LATER VEDIC PERIOD (B.C. 1000 - B.C. 600)

The period between B.C. 1000 and B.C. 600 is generally known as Later Vedic period. This age is also called as the Epic Age because the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were written during this period. The Aryans during this period moved to the Gangetic Valley.

Sources

The Sama, Yajur, Atharva Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, Aranyakas and the two epics are the sources of information for this period.

Political Life

The Gangetic Valley or Aryavartha became the centre of political activity. Kingdoms like Kosala, Videha, Kuru,Magadha, Kasi, Avanti and Panchala came into existence. The position of the king was considerably high. Sabha and Samiti did not stand in his way. Kingship became hereditary. The kings were in charge of defense and maintaining law and order of their kingdoms. They built vast empires. They tried to extend their territories. Therefore frequent wars were fought. Rituals and sacrifices such as Rajasuya Ashvamedha, Vajapeya and Yagas were performed by the kings.

      Kings assumed titles like Ekrat Samrat and Sariahaurna, Village administration was looked after by the village councils. Taxes like Pall, Sulk and Bhaga were collected from the people. The revenue was spent for the benefit of the subjects.

Social Life

Family conhnued to be the basic unit of the society. The father was the head of the family. Joint family system was quite common. Varna or Caste system developed during the later’ Vedic period. To start with the fourfold caste came into existences, namely, the Brahmins Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. The Brabmins were priests and teachers. ‘The Kshatriyas were rulers and soldiers. They enjoyed high position in the society. The Vaishyas were traders, artisans and farmers. The Sudras were the uneducated workers who served for the other three castes.

According to the religious texts, the life of an individual was divided into four stages or Ashramas They were Brahmacharya or student life, Graihasta or life of a father and husband. Vanaprasta or life as a hermit and finally Sanyasa or total renunciation of the world.

Position of Women

There was a decline in the status and dignity of women during the Later Vedic period. Women were subordinated. Submissiveness was considered as an ideal virtue of a wife. Women were not allowed to participate in public affairs. They could not own property. Child marriage was not prevented. Widow Remarriage was not allowed. Though monogamy was the rule, polygamy was practised Women degradation started from the later Vedic period.

Education

Education was limited to the three upper castes. Pupils stayed with their teachers at the Gurukula. Women were not sent to the Gurukula. However, women like Gargi and Maitreyi were educated. Students were taught philosophy logic, religion, grammar, astronomy, medicine, ethics and arithmetic. Dhanur Veda or war tactics was taught to princes. Pupils observed strict discipline, obedience and respect for the teachers.

Economic Life

Farming was the chief occupation. Iron was used extensively in this period. Iron ploughs substituted the wooden ploughs. Another improvement of this period was maturing the field. It increased the yield Barley. Wheat, rice and dhal were produced. Cattle rearing continued. Wealth was calculated in terms of cows. Nishka, Swarna and Sathamana were the names of gold coins in circulation. Copper produced war weapons and ornaments. They obtained copper from the Khetri mines of Rajastan. Ironsmiths produced arrowheads and spearheads. They also crafted agricultural tools. Weavers, leather workers, carpenters, chariot - makers and jewel makers also lived in the villages. People in the Later Vedic period used painted grey mud vessels. The Gray wares were painted. Such vessels have been found in many places in North India, Archaeologists call these sites as “Painted Gray ware sites”.

Both internal and foreign trade flourished. Medicinal plants, medicine, clothing’s and leather products were exported to countries like Babylonia.

Food and Entertainments

Rice, wheat, barley, milk and milk products, vegetables and fruits were their diet. Fish was also eaten. The flesh of oxen, sheep and goats were eaten Soma and Sura were their common drinks. Indoor and outdoor games were played during this period. Gambling, dicing, chariot racing and horse racing were some of their pastimes. The people were fond of music and dance.

Dress and Ornaments

Woolen and Cotton dresses were used by the people. Ornaments made of gold and silver were worn. The other metals used by the Later Vedic period were iron, copper and tin.

Religion

Many changes occurred in the field of religion. The Gods of early Vedic age lost their significance. In the Later Vedic period, people worshipped new Gods like Prajapathi, Pasupathi, Vishnu and Krishna. Prayers and scarifies became important ways of worshipping God. Animals were killed during sacrifice. The religion became complex affair. The theory of Karma and the theory of incarnation were accepted. People believed that the God is the supreme head and he was not only a creator but also a destroyer. They believed in the concept of Moksha.

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