From the Jacket :
Based on a deep analysis of the Vedic literature, the book deals with the aspects of everyday life of the Vedic people: their housing, mode of production and occupations, social organization, education, food and drink, entertainment, dress and cosmetics, etc.
Tracing the influence of Vedic learning on Upanisads and Sutra literature which have also been referred to here for details on the Vedic people and their traditions, this study focuses on the lifestyle of seers and the elite as well as that of the common people and stresses the importance of the ritualistic context in discussing aspects of daily life like preparing of food and food-eating habits, style of dressing, building of houses and so on. It deals with the Vedic people's approach to life, covering points such as their attitude towards knowledge and their quest for Brahman, their view of death and their yearning for heaven. This publication also examines the growth of the Vedic tradition from one based on the minimum requirements of life to a tradition involving refinement of things a system of writing and a complex religion based on deep philosophical study and explanation of cosmology.
The book will be useful to all the students and scholars of ancient Indian religion and culture.
About the Author :
Dr. Pranati Ghosal (1956-) is a promising scholar in the field of Sanskrit, and Vedic Studies in particular, and is presently working with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Varanasi. She is the co-editor of the Annual Bulletin and Proceedings of a number of seminars organized at Jnana-Pravaha. She has co-edited the recently published volume on Buddhism and Gandhara Art, Interaction Between Brahmanical and Buddhist Art, and Sakta Contribution to Varanasi. Dr. Ghosal has authored Jada-Bharata's Prasanavali: A Text on Advaita Vedanta, and several research papers which have been highly rated for their academic value and have been appeared in reputed journals and bulletins.
To peep into a society, of which no material remains are
traceable, is a Herculean task but a fascinating theme. Dr.
Pranati Ghosal accepted this challenge and met with big
success in her brilliant work Lifestyle of the Vedic People. It is a
strange juxtaposition that the Vedic people lived, had
splendid vision, philosophy and views about creation, cosmos
and life on earth, which have been handed down to us since
time immemorial. But except for the earliest scriptures of
the world, the four Vedas and particularly the Rgveda, no
other account is seen. We cannot deny the fact that the Vedic
culture exists in all reality despite the total absence of
antiquarian remains. A remarkable phenomenon is that the
castle of Indian culture stands on the solid foundation of
Vedic heritage. For example, the architecture is in direct
succession of the Vedic forestry workmanship and it
continued till the Mauryan-Sunga age when stone was
preferred for monuments. At the same time, timber was
sought for residential purposes till late medieval period and
it has a firm footing even now in the countryside.
The rsis endeavoured to unfold the mystery of creation
(srsti-vidya) and to find its quintessence, i.e., the Supreme
(brahma-vidya). This did not require materialistic attainments.
Their daily life depended on perishable items, like straw,
bamboo, reeds, timber, mud, etc., which were easily available
in the forests. It was the aranyaka or asrama culture in true
sense. When the material was destroyed or decomposed, it
was replaced by fresh items, which also lasted for some
decades. Under such circumstances, the permanent material
remains, which make the base for cultural reconstruction,
We, therefore, have to depend on the introspection (antah
saksya) of the Vedic literature. Traditional pundits who accept
the Vedic hymns as the "divine speech" have been reluctant
in tracing any historical or cultural chronology in the Vedas,
but those who long for deeper probe have to find their ways
and try to get a glimpse of the Vedic society. The author Dr.
Pranati Ghosal is a rare combination of faith and research
and she has faithfully but critically analysed the Vedic
literature to paint an excellent picture of the life of the Vedic
The work authentically informs about food and drinks,
cosmetics and fashion, architecture, particularly the
dwellings, professions and manufacturing, recreation,
learning and teachings and other allied aspects related to
the daily life of the Vedic period.
The author is silent about the use of writing in the Vedic
period because of the fact that the Vedic Samhitas are known
as Srutis, i.e., oral. The system of learning in the form of
padapatha and kramapatha or kramaka and the figures from one
to billion do suggest that the system of writing had evolved
with expansion of Vedic texts.
