later Vedic period

The Later Vedic Period

        The later Vedic Period-The information about this period is obtained from the three later Vedic texts-Sama Veda,Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda

The Four Vedas

  • The Rig Veda Samhita is the oldest Vedic text, on the basis of which early Vedic period was described The history of the later Vedic period is based mainly on the Vedic texts which were compiled after the age of the Rig Veda.
  • All the later Vedic texts were compiled in the upper Gangetic-basin in c. 1000–500 BC.
  • For the purpose of recitation, the prayers of the Rig Veda were set to tune, and this modified collection was known as the Sama Veda.
  • The Yajur Veda contains not only hymns but also rituals to accompany their recitation, the latter reflecting the social and political milieu of the time.
  • The Atharva Veda contains charms and spells to ward off evils and disease, its contents throwing light on beliefs and practices of the non-Aryans.

Painted Grey Ware sites:

  •  During the same period (1000-500 BC) and in the same area, digging and exploration have brought to light nearly 700 inhabited sites called the Painted Grey Ware (PGW) sites because they were inhabited by people who used earthern bowls and dishes made of painted grey pottery. They also used iron weapons.
  • The Bharatas and Purus, the two major tribes,  combined and thus formed the Kuru people.
  • Vedic people had to contend against a people who used copper implements and the black-and-red earthen pots. In western UP they possibly came up against the people who used pots of ochre or red colour together with copper implements.
  • The Vedic people succeeded in the second phase of their expansion because they used iron weapons and horse-drawn chariots.

Use of Iron in the Later Vedic Period:

  • The domesticated horse is first noticed  near the Black Sea in the sixth millennium BC, but it became     common only  from the second millennium BC
  •  Iron can be placed in the second half of the second half of the second millennium BC. 
  • Iron implements buried with dead bodies have been discovered in substantial numbers. They have been found in Baluchistan, in eastern Punjab, western UP, MP, and Rajasthan.
  • The iron axe may have been used to clear the forests in the upper Gangetic-basin although, because rainfall ranged between 35 cm and 65  cm, these forests may not have been very dense.
  • Late Vedic texts speak of six, eight, twelve, and even twenty-four oxen used  to the plough. This may be an exaggeration.
  • Ploughing was done with a wooden ploughshare, which could function in the light soil of the upper Gangetic plains.However, as they generally cultivated with the wooden ploughshare, the peasants were unable to produce enough to feed those engaged in other occupations, and therefore they would not contribute much to therise of towns.
  • Sufficient bullocks could not have been available because of cattle slaughter in sacrifices.
  • In subsequent times, wheat became the staple food of the people in Punjab and western UP. For the first time, the Vedic people became acquainted with rice in the doab, called vrihi in the Vedic texts.
  • The Vedic people were familiar with copper from the very outset.
  • The later Vedic people were acquainted with four types of pottery—black-and-red ware, black-slipped ware, Painted Grey Ware, and red-ware.
  • Agriculture and various crafts enabled the later Vedic people to lead a settled life. Excavations and explorations give us some idea about settlements in later Vedic times.
  • Hastinapur and Kaushambi (near Allahabad) seem to be primitive towns dating to the end of the Vedic period, and may be called proto-urban. The Vedic texts also refer to the seas and sea voyages.
  • The pastoral and semi-nomadic forms of living were relegated to the background and agriculture became the primary source  of livelihood, and life became settled and sedentary.

Political Organization-The Later Vedic Period

  • In later Vedic times, the Rig Vedic tribal assemblies lost importance, and royal power increased at their cost.
  • The vidatha completely disappeared; the sabha and samiti continued to hold their ground but their character changed. They were now controlled by chiefs and rich nobles, and women were no longer permitted to sit in the sabha which was dominated by warriors and Brahmans.
  • The term rashtra, which indicates territory, first arose during this period.
  • Traces of the election of the king appear in later Vedic.
  • The Mahabharata tells us that Duryodhana, the younger cousin of Yudhishthira, usurped power. Battling for territory, the families of the Pandavas and Kauravas virtually destroyed themselves. The Bharata battle shows that kingship knows no kinship.
  • During this period collection of taxes and tributes seems to have become common.

Social Organization

  • Aryanization promoted social differentiation.Thus it was the Vedic Aryans who introduced the varna system.
  • In the later Vedic texts the term ‘arya’ encapsulates brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, and shudra.
  • The growing cult of sacrifices enormously added to the power of the brahmanas. I
  • The vaishyas constituted the common people, and they were assigned producing functions such as agriculture, cattle breeding, and the like; some of them also worked as artisans. The vaishyas appear to have been the only tribute payers in later Vedic times, and the brahmanas and kshatriyas are represented as living on the tributes collected from the vaishayas.
  • A vaishya is called tribute-paying, meant to be beaten and oppressed at The worst position is reserved for the shudra. He is called the servant of another, to be made to work at will by another, and tobe beaten at will.
  • Male ancestors came to be worshipped. Women were generally given a lower position.
  • People began to practice gotra exogamy. No marriage could take place between persons belonging to the same gotra or having the same lineage.

Gods, Rituals and Philosophy- The Later Vedic Period

  • Some of the other minor gods of the Rig Vedic period also came to the Rudra, the god ofanimals, became important in later Vedic times,  and Vishnu came to be  conceived of as the preserver and protector of  the people who now led a settled life rather than a semi-nomadic one.
  • As society became divided into social classes, such as brahmanas, rajanyas, vaishyas, and shudras, some social orders began to have their own deities. Pushan, who was supposed to tend to cattle, came to be regarded as the god of the shudras, although in the age of the Rig Veda cattle rearing was the primary Aryan occupation.
  • We hear that as many  as 240,000 cows were given as dakshina or gift to the officiating priest in the rajasuya sacrifice. Swami Vivekananda speaks of both orthodox and beef-eating brahmanas in Vedic times, and he recommends animal food for the Hindus in the modern context.
  • The tribal society broke up into a varna-divided society, but varna distinctions could not be carried        too far.Despite the support of the brahmanas,      the rajanyas or  the kshatriyas could not establish a mature state           A state cannot be set up without a regular taxation system and a standing army. The entire administrative structure, including the army, depends upon taxes, but the         existing mode of agriculture did not provide scope for regular taxes and       tributes.

Important Topics Prelims

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