The Age of Rig Vedic Period
Arrival of the Indo-Aryans
- The Indo Aryans arrived from two areas.The first area is archeologically called the Andronovo culture which covered almost the whole of central Asia during the second millennium BC. The second is archeologically called the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) and dated 1900-1500BC.
- Bactria is well known in the Indian tradition. It is called Bahlika, which means an outside country coterminous with modern Balkh. Though this term is not mentioned in the Rig Veda, it figures in later Vedic texts.
- A Gupta inscription of the fourth century refers to the conqueror of Bahlika who reached there after crossing seven mouths of the Indus Real conquest there may not have been, but the existence of Bactria is known in the Gupta period.
- The earliest Aryans lived in the geographical area covered by eastern Afghanistan, the North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, and the fringes of western U.P. Some rivers of Afghanistan, such as the river Kubha, and the river Indus and its five branches, are mentioned in the Rig-Veda.
- The Sindhu, conterminous with the Indus, is the river par excellence of the Aryans, and it is repeatedly mentioned.Another river, the Sarasvati, is called naditarna or the best of rivers in the rig-Veda. It is identified with the Ghaggar-Hakra channel in Haryana and Rajasthan, but its Rig Vedic descriptions shows it to be the avestan river Harakhwati or the present Helmand river in south Afghanistan from where the name Sarasvati was transferred to India.
- The Rig-Veda is the earliest text of the Indo-European languages. It is written in Sanskrit, but also includes many Munda and Dravidian words.Probably these words percolated to the Rig Veda through the languages of the Harappans. It is a collection of prayers offered to Agni, Indra, Mitra, Varuna, and other gods by various families of poets or
- Aryan names appear in Kassite inscriptions of about 1600 BC from Iraq and in Mitanni inscriptions of the fourteenth century BC from Syria. However, so far no such inscriptions have been found in India.
- The Aryans migrated to India in several batches.The earliest wave is represented by the Rig Vedic people, who came to the subcontinent in about 1500 BC. They came into conflict with the indigenous inhabitants called dasas, dasyus, etc. As the dasas are also mentioned in ancient Iranian literature, they seem to have been a branch of the early Aryans.
- The Rig Veda mentions the defeat of Sambara by a chief called Divodasa of the Bharata In this case, the term dasa appears in the name Divodasa. In all probability, the dasyus in the Rig Veda represent the original inhabitants of India, and an Aryan chief who overpowered them was called Trasadasyu.
Tribal Conflicts in Rig Vedic period
- In the rig Veda, Indra is called Purandara which means that he destroyed dwelling units.
- The Indo-Aryans succeeded everywhere because they had chariots drawn by horses, and introduced them for the first time into West Asia and India.
- The Indo-Aryans were engaged in two types of conflicts-they fought with the pre-Aryans, and they fought amongst themselves.
- According to tradition, the Aryans were divided into five tribes called Panchajana, but there might have been other tribes too. The Aryans fought amongst themselves and sometimes enlisted the support of the non-Aryan peoples for the purpose.
- The Bharatas and the Tritsu were the ruling Aryan clans, and they were supported by priest Vasishtha.
- The Bharata ruling clan was opposed by a host of ten chiefs, five of whom were heads of Aryan tribes and the remaining five of the non-Aryan people.
- The battle that the Bharatas fought with the host of ten chiefs isknown as the Battle of Ten Kings. It was fought on the river Parushni, coterminous with the river Ravi, and it gave victory to Sudas and established the supremacy of the Bharatas.
Cattle Rearing and Agriculture In early vedic period
- They owned their success to the use of horses, chariots and also possibly some better arms made of bronze of which we have very little archaeological evidence.
- Rig Vedic people had a superior knowledge of agriculture.
- The ploughshare is mentioned in the earliest part of the Rig Veda, though some consider it to be an interpolation, and was possibly made of wood.
- Agriculture was also well known to the pre-Aryans who lived in the area associated with the Vedic people, but was perhaps used primarily to produce fodder.
- The terms for war in the Rig Veda is Gavishthi or search for cows, and cow seems to have been the most important form of wealth.Whenever we hear of gifts made to priests, they usually consist of cows and women slaves and never of land.
