Sunday, November 1, 2009


Origin of the Aryans

Opinions differ regarding the original home of the Aryans. The most accepted view is that the region between Poland to the Central Asia might have been of the Aryans. They were said to be semi- nomadic people, who started moving from their original home towards the west, south and east. The branch which went to Europe were the ancestors of the Greeks, Romans, Celts  and Teutons. Another branch went to Anatolia. The great empire of the Hitties evolved from the mixture of these immigrants with the original people. The branch which remained were the ancestors of the Slavonic people. The group which moved south came to conflict with the west Asian civilization. In course of their journey towards the east or south a group of Aryans had settled in  Iran. They crossed the Hindukush and entered India through Afghanistan and captured  the greater part of the northern India. They came to be known as Indo-Aryans to distinguish them from the others who spoke a language different from those who settled in western Asia and Europe.

The Indo-Aryans entered Punjab and the other north-western part of India. They moved towards south-east and eastwards into the Ganga Valley. The Aryans were pastoral Nomads. They settled in villages. The region which the Aryans occupied was known as Sapta Sindhu. Moving further eastwards they settled along the Ganga and Jamuna. In due course of time the whole of northern India were under the Aryans and it was called Aryavarta  or the land of the Aryans. The period of Aryan settlement was between 2500 and 1500BC. The early Aryans were divided into many tribes. A few among them are Anus, Druhyus, Yadus, Turvasas  and Purus. They settled on either side of the river Saraswati. They were involved in fighting among themselves. Besides these tribal warfare the Aryans were engaged in struggles with the dark skinned people or Dasyus. The Dasyus were the Dravidians who occupied the regions of the Indus valley civilization. The superiority of the Aryans resulted in the Dravidian submission and retirement to the south.

Political Organization

Family served as the basis of the both social and political organization. Families together formed the grama. Villages together formed is and they turn formed the janas. The community was patriarchical and each tribe was under the chief whose position was hereditary. The rastra was ruled by the king  which was normally hereditary. The king led the tribe in battle, and protected the people. The Purohita  was one of the important signatory. He was the sole associate of the king his friend, philosopher and guide.  The Senani the leader of the army, and Gramani  the head of the village. The main duty of the king was the protection of his subjects, property, defence and  maintenance of peace. The king was not an autocrat he was controlled by two popular assemblies Sabha and Samiti. These assemblies brought forth the people's  view on various issues. The Sabhas also discharged legal duties like providing justice. Individual ownership of property was recognized. The land was a property owned by the family. The property passed on in a hereditary manner from father to son.         

Economic Condition

The Aryans who  were semi-nomadic people also domesticated animals which helped them in the activities of agriculture and other pastoral and hunting acts. Agriculture consisted the major share of their economy. Canals  to provide irrigation was a significant feature of this occupation. Coins were unknown and trade was through the Barter system. Craft was not a popular profession. The lack of good roads  might have hampered trade, but river navigation was existing. Specialization  in areas such as carpentry, smithy, weaving, pottery, etc had been taking place


Family being the basis of the Aryan social life  needed to be a healthy bond. Monogamy was the usual rule but polygamy was also practiced. Women played an important role in the family. They also excelled in education. Apata Visvara and Ghosa were a few who even composed mantras. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food were common. Wheat and barley was the common food grains. Drinks included the Soma and Sura which were intoxicating and was drunk during festivals. 

The dress consisted of two or three garments- an under garment, garment  and a cloak. These were made of wool or skin and colored yellow and red. Gold ornaments such as necklaces, earrings, anklets, and bracelets were common and was worn by both men and women.  Women enjoyed equal status and received education with the men. They also freely participated in public life.


The Aryans worshipped many gods and goddess. Most of the objects they worshipped were the personification  of the  forces of nature. The religious beliefs of the Aryans and its essential elements were contained in the Rig Veda. It was based on the beliefs that

The numerous gods and goddess were personifications of whatever that was noble splendid and striking in nature .

The common people sought refugee under these powers who did good answer as evil. To get the good offerings as food and drinks has to  be made.

Fire was the means of messengers who carried the offerings to the gods .  This was done amidst the chanting of hymns of praise .

There were numerous deities, classified under terrestrial, atmospheric, and celestial group. Agni, Indra and varuna  were the chief deities. They also included Agni, vayu, surya, prithivi,etc. Gods and  goddess were worshipped with simple ceremonials known as Yajna or sacrifices.

Extent of Aryans in India

The Aryans were said to have been spread into four divisions of the country as portrayed by Manu 


       The Brahmavarta or the land of Gods was the region lying between the rivers Saraswati and Drishadwati It also included parts of Kurukshetra as mentioned in the Mahabharatha.

Braharishi Desha 

     The Braharishi Desha  or the country of the holy sages. Comprised the territories of the Kurus, Matsya, Panchalas  and Swsenas. Today they are known as Thaneshwar, Eastern Rajputana, the Doab and Mathura district.

Madhya Desha  

      The Madhya Desa or the middle country occupied the region lying between the Himalayas and Vindhyas.

     The Aryavarta occupied the region between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas from the east to west.

Though a physical terrain segregated North and South India and resulted in the development of a Dravidian culture, yet the Aryans influenced the religious thoughts of the Dravidians


The later vedic period is said to have begun after the composing of the Atharva Veda, Yajur veda  and Sama veda. This period indicated changes in the political, social  economic  and religious conditions of the life of the Aryans. These changes  were different from those in the early vedic period during the composition of the Rig Veda.

