Vedic Civilization (Rig-Véda) / Aryan Culture Notes PDF

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The Vedic society is a late bronze society in India. The early Vedic period was lasted from 1200 BCE to 1000 BCE. The later Vedic period was lasted from 1000 to 600 BCE. The Ramayana and Mahabharata is the two main epics of this period.

Vedic Culture / Aryan civilisation: Intro

Vedic Civilisation GK + Notes + PDF: The oldest civilization in India is the Harappan civilization. But keep in mind that we had no idea about this until the beginning of the twentieth century. However, the Aryan civilization was the ancient civilization of India. The source of this is the Rig Veda. Even after the discovery of Harappan civilization or Indus civilization in the 1920s, there was a perception among scholars that Harappan civilization was in fact a part of Aryan civilization. Although not the oldest, the culture of Aryan in the history of Indian civilization was unique. We are forever indebted to the Aryans for the oldest literary Vedas in India. After all, the influence of Aryan culture on our current multifaceted way of life is undeniable.

Problems with Aryan:

In order to develop a comprehensive idea of Aryan civilization, it is necessary to discuss a basic and complex subject. The point is, regarding the Aryan problem. Basically, two things have caused Aryan problems.

  1. about the word Aryan, i.e. whether it is reasonable to use the word Aryan in any sense of race, and
  2. about the original habitat of the Aryans i.e. about the Aryan culture, we are usually proud of, whether the Aryans originated in India or from outside India.

The meaning of the word Aryan

The word ‘Aryan‘ literally means ‘honest person. Although it is a racist interpretation in the first part of Aryan history, the linguist Branden stein named the Indo-European language group Aryan. However, according to Romila Thapar, Aryan is not a synonym for any human race. Aryan is the mother tongue of a large population, like Greek, Latin, Celtic, German, Persian, etc. However, by the middle of the nineteenth century, the tendency to use the word Aryan in the sense of ethnicity was particularly noticeable in Europe. Also in ancient India, Aryan was generally referred to as ‘aristocratic‘, ‘honorable‘, ‘respectable, etc.’

The original homeland of the Aryans

Scholars living in the Indian subcontinent, have been debating since ancient times about the origin of Indo-Europeans or so-called Aryans. Historian J. N. Jha, Dr. Trivedi and others in the Vedic literature identify the “Saptasindhu” region as the original homeland of the Aryans in terms of animals, rivers and climate, but according to the historian Branden stein, their origin was in the Kirghiz steppe or Eurasia region, south of the Ural Mountains.

Different Opinions about the origin of Aryan:

Arctic RegionBal Gangadhar Tilak
Hungary, AustriaP. Jolles
Middle AsiaBranden stein
South RussiaGordon Child
HimalayanL. D Kalla
SaptosindhuAbinash Ch Das
Opinions about the origin of Aryan

Entrance of the Aryans

Many scholars believe that the Aryans invaded India in two stages. Howell, Grierson, Risley and others support this fact. According to Howell, in the early stages, a branch of the Aryans entered Punjab and settled there. He believes that the Aryans came to India with their families during this period. The second group entered the confluence of the Vindhya from the Himalayas and beside the Ganges-Jamuna valley from East Punjab.

Rigvedic Civilisation

The Vedic age refers to the age in which Vedic literature was written. These Vedic literature include Sanhita, Brāhmana, Aranyaka, Upanishads, and Sutra. There are four Vedas in the Samhita stage namely Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda is the oldest of these. For this reason, the Vedic age is called Rig-Vedic.

  • Early Vedic Period/Rigvedic age (1500 BC – 1000 BC)
  • Later Vedic Age (1000 BC – 600 BC)

Literature of the Vedic period:

  1. Sanhita i.e. Veda,
  2. Brahmana,
  3. Aranyaka,
  4. Upanishads.

Vedic Literature:

The main source of knowledge about Aryan and Aryan civilization is Veda or Vedic literature. The word “bid” means “knowledge”. And the word Veda originated from this word “Bid”. To the Hindus, the Vedas are infallible, eternal. The ancient sages composed the Vedas orally and the disciples memorized them after hearing them from the guru. That is why another name for Veda is Shruti.

The Vedas are divided into four parts. These four divisions are Rig, Sam, Jaju, and Atharva. The first three of these Vedas are collectively called Vedatrayi.

Rig Veda: The Rig Veda is the oldest book in the world. The Rig Veda, divided into 10 mandals, has 1028 hymns and 10580 verses. Of the ten mandalas in the Rigveda, 2 to 7 mandalas are called Gayatra mandalas. It is also called Kulgranth in many cases. The four varnas have been discussed in the Purusha sukta of the tenth mandala of the Rigveda. These four castes are Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.

Yajurveda: The Yajurveda has two parts. (i) Krishna Yajurveda and (ii) Shukla Yajurveda. This Veda mainly deals with rituals. Although the first two Vedas have only verses, this Veda has both verses and compositions.

Samaveda: There are 1549 verses in Samaveda. Except for 75 of them, all the other verses have been taken from Rigveda.

