The Vedic Period and Aryans: History Study Notes

The Vedic Period and Aryans: History Study Notes

There are four Vedas.

  1. Rig Veda
  2. Sama Veda
  3. Yajur Veda
  4. Atharva Veda
  • These Vedas are believed to belong to the period of 1500 – 500 BC.
  • These Vedas are thought to have been composed by the Aryans.
  • The Ayrans have migrated to Indian subcontinent from West Asia. (It is a belief).
  • The Aryans had a common home. (Today’s Iran)
  • The scholars have come to a conclusion because there are similarities in the language used in Rigveda and Avesta.


  • This is the oldest Iranian Text.
  • This is older to the Rigveda.
The Vedic Period and Aryans History Study Notes

The common racial identity of the Aryans has now been proved false. The Historians believe the common linguistic identity.

The Vedic period can be divided into

  • Early Vedic period
  • Later Vedic period.
The year 1000 BC is considered to be the year of demarcation.


  • Rig Veda or Rig Veda Samhitha belongs to this period.
  • This is the oldest book of Vedic age.
  • Rig Veda comprises of 10 Mandals (books).
  • The books from II to VII are the oldest.
  • The books I, VIII, IX and X are the considered to be the late additions.
  • The geographical areas that mentioned in Rig Veda are those drained by the Western tributaries of Indus.
  • The eastern limit was formed by the rivers Yamuna and Ganges.
  • In this area the rivers Saraswati, Drasavati, Indus and the 5 tributaries of Indus have formed the core area.
  • The early Vedic society appears to have been pastoral.
  • Iron and copper technology was not used during early Vedic period.
  • Usage of Stone tools was mentioned in Rig Veda.
  • Shifting cultivation was practiced during this period.
  • Individual land ownership was absent.
  • It was community or group land.
  • There was no reference to slaves (hired laborers).
  • Weaving was a domestic activity under the control of women.
  • Barter system was present.
  • Cattle were used as a means of exchange.
  • The battle of 10 kings was mentioned in Rig Veda.
  • The Bharatas, the Purus, the Vadus, the Druhyus, the Anus, the Turvasus were some of the tribes that took part in the Battle of 10 kings.
  • The Bharata tribe was led by Sudasa.
  • The reason for the Battle of kings was the division of water of the river Ravi.
  • The four fold Varna system was absent.
  • Veyy less number of references to Brahmans, Kshatriya and only one reference to Sudra.
  • Child marriage was unknown during early Vedic period.
  • The priest acted as the mediator between the clansmen and the God.
  • Purusasukta hymn is mentioned in the 10th book of Rig Veda.
  • In Purusasukta it is mentioned that Brahmana, Kshatriya or Rajanya, Vaisya and Sudra took birth from Mouth, Arms, Thighs and feet of the Purushasva (Cosmic man).
    • Brahmana – Mouth
    • Kshtriya – Arms
    • Vaisya – Legs
    • Sudra – Feet
  • These names signified the four castes.
  • There are so many terms that are mentioned in the Hymns (Prayer or Religious Song) of Rig Veda.
  • Pasu                 –                       Goats, Sheep, Horses
  • Gomat             –                       Wealthy person
  • Gaviti              –                       Battle (for cattle)
  • Gopati             –                       Raja or Chief (Protector of cattle) (Cattle is the main reason for disputes between various groups, the chief or Raja is expected to protect the cattle and not land).
  • Rajanya           –                       Raja or Chief
  • Purohit                        –                       Priest
  • Duhitri             –                       Daughter
  • Godhuli           –                       Measurement of time
  • Gavyuti           –                       Distance
  • Gana                –                       Assembly
  • Sabha              –                       Assembly
  • Samiti              –                       Assembly
  • Parishad          –                       Assembly
  • Dana                –                       Gifts (Specially given to priests)
  • Dakshina         –                       Gifts
  • Vis                   –                       People
  • Yava                –                       Barley (This is the only grain that is mentioned in Rig Veda).
  • Langala           –                       Plough
  • Sira                  –                       Plough
  • Phala               –                       Ploughshare
  • Khanitra          –                       Hoe
  • Datra               –                       Sickle
  • Parasue            –                       Axe
  • Samudra          –                       Mouth of Indus River
  • Bali                  –                       Tax
  • Kula                –                       Family
  • Purusasukha    –                       Cosmic Man
  • Dasa                –                       Slaves
  • Dasyus                        –                       Rich
  • Yagna              –                       Sacrifice

