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Introduction
14 May 2020

The Vedic time is divided into two phases, these are:

  • Rig Vedic (1500 BC – 1000 BC)
  • Later Vedic (1000 BC – 600 BC)

Note: Prior to Aryans there was no Sanskrit language, it was introduced in India by Aryans.

How did we come to know to about Vedic culture and society?

Well, the literary source of the Vedic time is the Vedas. Some characteristics of Vedas are:

  • The Vedas are essentially a compilation of prayers and hymns, offered by different families of poets and sages to various gods.
  • These four Vedas are also called ‘Samhitas’, in the sense that they represent the oral tradition of the time.
  • Since the hymns were meant to be recited, learnt and transmitted orally, they were not written when they were first composed. Due to this reason none of the Samhitas can be dated with absolute certainty.

Early Vedic society was pastoral society with cattle rearing being the dominant occupational activity.


Note:


A pastoral society relies more on its animal wealth than agricultural produce. Pastoralism is a subsistence strategy adopted by the people who live in areas where large scale agriculture is not feasible due to some environmental and to a certain extent, cultural constraints.




The Four Vedas

Rig Veda

  • During 1500 BC to 1000 BC, Aryans composed the books. (i.e., Only hymns of Rigveda were composed)
  • Note: Script was not there to write it down.
  • Total number of hymns were 1028.
  • These hymns were dedicated to their Gods.
  • Entire Rigveda was divided into 10 chapters (Mandals), in verse form, in Sanskrit language.
  • All were composed by Vedic priest.

Sama Veda

  • It was composed by the Aryans in later Vedic period.
  • Total number of hymns – 1810 in verse form.
  • Hymns of Sama Veda are copy of Rigveda, rearranged in musical form so that they become easy to memorize.
  • Original to Samaveda there are 75 hymns.
  • Note: Samaveda is known as the earliest book of music.

Yajur Veda

  • It is the first Veda which is partly in passage form.
  • It contains: Rituals and Sacrifices (of animals).
  • It is also called as a book of rituals and sacrifices.

Atharva Veda

  • Entire Veda was in verse form. Total number of hymns – 731
  • It was divided into 20 chapters (Mandals).
  • In this we get first time refence of ‘Black Magic’.
  • Ayur Veda’ is also a part of Atharva Veda.

Other than the four vedas, the other compositions of the vedic period are:

· Brahmanas

· Aranyakas

· Upanishads

· Puranas


Brahmanas: were comments on Vedas.

Satapatha Brahmana is a comment on Yajurveda.

Aranyakas: is a forest book, Aranyaki was forest goddess.

Upanishads: were the philosophical books, contains talks about Atma (individual soul) and Brahman (the ultimate soul) and       about Salvation (Moksh):

· Total number of Upanishads are 108

· One of the earliest Upanishad is Mundaka Upanishad, in which there is a reference of ‘Satyamev Jayate’.

· In ‘Brihadranyaka Upanishad’ there is a reference to ‘ Tamso ma jyotirgamaya’

Puranas: there were total 18 purans in vedic literature.

These were mythological books, all hindu mythology.

These were composed in 4th century AD, written down during ‘Gupta Period’.


Vedic Religion

Religion and India are inseparable terms. The presence of religion in India goes as back as the making of the India or Bharat.

India is land of approximately 33 crores Gods and Goddesses. There are Universal, location specific or cult specific Gods and Goddesses.

Let us look into the religion during the Rig Vedic and Later Vedic times:


Rig Vedic

Later Vedic

Total of 33 Gods and Goddesses were referred during this time.

Most important God was ‘Indra God’, as, based on the number of Rigvedic hymns dedicated, total 250 hymns dedicated to only Indra God.

The Indra God – God of rainfall and Warfare.

After Indra god, Agni God – God of Fire, about 200 hymns were dedicated to Agni God.

Varun God – God of Water and Celestial God and 171 hymns were dedicated to Varun God.

