The Vedic Age

The Vedic Age (1500 BC-1000BC)

  • It is generally agreed that Aryans originally lived somewhere in Steppes stretching from Southern Russia to Central Russia.
  • The consensus that originally they lived somewhere in the East of Alps.
  • On their way to India, Aryans first appeared in Iran and a little later they appeared in 1500 BC India.


Rig Vedic Society

  • Based on kinship, the early Aryan society was essential tribal and egalitarian.
  • People owed their primary loyalty to their tribe, which was called Jana.
  • The family was essentially patriarchal; the birth of son was desired.


Social Divisions

  • When the Aryans first came to India, there was no consciousness of caste, nor were the professions hereditary. The word ‘varana’ is used in the Rig Veda with reference to only the Aryan or Dasa having respectively, fair or dark complexion, but never with reference to the Brahmana or Rajanya (Kshatriya).
  • Quadruple division of society made its formal appearance only at the price in the first time in the Tenth Mandala of Rig Veda.
  • The ashram system had not developed fully until the later Vedic period.  The Sun Gods
  • Surya: Similar to that of Greek God Helios.  
  • Savitri: The famous Gayatri mantra has addressed to Savitri.
  • Pusan: His main function was that of guarding of roads, herdsmen and cattle.


References and Evidences


  • Origin of Indian music                                                  Sam Veda
  • Mention of the word ‘Sudras’                                        Rig Veda (10th  Mandala)
  • ‘Gayatri mantra’                                                         Rig Veda
  • Mention of the word ‘Gotra’                                         Atharva Veda
  • Origin of Kingship                                                        Aitareya Brahamna
  • ‘Soma’, the intoxicating drink and the god who lenas his name to the drink - 

                                                                                                Rig Veda (9th Mandala)

  • Mention of the word ‘Varna’                                         Rig Veda
  • Four-fold division of society                                         Rig Veda (10th Mandala) 
  • Purusa Sukta Hymn                                          Rig Veda
  • First three ‘ashramas’ (Brahmacharin, Grihastha, Vanaprastha – 

Chandogya Upanishad        Four ashramas (Brahmacharin, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, Samyasin) – 

Jabla Upanishad

  • Doctrine of ‘Trimurti’                                                   Maitrayani Upanishad
  • Origin of the Universe                                                  Big Veda (10th Mandala)
  • Mention of the ‘Great Flood’                                         Satpatha Brahamana
  • Samsara (Transmigration of soul)                      Brahadarankya Upanishad
  • Kshatriyas Precedence over Brahamanas            Aitareya Brahamana
  • Gamester’s Lament                                          Rig Veda
  • Vratyastoma                                                    Tandya-Maha-Brahmana
  • Division of India into five parts                                     Aitariya Brahmana
  • Mention of the Divine Horse ‘Dadhikara’                         Rig Veda
  • Sabha and Samit as the twin daughters of Prajapati        Satpatha Brahman
  • Battle of ten kings                                                       Rig Veda (VII Mandala)
  • Mention of eastern and western seas                            SatpathaBrahmana 
  • Sudras as Narishta                                            Atharvaveda
  • Satya Meva Jayate                                            Mundaka Upnishad


Vedic Literature


  • The word derived from the Sanskrit meaning “to know”.
  • Called “apavrusheya” meaning not created by human beings.
  • Known as “Shruti” meaning to hear. These have been passed from one generation to another through verbal transmission.
  • They are four in number.
    • They are collection of hymns, prayers, charms and sacrificial formulae.
    • The “rishis” to whom these books are ascribed are known as “Mantradrashta” meaning inspired saints who received the hymns directly from the supreme creator.



  • Elaborate prose texts.
  • Contain explanation of the hymns, prayers, charms and sacrificial formulae.
  • A kind of theology and philosophy of the Bahamians (the priestly class).



  • Literal meaning is forest.
  • Also known as forest books.
  • Deal with mysticism, moral values and philosophical doctrines.
  • Meant for the ascetics and hermits living in the forests.
  • Give emphasis on meditation.
  • Opposed to sacrifices formulae and rituals.



