Later Vedic Period in India

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Later Vedic Period : : Vedic Period in India

Region of Later Vedic Period :

  • They reveal that the Aryans expanded from Punjab over the whole of western Punjab over the whole of western UP covered by the Ganga-Yamuna doab.
  • In the beginning, they cleared the land by burning; later with the use of iron tools which became common by 1000 – 800 BC.

Political Organization in India :

  • Tiny tribal settlements were replaced by strong kingdoms.
  • Powers of the king, who was called Samrat increased. Importance of assemblies declined. Women were no longer permitted to attend assemblies. The term ‘rashtra’ indicating territory first appeared in this period.
  • A regular army was maintained for the protection of kingdom.
  • References of Priest ( Purohita ), Commander in chief ( Senapati ), Charioteer ( Sura ), treasurer ( Sangrahita ), tax collector ( Bhagdugha ), chief queen ( Mahisi ) and the game companion ( aksavapa ).

Later Vedic Period Social Life :
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  • The four fold division of society became clear – initially based on occupation, which later became hereditary : Brahmins ( priests ), Kshatriyas ( Warriors ), Vaishyas ( agriculturists, cattle – rearers, traders ) and Shudras ( servers of the upper three ).
  • Women enjoyed freedom and respect but their status deteriorated compared to earlier time.
  • The institution of gotra appeared in this age first time. Gotra signified descent from common ancestors.
  • In this time also, Chariot racing was the main sport and gambling was the main pastime.

Types of Marriages in Later Vedic Period :

  • Brahma : Marriage of a duly dowered girl to a man of the same class.
  • Daiva : Marriage in which a father gave his daughter to a sacrificial priest as part of his fees.
  • Arsa : Marriage in which a token bride-price of a cow and a bull was paid to the daughter’s father.
  • Prajapatya : Marriage in which the father gave the girl without dowry and without demanding bride-price.
  • Gandharva : Marriage, often clandestine, by the consent of the two parties.
  • Asura : Marriage by purchase.
  • Rakshasa : Marriage by capture.
  • Paishacha : Marriage involving the seduction of a girl while sleeping, etc.
  • Anuloma marriage was the marriage of a higher varno man with a lower varna woman.
  • Pratiloma marriage was the marriage or a lower varno man with a higher varna woman.

Important Vedic Rituals :

Asvamedha : A king performed this sacrifice, which meant control over the area in which the royal horse ran uninterrupted. The ceremony lasted for three days at the end of which the horse sacrifice was performed.

Vajapeya : A chariot race was performed in which the king must win the race ( it was fixed ). It was meant to re – establish a king’s supremacy over his people.

Rajasuya : A sacrifice ceremony which conferred supreme power on the king.

Pottery :

  • The later Vedic people used four types of pottery – black and red ware, black – slipped ware, painted grey ware and red ware.
  • Red ware was most popular with them, and has been found almost all over western UP However, the most distinctive pottery of the period is known as Painted Grey Ware, which comprised bowls and dishes, used either for rituals or for eating by the upper classes.

Religion :

  • Rituals and formulae became prominent in the cult of sacrifice.
  • Indra and Agni lost their importance. Prajapati ( the creator ) became supreme. Vishnu came to be conceived as the preserver and protector of the people.
  • Some of the social orders came to have their own deities, e.g., Pushan, responsible for well being of the cattle, became the god of the shudras.
  • Towards the end of the period, began a strong reaction against sacrificial cults and rituals with the composition of the Upanishads, which valued right belief and knowledge more than anything else.

The Vedic Literature of India

The Vedas :

  • The word ‘veda’ comes from the root ‘vidi’, signifying knowledge.
  • Vedas are also known as ‘shruti’ ( to hear ) as they were passed from generation to generation through verbal transmission.
  • They are four in all – Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.
  • The first three vedas are collectively known as ‘Trayi’ or ‘trio’. Each Veda is further divided into Samhitas.

(a) Rig Veda :

  • Oldest religious text in the world.
  • Must have been composed around 1700 BC.
  • A collection of hymns. Were recited at the time of sacrificial rites and other rituals with utmost devotion.
  • Contains 1028 hymns ( 1017 + 11 valakhilyas ) and is divided into 10 mandates.
  • II to VII are the earliest mandalas, each of which is ascribed to a particular family of seers ( rishis ) – Gritsamada, Visvamitra, Vamadeva, Atri, Bharadvaj, and Vashistha. VIII mandala is ascribed to the Kanvas and Angiras. IX is the compilation of Soma hymns. I and X are considered the later additions.
  • The X mandala contains the famous Purushsukta which explains that the 4 varnas ( Brahmans, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra) were born from the mouth, arms, thighs and feet of the creator, Brahma.
  • Words in Rig Veda : Om ( 1028 times ), Jan ( 275 times ), etc. 250 hymns are dedicated to Indra while 200 are dedicated to Agni.
  • The third mandala contains the Gayatri Mantra ( addressed to sun ).
  • Saraswati is the deity river in Rig Veda.

