Ancient India(2500 BC to 7th AD)

The Vedic Period(1500-600BC):-

  • Aryans are said to be profounder of Vedic civilization.
  • They spoke language called arya which was similar to later days Sanskrit. Hence, they called Aryans.
  • Central Asian theory of Max Mullar is widely accepted theory of the origin of Arayans


Vedic Literature:-

Vedic literature consists of four classes of literary creations, i.e. – Vedas, Brahamans, Aranyakas and Upanishad.


The Vedas:-

  1. Rigveda:-
  • Compiled around 1500-1000 BC.
  • Collection of hymns in praise of God.
  • Divided in 10 volumes called Mandals.
  • Mandal 2 to 7 are the oldest books.
  • Mandal 8to 9 compiled in middle time.
  • Mandal 3 contains Gayatri Mantra, compiled in the praise of sun god
  • Mandal 10 consist a hymn called Purusha Sukta in which origin of Varna system is discussed.


  1. Samveda:-
  • Collection of songs, mostly taken from Rigveda and set to tune.
  • Origin of Indian music.
  • Consists of 1810 hymns.
  • Also called a book of melody.


  1. Yajurveda:-
  • Collection of sacrificial formulae.
  • Describe the rituals to be followed at the time of recitation of mantra.
  • It is found in both prose and poetry.
  • Consists of two parts, viz. Karishna Yajurveda and Shukla Yajurveda.


  1. Atharvaveda:-
  • It is a collection of charms and spells.
  • It contains magical hymn to get relief from diseases.
  • Origin of the Ayurveda (Indian medicine).


RigvedaA collection of hymns
SamvedaA collection of songs
YajurvedaA collection of sacrificial
AtharvavedaA collection of spells and charms



The Aranyakas:-

  • These are the concluding portion of Brahmanas.
  • These were called Aranyakas because they were studied in aranyas (Forest).


The Upanishads:-

  • Literal meaning of Upanishad: – “To sit near the feet of”.
  • Upanishad emphasizes the path of knowledge.
  • These are the last phase of vedic literature. So these are also called
  • It deals with metaphysicse. philosophy.
  • These contain subject matter about soul, Brahman, rebirth, theory of karma etc.
  • The word Satyameva Jayate in national emblem is taken from Mundaka Upanishad.
  • Katha Upanishad contains dialogue between Yama and Nachiketa.




  • Vedangas were compiled after 600 BC (Sutra period) so they are also called Sutra literature.
  • Also known as limbs of veda, hence called Vedangas.
  • These are 6 in number.



  1. Gandharvaveda —–                 Dance, drama, music
  2. Ayurveda —–                 Medicine
  • Shilpaveda —–                 Art & architecture
  1. Dhanurveda —–                 Art of warfare


Early Vedic period:-

  • Early Aryans were lived in saptasindhava region or Land of the Seven Rivers.
  • They were lived in Tribe and tribe called Jana and tribal chief called Rajana.
  • No regular army or bureaucracy was maintained.
  • Rig-Veda king did not rule over a kingdom, but a tribe.
  • The economy was a semi-nomadic pastoral economy based on pasture lands.
  • Cattle rearing were the main occupation and agriculture was the secondary.
  • Barley was the most important crop which was called yava. Wheat was the secondary crop.
  • Cow was the most important animal. The medium of exchange was cow. Cow was also called aghnya (not be killed).
  • Rajana was also called Gopa which means protector of cows.
  • No currency was prevailing in rigvedic period.
  • Rigvedic Aryans used horses on a large scale which was absent in Harappan civilization.
  • The most important divinity in the Rigveda is Indra, who is called Purandar (breaker of forts). 250 hymns are devoted to him in Rgveda.
  • Agni was the only next to Indra. 200 hymns are devoted to him.
  • Society was the patriarchal and the eldest male of the kutumba was the head of the family.
  • Rigvedic society comprised of four varnas based on the occupation of individuals.
  • The four varnas (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya & Shudra) were mention for the first time in the Purushsukta of Manadal 10 of Rigveda.
  • Every member of the same family was free to take any occupation.
  • The niyoga system provided that a childless widow could remarry the younger brother of her deceased husband for the sake of progeny.
  • Child marriage was not in vogue.



Later Vedic Aryans:-

  • Later Vedic Aryans expanded from Punjab over the whole of western Uttar Pradesh and entered to the dense forest of the eastern region, clear them and reached modern day Bihar.
  • The political system of the later vedic Aryans shifted towards monarchy.
  • The king ruled over an area called
  • Army and bureaucracy also got developed.
  • King performed many sacrifice (yagya) lie rajsuya, asvamedha, vajapeya
  • Tax collection started. Collected by an officer called Sangrihitri.
  • Agriculture became primary occupation and cattle rearing continued as secondary occupation.
  • Rice (Vrihi) and wheat (Godhuma) became the main crops and barley (Yava) also produced.
  • Few agricultural tools made of iron (shyam ayas) were used.
  • The medium of exchange was the cow and some jewellery.
  • Varana system came to birth based rather than profession based. Society divided into four parts Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.
BrahmanasTeacher & priests
KshatriyasRulers, administrators
VaishyasFarmer, merchant, bankers
ShudrasArtisan & labourers


  • All the three higher varnas were entitled to upanayana or investiture with the sacred thread and the forth varna (Shudra) was deprived of the sacred thread ceremony and recitation of the gayatri mantra.
  • Women generally given a lower position. They lost their political and religious rights during this period.
  • The institute of Gotra also appeared in this time.
  • Four ashramas came into existence – brahmachari (student), grihastha (householder), vanprastha (hermit), and sanyasin (ascetic).
  • Incidents of polygamy and child marriage increased as compared to early vedic period
  • Joint families gave way to nuclear families which were male dominated.
  • The two Rigvedic Gods Indra and Agni lost their former importance. And concept of trimurti emerged by which Prajapati (creator), Rudra (god of animals), and Vishnu (preserver and protector) came into begin.
  • Signs of idolatry appeared in this period.
  • Sacrifices involved the killing of animals on a large scale.
  • The Brahmans claimed the monopoly of priestly knowledge and expertise.
Do you know?

·        Dharma, Artha, Karma and Moksha are four Purusharthas.

·        Rhishi rina, Dev rina and pitra rina are three rinas.

·        Bhatima yajana, Pitra yajana, Dev yajana, Atithi yajana and Bhuta yajana are five daily yajana.

·        Mahabharata was called Jayasamhita earlier, then called Bharata and at present it is called Mahabharata. It contains one lakh verses; hence it is also called Satasahastri Samitta.



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