Vedic culture is an Important topic of history. Many questions are framed from the Rig Vedic period and also from the later Vedic culture. This article has details short notes for an exam like SSC, Railway, and other competitive exams.
Vedic Culture (1500BC-600BC)
Vedic culture started after the decline of the Indus Valley civilization.
Vedic culture was started by Aryans. Some believe they were the native of India some believe they came from outside like Max Muller belief they came from Central Asia and Bal Gangadhar Tilak belief they came from Europe’s Arctic region. But Most believe they migrated from Central Asia around 2000BC-1500BC because in Boghazkai Inscription in Turkey, mentions about 4 Vedic gods, Indra, Varuna, Mitra, and Nasatyas.
They First settled in Punjab and called it Sapta Sindu a region of seven rivers.
Vedic Literature (1500BC-600BC)
The Vedic Literature was composed in Sanskrit. They were not in written form in beginning. They were taught by oral method, hence they were called Sruti (heard) and Smriti (memorized). But later on after the invention of Scripts, they were written.
The most important of Vedic literature is Vedas. There are four major Vedas. They are as below.
Rig Veda is the oldest text in the world.
It is a collection of lyrics, contains 1028 hymns and 10,580 verses to praise Gods.
They are divided into 10 mandals. Six mandalas from 2nd to 7th are called Gotra. The 1st and 10th mandalas were added later. 10th mandalas contain the Purushasukta which explains about 4 Varnas – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. Gayatri mantra is in Rig Veda of 3 mandalas, it is addressed to solar deity Savitri.
The Saraswati or Naditarana is the best rivers in the Rig Veda.
Yajur Veda: Known as the book of sacrificial prayers. Has details of rules to be followed during the sacrifice.
Sama Veda: Has a collection of songs. This Veda is important for Indian music. It consists of 1549 verses.
Atharva Veda – Is known as the book of magical spells. It has a collection of spells and charms, which can cure evils and diseases.
Other Vedic texts were the Brahmanas (explains the meaning of sacrifices); Upanishads (also called Vedantas, 108 in number, source of Indian philosophy); and Aranyakas (books of instructions).
The Upanishades are Philosophical texts. They are generally called Vedanta, as they come towards the end of the Veda. There are 108 Upanishadas. Vrihadaranyaka is the oldest Upanishadas.
“Ashtadhayayi” written by Panini, is considered the oldest grammar in the world.
Nirukta is the oldest dictionary in the world.
There are mainly two Mahakavyas (epics).
Ramayana is written by the Valmiki. It is also known as ‘Adi Kavya’, it is the oldest epics of the world. At present, it consists of 24,000 shlokas, originally it has 6000 shlokas.
The Mahabharata is written by Ved Vayas. It is the largest epic in the world. At present, it consists of 1,00,000 shlokas, originally it has 8800 shlokas.
Bhagavad Gita is extracted from Bihshma Parvan of Mahabharata.
Rig Veda is the only source of knowledge for this period.
Rigvedic people lived in an area know as Sapta Sindu that is the region of the seven rivers, present in the Frontier Province of Punjab.
These seven important rivers that are mention as Sapta Sindu are:
The Dasrajan War ( the Battle of Ten Kings).
War was fought between 5 Aryan and 5 non-Aryan tribes against Bharata King Sudas in which the Bharata Won. They later joined with the Purus and established a new tribe called Kurus who ruled the upper Gangetic Plains. The Battle was fought on the bank of the Parushni (Ravi) river.
Political organizations in Vedic Age.
In the Early Vedic Age: Kula was the basic unit of political organization. Multiple families together of kingship formed grama. The Group of villages was called “Visu”, headed by ‘Vishavapati’. The highest political and administrative unit was ‘Jana’ or tribe.
Rig Veda speaks of two important assemblies, Sabha and Samiti. Sabha was a committee of few privileged and important individuals.3
Society during the 1500 BC to 1000BC.
Society was divided into four Varnas based on the occupations of the individuals.
Brahamanas: Teachers and Priests.
Kshatriyas: Rulers and administrators.
Vaishyas: Farmers, merchants, and bankers.
Shudras: Artisans and laborers.
The occupation had not become hereditary as they become, later on, members of the same family took to a different profession.
Child marriage was not there.
Father’s property was inherited by the son.
Milk and its products were an important part of the diet.
There was a Penalty of death or expulsion from the kingdom to those who kill or injure cows.
Aryans were mostly framer, the Number of Cows was term as their wealth.
Religion during the 1500 BC to 1000BC.
Indra or Purandara (destroyer of the fort) is considered the most important god, known as the god of rain.
Agni is the second important god considered as the god of fire.
Savitri (the god of light), Gayatri Mantra is dedicated to her.
No temple and no idol worship were there.
Prayers were offered to gods for reward.
Economy during the 1500 BC to 1000BC.
The Rig Vedic Aryans were pastoral, cattle rearing people.
Various animals were domesticated, as the cows were medium of exchange.
Money and markets were known but they were not extensively used. Cows and gold ornaments of fixed value were the media of exchange. Coins were not known to them.
They were experts in surgery. Along with herbs and drugs charms and spells were regard as equally potential in healing diseases.
Later Vedic period : 1000BC-600BC
During this period Aryans sifted toward Northern India, toward the Ganga River.
Later Vedic literature mention Vindhya mountain (southern mountain).
Later Vedi c gives three broad divisions of India, viz. Aryavarta (Northern India), Madhya Desa ( Central India), and Dekhinapa the ( South India).
Polity during 1000BC to 600BC
In the Vedic period, Kingdom becomes larger.
There was growth in the power of the king.
The popular control over the affairs of the kingdom was exercised through Sabha and Samiti, as in the Rigvedic period.
Even during the later Vedic period, kings did not have a standing army.
The king played a great role in administering criminal law.
Society during 1000BC to 600BC
Aryans expanded to the east and south, group of people known as Kshatriyas emerged to conquer territories and administer them. The remaining Aryans formed a separate class known as Vaishyas, a word derived from Vis meaning ‘people’. The non-Aryans formed the fourth class known as Shudras.
Gotra System appeared in the later Vedic period.
The higher castes could marry with the lower ones, but marriage with Shudras was not permitted.
The four stages of life were mention in the later Vedic period
1st Brahmacharya, 2. Grihastha, 3. Vanprastha 4th. Sanyasa.
Women were prohibited to attend the political assemblies.
Religion during 1000BC to 600BC
Prajapati (creator of the Universe, later known as Brahma) become the supreme God.
Pushana, who protected cattle in the early Vedic period now become the god of Shudras.
Towards the end of the Vedic period, there was the emergence of a strong reaction against cults, rituals, and priestly domination.
Economy during 1000BC to 600BC
The land has now become more valuable than cows. Agriculture began to replace the rearing of cattle.
Rice, barley, beans, sesame, and wheat were cultivated.
New occupations were created like a fisherman, washerman, doorkeeper, carpenter, etc.
New metals like tin iron and silver were come to be known.