by the evidence from those sites where
Rigvedic Pastoralism The pastoralism of the Rig Vedic society made
livestock breeding, and more specially, cattle herding the major activity.
Pastoralism is dependent on assured grazing grounds and the ability to
accumulate and increase the herd, this being the primary source of wealth. Its
political implications demanded that grazing grounds be demarcated and a
constant watch kept to exclude trespassers. The accumulation of cattle,
gavisthi, comes through breeding as well as capturing other herds. Cattle
raids are therefore, a form of acquiring fresh stock and the same word is used
for such raids. Inevitably, the worst enemies are the Panis, given to cattle
lifting. Cattle-raiding is often accompanied by the capture of herders, who are
often enslaved. Leadership in this situation requires the ability to protect not
only the herd, but also one’s clan, and to defend the claim to ownership of
cattle and control over the grazing ground or vraja. Hence, the synonyms of
gopa, gopati and janasya gopati for the raja are going to be replaced by the
later terms nripati and naresvara. Thus, the lord of the herd eventually, gave
way to the lord of men. The raja or chief was the successful leader of a raid
and by extension, of a battle. The booty thus acquired was distributed among
the clan, but the distribution was already unequal. Some of it was retained by
the raja, but a substantial amount was also claimed by priestly families on the
grounds that their rituals ensured success in battle and they were the
bestowers of praise and therefore, of immortality on the hero.
Shift towards Agrarian Economy The reciprocal relationship between
chief and priest undergoes its first change in the later Vedic period, as
reflected in the other Vedic texts. Pastoralism, even in the earlier period did
not exclude agriculture, but the balance between the two gradually shifted in
favour of agriculture. Plough agriculture is referred to in the Rig Veda,
generally in the later mandalas, but curiously, some of the major agricultural
implements carry names which are linguistically non-Aryan, such as langala.
That there were sedentary agriculturalists in this region prior to the Vedic
period is evident from archaeology. The Asuras for example, are said to have
had a correct knowledge of the seasons for agricultural activities. The close
proximity of herders to agriculturalists may well have led to a symbiotic
relationship of mutual dependence. Thus, herders might graze their animals
on the stubble of fields or be provided with fodder in return for protection.
Such agriculturalists would then