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Later Vedic Society



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Later Vedic Marriages Social Organisation: The later Vedic society came to be divided into four varnas called the Brahmanas, rajanyas or kshatriyas, vaisyas and shudras, each varna was assigned with its duty. Brahmanas conducted rituals and sacrifices for their clients and for themselves, and also officiated at the festivals associated with agricultural operations. They prayed for the success of their patron in war, and in return the king pledged not to do any harm to hem. Sometimes, the brahmanas came into conflict with the rajanyas, who represented the order of the warrior-nobles, for position of supremacy. Towards the end of the Vedic period, they began to engage in trade. All the three higher varnas shared one common feature, they were known as Dvijas (twice born), i.e., they were entitled to upanayana or investiture with the sacred thread according to the Vedic mantras. The fourth varna was deprived of the sacred thread ceremony, and with its began the imposition of disabilities on the shudras. Outside the caste-system, there stood two important bodies of men, namely, Vratyas and Nishadas.

According to the Aitareya Brahmana, in relation to the prince, the brahmana is described as a seeker of livelihood and an acceptor of gifts but removable at will. A vaisya is called tribute-paying, meant for being beaten, and to be oppressed at will. The worst position is reserved for the shudra. He is called the servant of another. Certain section of artisans such as rathakara or chariot-maker enjoyed a higher status, and were entitled to the sacred thread ceremony. The term Nagara appears for the first time showing joint beginnings of town life. Women were generally giver a lower position. Although some women theologians took part in philosophic discussions and some queens participated in coronation rituals, ordinarily women were thought to be inferior and subordinate to men.

Types of Marriages in the Later Vedic Age
Brahma Marriage of a duly dowered girl to a man of the same varna with Vedic rites and rituals
Daiva Father gives the daughter to the sacrificial priests as part of fee or dakshina.
Arsa A token bride-price of a cow and a bull is given.
Prajapati Marriage without dowry and bride-price.
Gandharva Marriage by the consent of two parties, often clandestine. A special form of it was swayamvara or self choice.
Asura Marriage by purchase.
Paisacha It is seduction of a girl while asleep, mentally deranged or drunk, hence it can hardly be called a marriage.
Rakshasa Marriage by Capture

Marriage: Eight types of marriage were prevalent in the later Vedic age. Of these, four (Brahman, Daiva, Arsa and Prajapati) were generally approved and were permissible to Brahmans. These were religious marriages and were indissoluble.

Anuloma Marriage: Marriage of a man below his varna was called Anuloma. It was sanctioned by the sacred texts.

Pratiloma Marriage: Pratiloma marriage was the marriage of a girl or women to one lower than her own varna. It was not sanctioned by the sacred texts.

Gotra System: The institution of gotra appeared in later Vedic times. Literally, it means the cow-pen or the place where cattle belonging to the whole clan are kept. The gotra has been regarded as a mechanism for widening the socio-political ties, as new relationships were forged between hitherto unrelated people. People began to practise gotra exogamy. No marriage could take place between persons belonging to the same gotra or having the same ancestor.

Ashrama System: Ashramas or four stages of life were not well established in early Vedic times. In the post-Vedic texts, we hear of four ashramas: that of brahmachari or student, grihastha or householder, vanaprastha or partial retirement and sanyasa or complete retirement from the world. But only three are mentioned in the later Vedic texts. The last or the fourth stage had not been well-established in Later Vedic times. 4th Ashrama only mentioned in Jabala Upanishad.

Food and Drinks: The staple diet was milk and ghee, vegetables, fruit and barely. Wheat was rarely eaten. On ceremonial occasions at a religious feast or the arrival of a guest, a more elaborate meal usually including the flesh of ox, goat, sheep and birds were taken after being washed with sura. Fish and other river animals were also relished upon. The guests were never served vegetarian foods, or at least one non-vegetarian food was compulsory.

Dress: Clothes were simple. Two piece clothes were normally worn: uttariya or the upper garment and antariya or the lower garment. There was no difference between the clothes of male and female. Ornaments were used by both the sexes and bangles were worn by privileged few, Shoes were used. Use of oil, comb, mirror razors, hair ointment and a few cosmetics was known.

Amusements: Music, both vocal and instrumental, was the major source of amusements. Playing of veena, drum flute, harp and cymbals were more common, also were dance. Chariot-racing and gambling were other sources of amusement.

Education: It was for a privileged few. Only Brahamanas and Kshatriyas were allowed to get education. Even women education was discouraged and the study of Vedic literature were forbidden to women in spite of the fact that a few gifted women scholars were present at the time and female teachers were also there.
The subject taught were veda, itihasa, grammer, mathematics etihcs, dialectics, astronomy, military science, fine arts, music and medical science.s

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