Dr. Ghosal has cited a large number of the Vedic
references to support her findings. At the same time, she has
occasionally sought shelter of the early Upanisads and Sutra
literature also, where the Vedic references are wanting. After
all, the Vedic traditions were followed for long. The book
bears the stamp of brilliant rendering, in-depth study of the
subject and maturity of scholarship. I hope this will be warmly
received by scholars and researchers. Let me wish all the
best with this hymn:
IT gives me pleasure to place before readers the Lifestyle of the
Vedic People, which was originally entitled Everyday Life in the
Vedic India and was submitted as a PhD dissertation at the
Rabindrabharati University, Kolkata in the year 1997. After a
long interval I hope the same will be able to draw the kind
attention of the scholarly world especially interested in the
study of Vedic Culture.
Though religious and philosophical ideas occupy the major
part of the vast Vedic literature, information on people's
lifestyle also found scattered in them have been collected and
processed in order to have a complete picture of the daily life
in the Vedic age because details of people's lifestyle is reflected
in their daily activities. Original Vedic texts are the primary
sources used for the present investigation. Apart from it, all
the related works and secondary literature dealing with daily
life of ancient people have been consulted as far as possible. I
am afraid, a few such may have been missed, most probably
because of their non-availability. I regret my inability.
The result of the investigation is presented in the form of
eight chapters dealing with:
1. Food Habits
2. Dress Arrangements
3. Housing Systems
4. Modes of Production and Other Occupations
7. Social Life
8. View of Life
They are preceded by an Introduction and followed by a
Ceremonial thanksgiving is not befitting the Indian
tradition. But I must express my sense of gratitude to the
forerunners, whose works I have utilized to my benefit. I shall
remain ever grateful to my revered teacher Dr. S.c.
Chakrabarti, Professor and Director, School of Vedic Studies,
Rabindrabharati University, whose kind supervision and
precious instruction helped me to reach the goal. I am indebted
to all the teachers of the Sanskrit Department, Rabindrabharati
University, for their valuable suggestions at every stage of
my work. Many thanks are credited to IGNCA authorities,
who provided me leave facilities generously. Cordial thanks
are due to my friends for their generous help rendered to me.
I remain obliged to the School of Vedic Studies, Rabindrabharati
University, for providing me the Library facilities. I am
thankful to Prof. Bishwanath Bhattacharya for rendering
valuable instructions at the stage of revising this dissertation
before publication. My sincere regards are credited to Prof.
R'C. Sharma without whose active initiation the work would
have never seen the light of the day. He has been kind enough
to write a Foreword to the present work. I am equally thankful
to Sri Susheel Kumar Mittal of D.K. Printworld, New Delhi,
who has taken a keen interest in publishing the work.
I would be blessed if my effort serves any purpose in the
THE present work aims at a study of the Lifestyle of Vedic People,
as it has been depicted in the Vedic Literature. Though the
Vedas are usually regarded as the ultimate source book of
Hindu religion, yet they contain information on the life of
people and the material aspects of their culture. Hence, it is
an investigation into their way of life, viz., food, clothing, etc.
Though the pursuits of Vedic people like those in other
countries in various ages started with the minimum
requirements of life, it will be discussed how the sphere of
attention of people broadened into the refinement of things,
which ultimately led them to the height of Supreme Bliss.
From the survey of previous works, we find that daily
life or life-pattern of common people appears as an interesting
topic to the scholars. They have selected this as the subject of
their research covering different periods of different
civilizations. The works, which handled every day life, may
be classified into three groups:
1. To the first group belong the works, which have been
entirely devoted to the discussion of every day life.
