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Socio Economic Life in Rig Vedic Period

Tribal Organizatoin: Kinship was the basis of social structure. People gave their primary loyalty to the tribe, which was called jana. Another important term which stands for the tribe in the Rig Veda is vis. Probably the vis was divided into grama or smaller tribal units meant for fighting. When the gramas clashed with one another, it caused samgrama or war. The term for family (kula) is mentioned rarely in the Rig Veda. It seems that family in early Vedic Phase was indicated by term griha. Differentiation in family relationship leading to the setting up of seperate households had not proceeded far, and the family was a very large joint unit. It was obviously a patriarchal family headed by the father. Since it was a patriarchal society, the birth was desired again and again.

Marriage and Status of Women: The institution of marriage was established, although symbols of primitive practices survived, We also notice the practice of levirate and widow remarriage in the Rig Veda. The status of women was equal to men and they received Upanayana and education, studied Vedas and some of them even rose to the rank of seers composing Vedic hymns. Monogamy was established, though polygamy and polyandry were also known.


Varna System: Varna was the term used for colour, and it seems that the Aryans were fair and the indigenous inhabitants dark in complexion. The dasas and dasyus, who were conquered by the Aryans, were treated as slaves and sudras. Gradually, the tribal society was divided into three groups-warriors, priests and the people. The fourth division called the Shudras appeared towards the end of the Rig Veda period. In the age of Rig Veda, divisions based on occupations had started. But this division was not very sharp.

Occupation: Their earliest life seems to have been mainly pastoral, agriculture being a secondary occupation. The Aryans did not lead a settled life. Although they used several animals, the horse played the most significant role in their life. The Rig Vedic people possessed better knowledge of agriculture. Ploughshare is mentioned in the earliest part of the Rig Veda though some consider it an interpolation. The term for war in the Rig Veda is gavisthi or ‘search for cows’. The Rig Veda mentions such artisans as the carpenter, the chariot-maker, the weaver, the leather worker, the potter, etc. This indicates that they practiced all these crafts. The term, ayas used for copper or bronze shows that metal working was known.

Metals Known to Rig Vedic People
Gold Hiranya
Iron Shyama
Copper Ayas

Diet: The Indo-Aryans, while sharing the ancient Iranian veneration for the cow, felt no scruple about sacrificing both fulls and cows at weddings or on other important occasions. The persons who took part in the sacrifice ate the flesh of the victim, whether bull, cow, or horse. But meat was eaten only as an exception. Milk was an important article of food, and was supplemented by cakes of barley or wheat (yava), vegetables and fruit.

Strong Drinks: The people freely indulged in two kinds of intoxicating liquor, called soma and sura. Sura probably was a kind of beer. Soma juice was considered to be particularly acceptable to the Gods, and was offered with elaborate ceremonial. The Sama Veda provides the chants appropriate for the ceremonies.

Amusements: Amusements included dancing, music, chariot-racing, and dicing. Gambling with dice is mentioned so frequently in both the Rig Veda and the later documents that the prevalence of the practice is beyond doubt.

Rivers Mentioned in Rig Veda
Rig Vedic Name New Name
Gomati Gomal
Krumi Kurram
Kubha Kabul
Suvastu Swat
Sindhu Indus
Drishadvari Ghaghar/Chitang
Satudri Satluj
Vipas Beas
Parushni Ravi
Asikni Chenab
Vitasta Jhelum


Frequency of Important Words Mentioned in Rig Veda
Word Times Mentioned Word Times Mentioned
Pita 335 Rajya 1
Ashva 315 Kulpa 1
Jana 275 Ganga 1
Mata 234 Samudra 1
Indra 250 Sabha 8
Gau 176 Samiti 9
Vish 171 Grama 13
Vidata 122 Vidatha 122
Brahmana 14 Yamuna 3
Surya 10 Rashtra 10
Kshatriya 9 Krishi 33
Yamuna 3 Sena 20 Approx.
Raja 1 Rudra 3
Sudra 1 Vrihaspati 11
Vaishya 1 Prithavi 1

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