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The Vedic Period Class 6 History Chapter 2 Notes
The Vedic literature is of great importance for the study of the past of India. The Vedas are the main source of information about this period, so it is called the Vedic period.
The Vedic period is divided into two parts
- Rigvedic period
- Later Vedic period
Rigved is the oldest text in the world. It has 10 mandalas and 1028 suktas.
It was composed by sages like Gritsamad, Vishwamitra, Vamadev, Atri, Bharadwaj, Vasishth, Kanva and Angira on the banks of the rivers Sarasvati and Drishadvati.
The date of Rigved is generally considered between 6000 BC to 1500 BC.
Sarasvati river is the most sacred river of Rigvedic period.
It also describes the rivers Sindhu, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, Yamuna and Ganga and the geographical area of Saptsaindhav region. Whose spread is believed to be from Afghanistan to the Ganges valley.
Rigvedic political life
Politically, the largest unit of the Rigvedic period was the Jana. The Janas were divided into Vishas and Visha into villages, villages into kulas and kulas into families. The head of the smallest unit ‘family’ was the father or elder brother, who was called Kulapa. A village was made up of several clans (kulas). The head of the village was called Gramini. There used to be a bigger institution than the village whose owner was called Vishapati. A group of several Vishas was called a Jana. The Rigved describes five Janas: Puru, Turvasu, Yadu, Anu and Druhu.
|Family or Clan
|Kulapa or Grihapati
The word Rashtra was used for the country. The mutual fighting of the people has been called the ‘Dashraj war, in which Sudas defeated the union of ten kings. This war was fought in the region of Punjab-Haryana. The army of the Aryans consisted of chariots and infantry. The bow and arrow were the main weapons. The arrows were made of metal and were pointed. Swords and axes were also used. The rules of war were also set. Before starting the war, it was necessary to blow the conch shell, drum and trumpet. It was considered inappropriate to attack an unarmed enemy, wounded and soldiers fleeing from battle.
The lord of the people was called Rajan. Rajan was not autocratic. Organizations called Sabha and Samiti used to keep a check on them. On many occasions, they used to elect the king and even remove the king. The king used to swear that if he betrayed, he would not get the fruits of all his good and righteous deeds and he would be deprived of his place, position, life and even his children.
Establishing peace, settling disputes, protecting from outside attacks and performing yagya-havan for fulfilment of material needs and spiritual progress were considered the main duties of the king. To assist the king, there were priests, generals, villagers etc., who acted as mediators between the king and the subjects. The king had the right to rule and deliver justice in their respective territories.
At that time, theft, dishonesty, cheating, committing crimes came under the category of crimes for which, physical and financial punishments were awarded to the offender. There was no practise of capital punishment.
Fire was considered extremely sacred. It was kept burning continuously in all the houses. Even today, in the villages of Haryana, hearths are found in the houses in which the fire is ignited all the time.
Rigvedic social life
Social structure: Rigved describes the social system of Aryans. The base of Rigvedic society was the joint family in which the father or elder brother was the master of the family, His rights were unlimited. He could also give the harshest punishment to the family members.
The state did not interfere in the family lives of people. At that time, life was very simple, polite, and virtuous. The villages of that period were also small. People lived in houses of mud, wood and thatch.
Varna system: For the smooth running of society, there was a varna system that was based on karma. Varnas were not rigid. We come across many such examples where many people were born in a particular varna but, through their actions, they shifted to another varna.
Ashram system: Man’s life was divided into four ashrams-Brahmacharya ashram from 1 to 25 years, Grihastha ashram from 25 to 50 years; Vanaprasth from 50 to 75 years and Sannyas ashram from 75 to 100 years. In these stages, one had to take education by following celibacy, get married in household life and earn money, do social welfare work in Vanaprasth and try to attain salvation in Sannyas ashram. The objectives of human life, such as Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksh were also fixed.
Do you know? Just as Vishwamitra became a Brahmin who was a a Vaishya. So, according to Kshatriya, Nabhanerishtha became a Brahmin, who was the deeds of a man, his Varna was determined.
