Early Vedic Period: Ancient India
mobile-whatsapp-img
9817390373,8295688244
Baljit Dhaka
hcs prelims testseries image
hcs prelims mains testseries image
HCS Mains test series
upsc ias image
upsc ias image
upsc ias image

Early Vedic Period: Ancient India

Validity: 9 Months
What you will get
Course Highlights
  • Based on latest Pattern
  • English Medium eBooks
Click to Bookmark
Ancient and Medieval History

Early Vedic Period: Ancient India

Introduction: Vedic Period

The Indus civilisation declined around 1700 BC due to a variety of causes. The advent of Aryans in India around 1500 BC marked the beginning of the Rigvedic period.

The Vedic period is broadly divided into

Early Vedic (1500 – 1000 BC)

Later Vedic (1000 – 600 BC)

In this article, we will discuss the facts related to the Early Vedic Period. 

  • Rig Veda is the most important source to know about the early Vedic Period and early Aryans. 
  • It is considered the purest form of Hindu Literature.

Early Vedic Period: Ancient India

Rig Veda

  • The term ‘Veda’ is derived from ‘Vid’ which means ‘to know.
  • The oldest book of any kind in India.
  • Composed during 1500 – 1000 BC.
  • In Rig Veda, there are 10 Mandals (chapters), 1028 Suktas (Hymns) and 10465 Shlokas (verses)
  • The Mandals from 2nd to 8th are older. 
  • 1st and 10th manuals are the latest.
  • The term ‘Shudra’, is mentioned for the first time in the 10th Mandal.
  • Rig Veda has many things common with Avesta (oldest text in Iranian languages)
  • Avesta and Rig-Veda had used common names for several gods and social classes.

Aryans: 

  • ‘Aryan’ literally means pure or noble.
  • The name was given to the linguistic group and not a race.
  • Coming of Aryans has no clear and definite archaeological evidence
  • They came to India in 1500 BC
  • It is believed that they originally came from Eurasia (Central Asia).
  • Aware of Himalayas but not of Deserts and Seas.
  • Even, in Rig Veda, the word ‘Samudra’ meant a collection of water and not ‘sea’.
  • Earliest life – Pastoral
  • Agriculture – 2nd occupation
  • Language – Indo-European language
  • The earliest example of the Indo-European language is found in an inscription of 2200 BC from Iraq. 
  • Maybe they have used a socketed axe, bronze dirks and swords-found in Northwestern India
  • The important role of the horse in their life
  • Because of Horse’s swiftness, Aryans were able to inroad in West Asia.
  • Horse and horse sacrifice archaeological evidence found in Southern Tajikistan (Central Asia) and swat valley.
  • Earliest Aryan lived in-eastern Afghanistan, NWFP, Punjab and fronts of UP
  • After coming into India Aryans had differences with indigenous inhabitants called Dasas, days etc.

The Dasrajan war (Battle of 10 kings)

  • Was internecine war of Aryans
  • 10 kings participated in the war against Sudas who was Bharata king of the Tristu family.
  • 10 chiefs (5 were head of Aryan tribes and the rest were non-Aryan people) opposed Bharat ruling clan.
  • Ruling clans of Aryans and got support from Vasishtha.
  • The battle was fought on banks of river Parushani, identical to river Ravi
  • Sudan won and supremacy of Bharatas was established.
  • Purus-one of the tribes who got defeated.

Rivers are known to the Rig Vedic Aryans

  • Kubha river (Afghanistan)
  • Indus river and its five tributaries (mentioned many times in Rig-Veda)
  • Aryan first settled in India in Sapta Saindhava or land of the 7 Rivers (Indus + its 5 tributaries + Saraswati)
  • River Saraswati (in Rig-Veda mentioned as Nadi Tarana or best of the river) 
  • It had been identified as Ghaggar(Hakra channel in Haryana and Rajasthan).

