Early Vedic Period and its Importance
After the decline of Harappa or Indus civilization, the new civilization that emerged in India is called Vedic civilization or Aryan civilization. We get the history of Vedic civilization mainly from the Vedas. Rigveda is the oldest text which gives us information about the Aryans.
Was the Indus Civilization destroyed by the Aryans?
It is the opinion of many historians that the foreigners who destroyed the Indus cities were Aryans. The conflict between the Indus civilization and the Aryans is estimated in many hymns of the Rigveda.
At one place, in the Rigveda, Dasyuhan is said to be the destroyer of slaves.
In this book (Rigveda) the description of the priests of slaves and dacoits has also come, Indra, who destroyed these purs, has been called (Purandar).
In the Rigveda, Dasas and Dasyus are called ‘Akarman’ (those who do not believe in Vedic actions),
- ‘Adevyu: (the one who does not believe in Vedic gods),
- ‘Ayjvan’ (those who do not perform ‘yajna’)
- ‘Anyavrat’ (one who performs actions different from Vedic rituals)
- ‘Mridhwak‘ (speakers of unfamiliar language)
- ‘Abraman‘ (one who has no faith and religious belief)
- ‘Avrata‘ (the one who does not observe fasts)
Apart from this, the slaves and bandits have also been called ‘Ling worshipers’ (Shishan Devah). All the above characteristics were in the people of Indus civilization. So we can say that it was the Aryans who destroyed the Indus civilization.
Did Aryans come from outside?
The original abode of the Aryans
So far, there are different opinions of many scholars about where the Aryans were originally. Here we will mention the views of some scholars–
There are many such scholars who have considered India as the abode of Aryans like –
Pandit Gangadhar Jha – Brahmarishi country.
DS Triveda – Devika in Multan.
Ale. D. Kalla – Kashmir and Himalayan region.
But the above statements are just misleading and factless because the Indus civilization was older than the Vedic civilization. Therefore, the Aryans came to India only as a foreign invader.
Now let’s see what is the opinion of other scholars.
North Pole – Pandit Balgangadhar Tilak has told the original abode of Aryans to the North Pole.
Asia – Max Muller has described the abode of Aryans as Central Asia.
Pamir Plateau – Edward Mayer has described the Pamir Plateau as the abode of Aryans.
Plains of the Ural Mountains – Brandstein believes that the Aryans lived in the grasslands (Kyrgyz plain) below the Ural Mountains.
Europe – Many scholars have linked Germany, Hungary and Southern Russia with the original abode of the Aryans in Europe.
Germany – Penka and Hart have considered Germany as the original abode of the Aryans.
Hungary – Gilles has considered Hungary or the Danube river-valley as the original abode of the Aryans.
Southern Russia – Meyer, Peake and Garden Childs hold that the Aryans were inhabited by Southern Russia.
The number of words in the Rigveda is -153972 in which the word Arya occurs only 33 times.
Thus far it is not entirely clear that the Aryans were foreigners. Some recent DNA discoveries have put the Aryans in this subject to be of foreign origin.
Rigvedic Period/Pre-Vedic Period
The earliest history of the Aryans comes mainly from the Rigveda itself. Rigveda is in the form of a Samhita which consists of 10 mandalas. In this, it is considered ancient from 2 to 7, three lessons are found in it.
A – ‘Sakal’ – 1017 mantras have been given in it.
B – ‘Balakhilya’ – 11 mantras are found in this.
C – Vashkal – There are total 56 mantras in this.
- Max Müller considers the Rigveda to be composed of 1200 to 1000 BCE.
- Jacobi has considered its composition to be the third millennium BC.
- Pandit Balgangadhar Tilak has described the earliest part of the Rigveda as being composed around 6000 BC.
- Winternitz places the earliest period of Vedic literature at 2500–2000 BC.
- After all the above opinions, historians have considered the composition of Rigveda from 1500 BC to 1000 BC.
Where was Rigveda composed?
The Rigveda was composed in the areas between Afghanistan and Punjab. Why is there a mention of a small ‘moojavant’ of the Himalayan mountain in the Rigveda? The mention of many rivers – ‘Kubha (Kabul), Krumu (Kurram), Gomti, Suvastu and five rivers of Punjab – Indus, Vitasta (Jhelum), Chenab, Ravi, Vipasa (Vyas) have come.
Salient Features of the Pre-Vedic Period / Features of the Rigvedic Period
1- Political organization — At that time the political organization was as follows —-
Aryans were divided into many peoples – Anu, Druhyu, Yadu, Puru, Turvas. They are called Panchajans.
- The head of the people – the king, was called.
- The family or ‘kul’ – was the smallest unit of political organization. The head of the family was the father or elder brother.
