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Early Vedic Period (1500 – 1000 BC)

Advent of Aryans Aryans means of high birth
Age of Rig Veda Vedas means to know – Superior knowledge

 

  • Aryans were generally referred to people who spoke Indo- Aryan language (Sanskrit)
  • Society was mainly male dominated; women were treated with dignity and honour
  • Early life in this period seems to be mainly pastoral with agriculture being the secondary occupation
  • Domesticated horses to ride

 

Rig Veda

  • Earliest text of Indo European language
  • Contains prayers offered to Agni, Indra, Mitra, Varuna & other gods
  • Consists of 10 mandalas or books with 2 – 7 being the earliest one called family books & 1 and 10 being the latest editions
  • 3rd Mandal consists of Gayatri mantra (Composed by viswamitra to offer prayer to solar deity Savitri)
  • Many things in common with Avesta (oldest Iranian text – Zorasterism)

 


Advent of Aryans

  • Aryans called Indus valley “Sapt Sindavah” i.e. land of 7 rivers with river Indus (Sindhu) most mentioned in Rig Veda
  • Saraswati (Naditarna) is mentioned as the holiest river in Rig Veda, named after Harakwati (Hemland river) in south Afganistan
  • Aryans appeared in subcontinent around 1500 B.C. & came into conflict with its inhabitants Dasas & Dasyus

 

Dasas: Mentioned in ancient Iranian literature hence may be early Aryans

Dasyus: Possibly original inhabitants of the country & possibly worshipped Phallus (Lingam)

 

  • Aryan chief who overpowered them was called Trasadasyu , generally soft towards Dasas but hostile towards Dasyus (Term Dasyuhatya is repeatedly mentioned in Rig Veda)
  • Aryans succeeded everywhere because they possessed chariot driven by horses & possibly with coats of mail & better armory Introduced these things for the 1st time in west Asia & India
  • Aryans were divided into 5 tribes called Panchajana mainly, along with other tribes Most powerful ones were Bharatas of Tritsu Family supported by Viswamitra

 

Battle of 10 Kings fought at River Parushni (Ravi):

  • Bharat ruling clan was opposed by host of 10 chiefs (5 aryans & 5 non aryans) supported by Vashishta
  • Bharat clan emerged victorious & subsequently joined hand with Purus (Most powerful defeated tribe) & formed a new ruling tribe called kurus

 

Bharatvansa is named after tribe Bharata & 1st mentioned in Rig Veda

 


Early Vedic Period

  • Agriculture was well known to pre aryans & ploughshare is 1st mentioned in early part of Rig Veda
  • But agriculture was perhaps used to produce fodder only Predominantly pastoral people with cattle rearing as main occupation
  • Most of the wars were fought for the sake of cows as the term for war in Rig Veda is Gavishthi i.e. search for cows (Hence cows seems to have been most important wealth)
  • Gifts were made to priests in form of cows & women slaves Not in form of land
  • Rig Veda mentions several artisans namely Carpenters, Chariot makers, weavers, Leather workers, Potters etc. along with term Ayas used for copper or Bronze which shows metal working was well known
  • Aryans or Vedic people mainly relied on land routes as the word samundra mentioned in Rig veda mainly denotes a collection of water

 

Rig Vedic term Meaning
Gau Cow
Gavishti Search for Cows
Gopati Raja or chief, protector of cows
Godhuli Measure of time
Duhitr Daughter or one who milks the cows
Gomat wealthy man who owned many cattle


Administration in Rig Vedic Period

  • Tribal chief at the center (Rajan)
  • King was known as Gopaljanya i.e. protector of its people & cows
  • King was assisted by Purohits, Senani & Gramanis
  • King did not exercise unlimited power & worked in reckon with tribal organization
  • King’s position was hereditary (but could be removed from power if found weak and inefficient or cruel).


Rig Vedic Assemblies & administrative division

  • Several assemblies such as Sabha, Samiti, Vidhata & Gana are mentioned in Rig Veda & even women were allowed to attend Sabha & Vidhata assemblies.
  • Two most important assemblies were Sabha & Samiti as even kings & chiefs showed eagerness to win their support
  • No introduction of taxes & offerings (Known as Bali) were made voluntarily by people
  • Aryan tribes was known as Jana ( Janapada or territory is not used even once in Rig Veda as Territory / Kingdom was not established)
  • Jana was divided into Group of villages called Vis (Headed by Vrajapati),
  • Vis was further divided into Grama or small tribal units meant for fighting (Headed by Graminis),
  • Grama was further divided into Kulas (Family) headed by Kulapa
  • When Grama clashed with each other then it caused samgrama or war
  • Kinship was the basis of social structure & a man was identified by the clan he belongs to

 


Societal Practices & Divisions

  • Rig veda speaks of Arya varna (Aryans) & Das varna (Non Aryans), where possibly the distinction was on the basis of colour
  • Society was patriarchal & people prayed to God mainly for brave sons & Cattles.
  • Practice of Levirate (Man marrying to Brother’s widow) & widow remarriage was prevalent with no mention of sati system or Child marriage as marriageable age mentioned in Rig Veda is 16- 17 Years
  • Women poets in Rig Veda peiord : Apala, Vishwavara, Ghosa & Lopamudra
  • Tribal Society was divided into 3 groups mainly Warrior, priest & People with 4th division called shudra appeared towards end of Rig vedic period (1st time in 10th book of Rig Veda)
  • Conquered Dasas & Dasyus were treated as slaves or Shudra by Aryans for domestic work purpose
  • Main pottery of this period is OCP (ochre coloured pottery)

 


Early Vedic Gods

No Idol Worship 

Indra Warlord / Raingod / Purandara / Breaker of forts
Agni  Fire god & intermediary b/w God  & peopleMarriages were solemnize in his presenceDestroyed germs & dirt hence was considered pure\
Varuna Personified as water & supposed to keep natural order in line
Soma God of plants, & an intoxicating drink somras named after it
Marut Personified as storm
Aditi Goddess of eternity Not so Prominent in Rig veda
Usha Appearance of dawn

Other gods were Prithvi, Vayu etc. Mainly Nature gods

 

  • Gods were invited to take partake of sacrifices made by whole tribe (Jana)
  • Sacrifices mainly consists of Vegetables, Barley etc. (No rituals or sacrificial formulae were used).
  • Yajna (sacrifice) was performed along with chanting of Vedic hymns.
  • People poured ghee (clarified butter) and other ingredients into the fire to invoke the blessings of gods.
  • Jana mainly asked for Praja (Children), Pashu (Cattle), Food, Wealth, health etc.
  • Eating of cows meat was strictly prohibited as cow was considered as a sacred animal

 

Previous – Indus Valley Civilization

Next – Later Vedic Period 

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