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Rig Vedic Culture: Economy

Economy: Agriculture

  • Archaeological evidence points to the development of agriculture among the Rig Vedic people.
  • The ploughshare is mentioned in the Rig Vedas.
  • The field was known as kshetra and the term krishi referred to ploughing.
  • The terms langla and sura referred to plough and the term sita meant the furrow created by ploughing.
  • Water for irrigation was probably drawn from wells by cattledriven water-lifts using pulleys.
  • They had knowledge of different seasons, sowing, harvesting and thrashing.
  • They cultivated barley (yavam) and wheat (godhuma).


  • Cattle rearing was an important economic activity for the Aryans, although they practiced agriculture.
  • Cattle were considered wealth.
  • The term for war in the Rig Veda was gavishthi which means search for cows (which is the contemporary term (goshti) for factions as well).
  • The donations to the priests were mainly cows and women slaves but not land, which reveals the importance of pastoralism.
  • There was no private property in land.

Craft Production

  • The Rig Veda mentions artisans such as carpenters, chariot-makers, weavers and leather-workers.
  • Copper metallurgy was one of the important developments of this period.
  • The term ayas in the Rig Veda refers to copper and bronze.
  • Karmara, smith, is mentioned in the Rig Veda.
  • Likewise, there are references to siri or yarn, indicating spinning which was done by women and to carpenters, takshan.
  • Weaving of clothes of wool is also referred to and obviously it was necessary in the cold weather.
  • Some of the crafts were fulltime crafts, involving specialists.

Trade, Exchange and Redistribution

  • Trading activities were limited though traders were present during the Early Vedic period.
  • Panis are referred to as traders and they were perhaps caravan traders.
  • The word pan means barter, which was a mode of exchange.
  • Nishka was a gold or silver ornament used in barter.
  • A priest received 100 horses and 100 nishka as fee for sacrifices.
  • The danas and dakshinas offered to people were means of redistributing resources.
  • The dakshina was both a fee for a specific service and also a means of distributing wealth.
  • The distribution of cows helped spread pastoral activities and economic production.


  • Bullock carts, horses and horse-drawn chariots were used for transport.
  • There are references to the sea (samudra) and boats (nau). Boats driven by 100 oars are mentioned.

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