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Vedic Culture for UPSC, SSC, PCS Part-1

Vedic period or Vedic age

➢ Time period: 1500 BC - 600 BC
➢ Vedas were composed in this period
➢ It began to take shape in form of Aryan occupation of Indo-Gangetic plain.

Origin of Vedic period

➢ The word Aryan is derived from the Sanskrit word “arya” which means noble, not ordinary.
➢ Many historians have given various theories regarding the original place of the Aryans.
➢ Bal Gangadhar Tilak was of the opinion that the Aryans came from the arctic region.
➢ The most accepted: Central Asian theory
○ by Max Muller
○ Aryans were semi-nomadic pastoral people and originated from area around the Caspian Sea in Central Asia.
○ Entered India probably through Khyber Pass (in Hindukush Mountains),
○ The holy book of Iran ‘Zend Avesta’ indicates entry of Aryans to India via Iran.

➢ They led a rural, semi-nomadic life as compared to Indus Valley people who were urbanised.
➢ They spoke Sanskrit.

Classification of Vedic Period

➢ Early Vedic Period or  Rig Vedic Period(1500 BC – 1000 BC) 

➢ Later Vedic Period  Painted Grey Ware Phase  (1000 BC – 600 BC)

Early Vedic Period

➢ Initially the Aryans lived in the land known as “Sapta Sindhu” (Land of the Seven Rivers).
➢ These seven rivers were:
○ Sindhu (Indus),
○ Vipash (Beas),
○ Vitasta (Jhelum),
○ Parushni (Ravi),
○ Asikni (Chenab),
○ Sutudri (Satluj) and
○ Saraswati.

➢ Political structure:
○ During the Rig-Vedic period the Aryans lived in small villages.
‘Kula’ (Family) was the basic unit of political organization.
○ Multiple families together of kinship formed a ‘grama’.
○ Group of villages were called ‘visu’, headed by ‘vishayapati’.
○ The highest political and administrative unit was ‘jana’ or tribe.
○ Monarchical form of government with a king known as Rajan.
○ There were several tribal kingdoms–Bharatas, Matsyas, Yadus and Purus.
○ There were two bodies-Sabha(council of elders) and Samiti (assembly of people).
○ Villages were headed by Gramini who used to represent village in sabha and samiti.

➢ Society:
○ Society was relatively egalitarian in the sense that Social divisions were not rigid.
○ Women had equal opportunities. They were allowed to take part in Sabhas and Samitis.
Apala, Viswavara, Ghosa and Lopamudra were women poets.
○ Monogamy was practiced but polygamy was observed among royalty and noble families.
○ No child marriage, No sati practice.
Soma and sura were popular drinks in the Vedic society, of which soma was sanctified by religion.

➢ Economic Conditions:
○ Rig Vedic Aryans were pastoral, cattle rearing people.
○ They began agriculture.
○ People consumed milk, milk products, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
○ Meat eating is mentioned, however, cows are labelled aghnya (not to be killed).
○ Soma and sura were popular drinks in the Vedic society, of which soma was sanctified by religion.
○ A variety of articles with copper, bronze and iron were made by workers.
Gold is mentioned in some hymns.
Cotton and woollen fabrics were spun.
○ Trade was conducted through the barter system in the beginning but later on coins called ‘nishka’ were used.

➢ Religion:
○ Rig Vedic Aryans worshiped natural forces like earth, fire, wind, rain and thunder as dieties:
■ Indra (thunder) was the most important deity
■ Prithvi (earth),
■ Agni (fire): He is considered as an intermediary between gods and men.
■ Varuna (rain) and
■ Vayu (wind)
○ Female deities: Ushas and Aditi.
○ Soma was considered to be the god of plants.
○ No temples and no idol worship.

Download the pdf here : Vedic Culture for UPSC, SSC, PCS