MEDIEVEL – 13
HISTORY ANCIENT & MEDIEVEL – 13
In general it may be said that the power and prestige of the priestly caste (Brahmanas) was on the increase though their claims to supermacy were successfully contested by the Ksatriyas. In consequence, the two castes enjoyed special privileges denied to the Vaisyas and Sudras. Different modes of address were prescribed for the four castes. The rise of numerous arts and crafts as a result of cultural advance resulted in the creation of sub castes based on occupation. Several intermediate castes were also evolved. Change of caste, though very unusual was not as yet impossible. The higher castes could intermarry with the lower ones, but marriage with Sudras was not approved. The idea of pollution by touch finds expression. Sudras were denied the right to perform sacrifices. There were still no prohibitions against inter-dining and the caste system had not acquired the rigidity it did in the period of the Sutras.
The earliest clear reference to the four Asramas of the student, householder, forest hermit, and necluse, is found in the jabala Upanisad. The Chandogya Upanisad clearly refers to the first three Asramas. The previous style of dress continued, clothes were also made of silk and were dyed with saffron. The tendency against the eating of meat was gradually gaining ground under the influence of the theory of Karma and transmigration. There was deterioration in the position of women. A daughter came to the regarded as ” a source of misery”. Women could not attend the Sabha, they were excluded from inheritance and, along with Sudras, could not own property; whatever was earned by women became the property of their husbands or sons.
Progress in agriculture and pastoral pursuits was steady and continuous. The plough became large and heavy having a sharp point and a smooth handle and sometimes required as many as 24 oxen to draw it. Manure was known. Different varieties Of Rice, Barley, Beans, Sesame And Wheat Were Grown. Fruit trees were cultivated. Two crops were harvested in a year. Among dangers to crops are mentioned drought, excessive rains and pests. Industrial life witnessed remarkable development and a variety of new occupations 0 those of fisherman, hunters, fire-ranges, charioteers, washermen, dyers, door-keepers and footmen, among others – came into existence. Specialization had gone very far, distinction for instance was made between the chariot-maker and the carpenter, the tanner and the hide-dresser and the maker of bows and the maker of arrow. Women worked as dyers, embroiderers and basket-makes.
There was advance in the knowledge of metals. In addition to gold and ayas (variously translated as copper or iron) found in the Rg-Veda, there is mention of tin, lead, silver and iron. Niska, Satamana, and Krsnala were used as convenient units of value. Niska was probably a lump of gold of a definite weight, while Krsnala weighed one ratti. It is however, doubtful, if these represented coins. Kingship became the normal form of government. There were also speculations about the origin of kingship. It is stated that having been continuously defeated by the demons, the gods elected Indra as king and were victorious in the end. The growth of king’s power, arising out of the increase in the size of the states and the replacement of old nobility by official hierarchy was further augmented by the widespread acceptance of the divinity of the king. The king claimed to be the absolute master of all subjects except the Brahmanas. The commoners (Vaisyas) could be oppressed at will and the Sudras were liable to he expelled and slain at will. Samhitas refer to the Ratnins (members of the council of advisers) consisting partly of the king’s relations, partly of his courtiers and partly of heads of main departments of administration who assisted the king. There are references to the priest (Purohita), commander-in-chief (Senani), Charioteer (Suta), treasurer (Samgrahitr) and tax-collector, (Bhagadugha) and others who were heads of department. There were also the members of the royal court who included the crowned queen (Mahisi), chamberlain (Ksattr) and the game companion (Aksavapa). The village headman (Gramaji) was in charge of the village. To the earliest list, the Brahmana texts and among others the governor or chief judge (Sthapati) the huntsman, the courier, the minister (Saciva, Amatyal) ect.
The king always sought the good grace of the assemblies and losing their favour or support spelt dire disaster for the king. It is, however, surprising to find that the Samiti, which gradually began to disappear from the time of the later Samhitas, completely faded out in the later Vedic age. Samiti in the Upanisads denotes only a learned body, sometimes presided over by a king. Sabha, instead of being a popular village assembly, continued as the king’s court, or privy council, or a judicial assembly.