Early Vedic Polity

The chief social unit of the Aryans was known as jana. The chief of this unit was the political leader called rajan. The main function of the chief was to protect the jana and cattle from the enemies. He was helped in his task by the tribal assemblies called sabha, samiti, vidatha, gana and parishad.

Out of these sabha and samiti were the most important assemblies. All aspects of life were discussed in these assemblies. These may include wars, distribution of the spoils of wars, judicial and religious activities, etc. Thus, these assemblies in a way limited the powers of the chiefs. Interestingly, women were also allowed to participate in the deliberations of the sabha and samiti.

The post of the chief was not hereditary. The tribe generally elected him. Though the succession in one family was known but that was not based on the rule of primogeniture (the eldest son acquiring the position).

The purohita assisted and advised the chief on various matters. Other than the purohita, there were a limited number of other officials who assisted the chief in the day-to-day tribal affairs. Senani, kulapa, gramani, etc. are some of the functionaries which find mention in the Rigveda.

The sena or army was not a permanent fighting group and consisted of able bodied tribesmen who were mobilized at the time of the wars. Takshan, the carpenter and rathakara, the chariot maker were responsible for making chariots.

There is no official mentioned as a collector of taxes. The people offered to the chief what is called bali. It was just a voluntary contribution made by the ordinary tribesmen on special occasions. All this shows that the early Vedic polity was an uncomplicated system based on the support and active participation of all the tribesmen. This situation, however, changed during the later Vedic phase.