all the sub-regions. The agrarian expansion in Bengal basically advanced from the plains of these two sub-regions to active deltas in Van.ga and Figure The Baigram Copper Plate Inscription, Year 128 Gupra Era. Photographed by the Author. Courtesy of Indian Museum, Kolkata, India.075

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