[INDOLOGY] Numbers attached to territories in pre-modern South Asia

Donald R Davis drdj at austin.utexas.edu
Mon Nov 25 14:40:38 EST 2019


Dear Indology colleagues,

I’m forwarding an inquiry from Prof. Sumit Guha in our History department. He is looking for explanations of numerically named territorial units, especially in epigraphical or other dated historical sources from the medieval and early modern periods roughly. His description is below, but he emphasizes that “village” is not a natural entity. He is interested in “mental maps” and the imposition of categories on territory.

We know about roughly similar numerical mentions in Arthasastra and Manu, e.g. Manu 7.115–119: daśēśa, viṃśatīśa, śateśa, sahasrapati. If anyone has further, especially later, suggestions for him, I’d appreciate the help.

Thanks,

Don Davis
Dept. of Asian Studies
University of Texas at Austin



Looking over V.V. Mirashi ed. C.I.I. vol. VI: Inscriptions of the Silaharas and previously also in Kadamb ed. Sources for the History of the Kadambas of Goa: Inscriptions I noticed that several territorial units are referred to by name-number combinations. (Mirashi, i-i, viii).

Mirashi suggests these refer to the number of villages (9000, 14000) in each region.
In the 17th century, the sub-division of Sashti near Mumbai was said to derived from Sanskrit 66.

In general, settlements in heavy rainfall regions such as Bengal and the West coast of India, villages were an administrative and fiscal creation (like the English parish).
If indeed these were villages, it suggests a degree of royal administrative penetration to the locality. The Mughals for example lacked maps, but compiled village lists  (deh-ba-dehi) to identify their lands. On the other hand, they might just be conventional or poetic. The British Imperial Gazetteers enumerates villages, but then adds that some of these were purely administrative units.

I would be grateful for your opinion!
many thanks, Sumit

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