  •  A number of gods were worshipped during early Vedic period.
  • Most of the Gods were masculine (male Gods).
  • Very few female Gods were also worshipped.
  • As there were so many Gods, there was Polytheism (Worshipping many Gods).
  • Animal sacrifice was existing to invoke gods for boons.
  • The God Indra was the most important God during early Vedic period.
  • During early Vedic period the Indra was considered as the God of strength.
  • Indra was invoked to destroy the enemies.
  • Indra was the god of rain and thunder.
  • Agni was the God of Fire.
  • Agni was the intermediary between the heaven and the earth.
  • Agni was also intermediary between God and man.
  • The purifying nature of fire is symbolized Agni.
  • Varuna was the God of water.
  • Yama was the God of Death.
  • The Ashwins were the twin Gods of heaven.
  • The Dyaus was the sky God.
  • The Mitra was the God of Light.
  • The Prajanya was the God of rain.
  • The Prithvi was the Goddess earth.
  • The Aditi was the mother Goddess.


  • This period is roughly between 1000 BC and 600 BC.
  • The X mandala/book of Rig Veda was assigned to this period.
  • The Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda were assigned to this period.
  • The Sama Veda is a book of prayers and chants. These are from Rig Veda.
  • The Yajur Veda elaborates the rituals.
  • The Atharva Veda contains the folk traditions and represents the popular religion.
  • These Samhitas are followed by Brahmanas.
  • The Brahmanas explained social and religious aspects of the rituals.
  • Later appeared Aranyakas and Upanishads.
  • During later Vedic period for clearing lands the usage of socketed iron axe found in Noh. (During early Vedic period people practiced the shifting cultivation).
  • Importance of agriculture was increased.
  • The ploughs were driven by Oxen (Agriculture).
  • Iron ploughshare was found at Jakhera (Nagaur district of Rajasthan).
  • The manufacturing of glass was also known during this period.
  • Yava (Barley) continued to be important.
  • Vrihi (Rice) assumed importance as a staple diet.
  • Godhuma (Wheat) was relatively insignificant.
  • Some pulses were mentioned in the literature.
  • Mudga – Moong
  • Mass – Urad
  • Syamaka – Millet
  • Tila – Sesame

  • The term ‘Griha’ was used for household.
  • Vaisya was the producing class in the society.
  • Bali (tax) became less voluntary and obtained through force.
  • Yajnas (Sacrifices) such as Rajasuya, Vajapeya and Ashvamedha became significant.
  • Vidhis (Rules) for performing each sacrifice were formulated.
  • The rules differed according to the needs of Yajamana (Patron).
  • The word ‘Nishka’ was used for Gold ornaments.
  • The word ‘Satamana’ was used for a weight of Gold/Silver.
  • The word ‘Nagar’ was used for Towns.
  • Varna system gained importance.
  • The Brahmanas who were one of the 17 kinds of priests gained importance and became synonymous with the priesthood.
  • The Brahmans, the Kshatriyas and the Vysyas performed the sacrifices.
  • Sudras were denied of performing sacrifices.
  • New deities (Gods) gained importance.
  • The God Rudra became important.
  • During this period un-touch-ability was absent.
  • But women were increasingly subordinated.
  • The institution of ‘Gotra’ appeared during the late Vedic period.

What is Gotra?

  • This signifies the descent (origin) from a common ancestor.
  • The system is to avoid the marriage between the couples belonging to the same gotra.
  • Initially the tribal endogamy was practiced. This is a system of marriage within the tribe, in order to maintain the purity of the tribe.
  • Later full fledged gotra exogamy was started. This is a system of marriage outside the gotra.

