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Vedic Period

Vedic Period

  • Introduction
    • The Indus civilisation declined around 1700 BC due to a variety of causes. The advent of the Aryans in India around 1500 BC marked the beginning of the Rig Vedic (Early Vedic Period) from 1500 — 1000 BC followed by the Later Vedic Period from 1000 — 600 BC.

    Original Home and Identity

    • The world ‘Aryan’ literally means ‘of high birth’, but generally the word ‘Aryan’ is used to refer to people who spoke the Indo-Aryan language. The question of original home of the Aryans is perhaps the most controversial topic of ancient Indian history and a variety of opinions have been put forward by different scholars. Though consensus eludes the scholars, most of the scholars agree with the theory put forward by the Max Muller that Aryans came to India from Central Asia.
    • Most scholars agree that the culture of the Aryans was more or less of the some type. Originally they lived somewhere in the steppes stretching from Southern Russia to Central Asia and spoke the Indo-European languages which are currently spoken in changed forms all over Europe, Iran and the grater part of the Indian subcontinent. As a result, several words of common usage show the striking similarities between Sanskrit and some of the principal languages of Europe. The earliest life of the Aryans seems to have been mainly pastoral; agriculture being a secondary occupation. Their society was male dominated. They seem to have domesticated various animals the most important of which was the horse. The domesticated horse appears in the sixth millennium B.0 in the Black Sea and the Ural mountain area. The swiftness of the horse enabled the people to move in different directions from about 2000 B.C. onwards either from pressure of population, shifting of course of rivers or from desiccation of posture lands. The tall, comparatively fair, and mostly long-headed Aryans harnessed the horses to light chariots with spoked wheels and migrated in bands westwards, southwards and eastwards. They brought with them their patrilinear family system, their worship of sky gods and their horses and chariots. Some invaded Europe, to become the ancestors of the Greeks, Latin’s, Colts and Tautens. Other appeared in Anatolia called the Hittites, the Kassites conquered Babylon and a north-east Syria a people called Mittani, whose kings had Indo-Iranian names is attested to by inscriptions. The Boghaz Kui inscriptions dated to 1400 BC gives the copy of a peace treaty between the Hittites and the Maryanni rulers of the Mittanni, in which the names of the Vedic gods-Indra, Mitra, Nasatya and Varuna are mentioned. Yet other groups of Aryans speaking Indo-Iranian language moved to the border between Indian and Iran where one group migrated to India speaking Indo-Aryan and another group migrated to Iran. So, the language of Zend Avesta (old Persian) is very similar to the Rig Vedic Sanskrit. In fact, the Vedic culture has close affinities with the ancient Aryan culture of Iran as both of them seem to have derived from one and the same Indo-Iranian culture. The migrants to India called themselves Aryans, a word generally anglicized with Aryans. The name was also used by the ancient Persians, and Survives in the word Iran. The Persian Achaemenid emperor Darius I called himself as Aryan in the 6th century B.C.
    • A little earlier then 1500 B.C., the Aryans appeared in India. We have archaeological traces of their advent. Possibly they used Socketed axes, bronze dirks and swords, which have been discovered in North-western India. Archaeological evidence of the horse and cremation appears in Swat Valley in Pakistan. The earliest Indo-Aryan lived in the geographical area covered by eastern Afghanistan, North-West Frontier Province, Punjab. Since Afghanistan was occupied by the Indo-Aryans and the Iranian Aryans for some time, a part of this country came to be known as Araiya or Haraiya. It is important to understand that the Aryan invasion of India theory has been rendered obsolete for want of archaeological evidence and has been replaced by the theory of Aryan migration to Indian occurring in several waves over several centuries, the earliest wave of which is represented by the Rig Vedic people who appeared in the sub-continent in about 1500 B.C.

