Indian Vedic History

Harappan/Indus Civilization (2500BC – 1750BC)

  • The most appropriate name — Harappan Civilization (Harappa – the first discovered site)
  • The most prevalent name – Indus Civilization (the largest concentration of settlement along the indus river valley)
  • The Indus Civilization was spread over Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Western UP, Northern Maharashtra
  • Scholars generally believe that Harappa-Ghaggar-Mohenjodaro axis represents the heartland of the Indus Civilization.
  • Mohenjodaro – the largest site of Indus Civilization
  • Dholavira – The largest Indian site of Indus Civilization

Common features of Major Cities:

  1. Systematic town-planning on the lines of grid system
  2. Use of burnt bricks in constructions
  3. Underground drainage system (Giant water reservoirs in Dholavira)
  4. Fortified Citadel

Vedic Culture (1500BC – 600BC)

Original Home of Aryan

  • The location of the Original home of the aryans still remains controversial point. Some scholars believe that the aryans were native to the soil of India and some other scholars believe that the Aryans were migrated from outside.
  • Boghazkai Inscription (Asia Minor, Turkey), which mentions 4 vedic gods Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatyas proves Central Asian Theory as their Homeland.
  • It is presumed that the Rig Veda was composed while the Aryans were still in the Punjab
  • Vedic Literature comprises of four literary productions:  1) The Samhitas or Vedas 2) The Brahamans 3) The Aranyakas 4) The Upnishads
  • Vedic Literature had grown up in course of time and was really handed down from generation to generation. Hence these are called Shruti.
  • The most important of Vedic Literature are Vedas. Vedas are called Apaurasheya i.e. not created by man but God-gifted and Nitya i.e. existing in all eternity.
  • There are four Vedas – Rig Veda, Sam Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. This first three Vedas are jointly called Vedatrayi i.e. trio of Vedas.
  • Of the four Vedas, the Rig Veda (collection of lyrics) is the oldest text in the world, and therefore, is also known as “the first testament of mankind”. The Rig Veda contains 1028 hymns, divided into 10 mandalas. Six mandalas (from 2nd to 7th) are called Gotra/Vamsha Mandalas (Kula Granth). The 1st and 10th mandalas are said to have been added later. The 10th mandala contains the famous Purushasukta which explains the 4 Varnas – Bramana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. The hymns of Rig Veda were recited by Hotri.
  • The Sama Veda (book of Chants) has 1549 hymns. All hymns (excluding 75) were taken from the Rig Veda. The Hymns of the Sama Veda were recited by Udgatri. This Veda is important for Indian music.
  • The Yajur Veda (book of sacrificial prayers) is a ritual veda. Its hymns were recited by Adhvaryus. It is divided into two parts – Krishna Yajur Veda and Shukla Yajur Veda. In contrast to the first two which are in verse entirely, this one is in both verse and prose.
  • The Atharva Veda (book of magical formuae), the fourth and the last one, contains charms and spells to words off evils and diseases. For very long time it was not included in the category of the Vedas.
  • The Brahmans explain the hymns of the Vedas. They are written in prose and ritualistic in nature. Brahma means ‘sacrifice’. The various sacrifices and rituals have been elaborately discussed in the Brahamanas. Every Veda has several Brahamanas attached to it:
  • Rig Veda : Aitareya and Kaushitiki/Sankhyan
  • Sam Veda: Panchvisha (Tandya Maha Brahamana), Shadvinsh, Chhandogya and Jaiminaya
  • Yajur Veda: Shatapatha (the oldest and the largest Brahamana) and Taittariya
  • Atharva Veda: Gopatha
  • The Upnishads are philosophical texts. They are generally called Vedanta, as they came towards the end of the Veda. There are 108 Upnishadas. Vrihadaranyaka s the oldest Upnishada.


Literature of Vedic Tradition (600 BC – 600 AD)

  • Literature of Vedic Tradition (Smriti i.e. remembrance literature) compromises of 6 literary works : 1) Vedangas/Sustas 2) Smritis Dharmashastras 3) Mahakavyas (Epics) 4) Puranas 5) Upvedas 6) Shad-Dharshanas

There are six Vedangas:

  1. Shiksha (Phonetics): Pratishakhya – the oldest text on phonetics
  2. Kalpa Sutras ( Rituals) : a Shrauta Sutras/ Shulva Sutras – deal with the sacrifices, b. Grihya Sutras – Deal with the family ceremonies, c. Dharma Sutras – Deal with the Varnas, Ashramas etc
  3. Vyakarna (Grammer) : Ashtadyayi (Panini) – the oldest grammer of word
  4. Nirukta (Etymology) : Nirukta (Yask) based on Nighantu (Yask)  – a collection of difficult vedic words – (Nighantu – teh oldest words collection of the world; ‘Nirukta’ – the oldest dictionary of the world).
  5. Chhanda (Metrics): Chhandasutras (Pingal) famous text
  6. Jyotisha (Astronomy) : Vedanga Jyotisha (Lagadh Muni) 0 the oldest jyotish text

There are six famous Smritis:

  1. Manu Smrti (Pre-Gupta Period) – the oldest Smirit text; Commentators – Vishwarupa, Meghatithi, Gobindraj, Kulluk bhatt
  2. Yajnvalkya Smriti (Pre-Gupta Period) – Commentators: Vishwarupa, Vijnyaneshwar, Apararka (a king of Shilahar Dynasty)
  3. Narad Smriti (Gupta Period)
  4. Parashara Smriti (Gupta Period)
  5. Brihaspati Smriti (Gupta Period)
  6. katyayana Smriti (Gupta Period)

There are mainly two Mahakavyas (Epics):

  1. The Ramayana (Valmiki) : It is known as ‘Adi Kavya’ (the oldest epic of the world). At present, it consists of 24000 shlokas i.e. verses (Originally 6000, Later 12000, finally 24000) in 7 Kundas
  2. The Mahabharata (Ved Vyasa) : The longest epic of the world. At present, it consists of 1,00,000 shlokas i.e. verses  in 18 Parvans i.e. chapters. Bhagavad Gita is extracted from Bihsham Parvan of Mahabharata. Shanti Parvan is the largest parvan of the Mahabharata.
  • The Purana means ‘the old’. There are 18 famous Puranas. The Matsya Purana is the oldest Puranic text. The other important Purana are the Bhagavada, The Vishnu, The Vayu and teh Brahamnda. They describe genealogies of various royal dynasties.
  • The Upavedas (the auxiliary vedas) were traditionally associated with vedas
Upavedas Associated with
i) Ayurveda i.e. Medicine Rig Veda
ii) Gandharvaveda i.e. Music Sama Veda
iii) Dhanurveda i.e. Archery Yajur Veda
iv) Shilpveda/Arthaveda i.e. the science of craft/wealth (Vishwakarma) Atharva Veda
  • There are 6 schools of Indian philosophy knowns as Shad Dharshanas
Darshana Founder Basic Text
i) Sankhaya Darshana Kapila Sankhya Sutra
ii) Yoga Dharshana Patanjali Yoga Sutra
iii) Nyaya Dharshana Akshapada Gautama Nayaya Sutra
iv) Vaishesika Darshana Uluka Kanada Vaishesika Sutra
v) Mimansa/Purva-Mimansa Jaimini Purva Mimansa Sustra
vi) Vedant/Uttara-Mimansa Badarayana Brahama Sutra/Vedant Sutra




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