PERHAPS the most important of these in their own eyes were the customs as to the holding and distribution of lands and property. But those as to religion on the one hand, and as to connubium and commensality on the other, had probably a greater effect on their real well-being and national progress.
We have learnt in recent years that among primitive peoples all over the world there exist restrictions as to the connubium (the right of intermarriage), and as to commensality (the right of eating together). Customs of endogamy and exogamy, that is, of choosing a husband or a wife outside a limited circle of relationship, and inside a wider circle, were universal. A man, for instance, may not marry in his own family, he may marry within his own clan, he may not marry outside the clan. Among different tribes the limits drawn were subject to different customs, were not the same in detail. But the limits were always there. There were customs of eating together at sacred tribal feasts from which foreigners were excluded; customs of not eating together with persons outside certain limits of relationship, except under special circumstances; customs by which an outsider could, by eating with men of a tribe, acquire certain rights of relationship with that tribe. Here again the details differ. But the existence of such restrictions as to commensality was once universal.
In India also in the seventh century B.C. such customs were prevalent, and prevalent in widely different forms among the different tribes,--Aryan, Dravidian, Kolarian, and others,-- which made up the mixed population. We have unfortunately only Aryan records. And they, of course, take all the customs for granted, being addressed to people who knew all about them. We have therefore to depend on hints; and the hints given have not, as yet, been all collected and sifted. But a considerable number, and those of great importance, have been already observed; so that we are able to draw out some principal points in a sketch that requires future filling in.
The basis of the social distinctions was relationship; or, as the Aryans, proud of their lighter colour, put it, colour. Their books constantly repeat a phrase as being common amongst the people,--and it was certainly common at least among the Aryan sections of the people,--which divided all the world, as they knew it, into four social grades, called Colours ( Vanna). At the head were the Kshatriyas, the nobles, who claimed descent from the leaders of the Aryan tribes in their invasion of the
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Publication information: Book title: Buddhist India. Edition: 3rd. Contributors: T. W. Rhys-Davids - Author. Publisher: Susil Gupta. Place of publication: Calcutta. Publication year: 1957. Page number: 27.
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