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Intro: Later Vedic Culture

Later Vedic Culture

  • The Later Vedic culture is dated to the period between 1000 BCE and 700–600 BCE.
  • The Painted Grey Ware Culture of the Iron Age, which has been identified by archaeologists at many excavated sites, is associated with the Later Vedic culture.
  • This period witnessed political, social, economic complexity and developments.

The Late Vedic Texts

  • The Later Vedic texts were composed after the Rig Veda Samhitas.
  • The Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas were composed after the Rig Veda.

Eastward Expansion of the Aryans

  • The Aryan speakers expanded from the Punjab to Western Uttar Pradesh in the Ganga Yamuna doab in the Later Vedic period.
  • The history of ancient India was thus marked by the movement of cultures, and interactions and battles among various groups for territories and resources.
  • It has been suggested that while the Aryans migrated to the region of eastern part of the Ganga valley, the Indo-Iranians migrated from the region of Iran to the region of Punjab.
  • The later Vedic texts speak about the region of Kuru Panchala which falls in the IndoGangetic divide and the Upper Ganga Valley.
  • The area mentioned as the southeastern boundary of the Aryans in Rig Veda is listed in Aitreya Brahmana as the midland, which indicates the movement of Aryans into the Ganga valley in the Later Vedic period.
  • Perhaps this expansion was induced by the need for water and land resources, fresh, less occupied territories and population pressures.
  • The Kurus, Panchalas, Vashas and Ushinaras are the tribes of this period.
  • References to the Saraswati and Dhristavati rivers occur in the later Vedic texts also.
  • Around 1000 BCE, the Vedic Aryans moved towards Kosala region in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Videha in North Bihar, where the Vedic people encountered the local people following Chalcolithic material culture.
  • In the Upper Ganga valley, the Vedas acquired Munda words indicating that Munda speaking-people lived in the Ganga valley.
  • The region of Kosala and Videha were the easternmost territories of the Aryan expansion during this period.
  • By the end of the Vedic period Panchala and Videha were Aryanised.
  • The area beyond this region in the east was seen as an alien territory.
  • In the Atharva Veda, the people of Anga and Magadha (Bihar) were seen as enemies.
  • Similarly, the Pundras of Bengal and the Andhras were seen as outside the Aryan identity in the Aitreya Brahmana.
  • This suggests that these regions were not influenced by Aryan culture.
  • What we gather is that the process of Aryanization gradually spread from the north-west to the south-east mainly into the Ganga Valley.

Later Vedic Culture and Iron

  • Iron was an important metal used for implements in this period.
  • It was called syama-ayas or krishna-ayas or the dark metal.
  • Iron is believed to have played an important role in the conversion of the forests of the Ganga Valley into agricultural lands.
  • By the end of Vedic period, the knowledge of iron had reached eastern Uttar Pradesh and Videha.
  • Earlier it was believed that iron originated around 700 BCE, but recent research dates the beginning of iron to around 1200 BCE or even earlier.
  • The early views gave excessive emphasis to iron to the colonization of the Ganga Valley, but new scholarship argues that iron was not the only factor behind the expansion of the population.

Settlements and territories

  • With the intensification of agriculture, the Later Vedic people led a settled life leading to formation of territorial units.
  • The term janapada, referring to territory, is found in the Brahmanas dated to ca. 800 BCE.
  • There are more than 1000 sites of painted Grey Ware culture in this area, suggesting that new settlements came up and the Upper Ganga Valley was densely populated.
  • People lived either in mud-brick houses or houses with wattle and daub walls.
  • The foundations for the towns must have emerged during the later Vedic period.
  • This was a period of intense interactions.
  • The term nagara, referring to commercial quarters, is found in the later Vedic texts.
  • However, large towns appeared only at the end of the Vedic period.
  • The sites of Hastinapura and Kausambi are considered proto urban (urban-like) settlements.
  • The material culture of this period shows more diversity and is an improvement over the Early Vedic period.
  • It can be surmised that there was surplus production to support various classes such as chiefs, princes and priests.

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