Old name

New name

Sindhu

Indus

Vitasta

Jhelum

Askini

Chenab

Parushni

Ravi

Bipasa

Beas

Shatudri

Satluj

Saraswati

Ghaggar

Kubha

Kabul

  • Predominantly pastoral people because there were a lot of references to cow and bull in Rig-Veda.
  • The cow seems the most important form of wealth. Most of the wars were fought for sake of cows
  • Gavishthi – war for cow
  • Gifts made to priests consists of cows and women slaves (for domestic works) and not land.
  • The land was important because of agriculture, grazing and settlement but not as a private property
  • Craftsmen: Rig Veda mentions Carpenter, Chariot maker and Weaver, Leatherworker, Potter etc.

Trade: Early Vedic Period

Trade

  • No evidence of regular trade
  • They mostly know about land routes and not sea routes as Rig Veda mentions the sea as just a collection of water
  • Money and markets were known but they were not extensively used.
  • Cows and gold ornaments of fixed value were the media of exchange
  • Coins were not known

Polity: Early Vedic Period

Vis

  • This was another name for the tribe. It had been mentioned 170 times in Rig Veda
  • Vis was divided into many grams (smaller tribal units for fighting)
  • War or sangrama-clashing of gramas with one another

Jana

  • Kingship- It was the basis of the social structure
  • A man was identified by his clan
  • The tribe was called Jana and people’s primary loyalty was to the tribe
  • Total no. of members in a tribe about 100
  • Term Jana occurs 75 times in Rig Veda. While the term janapada not used even once

Rashtra:

Ruled by a King (Called Rajana)

  • Election: by tribal assembly
  • King’s post gradually become hereditary
  • The form of government was patriarchal in Nature.

Powers

  • Center of administration machinery
  • Successful leadership in war
  • Just a chief with not unlimited power
  • He had to reckon with tribal organizations
  • King was the protector of his tribe
  • He protects tribes’ cows
  • Fought war for the tribe
  • Offer pray to god on behalf of the tribe.

Purohit

  • Domestic priest
  • First ranking official
  • King’s preceptor, friend, philosopher and guide
  • Vashishta and Vishwamitra were the two most important priests during Rigvedic times.
  • Vasishta-Conservative,
  • Vishwamitra-Liberal

Senani (army chief)

  • Senani is the next important functionary
  • He used spears, axes, swords etc.

Army

  • The king didn’t maintain any regular or standing army
  • In times of war, the king mustered the military whose military function was performed by different tribal groups.
  • wood, stone, bone and metals were used in weapons.

Unit

Head

Kula (the family)

Kulapa

Grama (the village)

Gramani

Vis (the clan)

Vispati

Jana (the people)

Gopa/ Gopati

Rashtra (the country)

Rajan

Justice

  • No officer
  • There were cases of theft and burglary and theft of cows. 
  • Rig Veda mentions traditional rules were used to deal with it.
  • Spies were employed to keep an eye on unsocial activities.

Officials

  • Vrajapati-officer who enjoyed over large land or pasture ground. He led the kulapa or gramanis

Taxes

  • No evidence found for the officer who collects taxes
  • Bali-In the early Vedic period the king collected taxes regularly from his subjects. 
  • The taxes were called Bali and consisted of 1/6 the agricultural produce or cattle for a given person
  • War booty was distributed among kings and their people

Tribal assembly

  • Sabha, Samiti, Vidhata, Gana – Tribal or the clan-based assemblies. 
  • Sabha- Council of clan members or assembly of Brahmins and elders
  • Samiti- Assembly of the common man. Both men and women could participate in it.
  • Sabha, Samiti exercised deliberative, military and religious functions

Social Structure: Early Vedic Period

Family

  • Kula- the term for family. Kula was the basis of both social and political organisations.
  • Above the Kula were the Grama, the Vis, the Jana and the Rashtra.
  • A group of Kula formed a Grama and so on.
  • Griha-this term was also used for a family in Early Vedic times.
  • Father-head of the family Patriarchal society
  • In Rig Veda, desire for children and cattle is repeating but no desire express for daughters