  • Literal meaning a “session” in which the mentor imparts esoteric teachings.
  • Deal with philosophy metaphysics.
  • Known as “Vedanta” meaning “the end of the Vedas” for they denote the last phase of the Vedic period and reveal the ultimate aim of the Vedas.
  • They are 108 in number.
  • The earliest upanlishads are “Brihadaranyaka” and “Chanddogya” written in prose.
  • The later Upanishads like “Katha” and “Svetasvatara” has written in verse form.
  • The pivot of their philosophy is realization of “Brahman”, as the ultimate reality of the universe and the recognition that the individual soul is identical with that and attainment of salvation in this recongnition.
  • Advocates salvation through knowledge (Gnana Marga)/realization rather than works or faith.



Rig Veda


  • Collection of Hymns
  • Oldest of all the Vedas
  • Contains 1028/1017 Hymns for Suktas
  • Contains 10 Mandalas and 8 Ashtakas
  • The oldes mandalas are ll, lll, lV, V, Vl and Vll known as family books because of their composition being ascribed to various families of sages.
  • The mandalas ll to Vll is ascribed to Gritsamada, Viswamitra, Vamadeva, Atri, Bharadwaja and Vasistha.
  • The latest mandalas are l,Vlll,lX and X.
  • The lX mandala is completely devoted to the vedic God soma.
  • Brahmanas:
    • Aitareya Brahmana
    • Sankhayana Brahmana
  • Upanishads
    • Aitareya Upanishad
    • Kaushitaaki Upanishad


Yjur Veda

  • Collection of rituals for performing different sacrifices.
  • Recited by the priests known as Adhavaru.
  • Consists of 40 chapters.
  • The only Veda partly written in prose.
  • Divided into two parts Krishan/Black Yajurveda (commentary in prose) and Sukla/White (sacrificial formulae and rituals)
  • Brahmanas
    • Tattiriya Brahmana
    • Saaptapatha Brahmana
  • The lengthiest of all the Brahamanas.
  • The most important of all the Brahamanas.
  • Upanishads
    • Tattiriya Upanishad
    • Brithadaranyaka Upanishad
    • Kathaka Upanishad
    • Isa Upanishad
    • Svetasvatara Upanishad
    • Maitrayaniya Upanishad


Sam Veda

  • Collection of hymns taken from the Rig Veda and set to tunes for the purpose of singing.
  • Only 75 hymns are original.
  • Known as the ‘Book of chants’.
  • Hymns are meant for singing at Soma sacrifices.
  • Sung by a particular type of priests known as Udgatari.
  • Consists of 1810 (1549 omitting the repetitions)
  • Brahmanas
    • Jaiminiya Brahamana 
  • Upanishads
    • Chanddogya Upanishad
    • Kena Upanishad/Talavakara Upanishad.


The Atharva Veda

  • Collection of charms, magic, spells.
  • Preserves many popular cults and superstitions. 
  • Contains non-Aryan elements (folk elements).
  • Belongs to Saunakiya and Paipalado schools. §        Contains 711/731/760 hymns.
  • Contains 20 kandas or books.
  • The kandas 18, 19 and 20 are later additions.
  • The hymns are meant for warding off evils and demons, winning over friends and gain material success.
  • No Brahmana belongs to Atharvaveda.
  • Upanishads - Mundaka Upanishad, Prasana Upanishad




             PANCHA-MAHAYAJANAS      Five great daily sacrifices to the good, manes, men,




goblins and brahmanas.



Ceremony to cause conception



To secure the birth of a male child



Ceremony for the new-born child



Ceremony of naming the child



Tonsure of the child, saving his scalp, leaving only a top knot



Ceremony of the first feeding of the child with solid food in the sixth month



Ceremony of invitation, The child enters life of a student



Child invested with sacred thread and received into




Aryan Society



Ceremony of taking the child out of the house and showing of the sun



Ceremony on the competition of studentship and coming




back home


Ceremony to ensure the safety of the child in womb


Ritual for the establishment of the sacred fire in house


Daily oblation in sacred fire


Sacrifice/rites by means of which persons outside the



Pale of Brahmanic fold were admitted into the Orthodox





Monthly funeral offering to the manes on the new moon







Indra         (i) War-God and Weather-God 

  1. associated with storm and thunder 
  2. His wife is Indrani 
  3. His white elephant is Airavata. 
  4. Also known as PURANDRA or breaker of forts. 
  5. Two hundred and fifty hymns are devoted to him. 
  6. Responsible for causing rainfall.


