Yoga poses and names

The rise of the supra-regional state and the divine king

If we take a step back and take an overall sociological look at the period from the rise of the Maurya Empire (320 BC) to the collapse of the Gupta Empire (520 AD) then it seems that apart from the cultural and commercial contact – the most decisive feature was that supra-regional state forms evolved often exceeding significantly the size of the previous local-to-regional based Kingdoms that we saw in the late Vedic period. These state dynasties were often not really Empires but rather supra-regional state forms constantly trying to become Empires but always failing in this period between the Empires. The evolution of supra-regional state Empires – characterised by military conquest, slavery and coinage – was central to the Axial Age civilisation (Graeber 2011). In such societies the basic principle governing social relations was not kinship but a hierarchy of social divisions that cut horizontally across societies and were unequal in power, wealth and social prestige. In these societies a tiny ruling group used coercive powers to augment its authority was sustained by agricultural surpluses and labour systematically appropriated from a much larger number of agricultural producers. Fulltime specialists (artisans, bureaucrats, soldiers, retainers) also supported and served the ruling group and the government apparatus it controlled. (Trigger 2007, p. 44-45).

In such state forms we are no longer talking about uncomplicated Archaic two-tiered societies with local chieftains, warlords and small kings running a handful of the Vedic village communities and clans. Having broken out of their natural kinship basis since the late Vedic period, states now ruled over a large geographical region based on the king’s core area and surrounded by vassals like rings in water. The king was the big king’ – the maharaja (raja=king), a three or more layered political hierarchy. Most dynasties would however not be able to control an area much bigger than 800-1000km wide. This is not surprising as an army

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