Early Vedic Period: Ancient India

Position of Women

  • Patriarchal and Patrilineal society
  • But Education was not neglected,
  • Vishavara and Lopamudra were the girls who have composed hymns of Rig Veda.
  • Monogamy was the rule though Polygamy was permitted.
  • They attended assemblies
  • Some rituals were not considered complete without the company of a wife. (for example in Yagya pooja)

Marriage institution

  • The institution of marriage was established.
  • Symbols of primitive practices also survived
  • Instances of polyandry were also found
  • Marriage was indissoluble and the concept of divorce was absent
  • Child marriage – absent
  • Widow Remarriage – allowed
  • Marriageable age – 16 to 17

Social Divisions

  • Consciousness about physical appearance had started in 1500 – 1000 BC
  • Varna – It was the term used for colour
  • Aryans were fair in colour while original inhabitants of the country were dark in colour.
  • Colour may have been used for different social orders. Western writers have exaggerated this racial distinction
  • A factor that contributed most to the creation of social divisions was the conquest of indigenous inhabitants by the Aryans
  • E.g.- Dasas and Dasyus conquered by the Aryans were treated as slaves and Shudras
  • According to Rig Veda there were two varnas – Arya varna and Dasa varna
  • Another factor was more share of king and priests in war booty, which created social inequalities in the tribe

Society was divided into 4 groups –

  • Brahmana-Priest, Teachers
  • Kshatriya-rulers, administrators
  • Vaishya- Farmers, Merchants, Bankers
  • Shudra- Artisans and Labourers
  • The 4th division Shudra appeared in the last phase of the Early Vedic Period. 

Slaves

  • Slaves were given as gifts to the priests
  • Women slaves-they was only for domestic purposes
  • Slaves were not used directly in agriculture or other producing activities.

Division based on occupation

  • Division on basis of occupation was there but it wasn’t sharp. Anyone could change his profession.
  • One of the members of a family says - “I am a poet, my mother is corn grinder and my father is a physician. We belong to different varnas by our profession but still love together”
  • Because the economy was pastoral and surplus was also not significant. So, there were fewer ways to collect regular tribute from people Gifts of land and cereals were rare.
  • Social division based on tax collection or accumulation of landed property- absent
  • Society was tribal and egalitarian

Rig Vedic Gods

  • Early Vedic Aryans were not able to explain the reasons for natural forces and so they found their faith in the surroundings.
  • They gave them human or living being attributes.
  • There were nearly 33 Gods. Later day tradition classified them into 3 categories:
  • Terrestrial(Prithvi Sthaniya): Prithvi, Agni, Soma, Brihaspati and rivers.
  • Aerial/Intermediate (Antariksha Sthaniya): Indra, Rudra, Vayu-Vata
  • Celestial (Dyusthaniya): Surya, Varun, Aditi and Usha.

Indra (Rain of god)

  • Most important Rig Vedic god.
  • Known as Purandara or breaker of forts.
  • Played the role of a warlord, leading the Aryan soldiers to victory against the demons.
  • 250 hymns were devoted to him
  • Known by various names as Rathestha, Shatakrata, Jitendra, Meghavan and Somapa

Agni (God of fire)

  • Second most important god.
  • 200 hymns devoted to him
  • Agni is the priest of the gods and the gods of the priests.
  • Has three forms: terrestrial as fire, atmospheric as lightning and celestial as the sun.
  • Considered as an intermediary between gods and people
  • Cult of fire occupied a central space not only in India but also in Iran.

Varuna

  • 3rd most important god
  • God of water
  • He was supposed to uphold the natural order
  • It was considered that whatever happened in the world were because of the desires of the Varuna god.

Soma: God of plants

  • An intoxicating drink was made from plants brought from the Himalayas and it was named after the Soma god

Other goddesses

  • Marut: God of storm
  • Aditi: Goddess of eternity
  • Usha: Goddess of dawn
  • Aranyani: Goddess of the forest
  • Nirrti: Goddess of decay and death
  • Sarma: Messenger of Gods
  • Vastospati: God of settlements
  • Because of the patriarchal society, the male gods were more important than female.
  • Sometimes God was visualised as animals but no animal worship as such.
  • The nature of Rig Vedic religion was Henotheism i.e. belief in many Gods but each God standing out in turns as highest.

