Early Vedic Age In India
Early Vedic Age In India - India is a land that has given birth to a rich civilization, is land which has been invaded by various cultures, a land which was finally usurped from natives by the British. India which emerged free from the British rule in 1947 had a past that had so many stories to tell. The Vedic India is still prevalent in all the states of this country. One might get to see shorter versions of the traditions and religious practices but they are still alive in the hearts of the Indians. This is one culture that has withstood the onslaught of time and other cultures.
India’s dated history has no mention of attacking another country. This land has always welcomed new cultures and accommodated them into their own culture.
Theories about the Indus valley civilization has been changing over the years. The excavations at Harappa and Mohenjadaro show that an extremely advanced and civilized people lived there and how they disappeared from there remains a mystery.
The story of Aryan invasion is now being questioned by many historians. What is the story of Aryan invasion? It is believed that a group of Indo- Europeans who migrated to India and Persia were known as Aryans. There were believed to have come from Central Asia around 1500 B.C but there is a debate over the date as well. They settled in as area called Sapta Sindhu. It is also believed that when the Aryans came there were some settlers in this region and they were unable to meet the challenges of the Aryans. These people called Dravidians moved south to give way to Aryans in the North.
This theory is however being refuted recently. The new theory states that there was no invasion from anywhere and that Aryans belonged to India and practiced the Vedic religion. This theory is yet to make ground and the popular theory is that Aryans came from Central Asia. The period when they came to settle is known as the Early Vedic age. They then slowly moved on to the Gangetic plains and this period is called the later Vedic age.
In many places of Asia the inscription seen in the Indus Valley was found. Names that were similar to the Aryan culture, worship of gods like Indra, Varuna, Mitra were found on the tablets in many more places in Asia.
With this evidence it is clear that Aryan culture existed there as well but what is not clear is whether the culture moved from Indus Valley to those places or whether it came from Asia Minor to India. With the new theory propounded it is more likely that the Aryan culture moved from India to other places. In the Mahabharatha, an India epic the mother of the Kauravas, Gandhari belonged to Khandhahar. Now this place is seen in Afghanistan. It can also be that the Aryan culture was so widespread and finally flourished in Bharat.
Max Muller and Dr. Thapar wrote in their works that Aryans lived near the Alps, in the area called Eurasia. From there they went to different regions like Asia Minor and Greece as many similarities are found inscribed here. Many other scholars like A .C .Das , Ganganath Jha, Dr. Sampurnanand believed and wrote about the Sapta Sindhu theory. This theory finds its base in Rig Veda and says Aryans were indigenous people and had not migrated from anywhere. The name India comes from Indus, the name given to river Sindhu. In the Vedas and other epics India is referred to as Bharath.
Why did the Aryans settle here or flourish here? It is a well known fact that civilizations flourished near the rivers. In the area of Sind and Punjab there are many rivers. In fact the name Punjab itself can be traced to land with five rivers. These five rivers are still flowing in these areas. In the Vedas there is a mention of another river and that was called Saraswathi. This river seems to have dried off completely as there are no traces of this river. However experts say that satellite pictures show that a river had flown in the area and many believe it was Saraswathi. Fed by so many rivers this was the ideal place for a civilization to flourish.
The Vedas which is considered the base for many religious rituals being performed in modern India is said to be compiled by Vyasa, a powerful seer. Since he compiled the Vedas he was known as Veda Vyasa. Vedas are treasure houses of knowledge. There is no one author for the Vedas, it is supposed to be the revelations the great sages of yore. And all the knowledge was passed on to the next generation by word of mouth. The attention span, memorising capacity and the intelligence of the common man was much more than what we see today.
It is said that Vyasa knew that as centuries pass the intellectual capacity of the people was bound to reduce and compiled the Vedas in the written form. It is said that a lot of it has disappeared over the period of time and what has been salvaged is the present Vedas.
The compilation was into 4 books, knows as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Of all these Rig Veda is the most popular but the Yajur and Sama Vedas are also well known. Atharva Veda is supposed to have a lot of black magic known as thantra and this is studied by lesser number of people.
Each of these Vedas contains all materialistic, religious and philosophical information. Science, medicine, astrology, astronomy, warfare and many more topics are found in the Vedas. The most philosophical portion of the Vedas is called Upanishads and the philosophy propounded in these texts is known as Vedanta.
