Society and EconomyThe Early Vedic was the period of transition from nomadic pastoralism to settled village communities intermixing pastoral and agrarian economies. Cattle were initially the dominant commodity, as indicated by the use of the word gotra (“cowpen”) to signify the endogamous kinship group and gavisti (“searching for cows”) to denote war.
A patriarchal extended family structure gave rise to the practice of niyoga (“levirate”), which permitted a widow to marry her husband's brother. A community of families constituted a grama.
The concept of varna and the rules of marriage were rigid as is evident from Vedic verses. The status of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas was higher than Dasyus and Vaisyas. The Brahmins propagated specialization of an extreme order. Functioning as an intellectual bureaucracy, they also restricted social mobility, as in fields of science, war, literature, religion and the environment.
The proper enunciation of verses was considered essential for prosperity and success in war and harvests. Kshatriyas amassed wealth, and commissioned the performance of sacrifices. Kshatriyas administered the state, maintained society and the economy of a tribe. They also functioned to maintain law and order. They presided over an assembled court of intellectuals and warriors. They distributed the finances of their treasuries, with respect to acts and deeds. They also maintained budgets of the tribe with the assistance of ministers.
Agriculture grew more prominent with time as the community settled down. Economy was based on bartering with cattle and other valuables.
Families were patrilineal, and people prayed for abundance of sons. Punishment was exacted according to a principle resembling the wergild (“man payment”) of ancient Germanic law, whereby the social rank of a wronged or slain man determined the compensation due him or his survivors.