    Geography of the Vedic Age

    • Early Vedic Period: The Rig Veda is the only source which gives us an idea of the geography of the Early Vedic Period. The Aryans in the early Vedic age had knowledge of the Indus valley which was called Saptasindavah or the land of the seven rivers. Indus (sindhu) is the most mentioned river in the Rig Veda. Indus had various tributaries joining it from the west such as Suvasthu (swat), Kubha (Kabul), Krumu (Kurram) and Gomati (Gomal). Indus also had various tributaries joining it from the east such as Sutudri (Sutlej), Vipasa (Beas), Parushini (Ravi), Asikni (Chenabs) and Vitase (Jhelum). Saraswati is considered as the holiest river in the age of the Rig Veda many hymns were composed on its banks. Saraswati is referred to as ‘Naditarna’ or the best of the rivers in the Rig Veda. Saraswati is identified with the Ghaggar-Hakra Channel in Haryana and Rajasthan. But its Rig Vedic description shows it to be the Avestan river Haraxwati (helmand river) in south Afghanistan from where the name Saraswati was transferred to India. Yamuna is mentioned thrice and Ganga is mentioned only once. Though Rig Veda mentions the term ‘Samudra’ it probably meant only a collection of water and not sea. So, we have no reference to the sea in the Rig Veda. Rig Vedic people had knowledge of Himvant or the snow mountains. They also had knowledge of Majuvant from which Aryans got Soma, an intoxicating drink. Soma was the drink of Gods. So, the Rig Vedic Aryans had knowledge of eastern Afghanistan, North West Frontier Provinces and the Punjab (Punjab then included east Punjab, west Punjab as also Haryana).
    • Later Vedic Period: In this period, the Aryans moved into the eastern areas as is evident from the story of Videga Madhava in Satapatha Brahmana according to which Videga Madhova started from river Saraswati with fire god Agni and with his help moved eastwards till he reached river Gandak (Sadanira). He then crossed the eastern bank of river Gandak leading to the naming of the area as ‘Videha’, apparently named after its first Aryan Coloniser. So, the Aryans with the help of fire and iron tools expanded into Western Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and upto the borders of Bengal. In this process of expansion the ‘Janas’ (Units of tribal people) of the early Vedic age were transformed into ‘Janapadas’ (territory under units of tribal people) of the later Vedic age. The Aryans in the later Vedic age also acquired knowledge of the eastern sea and the western sea. They also had knowledge of Narmada river and the Vindhyan mountains. The Aitreya Brahmana, a text of the later Vedic age divides the country into five parts — north, east, west, south and the Central parts.

