In the last post, we have discussed Vedic Period and its societal structure. In this post we are going to discuss economic, political and religious structure of Vedic Era.
Economy: From Simple Economy to Organised Economy
Rigvedic Economy was tribal economy i.e. a kind of pastoral economy. This economy was all around the Cow. That is the reason Cow has given huge importance in the Vedic Era. Most of the terms of the Vedic Era were related to the Cow. Like,
- Gomat: Term used for Rich People.
- Gavishthi: Term for War.
- Goghana: Term for Guest.
- Duhitri: Term for Daughter.
- Godhuli: Term used for Time. (Godhuli Bela)
- Godhum: Term used for Foodgrains.
Rigvedic people were aware of the agricultural work as one found a description of agricultural tools and implements in the IV Mandal of the Rigveda. Along with this trade and commerce was not the general feature of the Rigvedic society. But they followed the practice of exchange of important commodities. Barter was the medium of exchange during this era.
Bali or Voluntarily gift was an important part of the economy. But well-defined taxation system was not present as there was no need for it. The simple economy based on tribe values generally do not require taxation system.
But as we see the demarcation between the Rigvedic and Later Vedic Era is done by the Iron Revolution of 1000 BCE. So, after 1000 BCE i.e. in the Later Vedic Era Organised Economy came into the scene.
Later Vedic Era
After the Iron Revolution of 1000 BCE, along with the Pastoral economy, the agricultural economy also took birth in India. Because the discovery of Iron enabled the people of the Later Vedic Era to prepare Iron Axes and Iron Ploughshare. These tools created the ground for the agricultural economy. The evidence for the agricultural economy is,
- Iron Ploughshare of this period has been found in Jakheera or Anjantrikhera (Western Uttar Pradesh). And Shatpath Brahman of Yajurveda talks about the Plough rituals.
- Rigvedic Aryans were aware of one type of crop i.e. Yava. But in the Later Vedic period there are archaeological and literally evidence of an increase in the number of crops. Example: Vrihi (Rice), Sugarcane, Wheat etc.
- During Rajsuye Sacrifice (Coronation ceremony of King) evidence of donation of land to the priest.
- Agricultural practices were carried out by upper caste. For example Janaka (King), Haldhar (Balram or one who has ploughshare in his hand).
Promotion to Art and Crafts
Agricultural economy along with the pastoral economy increased the income of the Later Vedic people. So, this, in turn, gave promotion to the principle of demand and supply. This also gave promotion to the production of different art and crafts. Example,
- Iron Smith became an integral part of the society.
- Weaving got the promotion and it was the monopoly of women up to certain time.
- Main development was in the field of pottery. This period saw a different type of pottery. Red Ware for common people and Painted Grey Ware for the emerging Aristocracy.
All these development laid down the foundation for the trade and commerce in the Later Vedic Era. And as the trade and commerce came into existence, the early coins also came into existence. Example,
- Precious metal coins. Shatmana (Copper coin) and Nishaka (Silver coin) came into the scene and used as the medium of exchange.
- Atharvaveda mentions about Bargain System.
- The emergence of towns Hastinapur and Kaushambhi.
Political System: From Jana to Janapada
The Rigvedic political system was centred around Jana or Tribe. The famous Jana or Tribe were Kuru, Puru, Bharat, Panchal etc. There was absent of an organised army. Because there was absent of taxation system. As society was a Tribal Society, so people of the same tribe considered their tribe people as family. So, conclusively there was neither potential to maintain the army or military establishments nor was the requirement.
But there was provision for the tribal assemblies. Through which the management was carried out. These assemblies were Sabha, Samiti, Vidata and Gana.
Assembly of elders to discuss the crucial matters like war.
Assembly of important dignitaries (Gahapati or Head of the Family). Both Men and Women attended this assembly to discuss day to day issues of tribes. The head of this assembly was called as Ishan means ‘God Like’. The most important task of this Assembly was to elect the Rajan i.e. head of the Jana or Tribe.
Attended by the entire tribe and its main work was to deal with the socio-religious matters of Tribe.
Gana was the general assembly for general issues of the tribe.
Role of King
King was one among the tribal people. The Rigvedic King did not possess any despotic rights because there was no standing army with him. King had to listen to the orders of Sabha and Samiti. Because of the absence of the taxation system and standing army in Rigvedic Era, King has to fight with the tribal militia like Grama, Vrata, Shraddha etc.
But 1000 BCE Iron Revolution gave birth to the agricultural economy and change in the economy laid the foundation for the change in the Political system.
Later Vedic Era
Birth of State System
New states came into existence like Kurukshetra, Panchal (Mixture of Five Tribes) and Videha (State without Body, which later on became the Mighty Magadh Kingdom).
Birth of Organised Administrative System
The Rigvedic assemblies lost their significance in the Later Vedic Era and the new administrative system came into existence. It was the 12 Ratnins or 12 officers of King and Parishad. The 12 Ratnins included Mahishi (Queen), Yuvraj (Crown Prince), Purohit (Head Priest) etc.
Tribal assemblies Vidata and Gana lost their importance. Sabha and Samiti lost their tribal characteristics and became Parishad. Now in the Later Vedic Era, Sabha and Samiti was entitled to create the structure of the state. And in Atharvaveda, these both are called as the twin daughters of Prajapati i.e. Brahma.
Improvement in the Status of King
As we have read that Rigvedic King was the head of the tribe, but the Later Vedic King was the head of the state. But as the state in the Later Vedic Era did not have a surplus so King of this Era used religious royal sacrifices to empower his position. These Royal Sacrifices were,
- Rajsuye Yajna (Coronation ceremony of the King).
- Vajpeyi Yajna (Chariot race among the Kinsmen).
- Ashwamedha Yajna (For the territorial expansion and to subdue the neighbouring Kings).
This Era also saw the birth of taxation system and traces of standing army.
This was all about the political and economic structure of Rigvedic and Later Vedic Era. In the next coming post, we will discuss Religion of the Vedic Era.
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