Mode of Worshipping

  • Mainly through a ceremony called Yajna (by the offering of milk, ghee, grain, flesh and soma)
  • Both collective and individual prayers were made.
  • Every tribe or clan had a special God.
UPSC / HCS/ State PCS : Important topics for guidance I information I study material

Attend UPSC/ HCS/ UPPCS / RAS State PCS related Free quizzes

HPSC HCS Previous year papers

Free practice questions for UPSC/ HCS/ UPPCS / RAS/ State PCS

RPSC RAS Previous Year Papers

Take Free Sample Mock test for UPSC/ HCS/ UPPCS / RAS/ State PCS

Answer writing skills program

Explore Online courses for  UPSC/ HCS/ UPPCS / RAS/ State PCS

HPSC HCS Mains Hindi compulsory syllabus in details

Free Daily factual current affairs for UPSC/ HCS/ UPPCS / RAS/ State PCS

HPSC HCS Mains English compulsory Syllabus in Details

Free Monthly factual current Affairs for UPSC/ HCS/ UPPCS / RAS/ State PCS

HPSC HCS Mains General Studies syllabus in details

Guidance videos for HPSC HCS exam 

HPSC HCS mains Public administration syllabus in details

Guidance program for UPSC

HPSC HCS mains Sociology syllabus in details

Previous year UPSC IAS mains topic wise questions 

HPSC HCS Mains Geography syllabus in details

Previous year essays for UPSC mains essay paper

HPSC HCS Mains History syllabus in details

Previous year English compulsory papers for UPSC mains

HPSC HCS age related information

Previous year prelims papers for UPSC prelims

HPSC HCS Interview guidance and facts

UPSC Prelims syllabus

Best books for HPSC HCS exam

UPSC Mains GS Paper 1 Syllabus

Best ebook for HPSC HCS exam

UPSC Mains GS Paper 2 Syllabus

Best test series for HCS exam

UPSC Mains GS Paper 3 Syllabus

Best online coaching for HCS exam

UPSC Mains GS Paper 4 Syllabus

Best online coaching for HCS Mains exam

HPSC HCS Prelims syllabus new pattern

HCS mains 2014 question papers

HPSC HCS Mains list of optional papers 

last one year updated current affairs for HCS

Relevant topics to study 

Buddhism and Jainism Notes

Indus Valley Civilisation- History

Polity Questions with Explanation

Drainage System Of India

Introduction to Economics- Basic Concepts

Central Council of Ministers : Civil Services Exam Preparation

How are environmental science and ecology related

Most relevant MCQ for Economics asked in UPSC, HCS exam

50 Most Important MCQs on Vedic Period

Coal And Petroleum Notes

Important MCQs on Buddhism

50 Most Important MCQs on Vedic Period

How to prepare for current affairs for UPSC?

Functions and Powers of the Prime Minister

Coronavirus : How Online Coaching is Beneficial during the Covid - 19 pandemic

Physiographic Division of India-The Northern Plains

Frequently Asked Geography MCQs In UPSC / HCS Exam

How to Improve Writing Skills in Civil Services Examination

Vice President of India Article 63-71 : Frontier IAS

Motivational tips for studying at home

How to stay motivated during this coronavirus pandemic?

Polity Top 50 MCQs : Questions with Detailed Explanation : UPSC/HCS Exam Preparation

Physiographic Division of India Notes

Polity Notes about The President of India : Articles 52-62

Geography Notes For Competitive Exams: Geological History of India

100 Most Important Multiple choice questions on Economics asked in various Competitive exams

HCS Study Material: Indian Polity Notes for HCS Exam

You should follow us on 

Frontier IAS Youtube Channel Frontier IAS Facebook Page Frontier IAS Telegram Channel  Frontier IAS Whatsapp 
Pinnacle Youtube Channel Pinnacle Facebook Page Pinnacle Telegram Channel Pinnacle website