[Ancient History] Vedic and Later Vedic Age

Founders or creators of the Vedic Culture.

Aryans immigrant people.

First arrival in India is dated between 2000 and 1500BC.

Aryans composed a series of religious hymns, which were eventually eompiled into a text known as Rigveda.

The great German scholar Max Muller.

Initially believed that Aryans belonged to a race.

Aryans, in scientific language, is utterly inapplicable to race.

It means language and nothing but language.

In 1786,Sir William Jones.

Asiatic society of Bengal, tried to prove a definite relation between the Vedic Sanskrit and some of the principle language of Europe and Asia such as Greek, Latin, Gothic, Celtic, Lithuanian, German, Persian etc.

Scholars have given a common name ‘Indo-European’.

Indo-Europeans or Indo-Aryans.


Sapta Sindhu

Through a migration.

From outside the subcontinent.

Original Homeland:

Ganganath Jha(Brahmarshi-desha),D.S. Triveda,(River Devika in Multan), L.D.Kalla(Kashmir and the Himalayan region)

Vedic Aryans were neither foreigners nor did they migrate into India, but were the indigenous people.

Regarded Sapta Sindhu as their original home.

Some European scholars.

Baltic sea region as the original home of the Aryans.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Polar region as the original home of the Aryans.

Central Asia, Central Europe, Lithuania,etc.

Consensus of opinion is that the original homeland of the Aryans was somewhere in Central Asia.

In the period preceding migrationo to India.

Aryans were settled.

In Iran and the Central Asian bordering the Oxus and the Jaxartes, and the Aral and Caspian seas.

In Asia Minor and other countries of Western Asia there was some activity of the Aryans.

Inscriptions of about 1350BC found at Boghaz-Koi in Cilicia(Asia Minor), the capital of the ancient
Hittites,mention some Aryan deities such as Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatya(Aswins).

Indo-European elements are found among the Hittites of Turkey(ancient Anatolia)around 2000BC and the Kassite’s language contained Indo-European terms.

Some Aryan names appear in Kassite inscriptions of about 1600BC from Iraq in Mittani inscriptions of the foutheenth century BC from Syria.

Earliest evidence of the Indo-European language is found in an iscription of about 2200BC Iraq.

Clay tablets with Babylonian cuneiform script discovered at El-Amarna in Egypt have related that numerous kings with Indo Iranian names such as Artamanya, Arzawiyz, Yasadata, Suttarna, etc. were ruling in Syria about 1400BC.

About 1760BC Babylon fell into the hands of the Kassites who are known to have used the word Surias to designate the Sun.

Oldest attested word of definitely Indo-Iranian stamp which as borrowed by the Kassites from the Indo-Iranians before they dispersed from their common home.

All that we can glean from the inscriptions at Boghaz-Koi is that, about the middle of second millennium BC,Aryan tribes which worshipped Vedic gods must have already been established in North-western India for a very considerable time, as several of these tribes had migrated far back to West as early as about 1400 BC.

Sapta Sindhu or ‘the land of the seven rivers’principal tributaries on the west and the Sarasavati on the east.

Archacology and the Aryans;

Dispersal of Aryan groups was based only on comparative philology.

All the Aryan groups had a common language.

Name of certainanimals such as goats, dogs, horses, certain plants such as pine, maple, etc.

Are similar in all the Indo-European languages.

Arya becomes Orja in Finnish language.

A branch of the Aryans was defeated and enslaved by the ancient people of Finland and arya=orja in Finish means slave.

‘Arya’ in the Avesta denoted ‘Arya’.


(i)Horse was the animal par excellence of the Aryans.

(ii)Nearly 60,000 horse bones appear in th Ural area around 3000 BC where the horses were domesticated in the
sixth millennium BC.

(iii)Archaeological evidence of the horse and horse sacrifice have been unearthed in southern Tajikistan in Central Asia.

Swat Valley in Pakistan.

(iv)North-eastern Iran, Turkamenia.

Margiana the horse and chariot are taken as significant pointers to Aryans’ presence.

Wheeled carts are archaeologically attested in Central and Eastern Europe and North-western Caucasus from the middle of the fouth millennium BC, significantly the word for the horse and for the wheeled vehicle.

Appear to have same origin.

The four-bar, if not spoked wheel, is shown on a seal at Tepe Hissar III in the later third millennium BC.

(v)Grey pottery in North-east Iran represents the arrival of Aryans.

South-east Caspian region was the place where the grey pottery indepently originated,its distribution in Central Asia and the near east reflects the actual dispersal of people who belonged to this calture.

The Vedic Literature:

Veda comes from the root vid, i.e. to know, signifying knowledge.

Latin Videre ‘to see’.

The Vedas passed on from one generation to the next through verbal transmission and are, therefore, known as Shruti(to hear)or ‘Revelation’.

‘Vedic Literature’ means to four Vedas in their Samhitas and the allied literature based on or derived from the Vedas.
(i) The four Vedas, i.e. the Rig,Sama,Yajur and Atharva and their Samhitas:
(ii) The Brahmanas attached to each Samhita
(iii) The Aranyakas;
(iv) The Upanishads.

The Vedas;

The Rigveda:

Rigveda is the oldest religipus text in the world.

‘The first testament of mankind’.

Composed around 1700BC.

The first three Vedas are collectively known as Trayi or ‘trio’.

Written down and commented in South India during the second half of the fourteenth century AD.

The last hymns were probably composed between 1500 and 1200BC.

Neither a historical nor a heroic poem but is mainly a collection of hymns by a number of priestly families.

Recited at the time of sacrificial rites.

The Rigveda contains 1017(1028, including 11 hymns of the valakhilya recension)hymns(sukta) is divided into

Ten mandalas.

The first and the tenth mandalas are said to have been added later as their language differs slightly from the other eight mandalas.

The tenth mandala contains the famous Purushasukta which four varnas(Brahmana, Kshatriya,Vaishya and Shudra)were born from the mouth, arms, thighs and feet of the Primeval Being Bramha(Purusa).

The Samaveda derived from the root Saman,i.e. ‘melody’is a ‘collection of melodies’.

It has 1603 verses (Aundh edition)but except 99 all the rest of the hymns have been borrowed from the Rigveda.

In them we have 1549 verses and of these only 78 are not found in the Rigveda.

These were meant to be sung at the time of Soma sacrifice by the Udgatri priests.

The Yajurveda is a ritual Veda.

It presecibes the rituals for performing different sacrifices.

The manual of the Adhvaryus who prepared the ground and the altar, offered the sacrificial victims and poured out the libations.



‘White (Shukla)Yajurveda,

‘Black’(Krishn’ Yajurveda.

Yajurveda contains the oldest literature of the Indo-European.

The Atharvaveda is entirely different from the other three Vedas and is chronologically the last of the four.

It describes the popular beliefs and superstitions of the humble folk.

For a very long time it was not included in the category of the Vedas.

The Satapatha-Brahmana uses the term tranyi-vidya for the Rig,Sama and Yajur Vedas.

The Atharva veda is found in two recensions, the Saunakiya and Paippalada.

It is now considered as one of the four Vedas.

It is divided into 20 Kandas(books)and has 711hymns-most of which tell us how to ward off the evil spirits.

The hymns of the Vedas area also called Suktas:

A term derived from su-uktas, i.e. ‘that which is well or properly recited’.

This term is used for a Vedic hymn as a whole as distinguished from a richa or single verse.

The Atharvaveda,and the Brahmanas,the Aranyakas and the Upanishads all together constitute the later-Vedic literature.

The Brahmanas:

The Bramanas explain the hymns of the Vedas in an orthodox manner.

Written in prose and are ritualistic in nature.

Various sacrifies and rituals have been elaborately discussed along with their mystic meanings.

Every Vedas has several Brahmanas attached to it.

Two Brahmanas appended to the Rigveda are Aitareya Brahmana and Kausitiki Brahmana.

