wealth, and in the absence of a strong food-producing economy they could
not create such priests and warriors as would live primarily and permanently
on the surplus provided by others. Though inequalities were present, there
were still no deep-seated social classes based on the institutionalised unequal
distribution of surplus, resources and means of production.
    Even in the later Vedic period agriculture was not developed enough to
enable the peasants to produce much more than their own needs. Towards the
end of Vedic times, however, with more agriculture and the mixing of the
Aryans and pre-Aryans, there appeared seventeen kinds of priests to take care
of different rituals in public sacrifices, the Brahmin being only one of them.
Gradually he superseded all the other types and became the sole
representative of the priestly order. Yet social differentiation could not be
sharpened in later Vedic period. For, on account of their primitive agriculture,
peasants could not produce much for consumption and accumulation by non-
    But in the age of the Buddha, with the beginning of the large-scale use of
iron tools for crafts and cultivation, conditions were created for the
transformation of the tribal, pastoral, almost egalitarian Vedic society into a
full-fledged agricultural and class divided social order. Once the forested
areas of the middle Ganga basin were cleared with the help of the iron axe,
one of the most fertile areas of the world was opened to settlement and
agriculture. Peasants produced a good deal more than what they could
consume. Agricultural production was supplemented by craft production
which not only provided the peasants with tools, and clothing, but also
supplied weapons and luxury articles to the rulers and the priests. Members
of the three higher varnas were distinguished ritually from those of the fourth
varna, who were meant to serve the higher orders as slaves and hired
labourers. Thus, the three higher varnas who were ‘the twice-born’ can be
called citizens and the Sudras non–citizens.
    There also grew distinctions between citizen and citizen. Within the dvija,
the first two higher varnas developed contempt for manual work. The
Vaishyas, though members of the dvija group, worked as peasants, herdsmen
and artisans, and later as traders. More importantly they were the principal
tax-payers on whose taxes and tributes lived the Kshatriyas and Brahmins.
    Since both Brahmins and