Agni           (i) Fire-god 

  1. Sun of Earth and Heaven (DYAUS) 
  2. Symbolised the ‘vital spark’ 
  3. Mediator between god and the humans. 
  4. Helped INDRA in the destruction of the PURS 
  5. Helped in clearing the Jungles and known as PATHIKRIT 
  6. God of the priests who deal with him at the fire sacrifices. 



(viii) Also the good of the home, for the dwells in the domestic hearth. 



(ix) 200 hymns are devoted.


(i) God of cosmic order end the universal monarch 


(ii) the personified water 


(iii) Ethically the highest 



(iv) Pure and Holy.


(i) Nature goddess of little importance 



(ii) Forest goodess.


(i) Spirit of storm and thunder 


(ii) helped INDRA against the demon VRITRA 



(iii) Sons of RUDRA.



(i) Wind-God


(i) Personification of the Earth 


(ii) Symbolised as cow 



(iii) USAS were daughter and AGNI, INDIRA, SURYA and SAVITER were Sons.


(i) Mother of gods 


(ii) Adityas were her sons 


(iii) The  number of Adityas is 12 as Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, Indra, Savitri, Pushan etc. 


(iv) They represented eternal forces. 



(v) A mysterious and tenuous figure.


(i) Solar god 


(ii) Guarded cattle and all living creatures 


(iii) Helped in the revalution of day and night 


(iv) Norished the world after its creation and guided the souls of the deceased to the afterworld 



(v) regarded as the god of shudras.


(i) Worshipped as rising sun. 


(ii) married the daughter of TVASHTRI, SARANYU. 



(iii) Supposed to be the father of two paris of twins, the ASWINS and YAMA and YAMI.


(i) Personified the sun in its morning and evening aspects. 



(ii) Known as the generator or the stimulator (iii) Commanded Night.


(i) Chief sun god 


(ii) Regarded as Divine Vivifier. 


(iii) moves according to fix laws. 


(iv) Son of DYAUS. 


(v) gives permanence and stability to Earth and nourishes the moon. 



(vi) In due course of time he absorbed Savitri and Vivasvat.


(i) The goddess of dawn. 


(ii) Daughter of DYAUS 

          (iii) Linked to a birde or to wife whose beauties seem greater every morning.            (iv) Brings wealth and like to all           (v) Her chariot is drawn by 7 Cows.




(i) Husband of SURYA 


(ii) Twin sons of VIVASVAT. 


(iii) Known as the physician of the gods and were capable of bestowing youth on man 


(iv) Gods of morning. 



(v) Precede USHAS each morning in their golden car drawn by horse by horses or birds.


(i) The howler, amoral an archer-god 


(ii) Depicted as a rowdy man of wild temper an object of fear and horror. 


(ii) Robber god and lord of thieves. 



(iv) Guardian of healing hurbs.


(i) Minor deities in vedic times 


(ii) God having solar characteristic 



(iii) The preserver and protector of the people.



Spirit of night


(i) God of magic powers 


(ii) Son of DYAUS 


(iii) Source of the strength of gods 


(iv) helped INDRA 


(v) made Indra’s VAJRA 



(vi) Maker of chariots, weapons etc.


(i) God with some solar characteristic 



(ii) god of views and compacts.


(i) God of the dead 



(ii) guardian of the “world of fathers”.


(i) The creator god 


(ii) the ford of beings 


(iii) Occupied the supreme position in later Vedic age.


Brihaspati God of prayer



(i) Father god 


(ii) personified heaven 



(iii) parent of other divinities.


