The three cultures occupying South Asian were organized as matriarchal bands as was the rule in all human cultures at that point. Each matriarchy developed in different ways in response to the rich environments that the cultures occupied. These environments were very different from each other, and the differences in development could probably be traced to environmental and historical differences. In the period long before the events of the third millennium BC, from the first arrival of these peoples to the South Asian coast to about 4000 B.C.E., all the bands were ruled by matriarchs.
There were differences:
a) The Saraswati-Sindhu culture developed when nomadic bands settled down and cultivated crops. In the absence of conflict over resources between bands, the men became just another member of the band and a competent man could aspire to membership in the council advising the matriarch. When fatherhood was discovered and recognized, it highlighted the men’s claim to equality. In the absence of war there was no need to put down women in order to glorify the men (that would be the hallmark of patriarchy).
The SSC villages evolved into republican city-states, governed largely by a mixed-sex council advising a matriarch. Formally, the matriarch had great powers, but none of which were exercised.
In the fourth millennium BCE, the SSC would find itself at one end of a trade route the crossed the Hindukush and went over Afghanistan into Persia and from there into Mesopotamia and further into Turkey. All the cultures along this trade route slowly developed into patriarchies under the stress of competition for resources such as water and cultivable land. By the end of the fourth millennium BCE, all were patriarchies except for the SSC. The hill country between the SSC and Afghanistan containing the Khyber pass was called Him-alaya by the SSC and Mele-ch-a by the Persians (already, they had become unable to pronounce “s” and “h” properly). The Mesopotamians called the land Meluhha.
b) The Nagas found themselves in a land that was difficult to till. As a result they became slash-and-burn agriculturists. Slash-and-burn meant that at least once or twice a generation a band would move to new areas and the old plot would be left to go back to forest. When a band moved, it would often split into two or more smaller bands that would go further into the hinterland. The old plot would often have recovered in a generation and might be re-settled by the parent band, but the daughter bands would go find new pastures. Bands maintained close and friendly relations and the custom of moving every generation prevented inter-band conflicts from getting out of control.
The Naga domesticated the chicken but no other animal. As a result they did not know of fatherhood (until they encountered the SSC). The matriarch reigned supreme within each band and decided which men could visit, how long, and how they were treated. The biggest problem was the existence of gangs of unaffiliated men. The men in a band were available to deal with this and other disputes that sometimes led to battles. Dealing with these gangs required cooperation with other nearby bands. These bands were usually related to each other, and a group of bands might form a clan (a confederacy of sorts) headed by a “Great Mother” selected from the matriarchs of each band. Mobilizing a clan to address some problem was not easy, but once mobilized, the Great Mother had supreme power over the clan akin to the matriarch and the clan could mount an overwhelming response to the problem. Loyalty to the clan and the Great Mother was a problem addressed by requiring the Great Mother to take a new lover every year from a different band – this harked back to an ancient custom of sacrificing the matriarch’s lover every year at the start of the spring festival.
c) A Rakshasa band was a small collection of families, usually related to each other, that came together for protection and social interaction. Fatherhood was believed to be the influence of the father on the unborn child during the mother’s pregnancy. Men attached themselves to particular women so that they were fathers to children. Accepting these males was completely at the discretion of the band’s women.
Rakshasa families relied on plants in their section of forest for their primary diet. They knew that many trees grew from seeds, but this was not universally true. Some plants grew in the same place every year and the only way to start a new patch was to transplant one – if you were lucky, a new patch was created. Root plants grew from edible roots. Everyone in the family worked to plant and collect food from the plants. Meat was obtained by hunting – this became the male specialization. Men had also domesticated dogs and a Rakshasa man and his dog formed a formidable hunting team.
Rakshasa families did not move until forced by circumstance such as a drought, or a flood, or disease, etc.. But as the family grew in size, the area of forest needed to maintain the family increased and at some point it would become reasonable to split – often a group of young women along with the men who had attached themselves to those women would leave to establish a new village in adjacent unoccupied forest. The forest would get crowded and conflicts would arise between the men sharing overlapping territories. Battles between the men was a sign that somebody had to move – often more than one family would elect to move out to virgin forest – across the river, beyond the next ridge, and so on. It was easier to come to such a decision as the families were related – the decision was not left to the men, for they were considered easily angered.