Society of Vedic period
Early Vedic society comprised four varnas namely Brahmin Kshatriya vaishya and shudra.initially society was divided into three groups the fourth division called shudra appeared at the end of the rig Vedic period.
- Brahmanas -priests and teacher
- Kshatriya -ruler and administrator
- Vaishya -farmers and merchants
- Shudra – artisian and labours(appeared in later Vedic period)
This division was not very sharp since the classification was based on profession or occupation of individual members of the same family took two different profession and though they belonged to different varnas.(one of rig vedic hymns speaks- I am singer, my father is a physician my mother grinds grains….).
The unit of society was family. there were mostly joint family, the people were attached to the tribe, since no Kingdom was established. Society was patriarchal in nature and the chief of family had very arbitrary powers ,birth of son was desired again and again(prayed for Brave sons) in rigVeda .
Condition of women
Though society was patriarchal but woman enjoyed many rights .they participated in all economic, cultural, education(upnayan Sanskar), social political activities as mentioned about Vidatha and Samiti assemblies. They could offer sacrifice(in yajana) along with their husband. we have example of scholar women like ghosga, Sikta, Lopamudra, apala. The institution of marriage was properly established. (Conversation of yam and Yami…) polyandry was there ,( the Maruts and Ashwin brothers marriage ….)
We also notice the practice of levirate and widow remarriage. there was no child marriage vouge in those days, marriageable age around 16 to 17 year.
Living style, eating habits, amusement
With regular food like milk and its by product, somrasa( drinkable),Barley, rice and some pulses (mung and udada),Meat was the part of their diet cow was aghanya( not to be killed). Punishment for injure or kill a cow was death or expulsion. Amusement included music, dancing chariot racing, and dicing. Men and women have separate kind of attire.Clothes above the waist used to be called adhivas and below the waist is called vas. Other clothes was called Nivi, worn inside.
Later Vedic society
The literary society came to be divided into four varnas called Brahmins, Kshatriya, vaisyas and sudras.and complexity in varna system arised.
The growing cult of sacrifices enormously added power to the Brahmins .they conducted rituals, sacrifices for their clients and for themselves and officiated the festivals associated with agricultural operation they prayed for the success of their patron in war and expect reward in return. They were the guiding force of society.
Kshatriya community second in order of Varna this class is assigned to protect society, their values and rule.
The vaisyas constituted common people and they were assigned the producing functions such as agriculture, cattle breeding, artisian work . towards the end of Vedic period they begen to engage in trade, vaishya were the only tribute payers.
All above three higher Varna share one common features they all were entitled to upnayana Sanskar.
Shudra were lowest in order of varna system. the worst position for shudras was below to other three varnas and they were assign to serve them. Now varna system became birth based.
Women were given lower status and considered to be inferior. there are some exception like Gargi, metrayi and katyayni but their upnayan sanskara was prohibited, resulted into low education of women . they were barred to participate in Sabha and samiti.
Family head power
In later Vedic period we notice the increased power of family head.(aitareya brhamana ajigarta and vishvamitra reference…)he could disinherit his son, primogeniture strengthened. male ancestors begin to be worshipped. The institution of gotra (clan) appeared in later Vedic Times.
Their food habits were similar to Vedic period . Both kind of meal vegetarian and nonvegetarian was approved in society. Milk and its by product, barley, rice ,mustard ,udad and moong part of their diet.
Marriage was to be appreciated as a holly sacrament. polygamy and single marriage both kind of marriages vouge in those days. Women have lost to choose their husband. “Swayamvara system” was almost abolished. There was a greater say of family male head in aspects of marriage.
Clothes and ornaments
In the Vedic period, the garments were worn as before. Silk textiles were also used along with cotton textiles. Clothing was mainly of three types. Nivi, This was a worn inside. the vas – was worn below the waist. Adhivas- cloth which cover exterior of body . Both men and women were wearing gold and silver jewelery.
Chariot racing ,horse racing ,dicing, singing, playing flute, string instrument and drums.Some social tradition developed after caste system evolved. Like gotra it is a place where everyone keep their cows letar on it assumed that it is there original ancestors. Though aashram system introduced but still forth aashram was not found evidently.
This article is compiled by Sarvesh Nagar (NET/JRF).
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