Early Vedic and Later Vedic Period – a comprehensive lifestyle and differences in their geographical location, political life, society, religion, and Economic life.
Early Vedic and later Vedic People’s Lifestyle
Geographical Location of Early Vedic People
- Rig Vedic or Early Vedic People who called themselves Aryans were mostly habitat of the Sapta Sindhu region.
- Sapta Sindhu comprises Sindhu and their five tributaries – Vitasta (Jhelum), Asikni (Chenab), Parushni (Ravi), Vipash (Beas), Shutudri (Sutlej), and Sarasvati.
- Sarasvati is the most pious river.
Political Life of Early Vedic People
- The Kula (family) was the basis of both social and political organizations.
- A group of Kula formed a Grama (village), a group of Grama called the Vis (clan), the group of Vis formed a Jana (people), and a group of Jana is called a Rashtra (country).
- The Rashtra was ruled by a King or Rajan and the royal descent was by hereditary based on the law of primogeniture (first born legitimate child to inherit the parent’s entire estate).
- The Head of Kula is called Kulapa, the Head of Grama called Gramani, the head of Vis called Vispati, Jana head called Gopa/Gopati and the head of Rashtra called Rajan.
- Purohita, a new civil functionary (Post) came in the Rig Vedic life to help Rajan.
- The army consisted of foot-soldiers and charioteers.
- Weapons are made of wood, stone, bone and metals.
- Assemblies’ forms were: Sabha, Samiti, Vidatha, Gana.
- Sabha was a committee of few privileged and important individuals.
- The two major assemblies to check on the arbitrary rules of king were – Sabha and Samiti.
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Society of Early Vedic Period
- The Rigvedic society comprised four varnas namely Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra. This classification of society was based on the professions or occupations of the individuals.
- Teachers and priests were called Brahmanas, Rulers and administrators were called Kshatriyas, farmers, merchants and bankers were called Vaishyas and artisans and labourers were reckoned as Shudras.
- Members of the same family took to different professions and belonged to different varnas.
- The unit of society was family, primarily monogamous and patriarchal.
- A widow could marry the younger brother of her deceased husband (Niyoga).
- The cow was already deemed Aghanya (not to be killed)
- Alcoholic drinks – Sura & Soma
Religion during Early Vedic Period
- Gods were the personification of Nature.
- they were nearly 33 Gods in which Indra, Agni and Varuna were the most popular deities of Rigvedic Aryans.
- Terrestrial (Prithvisthaniya) – Prithivi, Agni, Soma, Brihaspati and rivers
- Aerial (Antarikshasthaniya) – Indra, Rudra, Vayu-Vata, Parjanya
- Celestial (Dyusthaniya) – Daus, Surya, Varuna, Aditi, Usha and asvin
- Surya or Sun was worshipped in 5 forms – Surya, Savitri, Mitra, Pushan and Vishnu.
- Pushan was the god of marriage.
- their religion primarily consisted of the worship of gods with a simple ceremonial known as Yajna or sacrifice. Sacrifices consisted of offerings of milk, ghee, grain, flesh and soma.
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Economic life of Early Vedic Period
- Nomadic and pastoralists
- Cattle rearing was their main occupation.
- Most important economic activity was cattle breeding
- A wealthy person known as gomat and the daughter called duhitri (which means one who milks the cow).
- Apart from cattle rearing and small-scale cultivation, people were engaged in many other economic activities like hunting, carpentry, tanning, weaving, chariot making, metal smeltery etc.
- Cows and Gold ornaments of fixed value were the media of exchange. Coins were not known.
- People were not familiar with cat and camel. Tiger was not known.
- Wild animals like lion, elephant and boar were known to them.
Later Vedic Period
Geographical Location of Later Vedic People
- Later Vedic people were confined to the whole of northern India.
- Gradually they occupy Koshala (eastern UP) and Vedeha (north Bihar).
- The Ganges was the most pious river.
- Territories were divided into three broad regions – Aryavarta (Northern India), Madhya Desa (Central India) and Dakhinapath (Southern India)
Political Life of Later Vedic People
- The divine origin of kingship became a popular theory in this period (Source: Taittariya Brahmana)
- New Civil functionaries except Purohita also came into existence. These were – Bhagadudha (collector of taxes), Suta/Sarathi (Royal herald or Charioteer), The Khasttri (Chamberlain) and Aksavapa (Courier).
- Satapati was the head of a group of hundred villages, Adhikrita was the village officials. Ugras mentioned in the Upanishads was probably a police official.
- The assembly “Vidatha” had completely disappeared by now.
Society of Later Vedic Period
- Yajnas (sacrifices) became elaborate and complicated.
- The institution of Gotra i.e. the clan appeared in later Vedic period.
- The higher castes could marry with the lower ones, but marriage with shudras was not permitted.
- The conqueror now become Kshatriyas, the remaining Aryans become Vaishyas and the non-aryan known as Shudras.
- As written in Jabala Upanishad, the 4 stages of life (Ashramas) – Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha and Sanyasa was formed to attain 4 Purusharthas (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha).
- The status of women declined. As per Aitareya Brahamana, a daughter is the sources of misery but a son is the protector of family.
- There were three evils – Liquor, woman and dice (written in Maitrayani Samhita)
- Monogamy was the ideal but polygamy was frequent.
- Woman were prohibited to attend the political assemblies.
Religion of Later Vedic Period
- Prajapati (creator of the universe) became the supreme god.
- Pushana, who protected cattle in the early Vedic period now became the god of Shudras.
- The doctrine of transmigration (Punarjanma/Samsara Chakra) and deeds (Karma) was first time mentioned. (written in Brihadaranyaka Upanshada)
The economy of Later Vedic People
- The land has now more value than cows.
- Agriculture was the main occupation.
- Rice, Barley, Beans, Sesame and wheat were cultivated.
- Fishermen, washermen, dyers, door-keepers and footmen were new professions.
FAQs on Early Vedic and Later Vedic Period
What was the main occupation of the early Vedic period?
The main occupation of the early Vedic period was Cattle rearing.