Use of the term feudalism to describe India applies a concept of medieval European origin, according to which the landed nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villeins or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord's land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection. The term Indian feudalism is used to describe zamindar, jagirdar, sardar, mankari, deshmukh, chaudhary and samanta. Most of these systems were abolished after the independence of India and the rest of the subcontinent. D. D. Kosambi and R. S. Sharma, together with Daniel Thorner, brought peasants into the study of Indian history for the first time.
The Jharkhand region (now a state) of India was a hotbed for feudalism. Feudal lords ruled the region for decades; semi-feudal conditions still exist. Child malnourishment is common and Jharkhand is counted among the poorest states in India.
The Doraas and deshmukhs ruled the region until the annexation. They held all the land in their fief and everybody used to give their produce, and they used to be given only food barely sufficient for sustenance. The rebellion against feudal lords, known as Vetti Chakiri Udhyamam, from 1946 to 1951 in Telangana region called as Telangana Rebellion illustrates the feudal society in the region. The feudal lords used to reside in a high fortress called as Gadi, for entering it they leave their footwear at the threshold of the gadi. The madigas and other backward classes were required to carry their footwear in their hands if they were passing in front of the gadi or dora.
The Srikrishna committee on Telangana says in its findings that there is still gross injustice to the land tillers of the region, the villains in this case were landlords of Telangana and not those of other regions.
There were a number of feudal states in Kerala in the Middle Ages between the end of Chera dynasty and the British rule.
Several zamindaris were established in the Madras Presidency (present-day Tamil Nadu and adjoining areas) from 1799 onwards. The largest of these were Arni, Ramnad, Ganapur and Sivaganga. The zamindari settlement was based on a similar settlement established in Bengal. The Zamindari settlement of Madras was largely unsuccessful and was wrapped up in 1852. However, a few Zamindaris remained till India's independence in 1947.
The Northern Andhra region was under doras until the Indian Independence. The largest estate was that of Vizianagram under the poosapati kshatriya family which was liberal and enlightened.
The Rayalaseema region was under Ayyagaru and Reddygaru until the independence.The largest estate was that of Panyam;which was ruled by a royal brahmin family of vishvamitra gotra and was liberal and enlightened.The Panyam estate was one of the unsuccessful settlements during British Raj.
The feudal lords in Vidarbha region are notorious for their oppressive rule.
- Indian Feudalism by Ram Sharan Sharma
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- R.S. Sharma, Material Culture and Social Formations in Ancient India, (Macmillan Publishers, Delhi, 1985). Translated into Hindi, Russian and Bengali. Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu translations projected.
- R.S. Sharma, Urban Decay in India (c.300-1000), (Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1987). Translated into Hindi and Bengali
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- R.S. Sharma, The State and Varna Formations in the Mid-Ganga Plains: An Ethnoarchaeological View (New Delhi, Manohar, 1996)
- R.S. Sharma, Origin of the State in India (Dept. of History, University of Bombay, 1989)
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