May 31, 2023
An Indian Village

An Indian Village

The Aryans slowly settled into an agrarian life. They brought with them their concepts of varna. The village slowly evolved as the way of life in India.

The Rig Veda, a collection of ancient Indian hymns, offers insights into the development of the Aryans, a nomadic people who migrated to the Indian subcontinent around 1500 BCE. In the early stages of their settlement, the Aryans were a pastoral society with their economy centred on cattle. Wealth was measured in herds, and their mobility depended on the availability of pasture. However, with their relocation to the fertile plains of India, where the land was watered by large rivers, the Aryans began to shift towards an agricultural economy. The Rig Veda mentions the cultivation of land, ploughing by teams of six, sowing, reaping, threshing, and well irrigation. The development of agriculture necessitated the emergence of different occupations such as metal workers for the making of ploughs and other tools, tanners, carpenters, weavers, and other craftsmen. Although the Vedic literature does not explicitly mention a money economy, the existence of merchants and the pricing of goods in cattle heads indicate the emergence of some form of trade and commerce.

As the Aryans transformed into an agricultural society, the village became a prominent social unit. It is not clear if the village organization was an Aryan system or if they adopted it from the existing organization of earlier peoples. However, the village has remained a fundamental unit of Indian life and the foundation on which every empire in India has been built. Even the British, during their rule, used it as the basis for their revenue system.

The Aryans also introduced the ideas of racialism and colorism to India, with their belief in their fair complexion as superior to the darker skin of the indigenous people. They believed that their power, which enabled them to conquer the indigenous population, was derived from their mystical rites and magical practices, revealed to them through the Vedas. This sense of color and the sharing of sacred knowledge led to the perpetuation of distinctions between the Aryans and non-Aryans, as well as between the twice-born and once-born. The twice-born, known as dvijas, were people who received sacred knowledge through certain rituals and were entitled to participate in Aryan worship. This was the beginning of the caste system, whose theory as Chaturvamya was later elaborated by the Dharma Sastra writers.

However, the color distinction and the relegation of dark-skinned people to an inferior position were never wholly effective. Evidence of racial mixing and acceptance of dark-skinned people among the Aryans, including among their sages, indicates that this distinction was not always upheld. The mixing of races and the intermarriage between kings and priests with the local population suggest that before the caste system took shape, significant intermixture of blood had already taken place. While racialism remained a part of Aryan doctrine, the initiation into the secrets and mysteries of Vedic Mantras became the test of the dvijas and non-dvijas, and the conception of Aryanhood became a matter of status and culture rather than color.

The early Vedic period is not clearly defined in time, and it is believed that centuries elapsed between the composition of the earliest hymns and the completion of the Samhita of the Rig Veda. Nonetheless, the Rig Veda is of unique significance as a literary document of the Indo-Aryan people, and it offers insights into the gradual evolution of their ideas and civilization. While the Aryans were not the harbingers of cultured life in India, their contribution to the development of Indian civilization is fundamental.

%d bloggers like this: