Society of Satavahana Period


  • Major system of society of Satavahana and other contemporary dynasties is largely followed from its predecessors.

Social Classes

  • Varna and Ashrama systems continued to govern the society.

  • The society consisted of four Varnas, namely −

    • Brahman,

    • Kshatriya,

    • Vaishya, and

    • Sudra.

  • Dharmasastras described the duties, status, and occupations of all the four Varnas.

  • Over a period of time, there was great increase in the number of mixed Jatis (castes).

  • Manusmriti defines the origin of the numerous mixed (sankara) Varnas.

  • Anuloma was the marriage between the male of higher Varna and the female of lower Varna.

  • Pratiloma was the marriage between the male of lower Varna and the female of higher Varna.

  • The social status of a person born of Anuloma was higher than Partiloma and they followed their father's occupation.

  • According to the Buddhist texts, mixed castes resulted from organizations like guilds of people following different arts and crafts.

  • The Buddhist texts described that a Kshatriya working successively as a potter, basket-maker, reed-worker, garland-maker, and cook. Setthi (Vaisya) working as a tailor and a potter without loss of prestige in both cases.

  • Kshatriyas of the Sakya and Koliya clans cultivated their fields.

  • The Vasettha Sutta refers to Brahmans working as cultivators, craftsmen, messengers, and landlords.

  • The Jatakas mentioned that Brahman pursuing tillage, tending cattle, trade, hunting, carpentry, weaving, policing of caravans, archery, driving of carriages, and even snake charming.

  • Jatakas story tells that a Brahman peasant as a supremely pious man and even a Bodhisattva.

  • The gradual absorption of foreigners like Indo-Greek, Sakas, Yavanas, Kushanas, and Parthians into the Indian society was the most important development of this period.

  • The life of an individual man was divided into four stages. The stages are called as Ashramas.

Stages of Life

  • The four stages of an individual life as mentioned in Dharmasutras are −

    • Brahmacharya − In this ashrama, a person lives a celibate life as a student at the home of his teacher.

    • Grihastha − After learning the Vedas, a student returns back to his home, gets married, and becomes a Grihastha (householder). Grihastha has manifold duties broadly marked out as (i) yajna (ii) adhyayana (iii) dana

    • Vanaprastha − In the middle age, after seeing his grandchildren; he leaves home for the forest to become a hermit.

    • SanyasSanyas ashrama is the time meditation and penance; one frees his soul from material things. He leaves hermitage and becomes a homeless wanderer and thus, earthly ties have been broken.

Family Life

  • The joint family system was the main characteristics of the society.

  • The family was considered as the unit of the social system and not the individual.

  • Obedience to parents and elders was held as the highest duty for the children.

  • Marriage between the same Jatis was also preferred though intermarriage between different Jatis was prevalent.

  • The marriage in the same ‘gotra’ and ‘pravara’ is restricted.

  • Dharmasastras explained eight forms of marriage, namely −

    • Brahma Vivah,

    • Daiva Vivah,

    • Arsha Vivah,

    • Prajapatya Vivah,

    • Asura Vivah,

    • Gandharva Vivah,

    • Rakshasa Vivah, and

    • Paisacha Vivah.

  • Among all these eight (as discussed above), Paisacha Vivah is condemned by all the Dharmasatras.

  • Ideal marriage is one in which the father and guardian of the girls selected the bridegroom on an account of his qualifications.

  • The women hold an honorable position in the society and household.

  • Two classes of women students are mentioned as −

    • Brahmavadin or lifelong students of sacred texts and

    • Sadyodvaha who pursued their studies till their marriage.

  • Women not only attained good education, but also received training in fine arts like music, dancing, and painting.

  • Dharmasastras described that in the family property, all the sons had equal share, but a large number of Dharmasastras rejected the right of women to inherit.

  • Yajnavalkya lays down a list of priority in inheritance, which places the sequences as son, wife, and daughter.

  • The right of a wife to inherit if no sons were living, has been accepted by most of the ancient Indian authorities.

  • Women were allowed to have some personal property known as Stree-dhana in the form of jewelry, clothing, etc.

  • The Arthashastra mentioned that a woman can own money up to 2,000 silver panas and amount above this could be held by her husband in trust on her behalf.