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Vedic Period of Indian History

Basically the culture and tradition of a country depends on its historical background. Ancient Vedic culture still continues in some aspects in India because the Indians are the successor of the Vedic inhabitants. The culture was divided in two distinct groups; Dravidians and Aryans. We are aware of the culture by two great scriptures; Vedas and Upanishads which had a thoughtful effect on the development of cultures, traditions and religious conviction of India. Vedic culture has continued from 1500 BC to 500 BC in the north and northwestern parts of India. This time period is divided into two parts - The Vedic period from 1500 BC to 1000 BC and the Later Vedic period from 1000 BC to 600 BC.

Vedas were said as Chaturvedas and it has four parts. Among them, Rig-Veda was the first composition of the Chaturvedas. It consists of verse composed of religious hymns and probably it inherited many elements from pre-Vedic, common Indo-Iranian society. RigVedic Aryans have a lot in common with the Andronovo culture and the Mitanni kingdoms as well as with early Iranians. The other three Vedas are Yajurveda, Samveda and Atharvaveda. The Yajurveda provides information about sacrifices. The Samaveda is believed to be the base of Indian Cultural Songs and Music. The Atharvaveda consists of philosophy and lists solution to day-to-day problems, anxieties and difficulties. It also includes information on Medicines and Herbals. Another literature was Upanishad which consists of discussions on several problems such as creation of the universe, the nature of God, the origin of mankind.

Administration System

Vedic Aryans divided their political range in three units; Grama (village), Vis (sub domain) and Jana (kingdom). A Grama was the smallest unit of this political system and a collection of villages make a Vis or subdivision. In the same way a number of Vis build a kingdom. The leader of a village was called gramani and the Vish leader was called as Vishpati. A kingdom or Rashtra was ruled by a Rajan or king. The king was selected by the consent and approval of people from a royal family. The major duty of a king was to protect the people. The Soldiers on foot and on chariots, armed with bow and arrow were common. The king occupied spies and messengers. He collected taxes from the people which he had to redistribute among the inhabitants.

Cattle were held in high esteem and frequently appear in Rigvedic hymns; Agriculture grew more prominent with time as the community gradually began to settle down in post-Rigvedic times. The economy was based on bartering with cattle and other valuables such as salt or metals. Families were patrilineal, and people prayed for the abundance of sons.

Vedic Religion

Vedic people follow the Hindu religion and a custom of Varna (class or caste) system. Varna or Class system divided the position of people. There were four class in Vedic culture; Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. The position of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas was higher than the Vaishyas and Shudras. The Brahmins were specialized in creating the sacred texts and carrying out various types of rituals and they also acted as a priest. The people of royal family were classified as Kshatriyas. They performed a commanding role in society and helped to maintain law and order. In the Early Vedic Period all the three upper classes Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas were considered as relatively equal Aryan, but in the Later Vedic Age the Brahmins and Kshatriyas became upper class. The Vaishyas were traders and farmers or any type of worker but the Shudras were the lower class; they were untouchable for upper-class and were meant to serve the upper three classes.

People worshiped many God and Goddess including the god of the following nature rain, animal, earth, etc. The main deities of the Vedic pantheon were Indra Dev (king of God), Agni (the God of fire), and Soma and some deities of social order such as Mitra Varuna (god of rain), Aryaman and Amsa, further nature deities such as Surya (the God of Sun), Vayu (the God of wind), Prithivi (the God of earth).

The later Vedic period

The later Vedic period was marked by appearance of agriculture as the dominant economic activity. The late Vedic period was marked by the rise of the sixteen Mahajanapadas referred to in some of the literature. The power of the king and the Kshatriyas greatly increased. Rulers gave themselves titles like Ekarat, Sarvabhauma and Chakravartin. The kings performed sacrifices like Rajasuya, Vajapeya and for supreme dominance over other kings, the ashvamedha (horse sacrifice).