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Updated on September 6, 2010


Aryan tribes were patriarchal in nature with the tribal chief as the leader. Owing to the constant need for protection, tribes elected the most capable as their chief. Early monarchs failed to develop largely on account of the restraining influence of the two tribal assemblies called SABHA and SAMITI. Later however this gave way to the emergence of monarchies.

Vedic kings however were basically military leaders who were entrusted with the task of defending his tribe. In these early tribal kingdoms no regular taxes were imposed nor did the king have any right over land. He was however entitled to a portion of the booty of cattle raids or battle which happened quite often.

Religious duties were carried out by priests and the king played a very insignificant role. There were however special sacrifices which were conducted to bestow divinity on kings and which ensured his success and legitimacy to rule. VASISHTA and VISHWAMITRA were two very famous sages who were also friend, philosopher and guide of kings during the Vedic age.

Ancient Aryan settlements were tribal in nature and the nucleus of the tribal society was the family or KULA with the eldest male member who was called the KULAPATI or GRIHAPATI being the head of the family.  The administration of the Vedic period was a simple set up consisting of the king, a general assembly of people called SAMITI and a group of elders called SABHA.

The administrative system consisted of                                                                                                                                                                 a. the tribal kingdom which was called RASHTRA.

                b. tribes which were called JANA

                c. each tribal unit was described as VISH.

                d. villages which were called GRAMA

The king who was the central figure in the administrative system was assisted by

a.       The chief priest or PUROHIT and

b.      Army commander who was called SENANI.

Other figures of the administrative machinery were:

a.       The Treasurer

b.      Steward

c.       Spies and messengers

d.      Charioteer

e.      Superintendent of dicing.

The last mentioned official reveals the prevalence of gambling both amongst nobility and commoners and the epic MAHABHARATA highlights how widespread it was in those times.

There was no systematic legal institution and custom was the law. Justice was based on the concept of DHARMA andaAdjudication of disputes was done by the King and chief priest with the occasional advice of elders in select cases. Capital punishment did not exist but trial ordeal was a common practice.

vedic india
vedic india


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