Later Vedic civilization (1000 – 600 BC)

later vedicThe Aryans spread to Indo-Gangetic plains in the later Vedic Period and this region came to be known as Aryavarta (1000 BC to 600 BC).

Later Vedic Polity

Political Organisation:

  • In later Vedic times, the vidatha completely disappeared.

  • The sabha and samiti continued to hold the ground, but their character changed.

  • Women were no longer permitted to sit in the sabha, and it was now dominated by Brahmanas.

  • The formation of wider kingdoms made the king more powerful.

  • Tribal authority tended to become territorial. The term rashtra, which indicates territory, first appears in this period.

  • During this period collection of taxes and tributes, the king officer called sangrihitri.
    Even in later Vedic times the king did not possess a standing army.

Important officials in Later Vedic Period




Chief Priest


Supreme Commander of army


Officer-in-Charge of pasture land


Police Officer






Head of the village


Head of the family


Mediator on disputes


Revenue collector




Chief Queen


harioteer and court minstrel


Keeper of games and forests






Chief Justice



Later Vedic Economy


  • The Aryans now lived a settled life, domesticated animal and cultivated on a greater scale than earlier sugar cane.

  • Cattle still constituted the principal form of movable property.

  • Even Elephants were tamed.

  • Wheat was also cultivated during this period along with barley.

  • Rice is mentioned in sources but was not an important crop at this time.

  • Beans and Sesame and pulses such as Moong, Urad etc. were also known.

Later Vedic name Present name
Godhuma Wheat
Ikshu Sugarcane
Vrihi Rice
Yava Barley
  • The later Vedic Aryans used four types of pottery. They Black and Red Ware, Black Slipped Ware, Painted Grey Ware (P. G. W) and Red Ware.

  • The black and red earthen pots were used around 600 BC by the people of Koshala.

  • Painted Grey Ware consisted of bowls and dishes, which were used either for rituals or for eating or both.


  • A gold piece of specific weight called Satamana is mentioned in Sathapatha-Brahmana.

  • Nishka was the popular currency.

  • Suvarna and Krishnala were two other classes of coins of circulation.

  • Barter system will continued in spite of the presence of metallic coins.

  • Money lending was a profitable trade and the interest on loan was moderately charged. The moneylender is mentioned as Kusidin.

Later vedic society

Social Organisation:

  • The later Vedic society came to be divided into four varnas called the Brahmanas, rajanyas or kshatriyas, vaisyas and shudras.

  • All the three higher varnas shared one common feature, they were known as Dvijas (twice born), i.e., they were entitled to upanayana.

  • The fourth varna was deprived of the sacred thread ceremony, and with its began the imposition of disabilities on the shudras.

later vedic varna systemAccording to the Aitareya Brahmana:
  • The brahmana is described as a seeker of livelihood and an acceptor of gifts but removable at will.

  • A vaisya is called tribute-paying, meant for being beaten, and to be oppressed at will.

  • The worst position is reserved for the shudra and he is called the servant of another.

  • Certain section of artisans such as rathakara or chariot-maker enjoyed a higher status, and were entitled to the sacred thread ceremony.

  • The term Nagara appears for the first time showing joint beginnings of town life.

  • Women were generally giver a lower position.

Marriage: 8 types of marriage were prevalent in the later Vedic age. Of these, Brahman, Daiva, Arsa and Prajapati were generally approved and were permissible to Brahmans. These were religious marriages and were indissoluble.

Anuloma Marriage: Marriage of a man below his varna was called Anuloma.

Pratiloma Marriage: Pratiloma marriage was the marriage of a girl to one lower than her own varna.

Marriage type Details
Brahma Marriage of the same varna with Vedic rites and rituals
Daiva Father gives the daughter to the priests as part of dakshina.
Arsa A token bride-price of a cow and a bull is given.
Prajapati Marriage without dowry.
Gandharva A special form of it was swayamvara or self choice.
Asura Marriage by purchase.
Paisacha It is seduction of a girl while asleep or drunk
Rakshasa Marriage by Capture
Gotra System:
  • The institution of gotra first appeared in later Vedic period only.

  • Literally, it means the cow-pen or the place where cattle belonging to the whole clan are kept.

  • People began to practise gotra exogamy (Marriage to a person belonging to a tribe or group other than your own as required by custom or law).

Ashrama SystemThey were four stages of life. They were

1.Brahmachari student,


2.Grihastha householder,


3.Vanaprastha partial retirement and


4.Sanyasa complete retirement

  • Fourth Ashrama only mentioned in Jabala Upanishad.

Note: Not applicable to women & Sudras.

Food and Drinks:

  • The staple diet was milk and ghee, vegetables, fruit and barely.

  • Wheat was rarely eaten.

  • On ceremonial occasions or arrival of a guest, including the flesh of ox, goat, sheep and birds were taken after being washed with sura.

  • The guests were never served vegetarian foods, or at least one non-vegetarian food was compulsory.


  • Two piece clothes were normally worn. They were uttariya or the upper garment and antariya or the lower garment.

  • There was no difference between the clothes of male and female.

  • Ornaments were used by both the sexes and bangles were worn by advantaged few, Shoes were used.

  • Use of oil, comb, mirror razors, hair ointment and a few cosmetics was known.

  • Music, both vocal and instrumental, was the major source of amusements.

  • Playing of veena, drum flute, harp and cymbals were more common, also were dance.