    Political Structure

    • Early Vedic Period: The Aryans were engaged in two types of conflicts-first, they fought with the pre-Aryans, and secondly, they fought amongst themselves. The Rig Vedic people came into conflict with the indigenous inhabitants called the dasas, dasyus etc. Since the dasas also appear in the ancient Iranian literature, they seem to have been a branch of the early Aryans. The Rig Veda mentions the defeat of Sambara by a chief called Divodasa, who belonged to the Bharata clan. In this case the term das appears in the name Divodasa. Possibly the dasyus in the Rigveda represent the original inhabitants of the country, and an Aryan chief who overpowered them was called Trasadasyu. The Aryan chief was soft towards the dasa, but strongly hostile to the dasyus. The term dasyuhatya, slaughter of’ the dasyus, is repeatedly mentioned in the Rig Veda. The dasyus possibly worshipped the phallus and did not keep cattle for dairy products. In the Rig Veda, Indra is called Purandhara which means that he was the breaker of forts. But the so called forts have not been identified.
    • The Dasarajna or the battle of the ten kings is an important historical event which took place on the banks of Parushni (Ravi) river. In this battle, Sudas, the son of Divodas and the Bharata king of Tritsu family fought with and won over an alliance of ten tribes of which five were Aryan and another five were non-Aryan. In this battle, Purukutsa, the leader of the ten tribes was killed. This battle broke out because of a dispute between Vasishta, the priest of the Bharatas and Visvamitra, the priest who supported the ten tribes. Another issue which sparked off the conflict was the division of the waters of the Parushni. Another important battle took place on the banks of the Yamuna where Sudas defeated a confederacy of three non-Aryan tribes led by king Bheda.
    • The tribal chief called as ‘Rajan’ was the centre of the administrative machinery of the Aryans in the Rig Vedic period. The king’s position was hereditary and the king was called as ‘Gopajanasya’ i.e. the protector of the tribe and its cattle and not the ruler of any specific territory. The king was assisted by a purohit, a senani and a gramani. In the beginning the gramani was just the head of a small tribal fighting unit. But when the unit settled, the gramani became the head of the village and in course of time he became identical with the Vrajapati (authority over pasture land). The king also employed spies to keep an eye on unsocial activates. So there was not definite bureaucratic setup. The king did not maintain any regular or standing army but in times of war he mustered a militia whose military functions were performed by different tribal groups called Vrata, gana, grama, sardha. Several tribal assembles called Vidhatha, Sabha, Samiti and gana are mentioned in the Rig Veda. Vidhatha seems to be the oldest parent folk assembly from which Sabha and Samiti differentiated. These assemblies exercised various deliberative, military and religious functions. Even women attended the Sabha and vidhatha in Rig Vedic times. But the two most important assemblies were the Sabha and the samiti and the kings showed eagerness to win their support. There was no doctrine of divinity associated with kingship, only one king Purukutsa has been described as ardhadeva (semi-divine) in the Rig Veda.
    • Later Vedic Period: Aryans expanded from Punjab over the whole of western Uttar Pradesh covered by the Ganga-Yamuna doab. In the process of expansion, the lanas’ were transformed into ‘janapadas’ which were the first territorial kingdoms mentioned in the later Vedic age. The Bharatas and Purus, the two major tribes, combined and thus formed the Kuru janapada. The Kurus settled down in the upper Ganga-Yamuna doab with two capital at Hastinapur on the banks of Ganga and Indraprastha on the banks of the Yamuna. The land of the Kurus was called as Kurukshetra which was place where he Mahabharata was took place between the Kauravas and the Pandavas both of whom belonged to the Kuru clan. As a result practically the whole of the Kuru clan was wiped out. Form tradition we learn that when Hastinapur was flooded, the remnants of Kuru clan moved to Kaushambi near Allahabad. Panchala janapada was formed to the east of Kuru janapada. Covering the districts of Bareilly, Badaun and Farukhabad in Uttarpradesh. The Panchala janapada had a northern capital at Ahicchatra and a southern capital at Kampilya. Koshala janapada was formed to the east of Panchala in eastern Uttarpradesh with capitals at Ayodhya (Saket) and Srgvasthi. Videha janapada was formed in northern Bihar. Other important janapadas were Kasi, Magadha, Anga, Surasena, Matsya, Kekeya and Madra.
    • With the formation of bigger kingdoms, the king became more powerful. His authority
      acq-uired territorial connotation. The term ‘Rashtra’ which indicates territory, first appears in this period. The popular assemblies lost power and importance. The Vidhata completely disappeared. The Sabha and Samiti were waging a losing battle for power with the king. Women were no longer permitted to sit on the Sabha, and it was now dominated by nobles and brahmanas. Traces of election of king appear in later Vedic texts. The king received voluntary presents called balr from the common people called Vis. Kingship was usually hereditary though not always so. The king influence was strengthened by rituals like the rajasuya sacrifice, which was supposed to confer supreme power on him. He performed the ashvamedha sacrifice, which meant unquestioned control over an area in which the royal horse ran uninterrupted. He also performed the Vajapeya or the Chariot race, in which the royal chariot was made to win the race against his kinsmen. All thee rituals added to the power and prestige of the king. Also the collection of taxes and tributes deposited with an officer called Sangrihitri provided the king with a source of revenue. The king was assisted in central administration by an increasing number of officials but a structured bureaucracy did not yet come into being. At the lower level, the administration was possibly carried on by village assemblies, which may have been controlled by the chiefs of the dominant clans. These assemblies also tried local cases. But even in later Vedic times the king did not possess a standing army. Tribal units continued to be mustered in times of war. The political system was growing in complexity and the Aitreya Brahmana gives references to five types of state systems such as Rajya, Bhojya, Swarajya, Vairajya and Samrajya. Rajya was ruled by Raj, Bhojya by Bhoj, Swarajya by Swarat, Vairajya by Virat and Samrajya by Samrat.