At first, we should mention Daily Life in Ancient India by
Jeanine Auboyer. Jeanine, the curator of Musee Guimet in Paris
had contributed a lot on this subject. In the daily life series
she had at least 7/8 works, viz.:
(i) Daily life of Aztec on the eve of Spanish Conquest,
(ii) Daily life in the Vienna of Mozart and Schubert,
(iii) Daily life in Palestine at the time of Christ,
(iv) Daily life in Rembrandt's Holland,
(v) Daily life of the Etruscans,
(vi) Daily life in the French Revolution, and
(vii) Daily life in Greece at the time of Pericles.
The subject matter and time of the said works are quite
clear from their titles. Daily Life in Ancient India is an addition
to this series. In this book, Auboyer has covered nine centuries
ending with political upheavals of the seventh century AD.
Throughout the work, the authoress has evoked fascinating
complexities of India's ancient epoch with its caste-system, its
endless ritual and the ceremonial nature of human relations
even in the matters of love. In order to reconstruct daily life
of this period, she mainly depended on the Ramayana, the
Mahabharata, the Arthasastra, the Kamasutra, Smrti texts, Puranas,
Raghuvamsa, Kadambari, Buddhist texts (e.g., Dhammapada,
Mahavagga, Mahavastu, Atthasalini, etc.). In her work, Auboyer
has described the daily routine of a fashionable young man
(Part III, Ch.l), a king's daily life, lifestyle of the members of
royal harem (Part III, Ch.2), that of the monks at monasteries
(Part II, Ch.4), etc.
Everyday Life in Early India by Michael Edwards is another
work on the same topic. Edwards, in his work, has tried to
focus on everyday life of early India covering a period of
roughly thousand years from the third century BC up to the
eighth century AD. Edwards himself considered this work to
be an introduction only to a complex and fascinating subject.
He tried to give a description of everyday life of this period
mainly from the Epics, the Kamasutra, the Arihasastra and Jataka
tales. The work also contains a chapter named "The Daily
Round." In this chapter, the author has described the
construction of village and city life (including food, dress,
housing and amusement). V.S. Agrawala in his India as known
to Panini has given a pen-picture of daily life of the Paninian
age. In this book, Prof. Agrawala has discussed on geography,
social life, education, economic, political and religious
condition of the said period. Life in Ancient India by Bandana
Mukhopadhyay is another work in this daily life series. Her
work is based on Dhammapada: Atthakatha. B.C. Law in his
work India as described in the Early Texts of Buddhism and Jainism
has covered a specific age to describe daily life. J.C. Jain in
India as depicted in Jaina Canons has dealt with the subject based
on J aina texts.
2. To the second group, we find the works where
everyday life has been discussed as a part of the main work.
As for example, we may mention here the name of Prof. Ram
Gopal's India of the Vedic Kalpa Suiras. In this work, an entire
Chapter (VIII) has been devoted to describe the everyday life
of the Sutra period.
In this group, we find another work, i.e., Wonder that was
India by A.L. Basham. In this book, Basham has discussed
Indian History from the pre-historic age up to the medieval
age (Vijayanagara Empire, i.e., roughly sixteenth century AD).
In this book, everyday life has been discussed as a part of the
main work. As because this book has covered an unusually
long period, Basham has discussed the topic in a nutshell. In
this chapter, he has tried to give a rough idea about daily life
in the city and villages. In doing so, he has touched upon only.
some of its various aspects, e.g., agriculture and stock-
breeding, amusement, food and drink, guild, technical
achievements, trade and finance, etc. But a notable point here
is that as regards information on the Vedic period, there are a
few remarks only. Discussions are mostly based on the Epics,
Jataka literature and in some cases on the travellers' accounts.
3. In the third category, we find some work, which has
not discussed everyday life directly, but some aspects, which
are very much concerned with people's everyday life. The
Common Life in the Rgveda and Atharvaveda by Chhanda
Chakraborty belongs to this group. The subject and period of
the work has been clear from the title. The authoress has dealt
with different aspects of common life as they have been
reflected in these two Samhitas. Popular beliefs and
superstitions, food and drink, manners and customs,
amusements, etc., have been stressed in this work. Jogiraj Basu
in his India of the Age of Brahmanas has given a description of
Indian society of Brahmanic age, including its political and
religious aspects. In doing so, he has discussed caste system,
women and marriage, education, music and dance, games and
sports, dress and decoration, food and drink, utensils and
tools, agriculture and pasturage, trade and commerce, house
building, transport, various sacraments, different forms of
sacrifice, members of royal family and their position, etc.