Many sacraments have also been recommended from birth to the death of man.
Food and drink of the Vedic period: In that period milk, ghee and curd etc., had special importance in the diet.
Dress: The upper part of the body was covered with a cloth called vasa. The turban worn over the head was called adhivas and the cloth worn below (the one worn on the foot) was called nivi.
Women used to wear hair bands, earrings in the ears, necklaces around the neck, armlets in the arms, bracelets on the feet, etc. To groom the hair, braiding, oiling, flower garland, etc. were used. Men also used ornaments.
Recreation: Hunting, chariot racing, horse racing and all three forms of music-singing, instrumental and dance – were also performed.
Education: One had to go to the Guru’s house for education. Education was oral, and the basic objective was to acquire knowledge and to become a good citizen by adopting good conduct. The Vedic sages wished for everyone. There is a prayer in the Sangyan Sukta of Rigved: “O God, give us such wisdom, so that we all live together, speak lovingly, be kind, and share and use the wealth together. Our tendency should be free from anger and love should prevail in it. At another place in the Rigved, there is a mention of serving the motherland. Many mantras are found in Rigved which have been written to protect the nation. In the Indra Sukta of Rigved, there is a wish for such a child, who is full of wealth and food to protect his country and showers welfare qualities on every person and group of people.
Status of women: The position of women in society was respectable. Marriages took place only at a mature age. Women also had the right to move freely, read and write and choose their husband. The system of purdah was not prevalent and there was a proper system of education and initiation of women. Marriage was considered a sacred and permanent relationship. When the wife came home after marriage, she was greeted by naming here as the householder. Some women did not marry, such as Apala, Vishwavara, Ghosha, etc. Religious functions were not complete without a wife. Her presence was essential.
Economic life of Rigvedic period
Agriculture and Animal Husbandry: Agriculture and animal husbandry were the main sources of income for the Rigvedic Aryans. Individual land was called Urvara (fertile) and common land was called Khilya which was used for grazing cattle. At that time, people knew the cultivation of crops, irrigation, and harvesting. Ploughs driven by oxen were used. Although the main source of irrigation was rain, there is a mention of irrigation from wells also.
In animal husbandry, mainly cattle, oxen, sheep, goats, horses, dogs, etc. were reared. The cattle keepers were called gopas. Cow’s milk was the staple food. Bullocks were used for ploughing and pulling bullock carts. Horses were used in chariots and on the battle field. Dogs were used for hunting. The man who had more animals was considered the richest. Hunting was also the main occupation which was done with the bow and arrows and nets.
Industries: Industries were also in vogue in large numbers. Wood industry, textile industry, leather industry, metal industry and potter etc. are mentioned in Rigved. Especially chariots, bullock carts, etc. were made of wood. In the textile industry, textiles of cotton, silk and wool were made. Leather whips, bridles, cords and bags were made. Evidence of making objects by melting metal is also found. There is also mention of a potter making pottery, a hair cutter, a barber, a surgeon, a singer, an instrumentalist, a dancer etc. Many people were cured with the surgical knowledge given by the sage Chyawan.
There was trade activity in that period. The merchants were called panni Trade was carried out through both water and land routes. The means of barter was the cow. In this period, there is also a mention of the words gan and vrat, which were probably used for trade unions. The money was landed on interest, which was not considered good.
Rigvedic religious life
There is a philosophy of polytheism in Rigvedic religion. The gods of that time were symbols of natural forces. Therefore, it seems more appropriate to refer to the religion of that period as a natural religion. The deities of that time were classified into three parts All of them are the main deities of their respective classes. There was no higher or lower among the deities of this period.
According to the sage Dhirghtamas, Truth is one, men of wisdom tell it differently. There is also mention of the vehicles of many deities, such as the horse of Lord Surya and the elephant of Lord Indra.
In order to please their deities, they used to go to open places and perform yagya, and people of all sections of society used to take part in them. Even today, when there is no rain in Haryana, the people of the village gather together and perform virtue (charity), in the same way the Rigvedic Aryans also used to perform yagya together.