1- The head of the family was called ‘Kulapa’.
2- Village- Village was formed by mixing ‘Kula’. Villages were self-sufficient. The head of the village was called ‘Gramani’. ‘Gramani’ used to do both civil and military work.
3- ‘Vish’ – The institution above the village was called ‘Vish’. The head of ‘Vish’ was ‘Vishpati’.
4- ‘Jana’ – The institution above ‘Vish’ was ‘Jana’. The head of the ‘Jana’ was called ‘Janapati’ or the king.
These ‘Jana’ used to fight among themselves. In the Rigveda, the context of the war of 10 kings has come. This war was fought between King Sudas of Bharata and a confederacy of ten kings.
Vishwamitra was the ‘purohit’ of the confederacy of ten kings and Vashishtha Rishi was the priest of Sudas.
The people who fight against Sudas are Anu, Druhyu, Yadu, Puru, Turvas, Anil, Paktha, Bhalanas, Shiva and Vishanin.
In this battle Sudas, the head of the Bharata Jana, defeated a confederacy of ten kings on the banks of the Ravi river (Purushni). After this Sudas became the first supreme emperor of Rigvedic period India.
In the name of this ‘Bharat Jana’, our country was named Bharat. The rule of Bharat Jana was situated between the Saraswati and Yamuna rivers.
Raja – The king is said to be the protector of the people (Gopta Janasya) and the destroyer of the forts (Purambheta).
Initially the king was elected by the people but later on this post became hereditary. The duty of the king was to protect the subjects, in return for which ‘Bali’ (food or gift) was given to him. The king was not the owner of the land in the Rigvedic period. He was the leader of the war.
‘Sabha’ and ‘Samiti” –
The institutions called ‘Sabha’ and ‘Samiti’ used to control and monitor the autocratic powers of the king.
Sabha’ – an organization of the aristocrats and old people.
‘Samiti’ – was an organization of the common man.
The description of these three officers is found in the Rigveda, the priest, the ‘senani’ and the ‘gramani’. The priest went to war with the king and prayed to the gods for his victory.
The word (spasha) has come in Rigveda for detective.
Social Structure in the Pre-Vedic Period
The family was an important unit in the Rigvedic society, the father being the head of the family. The father was the owner of unlimited rights. Most of the people in the family lived in love.
society based on caste system
The Rigvedic society in the early period was devoid of class-discrimination. All persons were considered members of the Jana. Everyone had the same social status.
Before the creation of ‘Jana’ people were called ‘Arya’ and ‘Krishti’ or ‘Charshani’. When the Aryans became capable of production, they were called Aryas, when their life was yayavar or wanderer, they were called ‘Charsni’, when the Aryans started permanent residence, they were called ‘Krishti’.
The word ‘Varna’ is used for color in Rigveda and in some places it is used for the selection of occupation.
Aryans are called Gaur Varna and Dasas are called ‘Krishna’.
In the beginning of the Rigvedic period, there were only three varnas in the society – Brahma, Kshattra and Vishah. Later on, the Shudra Varna was added to it, which included both Aryans and Non-Aryans.
R. s. Sharma, while throwing a comprehensive light regarding the origin of Shudra Varna, has said —-
“This class (Shudra) included both Aryans and non-Aryans. Economic and social inequalities led to the rise of the working class in both the classes. Later the general term for all workers became Shudras.”
The word ‘Shudra’ is mentioned for the first time in the Purushasukta of the tenth mandala of the Rigveda, according to which the four varnas have originated from the different parts of the ‘Virat’ Purush, when the gods sacrificed the ‘Virat’ Purush, then their – –
- From the mouth–Brahmin.
- From the arms – Kshatriya (rajanya)
- From Uru (stomach) – Vaishya and
- From the feet – the Shudra was born.
But till that time there was no bitterness in the varnas and the occupation could be changed and one could get the varna according to the merit. At one place a sage says that —–
“I am a poet. My father is a physician and my mother is a food-grinder. The means are different but we all desire wealth.”
It is clear from this statement that there was no caste system in the Rigvedic period, there was freedom to change occupation. People lived together.
Marriage and condition of women in Rigvedic
- Wife is the ‘Ardhangini’ of the husband – ‘Satapath Brahmin’
- The wife could participate in the yagyas with her husband.
- A man who did not have a wife could not perform the Yagya.
- ‘Jaidestam’ means wife is home – Rigveda
- Generally one marriage was practiced, but the wealthy had many wives.
- There was no practice of child marriage.
- Widow marriage was not a practice.
- The wish of the girl was also asked at the time of marriage.
- Brother-sister, father-daughter marriage was forbidden.
- Inter-caste marriages took place but the marriage of Aryans and non-Aryans was prohibited.