(i) God of plants 


(ii) Patron deity of Brahmans 



(iii) Entire ninth mandala of the Rigveda is addressed to him.


The God of rain

Sraddha     Faith

Brahma     Lord of creation

Ribhus       Aerial elf




  • Purohita                         Priest
  • Senani                           Commander-In-Chief
  • Suta                              Charioteer
  • Bhagadugha                   Collector of Taxes
  • Saogrihitri            Treasurer
  • Kshattri                         Chamberlain
  • Ratnins      General term for higher functionaries viz purohita, senani,    gramin
  • Akshapada                     Companion of the king of dicing
  • Govikartana                   King’s companion in chase
  • Takshan                         Carpenter
  • Rathakara                      Chariot maker
  • Purpatis                         Commanders of mud forts
  • Vrajpal                          Head of the pasture lands 
  • Mahisi                            Chief queen
  • Duta                             Messenger




 Rajasuya                -

Royal consecration (accession to throne)

 Vajapeya               -

Literal meaning drink of strength; a kind of rejuvenation ceremony. It strengthened the status of the king among his subjects. Chariot-race (17 chariots) was an important



feature of it.

 Aswamedha  


Literal meaning’ horse sacrufuce’. it was meant for 



 extending the domain of the king and providing him a



 status of chakravartin and bringing about fertility and 



 prosperity of his kingdom. A special feature of this 



 ceremony is sacrifice of the norse. It lasted for a year.

 Purushmedha


Extreme and dreadful from of sacrifice in which a man 



 was allowed to enjoy himself for a year during which all



   his wishes and were fulfilled and at the end of a year 



   he was sacrificed.

  • Punar-Abhisheka   -           A ceremony of renewed consecration which made the      King eligible for all kinds of royal dignity.
  • Aindra Mahabhishekha -    A sacrifice meant for providing the king superiority and      Supremacy over all kings and making him ‘Ekarat’, the              sole ruler. Aswamedha is associated with it.      Abisheka             -         Besprinkling ceremony


Economy Nature

  • In the early Vedic period, the Aryans were migratory and were depending mainly on a pastoral economy; their main occupation was cattle breeding. 

However, the early Aryans knew agriculture, some basic crafts and primitive trading; these activities were carried on only as part-time occupations in their spare time. 

  • In the later Vedic period, however, the three sectors of the economy (agriculture, crafts and trade) developed as full-time occupations with the beginning of settled agrarian life by the Aryans.



  • It became the main occupation of the Aryans only in the later Vedic period. 
  • Wheat (godhuma) and rice (vrihi) became the staple diet of the people in the uppermiddle and lower Gangetic valleys respectively. 
  • Other crops like barley, cotton, oil-seeds, pulses, etc. were also cultivated. 
  • Various agricultural activities like ploughing, seeding, weeding and cropping are mentioned in the Vedic texts.



 Some of the basic crafts such as carpentry, metalwork, tanning, weaving, pottery, etc. practiced from the Rig Vedic time, but more proliferation and specialization in the later Vedic period with several new occupations coming into existence.



  • It was practiced from the Rig Vedic period but not on an extensive scale; carried on mainly through barter, but use of cows and nishka’ (gold ornaments of fixed value) as media of exchange. 
  • There were improvements in the later Vedic period like organization of merchants into guilds (ganas), use of ‘satamana’ and ‘krishnala’ besides ‘nishka’ as media of exchange.


Society Kula or Family

  • It was the foundation of the social structure. In the later Vedic period, there was an increase in the powers of the father over the family members. 
  • The law of ‘primogeniture’ (the eldest son succeeding the father) came to be practiced in the princely families.


Varna System

  • Initial division of the tribal society (Rig Vedic) into three groups – warriors, priests and commoners – on the basis of occupations;  
  • Appearance of the fourth division, viz. Sudras, only towards the end of the rig Vedic period (mention of the Sudras in the 10th book or ‘mandals’ of the Rig Veda; the ‘Purusha Sukta’ in this book clearly mentions the four-fold division of the society). 
  • However, significant changes took place in the ‘varna’ system during the later Vedic period; increase in the privileges of the two higher classes (Brahmins and Kshtriyas) at the cost of the two lower classes (Vaishyas and Sudras).


