ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY

 

 

 

 

Vedic Age

In this period of time north India has witnessed a crucial and very impotant changes.

Over the last 40 yeras archaeologists have found many valueable evidences from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Northern Rajasthan, which gives us a more clear picture of the processes socio-economic changes of vedic age.

The only textual evidence of this period is the VEDAS.

The Aryan Problem :

The Vedas were composed by Aryans

It was believed that The Indo- Aryans migrated from West Asia in to the Indian Subcontinent.

The Aryans had a common and original home which was believed to be Europe and the East, from where they migrated to Indian subcontinent in many stages.

They are distinguished from the Non-aryan Harappans of the proceding years. There are similarities in languages used in Rigveda and the Avesta, the oldest Iranian texts, older to Rigveda.

The debate regarding the original home of the Aryans are no longer valid, since the racial identity of the Aryans has been proved false. but the historians still believe in a common linguistic identity.

Archaeological evidence neither provide any proof of large scale migration of people from West Asia or Central to India around 1500 BC nor any proof that Aryans destroyed the Harappan civilization.

Rigveda is considered to be the earliest collection of hymns available to us.

From these hymns we get valuable insights in to the various aspects of the early Indian society, Such as- The nature if economy, social organisation kingship and political organisation, religions, cosmological beliefs etc.

The Early Vedic Society:

The Rigvedic Samhita comprises ten books or Mandals of which the Books 2 to 7 are considered to be the oldest and specifically to the early Vedic phase and the Books 1, 8, 9, 10 are considered to be the late additions to the Samhita.

The geographical area referred to in Rigveda includes drained by Westren tributaries of the Indus and eastern limits formed by the Yamuna and the Ganga. Within this area, the valleys of the Indus, Saraswati and Drasavati and the five rivers of the punjab seem to have formed the core area.

The early vedic society appears to have been primarily pastoral.The Rigveda yields extensive evidence of the importance of the cattle in the early vedic society. the term Gau is referred to as many as 176 times in relevantMandalas, as well as in prayers for pasu a term which includes goats, sheeps, horses and men as well. Gomat means the man who possesses cattle. Many words for cattle, such as Gaviti also imply for a search for cattle. The raja is referred to as Gopati .The term for daughter was Duhitri, The term for measurement of time was Godhuli. Distance is calledGavyuti and so on.
There is so much emphasis on the cattle that the major part of their economy was based on the cattle.

Agricuture: The evidence regarding agriculture is much more limited. Apart from Yava or Barley, no other grains are mentioned. Early Vedic age neither used iron technology nor did cooper, with which they were familiar. Stone tools were used and these are mentioned in Rigveda. They practised Shifting Agriculture. The regions received low rainfall and all the rivers mentioned in Rigveda are known to change their courses frequently. The alluvial lands near the rivers could not be cultivated permanent basis. Tools of for agriculture were very simple. There was Langala or Sira, The Phala, The khanitra, The Datra and The Parasue. They were probably used for slashing or in shifting cultivation. The evidence of pastoralism as well as shifting cultivation suggests that the people were either Nomadic or Semi- Nomadic.

Crafts: References to the craft specialists are relatively sparse in the Rigveda The groups mentioned the leather workers, wheel maker, smiths, potters. Chariots were crucial success in the battles; horse drawn chariots possibly explaining the initial success of the Aryans. In case of pottery urns, carinated vessels, footed vases; Stars rings dots and mythical peacocks and bulls as decorations were used. Weaving appears to have been a domestic craft under the control of women in the household and wool from sheep was the raw material as there are  no reference to cotton in the Rigveda.

Trade: The references to the trades are extremely limited, possibly implying a Barter System with cattle in exchange. Long distance trade was unknown. The word Samudra refers to the mouth of the Indus rather than to the sea itself. Howevr other means of exchange and redistribution were apparently significant that this system was named as a Gift Economy.

