In every sense of the term, Vedic culture was regarded as the cradle of Indian civilization that boasts her so proudly before the world- Way back in ancient times, the whole of Aryavarta resounded with static rhythms of Vedic culture.
The contents of the Vedas have attracted the admiration of the historians and researchers of India and foreign countries. The Vedic culture was enriched by the original tastes and achievements of Aryans and every facet of this culture drew the attention of the world to it. Really, the sun of Indian civilization rose towards meridian from the horizon with the beginning of the Vedic culture.
The social life of the Aryans in the Rig Vedic age was as simple as it was sacred. It reflected the basic realities of a village life style. The members of the family were bound by strong family bond of love and affection and led an ideal life. The society was a true moral order. Their simple life-style is reflected in their food, dress, dwelling houses, and recreational activities.
Family was the nucleus of the social life of Vedic Aryans. The Aryans wandering in search of habitat and green pastures finally settled down to the houses they built. The family was patriarchal, the father or the eldest male member being the head of the family. He was known as Kulapa', 'Kulapati' or 'Grihapati'. He looked after all such affairs of the family as sustenance, education of children, peace and discipline, marriage of girls of the family, sale and purchase of wealth and solution of different problems. He was the emblem of kindness, compassion and magnanimity.
Yet, at times he was becoming cruel, as well. The Rigveda give the instance of a loser at the dice-stakes being abandoned by the head of his family to the winner. Another speaks of a father making his extravagent son blind as a mark of punishment. Joint family setup was the conspicuous feature of the Vedic culture. The head of the family and his wife jointly discharged all suspicious duties of the family-
The Aryans built houses made of clay, bamboo and wood- .Each house was covered with a thatched roof. Each house had a kitchen, meant for rituals, worship and cooking. A drawing room, dressing room for ladies and room for the head of the family were built into every house. Each family had its own house. Each village housed ninny families. The Vedic culture was the epitome, of ancient rural culture.
Food and Drink:
The Aryans had simple food-habits. They lived on cakes made of wheat and maize. Various fruits, milk and milk products like curd, cheese and ghee were their main food. They also ate the meat those calf, goat and lamb which were sacrificed at the Hanja was strictly exempted from slaughter. They drank water from river, stream and well. They drank 'Samaras', the intoxicant juice of soma tree. This drink was sacred. This drink was taken after it was offered in the rituals of Yajna. They also prepared a wine called 'Sure' from various corns. This wine could be taken anywhere at any time. The non-Aryans who were defeated and taken in as Dasa or servants by the Aryans usually drank the 'Sura'. The over-all food and drink habits of the Aryans were too simple.
Equally simple was their dress. They wore dresses made from cotton, wool and deer-skin. Normally their dress was divided into three categories. Dress dangling down from the waist area was called 'Nimbi' or 'Nimnabasa' (lower garment). The dress portion from waist upwards was 'Basal' or 'Paridhana' (dress). These two apart, a third one was used as scarf, known as 'Adlibs' or 'Alma' or 'drape'. The dresses were variously colored. The Veda speaks of the rich wearing dresses decorated with linings of gold.
Both male and female wore ornaments in the Rig Vedic Age. The ladies used ear-ring's (Karnasobhana) extensively. They also wore neck-lace, bangles, anklets and other ornaments. Many valuable stones were studded in the ornaments. The ladies massaged oil into their hair before doing it up and decorating it with flowers. The males wore moustache and beard, though use of razor was also there. The razor with a handle (khura) was the most-popular equipment for shaving. They also wore shoes made of leather.
Various sources of entertainment like playing dice, hunting, wrestling, chariot-racing and war-dances helped them to enjoy their leisure. The ladies were learned and spent their time in song, dance and merrymaking. The men also enjoyed life by singing and playing on flute and the Veena. The men and women alike were happy and enjoyed leisure by socialising.
The Aryans of the Rig-Vedic age attached a lot of importance to education. The disciple would get education in the Gurtikula after his sacred thread ceremony. Education was the teacher's oral teaching. The teacher (Zachary) would recite the Vedic hymns. The pupils would remember it through re-recitation. The fifth 'Sitka' of Rig-Veda resembles the Guru Kula with the croaking frogs. The Vedic education aimed to sharpen the knowledge of the students and build up their character. Education of the ' days was basically religious. The pupils were also taught about Ethics, art of warfare, art of metals, the concept of Brahma and philosophy, as well as about basic sciences like agriculture, animal husbandry and handicrafts. This education was in high public esteem as it had a special role to play in consolidating the social system. Caste system:
At the beginning of the Vedic Age, there was no caste system. Members of a family were engaged in various individual works and duties and lived a happy and contented life. This goes to prove beyond doubt that there was no caste-system in the Rig-Vedic Age. Everybody was competent to do every kind of work. This is a glowing testimony to the stability and versatility of the society.
Position of women:
Woman was held in high esteem in the early Vedic Age. She was the sole manager of the household. No religious function could be performed by the men only, but by men and women jointly. Education was equally open to boys and girls. The women participated with men in Hanja, spiritual discourses and meetings. Even the ladies coined Vedic hymns.
Gosh had coined two hymns of Rig-Veda. The women also functioned as teachers. Some of the famous women of the age were Gargi, Paula, Mastery, Vestavia, Lopamudra and Sikata. The girls got married after attaining puberty. Sometimes the girls choose their husband in the 'Swayamvara' (assemblage of eligible bachelors) but otherwise the parents of the bride were entrusted with the responsibility of her marriage. The daughter-in-law was equated with Lakshmi.
The system of Sati was unknown but widow-remarriage was permitted in the society. The-cows and gold and other items of dowry was regarded as the sole property of the wife, her in-laws were permitted only to use it but not to own it. Except for members of the royal court who sometimes adoptee polygamy, monogamy was the order of the day.
There was no system of veil (pariah system) in the society. The woman depended on her father before her marriage, on her husband after her marriage and on her son in her old-age. It would not be a travesty of truth to say that women enjoyed a high status in the social hierarchy during the early Vedic Age.
The condition of the early Vedic society was a highly developed one. A healthy and happy family-life and education were primary objectives of their lives. Simple food, dress and ornaments encapsulate their life style. The esteemed position of women in society of early Vedic Age is unique and unmatched till date. A peaceful, contented, healthy and refined social life was the forte of the early Vedic Aryans.