The ceremonies lasted many days and involved a reciprocal economy of gift exchange between the chief and the priest, by which the latter received wealth in kind and the former established status, prosperity, and proximity to the gods.
The conspicuous display and consumption of these ceremonies have elicited comparison with the potlatch of the Kwakiutl and related North American indigenous peoples.
, European scholars who first studied Sanskrit were struck by the similarity in its syntax and vocabulary to Greek and Latin.
This resulted in the theory that there had been a common ancestry for these and other related languages, which came to be called the Indo-European group of Indo-European-speaking peoples had a common homeland from which they migrated to various parts of Asia and Europe.
Associated with the corpus are the texts, largely explanatory aids to the other works, comprising manuals on sacrifices and ceremonies, domestic observances, and social and legal relations.
Because the texts were continually revised, they cannot be dated accurately to the early period.
The Magadha, Anga, and Vanga peoples in the lower Ganges valley and delta were (in that period) still outside the Aryan pale and regarded as Deccan region, the Andhra, Vidarbha, Nishadha, Pulinda, and Shabara.
The location of all these tribes is of considerable historical interest, because they gave their names to enduring geographic regions. This ceremony was a famous horse sacrifice, in which a specially selected horse was permitted to wander at will, tracked by a body of soldiers; the area through which the horse wandered unchallenged was claimed by the chief or king conducting the sacrifice.
Consequently, important as they are to the literary and religious tradition, they are not easily identified with a historical period.
Among the clans there is little distinction between Aryan and non-Aryan, but the hymns refer to a people, called the , the Vedic sacrifice conducted by the priest, whose ritual actions ensured prosperity and imbued the chief with valour.
The chief was primarily a war leader with responsibility for protecting the clan, for which function he received a (“tribute”).
Punishment was exacted according to a principle resembling the wergild of ancient Germanic law, whereby the social rank of a wronged or slain man determined the compensation due him or his survivors.
The principal literary sources from this period are the Sama-, the Yajur-, and the Atharvaveda (mainly ritual texts), the Brahmanas (manuals on ritual), and the Upanishads (Upanisads) and Aranyakas (collections of philosophical and metaphysical discourses).