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Later Vedic Culture: Economy


  • The economic activities of this period were quite diversified.
  • Agriculture, pastoralism, craft production and trade contributed to the economic development.


  • Agricultural activities increased during the Late Vedic period.
  • The Satapatha Brahmana mentions rituals related to ploughing undertaken by the kings.
  • This suggests the importance given to cultivation by the rulers, and the shift to agriculture to support the increasing population.
  • The god Balarama is depicted with a plough, which suggests the importance of cultivation.
  • The Vedic people cultivated barley and rice, and wheat.
  • Wheat was the staple food of Punjab region.
  • The Vedic people began to use rice in the GangaYamuna doab.
  • The use of rice, rather than wheat, is noticed in the Vedic rituals.


  • Pastoralism continued to be important.
  • Cattle were considered sacred.
  • They became part of exchange and redistribution.
  • The offering of cattle as part of dakshina continued.
  • Pastoralism supplemented agriculture.

Craft Production

  • Arts and crafts proliferated during the Later Vedic age and craft specialization took deep roots, when compared to early Vedic period, since more occupational groups are mentioned in this period.
  • Evidence of iron work is noticed from about 1200 BCE.
  • Metals such as copper, tin, gold, bronze and lead are mentioned.
  • These metals were smelted and worked by specialized groups.
  • The copper objects were used for making weapons for war and hunting.
  • Weaving was undertaken by women.
  • Leatherwork, pottery and carpentry were well known.
  • Terms such as kulala referring to potters and urna sutra referring to wool appear.
  • Bow makers, rope makers, arrow makers, hide dressers, stone breakers, physicians, goldsmiths and astrologers are some of the specialized professional groups mentioned in the texts.
  • Professions such as physicians, washerman, hunters, boatman, astrologer and cook are mentioned.
  • References to the elephant are often found in the Atharva Veda, along with the elephant keeper.
  • The increase in references to such groups indicates a society in transformation.
  • The performers of Vedic sacrifices were also a type of service providers.
  • The priest played an important role in legitimizing the role of king through various rituals.
  • Wealth was measured in terms of cattle and animals.
  • There is a mention of offerings of 20 camels, 100 gold necklaces, 300 horses and 10,000 cows as dakshina.

Trade and Exchange

  • Trade and exchange had developed in the Later Vedic age.
  • The material culture found in the archaeological sites reveals the movement of commodities and materials.
  • Specialised caravan traders existed.
  • No evidence of coins has been found and therefore barter must have been the medium of exchange.
  • The introduction of coins took place after about 600 BCE.

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