Political Condition

The Rig vedic  Aryans were divided into several tribes. Their was frequent internal strife among  them. The weaker tribes were absorbed into the stronger ones and thus the kingdoms  and larger areas of residence emerged. The political influence of the Aryans extended towards the east and south. The Aryan now established a powerful kingdom in the Deccan, to the north of the river Godavari. The mode of succession continued to be hereditary. The expansion of the territory also resulted in the increased domination of the king assisted by a hierarchy of nobility. These nobles were assigned  official duties. Thus  an administrative machinery developed. The king now had a council of advisers which included the kings relatives, his courtiers, heads of various departments. The purohita (the priest ), the senani (the commander), the suta (the charioteer), the Samgrahitr (the treasurer ), tax collector, etc. were the individuals which assisted in the kings activities. The role of the popular assemblies was important. A notable feature of this period was the extinction of the Samiti. The sabha transformed  from being a popular village assembly, continued as a court or judicial assembly.

Social Condition

The need to perform the ceremonial yajnas required the services of a highly trained priests who were skilled in the religious matters. This group came to assume the title of the Brahmanas. They occupied a high status and were respected and honoured by the king.

The constant inter tribal fighting for establishing supremacy, and struggle with the original  inhabitants gave birth for the need of persons skilled in the warfare. Thus arose the new class of the Kshatriyas. Remaining people in the Aryan society were called Vaisyas. The group who were not Aryans were called Sudras. These separation in the society was on the basis of the profession they pursued. Gradually  the Aryans were divided into the four varnas, succession to these in course of time became hereditary. The caste system became rigid, Education was confined to the upper classes. An Aryan's life was divided into stages which began with Upanayana, which was the inception of the pupil to education. After a period of 12 years  study of the Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, Ithihasa, Puranas, Grammer, Ethics etc. the individual could chose one of the four ashramas  i.e. Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Sanyasa, Vanaprastha.

Religious Condition

 Religion and philosophy in the later  Vedic period became more confirmed with elaborate sacrifices. The doctrines of Karma, Maya, soul, Mukti were established. Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara became the important gods who were worshipped.


The Vedas

     The vedas were the sources of reconstructing the vedic period. The oldest being the Rigveda, The Samaveda, Yajurveda  and Adharvaveda had their own significance. The sama veda contains the verses from the Rigveda. The hymns in it were  relevant  to the soma sacrifice .

    The Yajurveda also consist of hymns from the Rig Veda, more than half of this is in prose to facilitate the performance of sacrifices. It depicts the social and religious condition of this period. The Atharva Veda contains philosophic speculations, popular cults and superstitions.

The Brahmanas

    They are prose of the sacrificial  ceremonies. These explanatory treatises lay emphasis on ritualism. They mark the transition from Vedic to classical Sanskrit. It also marks the period which marks the advance of the Aryans from the Panchala country to the Vidha (North Bihar).

The Vedangas and the Upavedas

     These are said to be supplementary sections of the Vedic literature. These gives us idea about Jotish (Astronomy), Medicine (Ayurveda), Dhanurveda (war), Gandharvaveda, (music) etc.

The Vedanta

It is the philosophy taught in most of the Upanishads.

The Upanishads

     This contains the main idea that constitute the intellectual aspect of the Hindu philosophy. They do not lay emphasis to rites, ceremonies and austerities. The Upanishads are dated between 800 BC and 500 BC. The Upanishads  are about 100 in number. The Brahadaranyaka Upanishads, Chandogva  Upanishad, Aitreya Upanishad  are a few. The Upanishads reflects the richness and universality of the Indian culture. They are said to be the thinking power of the Brahmana and the Kshatriyas.


The Epics

They are the Ramayana  and the Mahabharatha. They introduce us to a period of transformation in the social and religious institutions of the Vedic age   

The Ramayana written by Valmiki is said a poetic legend based on mythology. It portrays the ideal man- god Rama and the ideal woman Sita. The sacrifices made by the characters for the preservation of truth appealed to the people.This was edited by the Brahmanas in course of time to convert it a book of devotion.

The Mahabharatha which consist of 18 parvas (sections) contains about 100,000 verses. This is an encyclopedia of  history, morals  and religion.   


These are legends connected with epics and law books. They are 18 in number and are mostly recognized in North India . The Vishnu Purana, for example, should treat of five subjects namely  primary creation, secondary creations, Genealogies of gods and patriachs reigns of various Manus and history of ancient dynasties. The Vayupurana  is one of the oldest the Puranas. It was edited during the age of Guptas  when there was a great revival of the Sanskrit language. The other Puranas include Matsya and Brahmanda  which gives us account of the kings up to the imperial Gupta dynasty with other  contemporaries.

Laws of Manu

 Also known as Manav Dhramshastra in Sanskrit, it comprises of 2684 couplets arranged in twelve chapters. It is the earliest of  law books. The laws of Manu forms the foundation of the court of law in India under the name of Hindu law. The book makes a distinction between varna and jatis. The varnas were in the order of the occupations pursued by the people. This was given as below,

the learned, literate and priestly order
the fighting or the governing class
the trading and agricultural group
the common folk, labourers

The composition of this may be between 200BC and 200AD by a sage named Bhrigu.

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