Economic and Social life during Vedic Age

Economic Life of Early Vedic Age

Early Vedic economic was pastoral character because domestication of animals was the main economic activity. Cow & horse were the most important animals of Vedic Aryans. Cow has great economic significant & horse were enjoying great strategic significant.

Hunting & food gathering activities were also practices. Early Vedic / Rig-Vedic Aryan consumed different types of food grain such as Yava (Barley), Vrihi (Rice) & Godhuma (Wheat). But these were wild in nature not cultivated. Agriculture was not practiced during Early Vedic Age.

Fourth mandala of Rig-Veda contains reference of agriculture but it is considered to be later addition. Cow was main form of property. Concept of property in form of land was yet to be emerged. Number of cows held by family / person indicated its wealth / economic status.

Various arts and crafts were practiced during Early Vedic Age. Carpeting was most important craft carpenter enjoy high status because he was maker of chanyat which were used in wars & battles. Gold, Silver, Copper, Bronze smithing were also practiced.

Leather work was another important craft. Spinning & weaving were practiced by women. Trade & commerce were also practiced by monetization of economic was absent Barter system was followed. Taxation system as before. War booty was important source of information of tribe. It was distributed by Vidath among the members of tribe.

Economic Life of Later Vedic Age

Agriculture was main stay of economic life during Later Vedic Age. Crops like wheat, rice, barley was cultivated. Satapatha Brahmana devotes an entire chapter to ploughing rituals. Pastoral act as well as hunting & FG act also continued.

Cow was the main property. A large number of new arts & craft emerged during Later Vedic Age. Many of these were outcome of knowledge of iron. Taitiriya Brahmana & Vajasneyi Samhit contain long list of craft profession practiced during Later Vedic Age.

Trade & commerce was far more developed in Later Vedic Age because of availability of more resource. Nishka & Shatamana were used as means of exchange during Later Vedic Age. But these were not coins. They were ornament. Monetization of economic was still absent. Nishka was gold ornament & Shatmana was silver ornament. Economic significance of war booty declined during Later Vedic Age. As result of which Vidath disappeared.

Social Life of Early Vedic Age

The Early Vedic society was tribal in nature because Vedic Aryans were living in small groups & each of the group was having its own distractive socio-cultural outlook. Society was egalitarian in outlook because sharp social divisions were absent.

Liberal & progressive outlook was prevalent in society. There was no rigid restriction on public & private life of people. Social mobility was of very high order because a person could change his Varna status by changing profession.

Family was the primary unity. It was most important social institution. System of joint family was followed because members of no generation lived together. Family was patriarchal, patrilineal & patrilocal in character. Head of the family known as “Kulaba” represented family members in socio-cultural matters.

The institution of marriage was well developed during early Vedic Age. It was considered a sacrament (sacred ritual). Divorce was absent. Child marriage was absent & there was no custom of do very. Monogamy was normal practice but polygamy was also known. Polygyny was more common than polyandry.

Inter Varna marriages were prevalent. Both Anuloma (Hyper gamy) & Pratiloma (Hypo gamy) were practices. Social stratification system evolved gradually during Early Vedic Age. It was known as “Varsa System”.

When Vedic Aryan entered India, the social different based on color of skin white, color Aryans & non-white. Dasas & Dasyus were two groups in population Dasa are considered to be Early Aryan Groups who had lost their skin color to some extent due to intermarriages with indigenous people. The Dasyus were non-Aryan indigenous people. The Aryan was more hostile towards Dasyus than Dasas.

During long stay in India 3 classes emerged among Aryans on basis of professions. These were the Brahmana, Kshtriya & Vaisya. Brahmana were supposed to indulge in teaching & learning, the Kshtriya formed martial class. They involved in admin & military. The Vaishyas were the producing class. During last phase of Early Vedic Age, four fold Varna division emerged comprising the Brahmana, Kshtriya, Vaisya and the Shudras. Only one reference of this four fold Varna division is found in Rigveda in “Purshasukta” Hymn of 10th This only one reference indicates that the 4 fold Varna division was yet to be established firmly.

The Varna system was so liberal & flexible that even members of one family could belong to different Varnas. In Rigvedas a person says that I am a bard (poet), my mother grinds corn & my father is physician. We all three belong to different Varnas by way of our profession but still we leave together happily as members of one family.

Status of Women

The status of women was high in society, their rights & privileges were almost equal to their male counterpart. The birth of daughter was not desired but once born, she was treated with honour and kindness. The women enjoyed the right to participate in political, eco & religious act. They participated in Sabha & Samiti.

The profession like spinning / weaving was limited to women. Some of the rituals were cared in complete without participation of wife. The women received education along with their male counterparts. Some of the women used to pursue education for whole life. They were known as “Brahmavadini”. Women like Apala, Ghosa, and Lopamudra & Vishwavara were so highly educated that they composed Hymns of Rig-Veda. The evil practices veiling (Pardas), dowry, child marriage & sati etc. were absent.

Education System

The education system was highly advanced during Vedic age. Sages imported learning in Gurukulas. Both boys & girls received education. Script was not known education was imparted orally. The subject matter of education (contents) was based on Varna status of individuals.

Slavery: The practice of slavery was there during Vedic Age. Women slaves were employed for household activities.

Social Life of Later Vedic Age

The tribal character of society got diminished to some extent during Later Vedic Age. Because of increase in the size of tribes, due to population growth & emulation of tribe. The nomadic life came to end & sedentary / settled life commenced. The society was still egalitarian, liberal but these features were less dominant / degree when compared with Early Vedic Age. Social mobility had also got reduced because change in Varna status was not appreciated in society. The social status of person had begun to be linked with birth as well as profession. Family and marriage structure was also base on this social status system.

Social stratification – The four fold Varna division got crystallized during this age. All the 4 Varna got firmly established. The Varna status of individual was being linked with birth as well as profession.

Status of Women

Status of women was still high. The women enjoyed status almost equal to male counterpart. But when compared with Early Vedic Age some elements of decline were. The birth of daughter was considered curse. Women were not allowed to participate in Sabha & Samiti.

The women still participated in religious & economic activities. Education wasn’t allowed for women and used to treat as domestic slaves. Gotra system emerged during Later Vedic Age. The 1st reference of Gotra is found in Atherva-veda. Gotra indicate common lineage. The people having common decadence were considered as member of same Gotra.

Ashrama System

The Ashrama system emerged during Later Vedic Age first reference of Ashrama system is found in “Chandogaya Upanishad”. In this book the first three Ashrams were mentioned. The 1st reference of all the four Ashrams is found in “Jabala Upanishad”.

In Ashrama system the life span of person considered to be 100 years and this entire life span was divided into four phases known as Brahmacharya, Grahstha Ashram and Vanaprastha Ashram & Sanyas Ashram. In Brahmacharya Ashram a person was supposed to indulge in learning. In Grahstha Ashram a person was to live life of householder. In Vanaprastha Ashram a person was supposed to live a family & move into forest. In Sanyas Ashram a person was supposed to live the life of renunciation by breaking bonds from everybody. Shudras were entitled to Grahstha Ashram only.

Other important elements common

Clan & Kingship enjoy phase of great significance in social life during Vedic Age. Blood relations also enjoyed a place of great significance in life of individual. The social relations were largely informal / primary related to family. Age was an important factor in deciding status of individual. The aged were respected in society.