    Economic Life

    • Early Vedic Period: The people in the early Vedic age were predominantly pastoral, though agriculture was also practiced. Various animals as cow, sheep, goat, camel, bull horse were reared of which the most important was the cow. The men prosperous with many cattle was called Gomath. Wealth was computed in the form of cow. Cattle were also given as gifts or dhakshina to the priests. Land does not figure as an item of donation and postures were more important. The terms for war in the Rig Veda is gavishti or the search for cows. Most of the wars were fought for the sake of cows. People also fought for possession of good grazing grounds. Prayers were made for increase in the cattle wealth. Panis were non-aryans involved in barter (pan). They were much criticised in the Rig Veda for stealing cows and thereby amassing huge cattle wealth. In the early Vedic period, agriculture was secondary to postoralism. The cultivated field was known as kshetra and, ploughing was known as Krishi. The plough was known as Langla or Sira. Ployghshare was known as Phala. Furrous were known as Sita though later on Sita came to signify wealth produced in land. Rig Veda also provides references of ploughed fields, stone pulley wheels and irrigation channels. The Rig Veda mentions only one food grain called ‘Yava’ which in later times had the specific sense of barley but in Rigveda it is the common name for any food grain. Cotton, Rice, Wheat are nowhere mentioned in the Rigveda.
    • ‘Ajas’ is the common metal having the colour of Sun or fire and is used to refer to copper or bronze. It does not indicate Iron. Hiranya or gold is mentioned as obtained from river sands. The spoked wheel mentioned in the Rig Veda is a new development. The smelting of metals was known and metal smellers were called ‘Karmar. Rig Veda mentions’ grama’ which is a fighting unit on the move and not a village. The Rig Veda does not mention of any ‘Nagar’. Hariyuppa is mentioned as a Pur (fort), it’s identified with Harappa. The Rig Vedic Aryans used copper hordes and their predominant pottery type is Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP) though Black and Red ware type of pottery was also known to them.
    • Rig Vedic economy was a pre-state economy in which taxation system was not deyeloped and ‘ball’ was a form of voluntary contribution given by the producers to the king. It was not a usual form of tax. Whatever the king acquired by way of contributions was redistributed among his subjects as a result of which there were no big differences in wealth among the various sections of the Society.
    • Later Vedic Period: The later Vedic age saw the expansion of people into the eastern areas using fire and iron. Iron objects have been found in north India in the bracket of 1000 — 700 BC. Iron was initially used for weapons and later on for agriculture. The Aryans while moving eastwards integrated the technological knowledge of the indigenous people as a result many non-aryan words entered the Vedic literature and agriculture also became advanced. Various crops are mentioned in the literature of the later Vedic age including rice, wheat, sugarcane, lentil, barley, millet, mustard etc. Various crop protection mantras are also mentioned. Atharva contains many references to agriculture. Surplus was produced in agriculture in the later Vedic age. Wheat, barley and rice have been found from later Vedic strata. Rice is mentioned as ‘Vrihr and wheat as ‘godhuma’ and barley as ‘yava’. Sugarcane is mentioned as ‘Ikshu’. We still do not have references to land donation though land became more important. Cattle rearing continued to be practiced though agriculture was the predominant economic activity. The people in the later Vedic age are associated with Painted Grey Ware (PGW) alongwith use of Iron, wattle and doab houses, rice and horses. Iron in the later Vedic age is mentioned as ‘Krishna-ayes’ or the black metal. Lots of improvement was made in the arts and Crafts. Besides the copper and bronze workers, there appeared iron smiths and chariot makers. Shipping was known to people in the later Vedic age. We have reference to the trading activities and use of coins, though coins were nowhere excavated from later Vedic age strata. Coins were first found archaeologically only in the pre-mauryan period.
    • The increasing resources of the later Vedic age were pooled by the king. Bali became a customary contribution, bhaga was a share of the produce (1/6th to 1/2) while shulka was an additional tax. It appears that bhaga was the oldest tax levied on people by the kings. But bali, bhaga and shulka were still not full fledged taxes. The Vaishyas or Vis community was the chief tax payers. The resources were unequally distributed by the king for the benefit of the brahmanas and kshatriyas at the expense of the Vaishyas and Sudras. This led to increasing inequalities in the distribution of wealth. There was increasing complexity of the Social and political organisation which added a new dimension to the economic development.

    Vedic Society

    • Early Vedic Period: Kinship was the basis of social structure, and a man was identified with the clan to which he belonged. Rigveda society is basically a tribal society. The Rig Veda shows some consciousness of the physical appearance of people in the north­western part of India in about 1500 — 1000 B.C. Varna as used in the Rig Veda means colour. The Rig Veda speaks about Arya varna (Aryans) and dasa varna (non-aryans), where possibly the distinction was on the basis of colour.

    The Arya varna consisted of the Aryans whose tribes were called ‘Janas’. The term ‘Janapada’ or territory is not used even once in the Rig Veda since the territory or kingdom was not yet established. The jana was divided into group of people called ‘Vis’. The Vis was divided into grama or smaller tribal units meant for fighting. When the gramas clashed with one another it caused Sangrama or war. Gramas were divided into Kulas (family) the head of which was called Kulapa. The tribal society of the Rig Vedic period is broadly divided into three groups — priests, warriors and the people. The fourth division called the Shudras appeared towards the end of the Rig Vedic period, because the term Shudra is mentioned for the first time in the tenth book of the Rig Veda, which is the latest addition. In the age of the Rig Veda differentiation based on occupations had started, but this division was not very sharp. The most numerous varna of Vaishya arose out of the Vis or the mass of the tribal people. Towards the end of the early Vedic period, the exploitation of vis led to creation of social inequalities, and this helped the rise of princes and priests at the cost of the common tribal people. But the society was till tribal and largely egalitarian.

