Updated December 20, 2022
When we talk about Vedic Culture, first of all we should know what does Vedic Culture mean. The word Veda means the sacred spiritual knowledge. These Vedas were considered infallible as they imparted the highest spiritual knowledge.
Initially, the Vedas were transmitted orally from one person to another. Further, as our knowledge about the early Aryans is based on these Vedas, the culture of this period is referred to as the Vedic Culture.
Vedic Period is not such a small topic that we could think of, there is a lot to know about. The subject has many sections to know about, such as: (A) Original Home of the Aryana, (B) Vedic Literature, (C) Literature of Vedic Tradition (600 BC- 600 AD), (D) Rig Vedic/ Early Vedic Period (1500 BC- 1000 BC) and (E) Later Vedic Period.
The Gist of Vedic Period & Vedic Culture
The Vedic Culture is typical of a certain time and space, the Vedic age. The Vedic period or Vedic age lasted from 1500 BCE – 500 BCE which is the period in the history of the northern Indian subcontinent between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilization and a second urbanization which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE.
Vedic period gets its name from the Vedas, which are liturgical texts containing details of life during this period. These religious texts are interpreted to be historical and constitute the primary sources for understanding the period. The Texts & documents along with the corresponding archaeological records, allow for the evolution of the Vedic culture to be traced and inferred.
The Vedas were composed and orally transmitted with precision by speakers of an Old Indo-Aryan language who had migrated into the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent early in this period.
The Vedic society was patriarchal and patrilineal. Early Vedic Aryans were a Late Bronze Age society centered in the Punjab, organized into tribes rather than kingdoms, and primarily sustained by a pastoral way of life.
Around c. 1200–1000 BCE, Vedic Aryans spread eastward to the fertile western Ganges Plain and adopted iron tools which helped in clearing of forest and the adoption of a more settled, agricultural way of life.
The second half of the Vedic period was characterized by the emergence of towns, kingdoms, and a complex social differentiation distinctive to India. It includes the Kuru Kingdom’s codification of orthodox sacrificial ritual. During this time, the central Ganges Plain was dominated by a related but non-Vedic Indo-Aryan culture.
The end of the Vedic period witnessed the rise of true cities and large states (called mahajanapadas) as well as śramaṇa movements (including Jainism and Buddhism) which challenged the Vedic orthodoxy.
The Vedic period saw the emergence of a hierarchy of social classes that would remain influential. Vedic religion developed into Brahmanical orthodoxy, and around the beginning of the Common Era, the Vedic tradition formed one of the main constituents of “Hindu synthesis”
Archaeological cultures identified with phases of Vedic material culture include the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture, the Gandhara grave culture, the Black and red ware culture and the Painted Grey Ware culture.
The Most Significant Points on Culture of Vedic Era
Read on the points below and you should be able to get a reasonable degree of understanding on Vedic Period and Vedic Culture.
1.The locations of the original home of the Aryans still remains a controversial point. While, some scholars believe that the Aryans were native to the soil of India, others believe that the Aryans migrated from outside (Central Asia “Max Muller”/ Europe/ Arctic Region “B.G. Tilak”).
2. According to most popular belief, the Aryans are supposed to have migrated from Central Asia into the Indian Subcontinent in Several stages or waves during 2000 BC- 1500 BC.
3. Boghazkai Inscription (Asia Minor, Turkey), which mentions 4 Vedic gods Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatyas, proves Central Asian Theory.
4. The group that came to India first settled in the Punjab – then called Sapta Sindhu i.e. region of seven rivers. They lived here for many centuries and gradually pushed into the interior to settle in the valleys of the Ganges & the Yamuna.
5. it is Presumed that the Rig Veda was composed while the Aryans were still in the Punjab.
6. Vedic Literature comprises of four literary productions: (a). The Samhitas or Vedas, (b). The Brahmans, (c). The Aranyakas, (d). The Upnishads
7. Vedic Literature had grown up in course of time and was really headed down from generation to generation. Hence these are called Shruti (to hear).
8. The most important of Vedic Literature are Vedas. Vedas are called Apaurasheya i.e. not created by man but God- gifted and Nitya i.e. existing all eternity.
9. There are four Vedas- Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda & Atharva Veda. The first three Vedas are jointly called Vedatrayi i.e. trio of Vedas.
Details on Vedic Literature: The Source to Know Everything
10. Of the four Vedas, the Rig Veda (Collection of lyrics) is the oldest text in the world, and therefore, is also known as “the first testaments of mankind”. The Rig Veda Contains 1028 hymns, divided into 10 mandalas. Six Mandalas (from 2nd to 7th mandalas) are called Gotra/ Vamsha Mandalas (kula Granth). The 1st and 10th mandalas are said to have been added later. The 10th mandala contains the famous Purushasukta which explains the 4 Varnas- Mrahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya & Shudra. The hymns of Rig Veda were recited by Hotri.
11. The Sama Veda (Book of chants) had 1549 hymns. All hymns (excluding 75) were taken from the Rig Veda. The hymns of Sama Veda were recited by Udgatri. This Veda is Important for Indian Music.
12. The Yajur Veda (Book of Sacrificial Prayers) is a ritual Veda. Its hymns were recited by Adhvaryus. It is divided into two parts- Krishna Yajur Veda and Shukla Yajur Veda. In Contrast to the first two which are in verse entirely, this one is in both verse & prose.
13. The Atharv Veda (Book of magical formulae), the fourth and the last one, contains charms and spells to the ward off evils and diseases. For a very long time it was not included in the category of the Vedas
14. Literature of Vedic Tradition (smriti i.e. rememberance literature) comprises of 6 literacy production: (I). Vedangas / Sutras, (II). Smritis / Dharmashastras, (III). Mahakavyas (epics), (IV). Puranas, (V). Upvedas, (VI). Shad-Darshanas
15. There are six Vedangas: (I). Shiksha (Phonetics)- “Pratishakhya”- the oldest text on phonetics (II). Kalpa Sutras (Rituals) – a. Shrauta Sutras/ Shulva Sutras- deal with the sacrifices, b. Grihya Sutras- deals with family ceremonies, c. Dharma Sutras- deals with Varnas, Ashramas & Other. (III). Vyakarana (Grammar)- ‘Ashtadayayi’ (panini)- the oldest grammar. (IV). Nirukta (Etymology)- ‘Nighantu’ (Yask)- a collection of difficult Vedic words- the oldest dictionary. (v). Chhanda (metrics)- ‘Chhandasutras’ (Pingal)- famous text. (VI). Jyotisha (Astronomy)- ‘Vedanga Jyotisha’ (Lagadh Muni)- the oldest Jyotisha text.
16. There are six famous smritis: (I). Manu Smriti (II). Yajnavalkya Smriti (III). Narad Smriti (IV). Prashara Smriti (V). Brihaspati Smriti (VI). Katyayana Smriti
17. There are mainly two Mahakavyas (epics): (I). The Ramayna (Valmiki)- The oldest epic of the world (II). Mahabharta (Ved Vyas)- The longest epic of the world
18. Rig Veda is the most comprehensive and the oldest literature of Vedic period. It also assumes title of “The Rigveda Samhita” which is a collection of 1,028 Vedic Sanskrit hymns and 10,600 verses in total. Entire writing is under ten books called mandalas. Verses and hymns in Rig Veda are dedicated to Rigvedic deities.
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