These were composed by Hotri or Sankhyayana priests.

The Samaveda has Jaiminiya Brahmana and Tandyamaha Brahmana also known as the Panchavimsa Brahmana.

Sukla Yajurveda is attached Saptapatha Brahmana which recommendeds ‘one hundred sacred paths’(Shatapahta).

It is the most exhaustive and important of all the Brhamanas.

It narrates the progress of culture from Kuru-Panchal to Videha.

It was composed by Adhvaryu priests.

Two recensions of Satapatha Brahmana namely Madhyandina and Kanva.

The Taittiriya Brahmana is part of the Krishna Yajurveda.

The Gopatha Brahmana is attached to the Atharavada.

The Brahmanas,elaborate commentaries on the various hymns in the Vedas to which they ae appended.

Thery are known as Liturgies.

The Aranyakas:

Aranyaka means ‘the forest’.

‘Forest books’ written mainly for the hermits and students living in the jungles.

Concluding portion of the Brahmanas or their appendices.

They deal with philosophical doctrines and mysticism and not with rituals.

They lay emphasis not on sacrifices but no meditation.

They opposed to sacrifices and many of the early rituals.

Their stress is on moral values.

They form a bridge between ‘Way of Work’(Karma Marga)which was the sole concern of the Brahmanas and the ‘Way of Knowledgs’(Gyan Marga)which the Upanishads advocated.

The Aitareya Aranyaka is appended to the Aitareya Brahmana of the Rigveda.
Sankhyayana or kaushitaki Aranyaka is the concluding portion of the Kaushitaki Brahmana of the Rigveda.

In the Black Yajurveda, the Taittiriya Aranyaka is only a continuation of the Taittiriya Brahmana.

In the White Yajurveda, the 14th book of the Satapatha Brahmana is in name only an Aranyaka-the

Samaveda, the only Aranyakas are the first Aranyaka-like sections of the chhandogya Upanishad, which belongs to the Tandyamaha Brahmana, and the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana, which is nothing but an Aranyaka of the Jaiminiya or Talavakara school of the Samaveda and comprises the well known Kena (or Talvakara)Upanishad.

The Upanishads:



‘to sit down near someone’ a student sitting near his guru to learn.

Secret knowledge imparted by the guru to his selected pupils.

A number of treatises were prepared, first orally and then in writing, and were called by the same name of Upanishad.

Upanishads specify philosophical knowledge and spiritual learning.

Vedanta(the end of the Veda) firstly.

They denote thelast phase of the Vedic period and secondly, because they reveal the final aim of the Veda.

Culmination of ancient Indian philosophical ideas.

The whole of the Indian’s llater philosophy is rooted in the Upanishads.

The philosophical principals of Shankara and Ramanuja are derived from these very Upanishads and all the philosophical doctrines of subsequent days have borrowed something or the other from these Upanishads.

There are 108 Upanishads,classified according to the Vedas, and were composed by several learned saints between 800 and 500BC.

Twelve Upanishads are of greater importance.

Aitareya and Kaushitaki Upanishads belong to the Rigveda:Chhandogya and Kena Upanishads belong to the Samaveda;Taittriya, Katha and Svetasvatar Upanishads belong to the Krishna Yajurveda; Brihdaranyaka and Isa belong to the Shukla Yajurveda and Prasna, Mundaka and Mandukya belong to the Atharaveda.

The language of these Upanishads is classical Sanskrit and not the Vedic Sanskrit.

Like Aranyakas, the Upanishads also condemn the ceremonies and the sacrifies.

The Upanishads are anti-ritualistic.

They discuss the various theories of certaion of the universe and define the doctrine of action(Karma),God(Barhma)and soul(Atma)as identical.

The goal of lif is to attain salvation(Moksha),which is possible through meditaion and self-control.

Shrutis ‘revelation’.

Shruti means ‘hearing’ and refers to the rhythms of the infinite hearing by the soul.

The knowledge of the Vedas is not the outcome of logical interpretation, nor is it a historical anecdote and,
therefore,it occupies a place of supreme importance.

The literature is the foremost authority in all religious matters of the Hindu.

Allied Vedic Literature:
Smritis: ‘smriti’ means ‘remembrance’.


The six Vedangas are Siksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chhanda and Jyotisha.
Shiksha deals with pronunciation,Kalpa with rituals, Vyakarana with grammar, Nirukta with etymology, Chhanda with metra and Jyotisha with astronomy.

Kalpa is the most important, including three groups of Sutras;the Srauta Sutras, which dal with sacrifices, the Grihya Sutras or Smarta Sutras which deal with the ceremonies connected with family life;and the Dharma Sutras, rules of conduct.

These are written in Sutra(aphoristic)style, which is short and to the point.


Six schools of Indian philosophy known as Shad-Darshans.
Nyaya,Vaishesika, Sankhya,Yoga,Purva and Uttara Mimamsas.

They all propagated the virtues of life and are opposed to external rituals.

The Nyaya Darshana was written by Gautama, Vaishesika Darshana by Kannada Rishi, Sankhya, Darshan by Kapila, Yoga Darshana by Patanjali, Purva Mimansa by Jaimini and the Uttara Mimansa was comosed by Badarayana.


Four Upavedas namely Dhanurveda(deals with the art of warfare), the Gandharva Veda(music), Shilpa Veda(architecture)Ayurveda(science of life), and also do not form an integral part of the Vedic literature.

Geographical Data in the Vedic Texts:

The Rigvedic poets knew the Himalayas, but not the land south of the Yamuna,and they did not mention the Vindhyas.

The Country:

Sapta Sindhava as the region.

In the context of seven rivers –the five rivers of the Punjab along with Indus and Saraswati.

The word India corresponds to the Sindhu(the Indus)or the Hindu of the old Persian epigraphs.

The Bharatas were the most important Aryan tribe.

‘Bharata’ The country of the Aryan was also designated as Aryavarta(Aryandom).

The Mountains:

The Himalaya or the Himavanta mountains are alluded to but not the Vindhyas or Satpuras.

Rigvedic Aryan had not yet established settlements in the southern directions.
(i.e. ‘show-clad mountain’)

Other hills referred to are Arjika , Mujavant,Silament(Suleman range) etc, which were all ridge of the Himalayas.

The Rivers:

Thirty-one rivers mentioned in the Vedic texts, about twenty-five names occur in the hymns of the Rigveda along.

Nadistuti(X 75),the Rigveda enumerates several streams most of which belong to the Indus system.

Seven main and several small rivers have been mentioned frequently.

Sapta Sindhu namely five rivers of the Punjab together with Sindhu and one more(perhaps the Saraswati or Khubha or Oxus).

Seven principal rivers called Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri.


River extraordinary.

It was the ‘lord and the leader of the moving floods’.

Western boundary of the then Sapta Sindhava.

A large number of tributaries of the Sindhu are recorded in the ‘Nadi-stuti’ hymn of the Rigveda.

Important tributaries on its west are Kruma and Gomati.

Among the five major trivutaries on the east are ‘Vitasta’(Jhelum), ‘Asikni’(Chenab),’Parusni’(Ravi),’Satadru’(Sutlej), ‘Vipasa’(Besa).


Below the Kubha (or Kabul).

Western tributary of Sindhu.

The modern Kuram.which flows into the Indus at a place south of lshakhed.

It pierces through the Suleman range.


Among the western tributaries most important.

It formed the western boundary of the then India.

Modern Kabul river.

‘Cophen’ river of Alexander’s historians.

It flows into the Indus a little above Attock.


It is modern Jhelum and is the most westerly of the five rivers of the Punjab.

It flows through Srinagar and meets the Chenab below Jhang.

It is the same as Bidaspes or Hydaspes of the Greeks.


It is modern, Chenab and flows past Jammu nad therefrom in a south-westerly direction,forming a doab between it and Jhelum.

Akesines given to it by Alexander’s historians and by Megasthenes.