The Ashrama

  • Brahmacharya (studentship, 5 to 24 years)
  • Grihasta (households, (25 to 49 years)
  • Vanaprastha (partial retirement, 50 to 74 years)
  • Sanyasa (complete retirement, 75 to 100 years).
  • Upanayan was the prerogative of the upper classes.
  • There was the emergence of janapadas.
  • The term ‘Janapada’ used for the area of tribal settlements.
  • The Rajanyas of Rig Veda became Kshatriyas (Those who hold power over dominions).
  • Bali and Bhaga assumed the forms of regular tributes and taxes.
  • In North Bihar a republican form of government was evolved by the Shakyas and the lichchhavis.
  • The Gods Indra and Agni lost significance during later Vedic period.
  • Prajapati was considered to the creator gained significance.
  • Rudra (in Rig Veda Rudra was a minor Deity (God)) became important.
  • The God Vishnu was considered as the preserver and protector of the people.
  • Pushan (the diety who protected the cattle in the early Vedic period) became the God of the Shudras.
  • Pushan was invoked to bring harmony and safe deliveries of babies.
  • The Ashwins were entrusted with the protection of agriculture and killing of rats.
  • The Savitri was summoned (invoked or prayed) to fix a place for a new house.
  • The Surya was invoked to remove demons.
  • Idolatry was noticed during the later Vedic period.
    • IDOLATRY means worship of Idol.
    • This may be in the form of physical object or image.
    • The doctrines (Believes, Teachings or Principles)
  • Karma
  • Maya
  • Transmigration
  • Identity of Individual soul with the Universal soul
  • Mukti
These were first found in Upanishads. These were accepted as Hindu tenets. (Tenet is a principle on which belief or theory is based).

What is Sruti and Smriti ?

  • These two are considered to be the texts that are used to establish the rule of law.
  • Sruti means hearing or listening.
  • Smriti means ‘that which is remembered’.
  • Sruti is a direct revelation of Cosmic sound of truth heard by ancient Rishies.
  • Hence Sruti is a divine origin.
  • Smriti is a writings of remembering what is heard.
  • Sruti is considered to the first source of authority for dharma.
  • Smriti is considered to be the second source of authority for dharma.


  • The word “Smriti” means ‘That which is remembered’.
  • This is entirely a part of post Vedic Sanskrit literature.
  • The Smriti literature was composed after Vedas around 500 BC.

The Smriti literature includes

  • Vedanga
  • Shad-Darsana
  • Itihasa
  • Purana
  • Upaveda
  • Tantra
  • Agama
  • Upanga


  • These are six auxiliary disciplines associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas.
  • The Vedangas are again divided into
  • Kalpa – The ritual action

The Kaipa includes the Dharma Shastras / Legal Codes.

  • Jyotisha or Astronomy
  • Siksha or Phonetics
  • Chanda or Meter
  • Nirukta or Etymology
  • Vyakarana or Grammar


These denote the six orthodox schools of Hindu Philosophy.
  • Nyaya
  • Vaisheshika
  • Sankhya
  • Yoga
  • Mimamsa
  • Vedanta


The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are considered to be the Itihasas. These are the legendary works.
  • Ramayana
  • Mahabharata


  • These are considered to be the extensions of Itihasas.
  • These are the late compilations of legendary ancient legenda.


  • These are the auxiliary Vedas that deal with Medicine, Music, Architecture, Eroticism, Archery etc.
  • These are associated with the Vedas.
  • Ayurveda                                –           Atharva Veda
  • Arthaveda                               –           Atharva Veda
  • Dhanurveda                            –           Yajurveda
  • Gandharva-Veda (songs)        –           Samaveda


  • These contain the writings of saka and Shaivite sects.


These contain the scriptures of
  • Vaishnavites
  • Shaivites
  • Saktas.


This is the name given for a collection of treatise.
These are associated with the philosophical systems of
  • Nyaya
  • Mimamsa
  • Dharma Sutras
  • Puranas
  • Tantras


There are two great epics in India.
  • Mahabharata
  • Ramayana


  •  This is the longest of all the World epics.
  • This was written by sage Vyasa.
  • The sage Vyasa composed the Mahabharata in 24,000 verses.
  • This is originally written in Prakrit.
  • Later it was elaborated into Sanskrit.
  • This consists of 8000 (Eight Thousand) Slokas.
  • The Mahabharata consists of 18 parvas.
  • The Mahabharata edited into the present form during 184 BC to 320 AD.


  • This is originally written in Prakrit.
  • This was rewritten in Sasnskrit during 1st and 2nd centuries.
  • This was written by the sage Valmiki.

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