women participated. It also functioned as a centre for settling disputes. There
is also evidence to suggest that it undertook the task of redistribution.
Further, this assembly also provided a place for performing sacrifices, the
people who assembled often feasting together and dancing on the occasion.
The vidata was probably the parent folk-assembly from which the sabha
and samiti differentiated. The sabha is called narishta which meant a
‘resolution of many’ that cannot be broken. It performed the executive
functions. The samiti seems to be the general assembly of the whole people.
The most important function of the samiti was the election of the king.
In the later Vedic period they lost their importance due to the rise of royal
power. The vidata and gana completely disappeared. The sabha and samiti,
though present, came to be dominated by the nobles and Brahmins. Their
place was gradually taken by the mantriparishad and official machinery.
The purohita (priest), senani (commander), vrajapati (in charge of pasture
lands), spasa (spy), jivagribha (police official), madhyamasi (mediator in
disputes), gramani (head of the village), dampati or leulapa (head of family),
and others were the main officials. In the Rig Vedic period, there was no
official connected with the collection of taxes and hence no regular taxation
was possible. Only voluntary offerings, viz. bali, from the people and also
spoils of war formed the occasional income of the chief.
In the later Vedic period, the government became more complex because
of the necessity of appointing a large number of new officers. We know this
from the ratnahavimsi ceremony of the rajasuya coronation. In addition to
the above officials, some more officials came into existence due to economic
changes. Two of them were bhagadugha (collector of taxes) and sangrahitri
(treasurer). Thus, collection of taxes and tributes became common. Other
officials of this period were mahishi (chief queen), suta (court minstrel or
chronicler; who also served as a charioteer originally), kshata (chamberlain,
in charge of the royal household), akshavapa (originally dice-thrower; later
accountant), govikartana (keeper of games and forests), takshan (carpenter),
rathakara (chariot maker), and palagala (messenger).
In the ratnahavimsi ceremony, each of the above officials, known in this