later Vedic age

later Vedic age

The Vedic Age is a significant period in Indian history. It is also crucial for UPSC and other government exam preparation because numerous questions from this area have been asked in both the IAS prelims and main examinations.

later Vedic age

The Vedic Age is a significant period in Indian history. It is also crucial for UPSC and other government exam preparation because numerous questions from this area have been asked in both the IAS prelims and main examinations. In this essay, you may learn about the Later Vedic Age from the perspective of the UPSC exam and other government exams.

Later Vedic Culture and Civilization

(c. 1000 – 500 BCE):

In the later Vedic period, the Aryans travelled even further east. The Satapatha Brahmana describes the Aryan spread to the eastern Gangetic plains. The expansion of big kingdoms was a significant development during this period. In the beginning, the Kuru and Panchala kingdoms thrived. The Kuru kingdom's prominent monarchs were Parikshit and Janamejaya. Prarthana Jaivali was a well-liked Panchala ruler. He was a supporter of education. Following the collapse of the Kurus and Panchalas, other kingdoms like Kosala, Kasi, and Videha rose to prominence. Later Vedic scriptures also allude to India's three divisions: Aryavarta (Northern India), Madhyadesa (Central India), and Dakshinapatha (Southern India) (Southern India).

Later Vedic Aryans' Political Life:

  • During the later Vedic era, larger kingdoms arose. During the Later Vedic era, many Jana or tribes merged to form Janapadas or Rashtras (the name first originated during this period). As a result, as the kingdom grew in size, so did the royal power. Warfare was no longer fought for cows but for territories.
  • The king was generally a Kshatriya, and the monarchy was essentially hereditary. Later Vedic literature has traces of chief or king election, although hereditary royalty was emerging. The king increasingly assumed control of the social order as well. The monarch was addressed differently in various locations. For example, in the north, he was known as Virat; in the east, he was known as Samrat; in the west and south, he was known as Svarat and Bhoja, respectively.
  • The king's power was reinforced via ceremonies. He conducted several rituals such as the Rajasuya (which was thought to bestow supreme authority on him), the Asvamedha (which was thought to bestow total control over the land where the royal horse roamed), and the Vajapeya (where the royal chariot was made to race and won against others). The king's authority and prestige were increased due to these rites.
  • Popular assemblies lost relevance in later Vedic periods, but royal power rose at their expense. The vidhata vanished totally. The sabha and samiti maintained their position, but their demeanour shifted. Princes and wealthy nobles eventually governed them. Women could no longer sit in the sabha, which aristocrats and Brahmanas now controlled.
  • Kings did not have a standing army even in later Vedic times. Tribal units were formed during times of conflict. The monarch had to eat from the same plate as his subjects to win battles.

Later Vedic Aryans' Social Life:

  • The Brahmanas, Rajanyas or Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras were the four varnas of later Vedic civilization. (Find out more about the Varna system.) The increasing sacrificial religion considerably increased the Brahmanas' authority. They performed rites and sacrifices for their patrons and themselves and officiated at agricultural-related festivals. According to the Vedic mantras, the three higher varnas were entitled to Upanayana or investiture with the sacred thread. The holy thread ceremony was not performed for the fourth varna. During this time, the Sudras were subjected to the imposition of disabilities. The Prince, who represented the Rajanya order, attempted to exert his authority over all three varnas. In connection to the Prince, the Brahmana is defined by Aitareya Brahmana as a seeker of livelihood and a recipient of gifts, yet removable at whim. A Vaisya is a person who pays tribute, and the sudra is the lowest position. He is referred to as another's servant since he is forced to labour and is abused for pleasure.
  • A patrimonial (father's authority) structure formed in the household and women were often accorded a lesser rank. Although few female theologians participated in intellectual debates and certain queens participated in coronation rites, women were typically seen as inferior and submissive to males. There are also references to Sati and child marriages. A daughter has been regarded as a cause of unhappiness by Aitareya Brahmana.
  • The concept of gotra first originated in the later Vedic period. It refers to the "cow pen," or the location where cattle belonging to the entire clan are housed, but through time, it came to represent ancestry from a single progenitor. Marriage could not occur between those who belonged to the same gotra or had the same ancestry. Caste exogamy was widespread. Chandrayana penance is mentioned for males who married ladies from the same gotra. Gotras were named after mythical seers such as Kashyapa, Bharadvaja, Gautama, and Bhrigu.
  • In Vedic times, ashrams or four phases of life, were not widely established. There are four types of Ashrams mentioned in post-Vedic texts: Brahmachari (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (half retirement), and Sanyasa (complete retirement from the world). However, only three are recorded in later Vedic literature, and the fourth level was not strongly established in later Vedic periods.
  • In the later Vedic period, specific artisan groups, such as Rathakaras, were given special status and were permitted to wear the holy thread.

