Social and Economic Life during the Later Vedic Period

Social Life

The society had undergone a very major change during the Later Vedic period. This period witnessed an introduction of the caste system that was not very well defined, but which had come to stay with all its attendant evils.

It was during the Later Vedic age that the society was divided into two – the Aryans and the non-Aryans and the former was again sub-divided into four castes viz. the Brahmins, the Kashtriyas, the Vaishayas and the Sudras. The three classes of the Aryan were supposed to be of higher caste in the descending order and the Sudras were treated as down-trodden and outcast.

The women had, however, lost their social prestige of the Vedic age. They had to suffer to agony of polygamy at the hands of their husbands. There are certain names like Gargi Vachaknavi and a few others to be counted on finger tips. They had no Right to inherit the property of their fathers and they had to depend upon the income of their husbands.

Economic Life

The agriculture still occupied the main source of the income to the largest section of the Later Vedic society. It had improved its system of cultivation and many new crops like those of rice, wheat and oil seeds were introduced. There is a reference of a plough being dragged by as many as 24 bullocks. There is a mention of two crops a year but there is absence of any horticulture whatsoever. The natural fruits might have been used by the people of this age but fruit cultivation is not indicated anywhere. The manure was used in those days which show that they used to stick to the same land years after years and did not try or could not find new tracts of land to cultivate.

The industries had also developed with the advancement of the society. The carpenter, the fishermen, the herdsmen and the chariot drivers were supposed to be as professional skilled people and their services were acquired for different payments. The blacksmith, the goldsmith and the washer-men rendered services to the society. A vast number of other workers like the rope makers, dyers, weavers, potters and watchmen for the fields and personal herds of animals have also been mentioned here and there. Again, mention has been made of the people who would slaughter animals or would sign as professional musicians to social gatherings.

The astrologers and the barbers were mentioned for the first time in the literature of the Vedic period. Certain industries and crafts were specialties of the women folk only, for instance, darning, and embroidery, dyeing and rope-making.

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