Later Vedic Period

LATER VEDIC AGE

  • The period assigned to Later Vedic phase is 1000 B.C. to 600 B.C.
  • They used a particular kind of pottery called the Painted Grey Ware (PGW).
  • More than 700 PGW sites have been found in the upper Ganga basin which includes Atranji Khera, Ahichhatra, Hastinapur, Kurukshetra and Bhagwanpura. 
  • Iron objects are common to most PGW sites. This metal was introduced around 1000-800 B.C. It is mentioned as Aryas.

Geographical Knowledge

  • The Later Vedic Aryans knew the two seas, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean and were familiar with the Himalayas.
  • The Satapatha Brahman mentions Agni burning forest between the river Saraswati and the river Sedanira (Gandak) being carried by the ruler Vi-deha Madhava. 

Economy

  • Settled life and stable agriculture led to the production of surplus and this was collected in the form of taxes.
  • The taxes were probably deposited with an officer called `Sangrihitri'.
  • Later Vedic texts also mention an officer called Thagadugha' in regard to taxation.
  • Rice or 'Willi' became the staple diet of the people, along with barley and wheat.
  • Mixed farming (cultivation and herding) was practiced in this period.
  • Besides gold, tin, lead, silver and iron were other metals known.
  • 'Niska' , `satmana' were used as convenient units of value but were not coins. 

Polity

  • The power of the king increased.
  • Kings were known with different names in different regions.
  • Kings of the middle country were called 'Raja'.
  • King was usually a Kshatriya. The office of the Monarch was generally he-reditary. Though we get some evidence of election in Atharvaveda, popular choice seems to have been limited to members of the royal family. 
  • Assemblies were dominated by nobles and affluent people. > Women were not permitted to attend the assemblies.
  • Sabha and Samiti continued to hold ground but the institution called 'vid-hata' completely disappeared.
  • The term `rashtra' first appeared in this period. Therefore, territorial expan-sion and warfare started. 
  • Besides Turohits', `Senani' and `Graminin', we hear of new officers like `Ratuins' (members of the council of advisers).
  • `Suta' was charioteer, `Ksatleta was chamberlain and `Aksavapa' was game  companion of the king. 

Society

  • The society was clearly divided into four `varnast namely Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudras.
  • The upper three classes were known as 'civic or twice born. > The importance of women was lost.
  • `Gotra' first appeared in Atharva Veda, meaning clan.
  • There were instances of child marriage.
  • Change of caste became difficult.
  • Education began with an investiture ceremony called `Upanayana'.
  • On his investiture with the sacred thread, a man put his childhood behind him. He then became a 'Brahmachary' and led a celibate and austere life as a student at the home of his teacher.
  • Wratyas' were Aryans outside the pale of Brahmanism who spoke Prakrit language. 

Religion

  • There were 33 deities during the Later Vedic period, which included `Prithve, Rditr, tudra', etc.
  • Religious sacrifices became more important and elaborate.
  • These sacrifices were in the forms of `yajnas' such as Asvamedha, Vajap-eya, etc. 
  • These yajnas were performed by a group of seventeen priests, who were headed by four head priests called `Hotri' (invoker), `Udgatre' (chanter), `Adhvaryu' (performer) and 'Brahmana' (high priest).
  • For performing yajna, the priests were rewarded generously and given `dakhshnia' (gifts) like cows and some portions of territory.
  • Upanishads were the first reaction to Brahmanical dominance which ap-peared towards the end of the Vedic period especially in the land of Pan-chala and Videha around 600 B.C.
  • The Upanishadic thought centers around the idea of soul (atman) and not sacrifice (yajna).
  • The Upanishadic doctrine sought to provide on explanation of human suf-fering and became fundamental to later thinking. 

Vedic Literature

  • The Rig Veda is a collection of 1028 hymns in praise of different gods recited by the priest styled Hotri. It is divided into 10 mandals of which 2 to 7 from the earliest portion. Aitraya and Kaushataki are the Brahmans attached to it.
  • In the Sama Veda, all of its verses except 75 are taken from Rig Veda. The songs were meant to be sung at soma sacrifices by the priest Udgatri. Tandyamaha and Jaiminiya Brahman are attached to it.
  • Yajur Veda deals with the procedure for the performance of sacrifice. It contains rituals as well as hymns, recited by Adharvayu. The Yajur Veda is in prose while Rig Veda is in verse. Satapatha and Taittiriya Brahman are attached to it.
  • Atharva Veda is a book of magical formulae that contains charms and spells to ward off evils and diseases. It is supposed to be a non-Aryan work and is excluded from Trayi. It contains Gopatha Brahmana.
  • Brahmanas deal with the science of sacrifice. They give rule for the per-formance of the sacrificial ceremonies. Each Brahman is connected with one of the Veda.
  • Aranyakas are forest books, meant for instruction to be given for forest dwelling hermits.
  • Upanishad literally means to sit near someone. It marks the culmination of Vedic thought. They are 108 in number. It dwells on Atman and Brahma.
  • Vedangas are not called Srutr because they are of human origin and written in the form of Sutras. They are fixed in number and include Shiksha (Phonetics), Kalpa. (ritualistic science), Jyotisha (Astronomy), Vyakaran (grammer), Nirukta (etymology), and Chanda (metrics).
  • Yask's `Nirukta' is the oldest Indian linguistic text. Panini's `Astadhyayr is the oldest Indian grammar. 
  • Sutras: Kalpa Sutra has three divisions (i) Srauta Sutra deals with large public sacrifice. (ii) Griha Sutra deals with domestic sacrifices like birth, naming etc. (iii) Sulva Sutra prescribes various kinds of measurement for the construction of sacrificial altars. It marks the beginning of geometry and mathematics.
  • Important upvedas are Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Dandharvaveda and Shil-paveda.
  • Puranas are 18 in number and include list of old dynasties.
  • Dharma Shastras are books on law and judicial procedures. Important Dharma Shastras are Mann Smith, Vishnu Stnriti,Yagnavalkya Smriti and Narada Smriti.