EDEN IAS

LATER VEDIC AGE (1000 – 600 B.C.) AND ITS CULTURE| GS ARTICLES

The Aryans further moved towards east in the Later VedicPeriod. The Satapatha Brahmana refers to the expansion of Aryansto the eastern Gangetic plains. Several tribal groups and kingdomsare mentioned in the later Vedic literature. One importantdevelopment during this period is the growth of large kingdoms.

Kuru and Panchala kingdoms flourished in the beginning. Parikshatand Janamejaya were the famous rulers of Kuru kingdom. PravahanaJaivali was a popular king of the Panchalas. He was a patron oflearning. After the fall of Kurus and Panchalas, other kingdoms likeKosala, Kasi and Videha came into prominence. The famous rulerof Kasi was Ajatasatru. Janaka was the king of Videha with itscapital at Mithila. His court was adorned by scholar Yajnavalkya.

Magadha, Anga and Vanga seem to be the easternmost tribalkingdoms. The later Vedic texts also refer to the three divisions ofIndia – Aryavarta (northern India), Madhyadesa (central India) andDakshinapatha (southern India).

Political Organization

Larger kingdoms were formed during the later Vedic period.Many janaor tribes were amalgamated to form janapadasorrashtras in the later Vedic period. Hence the royal power hadincreased along with the increase in the size of kingdom. The kingperformed various rituals and sacrifices to strengthen his position.

They include Rajasuya(consecration ceremony), Asvamedha(horse sacrifice) and Vajpeya(chariot race). The kings also assumedtitles like Rajavisvajanan, Ahilabhuvanapathi, (lord of all earth),Ekrat and Samrat (sole ruler).

In the later Vedic period, a large number of new officials wereinvolved in the administration in addition to the existing purohita,senani and gramani. They include the treasury officer, tax collectorand royal messenger. At the lower levels, the administration wascarried on by the village assemblies. The importance of the Samitiand the Sabha had diminished during the later Vedic period.

Economic Condition

Iron was used extensively in this period and this enabled thepeople to clear forests and to bring more land under cultivation.Agriculture became the chief occupation. Improved types ofimplements were used for cultivation. Besides barley, rice and wheatwere grown. Knowledge of manure was another improvement.

Industrial activity became more varied and there was greaterspecialization. Metal work, leather work, carpentry and potterymade great progress. In addition to internal trade, foreign tradebecame extensive. The Later Vedic people were familiar with thesea and they traded with countries like Babylon. A class of hereditarymerchants (vaniya) came into existence. Vaisyas also carried ontrade and commerce. They organized themselves into guilds knownas ganas. Besides nishka of the Rig Vedic period, gold and silvercoins like satamanaand krishnalawere used as media of exchange.

Social Life

The four divisions of society (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyasand Sudras) or the Varna system was thoroughly established duringthe Later Vedic period. The two higher classes – Brahmana, andKshatriya enjoyed privileges that were denied to the Vaisya andSudra. A Brahmin occupied a higher position than a Kshatriya butsometimes Kshatriyas claimed a higher status over the Brahmins.

Many sub-castes on the basis of their occupation appeared in thisperiod.In the family, the power of the father increased during theLater Vedic period. There was no improvement in the status ofwomen. They were still considered inferior and subordinate to men.

Women also lost their political rights of attending assemblies. Childmarriages had become common. According the Aitreya Brahmanaa daughter has been described as a source of misery. However, thewomen in the royal household enjoyed certain privileges.

Religion

Gods of the Early Vedic period like Indra and Agni lost theirimportance. Prajapathi (the creator), Vishnu (the protector) andRudra (the destroyer) became prominent during the Later Vedicperiod. Sacrifices were still important and the rituals connected withthem became more elaborate. The importance of prayers declinedand that of sacrifices increased. Priesthood became a professionand a hereditary one. The formulae for sacrifices were invented andelaborated by the priestly class. Therefore, towards the end of thisperiod there was a strong reaction against priestly domination andagainst sacrifices and rituals. The rise of Buddhism and Jainism wasthe direct result of these elaborate sacrifices. Also, the authors ofthe Upanishads, which is the essence of Hindu philosophy, turnedaway from the useless rituals and insisted on true knowledge (jnana) for peace and salvation.

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