The war of Ten Kings was fouht on the left bank fo the Parusni.

Modern Ravi.

Kashmir,Lahore and then meets the Chenab.

It valley was famous for wool.

Yavyavati seems to be the other name of Ravi in the Rigveda.

The Rigveda mentions that Indra wiped out the remnats of the Abhyavartin Chayamana, an Aryan chief.

The tribe destroyed was that of the Vricivats on the Yavyavati River.

Zaradros in Ptolemy.

It is modern Sutlej.

Most easterly river of the Punjab.

It is feb by the Manasarovar Lake.

The united streams of the Sutlej and the Beas are known as Ghaggar.

The rive is praised because it checked its cours and allowed the army of Bharat to cross safely.


It is a tributary of the Satadru and has been taken to be the modern Beas.

At the time of the Rigveda.

It was an independent river.

The river is fed by a number of glaciers.

From Chamba it flows in the south-westerly direction to meet the Satadru.

It was on the bank of this river that Indra defeated Usas and broke his chariot to pieces.

It was the Hyphasis of the Greeks and ‘Bibasis’ of Ptolemy.


Mother of all rivers(Saraswati Sapthathi Sindhumata).

Partly survives today flowing between the Satadru and the Yamuna.

Identified with the Harakhvati or Harahvati of Avesta, with Helmand or with Hakra rivers.

In the Rigveda three epithets have been used.

Ambitame,devitame and naditame.


No connection with rivers of the Indus group.

Described as the southern and eastern boundary of what was then known as ‘Brahmavarta’.

It has been identified with Chautang.


Theis river flowed between the Drisadvati and the Saraswati.

It is a small tributary flowing past Thaneswar in Haryana.


Modern Gomal, a western tributary of the Indus.

It should not be confused with the river of the same name that flows by Lucknow.

The first reference to the name Gomal for the river occurs in Baburnama.


Chitratha and Arna were defeated by the Turvasas and Yadus who(the victors)crossed this river.

It was a trans- Indus river.

It is called Haroya in the Avesta.

No evidence to show the transfer of the name of the river to the one on which Ayodhya was to stand later.


The Gnaga is mentioned in the Rigveda only twice and there is no separate verse in praise of the Ganga.

It is mentioned in the Rigveda thrice.

The Tritsus and Sudas defeated their enemies on the bank of this river.

The territory of Tristus lay between the Yamuna and the Saraswati,on the east and west respectively.

Ninety-nine rivers are referred to in the Rigveda.

Some of the minor rivers were Rasa, Anumati, Asuniti, Raka, Gangu, Susoma, Marud-Vrdhas, etc..

In later-Vedic period, however, some new rivers came to be known.

Thus Sudaman, was a tributary of Beas.

Varnavati,mentioned in the Artharvaveda,gave its name to Varanasi.

Varanasi, derives its name from the present river Barna(Varana),and another rivulet Asi.

Sadanira (literally perennial), identified with modern Gandak.

The Sea:

The Rigvedic Aryans were not acquainted with the seas or oceans.

M.L.Bharhgava in his book the Geography of Rigvedic India.
‘Samudra’, ‘arnva’ or ‘chatuh samudra’ refer to the vast waters of the Indus.

But in the later-Vedic literature Samudra actually means the sea.

The reference to eastern and western oceans in the Satapatha Brahmana indicate acquaintance with the Bay of Bengal and The Arabian Sea.

Deserts and Place Names:

Not familiar with any kind of desert.

An implied reference to Maru as the country of desert mounds near Kurukshetra has been traced in Taittiriya Aranyaka.

No important place name is hence recorded.

The Vedic Tribes:

Dasrajna Yudha or the Battle of Ten Kings.

The battle of ten kings was between Sudas, a Bharata king of the Tritsu family and the confederacy of ten well-known tribes-Puru, Yadu, Turvasa, Anu, Druhyu, Alina, Paktha, Bhalanas, Shiva and Vishanin.

On the banks of river Parusni, the Bharatas emerged victorious.

The Bharatas were, in the Rigvedi age, settled in the region between the Saraswati and Yamuna.

They were closely connected with Tritsus and the Bharatas, and lived on either side of the Saraswati.

These five, according to Zimmer, are ‘the five peoples’(Panchjanah)of the Rigveda.

The name Yadu and Turvasa normally occur together in the Rigveda.

Thses two closely allied tribes lived in the Southern Punjab.

The Gandharis, one of the frontier people,lived to the extreme North-west of India.

The Matsyas and Chedis were settled to the South of the Punjab in the region of Rajasthan and Malwa.

The Srinjaya a tribe seems to correspond to Achemenid Zranke.

Assuming a movement to Punjab, its chief Daivavata is shown as defeating the Turvasas and Vricivants.

The Bhalanas were settled around the Bolan Pass.

The Paktha tribe appears as Pactyice in Herodotus and was settled on the borders of the fertile basin of Kurram.

Vaikarms were placed in Kashmir.

The Krivi tribe was settled along the Sindhu and Asikni.

Sivas has been identified with the Sibi or Siboi of Alexander’s historians who found them occupying the land along the united Hydaspes-Acesine(Chenab)River.

Non-Aryan tribes, often collectively mentioned as the Dasas and Dasyus who were the enemies of the Aryans.

The Aryan chief named Divodasa fought against a Dasa chieftain named Sambara.

Sudas crushed a hostile combination of indigenous tribes on the banks of the Yamuna.

Bharatas seemed to have fought against the Kikatas led by Pramaganda.

One of the Puru kings bore the title Trasadasyu, i.e.terror of the Dasyus.

According to one view Visvamitra also belonged to some aboriginal group.

The Panis, ofter mentioned with the Dasas and Dasyus, have been described as selfish, non-sacrificing and notorious cattle lifters.

Indra employed a hunting bitch named Sarama to track down the cattle lifters like the Panis.

In one instance Sarama is said to have swam the waters of Rasa(Syr Dariya)after wich it ascended a steep
mountain country before reaching out to the cattle of the Panis.

Vritra, the enemy of Sudasa, might have been non-Aryan indigeous peoples.

In later-Vedic literature many more tribes are mentioned.

Thus the Atharvaveda banishes fever to the Mujavants, Mahavrsas and the Bahliks.

Bahliks were aboriginal people identifiable with the Avestan Bakhdhi and the Greek Bactria.

Kambojas had a speech different from that of the other Aryans.

Uttar Madar and Uttara Kuru are mentioned in the Aitareya Brahmana.

Sakala appears in the Aitareya and Satapatha Brahmanas.

Aitareya Brahmana also mentions Ambasthas who are identified with the ‘Abastanoi’ of Alexander’s historians.

Panchala or Kuru-Panchalas appears in the Kanva version of the Satapatha Brahmana which bordered Kosala-Videha, the Sadanira river forming the dividing line.

Parvatas are placed on the Yamuna by the panchavimsa Brahmana.

Mentioned in the Satapatha Brahmana, Kosala is located on the borders of Videha, which corresponded roughly with Bihar, north of Ganga, and possibly included parts of eastern UP.

The Angas and Magadhas appear in the Atharvaveda as alien people to whom fever is to be banished .
Vanga is mentioned in the Aitareya Aranyaka in the compound work Vangamagad.

Aitareya Brahmana mentions Pundras(Eastern Bengal)as people deemed outcastes.

Jaiminiya Upanishad mentions Vidarbha as a distant wild region.

Aitareya Brahmana mentions Andhras as outcastes along with Pundras.

Boundaries of Sapta Saindhava:

Limited to an area extending from Oxus in Afghanistan to the Gangetic valley.

The bulk of the Rigvedic hymns were composed on the banks of Sapta Sindhus.

The hymns to the Ushas were inspired by the glorious dawn of the Punjab.

Himalayas and Tibet in the east, Turkistan in the north, Afganistan in the West and the Aravalis in the South.