Society: It was a tribal society in which social relations based on kinship ties were predominant. The social divisions were not according to caste lines. The rajas and purohits and artisans were parts of the clan networks. Inter Tribal Conflicts were frequent, as an example being the battle of the ten kings was mentioned. Some of the tribes which fought in this battle were the Bharatas, the Purus, the Vadus the Druhyus the Anus and the Turvasus. The tribal conflicts were mainly related to the cattle raids and cattle theft. The raja’s office was not based on the heredity but he was selected from the clansmen. The warrior group was the Rajanya.  The four- fold Varna System on the other hand was virtually absent. Though there are fourteen references to brahmanas, nine to kshatriyas and one to the Shudra and the last one being referred to only in the context of the Purusasukta, the cosmic man. The status of women in this period of the Vedic society was complex. Women certainly played parts in the productive process such as weaving. Most of the major deities in early Vedic pantheon are male, which indicates male domination.  The tribal groups fought and befriended each other time to time but they were not as separate as racial and linguistic groups. Like the most famous chief mentioned in the Rigveda is Sudasa who led the Bharata tribe in the battle of the ten kings over the division of water of the river Ravi. Existence of different groups in the same area has contributed to the emergence of the Varna System.

Polity: The tribal polity of this age was not completely egalitarian. A division is found in the Rigveda itself between the Rajanyas. The rest of the clansmen formed the junior lineage whereas the rajanyas were credited to be the senior lineage. The tribal chief or Raja assumed importance on the account of wars and the division between senior and junior lineage became sharper. These political distinctions became apparent is difficult to state. But in the 10th book of the Rigveda which contains the Purusa- Sukta hymn, it is stated that Brahmana, Rajanya, Vaisya and Sudra sprang respectively from mouth, arms , thighs and feet of the cosmic man and these names signified the four castes. In the later Vedic texts we find that the Rajanyas assumed the status of the Kshatria, a separate Varna by itself. Tribal assemblies mentioned in the Rigveda were called as  the Gana, Vidhata, Sabha and Samiti. General tribal assemblies were called samiti and the council of the selected clan members was called sabha. These assemblies performed the functions of the government and were also involved in the selection of the raja from the clansmen.

Religion:   Rigvedic people worshipped the natural forces around them, such as wind, water, rain, thunder, fire, etc. Which they could not control and invested nature with divinity conceived in human forms, which were mostly masculine. Very few female deities were worshipped. Gods like Indra, the god of strength, god of the thunder and rain. Agni, the God of fire. Varuna, the God of water. Yama, the God of death. Numerous deities that are lauded in the Vedas. A very personal relationship existed between the Vedic Aryans and the Gods they worshipped. The Rigveda offers no consistent theory regarding life and death. According to some passages, the dead dwelt in the realm of Yama.The dead were either cremated or buried.

1. What is the time span of Vedic Age?

a)            1500-500 BC                        b)            1500-300 BC
b)            1500-250BC                         d)            1500-800 BC

2. How many books or Mandals does the Rigvedic Samhita cotain?

a)            15           b)            10
c)            20           d)            5

3. What are the assemblies used to called in Vedic age?

a)            Rajanya                 b)            Godhuli
c)            Parisad                 d)            Dana

4. In Vedic age what does the “Langala” used to mean?

a)            Axe        b)            Hoe
c)            Sickle    d)            Sira

5. In Vedic age what did “Dana” mean?

a)            Gifts given to Priests by Gana
b)            Gifts given by Priests to Rajanya
c)            Gifts given to Gana by Prists
d)            Gifts given to Priests by Rajanya

6. What was the time span of the Later Vedic age?

a)            1500-500 BC        b)            1000-600 BC
c)            1500-600 BC        d)            1000-400 BC

7. What is the First Part of Veda?

a)            Rigveda                b)            Somveda
c)            Yajurveda            d)            Atharvaveda

8. How many division are there in the Varna System?

a)            5              b)            4
c)            8              d)            6

9.Which among the following does not match with the others?

a)            Brahmanas         b)            Khatriyas
c)            Baissha                d)            Rajanya

10. In Vedic age what was the name of the god of creation?

a)            Indra                     b)            Prajapati
c)            Vishnu                  d)            Agni

11. How many shlokas are Mahabharata consists of?

a)            8000                       b)            10000
c)            9000                       d)            8500

12. In which era Ramayana and Mahabharata were written?

a)            Vedic age            b)            Post Vedic age
c)            Harappan era     d)            Mughal era

Answer.

1.(a) 2. (b) 3. (c) 4. (d) 5. (d) 6. (b) 7. (a) 8. (b) 9. (d) 10. (b) 11. (a)

12. (b)