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Ancient History / Vedic Civilization

Political Life of Vedic Period

There were drastic changes in the political system in the Vedic period from early days to the later days. The Vedic society slowly got transformed from tribal polity to Monarchy. So, the political life of early Vedic period and the later Vedic period must be studied separately.

Political Life of Early Vedic Period

  • The early Vedic period political life was tribal and was very much democratic in nature. Head of the tribe was elected by the people and he was being called Rajan.

  • Four tribal assemblies were present to control the Rajan. These were called Sabha, Samiti, Vidhata and Gana in Vedic period. Hence, the ruler was not autocratic.

  • Duties of Rajan were to protect Jana (people in the tribe) and to protect Pashu (cattle). There used to be threats from rival tribes. There was no concept of protecting territory.

  • Officers, who used to assist Rajan were Purohita (Priest), Senapati (Commander of Army), Vrajapati (In-charge of pastures), Spasa (Spy to get secrets of rival tribes) and Gramani (Head of a village).

  • Sources of income to Rajan were Booty (spoils of the war or wealth looted in the war) and Bali, which is nothing but payments made to the Rajan voluntarily or voluntary donations to Rajan. It is not periodic and it is also not stipulated.

  • There were frequent wars in Early Vedic or Rig Vedic period. They were not fought for territories but for cows. Rig Vedic literature term for war is Gavishti (search or fight for cows).

    The important war in Rig Vedic period is Dasarajna war. The meaning of Dasarajna war is "battle of ten kings". This was fought on the banks of River Parushni (Ravi). In this war, ten kings were defeated by Bharata tribe.

Political Life of Later Vedic Period

  • The political system of later Vedic period got transformed towards the Monarchical system. Formation of Janapadas (territories with fixed boundaries) took place during this period.

    Instead of tribal identities, territorial identities came into existence. The position of king became hereditary. Sabha, Samiti, Vidhata and Gana ceased to be existent.

  • Rajans in the political life of early Vedic period became Samrats, who now had to protect the territory and conquer the territories of others. A number of ministers known as "Ratnins", were also appointed to assist the king.

  • Taxation system got initiated for the first time in the political life of Vedic period. First tax introduced in India was "Bhaga". It is stipulated and periodic. Tax collecting officer was called "Bhagadugha". Post of treasurer (to organize the wealth) was also introduced in the Vedic economy and he was called "Sangrahitri".