(b) Sama Veda :

  • Derived from the root ‘Saman’, i.e., ‘melody’. It is a collection of melodies.
  • It has 1603 verses but except 99 all the rest have been borrowed from Rig Veda.
  • Contains ‘Dhrupada Raga’.

(c) Yajur Veda :

  • Deals with the procedure for the performance of sacrifices.
  • There are two main texts of Yajur Veda : White Yajurveda ( or Shukla Yajurveda ) and Black Yajurveda ( or Krishna Yajurveda ). The former contains mantras and the latter has commentary in prose.

(d) Atharva Veda :

  • Entirely different from other 3 vedas.
  • Divided into 20 kandas ( books ) and has 711 hymns – mostly dealing with magic ( along with personal problems of people ).

The Brahmanas :

  • They explain the hymns of the vedas in an orthodox manner.
  • Each veda has several Brahmanas attached to it.
  • Rigveda : Kaushetki and Aitreya.
  • Yajurveda : Taitriya & Shatpatha.
  • Samveda : Panchvish & Jemineya.
  • Atharvaveda : Gopath.
  • The most important is ‘Shatapatha Brahmana’ attached to Yajurveda, which is most exhaustive and important of all. It recommends ‘One hundred Sacred Paths’.

The Aranyakas :

  • Called ‘forest books’, written mainly by the hermits living in the jungles for their pupils.
  • These are the concluding portions of the Brahmanas.
  • Deals with mysticism and philosophy. Opposed to sacrifice and emphasize ‘Meditation’.
  • Form a bridge between ‘Way of work’ ( Karma Marg ) which was the sole concern of the Upanishads and the ‘Way of knowledge’ ( Gyan Marg ) which the Brahmanas advocated.

The Upanishads History :

  • The word means ‘to sit down near someone’ and denotes a student sitting near his guru to learn.
  • Called Vedanta ( the end of the vedas ) firstly because they denote the last phase of the Vedic Period and secondly, because they reveal the final aim of the vedas.
  • They are the main source of Indian philosophy.
  • There are 108 Upanishads.
  • They also condemn the ceremonies and the sacrifices.
  • They discuss the various theories of creation of the universe and define the doctrine of action ( Karma ).

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  • Explains rules and regulations in the Vedic life.
  • Main are Manusmriti, Naradsmriti, Yagyavalkyasmriti and Parasharsmriti.
Vedangas : Six Vedangas are Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chhanda and Jyotisha.
  • Shiksha deals with pronunciation.
  • Kalpa with rituals.
  • Vyakarana with gramMar.
  • Nirukta with etymology.
  • Chhanda with meter.
  • Jyotisha with astronomy.

History of Darshans : There are 6 schools of Indian philosophy known as Shad – Darshana. These are given by 6 philosophers of Ancient India:

  • Nyaya ( Analysis ) Darshana : Gautama.
  • Vaishesika Darshana : Kanada Rishi ( referred atom as kan / anu ).
  • Sankhaya Darshana : Kapila.
  • Yoga Darshana : Patanjali.
  • Purva Mimansa : Jaimini.
  • Uttara Mimansa : Badaryana or Vyasa ( wrote Mahabharata, classified vedas, composed the puranas and also gave vedantic philosophy ).

Upavedas : There are four upavedas:

  • Dhanurveda ( deals with art of warfare ) ( Upaveda of Yajur Veda ).
  • Gandharvaveda ( deals with art & music ) ( Upaveda of Sama Veda ).
  • Shilpaveda ( deals with architecture ) ( Upaveda of Atharva Veda ).
  • Ayurveda ( deals with medicine ) ( Upaveda of Rig Veda ).
Epics : Though the two epics – the Mahabharata and the Ramayana – were compiled later, they reflect the state of affairs of die Later Vedic Period.
  • The Mahabharata, attributed to Vyasa, is considered older than the Ramayana and describes the period from the tenth century BC to the fourth century AD. It is also called Jaisamhita and Satasahasri Samhita and has one lakh verses.
  • The Ramayana, attributed to Valmiki, has 24,000 verses. Its composition started in the fifth century BC and passes through five stages; the fifth stage ended in the twelfth century AD.

Rise of Brahmanism :

  • Value of Brahmins increased as they only could perform religious ceremonies.
  • Led to religious monopoly.
  • Puranas or old stories ( 18 in no. ) contain the popular myths of these times.
  • People revolted against this.
  • In the sixth century BC onwards, the widespread use of iron in eastern UP and western Bihar created conditions for the formation of large territorial States.
  • The new agricultural tools and implements enabled the peasants to produce more; and i the extra product was collected by Princes to meet military and administrative needs.
  • With this, ‘Janapadas’ started making ‘Mahajanpadas’. The land between Himalayas & Narmada was divided into 16 independent states ( Mahajanpadas ).
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