VEDIC CIVILIZATION

Chalcolithic settlements

    • This was a transition phase when both copper or bronze and stone statues were used.
    • Chalcolithic cultures existed from Chota nagpur to Upper gangetic basin. But bronze tools were almost absent while the same had been responsible for growth of earlier civilization in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
    • Although most stone copper cultures existed in major parts of the country were younger than the harappan culture. They did not get the technological know how of the harappan such as the art of making alloys such as bronze.

South India

    • Contemporary with the Indus civilization, food producing cultures extended down the deccan and it had begun to adapt to the ecological conditions of the inland peninsula.
    • Archaelogical evidence suggests that the second half of the second millenium BC, the settled neolithic way of life had diffused to most areas of South India except in Kerela where the forests were too thick to be controlled by tools.
    • In Maharashtra and North deccan, agriculture economy was based on millet pulses and oil seeds.

Iron Age

    • The iron age in peninsular India as in the north India began as early as 1000 BC. Iron age sites have burials which are often megaliths in the form of stone slabs placed in stone slabs. In every sizeable settlement in the fertile parts of the parts of southern Tamil Nadu , pot burials are found which indicate a sizeable population.
    • A wide range of iron implements occur in these megalithic burial complexes together with etched couch shells and inevitable red and black ware. It is said that there is fair degree of uniformity in iron age burials throughout the south.
      1. The full impact of the megalithic iron using culture in the south was found from the middle of the millenium
      1. Megaliths were apparently built into the sangam period.
      1. The iron age culture diffused through the south with a militaristic people using iron tools, invincible iron weapons and horse.
      1. Population density reached a new plane.
      1. The major dravidian languages spread over the south by only about 500 BC does not preclude the existence of earlier dravidian languages – only there was no culture strong enough to produce such wide spread languages.

Introduction

Aryans came to India in 2000-1500 BC periods. They are believed to be sons of the soil or originating from Central Asia as per popular belief. The origin is disputed but they were cattle herders. They first settled in Punjab or frontier provinces and then pushed into interior of India.

The Aryans  soon reached all over the northern part of India. The north was then called Aryavarta.

The Aryan period can be divided into Early Aryan period [Rig Vedic period] 1500BC to 1000 BC and Later Aryan period 1000BC to 600 BC.

The Vedic literature consists of four Vedas viz. Rig Veda, Sam Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.

Rig Veda is oldest amongst them and contains the cultural, social and political life of the Aryans. Sam Veda is important for Indian music. Yajur Veda is a book of sacrificial prayers and Atharva Veda contains charms and spells to ward off evil.

Vedic period belongs to the Iron Age. Other than Rig Veda other Vedas belong to Later Vedic period.

Besides these other sacred texts are Brahmans, Aranyakas, Upanishads and the great texts Mahabharata and Ramayana. They spoke the Indo – Aryan language Sanskrit

Early Vedic Period: 1500 BC to 1000 BC 

  1. The civilization was confined to Indus Valley Rivers. 
  2. Political organization:
  • Family – Kula
  • Village – gram ; head – gramani
  • Group of village – visu; head – vishayapati
  • Highest political unit – tribe or Jana
  • Tribal kingdoms headed by Rajan; assisted by purohit [priest] and senani [head of army]
  • Bodies – Sabha [council of elders and Samiti [assembly of people].
  1.  Social life
  2. Patriarchal society where property was inherited by son.
  3. Women were treated with respect. They were allowed to attend assemblies and participate in intellectual development.
  4. No sati or child marriage. Caste system not rigid and based on occupations.
  5. Monogamy was practiced and polygamy was found in royal households.
  6. Fruits, vegetables, wheat, barley, milk were common.
  7. Sanskrit was the language.
  8. Woolen and cotton clothes.
  9. Pastimes were chariot racing, music, horse racing and dance.
  10. Economic conditions:
  11. Trade was based on barter system but later for large transactions coins called Nishkas were used.
  12. Primarily they were cattle herders, but other occupations were carpentry, agriculture, pottery, spinning and goldsmith.
  13. Iron was known and widely used. Copper wasn’t known.
  14. Religion
  15. Male and female gods. Nature was personified and worshiped.
  16. No idol or temple worship.
  17. Offerings and small rituals were present. 