Asramas of Stages of Life

  • They came into existence in the later Vedic period for regulating the life of the male members of the higher classes; 
  • Aitareya Brahmana –earliest mention of the concept, 
  • Chandogya Upanishad – clear reference to the first three stages,   Jabala Upanishad – mention of the four stage:  Brahmacharin or student life, 

Grihastha or life of the householder, 

Vanaprastha or partial retirement and 

Sannyasin or complete retirement or ascetic life); 

  • Full recognition of the fourth stage only found in the post-Vedic period.


Institution of Gotra

  • Literally meaning cow-pen, it came to signify descent from a common ancestor; appeared only in the Vedic period (Atharva Veda); 
  • Beginning of the practice of ‘gotra’ exogamy i.e. prohibition of marriage between persons belonging to the same ‘gotra’.



Rig Vedic period:

  • Monogamy (a man having one wife) – very common; Polygamy (a man having more than one wife) – though known, not common; 
  • Remarriage of widows permitted; child marriages – unknown;
  • Prevalence of symbolic self-immolation (sati) by widows; 
  • Women’s participation in religious ceremonies and tribal assemblies (sabha and vidata); 
  • No evidence of seclusion of women. 


In the later Vedic period

 Their loss of political rights of attending assemblies;   Instances of child marriages, etc.


Institution of Slavery

 Prevalent from the Rig Vedic times; mainly women slaves, employed for domestic purposes; decent treatment of slaves and even enjoyment of certain rights by them.



  • lliteracy (lacking of the art of writing and reading) of the early Aryans; possibility of the use of script by the later Vedic Aryans from 700 BC onwards 
  • The earliest evidence for the use of a script of the Harappans, comes from the

Mauryan period in the form of Asokan edicts 

  • Restriction of education only to the higher classes.




Nature of Vedic Religion

  • Known as henotheism, i.e. a belief in single gods, 
  • Each in turn standing as the highest and without hierarchy; 
  • Failure of the Aryans to understand and explain the various natural phenomena and hence their personification.



Rig Vedic Period: 

  • Indra or Purandhara war lord and considered to be the rain god;
  • Agni – the second most important god; intermediary between the gods and the people;
  • Varuna  - personified water; supposed to uphold the ‘rta’ or the natural order; 
  • Soma – god of plants; an intoxicating drink was named after him; 
  • Maruts – personified the storm; etc. According to the Rig Veda, there were totally 33 gods.


Later Vedic Period: 

  • Emergence of new gods like Prajapati (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver and protector of the people) and Rudra (god of animals and considered to be an adaption of the Indus Pasupati Mahadeva) and their growing importance at the cost of Indra and Agni; 
  • Emergence of special deities for some of the social classes, eg: Pushan (protector of cattle) for the Sudras.


Life after Death

  • In the Rig Vedic period, there was no consistent theory about it. 
  • In the later Vedic period, life after death came to be envisaged in terms of punishment for sin and reward for virtue. 
  • Idea of transmigration of souls – not clear in the Vedas, though Upanishads expound the belief in the passage of human soul from life to life according to their conduct in the previous life; 
  • Evolution of the theory of ‘karma’ from the above belief


Mode of Worship

  • In the beginning, it consisted of only recitation of prayers and making of offerings. 
  • Later changes took place with decline in the importance of prayers and increase in that of sacrifices, which involved the killing of animals on a large scale.