  • The non-Aryan consisted of dasas, dasyus and panis. The dasas conquered by the
    Aryans were gradually transformed into Sudras. Dasas were called as Avrata (not
  • obeying the ordinances of gods), akratu (not following sacrifices), anasah (snub nosed), midravach (indistinct speech) and Krishnatvach (dark skinned). There was active hostility towards the dasyus and it was more distinct than towards the dasa. Panis were the trading community with lot of cattle wealth and were despised by the Aryans.
  • We repeatedly hear of slaves who were given as gifts to the priests. They were mainly women slaves employed for domestic purposes. It is clear that in Rig Vedic times slaves were not used directly in agriculture or other productive activities. Untouchability is unknown in the Rig Vedic period.
  • The concept of ‘Gotra’ did not arise in the Rig Vedic period. So people in the Rig Vedic period married irrespective of the concept of Gotra.
  • Later Vedic Period: The later Vedic society came to be divided into four Varnas called the brahmanas, rajanyas or kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. The growing cult of sacrifices enormously added to the power of the brahmanas. In the beginning the brahmanas were only one of the sixteen classes of priests, but they gradually overshadowed the other priestly groups and emerged as the most important class. SometimeS the brahmanas come into conflict with the rajanyas, who represented the order of the warrior-nobles, for positions of supremacy. But when the two upper orders had to deal with the lower orders they made up their differences. From the end of the later Vedic period on it began to be emphasised that the two should cooperate to rule over the rest of the society. The Vaishyas constituted the common people and were involved in producting functions such as -agriculture, cattle-breeding etc. Some of them also worked as artisans. However, towards the end of the later Vedic age, the name Vaishya began to be equated with the trading class. The Vaishyas appear to be the only tribute-payers in later Vedic times, and the brahmanas and Kshatriyas are represented as living on the tributes collected from the Vaishyas. All the three higher varnas shared one common feature: they were entitled to upanayana or investiture with the sacred thread according to the Vedic mantras. The fourth varna was deprived of the sacred thread ceremony and the recitation of the gayatri mantra and with this began the imposition of disabilities on the sudras. Nevertheless, there were several public rituals connected with the coronation of the king in which the Sudras participated. Certain sections of artisans such as rathakara or chariot-maker enjoyed a high status, and were entitled to the sacred thread ceremony. Therefore, even in later Vedic times varna distinctions had not advanced very far.
  • The institution of gotra appeared in later Vedic times. Literally it means the cow-pen or
    the place where cattle belonging to the whole clan are kept, but in course of time it
    signified descent from a common ancestor. People began to practice gotra exogamy. No marriage could take place between persons belonging to the same gotra are having the same lineage.
  • Ashramas or four stages of life were not well established in Vedic times. In the post­vedic texts we hear of four ashramas — that of 13rahmachari or Student, Grihasta or Householder, vanaprastha or hermit and Sanyasin or ascetic who completely renounced the worldly life. Only the first three are mentioned in the later Vedic texts; the last or the fourth stage had not been well established in later Vedic times though ascetic life was not unknown. Even in post-vedic times only the stage of the householder was commonly practised by all the varnas.

Position of Women in the Vedic Period

  • Early Vedic Period: Rig Vedic society was a patriarchal and patrilinear society with patrilocal norms. The birth of daughters was not desired, but once they were born, they were ‘treated with kindness and consideration. Their education was not neglected and some of them even composed hymns and rose to the rank of seers. Girls were married long after they reached puberty. There seems to have been considerable freedom in the selection of a husband. Monogamy was the rule though polygamy was permitted. Polyandy was also evident as is seen in maruts marriage with Rodasi. The practise of Niyoga existed. Niyoga was a variant of widow remarriage in which a young childless widow was temporarily married with the husband’s brother for the purpose of producing children. There was no stigma attached to Niyoga. Women had a position of honour in the household. The wife participated in the religious offerings of the husband. There is no evidence of seclusion of women as is seep by women’s participation in Vidhatha and Sabha.
  • Later Vedic Period: The status of women declined in the later Vedic period relative to the early Vedic period.. There was an attempt towards establishment of social stratification on gender lines. The birth of the girl child was not welcome. Upanayana ceremony (investiture ceremony) was not performed for girls. Though right to education was denied for girls, we have reference to great scholarly women as gargi, maitreyi and katyayani. Many religious ceremonies earlier performed by women were now performed by priests. Women also were deprived of the right to attend assemblies.

