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IAS Mains: Vedic Period Notes

Last Updated - April 10, 2017

IAS Exam is a national level examination organized by UPSC. It is a 3-level exam starting with preliminary round followed by the IAS Mains exam and Personal Interview of the shortlisted candidates.

In this article, we will be focusing on one of the most important topic of Vedic Period Viz. Classification of Vedic Period, Officers during the Vedic Period.

The Vedic Period of the Vedic Age refers to that time period when the Vedic Sanskrit texts were composed in India. The Vedic age began in India in about 1500 BC and extend up to 6000 BCE with the coming of the Aryans, who scattered on the plains of northern India.

The meaning of the word Veda is “Knowledge”, the best of all knowledge in the eyes of Hindus. It is a collection of hymns, prayers, charms, litanies and sacrificial formulae. There are 4 Vedas, namely, Rig Veda, Sam Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.

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Classification of Vedic Period

The period of Vedic Civilization (1500-500 BCE) is divided into two broad parts –

  • Early Vedic Period (1500-1000 BC), also known as Rig Vedic Period.
  • Later Vedic Period (1000- 600 BC).

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Early Vedic Period (1500-1000 BC)

The Rig Vedic Period represents the time period when the Rig Veda was composed. The Rig Veda comprises of religious hymns, and allusions to various myths and stories. Some similarities are also found with the Andronovo culture and the Mittanni kingdoms. The prominent features of the Rig Vedic period are given below:

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Political Organization

The political units during the Rig Vedic or the early Vedic period comprised of Grama (village), Vish and Jana. During, early Vedic period (BC 1500-BC 1000), Aryans were organized into tribes rather than kingdoms. The chief of a tribe was called a rajan. The autonomy of the rajan was restricted by the tribal councils called Sabha and Samite. The two bodies were, in part, responsible for the governance of the tribe. The rajan could not accede to the throne without their approval.

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Economy

The concept of Varna, along with the rules of marriage, was made quite stiff. Social stratification took place, with the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas being considered higher than the Shudras and the Vaisyas. Cows and bulls were accorded religious significance. Aryans followed a mixed economy i.e. pastoral and agricultural in which cattle played a predominant part. Standard unit of exchange was Cow. At the same time coins were also there.

Religion

Rishis, composers of the hymns of the Rig Veda, were considered to be divine. The main deities were Indra, Agni (the sacrificial fire), and Soma. People also worshipped Mitra-Varuna, Surya (Sun), Vayu (wind), Usha (dawn), Prithvi (Earth) and Aditi (the mother of gods). Yoga and Vedanta became the basic elements of the religion.

Later Vedic Period (1000- 600 BC)

The later Vedic Period commenced with the emergence of agriculture as the principal economic activity. Along with that, a declining trend was experienced as far as the importance of cattle rearing was concerned. Land and its protection started gaining significance and as a result, several large kingdoms arose.

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Political Organization

The rise of sixteen Mahajanapadas, along with the increasing powers of the King, comprise of the other characteristics of this period. Rituals like rajasuya, (royal consecration), vajapeya (chariot race) and Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) became widespread. At the same time, the say of the people in the administration diminished.

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Social

1. The concept of Varna and the rules of marriage became much more rigid than before.

2. The four-fold division of society became clear, initially based on occupation, which later became – Hereditary: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishya’s (agriculturists, cattle-rearers, traders), Shudras (servers of the upper three).

3. The institution of the gotra appeared for the first time in this age.

Religion

Indra and Agni lost their importance. Prajapati (the creator) became supreme. Vishnu came to be conceived as the preserver and protector of the people.

Officers During the Vedic Period

In the later Vedic period, the tribes had consolidated into small kingdoms, which had a capital and a rudimentary administrative system.

NameFunction
VrajapatiOfficer-in-charge of pasture land
PurohitaPriest of highest order
JivagribhaPolice official
SenaniSupreme commander-in-chief
GramaniHead of the village
KulapatiHead of the family
SpasasSpies & Messengers
BhagadughaRevenue collector
MadhyamasiMediator for dispute solving
PalagalaMessenger
SanghrahritiTreasurer
SutaCharioteer
KshatriChamberlain
SthapatiChief Judge
MahishiChief Queen
GovikartanaKeeper of forests & games
AkshavapaAccountant
TakshanCarpenter

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