(Last Updated on : 17/11/2011)
The state in the Vedic period was small. It was not more extensive than a modern district. Most of the states were tribal in origin. In most cases it was also tribal in origin. Its residents were considered to be the descendants of traditional ancestors like Yadu, puru or Turvasu. The governing class comprised of the patriarchs of different families. In the Aryan society kingship evolved from the institution of the joint family and it was hereditary.
In Rig-Veda king is not associated with any divinity. The king is also not seen performing any public sacrifices for the state. It seems that the Vedic King was the hereditary head of a council of vitpatis and originally he owed his position to his qualities as a military leader. King is described as the protector of the people. Adjudication is not considered as his function. The sabha and the samiti were more concerned with the settlement of disputes. The principle of self-help had a great scope in civil and criminal cases. Women also attended the sabha in Rig Vedic times.
The main source of income was the income of the crown-lands and gifts from the people, which were voluntary. During war, the king used to get a large share of the booty as also of the land that was conquered from the enemy. Very few government officers have been mentioned: senani or general, gramani or the village headman and purohita or the royal priest. Senani was the deputy commander of the military forces. Purohita was mainly concerned with the sacrifices to be offered to gods. He would accompany the king in the battlefield to help the army with the help of mystic powers. The king was originally a president of the council of peers or elders. He had as such no extensive powers. Sabha and samiti were two popular bodies that exercised considerable control over the king.
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