Vedic Period: Ancient History
The Vedic Age flourished between 1500 BC and 600 BC. Vedic age is considered as a major settlement after the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization by 1400 BC. This age is considered as age in which Vedas were written which are very important source of information till date. This age started when Aryan or Indo-Aryan arrived here. Vedic Age can be further dvided into two periods which are as below:-
- Early Vedic Period (1500 BC – 1000 BC)
- Later Vedic Period (1000 BC – 600 BC)
Early Vedic Period/ Rigvedic Period (1500 BC – 1000 BC)
In the starting Aryans lived in the land known as “Sapta Sindhu” which is also known as ‘Land of the Seven Rivers’. The seven rivers were Indus, Beas, Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab, Satluj and Sarasvati. The Rigvedic Period represents the time period when the Rig Veda was composed.
Early Vedic Period Political Organization
- Grama (village), Vish and Jana.:- The political structure during the Early Vedic period consist of Grama (village), Vish and Jana. The highest political unit was considered to be Jana, after that Vish and grama comes at lowest in the hierarchy.
- Gramani, Vishpati and Jyeshta :-These are the leaders to above mentioned political units. The leader of a Grama was known as Gramani, vishpati was of Vish and that of Jana was called as Jyeshta.
- Rajan:- The state was rules by a Rajan also know an King and he was the protector and considered the Samrat or supreme ruler. In the Vedic period king ruled with the consent of the people of Grama (village), Vish and Jana.
- Councils:- In the Vedic period, there were four councils which are Sabha, Samiti, Vidhata and Gana. In these councils, women were allowed to attend only in Sabha and Vidhata. Women were not allowed in Samiti and Gana.
- Duty of the King:- The duty of the king was to protect the tribe, in which he was assisted by the Purohita (chaplain) and the Senani (army chief).
Early Vedic Period Society structure and Economy
- Varna System:- The concept of Varna was there in this period. Social stratification also took place. Brahmins and Kshatriyas were considered as higher in the society in comparison with Shudras and the Vaisyas.
- Patriarchy:- In this period families became patriarchal and people began started praying for the birth of a son.
Early Vedic Period Economy:-
- Cultivation:- The importance of agriculture started growing.
- Transportation:- As they were living near river banks, therefore, rivers were used for transportation as well as trading.
- Metal Products were used:- In this Period, products made out of copper, iron and bronze were in use.
- Coins in use:- Initially they were doing transaction through barter system, however, later on coins came into use in this period.
Early Vedic Period Religious Practices
- Important to animals:- Cows and bulls were accorded religious significance.
- Worship of Natural forces:- They worshipped natural forces like earth, fire, wind, rain, thunder, etc. by personifying them into deities.
- Dieties:- The main deities were Indra, Agni (the sacrificial fire), and Soma.
- Composer of Hymns:- Rishis which were the composers of the hymns of the Rig Veda, were treated as divine and sacred.
- No Idol Worship:- There were no temples in this period and Idols were also not worshipped.
- Chanting of verses:- Significance of chanting increased in this period.
Later Vedic Period (1000 BC – 600 BC)
During this time, the Aryans moved eastwards and occupied western and eastern UP (Kosala) and Bihar. In this period cultivation of various crops emerged out as a very important economic activity. It also observed a decline cattle rearing. In this Period several kingdoms arose due to increase in the importance of land which started gaining significance in this period only.
Later Vedic Period Political structure:
- Mahajanpadas:- The rise of kingdoms like Mahajanapadas were seen in this period formed by joining smaller kingdoms of that time giving rise to the power of king.
- Rituals & Sacrifices:- Sacrifices like Rajasuya (royal consecration ceremony), Vajapeya (race of chariot) and Ashwamedha (sacrifice of horses) also gained significance
- Say of people diminished:- Due to the decline in importance of Sabhas and Samitis, say of people in administration decreased to a certain extent.
Later Vedic Period Social structure:
- Varna system: Varna system became very rigid as compared to early vedic age. It was also not based on occupation, it was mainly based on heredity. Brahmanas were considered at the top of the ranking then comes Kshtriyas. After that Vaishyas which comprised of traders, artisans & agriculturists and Sudras were last on the ranking.
- Women not permitted:- Position o women got lowered in this age as women were not permitted to attend public assemblies like Sabhas and Samitis.
- Sub Castes:- Gotras and other sub castes got emerged based on a person’s occupation.
Later Vedic Period Economic structure:
- Cultivation of crops:- Agriculture was considered as the main occupation for most of the people.
- Metal, Pottery, Carpentry:- Work such as metal work, pottery and works related to carpentry was also prevalent there in that age.
- Trading:- Trading was also going on that time and it as mainly with Babylon.
Later Vedic Period Religion:
- Deities:- Prajapati (creator) and Vishnu (preserver) became important gods. Indra and Agni lost their significance.
- Prayers importance decreased:- Importance of prayers diminished and rituals and sacrifices became more elaborate.
- Importance of priests:- The priestly class became very powerful and they dictated the rules of the rites and rituals. Because of this orthodoxy, Buddhism and Jainism emerged towards the end of this period.
Here you can also go through details of other periods of Ancient Indian History which would be very helpful for various Government Exams:-