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Vedic Period: Back to Vedas

The Vedic period (or Vedic age) (c. 1500 - c. 600 BCE) is the period in the history of the Indian subcontinent intervening between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilization, and a second urbanization which began in 600 BCE. It gets its name from the Vedas The Vedas were composed and orally transmitted by speakers of an Old Indo-Aryan language who had migrated into the north western regions of the Indian subcontinent early in this period.

The associated Vedic culture was tribal and pastoral until c. 1200 or 1100 BCE, and centerd in the Punjab. It then spread eastward to the Ganges Plain, becoming more agricultural and settled. The Vedic period saw the emergence of a hierarchy of social classes and later of monarchical, state-level polities.

Now I will discuss about the Polity and Society of Vedic Period firstly in brief then in detail.

The Polity of Vedic Period simply in standard is a tribal Polity with their Chief incentre. Here tribe was refered to as Jana and their tribal Chief as Rajana. Rajana looked after all the matters, affairs, problems of the tribe with support of other tribal members and two tribal assemblies ie. Sabha and Samiti.

The Vedic Society was directly patriarchal and patrilineal. Early Indo Aryans were a late Bronze Age Society which was centerd in Punjab and it was organized in tribes in place of Kingdoms and primarily it was sustained by a pastoral way of life.

Now, I will discuss Polity and Society of Vedic Period in Detail.

There were various terms which are very important for Political Organization.
  • Rajan- He was the person who is ablest and strongest among the group. He was elected by people only. His work is to kept enemies away from their Kingdom. He was the leader who can be called as spiritual and he ruled according to the wishes of the people ie. Tribe. In his Kingdom there are several assistants which are called officials like Purohita and Senani. Rajan had no absolute power because in his Kingdom people had a say.
  • Sabha- This is one of the assembly in which only important members of tribe are there whose work is to advice and guide the King. This assembly is small.
  • Samiti- This is another assembly in which opinion on important matters given by any member of the assembly. This assembly is larger then Sabha.
  • Women- Women also took part in Political Organization.
As the people of this period had high standard of social and economic life, the Aryans which are known as Rig Vedic Aryans had given the proof of their efficacy through well organized Political Organization. As a matter of fact, this was the overview of their well arranged thinking. An insight is available from the Rig Veda regarding the Polity and Political Organization of the early Aryans.

The people which were known as Aryans were also known as Village dwellers in early Vedic Age. In that:
Period family was considered as the nucleus of political organization which was given names as a Griha or Kula. When the collection of families occurred and it is said that the collective body of families were known as grama or village. A number of villages together termed as 'Jana' or 'Janapada' which is consisted a bunch of vises and the number of Janapada together termed as "Mahajanapada". The top largest political organization was known as Rastra or Desha. Then the Rig Vedic political organization was in pyramidal structure in which family was at the base and Rastra or Desha is at the top.

In this period the head of the family was known as "Grihapati or Kulapati". Gramini was known as the head person of village whereas Vispati was the head of the largest political authority. Rajan was the head of Jana or Janapada. Finally they give reference to Yadava Jana, Bharat Jana which are found in Rig Veda. Whole country was structured as Rastra or Desha.

Monarchy is the term which literally mean" a country or a system which is governed by a King or Queen". So this prevailed from the government of Rig Vedic Period which was Hereditary. As we all know that exceptions are everywhere so here also there was exception where king was selected by the peoples of kingdom. King or Monarch was the repository of power and authority.

The Fundamental duty of the King or Monarch was not only to give a welfare government but to protect the subject by rule of law. For the help of the King there were many other officials like gramini, Purohita, senani, spasha and others who helped the king in stupendous task in Administration. After the coronation ceremony, the king wearing Royal Robes lived in Places. At that time there were different types of taxes which were imposed and are named as Bali, Sukta and Bhaga.

The duties of the king are public welfare, protecting the kingdom from enemies. And the reference to Samrat in Rig Veda tells the use of powerful kings having power, property over small things in the region.

Among this category of Royal officials, the most important position was occupied or grabbed by the Purohita. The sages, Saints or person of Knowledge and sagacity were given in the post of Purohita whose work is to give valuable suggestion and guidance to the king in kingdom in detail. The main duty of the Purohita was to pray for the King during war and Peace and for his overall health & wealth.
  • Senani or commander in Chief is the head of the army and he was concerned with military organization.
  • A special section of officials which was termed as sparsh or spy was appointed to provide expanded account of events of the king.
Sabha and Samiti are the two independent and democratic organization of the Rig Vedic Period which serve their role dominantly in administrative affairs. To arrange proper balance, these two organizations were developed whose role is to control the actions of the Kings to a great extent from making him become a tyrant. The authority of the assembly Sabha was made only to village administration. On other side, Samiti is made to the Central administration which is regarding to the important decision on war and peace.

"It was a powerful body wielding what may be conveniently described as a sovereign powers, for every often the fate of a king depended upon his ability to carry the Samiti with him. If the Samiti assumed an abstractive attitude, the life of the King become miserable".
  • Through these two assemblies people expresses their views, opinions on important matters of the desha. Both were known as Twin Daughters of Prajapati.
Rule of law and Judicial administration has acquired wonderful primacy in early Vedic Period. The village Justice was given and imparted by Gramavadi. In this period the severity of punishment for thief, fraud or robbery and king gives the justice to all. Many officials like Ugra, Jivagriva were 8entrusted with Chief duty in Kingdom.