Atharva Veda: The Atharva Veda is the fourth part of the Veda. Diseases and evil spirits have been discussed in this Veda. For a long time, it was not recognized as a Veda.

The book Aryanak was written for the followers living in the forest. The Upanishad is basically a philosophical treatise. The Upanishad is called the last part of the Vedas also known as Vedanta. There are 108 Upanishads. Among these, Brihadaranya is the oldest Upanishad. There are six Vedanga and six Smriti in Vedic literature. Among them Manusmriti is noteworthy. The two epics of the Vedic period are Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Ramayana: The author of Ramayana was Valmiki. Another name of Ramayana is Adi Kabya. There are 24000 verses in Ramayana. Of these, 6200 are ancient verses and more than 12000 verses were added later.

Mahabharata: Mahabharata was written by Vyasa. It is the longest epic in the world. There are 100,000 verses in the Mahabharata. There are 18 episodes or chapters in this epic. The Bhagavad Gita has been composed of the Bhishma Parvana of the Mahabharata. Shanti Parvan is the largest chapter in the Mahabharata. The significant literary basis of the Vedic period is the Puranas. 18 famous Puranas have been found. The Mytshapurana is the oldest of these.

Six Divisions of Vedic philosophy

TenetInitiativeTreatiseImportant info
Nyaya DarshanaMaharshi GautamNyaya SutrasHinduism is based on logic
Vaisakha DarshanaKanadaVaisakha SutraTenet based on fidelity
Yoga DarshanaPatanjaliYoga SutrasCoordinating body and mind through yoga
Samkhya DarshanaKapilaSamkhya SutraRelated to numbers
Pre Mimamsa DarshanaJaiminiMimamsa SutrasWorship through sacrifice
Later Mimsamsa DarshanaBadarajanaBrahma SutrasRelated to Sage
Six Divisions of Vedic philosophy

Early Vedic age

Geographical spread

From the names of the various rivers and the mountains, the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush, we get an idea of ​​the geographical spread of the early Vedic period. The Rig Veda mentions 40 rivers. We get a mention of 21 rivers from the book River Hymns. Among these, the Ganges River in the east and the Kuva (Kabul) River in the west are notable. The Sapta Sindhavah is mentioned as the abode of the inhabitants of the Rig Vedic period. Sapta Sindhavah means Indus and its tributaries.

Names and regions of different rivers

River in Vedic AgePresent NameRegion
Names and regions of different rivers

The political life of Early Vedic Age:

At first, the Aryans were divided into different groups and sub-groups. Each group was led by one leader. Conflicts and clashes between the Aryans were almost constant. The Rig Veda mentions the group struggle of the Aryans in the ‘Battle of the Ten Kings’.

The kingship of the Aryans was usually hereditary. In the Vedic age, the supreme ruler of the kingdom was called ‘Rajan‘ or king. The sources of income of the king were two: 1) donations are given to the king and 2) goods collected from the opposition defeated in the war. In Rigveda, the word Bali has been used in the sense of tax.

Villages were formed with a few families. With few villages, Jana or Bish was formed. The head of the village was called ‘Gramani’ and the head of ‘Bish’ or ‘Jana’ was called Bispati. The monarchy controlled two public meetings, namely Sabha (consisting of elders and sages) and Samiti (consisting of all members of society).

Social life: Aryan society was patriarchal. The head of the family was the “father” or grandfather. In Vedic society, women were held in the highest esteem. In the Rigvedic era, women such as Biswabara, Ghasa, Apala, Mamata, etc. derived their origins in various scriptures. Classes arose and were associated with caste.

Milk, ghee, fruits, barley and wheat were their staple food. Pasha/Dice was the favorite sport of the Aryans.

According to the scholarship, the society was divided into four sections viz.,

  1. Brahmin,
  2. Kshatriya,
  3. Vaishya and
  4. Shudra.

Chaturashrama was one of the features of Aryans. They are

  1. Brahmacharyashram: Student life, Study, and serving from the home of master (Guru).
  2. Garsthyashram: Married life or family life.
  3. Vanaprastha: Worship of God in old age.
  4. Sannyasa: Leaving home and going to the forest or secluded place for the rest of the life for God-thinking and pursuit.

Aryan marriage system

  • Brahma: The father used to decorate the daughter with clothes and ornaments and hand her over to a good and virtuous person.
  • Daiv: Giving daughter to the priest during Yajna.
  • Arya: The father used to pot the daughter with a tree and a bull or a pair of bulls as a maiden.
  • Prajapatya: The father or guardian would bless the daughter with good wishes.
  • Gandharva: The boy and girl who got married voluntarily (Love marriage).
  • Rakshasa: Forced marriage by kidnapping girl.
  • Paisacha: Forced marriage by raping a girl.
  • Asura: The bridegroom used to marry the bride by appeasing the father of the bride with money, i.e. the bride got married through dowry

Life of Rig Vedic People:

The economic life of Rig Vedic people: Rig-Vedic Aryans were villagers and Aryan civilization was predominantly rural in this era. Animal husbandry was the main livelihood of the Aryans. Cows were the main domestic animal. Other professions arose for the needs of the agrarian society. In Vedic literature, there are references to coins called Niska and Mona. In the Rig-Vedic age, the Aryans were familiar with maritime trade. The Rig Veda mentions the seaports. Horse carts and bullock carts were used to travel by land. Boats were in vogue on the waterways.

