The early Vedic era was characterized by forms of government that were essentially small tribal polities governed by a chieftain known as a rajan. Early Vedic society revolved around cattle herding, and was largely semi-nomadic. Chieftains could collect taxes and other duties, but their powers were restricted by assemblies and were in any case dependent on their success as warriors. Cattle played a large role in the cosmology of early Vedic peoples, with goddesses frequently depicted as cows and gods as bulls. Deities and humans interacted in a relationship that approximated exchange, with people offering sacrifices to gods who would protect them. Out of this culture emerged some of the beliefs of modern Hinduism, specifically the paths of Yoga and Vedanta.
The later Vedic period saw the fulfillment of a trend that had developed toward the end of the early Vedic period, the development of settled agriculture. With settled agriculture came a more hierarchical and static society, with less of an emphasis on herding. Trade networks arose between leaders of powerful kingdoms, which grew as the demand for agricultural land increased. The rights of assemblies to advise monarchs were gradually eliminated as rulers became more and more powerful.