Before the close of the later-Vedic peiod,the Aryans had penetrated the great plains of the Yamuna, the Ganga and the Sadanira(The Rapti or the Gandhaka).

A few Aryan bands penetrated into the Vindhyan forest as well.

The centre of this new world was the “firm middle country” (dhruva madhyama des)stretching from the Saraswati to the Gangetic doab.

It was from this region that Brahmanical civilization spread to the outer regions, to the land of Kosalas and the Kashis, the Vidhas, Vidarbhas, Angas, Magadhas, Pundras, Pulindas, Savaras and the Andhras.

The Kuru kingdom had it capital at Asandivat whereas Panchalas had their capital at Kampilya.

The kuru kingdom was formed by the amalgamation of Purus and the Bharatas, while the Panchals sprang from
the Rigvedic tribe known as Krivis, with whom were associated the Srinjayas and the Turvasas.

Religious Ideas and Rituals in theVedic Age:

People in the Vedic age were solely theists.

They contemplated life and the world from the spritiual standpoint and had no scientific outlook.

In the later-Vedic literature, the systems of Indian philosophy explained the creation of the world and its living beings on a scientific basis.

But in the Vedic literature we find god and some invincible powers as the sole agents of creation and

In the Atharvaveda time or Kala has been described as the originator of everything.

The Vedic Aryans believed in the concept of ‘One of many’.

They worshipped various forces of unity of nature.

The Vedic people worshipped many gods not because of the fear of natural phenomena but for gaining their favours.

All the natural phenomena such as ths sky, thunder,rain, air, etc.

Were believed to be guided by their presiding deities,while natural devastations were taken to be an expression of their wranth.

The hymns of the Rigveda were mainly sung for the glorification of the gods in order to appease them.

God was regarded as the ruler, ordainer of the period of life, protector of men and giver of happiness.

The religion of the Vedic Aryans was a form of nature worship.

For the different appearances of the sky different deities were imagined, such as Varuna, Indra, Mitra, Dyu were the principal sky gods and Indra, among them, was conceived as the producer of rain.

This was the beginning of the process of process of personification by which natural phenomena were developed into gods.

Most of these natural events were personified and thus the first mythology in the world was born.

The Nature and Classification of Vedic Gods:

The luminaries which follow a fixed course across the sky were regarded as the devas(the shining ones) or gods.

There is no fixed order of seniority among the Vedic gods in the strict of the term.

In a number of Rigvedic hymns the mutual cooperation, interdependence, and subordination of the various deitied in pairs or larger groups is often described and various explanations have been offered to account for this apparently inconsistent evaluation of divine ranks and dignities in the Rigveda.

Rigveda a triple classification of Vedic gods has been hinted according to which the corresponding three orders are

(i)Terrstrial (Prithvisthan),]

(ii)Aerial or intermediate (Antarikshasthana or Madhyasthan),

(iii)Celestial (dyusthana),Prithvi, Agni, Soma, Brihaspati and the rivers belong to the first order;Indra,
Apamnapat, Vishnu, Parajanya, Apah, Matarisvan,etc, to second, and Dyaus, Varuna, Mitra, Surya, Savitri,Pushan, Vishnu, the Adityas.Ushas and the Asvins to the third.

This classification is over-lapping and not very clear-cut, such as Tvastri and Prithvi are assigned to all the three spheres,Agni and Ushas to the terrestrial as well as aerial spheres, and Varun, Yama and Savitri, to the aerial as well as the celestial ones.

Indra,the mightly warrior and Varuna, the supreme moral ruler,stand out preeminent above the rest.

Agni and Soma, the two ritual deities should come next, but Indra, Agni and Soma are the three most popular deities, judging by the frequency of the hymns addressed to them.

The gods are usually stated to be thirty-three in number, divided into three groups correspongin to the three divisions of the universe.

The gods are described as born though not all simultaneously, and yet they are immortal.

The only one with malevolent traits being Rudra.

Important Vedic Gods:

Some epithets of natural beings, in course of time, became names of gods, for instance,Savitri-‘the life giver’-the God of light.

In this manner besides Surya(sun God)many other Sun gods appear in the Rigveda.

Some of the Vedic deities were of abstract nature such as Visvakarman, Prajapati, Sraddha, Manyu,etc..

Indra ,Varuna and Agni occupy the highest position.


Among the aerial or atmospheric gods Indra has the highest number of hymns, i.e. 250, attributed to him.

He is an efficient car-warrior(rathestha),a winner(jitendra),and a Soma drinker(somapa).

His father is Dyaus(heaven).

He killed the demon Vritra(Vritrahan)and destroyed the forts(pura)of his enemies, and therefore, is called Purandara.

He is the Ayan War Lord, who fulfilled the dual function of war god and weather god.

Indra was associated with storm and thunder, and his hand bore the thunderbolt (Vajra),with which he destroyed the enemies.

Indra is a powerful god, known as Shatakratu(possessing a hundred powers)Vritraham,(slayer of Vritra) and Maghavan(bounteous).

His wife is Indrani or Sachi(Energy).


200 hymns

Intermediary between gods and men.

He dwelt in the waters of heaven in the form of lighting and on the earth in many forms.


He is the king, the universal monarch and lives in a golden palace in the heaven.

The palace has a thousand pillars and a thousand doors.

He sends his spies(spas)everywhere and controls many natural phenomena.

He regulates the Sun and the Dawn.

He supports heaven, earth and air.

He is the betower of rain and regulates season(ritu).

All gods obey him.

God of waters, clouds, oceans and rivers.

He determines the path for all stars in heaven.

He is the moral governor of all deities and ties the sinners with pasha(noose).

Varuna, has been invoked in the most exalted poetry in the Rigveda.

In every hymn to Varuna, there is and appeal for forgiveness.

He is the upholder of the natural or cosmic and the ethical-moral order(rita).

Varuna is an ancient god, probably Indo-Iranian.

The Ahura Mazdah(Wise Spirit)of the Avesta agrees with Varuna in character.

Varuna is the ‘All-Enveloper’ and the ‘All-Encompasser’.

He controls the day and the night.

The ritu(seasons)is like a wheel keeps the universe in its place and Varuna is its controller.

All the water in heaven, in the air and on the earth flows at his command.


Surya(common word for Sun)drove across the sky in a flaming chariot, like the Greek god Helios.

Savitri,the Stimulator or god of light, was another solar god.

The famous Gayatri mantra is addressed to him.

Pusan too, was in some measure a solar god, driving daily across the sky, but his main function was that of guarding of roads herdsmen and strying cattle.


He was associated with storm and was also invoked to ward off his arrows of epidemics and disaster.

He was the guardian of healing herbs.

Lord of the dead, was a sort of Adam.

The first man to die, he became guardian of the world of the blessed dead.


The Soma was the most popular elixir of the Vedic Aryans, extracted from a creeper found in the Mujawant Mountains.

The Soma juice has been called Amrita(divine drink)and Shuddha(pure).

It was mixed with milk, curd or barley and taken three times a day.

The Soma sacrifice was also held which was the centre of the Vedic rituals.


Has been invoked only once and is the synonym for earth.

Certain rivers like Sindhu,Vipasa,Shutudri are also lauded, the most important among them being Saraswati.

Miscellaneous Gods:

Vayu(the god of wind), Tvastri(the Vedic Vulcan),Aryamah(guardian of compacts),Vishnu(personification of  the activites of the Sun-a god with three steps),Dyaus(god of heaven and father of Surya),Aditi(mother of Surya),Savitri(the god of light;the famous Gayatri hymn is attributed to him),Pushan(the god of marriage),etc.

There were also demi-gods of various kinds, among them are Vishvedevas, a vague group of indeterminate deities, the Maruts, or storm-spirits,Gandharvas,divine musicians(servants of Indra)etc..

Female Divinities:

Vedic religion had predominantly male gods; the female divinities were very few.

The most important female divinity was Ushas,the goddess of dawn.

