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Various changes took place within 1500 years after Harappa, which historians attempt to understand by studying ancient sources like inscriptions. In 1833, James Prinsep, an East India Company officer, deciphered Brahmi and Kharoshti scripts, many of which referred to the famous king – Ashoka.

6th century saw emergence of Buddhism and Jainism, and Mahajanapadas, of which Magadha was most powerful. Chandragupta Maurya extended Mauryan Empire, known through many sources, including Arthashastra, written by Kautilya. Later, Ashoka inscribed instructions – Principles of Dhamma – on natural rock and pillars. Mauryan Empire lasted for 150 years, after which new chiefdoms and kingdoms appeared by the second century BCE. After Mauryan Empire, new kingdoms came up in the South: Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras. Satavahana Kingdom was a link between North and South India. Kushanas ruled over a vast kingdom. Later, larger states like the Gupta Empire depended on samantas – Indian nobles. They provided military support to rulers, but more powerful ones became kings.

While there is no account of ordinary people regarding their experiences, historians examined stories contained in Jatakas and Panchatantra. Such tales indicated relationship of the people with the Kings, which could often be strained. Kings often demanded high taxes. Peasants adopted various strategies to meet the demands, one of which was to increase their production. There were three classes of people in rural society: Large landholders, Small peasants and Landless agricultural labourers. During 6th century, trade extended in various directions. Merchants traded wide range of products. Coins first appeared in India through punch marked coins. They were issued by Indo Greeks, Kushanas, Yaudheya and Gupta rulers.

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