Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ancient India Agriculture Assignment

Conner Lewis         12/1/14
Period 4

Preface:
          Agriculture within the Indian sub-continent has many unique features not found in other agrarian societies. These features developed in order to help guide farmers and keep agriculture successful. They have been enveloped in both the culture and religion of the region for so long that often times their worldly purpose is forgotten. One of these features is the sacredness of cows, who are forbidden to be killed in Hinduism. This belief developed due to the drastic climate of India and the agricultural importance of cows. Many farmers would turn to slaughtering cows for meat during droughts and monsoons, however this action is extremely narrow-minded and only benefit the short term situation. Cows, who birth the oxen to move plows, also provide services such as manure for heat and construction as well as milk. These benefits are more useful in the long run than some meat is at the time. Fine times farmers without cows also cannot gain any more ox for their plows, meaning they lose the ability to farm. This is why Hinduism developed the sacred cow as a belief, to give a spiritual reason for farmers to not succumb to short sighted desires.
             All of the agricultural features in India are due to the geography of India, which can be split
into two very broad sections, the north and the south. The north, which extends from the Himalayas in the north and the Satpura Mountains in the south, is almost completely covered by the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The Indo-Gangetic Plain is a very lush area, covered mainly by large plains. This area is also home to large amounts of rivers and lush valleys, such as the Indus River Valley. The south starts from the Satpura Mountains in the north to the tip of India in the south. This land is drastically different, being covered in mostly by the Deccan Plateau. This plateau varies from semi-arid to tropical climates, however this is all depending on the monsoons arriving. Because it is a plateau, there are very few rivers, meaning all of the water comes from monsoons.
           This reliance on monsoons causes another very important aspect of Indian agriculture, possibly the most important factor, is the prevalence of monsoons and droughts. The monsoon season occurs from the 25 of May to the end of November. These monsoons, however, are unpredictable, and while they occur at similar times when they come, there are times when the monsoon does not come. This is a vital part of rural life in India, as most of the farms rely on the yearly monsoon to stay fertile by the silt it brings as well as the nutrients and water that comes along. The entire agricultural calendar relies on the monsoons, because the farmers plant as quickly as they can after the monsoon season and winter end and harvest before it arrives. When this season does not come, however, it causes a massive drought across all of India. That is why these droughts are often directly followed by famines. This unpredictability causes many stable sources of water to become revered. This is why Hinduism reveres the river Ganges as a deity.
            This causes water conservation to be an important action for farmers to perform, as it is vital to do as a fail safe just in case the monsoon is late or absent. It also means that being near the rare reliable water sources is very important. All of this causes pollution in rivers to be egregious, as people attempt to gather water from it while hundreds of nearby farms irrigate in and out of it, bringing more salt into it, and it also means that waste often times finds a way into it. This is due to the large population centered on all the river's banks. This means that while it is important for people to attain water, most of the reliable water sources are contaminated beyond use. All of this makes
having fail safes in case of drought extremely difficult, and this culminates to mean that if monsoons do not come, famine is unavoidable.
              The possibility of famine would logically cause most Indian farmers to turn to more high yielding crops, such as wheat and rice, however lots of the most fertile land in the Indo-Gangetic Plain is used for cash crops, such as sugar cane and cotton. This is because these lands are ideal for growing massive amounts of cash crops, and these lands are also usually owned by very wealthy land owners. These land owners are more concerned with increasing their wealth, as they are not worried
about running out of food. This is why much of the most fertile lands are not used to maximize the food supply which could then be distributed to the starving, and why the lack of monsoons is such a problem for the poor and middle class. This also shows the different priorities for poor and wealthy, and this is only strengthened by the caste system in Hinduism, which justifies this large wealth gap.

The Twelve Agricultural Commandments

1. Thou shall not kill any cows, without exception.
2. Thou shall not drain irrigation directly into any freshwater rivers.
3. Thou shalt store at least 20 gallons of fresh water for each monsoon season.
4. Thou shalt plant no less than 20 acres of food crops to be granted to local granaries every in case of droughts if you are of the Kshatriyas class.
5. Thou shalt own no more than 200 acres of suitable farm land in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, to make way for both government owned farms and small independent farms.
6. Thou shalt grow only rice and wheat on the Indo-Gangetic Plain, to maximize food production.
7. Thou shalt charge no more than 236 rupees for a  bushel of rice.
8. All granaries shall save 50 bushels of wheat for Sudra and Untouchables if the yearly monsoon is absent the year before.
9. Thou shalt harvest all fields before the 23 of May, to allow time for these resources to be stored.
10. Thou shalt begin to plant seeds during the calends of February.
11. A village shall provide a cow for each farmer if that farmer's previous cow was stolen or killed.
12. All farmers owning suitable farm land of 50 acres or less are exempt from rule 4.

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