  • Chariot-racing and gambling were other sources of amusement.

  • Only Brahamanas and Kshatriyas were allowed to get education.

  • Even women education was discouraged and the study of Vedic literature were forbidden to women in spite of the fact that a few gifted women scholars were present at the time and female teachers were also there.

Later Vedic Religion

  • The two prominent Rig Vedic gods, Indra and Agni, lost their former importance.

  • Prajapati (Lord Brahma), the creator, came to occupy the supreme position in later Vedic pantheon.

  • Rudra (Lord Shiva, the god of animals, became important in later Vedic times and

  • Vishnu came to be conceived as the preserver and protector of the people.

  • In addition, some symbolic objects began to be worshipped, and we notice signs of idolatry.

  • Pushan, who was supposed to look after cattle, came to be regarded as the god to the sudras.

  • The Chief Priests received voluntary offering from the people called Bali

Ceremony Details
Rajasuya To discuss supreme power on him
Asvamedha Unquestioned control over the area in which the royal horse ran uninterrupted. Lasted for 3 days, horse sacrifice was performed at the end.
Vajapeya A royal chariot was made to win the race against his kinsmen. lasted for 17 days.
Jatkarma A birth ceremony performed before the cutting of the umbilical cord.
Upanayana Ceremony to confer Dvija(twice horn) status of boys in their 8th year.

NOTE: Rajasuya, Asvamedha and Vajapeya were performed only by kings.

Vedic Literature

The vedic literature of the Aryans is divided into two parts i.e.., Sruti and Smriti.

Sruti Literature:

  • Vedas belongs to Sruthi literature.

  • The word Veda has been derived from the Sanskrit word Vid, which means ‘ knowledge’.

  • They were four in number i.e.., Rig Veda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda.

Note: Only Rig veda belongs Early vedic civilization or Rig Vedic Period.

1. Rig Veda:
  • Earliest and oldest of vedas.

  • Earliest text of Indo European language.

  • Contains 1017 hymns after adding “Blhilya Sukta” number in 1028.

  • Also contains the famous Gayatri Mantra.

  • The Word ‘Shudra’ first mention in 10th Mandala of Rigveda.

  • Somaras (drink) Rigveda (9th Mandala)

  • The term ‘Varna’ Rigveda

  • Four fold division of Society Rigveda 10th Mandala

  • War between Aryan & Dasas Rigveda.

  • Sung by Hotri

2. Sama veda:

  • “Book for Chants” contains 1,549 hymns, meant to be sung at the ‘soma’ sacrifice by a special class of Brahmanas called Udgatris.

  • Origin of Indian music.

  • Sung by Udgatri

3. Yajur veda:

  • Rituals of yajnas

  • Sung of priest “Adhavaryu”

  • Has been divided into, Krishna(black) Yajurveda & Shukla(white) Yajurveda

  • Rajsuya & Vajpeya mentioned for the first time

4. Atharvana Veda:

  • Oldest text on Indian Medicine.

  • Contains formulae, charms & spells to ward off evil & diseases

  • Composed by a non-aryans.

  • Pashupath Shiva Atharveda

The Vedic literature is usually divided into three periods:

  1. The Mantra period when the Samhitas were composed.

  2. Brahaman period when the Brahamanas, Upanishads and Aranyakas were composed.

  3. the Sutra period.


  • Prose commentaries of all four Vedas

  • They are 18 in number.

Vedas Their Brahmans
1. Rigveda Aitereya & Kaushitaki
2. Sama veda Tandya & Jaiminiya
3. Yajur veda Tattiriya & Satpatha
4. Atharva veda Gopatha


  • Concluding parts of the Brahamanas.

  • Describes the lifestyle of Sanyasis in forests.

  • Literarily, it means ‘Jungle’.

  • 108 in number.

  • combination of Tatva-mimansa and philosophy.

  • Also called “Vedanta”.

  • Primitive upanishada are “Brahadaranyaka” and “Chandogya”.

  • The moto “Satya meya jayathe” is taken from “Mundakopanishad”.

  • Mention of four Ashrams Jabala Upanishada

Smriti Literature: Traditional knowledge and charges almost the entire body of post-Vedic classical Sanskrit literature.

  1. The Vedangas: Auxiliary to the Vedas. They are in 6 number i.e..,(i) Kalpa, (ii)Jyotisha, (iii) Siksha, (iv)Chhanda, (v) Nirukta and (vi)Vyakarana

  2. The Shad Darsana: Six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy i.e

Darsana Author
Nyaya Gautama
Vaisheshik Kanada
Sankhya Kapila
Yoga Maharishi Patanjali
Purva Mimansa Jaimini
Uttara Mimansa Maharishi Vyasa
  1. Itihasa: Ramayana and Mahabharata and often extended to the Puranas.

  2. Puranas: They are 18 in number – 6 vishnupuranas, 6 sivapuranas and 6 Brahmapuranas.

  3. Upavedas: They are in 4 in number.

  4. Tantras: Tantras are the writings of Shakta or Shaivite sects and also of certain antinomian Buddhist scholars

  5. Agamas: They are scriptures of sectarian Hindus like Vaishnavites, Shaivites and Shaktas.

  6. Upangas: They are a generic name for any collection of treatises although traditionally confined to the philosophical systems of ‘Nyaya’ and ‘Mimansa’ – the ‘Dharma Sutras’ the ‘Puranas’ and the ‘Tantras’.

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