  • Bhartas, Tritsu, Purus, Matsayas, Krivis, Turvasas, Yadus, Druhyus, Anus, Srinjayas,
  • Pakthas, Sivas, Bhalanases Alinas, Visanins, Aja (NA), Yakusus (NA), Sinyus (NA)  Pisascas (NA), Kikatas (NA)



  • Earlier settlement ‘Brahmavarta’ the region between the Sutlej and Yamuna corresponds to Punjab and its adjoining areas.
  • The core region was ‘Sapta-Sindava’, the land of the Indus and its principal Western tributaries Gomati (Gomal), Krumu (Korram), Kubha (Kabul) and Suvastu (Svat) and eastern tributaries the five rivers of Punjab besides the valleys of Saraswati and
  • Drishadvati corresponding to Eastern Afghanistan and West and East Punjab 
  • No knowledge of sea
  • Knowledge of the Himalayas



  • Expansion to parts of eastern Rajasthan, eastern UP and Bihar
  • Knowledge of Gangetic Valleys
  • Knowledge of some more rivers like Narmada, Ganga, Gandak, Chamba.
  • Mention of Seas
  • Mention of the Vindhyas.



The Vedangas were considered important for understanding.

  • Siksha                             -      Phonetics/pronunciation
  • Chhandas   -        Metre
  • Vyakarana -        Grammar
  • Nirukta      -        Etymology (Explanation of words)
  • Jyotisha     -        Astronomy
  • Kalpa                             -       Sacrificial rituals


The first two were required for reading the Vedas, the third and fourth for understanding the Vedas and the fifth and the sixth for the implementation of the sacrifice.



  • Dhanurveda         -          Archery/Warfare
  • Gandharvaveda    -          Music
  • Shilpaveda -          Sculputre/Architecture
  • Ayurveda   -          Medicine/ Life




  • Hotri         -          Invoker, priest well versed in the Rigveda.
  • Udgatri      -          Chantor, Priest well versed in the Samveda.
  • Adhavaryu            -         Performer of Yajna, priest well versed in Yajurveda.
  • Ritvij         -          Supervised the whole sacrifice.



  • Terrestrial deities       -     Agni, Soma, Prithvi
  • Atmospheric Deities   -      Indra, Rundra, Vayu, Marut, Parjanya
  • Celestial Deities          -      Sury, Usha, Vishnu, Varuna, Savitr, Dyaus, Asvins, Mitra, 



  • Wheel made
  • Out of well levitated clay with thin core
  • Smooth surfaced
  • Grey to ash-grey in colour
  • Painted in black and sometimes in a deep-chocolate colour on the outer as well as inner surface
  • It has nearly 42 designs and the most common types are bowls and dishes
  • Important sites – Ahichchhatra, Rupar, Bhagwanpur, Noh, Alamgirpur, Hastinapur, Atranjikhere, Jakhera, Mathura, Panipat, Purana Qila, Bairat, Sonepat, Jodhpura, Sravasti



  • Sapta Sindhu Region         -       A.C. Das
  • Central Asia                   -        Max Mullar
  • Arctic Region                  -        B.G. Tilak
  • Tibet                    -       Dayanand Saraswati
  • Bacteria               -        Rhode
  • North of Russian steps     -        Benfey
  • Central and Western Germany    -        Geiger
  • Austria, Hungary and Bohemia    -        P. Giles and Macdonald
  • Foot of Himalayas           -        Pandit Laxmidhar shastri
  • German plains                -        Prof. Penka



  • Brahmavarta               -        Region between Sutlaj Yamuna (the area of earliest

Aryan settlement)

  • Dhruvmadhyamandis   -         Region between the Saraswati and the ganga literally means “firm middle country” (area of settlement in the later Vedic age)
  • Aryavarta        -        Northern India
  • Madhyadesa                -        Northern India
  • Dakshinapatha             -        Central India
  • Brahmarshi Desa        -        Southern India
  • Uttarpatha (Udichya)    -       The western part of the central India
  • Aparanta (Pratichya)    -        North–West India
  • Purvadesa (Prachya)     -       Eastern India
  • Tamilkam           -       The Tamil country


  • 12, Political functionaries who formed a kind of king’s council in the Later Vedic Period. Some of them were recruited from the non-Aryans also. Out of a twelve ratnins, three happened to be women. 
  • The following is the list of Ratnin:

    Purohita, Rajnya, Mahisi, Parivakti, Senani, Suta, Gramin, Ksttr, Samgrahitr, Bhagadugha, Aksavapa.