Vedic Period – Indian History
The Harappan civilization is followed by another civilization known as Vedic civilization. The civilization is so called because our knowledge about the civilization is based on the information gathered exclusively from Vedic literature. Vedic literature consist of four Vedas namely Rig-Veda Sam Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda Brahman, Aranyak and Upanishad. Of the Vedas Rig-Veda is the earliest one, hence the civilization described in it known as early Vedic or Rig Vedic culture and the civilization discussed in rest of the Vedic literatures is known as later Vedic civilization. Rig Veda is the oldest literature not only in India but the entire Indo-European.
Rig-Vedic Civilization(1500-1000 Bc):
- The dwelling place of Aryans is called’Sapta Saindhava or Sapta-sindhu i.e lands of seven rivers literally the region of the Indus and its tributaries.
- Concept of Bharatbarsha: The word Bhariyiya was used for the inhabitants of Bharatvarsha or Aryavarta. Persian used to call the Hindu for the Sindhu River and thus, the term Hindustan came into being. The English called the river Sindhu as Indus and thus English name for Hindustan became India.
- The head of the state was chosen by”Jan’l Vish or tribe and he is supposed to be the protector of the tribe.
- The Rig-vida mentions of only three officers Senani (the general), Purohita (the priest) and Gramani (the head).
- Raja was chosen by his tribe i.e jan or vish
- Vidatha, Sabha and Samiti were three assemblies of age. Vidatha was an assembly which was attended by both men and women. Sabha was an exclusive body in which only the elites members participated. In samiti all the members of Jan could participate.
- Rig Vedic society was semi-nomadic tribal society.
- The family was the basic unit of rig Vedic society.
- Family was patriarchal.
- Women were respected in the society.
- Monogamy was general rule but polygamy was also practised. Levirate(Niyoga) i.e. marrying dead husband’s brother was in practice.
- There was no child marriage, sati pratha or child marriage and widow remarriage was common.
- People were both vegetarian and non vegetarian. Somaras was their popular drink.
- Rigvedic was not an egalitarian society.
- Society was not organised on Varna- Vyavastha. The four varnas- Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra is mentioned in the purush-shukta tenth Mandal of Rig Veda.
- It was essentially a pastoral economy.
- Cattle breeding was the main occupation.
- Cows, goats buffaloes, sheeps and horses were domesticated by the Rig-Vedic Aryans.
- The importance of cow can be understood from the fact that a wealthy person was known as gomat, the chief of the Jan was called Gopati and daughter was called Duhitri.
- Langala a wooden plough was used by the Aryans.
- The only grain mentioned in the rigveda was Yava (barley).
- ‘Ayas’ means copper or bronze was the only metal known to the early Aryans.
- Indra, Agni, Varuna maintainer of cosmic order) were prominent god of the early Aryans.
- Surya, savitri, and pushan the solar gods and goddess also got mention in the Rig-veda.
- The famous Gatatri mantra is devoted to Savitri.
- Other goddesses mentioned in Rig-Veda are lla, Aditi and Usha. Soma was the god of plants.
Later Vedic Period (1000-600 BC):
Covers the area of Western Ganga Plain and middle Ganga Plain.
- It was a territorial state and not a tribal one like the early Vedic Period. It was an age of Janpad.
- The head of the state adopted titles like Maharaj, Adhiraj, Rajadhiraj, Samrat, ekrat etc.
- Rajsuya, vajpeya and asvamedha sacrifices (yagya) were performed by the head of the State.
- The office of the king became hereditary and not elective.
- Agriculture became the main occupation.
- Nishka was a coin used for exchange.
- Verna system was fully established. The Brahmins were the supreme.
- Kshatriya’s, the warrior class were second in the rank. Vaishya’s were involved in the productive work like agriculture, crafts and trade.
- These three Varna’s were entitled to put sacred thread and we’re called twice born (Dwij). Sudras were engaged in the labouring work.
- The concept of Ashram emerged during later Vedic age. During Brahmacharya (up to 25 years) a person is required to live a life of celibacy and devote his time to study, Grihastha (25-50) years one lead family life. Vanprastha (50-75) one is supposed to leave the society and live in forest and during the last stage I.e Sanyas a person is required to live as ascetic.
- Slavery was in existence.
- Women were now deprived of education and were also not allowed to participate in political assemblies. Polygamy was in practice but there was no polyandry. Niyog was still in practice.
- Now sacrifice became restricted to upper three class.
- Peace became an important part of religious practice.
- The Trinity, Brahma (creator of the universe), Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva) took the prominent place as deity of the age.
- Pushan (protector) of cows now became a deity of Shudra Varna.
- The philosophy of the existence of the Supreme soul (brahma), individual soul (Atma) and rebirth ( deeds of one life affects the next) emerged.
- Veda means to know. Rig Veda- a collection of hymns. It consist of 1017 hymns and 11 valakhilyas and is divided into 10 mandalas or book. Vedic literature is considered Shruti or divine revelation. Sama Veda is collection of songs or melody. It has 1810 or 1549 verses. Yajur veda is in prose and has two parts shukla (shloka) and Krishna (commentary on shukla). Atharva Veda has 20 mandalas, 731 Richard and 5839 Mantras. It discusses charma and magic.
- The Brahmanas texts are commentary on Vedas in prose. Each Veda has its own Brahmana text. The Aranyakas, the forest books are composed, studied and discussed in forest.
- The Upanishads are first books on the philosophy in India. It’s literal meaning is to sit near some one I.e Guru.
- Vedangas are six in numbers (limbs of Vedas) nemely Shiksha (pronunciation), Kalpa (ritual), Vyakaran (grammar), Nirikta (etymology), Chhanda (matter) and jyotisha (astronomy). Vedangas are called smriti or literature handed down by tradition (from one generation to Other).
- Darshans are six in number. Samkhya attributed to kapila, yoga (patanjali), Vaisesika (kanada), Nyaya (Gautama), Purvamimansa (jamini), Vedanta or uttara mimansa (badarayana).