Other important female divinities were:Prithvi, a personification of the earth;Aditi,the great mother of gods;Ratri, the spirit of the night;Aranyani, the Lady of the Forest;Dishana, the goddess of vegetation; Ila,the goddess of offerings;Puramadhi, the spirit of fecundity, etc.

The Apsaras are water nymphs, wives of the Gandharvas and later associated with the tree cult.

The best-known Vedic Apsara was Urvashi.


The Rigvedic poets began to wonder about creation, which was said to have originated in a ‘Golden

The world arose from Tapas(heat or warmth).

Then ritu(seasons),Satya(real), night and oceans were produced in succession.

The ‘Hymn of Creation’ which is the oldest surviving record of the universe, describes mysterious chaos before creation.

The Rigveda points out that sat(the real or Brahma is the supreme god who is sexless and formuless and is known by various names such as Varuna, Indra, Agni,etc..

The concept of Rita was perhaps the noblest flight of the Rigvedic thought.
The world takes is regular couse, day follows night and season succeeds season, because of Rita.

Man must live according to Rita.

In the moral world, the world designates ‘ the Order’ through the meanings ‘truth’ and ‘right’.

Ethical and Spiritual Thought:

The Rigvedic Aryan believed in life after death.

Companionship with gods and immortality were highly prized goals.

Yama was the first mortal to die and after his death he attained immortality and became the presiding deity of the ‘Realm of the Dead’.

Yami(his sister;both were primeval twins).

Those who have performed sacrifies and worshipped the gods will go to Ishtapurta (paradise)where they would drink Somo,milk and Sura,eat honey, barley,and fruits and enjoy music.

The evil doer will be sent to avratas(hell),which is a dark place.

The soul(jivah)moves on its own power, accepts the sacrifical (yogna)and funeral (sradhha)offerings made by the living beings and is reborn.

Offering prayers, performin sacrifies and other rites and living in harmony with nature was the ideal moral life.

Not obeying the order of the universe was a sin(anrita).

The Vedic Aryans laid great emphasis on leading a virtuous life.

Varuna punished the sinners.

There is no note of pessimism.

Life, whether illusion or shadow, must be enjoyed to the full.

The Rigveda is full of happiness.


The centre of the Vedic religious ideas was sacrifice.

Sacrifice was the form of cult which the Vedic Aryans addressed to divinities.

There were two varities of sacrifies mentioned in the Rigveda.

(1) Certain hymns and verse were used as benedictions and prayers at birth, marriage and other occasions.

These griha karmani ceremonies were, as a rule, associated with sacrifies of the simples type with the householder himself could perform.

(2) The grand sacrifies,especially in connection with the Soma-cult relating to Indra-that could only be undertaken by the aristocratic and wealthy man (maghavan), and the king.

Such sacrifies required a large number of priests and an extensive sacrifical area.

In the later-Vedic period the sacrifies became very elaborate and complicated.

Main Sacrifies:

Sacrifies mentioned.

Chief of them are Asvamedha,Vajapeya and Rajasuya.

The later-Vedic period saw a great development of the sacrificial cult.

The Brahmana literature is devoted to instruction for the performamance of certain great sacrifies not
mentioned in the Rigveda.

The Asvamdesham or horse sacrifice, which lasted for three days, although the preparatory ceremonies extended over a year or even two.

Four officiants, four queens with their 400 attendants took part.

A specially consecrated horse was set free to roam at will for a year escorted by a band of 400 warriors.

At the year end the horse was sacrificed along with 600 bulls.

The sacrifice concluded with a sacrifice of 21 steile cows and the fees to the priests.

This sacrifice conferred victory and sovereignty on the performer.

The Rajasuya or royal consecration, which in its full form comprised a series of sacrifies lasting over a year, invested the king with divine power.

In later times, the Rajasuya was replaced by a simplified Abhisheka or anointment.

The Vajapeya sacrifies(drink of strength), which lasted seventeen days to a year, was believed not only to restore the strength of a middle-aged king but also to raise him from a simple raja to a samrat-a monarch-who controlled several kings and was controlled by none.

Vajapeya and Asvamedha sacrifies were usually performed after a king had been formally, consecrated through Rajasuya sacrifice.

In the Rajasuya sacrifie the honorarium paid to the presiding priest in extreme cases amounted to 240,000 cows.

There were many small but important sacrifies performed by the later-Vedic Aryans.

The Savas(twelve sacrifies)were prescribed for all including the peasants in the Atharvaveda, mostly for acquiring wealth and some for attaining heaven.

It recommended the gift of cows, calves, oxen, gold,cooked rice,thatched houses, and well prepared and cultivated fields to the Brahmanas.

All public rituals were preceded by a fire-lying ceremony called agnyadheya.

We hear of Sulagava or the sacrifice ‘of the ox on the spit’and the sacrifice of a sterile cow or that of eleven animals in the agnistoma ceremony.

In Ratnahavimsi ceremony, which forms a part of the rajasuya coronation sacrifice, the sacrificing king went to the house of each ratnin and offered oblations to the appropriate deity there.

We have a totoal of 15 ratninis.

However, twelve ratnins are mentioned in the Saptapatha and Taittiriya Brahmanas;











11.bhagadugha and


Maitrayani samhita mentions Vaisyagramani instead of gramani as well as rathakara and govikarta too.

In the Devasuhavimsi ceremony(offerings to gods acting as divine quickeners)a desire is expressed for different kinds of authority such as ksatra and janarajya.

In the abhisecaniyam ceremony,the king is sprinkled over by the representative of the three upper classes and the sautramani ceremony of the Soma sacrifice the sacrificer secures the Soma drink through the offering of the milk to the gods and the fore-fathers.

The Vedic Polity:

Polity represented in the Rigveda was the full-fledged state system with all the constituent elements of a state.

However, since 1950 the researches have shown that in the early Vedic period the polity was nothing more than a tribal chiefship in which the term rajan was used for the tribal chief who was primarily a military chieftain leading the tribe in wars for the sake of taking possession of cows and other cattle wealth but not taking over possession of territories.

The concept of territory was completely absent.

Leader of the people belonging to a particular tribe and not the ruler of any territory.

This is why he was known as janasya gopa or gopati janasya.

The terms for territory are not common in the Rigveda.

Although the term Jana which means tribe is used 275 times, the term Janapada does not occur even once.

The term rajya is used in one instance, and the word rastra occurs ten times.

This suggests that the territorial aspect of the polity appeared at the end of the Rigvedic period.

The term grama, appearing 13 times in the Rigveda, does not give the sense of a village, but a tribal unit mobilized for fighting.

That is why the Vrajapati, in-charge of commonly held tribal land and the leader of the family, lead in the battles, and later became synonymous with the gramani who himself originally was the head of the tribal unit called grama.

The Rigvedic king, it is believed, was one of the equals whose hereditary position was not unquestioned.

Several references suggest that the king owed his office to the choice of the people.

Most reference to the election of the king by the tribesmen(visa)are found in the Atharvaveda.

This clearly shows that the tribe elected its chief.

Some references suggest that kingship or chiefship was confined to certain families, even though the actual examples do not confirm the practice of royal succession in one family for more than three generations.

This lack of strong hereditary succession came in the way of chief to become the most powerful person.

His authority was also curtailed by the tribal assemblies called sabha, samiti, vidatha, parisad and gana.

The Rigvedic king did not have and elaborate administrative machinery.

The king and his officials received only bali, i.e.offering to a prince or to a god.

Tributes were neither regular and nor stipulated and hence cannot be called a tax.

The term senani and sena(used 20 times in Rigveda)do not show the existence of a regular standing army.

The military functions were invested in the Vedic assemblies.

The Vrajapati the Kulapa(head of the family)and the gramani, all appear to have functionary as military teaders.

The only functionary who had some permanent responsibility for defence was purpatis(commanders of mud forts or strongholds).

The Rigvedic kings employed spies called spasa to keep an eye on the conduct of the people.