Goddesses – a smaller number of hymns were dedicated. Important ones are:

Ratri – Night Goddess

Usha – Dawn Goddess

Aditi – Mother Goddess

Prithvi – Earth Goddess

Religion was Materialistic, not spiritual, importance was given to Animals and Sons. (Pasu and Suvira)

Suvira – brave son.

There was no reference to Atma, Brahman and Salvation.

Very less advancement of science and technology

3 main different gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra.

Worship – not in the form of idols and temples.

Main basis of worship became – Rituals and Sacrifices.

Ashwamedha” – Ritual or Yajna

In which horse will roam for 2 years to mark the territory. After the completion of two years 3 days of Yajna and sacrifices of 1 horse, 600 bulls and 21 sterile cows.

Rituals given in Yajurveda – book of rituals and sacrifices.

Two types of religion were founded:

  • Philosophical and

  • Spritual

The Epics

Mahabharat

  • Jay Samhita is the oldest name of Mahabharata.
  • It is also known as the ‘Victory Book’.
  • It originally contained 8,800 verses, composed by Ved Vyas.
  • In course of time, there was addition of verses and then the number raised to 24,000 verses, and its name changed to ‘Bharat’.
  • Later it contained 1,00,000 verses (One Lakh), major addition in Gupta Period, and its name became ‘Mahabharat’.

The Bhagwat Gita was added during the Gupta Period.

 

Ramayana

  • Original Ramayan contains 6000 verses and was authored by Valmiki in Sanskrit language.
  • In course of time, the number of verses increased to 24,000.
  • Ram CharitManas was written by Tulsidas in 16th century AD, in Awadhi language.


Social Structure

Let us compare and learn about the social conditions and the position of women in the Rig Vedic and the Later Vedic period.


Rig vedic social conditions

Vedic Economy


Some of the characteristics of the economic system during the Vedic times are:

  • The main system of exchange was ‘Barter System’.  

  • The coin system was developed much later.

  • The earliest coin was that of Bronze.

  • And during post vedic period, Gold coins were issued.

  • The earliest coins were punch-marked coins.


Let us compare and discuss the difference and similarities between the economic the system during the Rig Vedic time and the Later Vedic time:

 

Economy

Rig Vedic

Later Vedic

Type

     Pastoral economy was more important than agriculture

     Agricultural economy was more important than pastoral.

     Rice production was emphasized.

Coins

     No evidence of coins ‘NISHKH’: it means gold ornaments.

     No coins, same barter system prevailed.

Tax

     Tax was there, it went to King.

     Only tax during this period was ‘Bali’, in the form of commodities like crop, animals, dairy product, etc.

     Besides ‘Bali’, a new tax system was evolved known as ‘Bhaga’ it means land revenue.

 Note:

 

Most important crops were:

            Barley, old name – ‘Yava’, area Punjab and Afghanistan.

            Wheat, old name – ‘Godhuna’.

            Rice seed, old name – ‘Dhanya – bija’.



Vedic Polity

The society was mainly tribal with one chief and other tribal people. Some of the characteristics of the both Rig Vedic and Later Vedic societies are:

Rig Vedic

Later Vedic

Total number of tribes were 30

Most important tribe was “Bharat Tribe”.

King was called ‘Rajan’, name of Bharat tribe rajan was ‘Sudas’.

Battle of 10 kings was, most important war of Rig Vedic period, in this battle Sudas fought with 10 kings in Punjab, on the bank of river Ravi, and was victorious.

Kingship was hereditary.

There were 4 political assemblies

i) Sabha: in which elder members of tribes and women participated.

ii) Samiti: Younger member participated.

Other two were Gana and Vidhata, their role was collection and distribution of tax.

There was no permanent Army.

Power of King increases.

Birth of caste system.

Rulers were of Kshatriya caste.

Sabha and Samiti powers greatly reduced and power of Gonanad Vidhata increased.

King were deciding important matters without consulting others.

King maintains 12 officials known as ‘Ratnins’.

Kingship was hereditary.

Regular army was there. King who maintained first regular army was “Bimbisara’ around 600 BC, he was the king of Magadh.