recognised in the Rig-Veda. We seem to see caste in the making. The Rishis and priests of the princely families were on their way to becoming the all-powerful Brahmans. The kings and princes were on their way to becoming the caste of Kshatriyas or warriors. The mass of the people was soon to sink into the caste of Vaisyas and broken men. Non-Aryan aborigines and others were possibly developing into the caste of Sudras. Thus the spirit of division and of ceremonialism had still some of its conquests to achieve. But the extraordinary attention given and the immense importance assigned to the details of sacrifice, and the supernatural efficacy constantly attributed to a sort of magical asceticism (tapas, austere fervour), proves that the worst and most foolish elements of later Indian society and thought were in the Vedic age already in powerful existence.
Thus it is self-evident that the society in which the Vedic poets lived was so far from being primitive, that it was even superior to the higher barbarisms (such as that of the Scythians of Herodotus and Germans of
- On this subject see Muir, i. 192, with the remarks of Haug. "From all we know, the real origin of caste seems to go back to a time anterior to the composition of the Vedic hymns, though its development into a regular system with insurmountable barriers can be referred only to the later period of the Vedic times." Roth approaches the subject from the word brahm, that is, prayer with a mystical efficacy, as his starting-point. From brahm, prayer, came brahma, he who pronounces the prayers and performs the rite. This celebrant developed into a priest, whom to entertain brought blessings on kings. This domestic chaplaincy (conferring peculiar and even supernatural benefits) became hereditary in families, and these, united by common interests, exalted themselves into the Brahman caste. But in the Vedic age gifts of prayer and poetry alone marked out the purohitas, or men put forward to mediate between gods and mortals. Compare Ludwig, iii. 221.