Ugra and Jivagribha were officials probably meanst for dealing with the criminals and the madyamasi seems to have acted as a mediator in disputes.

Mahisi(literally the powerfull one, was the crowned queen),the purohita,treasurer, the charioteer, the taksan(carpenter)and the duta(messenger)are mentioned.

We do not hear of any code of law nor do we meet with any category of officers to administer justice.

Tribal Assemblies (Vidatha):

The term vidatha is metioned 122 times in the Rigveda and seems to be the most important assembly in the Rigvedic period.

Roth concluded that the vidatha was an assembly meant for secular, religious and military purposes.

The Rigveda only once indicated the connection of woman with the sabha whereas vidatha is frequently associated with woman.

Women actively participated in the deliberations with men.

It seems that the vidatha was the earliest folk assembly of the Indo-Aryans, performing all kinds of functions-economic, military, religious and social.

Produces were distributed in the vidatha.


Sabha(used 8 times in Rigveda)denotes both the assembly and the assembly hall.

This assembly was also attended by women who were called sabhavati.

It was basically a kin-based assembly and the practice of women attending it was stopped in later-Vedic times.

A passage in the Rigveda speaks of the sabha as a dicing and gambling assembly.

It was also associated with dancing, music, witchcraft, and magic.

It discussed pastoral affairs and performed political and administrative functions and exercised judicial authority.


All the six references to samiti come from the latest books of the Rigveda showing that it assumed importance only towards the end of the Rigvedic period.

It is generally agreed that the early samiti was a folk assembly.

According to Ludwing it was a core comprehensive conference, which included the common people(vis), the brahmanas an the rich patrons.

Probably it was a general tribal assembly.

It discussed philosophical issues and was concerned with religious ceremonies and prayers.

A reference in the Atharvaveda suggests that the samiti was identical with the tribal military unit(grama)whose collection was called samgrama.

However, the political functions of the samiti were far more prominent.

References suggest that the king was elected and re-elected by the samiti.

In the beginning, there was no difference between the sabha and the samiti.

Both are said to be daughters of Prajapati.

The only difference between sabha and samiti seems to be the fact that sabha performed judicial functions, which the samiti did not.

Later, the sabha became a small aristocratic body and samiti ceased to exist.


Gana, the technical word for the republic.

In the sense of assembly or troop.

A careful study shows that it was a sort of gentile organisation of the Indo-Aryans.

The leader of the gana is generally called gamapati and at some places ganasya raja.


The early parisad seems to be a tribal military assembly, partly matriarchal and partyly patriarchal.

In later Vedic period it tended to become partly and academy and partly a royal council dominated by the priests, who functioned as teachers and advisers.

Later-Vedic Polity:

There was a definite transition to a territorial government in the later-Vedic phase.

An expansion and shift in the centre of activity was made possible by the use of iron tools and weapons.

In the later-Vedic period small communities merged to became larger units.

The Bharatas and Purus of the Rigvedic period came together to become the Kuru tribe who allied with the Panchalas, and the two together occupied the whole of the western UP.

Now the rulers claimed a protion of agricultural produces as regular taxes.

Society became differentiated on the basis of vauna hierarchy.

The territorial element asserted itself.

The elaborate coronation ritual called Rajasuya,extending over two years, required a fixed place.

In the Kuru-Panchla region the place of royal seat came to be known as asandivat.

In the ratnahavimsi ceremony the king had to approach dignitaries who lived in permanent dwellings.

The Aitareya Brahmana enumerates ten forms of government prevalent in different parts of the country, which shows that power was established as fixed geographical locations.

Ekraja may mean a ruler.

The Satapatha Brahmana called the king Rastrabhrita or sustainers of the kingdom.

Now the king claimed to grant a part of the land with the consent of the clan.

The king now belonged to a kshatriya class.

The king was now called the protector of the brahmanas and devourer of the enemies.

In the later-Vedic age the kignship became hereditary.

A formula from the Satapatha Brahmana could be used to secure kingship for ten generations.

We also come across the tern rajaputra, which can be interpreted as the king’s son in many cases.

The divine elements came to be associated with the king.

This period also marks the firm beginning of a proper taxation system and administrative machinery.

The term Visamatta(eater of the people)used for the king shows that he lived on tributes collected from his kinsmen and others.

We hear of an official called bhagadugha who distributed shares on behalf of the chief.

The twelve ratnins seem to have been officials.

Army emerged as an important element in the Vedic polity.

The beginning of royal bodyguards.

To sthapati and satpati indicate the beginning of a regular system of provincial administration and adhikrta is regarded as a village officer appointed by the king.

The subha and samiti got an aristocratic flavour and came to be monopolied by the male gender.

Vedic Society:

The basic social unit in the Rigvedic society was the patriarchal family which consisted of members belonging to three or four generations.

The family was also the primary unit of production and consumption.

The Rigvedic family,was nuclear or ‘elementary’ consisting of note more than two generations and the joint family system emerged only towards the close of the Rigvedic phase(Suvira’Jaiswal, 1993).

Kula,the term for family, is rarely mentioned.

Griha seems to be a more popular term for family.

The eldest male member of the family was known as Kulapa(protector of the family).

Terms for father, mother, brother,sister,son and daughter existed distinctly but nephews, grandsons and cousins were known by a common term naptri.

Father’s father and mother’s father were known by a common term.

The larger unit was called vish, which had been mentioned 171 times.

Vish stood for clan(occasionally for the whole tribe).

Vish consisted of many gramas, which was a tribal unit meant for fighting(samgrama).

Another unit was known as Jana,which was been mentioned 245 times.

Many Vishas made a Jana.

Although a man was identified by the clan, the people gave primary importance or loyalty to the tribe(Jana).

The Rigvedic tribes had still not settled permanently.

In search of pasture or cultivable land.

Social Divisions:

The four-fold varna system absent in the Rigvedic period.

There are only fourteen reference to brahmanas,nine to kshatiryas and one to shudra.

Shudra is referred to only in the context of the Purushasukta hymn, which is commonly regarded as late.

We have rather evidence of threefold social differentiation in the Rigveda as Brahma, Kshatra and Vish, which was primarily a functional division.

Other division was based on colour for which the term varna, was used.

The Rigveda knows only two varna, the arya and dasa and according to P.V.Kane the word varna means ‘colour’or ‘light’.

The contributing factor to the appearenc of arya varna and dasa varna divisions is attributed to the conquest of the indigenous inhabitants by the Aryans.

The dasas and dasyus, after being conquered, were treated as slaves and Shudras.
In the Rigveda we come across rajan.

His major share in the body captured gave him a higher position in the society.

His immediate relatives were known as rajanyas.

Towards the end of the Rigvedic period Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vish became distinict groups.

Which became distinct in the later-Vedic period.

The use of such words as vra,vrata,vraja, sardha and grama indicate the existence of the ‘band’system in the earliest stratum of the Rigveda.

In the age of the Rigveda occupation based division had started although it was in an embryonic stage.

“I am a poet, my father is a physician(bhisaj), and my mother is a grinder”.

Marriage and Women:

The position of women was much better in th Rigvedic period than in later times.

They could attend assemblies and offer sacrifices along with their husbands.

Five women have been mentioned as composers of hymns.

(Later texts mention twenty such women).

Ghosha, Lopamudra and Apala are famous amongst them.

In the hymns, increase in praja(progeny both boys and girls)is desired although people were keen on having brave sons (survirah)because of the importance of wars in Vedic life.

Girls were normally married off after puberty(between the age of 16 and 17).

Unmarried girls(Ghosha)grew up in the home of their parents.

Some unmarried woman like Visvavara and Apala offered sacrifies on their own.

We also have evidence of levirate (niyoga)and widow remarriage in the Rigveda.
But we do not have any indications to suggest that women could occupy the highest postitions of authority.

Marriage as an institution was well established even though the symbols of some archaic practices continued.

