Vedic Culture (1500 BC-600 BC) Original Home of the Aryan


  • The location of the original home of the Aryans still remains a controversial point. Some scholars believe that the Aryans were native to the soil of India and some other scholars believe that the Aryans were migrated from outside [Central Asia (Max Muller)/ Europe / Arctic region (B. G. Tilak).
  • According to popular belief, the Aryans are supposed to have migrated from Central Asia into the Indian subcontinent in several stages or waves during 2000 BC-1500 BC.
  • Boghazkai Inscription (Asia Minor, Turkey), which mentions 4 vedic gods Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatyas, proves Central Asian Theory as their homeland
  • The group that came to India first settled in the present Frontier Province and Punjab - then called Sapta Sindhu i.e. region of seven rivers. They lived here for many centuries and gradually pushed into the interior to settle in the valleys of the Ganges and the Yamuna.


Vedic Literature (1500 BC-600 BC)

1. It is presumed that the Rig Veda was composed while the Aryans were still in Punjab.

2. Vedic Literature comprises of four literary productions: 

  • The Samhitas or Vedas
  • Brahmans 
  • Aranyakas 
  • The Upanishads.

3. Vedic Literature had grown up in course of time and was really handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Hence these are called Shruti (to hear).

4. The most important of Vedic Literature are Vedas. Vedas are called Apaurasheya i.e. not created by man but God-gifted and Nitya i.e. existing in all eternity.

5. There are four Vedas - Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The first three Vedas are jointly called Vedatrayi i.e. trio of Vedas.

6. Of the four Vedas, the Rig Veda (Collection of lyrics) is the oldest text in the wold, and therefore, is also known as 'the first testament of mankind'. The Rig Veda contains 1028 hymns, divided into 10 mandalas. Six mandalas (from 2nd to 7th mandalas) are called Gotra/ Vamsha Mandalas (Kula Granth). The 1st and 10th mandalas are said to have been added later. The 10th mandala contains the famous Purushasukta which explains the 4 Varnas - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. The hymns of Rig Veda were recited by Hotri.

7. The Sama Veda (book of chants) had 1549 hymns. All hymns (excluding 75) were taken from the Rig Veda. The hymns of the Sama Veda were recited by Udgatri. This Veda is important for Indian music.

8. The Yajur Veda (book of sacrificial prayers) is a ritual Veda. Its hymns were recited by Adhvaryus. It is divided into two parts - Krishna Yajur Veda and Shukla Yajur Veda. In contrast to the first two which are in verse entirely, this one is in both verse and prose.

9. The Atharva Veda (book of magical formulae), the fourth and the last one, contains charms and spells. off evils and diseases. For a very long time, it was not included in the category of the Vedas.

10. The Brahmans explain the hymns of the Vedas. They are written in prose and ritualistic in nature. Brahma means 'sacrifice'. The various sacrifices and rituals have been elaborately discussed in the Brahmanas. Every Veda has several Brahmanas attached to it :

  • Rig Veda - Aitareya and Kaushitiki / Sankhyan.
  • Sam Veda - Panchvisha (Tandya Maha Brahamana), Shadvinsh, Chhandogya, and Jaiminaya.
  • Yajur Veda - Shatapatha (the oldest and the largest Brahamana) and Taittariya.
  • Atharva Veda - Gopatha.

11. The word Aranya means 'the forest'. The 'forest texts' were called Aranyaka, because they were written mainly for the hermits and the students living in jungles. The Aranyaka are the concluding portions of the Brahmanas.

12. The Upanishads are philosophical texts. They are generally called Vedanta, as they came towards the end of the Veda. There are 108 Upanishads. Vrihadaranyaka is the oldest Upanishads.



The literature of Vedic Tradition (600 BC-600 AD)

1. Literature of Vedic Tradition (Smriti i.e. remembering literature) comprises of 6 literary works: 1. Vedangas / Sutras 2. Smritis Dharmashastras 3. Mahakavyas (Epics) 4. Puranas 5. Upvedas 6. Shad - Dharshanas.

2. There are six Vedangas 

3. Shiksha (Phonetics) : ‘Pratishakhya' - the oldest text on phonetics.

4. Kalpa Sutras (Rituals): a. Shrauta Sutras / Shulva Sutras -deal with the sacrifices, b. Grihya Sutras - deal with family ceremonies, c. Dharma Sutras - deal with Vamas, Ashramas, etc.

5. Vyakarana (Grammar): 'Ashtadyayi' (Panini) - the oldest grammar of the word.

6. Nirukta (Etymology): 'Nirukta' (Yask) based on 'Nighantu' (Kashyap) - a collection of difficult vedic words—('Nighantu' - the oldest word - a collection of the world; 'Nirukta' - the oldest dictionary of the world).

7. Chhanda (Metrics) : 'Chhandasutras' (Pingal) - famous text.

Jyotisha (Astronomy) : 'Vedanga Jyotisha' (Lagadh Muni) - the oldest Jyotisha text.

8. There are six famous Smritis : (i) Manu Smriti (Pre-Gupta Period)— the oldest Smriti text; Commentators: Vishwarupa, Meghatithi, Gobindraj, Kulluk Bhatt. (ii) Yajnvalkya Smriti (Pre - Gupta Period)— Commentators: Vishwarupa, Vijnyaneshwar, Apararka (a king of Shilahar Dynasty) (iii) Narad Smriti (Gupta period), (iv) Parashara Smriti (Gupta period), (v) Brihaspati Smriti (Gupta period), (vi) Katyayana Smriti (Gupta period).

