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Material and Social Life of Aryans in India

22-JUL-2015 11:39

    Original Home of the Aryans It is generally believed that they were not the original inhabitants of India. Some historians say that the original home of Aryans was Central Asia. Others are of the opinion that their original home was in southern Russia (near the Caspian Sea) or in the south-east Europe (in Austria and Hungary). The Aryans who had migrated to India are known as the 'Indo-Aryans'. Bal Gangadhar Tilak said that Aryans originally inhabited Siberia but due to the falling temperature had to leave Siberia for greener pastures.

    Material Life

    • The Rig Vedic Aryans owe their success to the knowledge of horses, chariots and bronze arms.
    • They traded copper from Khetri region in Rajasthan.
    • For sowing, harvesting and threshing, the Aryans used a wooden ploughshare.
    • The most important possession for the Aryans was the cow.
    • As the Aryans were pastoralists, most wars were fought for the control of cow pens. These wars were called Gavisthi or search for cows in the rig Veda.
    • Land was not seen as a part of private property.
    • Metals used were copper, iron and bronze.
    • Few people worked as goldsmith, potters, spinners and carpenters.

    Tribal Polity

    • The tribal chief was called Rajan and his position was hereditary.
    • Along with the king, tribal assemblies like Sabhas, Samitis, Gana and Vidhata also yielded power to make decisions.
    • Even women were allowed to attend the Sabha and Vidhata in the early Vedic period.

    • The two main functionaries that assisted the king were:

    I. The Purohita or the chief priest
    II. The Senant or the army chief

    • The tax levied in the Vedic Period was Bali and Bhaga.
    • Spies were appointed to keep an eye on wrong-doers.
    • Officials who settled in villages and controlled a plot of land were called Vrajapatis.
    • Vrajapatis were in control of the army of the area and led the head of the families’ (Kulapas) and the head of the army battalions (called Gramanis) to battle.
    • The Aryans did not have a standing army, although they were skilled fighters.
    • They were tribal in nature and thus did not have a fixed administrative system as they were frequently migrating.

    Tribe and Family

    • People were identified on the basis of the clan they belonged to.
    • The tribe (Jana or Vis) played an important role in the lives of Aryans.
    • The Vis was further divided into Gramas or smaller tribal units comprised of fighters.
    • When two Gramas fought with one another, it was called a Samgrama or war.
    • The term used for family in the rig Veda is Kula or Griha.
    • The Aryans lived in a joint family unit.
    • Like the Romans, they followed patriarchy, i.e. the family was headed by the father.
    • People preferred to have son over daughters and even prayed for the same during sacrifices.
    • Women attended political assemblies and could perform sacrifices along with their husbands.
    • Polyandry was the marriage norm and there are instances of levirate and widow remarriages in the rig Veda.
    • There are no traces of child marriage and the preferred age for marrying was 16 or 17.

    Social Divisions

    • The Aryans were colour conscious and started caste distinctions in the form of Varnas (literally colour).
    • The Aryans were fairer in complexion than the original inhabitants which gave rise to social orders.
    • The Dasas and Dasyus were treated as slaves and were given the lowest order in the caste system- that of Shudras.
    • The tribal chiefs acquired a large share of war spoils and thus grew powerful.

    • As in Iran, the tribal society got divided into three groups:

    I. Warriors
    II. Priests
    III. Common people


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