The religious life of Rig Vedic people: Rig Veda is mainly a scripture. As much as the political, social and economic life of the Rig-Vedic Aryans is known from this book, much more is known about religion. The Rig-Vedic Aryans worshipped the manifestation of various forms and powers of nature in the knowledge of gods and goddesses. Among the gods and goddesses of the Aryans were Prithvi, Marut, Rudra, Agni, Usha, Indra, Surya etc. As the abode of the gods, they are divided into three classes, such as the gods of the sky (Mitra, Varuna), the gods of the wind (Indra and Marut) and the gods of the earth (Agni and Sam). Although they worshipped many gods and goddesses, the Aryans were not pagans.

Gods and goddesses of Vedic age:

IndraThe supreme god, the god of war and weather
AgniThe god of fire
VarunaThe god of water
MarutThe God of Storms
SomThe God of tree
BayuThe god of air
RatriThe god of night
YamThe god of death
SabitriThe goddess of the sun.
PushanaThe goddess of the marriage
AditiMother of all god and goddess
AranyaniThe goddess of the forest
IlaThe goddess of charity
UshaThe goddess of morning
MitraThe god of the treaty
Gods and goddesses from Vedic culture

The Later Vedic Period

The later Vedic age usually refers to the period after the Rig Veda and the period between the advent of the Buddha. The source of our knowledge about this age is Vedic literature. Namely: Samveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda as well as Brahman, Aranyaka and Upanishada. During this period Aryan civilization and culture spread from North-West India to East India. In the later Vedic period, as the geographical size of the kingdom increased, so did the monarchy. From this time onwards, after conquering the kingdom, the victorious kings began to take the honorary titles of ‘Vismajanani, ‘king‘, ‘Sovereign‘, ‘Emperor‘ etc. Both religious and general education was prevalent in this era. During this period two poems named Ramayana and Mahabharata were written by Valmiki and sage Vedavyas.

Political life: In the later Vedic age we find a large kingdom. During this period the power of the king increased further. Among the old royal servants, only the priests held their place. In this age new royal servants like Bhagavidha (tax collector), Suta or Sarathi, Akshavapa etc. were identified. Also, the head of one hundred villages was called Shatapati, and the head of the village was called Adhikarta. Meetings and associations played an important role in governing the country. The term Bidhata of the early Vedic age was completely abolished in this age.

Social life: The role of Yajna became very important in society in the later period. The prestige of educated Brahmins for conducting this yajna increased. In this age, we get tribal identity. Society is divided into Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. Shudra was used to describe the non-Aryans. Marriages of one class to another were common, but marriages of other classes with the Shudras were forbidden. There were four ashramas in the society called Brahmacharya, Garhasthya, Vanaprastha, and Sannyasa. The status of women in society deteriorated. The daughter was considered a symbol of misery and the son was considered a protector. Women, alcohol and dice are considered the three enemies of society. Polygamy was common among men. According to the Upanishads of Brihadaranya, we know that some women took higher education. Women’s access to meetings and associations was prohibited. There were two types of marriage in society.

  1. Anuloma marriage: Marriage of lower caste women with upper-caste men.
  2. Pratiloma marriage: Marriage of upper-caste women with lower caste men.

Economic life: In the later Vedic age, agriculture came to be the main livelihood of the people instead of animal husbandry. During this period paddy, wheat, barley, beans, etc. were cultivated. In this age, some new classes emerged in the society in terms of work like a fisherman, laundress, watchman, etc.

Religious life: In this age, the Prajapati, the creator of the world, took the place of the main deity by removing Indra and Agni, later his name has become Brahma. Besides, Vishnu, Rudra and Shiva were worshipped. The role of Yajna in worship became very important in this age.

Important terminology of Vedic Age

GramniHead of a village
GrihapatiHead of a family
Bishfew villages
RajanaHead of a community/group
Mona and NishkCopper coin
Terminology of Vedic Age

Some facts from Rigveda culture.

  • The word Aryan means language and race.
  • The Chaturashram system is known from the Jabala Upanishad.
  • The name of the oldest tribe is Bidath.
  • Rigveda is the oldest Veda or scripture in the world.
  • Savitri (Gayatri mantra is chanted for Surya Devi).
  • The Atharva Veda is called the book of the non-Aryans.
  • The total number of Puranas is – 18
  • The total number of Upanishads is 108.
  • In the Vedic period, there were two institutions for controlling the power of the king, the meeting and the association.
  • In the Vedic age, there is only one tax mentioned as Bali.

Vedic Era is an important chapter in the ancient history of India. Almost in every competitive examination, questions are a must from this topic. Basically, this topic is important as general knowledge for UPSC, IAS, WBCS, State public service commission, SSC, CGL, etc.

Important FAQ from Vedic Era
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