Caste system was still prevalent but was becoming less rigid due to onslaughts and criticisms by the followers of Jain religion. This period also saw a bitter conflict between Brahmans and Kshatriyas. The two great religious reformers, Gautam Buddha and Mahavira, were Kshatriyas. The Buddhism and Jainism was a sort of revolt against the prevailing religion and the social system. Both these religions fought for the rights of the Shudras as well. The Shudras had been the most neglected people so far.
(Last Updated on : 18/04/2014)
Marriage: Marriages were usually arranged by parents. But there is also mention of Gandharva marriage. The system of swayambara was also prevalent. Most of the marriages took place inside the caste but there were also a few references of inter-caste marriages as well. 'Divyarudan' mentions the marriage of a Brahmana girl with a Shudra man. Usually parties of marriage were adults. The gift of village Kasi by the king of Kosala to the king of Magadha in marriage indicates that dowry system was also prevalent.
Condition of woman: Though there are references of general educated women, yet as a whole the position and the status of woman had declined very much. Women were not permitted to appear before men in society. Once lord Buddha refused to admit women in the sangha in the beginning. According to Buddhist texts, there were also prostitutes in the society. This shows that women were considered as a means of pleasure and luxuries for men.
Education: Varanasi and Taxila were the great centres of learning and education. Students were disciplined and lived in the hostels. Mostly Brahmanas and Kshartiyas received education in the educational institutions. Vedas, medical science, politics, veterinary science etc. were usually the subjects taught to the students.
Cities and villages: Most of the people lived a very simple life in the village. However this period also saw the growth of the important cities such as Vaishali, Kapilvastu. Taxila, Shravasti, Saket etc. Villages were self-reliant and also Self-sufficient for their needs. Cities were the centers of culture, trade and commerce as well.
General life of the people: Generally, people lived a simple and satisfied life. Parents were respected in the family. People usually used cotton clothes though woolen and silken clothes were also used. Both men and women were fond of ornaments. Wheat, barley, ghee, honey, meat, fruits, etc. were the common items in the diet of the people. Horseracing, archery, wrestling, chariot race etc. were the means of amusement. Though Jainism and Buddhism laid stress upon the sadder aspects of life, yet people as a whole were optimistic and passed their time in different amusements. In the words of Dr. R. K. Mookerjee, "In spite of the pessimistic view on life in the religious literature, causing a strong tendency towards asceticism, common people has a liking for the enjoyment of the good things in life."