Land grants became frequent from the fifth century AD. According to this, the brahmanas were granted villages free from taxes which were collected by the king from the villages.
In addition, the beneficiaries were given the right to govern the people living in the donated villages.
Government officials and royal retainers were not permitted to enter the gifted villages. Up to the fifth century, the ruler generally retained the right to punish the thieves, but in later times, the beneficiaries were authorized to punish all criminal offenders.
Thus, the brahmanas not only collected taxes from the peasants and artisans but also maintained law and order in the villages granted to them. Villages were made over to the brahmanas in perpetuity. Thus, the power of the king was heavily undermined from the end of the Gupta period onwards.
In the Maurya period, taxes were assessed and collected by the agents of the king, and law and order were maintained by them. In the initial stage, land grants attest to the increasing power of the king. In Vedic times, the king was considered the owner of cattle or gopati, but in Gupta times and later, he was regarded as bhupati or owner of land. However, eventually land grants undermined the authority of the king, and the pockets that were free from royal control multiplied.
Royal control was further eroded through the payment of government officials by land grants. In the Maurya period, the officers of the state, from the highest to the lowest, were generally paid in cash. The practice continued under the Kushans, who issued a large number of copper and gold coins, and it lingered on under the Guptas whose gold coins were evidently meant for payment of the army and high functionaries. However, from the sixth century onwards, the position seems to have changed.
The law-books of that century recommended that services should be rewarded in land. Accordingly, from the reign of Harshavardhana, public officials were paid in land revenues and one-fourth of the royal revenue was earmarked for the endowment of great public servants. The governors, ministers, magistrates, and officers were given portions of land for their personal upkeep. All this created vested interests at the cost of royal authority. Thus, by the seventh century, there is a distinct evolution of the landlordism and a devolution of the central state authority.