Veda Vyasa has authored many books as well from the highest Brahma Sutra to story like epics, the Puranas. The two famous epics of India are the Ramayana, Mahabharatha. Of this, Ramayana was written by Valmiki and Mahabharatha by Vyasa.
Bhagavadam is another popular text of India and that was also written by Veda Vyasa. Over the years Bhagavad Geeta has gained popularity and this is now like a hand book for good living. The Bhagavad Geeta is a small portion in the mega epic Mahabharatha. No one can date these books and there are debates on the dates. Whatever that maybe it is well known now that these texts are store house of information and there are many in the modern age who refers to these books.
The Vedic age talks of countries or maybe tribes ruled by kings. The patriarchal system was followed and the sons generally took over from the father, the kingship. Generally it was the eldest son who took over and if the elder had any physical ailment or mental problems the next child would be considered. The people were generally peace loving but occasional wars also have been cited. Rajan, Samrat were the terms used for the kings. Some believe that Samrat was more powerful than a rajan but there are no clear evidences for this. Villages and local heads are also mentioned.
So it can be that village administration was also prominent. Grama, Vis, jana are the words that are found that relates to local administration. The hierarchy or relationship between the three has not been established. Electing a person to the post of a leader or a king did not happen, it was handed over to the sons.
The king had a retinue of ministers but the most important one was the sage like advisor. He was a seer who advised the king on all aspects. Women were given importance but did not take an active role in the administration. The foremost duty of the king was to keep the citizens happy. He had to ensure they were provided with enough food, clothing and work. The kings had armies which were mostly used to protect against invasion. Horses and chariots were used in the wars.
Bow and arrows were the main form of arms. Spears and maces were also used by a few. Infantry, soldiers on foot, formed the main part of the army. The biggest war available in the epics is the Kurukshetra war which went on for 18 days. The war was between cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas which ended in heavy loss on both sides. There were many rules that modern warfare cannot even think of. Once the conch was blown, generally at sunset, the battle for the day would come to an end. The evening and nights were spent in war strategies and nursing the wounded.
Society was divided into groups of people where each job was taken care. Some were the priest class who did the rituals and lived a meagre life. Such people were amply supported by others in the society and all their needs were taken care of. They were called the Brahmanas. Next came the kshatriyas who were the warrior class and had to protect the society from all danger, external and internal.
The Vaishyas were the merchants of the society who did the trading and the sudras were the people who did all the menial jobs. These groups were created for smooth running of the society and no one or no job was considered low. The family was a big gathering of uncles and aunts, grandparents and children. The head of the family was responsible for their welfare but was ably assisted by other too. Women did partake in most of the functions and they had a say in the matters of the family.
Hunting and racing were the favourite sports of those times. Archery competition was also a favourite past time. Music was also popular and Krishna the hero of those times had a flute with which he attracted many people. Wind, string and percussion instruments were a part of the society. The drums and bugle like instruments were used even in the wars. Dead people were burnt and the practice of widows dying in the pyre of the husband was unknown then. It was practise that came in much later and was quickly abolished too.
Agriculture was the main occupation of the village folks and rearing of cattle came next. Irrigation canals were used to carry water to the fields. Grains were harvested, thrashed and stored in granaries. The remains of the granaries and the great bath are a proof to this civilized culture and society. Barter system was followed. Seals were used to mark the citizenship of a particular village. These seals have been found in many of the excavation sites.
People of the Early Vedic age worshipped nature. Then a male god and a female god also became popular. Slowly many more gods were added to the pantheon. But more than the religious beliefs it was the philosophy that was always important. How to live a noble, peaceful life was the ultimate aim of every individual. They believed in going through the stages of Brahmacharya (student days), grihasthashrama (married life), Vanaprastha (retirement) and finally Sanyasa (total renunciation). All went through these stages of life and aimed for the total merging with the supreme power. Theory of rebirth was widely believed.
PRESENT DAY INDIA
Modern India is definitely influenced by the Vedic age. There are many customs and practices that are still being followed. Vedas are still being chanted and is taught in a formal way. The concept of village administration is still prevalent in many parts of India. Monarchy has been totally wiped out and elections have replaced hereditary ascension to the post of power. Nature gods have lost importance and now it is only Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna and whole pantheon of other gods.
However sun is still worshipped as it is universally acclaimed to be the source of energy to the world. The Vedic culture could have originated anywhere but India is the only country which upholds it and is the only country which is a treasure of information.