Vedic Age in India
The Aryan invaders were primarily nomads. They were not accustomed to the urban way of life and therefore did not occupy the beautiful cities they had conquered. Instead, they cleared forests near riverbanks and settled in small villages, or Gramas, becoming semi-agriculturists. Perhaps, their fear of permanent dwellings prevented them from moving into the cities. Each Grama was headed by a Gramini.
The Aryan villages were simple structures, which formed the basis for architecture in India. In fact, the caves of Ajanta and Ellora were influenced by early Aryan villages. Their huts were very basic, circular and with thatched roofs over bamboo logs. Fences of wood and bamboo surrounded the settlement for protection against wild animals.
Soon the demand for fertile land grew and rivalry spread. Groups of villages joined forces and thus small ‘cities’ or clans called ‘Vis’ were born. A group or clan formed a Jana and their leader was the Rajan or King. A priest or Purohit, the commandant or Senani, and the administration, Sabha and Samiti, assisted him.
The city buildings were made almost entirely from wood, and walls protected each city. The Vedic carpenters became skilled at constructing timber structures and their techniques were used in stone constructions of the future.
During this period, animal husbandry, agriculture, weaving, carpentry were the primary occupations. The barter system flourished. External trade began with West Asia and Egypt. Coins were introduced for trade and were called the ‘Nishka.’
The Aryans made the single largest contribution to Indian religion through Sanskrit. It was during this age that the Vedas were most composed. And this formed the foundation for the early Hindu religion.
The Aryans developed a rich tradition, composing hymns of the four Vedas. These sacred scriptures included the : Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.
Two of the greatest epics were also composed during this period. ‘The Ramayana’ and ‘The Mahabharata.’ These tell us a great deal about the culture, society and religion of the people of that era.
It was during the Vedic age that the caste system was born. Due to work specialization, different classes of society developed. Besides the Brahmins, there were the Kshatriyas or warriors, the Vaishyas or merchants and Shudras or outcasts, who performed menial jobs like scavenging, fishing and removing dead bodies.
The status of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas improved greatly and the common people had little or no say in the administration. A lot of importance was placed on pronouncing the Vedic verses correctly, as it was believed, that this led to prosperity and success in war. Kshatriyas became richer and used the services of the Brahmins. The other castes were degraded and reached the lower rungs of society.
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