Political life

Kingship was a normal feature of the society. There are few references to elected kings otherwise most of the times the office was hereditary. There are references in the Atharva Veda regarding the election of the king by the people. The Brahmanas and the later Samhitas state that the king had divine origins. The kings started adopting various titles like Adhiraj, Rajadhiraj, Samrat, Ekarat, Virat and Savarat. The king was the head of the state and was above law but he was not a despotic ruler. He was dependent upon his ministers who were referred to as Ratnins. They performed Rajasuya and Asvamedha Yajnas to show the extent of their powers. The Rajsuya Yajna was performed at the time of the coronation of the king. It conferred supreme power on him. The most important Yajna was Ashvamedha Yajna. It meant unquestioned control over an area in which the royal horse ran uninterrupted. After the completion of this Yajna the king assumed the title of Chakravartin. It enhanced the power, prestige and prosperity of king. The king performed various duties such as administration, justice, extention of his territory, welfare of his subjects; fighting battles.

In lieu of his duties he received Bali, Sulk and Bhag as taxes. These taxes were roughly 1/6th of the income of his subjects. With the increase in power and income of the king the number of ministers also increased. The ministers were called Ratnins or the receiver of jewels offered by the king at the time of the ceremony. With the increase in royal power the sabha and samiti lost importance. They came under the influence of chiefs and rich nobles. With the expansion of the territories ordinary people could not travel long distance to attend the meetings. They could not remove the king from the power. Women were no longer permitted to sit in the sabhas.King was the fountain head of judiciary. Criminals were given more severe punishments as compared to the Vedic period. Capital punishments became prevalent. King appointed various ministers to dispense justice.Theft, robbery, adultery, abduction, killing of man, treachery and drinking intoxicating liquor were offences punishable with death.