An important period in the history of ancient India is the Vedic Age. Since numerous questions from this area were asked in both the IAS prelims and mains exams, it is also crucial for preparing for the UPSC and other government exams. You can read about all the important aspects of the Vedic Age (Rig Vedic & Later Vedic) in this article from the perspective of the UPSC exam and other government exams.
A significant civilization and culture known as the Vedic culture came after the Harappan civilization. The fundamental resource for reconstructing Vedic civilization and Vedic period are the Vedic texts. The texts have also been augmented with archaeological evidence, though not fully. The Indo-Aryans are credited with writing the Vedic scriptures. The speakers of a subgroup of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European linguistic family are referred to as Indo-Aryans. The Rig Veda composers identify as Arya, which is etymologically derived from “Ar,” which means to cultivate and, in Sanskrit, means “men of good family” or noble. It also means kinsmen or companion in English.
Various ideas exist regarding the origin of the Aryans, their migration, and their potential invasion of the Indian Subcontinent.
- The Central Asian idea was put forth by German comparative linguist Professor Max Muller. According to this hypothesis, Central Asia was the original home of the Aryans. When comparing the “Avesta” (an Iranian work) and the “Vedas,” one discovers a startling linguistic similarity between them in terms of both vocabulary and concepts. The idea is further supported by the interchangeability of the letters “h” and “s” and the astounding uniformity of this transformation, as seen in the names Hepta Hindu (Sapta Sindu), Ahura (Asura), Haoma (Soma), and Daha (Dasa).
- European theory is supported by Sir William Jones, Giles (Hungary), Shroeder (France), and Morgan (Western Siberia). According to this idea, the Aryans who migrated to India were an offshoot of the Aryans who lived in Europe and travelled to other locations.
- The Tibet hypothesis was promoted by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. The Vedas and other Aryan literature support the idea that Tibet was the Aryans’ original homeland.
- Dr. A.C. Dass, Ganga Nath Jha, Sri L.D. Kalla, and Sri D.S. Trivedi have all endorsed the Indian idea. This hypothesis states that the Sapta Sindhu’s inhabitants were the Aryans. From the Indus River, this area extended all the way to the Saraswati River. Punjab and Kashmir were also included in this area. The Vedic Aryans’ sacrifice practices reveal their Indian ancestry. The names of the rivers in this area are mentioned in the Rig Vedic hymns to rivers. The majority of the described plants and animals are found in the Himalayan region.
The most important source of knowledge regarding the Vedic civilisation is the Vedic literature. Veda is a word that means knowledge. The Vedic literature has developed over many years and has been passed down orally from generation to generation. The earliest surviving manuscript dates back to the eleventh century and was created after they had been collected and written down.
Each of the four Vedas has four sections: the Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka, and Upanishads. There are four Vedas. The Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda are the four Vedas.
- It is the first Veda and portrays early Vedic life in India. The Rig Veda is listed among the works of literature that represent the World Human Heritage by UNESCO.
- Its text is made up of 1028 hymns (Sukta), which are organised into ten books, or Mandalas.
- The Rig Veda Samhita’s Mandalas 2–7, which are its oldest section, are referred to as “family books” because they are attributed to certain families of seers and rishis.
- Mandala 8: The hymns in this mandala are mostly the work of the Kanva clan and are devoted to a variety of gods.
- Mandala 9: Soma is the sole subject of all of the hymns.
- Indra and Agni are the main subjects of Mandala 1. There have also been references to Vishnu, Varuna, Surya, Mitra, and Rudra.
- The Sama Veda, often known as the “Veda of Chants,” is a compendium of lines that are nearly entirely taken from the Rig Veda and are accompanied by musical notation in order to facilitate the singing of holy songs.
- It includes the well-known Dhrupada Raga, which Tansen later sang in the Middle Ages.
- The Sama Veda features three renunciations (Shakhas): Kauthuma, Ranayaniya, and Jaiminiya (Talavakara).
- The Gandharva Veda is the Upaveda of the Sama Veda.
Life During Vedic Age
The Aryans first settled in the region known as “Sapta Sindhu” (Land of the Seven Rivers). These seven rivers were the Indus (Sindhu), Beas (Vipash), Jhelum (Vitasta), Ravi (Parushni), Chenab (Asikni), Satluj (Shutudri), and Sarasvati.
Rajan is the name of the monarch who rules in a monarchical fashion.
Patriarchal households. In Rig Vedic times, Jana was the largest social unit.
kula (family) – grama – visu – jana are the four social groups.
Sabhas and Samitis were terms for tribal assemblies. Bharatas, Matsyas, Yadus, and Purus are a few examples of tribal kingdoms.
Women held respectable positions in society. They were permitted to participate in Samitis and Sabhas. There were also female poets (Apala, Lopamudra, Viswavara and Ghosa).
Cows in particular became particularly important.
Although monogamy was the norm, monarchs and nobles were known to engage in polygamy.
They were farmers and cattle farmers.
They engaged in farming.
They had horse-drawn chariots.
Transport relied on rivers.
Fabrics made of cotton and wool were spun and utilised.
Trade was initially done through the barter system, but later on, ‘nishka’ coins were used.
By personifying various elements of nature as gods, they practised worship of things like the earth, fire, wind, rain, thunder, etc.
The main deity was Indra (the thunder). Prithvi (earth), Agni (fire), Varuna (rain), and Vayu were additional deities (wind).
Ushas and Aditi were female deities.
Both idol worship and temples were absent.