Geographical knowledge of the vedic period. The geographical evidence as to be found in the hymns of Vedas throes some light on the course of Indo-Aryan migration and the origin of Hinduism. Whether the Indo-Aryans came from Central Asia or not depends largely on the interpretation of the geographical allusions in the Rig and Yajur Vedas.
The hymns in praise of rivers in the 10th block are interesting. The author while singing the greatness of the Sindhu enumerates at least 19 rivers including the Ganges. The fifth Stanza gives a list of 10 streams, small and great-Ganges, Yamuna, Saraswati, Satluj, Ravi, Chenab, Jhelum, Maruwardwan (in J&K), Sushoma (Rowalpindi District) and probably Kanshi in the same district. This system of rivers did not remain the Saraswati. The existing delta of the Indus has been formed since the time of Alexander the Great. The Vedic hymns reveal the initial Aryan settlements in India : western tributaries of the Indus, the Gomti (modern Gomal) the Krumu (modern Kurram) and the Kubha (modern Kabul). The one river mentioned in the North of Kabul is Suvastu (modern swat). But the main focus of the Rig Vedic settlements was in the Punjab and the Delhi region. When the Rig-Vedic hymns were compiled the focus of Aryan settlement was the region between the Yamuna and the Sutlaj, south of modern Ambala and laong the upper course of river Saraswati. The most frequently mentioned rivers are the Sindhu (Indus), the Sarasvati (modern Sarsuti), the Drishadvati (modern Chitang), and the five streams of the Punjab. Regarding the other geographical features, the Vedic poets knew the Himalayas but not the land south of Yamuna, since they did not mention the Vindhayas, In the east also the Aryans did not expand beyond Yamuna; for the river Ganga is mentioned only once in one late hymn. And possibly, the Aryans had no knowledge of the oceans since the word ‘samudra’ in the Vedic period meant a pool of water. But the later Vedic knowledge shows that the Aryans knew the two seas, the Himalayas and the Vindhyan mountainas and generally the entire Indo-Gangetic plain. The Aryans used various kinds of pottery and the sites where the painted grey were are found, confirm the Aryan settlements. The Vedic texts show that the Aryans expanded from the Punjab over the whole of western Uttar Pradesh covered by the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. The Bharatas and Purus known as Kuru people first lived between Sarasvati and Drishadvati just on the fringe of the Doab. Soon the Kurus occupied Delhi and the Upper portion of the doab, that is the area called Kurukshetra, After this event, the Kurus joined with the people called Panchalas who occupied the middle portion of the Doab or the moder districts of bareilly Dadaun and Farrukabad. It was the Kuru-Panchalas who had set up their capital at Hastinapur situated in the district of Meerut. Later the Kauravas and the Pandavas belonging to the same Kuru clan fougth out a battle which led to the extinction of the Kuru clan. And by 600 B.C. the Aryans spread from the Doab further east to Kosala in Eastern U.P. and Vedeha in north Bihar. The former town is associated with the story of Ramchandra, but it is not mentioned in Vedic literature.
Vedic Age Duration: 1500 BC to 500 BC
The Vedic Period or the Vedic Age refers to that time period when the Vedic Sanskrit texts were composed in India. The society that emerged during that time is known as the Vedic Period, or the Vedic Age, Civilization. The Vedic Civilization flourished between the 1500 BC and 500 BC on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent. This civilization laid down the foundation of Hinduism as well as the associated Indian culture. The Vedic Age was followed by the golden age of Hinduism and classical Sanskrit literature, the Maurya Empire and the Middle Kingdoms of India.
Vedic Texts Linguistically, the texts belonging to the Hindu Vedic Civilisation can be classified into the following five chronological branches:
Rigvedic The oldest text of the Vedic Period, Rig Veda has many elements that are common with the Indo-Iranian texts, both in language and in content. One cannot find such similarity in any other Vedic text. It is believed that the compilation of the Rig Veda had stretched over a number of centuries. However, there is a conflict as to the completion date of the Rig Veda. Some historians believe it to be 1500 BC, while the others believe it to be 3000 BC. This time period coincided with the Indus Valley Civilization.