In this Rig Vedic Period the military organization includes infantry, cavalary and charioteers. At this time Horses were of limited use. The soldiers of different category were named differently as infantry soldier was named as patti and charioteers soldier was named as rathin. The major military weapons are bows, arrows, swords, spears etc. The army of this period was named as Sardh, vrata or gana. When the war begins the war music was played with the help of drums and pipers. There are different types of defense weapons like headgears or helmets, metal dress and shields.

We can say without any doubt that Monarchy is the Prevailing form of Government. But in this period democracy was prevalent in few areas. The leader of the gana was termed as Ganapati or ganajyestha.

Vedic Period is divided into two parts:
  • Rigvedic Period
  • Later Vedic or Post Rigvedic Period

The people of this Society believed all persons were created equal and should be treated equal. The society was simple and people used to live in a group united by actual or perceived Kinship and descent. Some of the highlighted tribes of that period were Bharat, kuru, Puru, Panchala etc. According to some pieces of evidences, it is confirmed that there were some clashes between Black and White Community popularly known as Dasa and Dasys and Aryans. But still it is not established how many times Aryans appeared in Rigvedic Period.

The division in Society was according to verna which means colour. Later Society is divided into three groups simply named as Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Common people and fourth group which dragged Rig Vedic Period to an end is Shudras. The Rigvedic Period were having at that time an 9egalitarian society.

The society of Rig Vedic Period was simple and the people of that time lived in a tribal clan-based society. There was a great struggle between Black and White community. White's were considered as Aryans and the term Arya appeared about 32 times in Rigvedic Period. There are different opinions of different Historians that how they interpret according to themselves. Some of the historian's opinion is that these people came from Central Asia and arranged themselves in such a manner that they settled in Indian Subcontinent.

Few people argued that they came with their horses and their own lifestyle and settled there. Many of the people are from the society in which all people are equally important and should have the same rights and opportunities in life. Linguistic Group. The society is divided in regards of 'Varna' which means 'Color' . Aryans were the persons of White community and Dasas and Dasyus were the persons of Black community.

In Rigvedic Period, there is very important status of Women in Society , though Society at that time was Patriarchal. At that time there were many Legendary women whose names are like Lopamudra, Gargi, Maitreyi, Ghosha, Yami etc. There many rights which women get and they are as follows: Right to attend the political assembly, Right to education, They have Right to select their Groom, Right to attend religious programmes, Weaving was the monopoly of Women. In a whole Rigvedic tribal Society was an egalitarian society and there was no division of society on the basis of occupation.
  • Now at this time Vedic Period get changed from Rig Vedic Period to Later Vedic Period and Society also changed accordingly.

In above paragraphs I have discussed about the Rigvedic Society which was egalitarian and tribal based but now due to change in society the Later Vedic society becomes Complex Society.
  • There are various systems in Later Vedic Period in which society is shown.
In this system the peoples were divided in four groups which are as follows:
Brahmana (To preach the Society), Kshatriya(To protect the Society), Vaishyas(Trade and Commerce), Shudras(To serve). This division is mentioned in X Mandal of Rigveda. Because in this period the iron came into existence so "Iron ploughshare" was started to be used. In this Period there is the starting of agriculture economy. After this the two classes were made in agriculture those were Landlords and Laborer's. Aryans were considered as the Victorious race and Dasas were considered as defeated race. In this way Aryans kept Defeated race as Shudras or Labour class.

This is one of the most important feature of the Later vedic Society. This period saw the starting of developing an economy which also came there with the tension in the society. The section which is dissatisfied or disillusioned from the society choose the path of escapism or Sanyasa. In the background, Brahmanism under Ashram system gave the choice of both the objectives in single life ie. Kama and Rama. By this the life is divided into 4 phases which are as follows: Brahamcharya (Education), Grihastha (Family Life), Vanaprastha (For aged people), Sanyasa (left all here). Shortly three Ashramas were described in the Chhandogya Upanishad and all the four were described in Jabla Upanishad.

Many of the Indian Families believe in this system without having a proper understanding of the origin of this system. The reason for the downfall of the status of Women in Later Vedic Period and the in the societies is the Gotra System. 'Gotra' word simply means 'Cow-Pen', a place where cattle of individual clan lives. After the starting of agricultural economy after Iron Revolution, kings started expanded territorial wise. In between this the marriage alliance became the way to enhance the political status of a family. Finally it was clear that in Gotra System, the political status of the clan was strengthened by social relations.
  • So the by this system Women turned as an object to raise the strength of the family. In this situation , it is essential to weaken the status of the women, to destroy the status of women. Therefore from the Later Vedic Age the Right of Upanayana ceremony ie. The right to education was denied for Womens.
  • Now I will give reference to our present times which give call "Back to Vedas".

According to Vedic Period the Rajan was selected by the people itself through elections we can say and now a days also the Government is elected by the people directly. In that period Women also took part in Political Organization with full hardwork and in present time also we are seeing that how womens are taking part in politics and even in some areas they are leading above the men community. As at that time there are two assemblies Sabha and Samiti which work on different aspects related to King and now at present also there are two houses ie. Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha which work for the welfare of the country and work for the Government.

In Vedic Period also there were military which were divided in different groups in the similar way today also there are military of India which is also divided in various groups. Earlier also women have right to education, right to select groom and in present time also women and girls both have right to education and other rights also. So above there are few examples or references which give call "Back to Vedas" in present times.

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