Yami’s proposal to her twin brother Yama and subsequent refusal of Yama to such a union shows this.

Maruts’ marriage with Rodasi and twin Ashvin brothers’ marriage with Surya, the daughter of Sun, show that polyandry was also a known from of marriage.

In some cases a woman could freely mix with men of their age and opt for love affairs.
Girl’s consent was needed for her marriage.

Vimada carried off Purumitra’s daughter against his will but with the consent of the daughter.

The wedding hymns(X.85) give us some idea of the Aryan wedding rituals.

The bridegroom(vara)and his party proceeded to the bride’s (vadhu)house where the well-adorned bride was ready to join the marriage feast.

The main ceremony was called pani-grahana in which the bridegroom held the hand of the bride and led her around the fire seven times.

These two rituals(pani-grahana and sapta-padi)constituted the essence of the marriage.

There was no system of sati or widow burning in the Rigvedic period.

Polygamy was permitted, though monogamy was preferred.


The frog hymn of the Rigveda(vill, 103)gives us a glimpse of the educational practices of the early Vedic age.

The above hymn gives a picture of the earliest Vedic school where the poet had campared the croaking of the frogs with the chorus of the pupils repeating the words of the teacher.

Art of writing does not seem to have developed as yet.

In the well known Gayatri mantra there is a prayer to Savitri for the stlmulation of the intellect.

There were women teachers too.

Many of them possessed the highest spiritual knowledge.

Maitreyi and Gargi were gifted scholars.

Rishis who composed hymns founded their own schools separately to teach their pupils and every person among the vish was entitled to learn Vedic mantras.

The method of education varied among students according to their potential.

With the development of varna-sramas, education began with an investiture ceremony(Upanayan).

Since Upanayan was confined to three upper varnas,the sudras were not entitled to education.

Sometimes girls were also encourased.

When teacher was satisfied with the student, last sermon called santakopadesa was delivered.

The Subjects taught were Veda, spiritual knowledge(Brahma Vidya),Itihasa, grammar,ehics, astronomy and military science.

The six vedangas were special addition in the later-Vedic period.

Social Change in Later-Vedic Period:
The four fold division of the society.

An established fact in the later-Vedic society.

The Brahmanas,who were only one of the sixteen types of priests, became predominant.

This brahmana class might also have incorporated some indigenous tribal priests, such as Vasistha and Agastya.

The Kshatriyas were the warrior aristocracy crystallized into a varna due to the fact that now the status was decided by birth.

The vaishyas constituted the common people, which was earlier vis.

They were mostly engaged in production processess.

They were the only tribute payers to be appropriated by the brahmanas and kshatriyas.

The shudras at this stage were a small serving class who, along with the vaisyas,could be oppressed and beaten at will by the king.

Through rituals the aruthority of the brahmanas and kshatriyas was strengthened over the vaisyas,who accounted for the majority of the population.

The king is called the devourer of the peasants or vis(visamatta).

The three higher varnas were now entitled to upanayana or investiture and the sudra varna was deprived of this as well as the recitation of the gayatri mantra.

However, in the coronation ceremony the shudras were allowed to participate.
Rathakaras or chariot-makers enjoyed a high status and were allowed to perform sacred thread ceremony.

The institution of gotra(which in the Rigveda meant only cowpen) became a system of clan exogamy.

This was perhaps a mechanism for widening social ties as new relationship were established between hitherto
unrelated people.

This could also mean that priestly elements were incorporated in the brahmana varna.

Amudements and Enterainments:

Music, both vocal and instrumental, was well known.

The Vedic Aryans played on the lute(Vina)and flute(Vana), and on the harp, to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals.

They used heptatonic scale, which is similar to the major scale of western music.

Dancing was also in vogue, and both men and women practiced it.

The chariot race was a favourite sport.

The chariot race had great political significance, in the sence that it was a symbolic source of political authority of the king.

The fascination of gambling and the ruin caused by its addiction find mention in the Rigveda.

Habits and Customs-Manners and Morals:

The griha sutra prescribes a code of conduct, which gives a fairly good idea of the manners and etiquette of the later-Vedic age.

A guest (atithi)was welcomed at all times and special guests, like the guru,the king, and the father- in-law, etc.

Were given special treatment.

Bathing naked , running unnecessarily,etc. were not recommended.

Respect for the elders, self-restraint, moral purity, abstinence of all kinds and faithfulness were some of the virtuses.

Cleanliness was not merely a habit, it was a passion.

Daily bath, washing of the feet and hands every now and then, and purifying the atmosphere with Vedic manatras were a part of rituals.

It became one of the many sources of the development of hierarchy and the supremacy of the brahmanas.

Early rising was well cultivated.

Many do’s and don’ts were prescribed.

Life was ritualized and most of the habits became part of the sacraments.

Food and Drinks:

The main cereal produced by the Rigvedic people was Yava or barley.
Wheat and rice were not known to them.

Yava was also a generic term for various kinds of cereals.

In later-Vedic times we have evidence of rice(vrihi),bean-pulse (masa),sesamum(tila),millet(syamaka),kidney bean(mudga),mustard(sarshapa)etc..

Milk, milk products and cattle meat was popular since early Vedic times.

Godhuma or wheat is mentioned in several later-Vedic texts.

Honey was obtained from the bees.

The culinary art was well developed-akshata dhan(unbroken grain),laja(fried grain),saktu(ground grain),odana(boiled rice),payasa(milk rice),dadhimanta(rice with curd and honey), etc,

Were some of the food items.

Both vegetable food(shaka)and flesh food(mansa)were taken in great quantity.

Some scholars believe that even the cow was easten in the Rigveda period.

The flesh and other and sheep,partridge and other birds, flsh and other river animals was very much preferred and served even to the Brahmanas at the time of shraddha.

The food offered to the distinguished guests was never without flesh.

The students,the widows, and some other categories of people waere to abstain from eating flesh.
Sura was a favourite intoxicant.

The women too drank it.

Soma drink was used in all the Soma sacrifies.

It was even offered along with the panda offerings to the ancestors.

Dress and Fashions:

Two pieces of coth were normally worn-the upper garment was called uttarlya and the lower one was known as antariya.

The dress for the male and the female did not differ much,

The students used garments made of skin or hide.

A turban was used by the nonles.

Cotton was popular.

The clothes were dyed with madder or were washed regularly.

The youth were to grow hair, use oil and comb it.

Mirrors, razors, hair ointments,etc, are mentioned.

Nails were trimmed.

The girls had long hair.

Collyrium(anjana),bath ointments, sthagara (a fragrant application) and ground sandalwood were some of the toilet requisites.

Garlands and kundalas(ear ornaments) of flower were put on after the bath.

Health and Hygiene:

Everyone was blessed to live for a hundred years.

Epilepsy was common and it affected the children as well.

Superstitions and magical charms were employed to cure the diseases.

Headache wan common.

Mantras were prescribed for snake and other poisonous bites.

Safe delivery was always prayed for and many rites were recommended to regulate health.

Personal hygiene was greatly emphasized.

The physician is often mentioned with respect for his skills.

Miraculous cures are ascribed to the twin-gods, the Ashvins, who are the great healers of diseases and experts in
the surgical art.



Earlier it was believed that the Rigvedic economy was primarily an agricultural and peasant based economy.

The Rigvedic economy was primarily pastoral even though, the root ar from which the term arya is derived means ‘to cultivate’.

They domesticated pashu, as opposed to mirage,i.e..wild animals.

The term for cow(gau)in different forms in mentioned 176 times in the Fanily Books.

Cattle was synonymous with wealth(rayi), and a wealthy person was called gomat.

The terms of battle.

As gavisti, gosu,gavyat,gavyu,and godhulj was a measure of time.

Gopa and gopati were epithets given to the king Duhitri was the term used for daughter because she used to milk the cow.

One of the four categories of gods was known as gojata,i.e.cowvorn.

