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The Rigveda$
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Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190633363

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190633363.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 05 March 2021

Social and Political Context

Social and Political Context

(p.31) 5 Social and Political Context
The Rigveda

Joel P. Brereton

Stephanie W. Jamison

Oxford University Press

`This chapter describes the way of life of the peoples depicted in the Ṛgveda: mobile pastoralists organized into small family-based groups, which could unite against a common enemy or for a common project, but otherwise existed in relative independence, though they all belonged, and were aware that they belonged, to the larger culturally defined group of Indo-Aryans called Ārya. There is some evidence for social stratification, which in the late R̥gveda acquires the shape of the later four-varṇa system, but there is nothing like the strict caste system of later India. The groups were led by kings (rā́jan-), but what kingship meant is hard to determine. The roles of warrior and priest are crucially important in the Ṛgvedic hymns, but it is not clear whether these were exclusive roles. Due to the nature of our evidence, it is difficult to discern much about the life of non-elite males or of women.

Keywords:   Ārya, Dasyu, Dāsa, clan, tribe, varṇa, Five Peoples, rājan, king, Puruṣa sūkta

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