Later Vedic Period
The Aryans advanced eastward during the Later Vedic Period. According to the Satapatha Brahmana, Aryans spread to the eastern Gangetic plains. During the Later Vedic Age, the Aryans completely subjugated the rich plains nourished by the Yamuna, Ganges, and Sadanira rivers. They crossed the Vindhyas and settled in the Deccan, north of the Godavari. This article will explain the Later Vedic Period (1000 BC – 600 BC), which will help you prepare for the UPSC Syllabus section on Ancient History.
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Later Vedic Period (1000 BC – 600BC) History
The Aryans travelled even further east during the Later Vedic Period. The Satapatha Brahmana mentions Aryans spreading to the eastern Gangetic plains. Later Vedic literature mentions a number of tribal groups and kingdoms. During this time period, the expansion of large kingdoms was a significant development.
The Kuru and Panchala kingdoms flourished at first. Parikshat and Janamejaya were two prominent Kuru rulers. Pravahana Jaivali was a popular ruler of the Panchalas. He was an advocate for education. Following the demise of the Kurus and Panchalas, other kingdoms rose to prominence, including Kosala, Kasi, and Videha. Ajatasatru was Kasi’s most notable ruler.
Janaka ruled Videha, whose capital was Mithila. Scholar Yajnavalkya adorned his court. Magadha, Anga, and Vanga appear to be the easternmost tribal kingdoms. Later Vedic scriptures also mention three divisions of India: Aryavarta (northern India), Madhyadesa (middle India), and Dakshinapatha (southern India). During this time, two additional collections were written: the Yajur Veda Samhita and the Atharva Veda Samhita.
The hymns of the Yajur Veda are accompanied by rites that represent the sociopolitical framework of the society. The Atharva Veda contains charms and spells to ward off evil. They adopted non-Aryan ideas and customs. The Brahmanas, a collection of literature that discussed the social and religious components of rites, followed the Samhitas.
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Later Vedic Period and Iron Culture
Around 1000 BC, iron became popular and was discovered in tombs in Pakistan and Baluchistan. In Uttar Pradesh, iron was used to make weapons such as arrowheads and spearheads beginning around 800 BC. Later Vedic literature refers to iron with the names ‘Syama’ or ‘Krishna ayas’. Agriculture was simple but widespread, and rice and wheat became more common in the later Vedic period.
Metals’ introduction resulted in the growth of several arts and crafts. As occupations, smelters, iron and copper smiths, and carpenters emerged. There were four types of pottery in the later Vedic period: black-and-red ware, black-slipped ware, painted grey ware, and red ware.
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Later Vedic Period Political Organization
During this time period, iron was widely used, allowing humans to clear forests and cultivate new land. Agriculture was the primary source of income. Improved cultivating equipment was used in farming. Rice and wheat were grown alongside barley. Another advantage was understanding manure. Specialisation increased as industrial activity became more diverse. Metalwork, leatherwork, woodwork, and ceramics all made significant advancements.
Foreign trade expanded alongside domestic trade. The Later Vedic people were seafarers who traded with places such as Babylon. There arose a class of hereditary merchants (vaniya). Vaisyas was a trader and merchant as well. They joined forces to form ganas, or guilds. Apart from the Rig Vedic nishka, gold and silver coins such as satamana and krishnala were used as trade mediums.
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Later Vedic Period Social Life
The four divisions of society (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras), or the Varna system, were fully established during the Later Vedic period. The Brahmin and Kshatriya castes benefited more than the Vaisya and Shudra classes. A Brahmin was higher in status than a Kshatriya, but Kshatriyas frequently claimed superiority over Brahmins.
Many sub-castes based on employment emerged during this period. The father’s authority in the family grew during the Later Vedic period. The status of women has not improved. They were still thought to be inferior and subservient to men. Women’s political rights to participate in assemblies were also revoked. Child marriages were becoming more common. According to the Aitareya Brahmana, a daughter is a source of unhappiness. Women in the royal household, on the other hand, benefited significantly.
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Later Vedic Age Economy
Agriculture was the primary source of income, and people lived settled lives in the late Vedic period. Ploughing was accomplished with the aid of a wooden ploughshare. The Satapatha Brahmana goes into great detail about the ploughing rituals. Even kings and princes did not shy away from manual labour. Balarama, Krishna’s brother, is known as Haladhara, or plough wielder. However, ploughing was prohibited for the upper varnas until recently.
The Vedic people continued to grow barley, but rice (vrihi) and wheat (godhuma) replaced it as their primary crops. Wheat later became the staple food of the people of Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh. In the later Vedic period, various types of lentils were also produced. Agricultural products began to be offered in rituals (especially rice). Iron was widely used during this period (around 1000 BCE), allowing people to clear forests (upper Gangetic basin) and cultivate more land. In later Vedic texts, the metal is referred to as Syama or Krishna Ayas.
Various arts and crafts proliferated during the later Vedic period, and craft specialisation became entrenched. Many copper objects have been discovered at PGW sites, indicating that the later Vedic people were skilled smiths and smelters. People were familiar with tin, lead, silver, bronze, gold, iron, and copper. Many occupations were mentioned during this time period, such as stonebreakers, jewellers, astrologers, physicians, and so on. Overall, both Vedic texts and excavations indicate the practise of specialised crafts.
Weaving was restricted to women but was widely practised. Leatherwork, pottery, and carpentry all advanced significantly. Later Vedic people were familiar with four kinds of pottery: black and red ware, black slipped ware, painted grey ware (PGW), and red ware. PGW pottery is the most distinctive of the era. The society was predominantly rural. However, there are traces of the beginning of urbanisation near the end of the period, as the word “nagar” used in the sense of a town is mentioned in the Taittiriya Aranyaka.
Although barter was still used for exchange, nishka was used as a convenient unit of value rather than as a typical currency. Sangrihitri was in charge of collecting taxes and tributes in the later Vedic period. It is worth noting that the Vaisyas were the tax collectors in later Vedic times.
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Later Vedic Period Religion
Early Vedic gods such as Indra and Agni became obsolete. Prajapathi (the creator), Vishnu (the protector), and Rudra (the destroyer) rose to prominence during the Later Vedic era. Sacrifices remained important, and the rites associated with them became more complex. As sacrifices became more important, prayers became less important. Priesthood became a profession, and it was passed down through families.
The priestly elite devised and refined sacrificial formulas. As a result, by the end of this period, there was significant opposition to priestly rule, as well as sacrifices and rites. These elaborate sacrifices played a direct role in the rise of Buddhism and Jainism. Furthermore, the Upanishads, the core of Hindu philosophy, rejected unnecessary rituals in favour of pure knowledge (jnana) for peace and salvation.
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Later Vedic Age UPSC
Throughout the Later Vedic Period, the Aryans advanced eastward. Aryans moved to the eastern Gangetic plains, according to the Satapatha Brahmana. Initially, the Kuru and Panchala kingdoms thrived. Parikshat and Janamejaya were two significant Kuru emperors. During the Later Vedic Age, the Aryans had complete control of the rich plains nourished by rivers such as the Yamuna, Ganges, and Sadanira (1000-600 B.C.). Read the complete article for all the information related to Later Vedic Period for UPSC Exam. To learn more about UPSC Exam preparation candidate can visit the official website of StudyIQ Online Coaching Classes.
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