In Rig Vedic societies, the family was mainly patriarchal in nature. The eldest member of the family was considered as the head. The families were generally joint families and were large. They consisted of many members like the grand-parents, parents, brothers, brothers' wives, children and sisters. The parents had great authority over the children. The Rig Vedic families were basically patrilineal. Adoption of sons was welcomed. Female child had no right to perform funeral rite of the father. The wife participated in the religious ceremonies with her husband. Marriage was a sacrament and indissoluble. Girls had their parents as their guardians and after the death of the father the brothers usually take their responsibility. Women in the Rig Vedic societies had the liberty of free participation in festivals. Girls were usually married after attaining the age of puberty. But child marriage was not unknown. Free choice on the part of both the bride and bridegroom was permitted. Widow re-marriage was permitted. In the Rig Vedic society, standard of female morality was generally of a high order.
Caste System in Rig Vedic Civilisation
There is a controversy among scholars about the extent of caste system during the Rig Vedic civilisation. According to orthodox view, caste system existed even in the Rig Vedic period. The Purusha Sukta of Rig-Veda gave birth of the four castes. But many eminent scholars rejected the theory that caste system existed in the Rig Vedic societies. They hold that the Purusha Sukta is a late hymn and they are of the opinion that in the societies of Rig Vedic civilisation, caste system was never very rigid and it was not probably hereditary too.
From the Purusha sukta of the Rig-Veda it is known that the gods divided the Purusha that is the primeval creator into four parts to form four classes of society. The Brahmana was identical with his mouth, the Rajanya with his arms, the Vaishya with his thighs and the Sudra with his feet. It would thus appear that towards the very end of the Rig Vedic period the distinction between the four classes had just begun to take shape. The two classes namely the Brahmana and Rajanyas (later Kshatriya) occupied higher position than the rest. The Aryan, people at large were called The Brahmana and Kshatriya too did not probably form regular or distinct classes in the beginning. But there was a real distinction between the Aryans and the aborigines who had submitted to them. Most of them served as servants or followed low arts and crafts. They were collectively known as Dasa or Sudra.
In the societies of Rig Vedic age, caste system was mainly occupational. Several instances show that even priesthood was not hereditary in this period. During the Rig Vedic age there was no prohibition on inter-dining and inter-marriage among different castes. Though there was no clear cut caste division in the Rig Vedic age, class division according to colour of skin was predominant as well.
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