The Rigveda has many prayers for cattle, horses and children (especially sons). This shows that cattle and horses were valuable for the people of that period. This also shows the importance of a male child. Cattle were used for farming operations and for transportation. Horses were used for pulling chariots. Horse-riding was also one of the many ways of traveling long distances. Horses and chariots were also used during battles. Battles were fought for land, cattle and for water. Barley could ripen quickly and could survive tough conditions. Hence, barley was a preferred crop.
Wealth obtained from conquering a battle was distributed among all sections of the society. Some of this wealth was also used for performing rituals (yajnas).
Yajna was an elaborate ritual. Sacrifices were made during yajnas. Ghee and grains were offered to the fire. Animal sacrifice was also performed.
Most of the male members were expected to take part in the battle. There was no practice of maintaining a regular army. The army was made up of people from different occupations. A person was chosen from them to lead the army.
In the Rigveda; two groups of people are described in terms of their work. The priests were the people who performed rituals. They were also known as Brahmins. The ruler was called the raja. Rajas of that period were not like the rajas of later periods. They did not have a capital city, nor did they have a palace and they did not collect taxes. Moreover, it was not necessary that a son of a raja automatically become a raja after his father.
Priests: People who performed rituals were called the Brahmins (priests). The Brahmins held important position in the society.
Raja: The ruler was called the raja. The kings of that period were not like the kings of later periods. They did not have a capital city. They did not have a palace. They did not collect taxes. It was not mandatory that a son of a raja would become a raja after his father.
Jana: The common people were called the jana or vish. The word ‘jana’ is still used as synonymn for ‘people’ in Hindi. The term ‘vaishya’ has originated from ‘vish’. The Rigveda mentions many jana or vish, e.g. the Puru Jana, the Bharatha Jana and the Yadu Jana.
Aryans: People who composed the hymns called themselves as aryas. They termed their opponents as dasas or dasyus. Dasas spoke a different language and did not perform yajnas. In due course of time; the term ‘dasa’ or ‘dasi’ was being used for slaves. Prisoners of war had to serve as slaves for the rest of their life.
The Aryans were nomadic people who lived in Central Asia. They came to India around 1500 BC. Initially, they settled around the region of Punjab. The original inhabitants; who lived at that time in India; were called Dravidians. In due course of time, the Aryans spread to other parts of the country; like western Uttar Pradesh and further towards east. The Dravidians were forced to move to the south of the Vindhyas.
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