Apart from this, many articles have appeared covering
different aspects of everyday life, e.g., C.P. Majumdar
contributed a series of articles under the title "Man's
Indebtedness to the Plants" dealing with food, dress and other
personal requisites in ancient India. All these topics are closely
related with people's everyday life. These articles have been
published in different volumes of the journal Indian Culture in
But in none of these works the everyday life of the Vedic
people has been treated as the main thrust area; only some
matters concerning people's life have been discussed in every
case. Therefore, a systematic study of the said topic (mentioned
above), is still demanded. Accordingly, the present work was
The scope of the present, work is limited to a study of the
life-pattern of the Vedic people based on their everyday life.
The primary sources used for the investigation comprise the
entire Vedic literature, i.e., from the ~gveda up to the
Upanisads. Now, as regards the daily life of the Vedic people,
at first we must confess that, as because the Vedic texts are
not daily chronicles of that period, it is difficult to get a
complete picture therefrom.
Everyday life has been portrayed in some later texts more
distinctly. Detailed routine of a king's daily life has been
recorded in the Manu Samhita (7.145-225). Similarly, daily life
of a fashionable young man (belonging to the Gupta period)
has been traced in the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana (1.4.8) and the
Susruta Samhita: (Cikitsasthana, 24th Ch.). But no such attempt
was made in the Vedic texts. Nor is it expected either; for the
Vedic literature was principally religious in content and their
culture was mainly concerned with religion and philosophy
of the Vedic people. That is why, in their literature also,
discussion on sacrificial matters has been emphasized.
Whatever they told, be it about their food preparation or style
of dress/ornaments or hair-fashioning or building of house,
they have discussed everything in a ritual context. Therefore,
in all aspects of human life, information has been culled from
the ritual contexts. Because all the religious and ritual practices
are but man's own lifestyle.
As a general principle, in all the ages man offers food to
gods according to his own likings. The remnants of sacrificial
oblations are partaken of by the sacrificer and his priests.
Therefore, an idea of the food habit of Vedic people may be
formed from the nature of oblations, offered at Vedic
sacrifices. In a few cases, however, Vedic texts indicate
differences in god's food from the human food (e.g., sura -
TB, 188.8.131.52; purodasa - SB, 184.108.40.206).
In some cases, in order to discuss various sacrifices and
their preparations Vedic texts (especially the Brahmana texts)
occasionally recorded some observations on human practices
too, just to show their difference from the divine ones. In the
context of sacrificer's initiation in the Agnistoma sacrifice, the
5B refers to human practices with regard to various activities.
In the human practice, the activities like trimming of nails,
combing hair, shaving, anointing eyes, everything starts from
the left side, i.e., just in the reverse order of divine / ritual
fashion. Similarly, while describing the preparation of
Somayaga, the 5B, has discussed construction of cart-shed
(havirdhana), tent (sadas), hearths (dhisnya), etc. With reference
to this context, occasional remarks on the human practice of
constructing hut, hall, etc., have been traced in the SB (220.127.116.11,
From the study of Vedic texts, we find that mostly seers
and elite have been represented. Description of common
people's (vaisya and sudra community) lifestyle was not their
primary concern. So, these people are not well represented in
the Vedas; and the picture of their everyday life is not clearly
reflected here either. An attempt will be made in the
subsequent chapters to portray the lifestyle of common people
on the basis of materials gleaned from Vedic literature.
As already mentioned references have been taken mainly
from the Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanisads. But
whenever it is felt necessary for fuller details of the topic,
materials have been collected from the Sutra texts as well.
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