History Answer Writing Practice - Week 3 - Question 3
90 Days History Answer Writing Practice Question 1 for 20-Dec-2017
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20-Dec-2017 - Question 1
In what way was the egalitarian character of the early Vedic society changed during the later Vedic period? (15 marks, 250 marks)
The Vedic age can be divided into two periods based on chronology. The early Vedic age corresponds to 1500 BC to 1000 BC and the later Vedic age corresponds to 1000 to 600 BC. The chief source of information for the early Vedic age is the Rig Veda Samhita and for the later Vedic period are Books 1, 8, 9, and 10 of the Rig Veda Samhita, the Samhitas of the Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas, and the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads attached to all the four Vedas.
How the egalitarian character of the early Vedic society changed during the later Vedic period:-
1) The word Rajan of the Rig Veda referstoa chieftain rather than as king and his main task was to protect his people, cattle and to lead them to victory in war. In later Vedic texts, the Rajan emerged as the wielder of supreme political power which involved his distancing himself from his kinsmen. Hereditary kingship was also emerging. Terms such as samrajya and Samrat reflect the imperial aspirations and ambitions of kings.
2) Later Vedic texts reflect a transition from a tribal polity based on lineage to a territorial state.
3) In early Vedic age, Balirefers to tribute periodically offered by the clansmen to the Rajan but it was voluntary and a regular taxation system had not yet emerged. But in later Vedic times, Bali gradually became obligatory.
4) The Rig Veda mentions assemblies such as the sabha, Samiti and vidatha. Such assemblies played an important role in the redistribution of resources and maintaining an egalitarian society but with the increase in royal power, the power of the assemblies declined considerably.
5) Varna System - In early Vedic texts, the words Brahmana and Kshatriya occur frequently, but the term varna is never associated with them and there are no indications that members of these group was based on birth. The earliest reference to the division of society into four strata occurs in the Purusha-sukta, a hymn Book 10 of the Rig Veda Samhita (a later Vedic text). So, the four-fold varna order is seen as a feature of later Vedic society.
6) Condition of Women -
- In the early period, hymns were composed by women; there are references to women sages; women participated in rituals along with their husbands; they attended the sabha and various social gatherings. However, in the later period, there are evidence which clearly depict that condition of women deteriorated. For example - Relations between husband and wife and father and son were hierarchically organized; menstruating blood was considered polluting etc.
- In the early period, there were post-puberty marriages, and there are references to women choosing their husbands. A woman could remarry if her husband died or disappeared. There are also references to unmarried women, such as the Rig Vedic seer Ghosha. However, such instances are few and far between in the later Vedic period.
- The early Vedic society was also patriarchal and patrilineal which continued in later Vedic times like there were no women priests in the Rig Veda, women participated as wives in sacrifices performed on behalf of their husbands, they did not perform sacrifices in their own right; etc
- Slavery was there in the early Vedic society which continued in later times. There were inequalities between master and slave, men and women.
- The notion of individual private property owners did not exist in both the period. The clan as a whole enjoyed rights over major resources such as land and herds.
- While later Vedic texts suggest that society was becoming increasingly stratified, there was still a certain amount of fluidity in occupations. The poet in a hymn in the later Vedic text says: I am a reciter of hymns, my father is a physician, and my mother grinds (corn) with stones. We desire to obtain wealth in various actions.
- Like Rig Vedic seer, there were also women like Gargi and Maitreyi in the later period who participated in a philosophical debate with sages.