The Sutra phase roughly coincides with the Bud­dhist age. They deal with the social usages and customs of everyday life and in them we see the beginning of civil and criminal law.

Vamash- raniadhanna was a firmly established feature of society and it was explained that or twice born, i.e. Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya, must pass through the four stages of life. Tremendous emphasis was now laid on the purity of social order, which was possible only if the rules of mar­riage and interdining were meticulously observed.

Marriage within the same gotra and “within six degrees on the mother’s side” was prohibited. But there were some differences in the Dharmasutras due to local customs and conditions. The rise of Buddhism was the expression of resentment against the social orthodoxy, on the one hand, and the increasing conflict between the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas, on the other, which is evidenced by Kshatriya origin of Mahavira and Gautama Bud­dha.

Buddhism and Jainism both adopted a liberal attitude towards the lower castes, but they did not wage any struggle against the caste system and untouchability. The Vaishyas specially looked to the new religion which could improve their posi­tion. Both the religions challenged the supremacy of the Brahmins and declared Kshatriyas as superior to Brahmins.


Society became something like a federation of castes and Sub castes. New sub castes were born as a result of migration, fusion or subdivision. Social distinctions became rigid and inter caste marriages, change of occupation and caste were forbidden by social custom; but in practice, two higher castes sometimes intermarried.

Similarly, we find certain instances of Brahmins and Kshatriyas working as merchants, craftsmen and farmers and doing other menial jobs without losing their caste or social position.

The ir­relevance of the caste to the profession widened further during the pre-Mauryan period, when we find Vaishyas working as tailors or potters, Brah­mins as physicians, tax collectors, traders etc. Thus social divisions and economic professions started losing interrelationship.

The position of women also seems to have deteriorated during the period. We also find some instances of sati, particularly in North-west India. Polygamy was gradually growing. Education was not denied to women, some of whom are referred to as being well-reputed for their profound knowledge. There were women students desig­nated as Brahmavadinis or lifelong students of the sacred texts, and the Sadyodvaha who prosecuted their studies till marriage.