- The Rig Vedic people may have occupied pieces of land for grazing, cultivation, and settlement, but land did not form a well-established type of private property.
- The Rig Veda mentions such artisans as the carpenter, chariot-maker, weaver, leather worker, and potter. Thisindicates that they practiced all these crafts.
- The term ayas, used for copper or bronze, shows that metal working was known.
- The administrative machinery of the Aryans in the Rig Vedic period functioned with the tribal chief, for his successful leadership in war, at the centre. He was called Rajan. The king was called the protector of his tribe. He protected its cattle, fought its wars, and offered prayers to the gods on its behalf.
- Several tribal or kin-based assemblies such as the sabha, samiti, vidatha, and gana are mentioned in the Rig Veda.
- The two priests who played a major role in Rig Vedic times were Vasishtha and Vishvamitra. Vasishtha was a conservative and Vishvamitra a liberal. Vishvamitra composed the gayatri mantrato widen the Aryan world.
- The Rig Vedic period does not mention any officer for administration of justice. It was not, however, an ideal society but one in which where were cases of theft and burglary, and people stole cows. Spies were employed to keep an eye on such antisocial activities.
- He led to battle the heads of the families called kulapas, or heads of the fighting hordes called gramanis. Initially the gramani was just the head of a small tribal kin-based fighting unit called grama.
Tribe and Family
- Kinship was the basis of the social structure, and a man was identified by the clan to which he belonged, as can be seen in the names of several Rig Vedic kings. The people’s primary loyalty was to the tribe, which was called jana.
- The term jana occurs at about 275 places in the Rig Veda, and the term janapada or territory is not used even once.
- Women could attend assemblies and other sacrifices along with their husbands. We have an instance of five women who composed hymns, although the later texts mention twenty such women.
- The institution of marriage was established, although symbols of primitive practices survived. We hear of a proposal made by Yami, the twin-sister of Yama, to establish love relations, but the offer is resisted by Yama. We have some indications of polyandry.
- We also noticethe practice of levirate and widow remarriage in the Rig Veda. There are no examples of child marriage, and the marriageable age in the Rig Veda seems to have been 16 to 17.
- Varna was the term used for colour, and it seems that the Indo-Aryan language speakers were fair and the indigenous inhabitants dark in complexion.
- The Dasas and dasyus, who were conquered by the Aryans were treated as slaves and shudras. The Rig Veda mentions the arya varnaand dasa varna.
- The tribal chiefs and the priests acquired a larger share of the booty and naturally became wealthy at the cost of their kinsmen, thereby creating social inequalities in the tribe. The tribal society was divided into three occupational groups, warriors, priests and the common people on the same pattern as in Iran.
- Unequal distribution of the spoils of war created social inequalities, and this aided the rise of princes and priests at the cost of the common tribal people. However, as the economy was mainly pastoral and not food producing, the scope for collecting regular tributes from the people was very limited.
- We do not find gifts of land, and even gifts of cereals are rare.
Rig Vedic Gods
- The Aryans found it difficult to explain the coming of the rains, the appearance of thesun and the moon, and the existence of the rivers, mountains, and the like. They, therefore, personified these natural forces and looked upon them as living beings to whom they attributed human or animal attributes.
- The most important divinity in the Rig Vedic period is Indra, who is called Purandara or destroyer of dwelling units. Indra played the role of a warlord, leading the Aryan soldiers to victory against the demons, and has 250 hymns devoted to him.
- The second position is held by Agni (fire god) to whom 200 hymns are devoted. Fire played a significant part in the life of primitive people because of its use in burning forests and cooking.
- The third importance position is occupied is Varuna who personified water. Varuna was supposed to uphold the natural order and whatever happened in the world was thought to be the reflection of his desires.
- There are some women divinities too, such as Aditi, and Usha who represented the appearance of the dawn, but they were not prominent at the time of the Rig Veda.However, given the patriarchal society of the period, the male gods were far more important than the female.
- This also happened in the case of sacrifices: Agni and Indra were invited to partake of sacrifices made by the tribe (jana) as a whole.
- Offerings of vegetables,barley, etc., were made to gods, but in Rig Vedic times this was not accompanied by any ritual or sacrificial formulae.
The Later Vedic Period