The Age of the Rig Veda

Arora IAS


Arrival of the Indo-Aryans

  • The Indo-Iranians, comprising the Indo-Aryans and Iranians, moved towards India from two areas of Central Asia. The first area is archaeologically called the Andronovo culture which covered almost the whole of Central Asia during the second millennium BC. The second is archaeologically called the Bactria– Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) and dated 1900– 1500 BC.
  • This cultural zone extended over south Central Asia, and included Bactria or Balkh covering Afghanistan, and Margiana covering Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
  • Bactria is well known in the Indian tradition. It is called Bahlika, which means an outside country coterminous with modern Balkh. The earliest Aryans lived in the geographical area covered by eastern Afghanistan, the North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, and the fringes of western UP.
  • The Sarasvati, is called naditama or the best of rivers in the Rig Veda. It is identified with the Ghaggar–Hakra channel in Haryana and Rajasthan, but its Rig Vedic description shows it to be the Avestan river Harakhwati or the present Helmand river in south Afghanistan from where the name Sarasvati was transferred to India.
  • The entire region in which the Aryans first settled in the Indian subcontinent is called the Land of the Seven Rivers.
  • Rig Veda- It consists of ten mandalas or books, of which books II to VII form the earliest parts. Books I and X seem to have been the latest additions. The Rig Veda has many things in common with the Avesta, which is the oldest text in the Iranian language.
  • The Indo-European language is found in an inscription of about 2200 BC from Iraq. Specimens occur in Hittite inscriptions in Anatolia (Turkey) from the nineteenth to the seventeenth centuries BC. They also figure in the Mycenaean inscriptions of Greece around 1400 BC.
  • Aryan names appear in Kassite inscriptions of about 1600 BC from Iraq and in Mitanni inscriptions of the fourteenth century BC from Syria.The term dasyuhatya, slaughter of the dasyus, is repeatedly used in the Rig Veda.

Tribal Conflicts

  • The Indo-Aryans were engaged in two types of conflicts. First, they fought with the pre-Aryans, and secondly, they fought amongst themselves.
  • According to tradition, the Aryans were divided into five tribes called panchajana

Cattle Rearing and Agriculture

  • Agriculture was also well known to the pre-Aryans who lived in the area associated with the Vedic people, but was perhaps used primarily to produce fodder.
  • The terms for war in the Rig Veda is gavishthi or search for cows, and cow seems to have been the most important form of wealth.
  • A site called Bhagwanpura in Haryana and three other sites in Punjab have yielded Painted Grey Ware along with ‘late Harappan’ pottery. The date assigned to the Bhagwanpura finds ranges from 1600 to 1000 BC which also roughly corresponds to the period of the Rig Veda.

Tribal Chiefdom

  • The administrative machinery of the Aryans in the Rig Vedic period functioned with the tribal chief, for his successful leadership in war, at the centre. He was called rajan.
  • The election of the king by the tribal assembly called the The king was called the protector of his tribe. Even women attended the sabha and vidatha in Rig Vedic times. The sabha and the samiti mattered a great deal in early Vedic times Next in rank to the king was the senani or the head of the army.
  • The officer who enjoyed authority over a large stretch of land or pasture ground was called vrajapati. He led to battle the heads of the families called kulapas, or heads of the fighting hordes called gramani Initially the gramani was just the head of a small tribal kin-based fighting unit called grama.

Tribe and Family

  • The people’s primary loyalty was to the tribe, which was called The term jana occurs at about 275 places in the Rig Veda, and the term janapada or territory is not used even once. Another important term which stands for tribe in the Rig Veda is vis, which is mentioned 170 times in that text. Probably the vis was divided into gramas or smaller tribal units

Social Differentiation

  • The factor that contributed most to the creation of social divisions was the conquest of the indigenous inhabitants by the Indo-Aryans.

Rig Vedic Gods

  • Indra played the role of a warlord, leading the Aryan soldiers to victory against the demons, and has 250 hymns devoted to him.
  • The second position is held by Agni (fire god) to whom 200 hymns are devoted.
  • The third important position is occupied by Varuna who personified water.
  • Soma was considered to be the god of plants, and an intoxicating drink is named after him.
  • The Maruts personify the storm.
  • Many hymns are devoted to the river Sarasvati, who was considered an important goddess.
  • There are some women divinities too, such as Aditi, and Usha who represented the appearance of the dawn


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