Political Developments during the Later Vedic Age

The political developments of the Later Vedic age are not anything isolated from the Rig Vedic age. They are in fact a continuation of the Rig Vedic conditions and a slight improvement upon them.

The Rig Vedic civilization consisted of the village civilization only. There was no mention of any city or city life but in the Later Vedic age we find a reference to the capital of Kurus in the name of Asan Divat (Hastinapur).

Extent: The region of the Aryan sway had changed from the North-West to the South-East but this new region was not accorded the same position of honor as their previous abode. Punjab slowly and gradually went out of their field of action and the land between Saraswati and the Ganges became more important.

Importance position of the Kings: As the regions under a particular king expanded and swelled in size, the importance and position of the kings also enhanced and many new powers were exercised by them. The simple name of Raja (king) was later on changed into the titles of Adhiraja and Samrat. They may not be emperors like the Guptas or the Mauryas but were certainly overlords and feudal kings instead of simple Rajas of a very limited area.

Monarchic form of Government: The monarchic form of Government was still popular, though a physically fit, morally strong and spiritually enhanced king was accepted by the people and a physically unfit and morally bankrupt was rejected by the Sabha or the Samiti.

The coronation of a king did not remain a very simple ceremony and now he was installed with great pomp and show.

Sabha and Samiti: The two democratic assemblies, the Sabha and the Samiti of the Rig Vedic age, were still there and they had the same sanctity though it appears that there had developed some strange political relations between the king and the assemblies as there are mantras which pray for good relations between the king and these two organizations. The king is also shown as keen to seek their support. They had snatched perhaps greater field of action and would deliberate on matters of war and peace, they levy of taxes, disputes about land, rules governing debts, inheritance and the criminal offences. Still the system of justice was the same, based on the patriarchal supremacy but there were cases that were dealt with by the king and in very extraordinary cases by these Sabhas and Samitis. Fines were imposed for certain types of crimes while physical punishment was also inflicted upon habitual criminals.

The Chief Queen had acquired a great importance and was supposed to be a very closed and personal political adviser of the king. The king had the support of his own relations who were called Rajanyan.

The network of administrative machinery was the same though a few new offices were created with new powers for tackling the new problems. The organization, however, remained intact under the leadership of the king assisted by his different ministers and local officials.

The only great change that can be noted at this stage was the greater importance of Chief Priest. The chief Priest (Brahmin adviser of the king), before whom evens the king was not very significant, as he was the invoker of the mercy of gods for the king’s victory, long life and prosperity.

However, the monarchy with enlightened and democratic checks was the order of the day, though again, references have been found of certain States where the king was elected by the people.

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