There is no mention of idol worship, temples, etc. anywhere in the Rigved.
It appears that nature was humanised, considering it to be alive. Three forms of fire are described, such as fire on earth, fire of the sun, and electric fire in the clouds in the air. Similarly, in different forms, there is a different nomenclature.
- Gods of Space: Indra, Rudra, Vayu
- Gods of Earth: Agni Prithvi, Som
- Gods of Sky: Surya, Varun, Aditya
Rigvedic people worshipped human deities for the suppression of enemies. The enemies of that period were called Asuras, like Vritrasur. Vritrasur was probably a phenomenon of nature in which sand storms arise and where there is a shortage of water. Enemies of humans were considered demons. These Rakshasas/Dasyus were probably people who did not believe in worship. While living in the forests, they used to eat meat and used to obstruct the yagyas, As it has been written earlier, there were sages and saints who were from all classes of society, who performed yagya and composed hymns. At that time, there was no religious fanaticism A person of any varna could go to another varna by his actions. There was no untouchability in that period. The composition of all classes has been prayed for in the Rigved. The belief in reincarnation and the theory of karma are also reflected in the Rigved.
Post Vedic period
Yajurved, Samaved, Atharvaved, commentaries on Vedas developed on the basis of Rigvedic culture, Brahmin texts, and Aranyaka texts, Upveda-Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharvaveda, Shilpveda (Architecture), Upanishad and six parts of the Vedas-education, kalpa, grammar, jyotish, nirukta and chhand-give information about the culture of the post-Vedic period. The date of the post-vedic period is generally considered to be between 1500 BC to 1000 BC. This time was the period of progress for the Aryans. Along with an increase in numbers, they were also expanding geographically. They had crossed the Ganga-Yamuna river and had spread to Bengal in the east and also crossed the Vindhyachal range in the south. The characteristics of this period can be seen as follows:
In this period the kingdoms had become larger than in the Rigved. There were states like Kuru, Panchala, Kashi, Kaushal, Videha etc. Puru and Bharat joined together to form the Kuru dynasty. Their kingdom also included modern Haryana. Hastinapur was their capital. Parikshit and Janamejay were important rulers of this dynasty. The capital of Janamejay was Asandhivat (modern Assandh). The kingdom of the Panchalas was to the north of the Ganga-Yamuna and Kampilya was its capital.
King: The powers of the kings increased in this period. The king used to hold many titles, like emperor, Virata, Rajadhiraj etc. Large yagyas were also organised by them like Ashvamedha, Rajasuy and Vajapeya. There was a monarchical system of government, and the post of the king was hereditary. His powers were autocratic, but he still worked in the interest of the people.
In this period, many references are found in the form of protection of the motherland and proof of patriotism. The Bhumisukta (12:1) mentioned in the Atharvaved, in which it is written that the land is my mother and I am her son. The earth nourishes the people of different castes and religions. In Yajurved (9:40), it has been requested to scholars and common people to choose such a superior Kshatriya as a king who would expand his kingdom, give shelter to learned people in it, prosper with wealth and take everyone’s consent without any discrimination. Let us act with humility and make our land free from enemies. The king was also expected to act according to dharma-(Rita) or rules as the whole world was bound by rules and dharma. The burden of protecting dharma was on the king, but he was not above dharma himself, and could not change the principles of dharma. There is also mention of condemnation of unrighteous and autocratic kings.
The functions of the king are as follows
- To protect the state and subjects and to lead the army in wars.
- To do justice
- To work in the interest of the people.
The king used to collect various types of taxes from the subjects, which were spent on paying salaries to the officials, protecting, working for the public interest and for the needs of the palace. In the later Vedic period, the authority of the assembly and committee had increased substantially and the future of the king depended on their support. Apart from this, the king appointed officers like Bhagduh (tax collector), Sangrahita (treasurer), Suta (charioteer), Dwarpal (message-carrier), Palagal, Purohit, and Yuvraj, etc. to help him.
