cannot mean Vaishya in almost all hymns of the Rig Veda, but means the
‘people’ who followed animal breeding.
     Significant changes took place in the varna system during the later Vedic
period. There was an increase in the privileges of the two higher classes
(Brahmins and Kshatriyas) at the cost of the two lower classes (Vaishyas and
Sudras). The system of four varnas had taken such deep roots that it extended
even to the gods: Agni and Brihaspati being the Brahmins among gods; Indra,
Varuna, Soma and Yama being the Kshatriyas; Vasus, Rudra and Maruts
being the Vaishyas and Pushan being the Sudra.
     In the later Vedic society, a Brahmin occupied higher position than a
Kshatriya. But sometimes Kshatriyas claimed a higher status and also paid
scant respect to Brahmins. The Aitareya Brahmana points out that the nation
does not take kindly to a Brahmin. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, there
is a passage where we are told that there is none higher than the Kshatriya. It
is clear from the Upanishadic literature that some of the kings of the age were
not only the patrons of philosophers but were themselves well versed in the
profound philosophical speculations of their times. Even the Brahmins came
to them as pupils to satisfy their intellectual thirst. For example, Yajnavalkya
learnt from Janaka, Balaki Gargya from Ajatasatru (King of Kasi), and
Svetaketu Aruneya from Pravahana Jaivali. Some scholars are of the opinion
that the deep thought of the Upanishads did not proceed from the
Brahmanical but the Kshatriya circles.
     Several functional groups appeared as distinct castes and the social status
of some of them, such as tanners, hide-cleaners, and the like, declined. The
professions and crafts which became separate castes were vapta (barber),
tashta (carpenter), bhishaka (medicine man), karmara (ironsmitii),
charmamna (tanner), rathakara (maker of chariots), kulala (potter), ishukrit
(maker of arrows), dhanvakrit (maker of bows), mrigaya (hunter), and others.
     Two groups of people, viz. the Vratyas and the Nishadas, existed outside
the varna system. The former were Aryans but outside the pale of
Brahmanism (or more specifically the Vedic religion) and hence did not
practice brahmanical rules. The latter were non-Aryans and had their own
rules.
                   ASRAMAS