When the Vedic people encountered buffalo in India they called it gauri and gavala or cow-haired.

The Rigveda is replete with terms connected to pastoryal activities such as pastya, which originally meant stall or stable nad sometimes it is interpreted as large pasture grounds when it occurs as pastyavanta(in its various forms it occurs 18 times in the Rigveda),vrijana(57 times), which means enclosure, collection of cattle, gostha which also means collection of cattle and vraja(45 times)meaning pasture grounds.

Another important term is gotra, which in the Rigveda means cowpen.

It is possible that animals were herded in common and such a place was known as gotra.

And from this it acquired the charcter of an exogamous institutions.

The cattle obtained in raids were divided among the families.

However, leader of the raids received a large share.

Further, cattle formed an important item of dana and it may also have formed a part of bali.

The cattle in general and cow in particular was the main medium of exchange during the Rigvedic period.

The linguistic evidence for agriculture activities is limited.

There are twenty-one reference to agricultural activities in the Rigveda, but only a few occur in its core.

The term kris(to cultivate)occurs rarely in the Family Books.

The term Kristi,mentioned 33 times, is used in the sence of the people such as panchakristyah.

This word is similar to panchajanah and panchacharsaniyah.
Sayana also understands kristih in the sense of prajah or people.

Similarly charsani is also derived from char ‘to move’.

The term hala is does not appear at all and langla(plough)appearing in the earliest books is believed to be a non-Aryan (Munda)loan word.

Sira is another term for plough.

The varatra or a leather strap of the plough is also mentioned.

Phala (ploughshare)and furrows (sita and sunu)are mentioned in Book IV, the latest of the Family Books.

In a later portion of the Rigveda, Pusan is described as marking furrows.

The early Vedic Aryans used wooden ploughshares in cultivation lands.

Cultivated fields are called kshetra, and fertile ones urvara.

Clearance and cultivation were made possible through the use of hoe(khanitra),sickle(datra and srini)and axe(parasu, kulisa,vrikna, svadhiti tejas.

Vasi was some kind of hand axe.

The Rigvedic families cultivated their lands themselves.

There is no word for either wage or for wage earners.

Similarly no term for interest is found.

The term rina indicates the mutual obligation to pay one another.

Land or gaind do not figure as objects of dispute, nor is land mentioned as a gift item,even though the whole social fabric was based on some kind of gift economy.

Consequently, individual ownership of land is not evidenced form the Rigveda.

Art and Crafts:

The groups metioned include leather workers(charmakars),wheelwrights(Rathakaras),smiths and potters(kulala),and capenters (taksan).

However, none of these groups was considered to be of low status.

Weaving seems to have been a domestic craft.

Wool, obtained from sheep,was the most common raw material.

Cotton is not at all mentioned.

Trade and Commerce:

The Rigvedic people practiced trade and commerce on a large scale.

Even B.B.Lal had recently put forward a view that the Rigvedic Aryans obtained tremendous wealth from the sea-commerce.

However,R.S.Sharma had shown that there is no reference to ‘tremendous’wealth acquired form ‘sea-trade’.

On the basis of most of the references to the sea in the Rigveda, R,N.Nandi speaks of ‘pedding of goods’, but according to R.S.Sharma, sea-trade cannot be inferred from these references.

The term vvvanijaya or commerce came to be used in later times.

The terms such as vasna and sulka,which denote ‘pice’or ‘value’in the Rigveda, are used not in connection with merchandise or goods but human beings and gods who are modelled after human beings.

The exchange of commodities on the principle of barter seems to have been in vogue.

Neither do we have evidence of slaves, wage earners or hired labourers engaged in production.

Sometimes the Panis, who are described in the Rigveda as ric, selfish, “of hostile speech” and greedly, are taken to have been “merchants par excellence”, who practiced usury(A.D.Pusalkar).

Economic Changes in the Later-Vedic Period:

Importance of agriculture grew during this phase.

Towards the end of this period iron ploughshares(found from Jakhera)were used, although ploughshares made of the udumbara and khadira trees were common.

Fire was used for clearing the forest (as evident from the Videgha Mathara legend in the Satapatha Brahmana).

In the later-Vedic phase metal tools were used(iron axe found at Non, 1100-900 BC)for the purpose.
Variety of crops were now available.

Reference to iron is explicit in the later-Vedic peiod.

We have references to Krisnayas or shyamayas,

Smelters were known as dhmatri,bellows were known as bhastra(found from Suneri in Rajasthan).

Craft specialization was also greater in the later-Vedic peiod.

Bali in certain cases seems to have Satamana and Krishnala were used as medium of exchange.

Difference and Similarities between Indus civilization and Vedic Culture:

We notice more differences than similarities.

Our sources of information of the Harappan civilization are mainly archaeological, while the Vedic culture is mostly known from the literary sources-the Vedas.


Harappns are said to have been the original inhabitants of India while the Aryans, the founders of Vedic culture, are believed to have come to India from Central Asia.

The Harappan civilization was urban in nature.

The Vedic culture was rural.

There is almost complete absence of towns in the Rigvedic period.

In the Indus civilization trade, internal and external, crafts as well as industries were the main sources of economy.

While the later-Vedic economy had predominance of agricultrure and cattle rearing.

The later-Vedic people and they owed this knowledge to the non-Vedic people.

For early Vedic people pastoralism was the more prestigious profession.

Indus people did not know the use of iron.

It was purely a ‘coper-bronze’ culture, while the Vedic culture in its later phase is replete with references to iron.

The horse, which played a decisive role in the Aryan system of warfare, was not known to the Indus people.

Indus people were basically peace loving .

Their arms(swords, daggers,arrow-heads, spears)were primitive in nature.

The Aryans on the contrary, were warlike people and were conversant with all kinds of traditional arms and armour and had devised a full-fledged ‘science of war’.

The Vedic society was primarily based on kindship where as the Harappan culture could not be basically kin-based.

The Aryans worshiped Varuna, Indra,Aditi and a large number of other deities which stood for the principal phenomena of nature.

The Harappans worshipped Pashupati, Mother Goddess, animals, snake and nature.

The fire-altars were discovered from only one Harappan site at Kalibangan.

The Harappans practiced earth burials whereas the Aryans practiced cremation.

The Harppan pottery called ‘black or red pottery’ was wheel made and very distinctive in nature.

The distincitive Aryan pottery is known as PGW(Painted Grey Ware).

The facial features and the physical types differed considerably.

The Harappans were short statured, black in complexion and comparatively thi with short nose, thick lips and tiny eyes.

The Aryans were tall, well-built and handsome with long and pointed nose, thin lips,pointed chins,broad shoulders and fair complexion.

The Harappans ate all birds and animals including cow and calf.

They attached great importance to individual and community bathing.

They ate wheat, barley and bread.

The Aryans preferred milk and its proucts, specially ghee or butter nad enjoyed Soma drink.
Meat of the animals scarified was eastern.

The Harappan wome put on a skirt and men used a band of cloth round their loins.

The Aryans used embroidered cloth along with the ones made of leather, hide or skin.

Cotton was the basic fabric of the Harappans while the Aryans put on woolen garments too.

Vedic Sanskrit is the mother of all non-Dravidian languages of India.

Indus script still remains undeciphered and we are completely in the dark about its literary developments.

However, it is clear that the Indus people were literate whereas the Vedic people were illiterate.

We do not have any word for writing in any of the Vedic texts.


Many of their religious features were absorbed in the later Hinduism.

Both of them were quite rich in material aspects.

The Harappan mathematics must have helped ‘Vedic mathematics’,known to us from the Sulva Sutras,’ which from part of the Kalpa Sutras and deal with the construction of sacrifical altars used in Vedic ritual.

Both Harappan and Vedic civilizations made great contribution in th field of metallurgy.

Similarly use of baked bricks, pottery, wheeled carts(which the Aryans developed as chariots), great regard for personal hygiene etc.

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