Economic Structure and Taxation Policy in the Governing Body

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The economic system and taxation policy have always played a vital role in the state and its governing body. The financial prosperity and all-round development of the country depends on taxation.[1] The system of taxation was prevalent in India since ancient times. As the economy of the Kashmir depended mainly on agriculture the main source of the income of valley was revenues from the land, custom duties, fines and confiscation and seizing of agrahara lands (jagirs and villages).[2]

In order to meet the expenses of maintaining the civil services and a standing army, the government resorted to the taxation of various kinds. We do not have much literature at our disposal to learn the system of land revenue prevalent in early Kashmir. Rajatarangini was silent on the rate of land revenue. However, in normal times the rate of taxation was one-sixth of produce as a share of the government and this was increased one-half during the times of later Hindu kings. Lawrence has also mentioned that collection of revenue was in kind and state share was one-sixth of the produce.[3] The share during Sultanate period was one-half.[4] The share was increased further to three-quarters of the produce of the land in later years. But there are instances of violation of the said ratio on account of barbaric rulers and corrupt officials But some kings were liberal as at the time of Ananta one twelfth was fixed as state share.[5]

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There are certain references from Rajatarangini which indicate that land revenue was collected generally in kind.[6] The khari of rice was the circulating medium. The state paid all salaries, grants and other payments in khari of grains and other products from the state stores.[7] But Toramana king and his successors issued coins so we can presume that land revenue was aslo realised in cash especially from valuable crops like kumkum.[8] Generally, the land revenue was not of harsh nature in value but peasants were taxed through begara and other fines and direct taxes of all sorts from town, city dwellers and market shops.

Traditionally all land was considered to be the property of the ruler and those who cultivated it as his tenants. In the beginning, there was a concept of a welfare state between the state and the people, as mentioned by Kalhana that the king Candrapida never took away the land of a tanner by force for the construction of temples and other purposes.[9]

After that, the later rulers started oppressive measures. The Karkota rulers particularly Lalitaditya seems to have been fully conscious of the dangers which may arise from the insubordination of powerful classes of the society. Therefore, he directed his ministers that only one year's requirements should be retained to the peasants and anything in excess either in grains or bullocks should be taken away.[10] Another ruler of Karkota dynasty specifically Jayapida who is explicit to possess have fallen a prey to avarice and to own laden his people by fiscal exactions.[11] The measures which had formerly been intended for the comfort of the good were currently adopted for the oppression of his subjects. He spent the revenues according to his pleasure and as suggested by the Kayasthas. King Jayapida took away even the cultivators share of produce for three consecutive years.[12]

Kalhana has provided considerable detail regarding the fiscal exactions made by the king Samkaravarman of the Utpala dynasty. The state increased its income from the confiscation of agrahara[13] land, that belonged to the temples as jagir for its maintenance and was taken by King Samkaravarman under his control and got the land cultivated himself. The temples were given fixed revenue for its maintenance and management as compensation.[14] The cultivators had to pay other taxes both direct and indirect. It is said that he took money from the temples accruing from the profit arising from the sale of incense, sandalwood and other articles of worship on the plea that they were the kings share of the selling price. [15] He plundered sixty-four temples on the pretence of superintending them.[16] Kalhana also mentioned that the king took a lease of the villages attached to the temples after paying compensation allowance (pratikara) to their possessions[17] and at the time of payment he reduced the weight of the scales by one-third. A reference from Rajatarangini also mentions that he put down all opposition by saying that the deduction was made on the account of the food supply, cost of woollen cloaks, etc., and the temple parishads still received more than their annual allowance.[18] Stein makes mention that he used wrong weights while paying, revenue assignment of rice and other produce to the temples and their corporations.[19] The kings officials could easily defraud the grantees.[20] He established his revenue officers namely Attapatibhaga and Grhakrtya.[21] King Samkaravarman instituted the system of levying begar[22] (forced labour) to the villagers which were of thirteen kinds. The thirteen kinds of corvee mentioned by Kalhana could not be specified. It was basically used for transport purposes and remained a distinguishing feature of the administration of the valley.

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“Economic Structure and Taxation Policy in the Governing Body.” WritingBros, 20 Oct. 2020,
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