The Vedic literature refers to the assemblies by three different names: vidatha, sabha and samiti. Vidatha seems to be derived from the root vid. It indicates a religious or sacrificial gathering. It was apparently a big assembly that represented the entire tribe. Women took an active part in the assemblies of the Vedic time. In some cases kings have been represented as attending Vidatha.
Sabha was not the meeting place of the samiti rather it was a separate body. The sabha was primarily the village social club. However the few simple things were transacted there by its members when it was necessary to dispose of them. The member of a sabha is associated with the sacred law in the Purusliamedha sacrifice. In some states sabha was associated with the king and was more a political gathering.
Samiti usually referred to a political assembly at the central government. It was a powerful body that exercised sovereign powers. At times the fate of a king depended upon his ability to carry the samiti along with him. The king's life would be miserable if the samiti assumed in obstructive attitude. The supporters of a king felt that their work was likely to be enduring only if his samiti was prepared to co-operate with him. The samiti exercised a substantial control over the military and executive affairs of the Central Government.
The Central Assemblies that were a part of the republican states were aristocratic bodies. The samitis consisted of the heads of the few military and aristocratic families which occupied a prominent position in the political and social life of the community. Priests also were a part of the samiti. The samiti members were men of substance and exercised sizable influence over the administration. They had probably a high status in the society. It is a probability that they had gone into the meetings in full grandeur. Debates and discussions were conducted openly in the Assembly proceedings.
If one could capture the mind and sway the feelings of its members then he has a commanding position in the samiti. The proceedings became enlivened and bitter when there were parties in the samiti. However in the later Samhitas and the Brahmanas the samiti did not exercise that much influence over the king and the administration as in the Vedic Age.
(Last Updated on : 21-11-2011)