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Jatakas were the stories probably composed by common people

Updated on December 4, 2016

The Story Of Sibi Emperor

The Jatakas And Sangam literature

Jatakas were the stories probably composed by common people and then they were written down and preserved by Buddhist monks. They tell us about the life and times of that period.

Sangam literature

We know about the residents of the ancient villages from the Sangam literature, the earliest work in Tamil. It was composed around 2300 years ago. These texts were termed as Sangam because they were supposed to have been composed and complied in assemblies known as `Sangams’ of pets and nobles that were held in the city of Madurai.

Jatakas of tales

Early Cities

The literary texts pertaining to this period make a mention of many towns that existed during this period. Some of the towns are Kaveripattanam, Bodhgaya, Pataliputra, Vaishali, Kaushambi, Arikamedu, Mathura, Rajagriha and Ujjayini.

There are several other kinds of evidence to find out about life in some of these early cities. They are stories in the carved scenes depicting people, lives in town, villages and forests. There pillars and railing were used to decorate the gateways of buildings that were visited by people.

There are hardly remains of palaces, markets, or settlements and homes of common people. Houses made of wood, mud, brick and thatch, could not have survived.

Accounts of travelers and sailors who visited these people are important sources of information. One of the most detailed accounts that has been found was by an unknown Greek sailor. He gives a vivid description of all the ports he visited.

Sangam age

System Of Exchange

During this period, coins were the main unit of currency. Archaeologists have found several thousands of coins belonging to this period. Punch – marked coins were the earliest coins which were used. They were in use for about 500 years. They are called by this name because the designs were punched on to the metal – copper or silver.

Before the advent of coins in India, trade was mostly practiced under bater system, i.e., goods were exchanged for goods. But, difficulty in handling goods and fixing the exchange value of the goods led to the use of some common items like shells, Conches, food items as a medium of exchange.

Functions of towns

Towns in this period were famous for their activities. Each town had its own activities. Some towns were centers of administration while others were religious centers. Tamralipti, Sopara and Bharuch were trading centers. Towns that had varied cultures were extraordinarily famous.

The Jatakas

The Story Of Barygaza (the Greek name for Bharuch)

At Barygaza, the gulf is very narrow and also very difficult to navigate for those coming from the sea. Experienced local fishermen, employed by the king had to steer the ships.

The imports into Barygaza included copper, coral, tin, lead, topaz, wine, gold and silver coins and cloth.

Plants from the Himalayas, agate, cotton, carnelian, ivory, perfumes and silk were the exports from the town. Merchants brought special gifts for the king that induced singing boys, fine cloth, wines, beautiful women and vessels of silver.


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