Upanayana, domestic ritual, a response to social change

ภัทรารัตน์ สุวรรณวัฒนา

Upanayana, domestic ritual, a response to social change into Class-based society

By Pattrarat Suwanwatthana (ภัทรารัตน์ สุวรรณวัฒนา), MA Study of Religions 2008, The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Ancient Vedic society went through many changes, making a transition from a semi-nomadic, clan-based system of chiefdoms to an increasingly sedentary society with a clear division of labour, greater reliance on agriculture, and monarchies. This parallels the establishment and growth of settlements through the first millennium BCE in the Gangetic plains with the emergence of cities and states. These changes had tremendous effects on Vedic society. This essay will explore the meaning of certain aspects of Vedic ritual in relation to these social changes. It will argue that the Upanayana, along with other life cycle rituals, came to serve the function of maintaining cohesion within the elite castes, as well as excluding from this closed society those from the lower orders.

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