Later Vedic Period: 1000 BC to 600 BC 

  1. Larger kingdoms were formed from amalgamation of tribes or Janas into Janapadas or Rashtras.
  2. Kings started performing rituals for maintaining dominion.
  3. Many new posts of officials were created.
  4. Iron was used extensively to bring area into cultivation.
  5. Sea trade was started. Vaishya caste was formed of merchants.
  6. Caste system became more rigid. Brahmans and kshatriyas enjoy higher rights and Vaishya and Shudras were denied rights.
  7. Status of women deteriorated. They lost their political rights. Child marriages and sati became common.
  8. Rituals and sacrifices became more common. Dominion of Brahmins was seen. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh were the chief deities.

A direct result of this system led to birth of Buddhism and Jainism. The lower castes were attracted towards them as they didn’t believe in rituals and castes.

Difference between Dravidians and Aryans:

  1. Dark skin and medium height.
  2. Trade and agriculture main occupation.
  3. Used only cotton
  4. Worshiped bull and idols.
  5. Used copper didn’t know iron
  6. Knew tiger not horses.
  7. Agriculture civilization and built towns.

Smriti Literature

    • Smriti is a traditional language and designates almost the entire post vedic classical sanskrit language. Sanskrit literature generally includes following overlapping subjects :
      1. Vedanga refer to certain brnches of post vedic studies regarded as auxilliary to the vedas. The vedas are divided into six headings named as : Kaipa (ritual canon), Jyotisha (astronomy), Siksha (phonetics), Chanda (meter) , Vikruta (etymology) and Vyakaran (grammar).
      1. Shad darshana which denote the six orthodox view points of Hindu philosophy named as Vaiseshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimasa and Vedanta.
      1. Itihasa, legendary or non legandary works specifically the mahabharat or ramayan which often extended to puranas.
      1. Purana – a late compilation of ancient legend which consists of heavily colored superstition.
      1. Upaveda – Auxilliary vedas which deal with medicine, music, architecture, eroticism, archery and various arts and crafts.
      1. Tantra – contains writings of saka or shaivaite sects and also of antinomian buddhist scholars.
      1. Agama – contains scriptures of sectarian hindus such as vaishnavaites, shaivaites
      1. Upanga – Generic name for a collection of treatises

Religious movements

    • The extensive use of iron and paddy transplantation technique immensely strengthened the agrarian economy. The formation of states and social stratification gained moment during the 1st Century BC.
    • The nature of the society in which the brahmanas and kshatriyas played an important role changed with the emergence of the trading class. Now renewed emphasis was given to the caste system and it became more rigid. The law makers now enforced strict rule for caste separation and imposed many restrictions on the lowest castes or shudras.
    • The brahmans, kshatriyas and the traders lived in a city. The presence of these people meant the presence of a large number of poor people too. Small scale trade and various craft industries such as clay and crafts etc also grew but the practitioners remained within a family. These family of professions gave rise to subcaste or jatis and this also led to rules forbidding intercaste marriages and interdining.
    • The development of professions led to a society of consumers and distributers. The vaishyas or the traders performed the role of distributers and were engaged in trade in both inland and external areas. They traded with overseas countries and kingdoms. They made fortunes from trade with inland and overseas kingdoms.
    • Within the country their trade routes were fixed. The towns were centers of trading activities as the market was well developed and also the security was higher.
    • Banks were unknown so additional wealth was converted to ornaments or buried. Barter system was replaced by silver and copper coins known as Kahapana. These bore marks by the traders and were a form of guarantee. Thus, the trader community had considerable economic power. Similarly considerable political power belonged to the community of kshatriyas. However, brahmanas continued to assert their domination on the society by created rituals and practices and becoming a monopoly for people to access gods and religions. This led to the support of the so called powerful lower classes to other religions such as Jainism and Buddhism.