Ancient Indian History - Vedic Society
Occupation of individuals was the basis of classification of a society in the Rig Vedic period.
It was divided into four varnas, namely
Brahmanas (teacher and priests);
Kshatriya (rulers and administrators);
Vaisya (farmers, merchants, and bankers); and
Sudra (artisan and laborers).
There was complete freedom and mobility for the adoption of a profession.
Trades and occupations did not assume a hereditary character in the society (till now).
Salient Features of Vedic Society
The family was the smallest unit of a society. It was primarily monogamous and Patriarchal.
Child marriage was not in fashion.
There was freedom of choice in marriage.
A widow could marry the younger brother of her deceased husband.
The wife was a partner of the husband in all religious and social ceremonies.
The father's property was inherited by son.
The daughter could inherit it only if she was the only child of her parents.
Right to property was known in moveable things like cattle, horse, gold, and ornament and so also in immoveable property like land and house.
The teacher was given great respect.
The school was in the home of the teacher where he taught the particular sacred texts.
The texts were in the first instance learnt by pupils repeating the words taught by their teacher.
A great importance was attached to enunciation and pronunciation.
Oral learning was the method of training.
Students were given intense training and learning to memorize and preserve the huge mass of Vedic literature.
Food and Drinks
The important part of the diet was milk and its products like curd, butter, and ghee. Grains were cooked with milk (kshira-pakamodanam).
Chappati (bread) of wheat and barley was eaten mixed with ghee.
People used to eat the meat of birds, wild animals (like boar, antelopes, and buffalo), and fish.
The meat of animals such as sheep, goat, and buffalo etc., which were sacrificed on ceremonial occasions, was also eaten.
The cow was mentioned as aghnya i.e. not to be killed. The Vedas prescribe a penalty of death or expulsion from the kingdom to those who kill or injure cows.
Sura and Soma i.e. alcoholic drinks were also consumed, though their consumption had been condemned.
Agriculture, cattle rearing, and trade and commerce were the main economic activity of the Rig Vedic people.
People had domestic animals like cows, sheep, goats, asses, dogs, buffalos etc.
Oxen were used for ploughing and drawing carts and horses for drawing the chariots.
The plough was drawn by the oxen at times in a team of six, eight, or even twelve.
The grains were harvested with sickles.
Manure was used for high yield; irrigation was also practiced.
Excess of rains and drought is mentioned as damaging the crops.
The grains are collectively called ‘Yava’ and ‘Dhanya.’
Some other occupations were pottery-making, weaving, carpentry, metal working, leather-working, etc.
Initially, copper was the only metal that was used and the general term 'ayas' had been used for this. In a later period, terms like ‘lohit ayas’ and ‘syam ayas’ were used for copper and iron respectively.
The trade and traders (vanik) were also known in the Rig Vedic era.
The practices of exchange of goods (Barter Economy) were in trend. It has been found that ten cows were quoted as the price for an image of Indra.
The use of money can be traced in the mention of a gift of 100 nishkas.
Money-lending was also popular. It is mentioned that an eighth or a sixteenth part of one being paid either as an interest or part of the principle.
The sea is mentioned in the context of trade and ocean wealth, like pearls, and shells.