Vedic Religion

  • Early Vedic Period: The Rig Vedic religion was anthropomorphic in nature. The failure of the Aryans to understand and explain the various natural phenomena made them personify the natural forces, attributing to them human or animal qualities. There were 33 Rig Vedic gods divided into three groups corresponding to the three divisions of the universe, namely terrestrial (prithivsthana), atmospheric (antarikshasthana or madhyamastana) and celestial (dyusthana). The prominent Rig Vedic gods were,
  • Indra: He is the most important Rig Vedic god and 250 hymns are devoted to him. He is known as Purandhara or the breaker of forths. He played the role of a warlord and is also considered to be the rain god. A hymn tells of his most significant victory, his triumph over the demon vrita and the release of the waters. Indra is known by, various names as Rathestha, Shatakrata, Jitendera, Meghavan and Somapa.
  • Agni: He is the fire god who is the second most important god. 200 Rig Vedic hymns are devoted to him. He is considered as the intermediary between the gods and the people. Agni is the personification of the sacrificial fire. Agni is the priest of the gods and the god of the priests. He has three forms: terrestrial as fire, atmospheric as lightning, and celestial as the sun. The cult of fire occupied a central space not only in India but also in Iran.
  • Varuna: He was supposed to uphold the Rta or the natural order. He regulates all activities in this world. He is called the world sovereign. He is the personification of water. All gods obey him and none can defy his orders.
  • Soma: Soma was the god of plants and an intoxicating drink is named after him. In many hymns the method of preparation of Soma drink has been mentioned. Soma is the drink of Gods.
    • Maruts: They personify the storm
    • Aditi: Goddess of eternity
    • Arnayani : GoddesS of the forest.
    • Nirrti : Goddess of decay and death.
    • Ushas : Goddess of dawn
    • Sarma : Messenger of Gods
    • Vastospati: God of Settlements
  • Solar Phenomenon: Is worshipped in five forms as Surya, Mitra, Savita, Pushan and Vishnu.
  • They dominant mode of worship of gods was through the recitation of prayers and offering of sacrifices. The Rig Vedic people did not worship gods for spiritual uplift or for ending the miseries of existence. They asked mainly for Praja (children) Pashu (cattle), food, wealth, health, etc.
  • Later Vedic Period: The two outstanding Rig Vedic gods Indra and agni lost their
    former importance. On the other hand Prajapati the creator, came to occupy supreme
  • positioning the later Vedic age. Rudra, a minor god in the Rig Vedic period became important in later Vedic times. Vishnu came to be conceived as the preserver and protector of the people. Pushan was the god who looked after the cattle and came to be regarded as the god of the Shudras.
  • Though people continued to worship gods for material reasons, the mode of worship changed considerably. Sacrifices both domestic and public became more important than prayers. Sacrifices involved killing of animals in public, became more important than prayers. Sacrifices involved the killing ofanimals on a large scale leading to destruction of cattle wealth. The guest was known as goghna or one who was fed on cattle. The sacrificer was known as yajamana the performer of the yajna and he also carefully pronounced the formulae. The formulae and sacrifices were invented, adopted and elaborated by the priests called the brahmanas who claimed a monopoly of priestly knowledge and expertise. The brahmanas were given dakshina or gifts in the form of cows, gold, cloth, horses and other materials. The Satapatha Brahmana states that in the ashvarmedha sacrifice, north, east, west and South should be given to the priest. There is a reference where land, which was being given to the priests, refused to be transferred to them.
  • Towards the end of the Vedic period began a strong reaction against priestly domination, against cults and rituals, especially in the land of the Panchalas and Videha where, around 600 B.C., the Upanishads were compiled. These philosophical texts criticised the rituals and laid stress on the value of right belief and knowledge. They emphasised that the knowledge of the self or atman should be acquired and the relation of atman with Brahma should be properly understood. Kshatriyas called for reform of the priest dominated religion. There was emphasis on the changelessness, indestructibility and immortality of atman or should and this served the cause of stability which was needed for the rising state power headed by the Kshatriya raja. Stress on the relation of atman with Brahma fostered allegiance to superior authority.


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