Military Management: During this period the kings started keeping their permanent armies. Elephants were also used in war. The main weapon was the bow and arrow. The pointed tips of their arrows were sometimes. extinguished by poison. Apart from wars, soldiers also did civilian work, like farming (agriculture).
Judicial system: Petty disputes were settled by the villagers. There were also tests like fire, water etc. to prove one’s innocence. The death penalty was not given. For crimes, only financial and physical punishment were given.
- Senani – Commandant
- Kshata – Doorkeeper
- Suta – Charioteer
- Govikartan – Chief, Forest Department
- Gramini – Village Chief
- Mahishi – Chief Queen
- Bhagduh – Tax Collector
- Purohit – Religious rituals performer
- Sangrahita – Treasurer
- Yuvaraj – Prince
The smallest unit of the society was the family. The families were patriarchal ie. the son was known only by the gotra of the father. The eldest man of the family was considered the head of the family and had complete control over all the property and members of the household. At that time it was the aim of the sages to make the family ideal.
This is proved by a wish written in the Atharvaved: the son should be devoted to his father, single minded towards his mother, the wife should always speak to her husband in a sweet and polite voice. Brother should not hate brother and sister should not hate sister. They should eat and drink together, should take part together in yagya as the wheels are attached to the axis.
Varna System: Like the Rigved, the society was divided into classes, but its foundation was still karma. There was no discrimination against Shudras. There was no feeling of untouchability. There was a provision for the Shudras to prepare food for the Aryans engaged in the Vaishvadev yagya. In the Atharvaved, there is a wish for the fame of all classes.
Later the varna system became birth based but was not rigid. We find many such examples from which it is known that after taking birth in the Brahmin family, the man later became a Kshatriya, and born in Vaishya family but became Brahmin.
Ashram System: Even in the later Vedic period, considering the age of man to be a hundred years, it was divided into four ashrams:
- Brahmacharya (1 to 25 years): At this stage, a person had to learn and receive education and learn rules while following celibacy.
- Grihastha (25 to 50 years): At this stage, the tasks of livelihood and upbringing of their children were assigned for man.
- Vanaprasth (50 to 75 years): Social tasks were prescribed for men at this stage. Just as a man in a grihastha ashram takes care of his children, similarly, considering society as one’s own, efforts were to be made for its progress.
- Sannyas (75 to 100 years): At this stage, man was expected to leave home, society and go to the forests to attain salvation and make his efforts to attain salvation.
The purpose of human life was considered to be four Purusharthas: 1. Dharma, 2. Artha, 3. Kama, and 4. Moksh. They have to be completed in these ashrams only.
Samskaras: 16 samskaras were performed from birth to death.
Food: Sattvic food was used during this period. Roasted grains were also used. The making of sattu, sesame, kheer, khichdi etc. was a common practise.
Costumes: During this period, colourful clothes were in vogue. The clothes were dyed using natural methods like saffron, etc. Aromatic substances were also used. People loved to decorate. Women used to wear various types of jewellery. Men also wore armlets and various types of garlands.
Means of recreation: Outside games and sports played outside such as chariot race, horse racing, hunting, wrestling, animal fighting etc. were organized for entertainment. Indoor games like dice game, music, drama etc. were also organised for entertainment.
Status of Women: The position of women in society was good. Polygamy was prevalent in the wealthy and royal families. Sati, child marriage and purdah practises were not prevalent She got an education. It is proved from the Gargi-yagyavalkya debate that in that period women also had the right to read and write and they were scholars.
Moral Degradation: The moral decline of society started in this period. Liquor, dancing, singing, gambling, etc. were being practised in the Royal House.