- Gifts (Wahtu’) were given in marriages.
- Remarriage (only for male) and Niyoga system was prevalent.
- The purpose of marriage was to get a son.
- Childless people were looked upon with hatred in the society.
- The practice of Sati was not practiced in practice, but in a symbolic form, the woman used to lie on the pyre of her dead husband, from where her relatives urged her to get up and go home.
- The purdah system was not prevalent.
- Women had a respected position.
What was the Niyoga system
– according to this practice, a woman whose husband died without a child, she used to have sex with her husband’s younger brother (Devar) to get a widowed son.
In Rigveda, names of some learned women are found who composed various mantras of Rigveda like – Apala, Ghosha, Lopa, Mudra, Vishwavara etc.
Women did not have some rights in Rigveda like –
1- Did not have the right to participate in politics.
2- They did not have property rights.
Food and clothing of pre-vedic people
- The Aryans used to eat both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
- The kheer made by cooking in milk is called ‘Ksheer Pakodana’ in the Rigveda.
- Baked in ghee is called ‘Malpoove’ (‘Aup Ghritvantam’).
- Honey was used as a sweetener.
- The description of salt is not found in the Rigveda.
- The cow (‘Aghnya’) is said to mean that which should not be slaughtered.
- Although the Aryans used to eat cow’s meat on various auspicious occasions.
- The ‘Satapatha’ prescribes to serve the meat of a giant Vrishabha or goat to the guest in the Brahmin.
Gradually the consumption of cow’s meat was stopped and it was declared holy.
‘Soma’ and ‘Sura’ were the favorite beverages of the Aryans.
In the ninth mandala of Rigveda, ‘Soma’ is praised.
1- Nivi – was worn below the waist.
2- Vasas – The main garment worn above the waist.
3- Adhivasas – It was a sheet or cover.
Both men and women wore turbans.
Aryan women used to wear different types of ornaments – ear-flowers, neck-rings, sterns in hands, khaduye in feet, garlands of pearls around the neck, etc.
The barber is called ‘Vapta’ in the Rigveda.
Means of entertainment of pre-Vedic Aryans
Chariot races, horse races, and dice were the main means of entertainment. People used to gamble too. Instruments of music such as dance, veena, flute etc. were also used.
Economic life of the pre-Vedic Aryans
- Agriculture and animal husbandry were the main occupations of the Aryans.
- The land was called ‘Urvara’ or ‘Kshetra’.
- Farming was done with the help of plows and oxen.
- Irrigation was done from wells.
- Manure was used.
- The Rigvedic Aryans were not familiar with rice.
- Animals such as cow, bull, sheep, goat, donkey, dog etc. were reared.
- The horse was the favorite animal of the Aryans.
- The Aryans were not familiar with the elephant.
- The cow is called ‘Ashtakarni’ (eight holes in the ear).
- The Aryans were mainly pastoralists.
- Agriculture is mentioned 24 times in Rigveda.
Rigvedic trade and commerce
- The merchants are called ‘Pani’.
- The ‘Panis’ have been called usurers (Veknat).
- ‘Nishk’ was the medium of exchange.
- The sea is mentioned in the Rigveda. There is also mention of a ship with a hundred hulls.
- The wealth received from the sea is called – ‘Vasuni Samudrat’.
- Vaishyas mainly did business and Shudras served all the three Varnas.
- For carpenter – ‘Taksha’
- Metalworkers – ‘Karma’
- For weaver – ‘Y’
- Cotton and wool clothes were made.
Rigvedic religion and religious beliefs
The gods of Rigvedic period are divided into three parts-:
(1) Dyu Lok or the gods of the sky, such as Surya, Savita, Mitra, Pusha, Vishnu, Varuna and Mitra.
(2) The cosmic gods, – Indra, Vayu, Marut and Parjanya.
(3) Prithvi – the local deities, viz., Agni, Soma and Prithvi.
The Vedic Aryans composed various hymns and hymns in praise of them, considering all the powers of nature that are visible in the different regions of the world of duality, space of space and earth.
Many goddesses are also mentioned in the Vedas in the form of Aditi, Usha, Saraswati etc., and many mantras have been composed in their eulogy.
Although most of the Vedic gods and goddesses are embodiments of natural forces and beings, there are some deities who can be understood as expressions. Human beings have various feelings of reverence, manyu (anger) etc., they have also been given a divine form in the Vedas.
- Aryans were polytheists.
- The goddess of the forest has been called ‘Akhyani’.
- The foremost deity was Indra.
- Varuna is said to be the god of the world.
- Saraswati was the most sacred river.
- Agni is said to be the messenger between the earth and the sky.
- Agni is said to be the form of the sun – ‘Bhuvanachakshu’.
- The gods loved somersaults.