Mantra Language The period of the Mantra Language includes the time of the compilation of the mantra and prose language of the Atharvaveda (Paippalada and Shaunakiya), the Rigveda Khilani, the Samaveda Samhita and the mantras of the Yajurveda. Though derived from the Rig Veda, all these texts experienced wide scale changes, in terms of language as well as at the time of reinterpretation. This time period coincided with the early Iron Age in northwestern India and the Black and Red Ware culture.
Samhita Prose The period of Samhita Prose represents the compilation and codification of a Vedic canon. The linguistic changes of this time include the complete loss of the injunctive, the subjunctive and the aorist. The commentary part of the Yajurveda belongs to the Samhita Prose period. During this time, the Painted Grey Ware culture was evident.
Brahmana Prose This period signifies Brahmanas proper of the four Vedas, along with the oldest Upanishads.
Sutra Language The last division of the Vedic Sanskrit can be traced upto 500 BC. During this time, a major portion of the Srauta Sutras, the Grihya Sutras and some Upanishads were composed.
Epic and Paninian Sanskrit (Post Vedic) In the post-Vedic Period, the compilation of Mahabharata and Ramayana epics took place. The Classical Sanskrit described by Panini also emerged after the Vedic Age. The Vedanta and the Pali Prakrit dialect of Buddhist scripture belong to this period. During this time, the Northern Black Polished Ware culture started spreading over the northern parts of India.
The end of the Vedic Period Civilization in India was marked by significant changes in the field of linguistics, culture and politics. With the invasion of the Indus valley by Darius I, in the 6th century, outside influences started creeping in.
Early Vedic Period (Rigvedic Period) The Rigvedic Period represents the time period when the Rig Veda was composed. The Rig Veda comprises of religious hymns, and allusions to various myths and stories. Some of the books even contain elements from the pre-Vedic, common Indo-Iranian society. Some similarities are also found with the Andronovo culture and the Mittanni kingdoms. Thus, it is difficult to define the exact beginning of the Rigvedic period. The prominent features of the Rigvedic period are given below:
Political Organization The political units during the Rigvedic or the early Vedic period comprised of Grama (village), Vish and Jana. The biggest political unit was that of Jana, after which came Vish and then, Grama. The leader of a Grama was called Gramani, of a Vish was called Vishpati and that of Jana was known as Jyeshta. The rashtra (state) was governed by a Rajan (King) and he was known as Gopa (protector) and Samrat (supreme ruler). The king ruled with the consent and approval of the people. There were four councils, namely Sabha, Samiti, Vidhata and Gana, of which women were allowed to attend only two, Sabha and Vidhata. The duty of the king was to protect the tribe, in which he was assisted by the Purohita (chaplain) and the Senani (army chief).
Society and Economy Numerous social changes took place during the early Vedic period. The concept of Varna, along with the rules of marriage, was made quite stiff. Social stratification took place, with the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas being considered higher than the Shudras and the Vaisyas. Cows and bulls were accorded religious significance. The importance of agriculture started growing. The families became patriarchal and people began praying for the birth of a son.
Vedic Religious Practices Rishis, composers of the hymns of the Rig Veda, were considered to be divine. Sacrifices and chanting of verses started gaining significance as the principal mode of worship. The main deities were Indra, Agni (the sacrificial fire), and Soma. People also worshipped Mitra-Varuna, Surya (Sun), Vayu (wind), Usha (dawn), Prithvi (Earth) and Aditi (the mother of gods). Yoga and Vedanta became the basic elements of the religion.
Later Vedic Period The later Vedic Period commenced with the emergence of agriculture as the principal economic activity. Along with that, a declining trend was experienced as far as the importance of cattle rearing was concerned. Land and its protection started gaining significance and as a result, several large kingdoms arose.
Political Organization The rise of sixteen Mahajanapadas, along with the increasing powers of the King, comprise of the other characteristics of this period. Rituals like rajasuya, (royal consecration), vajapeya (chariot race) and ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) became widespread. At the same time, the say of the people in the administration diminished.
Society As far as the society is concerned, the concept of Varna and the rules of marriage became much more rigid than before. The status of the Brahmanas and Kshatriyas increased greatly and social mobility was totally restricted. The proper pronunciation of verses became to be considered as essential for prosperity and success in war. Kshatriyas started amassing wealth and started utilizing the services of the Brahmins. The other castes were slowly degraded. Around 500 BC, the later Vedic Period started giving rise to the period of the Middle kingdoms of India.
Source: WHN Media Network