Chapters :

  • MEDIEVEL – 12

                                 HISTORY ANCIENT & MEDIEVEL – 12

The dress normally consisted of two or three garments – an undergarment; and overgarment or mantle. Garments were usually made of wool or skin, and coloured yellow and red. Gold ornaments, such as necklaces, ear-rings, anklets and bracelets were worn by both men and women. Hair was combed and oiled. Women  wore it in plaits, while men sometimes had it done in coils. Men put on turbans and grew beards, though shaving was not unknown.  Women would seem to have enjoyed equal staus with men. Upanayana (initiation) was performed for girls also and they received education and observed Brahmacarya like boys. Women studied the Vedas, and we hear of several women seers composing Vedic hymns. They followed the profession of teaching up to the Sutra period and even spinsters enjoyed the right to perform Vedic rituals. 

There is no indication of seclusion of women which characterized Indian society of later days. Women moved freely and participated in public life. Marriage was, as it is now, sacred and inviolable and not a secular contract, but a religious bond. Child marriage was unknown; girls had freedom of choice and there are instances of girls settling their own marriages. Monogamy was the general rule, though polygamy prevailed among the rich and the ruling classes. Polyandry and the custom of Sati were unknown. The wife occupied an honoured place and participated with her husband in religious ceremonies.  The Aryans had passed the nomadic stage before the Vedic age, great importance was attached to herds of cattle which were used for Agricultural Labour And Drawing Carts; horses were employed for drawing chariots; Sheep, Goat, Ass And Dog were domesticated animals; the dog was used for hunting, guarding and tracking cattle and for night watch. It is not certain whether the Vedic people were familiar with the cat and the camel.Among the wild animals, Lion, Elephant And Boar Were Known But Not The Tiger. 

Agriculture, the mainstay of economic stability, was considered respectable. There are references, to several stages of agricultural operations such as ploughing sowing in furrows, cutting of corn, making bundles of sheaves, threshing and winnowing. The plough was drawn by six, eight, or even twelve bulls. Canals were dug for irrigation. Prayers for success in trade are common in the Rig-Veda, but Vedic Aryans were not expert traders. There were no good roads. Bullocks, pack-horses and perhaps camels provided the means of transport. There was both river and marine navigation. Although barter was practised, money and markets were known. Cows and gold ornaments (Niska) of fixed value were the media of exchange. There are no references to silver or copper coins.  Specialization in industry had already begun and several professions including those of carpenters, smiths, tanners, weavers, potters and grinders of corn are mentioned. 

There are numerous references to the physician’s skill, feats of divine healers of diseases and experts in surgery. In the cure of diseases, charms and spells enjoyed equal rank with healing herbs and drugs.  Family (Kula) served as the basis of both social and political organization. Starting with family, the hierarchy in the ascending order was village (grama), clan (vis), people or tribe (jana) and country (rastra) indicating the evolution of Vedic polity.1 The exact significance of the terms Grama, Visand Janaand their inter-relation is not quite clear, sometimes these terms are used almost as synonyms. A number of clans constituted The People (Jana). The country (rastra) embraced a Number Of Tribes (Janas), several of which are mentioned in the Rig-Veda and later Vedic literature; but their administrative organization varied.

The State (rastra) was normally ruled by the king (Rajan). Kingship was normally hereditary and generally descended by primogeniture. Elective monarchy was perhaps not altogether unknown, but there is no clear reference to it in the Rg-Veda.

The Purohita (domestic priest) was the foremost among officials. The sole associate of the king as his preceptor, friend, philosopher and guide; he accompanied the king to he battlefield and gave him support by prayers and spells. There were also the Senani, the leader of the army and Gramani, the head of the village in civil as well as military matters.

The army comprised foot-soldiers and charioteers. Weapons were made of wood, stone, bone and metal. Bow and arrow was the usual weapon. Arrows were tipped with points of metal or poisoned horn. Lances, spears, daggers, axes, swords and slings were weapons of offence. Leather-guard, coat-of-mail and helmet were defensive weapons. References are made to the “moving fort” and a machine for assaulting strongholds.

As checks on the king’s arbitrary exercise of power, there functioned two popular assemblies, Sabha and Samiti, which expressed the will of the people on important matters. To administer justice and punish the guilty were among the principal duties of the king, the Purohita assisting him in the discharge of the former. From the time of the later Samhitas, the Sabha too functioned as a court of justice. Full individual ownership of movables, cattle, horses, gold, weapons and slaves was recognized. Though land was owned by families and proprietorship vested in the father as the head of the family it isa a moot point whether sone had any share in the ownership. 

They were deeply impressed by the great phenomena of nature which they conceived as alive and usually represented in anthropomorphic form. They believed in a complex and varied host of gods who were 33 in number. According to much later tradition, they were classified under terrestrial, atmospheric, and celestial groups. Agni, Indra, and Varuna were the respective chief deities. The chief deities in early days grew out of personification of natural phenomena, such as the sky (dyuh), earth (prthivi), sky god (Varuna), god of thunderstorm (Indra), morning and evening stars (Asvins), and goddess of dawn (Usas). With them came the domestic deities including the fire god (Agni) in his three forms (sun in heaven, lightning in atmosphere, and domestic fire on earth). and som a (drought of immortality, sometimes identified with the moon). Later on, abstract deities like Dhatr (Establisher), Vidhatr (Ordainer), Prajapati (Lord of creatures), Sraddha (Faith) and Manyu (Wrath) made their appearance. Sometimes gods were conceived as animals, but there is no trace of animal worship. The Vedic Aryans, thus, worshipped a host of gods; but each in turn was worshipped as the highest god.

The Rig-Veda offers no consistent theory regarding, life after death. The dead were either buried or cremated, and according to some passages, dwelt in The Realm Of Yama, The King Of The Dead. There was a remarkable development in the domain of religion and philosophy.  The simple ceremonial of worship gave place to elaborate sacrifices, a complicated procedure requiring the services of as many as seventeen priests. Some old deities like Varuna and Prthivi passed into insignificance while new ones like Rudra and Visnu rose to eminence. In the later Samhitas and Brahmanas sacrifice dominates the scene. The doctrines of Karma, Maya, transmigration, identify of individual soul with the Universal Soul, and Mukti, which are the foundations of the different systems elaborated by later writers and are accepted as the main tenets of Hindusim, find their first expression in the Upanisads.

The necessity of a trained class of persons who could perform accurately the elaborate and complicated ceremonial of the yajnas, led to the growth of a distinct body of learned men who came to be known as Brahmanas and gradually, with increase in number, formed a distinct class in society, highly respected on account of their association with religious duties. 
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