Rig Vedic Age (1500-1000 B.C.)
The source of information of this period includes the archeological evidences as well as the literary source i.e. Rig Ved. Unlike the Indus Valley Civilization, whose script has so far not been deciphered Rig Ved is an important source of information for this period.
Concepts about Rig Vedic Age
· Although the main source of information of this period is Rig Ved, the people of this age did not know how to read or write. Rig Ved was compiled and written during the later period.
· Rig Vedic society was much simple as compared to that of the Indus Valley. The main occupation of Rig Vedic people was cattle rearing. It was only in the later Vedic Age that they adhered to the sedentary agriculture
· The houses of this period were made up of wattle and daub and the life of people was nomadic.
· There is no sign of urbanization during this period
· The trade use to take place but was in a very rudimentary stage, unlike the case of Indus Valley Civilization.
· The impact of trade on the economy was negligible
· It was altogether a rural-tribal economy
· Horse and cow were the two most important animals during this period
· There has been no evidence of horse in the Indus Valley Civilization, however the horse was the important animal of this age
· Indira, Agni and Som were the important gods which were worshipped. There is no evidence of worship of mother goddess or proto-Shiva as in the case of Indus Valley Civilization
· Red ware was the most popular pottery of this period while, Painted Grey Ware was the most distinctive
· In the Rig Veda, the most mentioned river is Sindhu and the most pious river is Saraswati. Ganga and Yamuna were the lesser known rivers during this period
· The system of taxation was not developed during this period and there was no concept of property rights since the life was nomadic
· Rig Vedic Aryans had the knowledge about the sea
· The iron and copper was not used by the Rig Vedic Aryans. It was only during the later Vedic period that the usage of iron started
· Tribal institutions like Sabha, Samiti, Vidhata and Gana were important assemblies
· The first evidence of Varna division comes from the Purushsukta sloka in the tenth Mandal of the Rig Ved.
· The Varna system was present, but it was mobile. The members from the same household can adopt any occupation. In a hymn mentioned in the Rig Ved the narrator says: ‘I am a bard; my father is a physician, my mother is a grinder of corn.’
· The cow was considered as a precious asset
· From the names of rivers, mountains (Himvant i.e. Himalaya, Munjavant i.e. Hindukush) & ocean in Rig Veda we have a clear idea of the geographical area in which Rig Vedic people lived.
· Rig Veda mentions 40 rivers. The Nadisukta hymn of the Rig Veda mentions 21 rivers which include the Ganges in the east and the Kubha (Kabul) in the west.
· Sapta Sindhu comprises Sindhu & its five tributaries – Vitasta, Asikani, Vipas, Parushni & Sutuadri and Saraswati.
Original home of Aryans
The location of the original home of the Aryans still remains a controversial point. Some scholars believe that the Aryans were native to the soil of India and some other scholars believe that the Aryans were migrated from outside. The following are the views of different scholars regarding the original home of Aryans:
Scholar Views about home of Aryans
Max Muller Central Asia
Dayanad Saraswati Tibet
Prof. Penka German Plains
Mayor Pamir range
Mach W. Baltic
B.G Tilak Arctic region
Rivers in Rig Ved and their modern names
1)The Aryans were in the nomadic stage of life, the cattle rearing were the primary occupation and a great importance was attached to herds of cattle.
2)There was no sign of urbanization
3)The items like leather and wool were the items of trade, but the impact of trade on the economy was negligible.
4)Cows and gold ornaments of fixed value were the media of exchange. No other coins were known.
5)Various professions like carpenters, smiths, tanners, weavers, potters and grinders of corn were mentioned in Rig Ved
6)Medical knowledge was developed during this period. The art of healing wounds and curing disease and surgery were in existence
1)The Rigvedic society comprised four varnas, namely Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra. However the Varna system was mobile and not rigid.
2)The teacher and priests were called Brahamanas; rulers and administrators Rajanya; farmers, merchants and bankers Vaishyas; and artisan and labourers as Shudras.
3)The members from the same household can adopt any occupation. In a hymn mentioned in the Rig Ved the narrator says: ‘I am a bard; my father is a physician, my mother is a grinder of corn.’
