Chapter 4 | Vedic and Later Vedic Period (1500BC – 600BC)


It is important to understand the transformations that occur from the vedic to later vedic period as many of them are carried forward. During this time, the class divided society transformed into a caste divided one, polytheistic religion into sacrificial ritual dominated one, condition of women deteriorated and simple tribal polity transformed into monarchy.

The table will help you visualize the contrast better.


Vedic(1500BC – 1000BC) Later Vedic(1000BC – 600BC)
Sources Rig Veda All the other vedas.

Towards the end, upanishads were compiled. They criticized rituals and emphasized on philosophy.

Location Northern and western part of Subcontinent. Sapt-Sindhu Region. They didn’t know land beyond Yamuna. Extended to whole of western UP, Ganga-Yamuna doab and also penetrated to the Deccan, Vindhyas & South India.
Polity No concept of territory. Only Tribes (Jana) – Total members not larger than 100.

Kings(Rajan) were advised by assemblies like Sabha & Samiti.

Had no standing armies.

Wars known as Gavati are fought for cattle and not for territory.

Chiefs received voluntary offerings called Bali(remember its not sacrifices)

Concept of territory and territorial administration appear. Janapada-State. Rashtra – Territory.

Royal power increases many folds. Rituals and sacrifices were performed to strengthen the king’s position – Rajasuya(consecration ceremony), Vajpeya(chariot race) and Asvamedha(horse sacrifice).

Character of Sabha & Samiti changed. The were dominated by chiefs and rich nobles. Women were no longer permitted.

Even in the Later Vedic times, king didn’t possess a standing army(as per NCERT).

Wars were fought not only for cattle but territory.

Bali which was a voluntary gift became mandatory tax.

Economy Predominantly pastoral. Cattle based herding economy. Man’s wealth was measured in the number of cows he owned.

Private land ownership was not yet established.

Agriculture was known.

Settled life. Agriculture and crafts.
Agriculture Mostly barley. Barley continued but rice and wheat became chief crops.
Family and women Family – Kula. Household – Griha. Family was joint. Patriarchal society with indications of polyandry.

Women could attend assemblies, they could offer sacrifices along with their husbands. Widow remarriage was allowed. No instances of child marriage and marriageable age in the Rig Veda seems to be 16-17.

Position of the father increased and women were given lower position. Position of women became deplorable. They couldn’t attend assemblies. Child marriages also came into vogue.

Institution of gotra appears later vedic period. Marriage within the gotra was not permitted.

Social Divisions Society was largely egalitarian.

Varna was the term for color. The indigenous people conquered by Aryans were called Dasas and Dasyus.

Differentiation based on occupation existed.

Society divided into 4 varnas. The growing cult of sacrifices added to the power of the Brahmanas.

4 Ashramas – Brahmachari, grihast, vanprastha, Sanyasi.

Religion Nature gods. Indra – mentioned in most number of passages. Agni – 2nd highest mentions.

Soma – sacred drink.

Sacrifices less important. Mostly Prayers.

Nature gods are replaced by Prajapati, Rudra & Vishnu,

Idolatry appears.

Pushan was regarded as the god of shudras

Sacrifices became more important than prayers.

The rise of Buddhism and Jainism was the direct result of this socio-economic problem.

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Abhishek Patil
Abhishek Patil
2 years ago

Greatly consolidated ..


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