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Vedic Age

The Vedic period, or Vedic age (c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE), is the period in the history of the northern Indian subcontinent between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and a second urbanisation which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE. It gets its name from the Vedas, which are liturgical texts containing details of life during this period that have been interpreted to be historical and constitute the primary sources for understanding the period. These documents, alongside the corresponding archaeological record, allow for the evolution of the Vedic culture to be traced and inferred. The Vedic Period or the Vedic Age refers to that time period when the Vedic Sanskrit texts were composed in India. The society that emerged during that time is known as the Vedic Period, or the Vedic Age, Civilization. The Vedic Civilization flourished between the 1500 BC and 500 BC on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent. This civilization laid down the foundation of Hinduism as well as the associated Indian culture. The Vedic Age was followed by the golden age of Hinduism and classical Sanskrit literature, the Maurya Empire and the Middle Kingdoms of India.
Linguistically, the texts belonging to the Hindu Vedic Civilisation can be classified into the following five chronological branches:Rigvedic,Mantra Language,Samhita Prose,Brahmana Prose,Sutra Language,Epic and Paninian Sanskrit (Post Vedic).
Numerous social changes took place during the early Vedic period. 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.
Rishis, composers of the hymns of the Rig Veda, were considered to be divine. Sacrifices and chanting of verses started gaining significance as the principal mode of worship.
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.
As far as the society is concerned, the concept of Varna and the rules of marriage became much more rigid than before. The status of the Brahmanas and Kshatriyas increased greatly and social mobility was totally restricted.
The place of the Vedic Age in World Historyis as the period of ancient India which gave birth to Indian civilization – one of the great civilizations of the world. The fact that Vedic society gave pride of place to the priestly caste of Brahmins is directly related to the emergence of a religious culture which, in the following period of India’s history, would lead to the appearance of three distinct but closely-related religions – mature Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Together, these religions claim the allegiance of billions of people in the world today.
Another body of literature that was composed towards the end of the Vedic Age were the “Upanishads”. Originally, these were included in the Vedas, to which they formed commentaries; however, they were gradually separated out and assumed an identity of their own.
Though the king enjoyed extensive powers, he could not use these arbitrarily. His power was restricted by the two popular assemblies called Sabha and Samiti. Though nothing definite can be said about these two assemblies, it is gene­rally believed that they were the popular institutions.
During the Vedic period women enjoyed a position of esteem and were treated as equal with men in every walk to life. No religious rites and rituals could be performed without the wife. The Rig-Veda relates us a story of grihapati who left his wife because of her impertinence and went away for practicing penance but the God explained to him that he could not perform the penance without his wife.
“I am a poet, my father is a physician, my mother grinds corn on stone. Being engaged in different occupations, we seek wealth and happiness, as crows seek food in different pastures. May thy bounties flow for our happiness, O God.” this finding shows caste system was not rigid during vedic period.