History about the Indo-Aryans and the Vedic period
This article aims to explore the Vedic culture from the perspective of the SSC CGS/CHSL and banking examinations.
Indo-Aryan Sanskrit speakers entered north-western India from the Indo-Iranian region.
They were semi-nomadic agriculturists and hence their initial settlements were in the valleys of the north-west and Punjab which is referred to as Sapta Sindhava. After a while, they relocated to the Indo-Gangetic plains.
By the 6th century B.C, they occupied the entire of North India which was referred to as Aryavarta.
Period between 1500 B.C and 600 B.C is divided into:
- The early-Vedic period (Rigvedic period) – 1500 B.C to 1000 B.C.
- The later Vedic Period – 1000 B.C- 600 B.C.
The Vedic Culture is divided into 2 groups – Aryans and Dravidians
The Vedic Culture is also divided into 4 Varnas – Brahamana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra
Brahmans are the religious group which included scholars and well-educated people of that era and hence were the most respected. Kshatriya is the tribe that protected and fought for the welfare of the Kingdom. Vaishyas is the tribe that was responsible for agriculture, cattle rearing and other occupations. Shudra is the least respected tribe amongst them all that was involved in doing menial jobs.
The Vedic Literature comprises of 4 Vedas which are considered to be the backbone of the Hindu religion. They are:
- Rigveda: Also known as the book of Mantras, It is the first written Veda which consists of 1028 hymns. This further consists of:
- The Samhita – hymns to the deities
- The Brahamans– commentaries on the hymns
- The Aranyakas– forest books
- Upanishads– these contain the central concepts and ideas of Hinduism. They contain texts which deal with concepts such as the soul, the origin of the world, etc.
- Yajurveda: Also known as the book of rituals, it consists of rituals to be observed
- Samaveda: Also known as the book of Chanting, it consists of chants which need to be enunciated during a sacrifice. The roots of Indian Music are believed to be in the Samaveda.
- Atharvaveda: Also known as the book of spell, it contains the details of rituals or the rites of passage.
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Besides these Vedas, there are epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata:
- Ramayana: written by Rishi Valmiki, It consists of 24000 verses and is estimated to be written around 7th century BC.
- Mahabharata: written by Vedvyasa, it is estimated to have been written between the 8th and 9th centuries BC and is considered to be the 5th Veda. It is the longest written epic poem consisting of 200,000 individual verse-lines.
The basic unit of the society in the early Vedic period was the family that was also known as a Kula. It followed a patriarchal structure and the head of the family was known as the Kulapa. Only sons had the right to inherit their father’s property.
A group of Kula’s was called a Grama and the leader of a Grama was called a Gramani.
The highest political unit in the Rigved era was called Jana or tribe. There were several tribal kingdoms during the rigvedic period such as Bharatas, Matsyas, Yadus, and Purus.
The head of a kingdom was called Rajan who was assisted by a Purohita(priest) and a Senani(commander).
The people were largely mobilized in 2 bodies – The Sabha (council of elders) and the Samiti (a general assembly of the entire people).
Women were given equal opportunities as men for their development in the Rigved era.
Wheat, barley and milk and its products constituted the diet of the people in this era.
Practices of child marriage and sati were not present.
Cattle rearing was the main occupation of people in this era.
Trade was a major economic activity and was conducted through the barter system.
There were no temples and no idol worship during the early Vedic period.
Most important gods to be worshiped during the Rigved era were Indra (thunder) and Agni (fire). Other gods were Prithvi (Earth), Vayu (wind) and Varuna (rain).
Lord Varuna is supposed to be the upholder of natural order.
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Later Vedic period
The later Vedic period was when the social system became more rigid.
Varna system became prominent during this time and birth of a girl was considered to be a bad omen.
Women weren’t allowed access to education and child marriage had become prevalent during this time.
Women were not allowed to participate in assemblies and were considered subordinate in our society.
The social division of people into Brahmans, kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras became extremely rigid and occupations became hereditary.
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