The economy of the Later Vedic Age:

PGW (The Painted Grey Ware) - Iron Phase Culture:

  • Agriculture was the primary source of income, and people lived settled lives in the late Vedic period. Ploughing was accomplished with the use of a wooden ploughshare. The Satapatha Brahmana goes into great detail regarding the ploughing procedures. Even monarchs and princes did not shy away from manual labour. Balarama, Krishna's brother, is known as Haladhara, or plough-wielding. However, ploughing was restricted for the higher varnas until recently.
  • The Vedic people continued to grow barley, but rice (vrihi) and wheat (godhuma) replaced them as their primary crops. After that, wheat became the primary meal of Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh inhabitants. In the later Vedic period, many types of lentils were also produced. Agricultural products began to be presented in rites (especially rice). Iron was widely used during this era (about 1000 BCE), allowing humans to remove forests (upper Gangetic basin) and cultivate additional land. In later Vedic writings, the metal is referred to as Syama or Krishna Ayas.
  • Various arts and crafts grew throughout the later Vedic period, and craft specialization became entrenched. Many copper items have been discovered at PGW sites, indicating that the later Vedic people were skilled smiths and smelters. People were familiar with tin, lead, silver, bronze, gold, iron, and copper. Many occupations were described throughout this period, such as stonebreakers, jewellers, astrologers, physicians, etc.
  • Overall, both Vedic literature and excavations point to the use of specialized trades.
  • Weaving was exclusive to women but was widely practised. Leatherwork, ceramics, and carpentry all advanced significantly. Later Vedic people were familiar with four kinds of pottery: black and red ware, black slipped ware, painted grey ware (PGW), and red ware. PGW pottery is the most characteristic of the era.
  • The society was predominantly rural. However, there is evidence of the commencement of urbanization near the end of the era since the word "nagar", used in the sense of a town, is referenced in the Taittiriya Aranyaka.
  • Although barter was still employed for exchange, nishka was used as a handy unit of worth rather than a traditional currency.
  • Sangrihitri was responsible for collecting taxes and tributes in the later Vedic period. It is worth noting that the Vaisyas were the tax collectors in later Vedic periods

The religion of the Later Vedic Age:

  • Indra and Agni, the two most powerful gods, lost their prominence. In the later Vedic era, however, Prajapati (The Creator) began to take the preeminent position. Other lesser gods of the Rigvedic period rose to prominence, including Rudra (the deity of animals) and Vishnu (the preserver and protector of people).
  • Some social orders developed their deities, such as Pushan, who was intended to watch after animals and became known as the Sudra deity. Idolatry can also be seen in later Vedic periods.
  • The worship of sacrifices was central to this society, and many rites and formulas accompanied it. Sacrifices became significantly more essential, taking on both a public and a domestic character. Individuals made private sacrifices in their homes as people led settled lives and kept well-established households, whilst public sacrifices involved the monarchs and the entire society. Sacrifices included large-scale animal slaughter and, in particular, the loss of cattle riches. The visitor was referred to as goghna, who was fed cattle. The sacrificer was known as Yajamana, the yajna performer. Ashvamedha, Vajapeya, Rajasuya, and other important yajnas
  • The Brahmanas claimed exclusive control over priestly knowledge and skill. They were lavishly compensated for officiating the sacrifices. Dakshina in the shape of cows, money, cloth, and horses were distributed. Sometimes the priests claimed a piece of land as Dakshina.

Toward the conclusion of the later Vedic period, a significant backlash began to arise against priestly dominance, cults, and rituals, particularly in the area of Panchalas and Videha, where the Upanishads were produced around 600 BCE. These philosophical books attacked the rites and emphasized the importance of correct belief and understanding. An uprising against sacrifices, the varna system, and other rites resulted in the creation of Buddhism and Jainism.