4)The unit of society was family, primarily monogamous and patriarchal.
5)The age of marriage was 16-17 years and child marriage was not in vogue.
6)A widow could marry the younger brother of her deceased husband (Niyoga).
7)The women were allowed to study and they participated in wars.
8)The women were allowed to wear the sacred thread
9)Monogamy was the established practice, however there were cases of polygamy as well which were common
10)The cases of polyandry were exceptional, however the practice existed
11)There is no evidence of practices like sati or purdah
12)Right to property was known in moveable things like cattle, horse, gold and ornaments and so also in immoveable property like land and house.
13)Milk and its products – curd, butter and ghee-formed an important part of the diet. The meat of fish, birds and animals was eaten.
14)The cow was deemed Aghanya i.e. not to be killed.
15)Alcoholic drinks, Sura and Soma were consumed.
Theory of Kingship and Polity
· The role of king was to lead his tribe in the war and the protection of his tribe
· Taxation system was not developed during this period. There was no land tax during this period as people were semi-nomadic
· Bali was the earliest known tax but it too was voluntary
· There was no officer associated with the taxation
· The kingship was generally hereditary
· The government was monarchial. Monarchy was normal but non-monarchical polities were present.
· The election of king is mentioned in the Rig Ved, but it was a formality only
· The Dasrajan War (The Battle of Ten Kings): According to Rig Veda, the famous Dasrajan war was mutual struggle of Aryans. The Dasrajan war given names of ten kings who participated in a war against Suda who was Bharata king of Tritsus family. The battle was fought on the bank of Parushani (Ravi) and Sudas emerged victorious.
· Tribal institutions like Sabha, Samiti, Vidhata and Gana exercised the control over the king
· Women were not allowed to take part in Samiti
1)Rig Vedic period witnessed the worship of male gods unlike Mother Goddess in the case of Indus Valley.
2)The animals and trees were not worshipped during this period.
3)The Rig Vedic people don’t believe in life after death.
4)The mode of worship of gods was through sacrifice.
5)The Rig Vedic people worshiped god for the material gain and protection from the fury of nature. The concepts like salvation and life after death were not developed.
6)During this period the gods worshipped were generally the personified powers of nature.
7)Fire was sacred as it was regarded as the intermediary between man and God. The fire cult is the only similarity in the religious belief of Indus Valley people and the people of this age
8)There were nearly 33 gods.
9)These gods were divided into three categories i.e. terrestrial, aerial and celestial.
10)Indra, Agni, Som and Varuna were the most popular deities of Rigvedic Aryans.
11)Indra or Purandara (destroyer of fort) – the most important god (250 Rigvedic hymns are devoted to him); played the role of warlord and considered to be rain god.
12)Agni – The second most important god (200 Rigvedic hymns are devoted to him); fire god considered to be the intermediary between the gods and the people.
13)Varuna – Personified water; supposed to uphold ‘Rita’ or the natural order (‘Ritasyagopa’).
14)Surya (Sun) was worshiped in 5 forms : Surya, Savitri, Mitra, Pushan & Vishnu.
15)Surya (Sun) – God who used to drive daily across the sky in his seven horses chariot.
16)Savitri (the god of light)- The famous Gayatri Mantra is addressed to her.
17)Mitra was a solar god.
18)Pushan was the god of marriage; main function – guarding of roads, herdsmen & straying cattle.
19)Vishnu – a god who covered earth in three steps.
20)Soma – Originally a plant producing a potent drink during courses of Agnishtoma sacrifice could be hemp/bhang, called king of plant; identified with the moon later. The 9th mandala of Rig Veda, which contains 114 hymns, is attributed to the Soma. That’s why it is called ‘the Soma Mandala’.
21)Other Gods/Goddesses : Rudra (the god of animals), Dyaus (the oldest god & the father of the world), Yama (the god of the dead). Ashwin/ Nastya (the god of health, youth & immortality); Aditi (the great mother of gods), Sindhu (river goddess).
22)The nature of Rig Vedic religion was Henotheism i.e. a belief in many gods but each god in turns standing out as the highest.