Agriculture: Agriculture was the main source of income during this period. The agricultural holdings increased. The size of the plough was large and its use was extensive. Such ploughs were used, which were pulled by 24 bulls together. Barley, rice, moong, urad, sesame and wheat were the main cereals. The crops were sown and harvested according to the seasons. Barley was sown in winter and harvested in summer. In the Shatapatha Brahmana, various works of agriculture are mentioned, like ploughing, sowing, irrigation, harvesting, de-watering, etc. Manure from cow dung was used to increase production. They depended on rain for irrigation. They also used water from wells and rivers. There was a fear among the farmers of floods, droughts and other natural calamities. Tantra- mantra was performed to save agriculture from diseases or such calamities.
Animal Husbandry: In this period the importance of cow had increased a lot and it was looked upon with reverence. Elephants and camels were also domesticated during this period. Apart from this, horses, pigs, donkeys, dogs, and other useful animals were reared.
Industries: In the Vajasneyi Samhita we find mention of various professions, including chariot makers, goldsmiths, tanners, blacksmiths, patters, weavers, washermen, slaughterers, nuts, singers, gopas, barbers, astrologers, etc.
Metal Industry: The use of metals like gold (Hirnya), iron (Krishn ore), copper (red ore), silver, tin, lead etc. is found in this period. The metals were smelted to make jewellery, agricultural implements, utensils and weapons for fighting.
Trade: In this period, people doing the same business were organized into guilds. Many such guilds are mentioned in the literature and their president was called Shresthi. There are mentions of different units of currency of this period like Nishka, Shataman, Karshapan etc. Trade was carried out by water and land routes. There is also a mention of big boats with a hundred hulls. Trade was also done from the hilly regions. Bullock carts. were used to transport goods from one place to another.
In this period the importance of the earlier natural deities Indra, Varun and Agni had declined and the worship of new deities had started. Now, the place of Brahma-Vishnu- Mahesh was popular.
Predominance of yagyas: Now, yagyas have become essential. Due to the composition of the Yagyavedis and the presence of priests to conduct them, the yagyas had become out of reach of the general public due to their long duration. In the Post-Vedic period, rituals had become most prominent, in which, along with household duties, such laws for sacrifices were made, which were beyond the imagination of ordinary humans. The rituals were observed not only from birth to death, but many karmas were recommended for the peace of the departed soul.
Tapasya: In this period, the feeling of giving pain to the body, that is, austerity, also developed. Truth originated from austerity and by pen- ance even the gods can be subdued. Many people conquered heaven by attain- ing power through penance. Prajapati also created the world through penance. There is mention of severe penance by many sages during this period.
Do you know? During this period, superstition started to increase among the people. People started believing in ghosts. The belief in witchcraft and magic has become firm. In Atharvaved, there is a detailed mention of tantra-mantra to protect from ghosts. Tantra-mantra was also used to cure diseases.
Philosophy: In this period, while rituals and severe penance were being performed, on the other hand there was also a class which was engaged in the search for peace and knowledge. A detailed description of this spiritual thought is found in the Upanishads. Atma, Paramatma, Creation, Moksh, etc. were its main subjects.
Six theistic interpretations of philosophy can be found: 1. Sankhya Darshan 2. Yog Darshan 3. Vaisheshik Darshan 4. Nyay Darshan 5. Purva Mimamsa and 6. Uttar Mimamsa. Uttar Mimamsa is called Vedanta, that is, the essence of the Vedas.
All these interpretations consider the world to be an illusion. In order to understand Brahman and life, the Chandogya Upanishad describes the father-son dialogue, in which Uddalak (father) explains to his son Shvetketu that there must be something or the other from which the world originated. It can be imagined and that is the truth. When he thought that he should become many from one, then fire, earth, air, water, and other beings became from it. Therefore, whatever you see is the same, so you are also the same, O Shvetketu.
The ultimate goal of man is to attain salvation. Moksh means freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Moksh does not destroy the soul, but it merges with Brahman of which it is the part. It is a state of extreme peace, which we attain through knowledge.
- Ashvamedha yagya — To expand the empire. The horse was let free to roam about.
- Rajasuy yagya — Related to the coronation of the king
- Agnishtom yagya — Described as a boat for the destruction of sins and taking to heaven
- Vajpeya yagya — Organize chariot race to show power