9. There are mainly two Mahakavyas (Epics) :

The Ramayana (Valmiki) : It is known as ‘Adi Kavya' (the oldest epic of the world). At present, it consists of 24,000 shlokas i.e. verses (Originally 6,000, Later - 12,000, Finally - 24,000) in 7 Kandas i.e. sections. 1st and 7th Kandas were the latest additions to the Ramayana.
The Mahabharata (Ved Vyasa) : The longest epic of the world. At present, it consists of 1,00,000 shlokas i.e. verses (Originally-8,800-Jay Samhita, Later-24,000-Chaturvinshati Sahastri Samhita / Bharata, Finally - 1,00,000-Shatasahastri Samhita / Maha Bharata) in 18 Parvans i.e. chapters, plus the Harivamsa supplement. Bhagavad Gita is extracted from Bihshma Parvan of Mahabharata. Shanti Parvan is the largest parvan (chapter) of the Mahabarata.

10. The Purana means 'the old'. There are l8 famous 'Puranas'. The Matsya Purana is the oldest Puranic text. The other important Puranas are the Bhagavata, The Vishnu, The Vayu, and The Brahmana. They describe genealogies of various royal dynasties.


11. The Upavedas (the auxiliary vedas) were traditionally associated with Vedas :

Upavedas                     Associated with

(i) Ayurveda i.e. Medicine-------->Rig Veda
(ii) Gandharvaveda i.e. Music----->Sama Veda
(iii) Dhanurveda i.e. Archery ---->Yajur Veda
(iv) Shilpveda / Arthaveda i.e.--->the science of craft / wealth (Vishwakarma)     Atharva Veda


12. There are 6 schools of Indian philosophy known as Shad-Darshanas.

Darshana-----> Sankhya Darshana

Founder------> Kapila
Basic Text---> Sankhya Sutra
 

Darshana-----> Yoga Darshana

Founder------> Patanjali
Basic Text---> Yoga Sutra

 

Darshana-----> Nyaya Darshana

Founder------> Akshapada Gautama

Basic Text---> Nayaya Sutra

 

Darshana-----> Vaishesika Darshana

Founder------> Uluka Kanada

Basic Text---> Vaishesika Sutra

 

Darshana-----> Mimansa / Purva- Mimansa

Founder------> Jaimini

Basic Text---> Purva Mimansa Sutra

 

Darshana-----> Vedant/Uttara- Mimansa

Founder------> Badarayana

Basic Text---> Brahma Sutra / Vedant Sutra

 

Rig Vedic/Early Vedic Period (1500 BC-1000 BC)

Geographical Area

1. Rig Veda is the only source of knowledge for this period.

2. From the names of rivers, mountains (Himvant i.e. Himalaya, Munjavant i.e. Hindukush) and ocean in Rig Veda we have a clear idea of the geographical area inwhich Rigvedic people lived.

3. Rig Veda mentions 40 rivers. The Nadisukta hymn of the Rig Veda mentions 21 rivers which include the Ganges in the east and the Kubha (Kabul) in the west.

4. Rigvedic people, who called themselves Aryans, were confined in the . area which came to be known as Sapta Sindhu i.e. land of the seven rivers. Sapta Sindhu comprises Sindhu and their five tributaries —  Vitasta, Asikani, Vipas, Parushni & Sutuadri and Saraswati.

5. According to the Rig Veda, the most mentioned river - Sindhu, the most pious river - Saraswati, mention of the Ganges-1 time, mention of Yamuna-3 times.


6. The Dasrajan War (The Battle of Ten Kings)

According to Rig Veda, the famous Dasrajan war was the internecine war of the Aryans. The Dasrajan war gives names of ten kings who participated in a war against Sudas who was Bharata king of the Tritsus family. The ten kings were of the states of Purus, Yadus, Turvasas, Anus, and Druhyus along with five others viz. Alinas, Pakhtas, Bhalanas, Sibis and Vitamins. The battle was fought on the bank of Parushni (Ravi) in which Sudas emerged victoriously.


Rigvedic Name ---> Sindhu

Modern Name -----> Indus

Region-----------> Punjab

 

Rigvedic Name ---> Vitasta

Modern Name -----> Jhelum

Region-----------> Punjab

 

Rigvedic Name ---> Asikani

Modern Name -----> Chenab

Region-----------> Punjab

 

Rigvedic Name ---> Vipas

Modern Name -----> Beas

Region-----------> Punjab

 

Rigvedic Name ---> Parushni

Modern Name -----> Ravi

Region-----------> Punjab

 

Rigvedic Name ---> Saraswati

Modern Name -----> Sarsuti

Region-----------> Rajasthan

 

Rigvedic Name ---> Drishadvati

Modern Name -----> Ghaggar

Region-----------> Rajasthan

 

Rigvedic Name ---> Krumu

Modern Name -----> Kurram

Region-----------> Afghanistan

 

Rigvedic Name ---> Gomati

Modern Name -----> Gomal

Region-----------> Afghanistan

 

Polity

1. The Kula (the family) was the basis of both social and political organizations. Above the Kula were the Grama, the Vis, the Jana, and the Rashtra. A group of Kula (families) formed a Grama (the village) and so on.

2. Regarding the form of government it was of patriarchal nature. Monarchy was normal, but non - monarchical polities were also there.

3. The Rashtra was ruled by a King or Rajan and the royal descent was by hereditary based on the law of primogeniture. Probably elective monarchy was also known.

4. Very little is known about ministers of the king. The Purohita or domestic priest was the first ranking official. He was the king's preceptor, friend, philosopher and guide. Other important royal official

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