A Living Portrait of India
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|Democracy In Vedic Society|
In a nomadic society, the State is not a territorial entity, but a flexible one - lacking a physical status but ultimately very cohesive. Shifting settlements meant a shifting State. Kings, for instance, ruled over tribes, and Vedic literature of the period refers to rulers of individual tribes such as the Kurus, the Pañcälas, the Yadus, and the Turvasas. Nowhere are these rulers described as regional monarchs nor their kingdoms defined in terms other than tribal.
With the previously nomadic State metamorphosing into a clearly bounded, physical entity, the agricultural communities too became a reality.
The political structure was, naturally enough, a Monarchy - republics or oligarchies were rare. The Vedas offer an appropriate origin for this form of government: the continuously vanquished Devas concluded that only the presence of a suitable leader could assure them of victory against the Asuras. Lord Indra was thus annointed King of the Devas and he led the exultant gods to victory. The choice was based on Lord Indra's military might and on a subsequent occasion, this stood challenged and defeated by Lord Varuna who proved himself mightier than the mighty!
Clearly, the need for a stable, established kingship was neccessitated by the fact of war against the non-Aryans, and became an important concept in Aryan/Vedic society. War notwithstanding, the roots of kingship are clearly traceable to the patriarchal social system already in existence among the Vedic peoples. Within the family structure (kul), these individuals were accustomed to the presence of, and deference to, a family head, the kulapati (or patriarch). Several kulas comprised a vis, dominated by a vispati; several visas combined into a jana, ruled by a janapati. These gradations were not unlike the gens, curiae and tribes of the ancient Romans.