- Occupation of individuals was the basis of classification of a society in the Rig Vedic period.
- It was divided into four varnas, namely
- Brahmanas (teacher and priests);
- Kshatriya (rulers and administrators);
- Vaisya (farmers, merchants, and bankers); and
- Sudra (artisan and laborers).
- There was complete freedom and mobility for the adoption of a profession.
- Trades and occupations did not assume a hereditary character in the society (till now).
Salient Features of Vedic Society
- The family was the smallest unit of a society. It was primarily monogamous and Patriarchal.
- Child marriage was not in fashion.
- There was freedom of choice in marriage.
- A widow could marry the younger brother of her deceased husband.
- The wife was a partner of the husband in all religious and social ceremonies.
- The father’s property was inherited by son.
- The daughter could inherit it only if she was the only child of her parents.
- Right to property was known in moveable things like cattle, horse, gold, and ornament and so also in immoveable property like land and house.
- The teacher was given great respect.
- The school was in the home of the teacher where he taught the particular sacred texts.
- The texts were in the first instance learnt by pupils repeating the words taught by their teacher.
- A great importance was attached to enunciation and pronunciation.
- Oral learning was the method of training.
- Students were given intense training and learning to memorize and preserve the huge mass of Vedic literature.
Food and Drinks
- The important part of the diet was milk and its products like curd, butter, and ghee. Grains were cooked with milk (kshira-pakamodanam).
- Chappati (bread) of wheat and barley was eaten mixed with ghee.
- People used to eat the meat of birds, wild animals (like boar, antelopes, and buffalo), and fish.
- The meat of animals such as sheep, goat, and buffalo etc., which were sacrificed on ceremonial occasions, was also eaten.
- The cow was mentioned as aghnya i.e. not to be killed. The Vedas prescribe a penalty of death or expulsion from the kingdom to those who kill or injure cows.
- Sura and Soma i.e. alcoholic drinks were also consumed, though their consumption had been condemned.
- Agriculture, cattle rearing, and trade and commerce were the main economic activity of the Rig Vedic people.
- People had domestic animals like cows, sheep, goats, asses, dogs, buffalos etc.
- Oxen were used for ploughing and drawing carts and horses for drawing the chariots.
- The plough was drawn by the oxen at times in a team of six, eight, or even twelve.
- The grains were harvested with sickles.
- Manure was used for high yield; irrigation was also practiced.
- Excess of rains and drought is mentioned as damaging the crops.
- The grains are collectively called ‘Yava’ and ‘Dhanya.’
- Some other occupations were pottery-making, weaving, carpentry, metal working, leather-working, etc.
- Initially, copper was the only metal that was used and the general term ‘ayas’ had been used for this. In a later period, terms like ‘lohit ayas’ and ‘syam ayas’ were used for copper and iron respectively.
- The trade and traders (vanik) were also known in the Rig Vedic era.
- The practices of exchange of goods (Barter Economy) were in trend. It has been found that ten cows were quoted as the price for an image of Indra.
- The use of money can be traced in the mention of a gift of 100 nishkas.
- Money-lending was also popular. It is mentioned that an eighth or a sixteenth part of one being paid either as an interest or part of the principle.
- The sea is mentioned in the context of trade and ocean wealth, like pearls, and shells.