Chapter 4: VEDIC CIVILIZATION

Introduction

Aryans came to India in 2000-1500 BC periods. They are believed to be sons of the soil or originating from Central Asia as per popular belief. The origin is disputed but they were cattle herders. They first settled in Punjab or frontier provinces and then pushed into interior of India.


The Aryans  soon reached all over the northern part of India. The north was then called Aryavarta.


The Aryan period can be divided into Early Aryan period [Rig Vedic period] 1500BC to 1000 BC and Later Aryan period 1000BC to 600 BC.


The Vedic literature consists of four Vedas viz. Rig Veda, Sam Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.


Rig Veda is oldest amongst them and contains the cultural, social and political life of the Aryans. Sam Veda is important for Indian music. Yajur Veda is a book of sacrificial prayers and Atharva Veda contains charms and spells to ward off evil.


Vedic period belongs to the Iron Age. Other than Rig Veda other Vedas belong to Later Vedic period.



Besides these other sacred texts are Brahmans, Aranyakas, Upanishads and the great texts Mahabharata and Ramayana. They spoke the Indo - Aryan language Sanskrit


Early Vedic Period: 1500 BC to 1000 BC 


  1. The civilization was confined to Indus Valley Rivers. 


  1. Political organization:

·         Family – Kula

·         Village – gram ; head – gramani

·         Group of village – visu; head – vishayapati

·         Highest political unit – tribe or Jana

·      Tribal kingdoms headed by Rajan; assisted by purohit [priest] and senani [head of army]

·         Bodies - Sabha [council of elders and Samiti [assembly of people].


        3.  Social life

  1. Patriarchal society where property was inherited by son.
  2. Women were treated with respect. They were allowed to attend assemblies and participate in intellectual development.
  3. No sati or child marriage. Caste system not rigid and based on occupations.
  4. Monogamy was practiced and polygamy was found in royal households.
  5. Fruits, vegetables, wheat, barley, milk were common.
  6. Sanskrit was the language.
  7. Woolen and cotton clothes.
  8. Pastimes were chariot racing, music, horse racing and dance.


        4. Economic conditions:

  1. Trade was based on barter system but later for large transactions coins called Nishkas were used.
  2. Primarily they were cattle herders, but other occupations were carpentry, agriculture, pottery, spinning and goldsmith.
  3. Iron was known and widely used. Copper wasn't known.


        5. Religion

  1. Male and female gods. Nature was personified and worshiped.
  2. No idol or temple worship.
  3. Offerings and small rituals were present. 


Later Vedic Period: 1000 BC to 600 BC 

  1. Larger kingdoms were formed from amalgamation of tribes or Janas into Janapadas or Rashtras.
  2. Kings started performing rituals for maintaining dominion.
  3. Many new posts of officials were created.
  4. Iron was used extensively to bring area into cultivation.
  5. Sea trade was started. Vaishya caste was formed of merchants.
  6. Caste system became more rigid. Brahmans and kshatriyas enjoy higher rights and Vaishya and Shudras were denied rights.
  7. Status of women deteriorated. They lost their political rights. Child marriages and sati became common.
  8. Rituals and sacrifices became more common. Dominion of Brahmins was seen. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh were the chief deities.


A direct result of this system led to birth of Buddhism and Jainism. The lower castes were attracted towards them as they didn’t believe in rituals and castes.


Difference between Dravidians and Aryans:


 
  1. Dark skin and medium height.
  2. Trade and agriculture main occupation.
  3. Used only cotton
  4. Worshiped bull and idols.
  5. Used copper didn’t know iron
  6. Knew tiger not horses.
  7. Agriculture civilization and built towns.