The period that followed Rig Vedic Age is known as Later Vedic Age.This age witnessed the composition of three later Veda Samhitas namely, the Samveda Samhita, the Yajurveda Samhita, the Atharvaveda Samhita as well as Brahmanas and the Upanishads of all the four Vedas.
All these later Vedic texts were compiled in the Upper Gangetic basin in 1000—600 B.C. During the period represented by Later Samhitas the Aryans covered the whole of Northern India, from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas.
The Samaveda Samhita consists of 1,549 hymns of which all but 75 are found in the Rigveda Samhita. Its hymns were used for singing at sacrifices. The Ritvij who enchanted these saman (Hymns of Samveda) was called Udgata. Three Schools of Samveda -Kauthum, Ranayaniya and Jaiminiya are found. Samveda is dedicated to Sun God.
The Yajurveda Samhita consists partly of hymns and partly of prose, containing sacrificial formulae. It is divided into ‘white’ Yajurveda (Vajasaneyi Samhita-Poetry) and ‘black’ Yajurveda(Prose). Its name derived from ‘Yajush’ means Sacrifice. Schools: Kanva, Madhyandin (Shukla Yajurveda) & Katha,Kapishthal,Maitrayani,Taitiriya(Krishna Yajurveda) .First Reference of Videha State
Dedicated to : Vayu and Karma
Ritwij who enchanted these hymns during sacrifice was called ‘Adhvaryu’
Name derived from ‘Atharvan’ means Magic. The Atharvaveda Samhita (the latest of the Vedas) is a book of magical formulae and its hymns deal mainly with charms and spells to control demons and spirits. It is divided into 20 books and contains about 731 hymns.
Known as Brahmaveda: Most Hymns are dedicated to Brhma.
Angirasa Veda: Created by Sage Angiras and his Family.
Mahi Veda: First Concept of Motherland in Prithvi Sukta of Atharva Veda.
Bhaishajya Veda: Due to Kena Sukta(First Medical Book), origin of Ayurveda.
Schools: Shaunak & Pippaladi
The Brahmanas are notes in prose and they explain the origin and meaning of the various hymns of the Samhitas. The Aitareya and Kilushitaki Brahmanas are assigned to the Rigveda;
Tandya,Shadvinsha and ]aiminiya Brahmanas to the Samaveda; Taittireya and Satapatha Brahmanas to the Yajurveda; and Gopatha Brahmana to the Atharvaveda.
The Brahmanas also contain cosmogonic myths, old legends and gathas or verses celebrating the exploits of kings famed in priestly tradition.
Next, come the Aranyakas or forest texts, books of instruction to be given in the forest or writings meant for wood-dwelling hermits, which are found as appendices to the Brahmanas.
These treatises resemble the Brahmanas in language, style and even context, but they are concerned more with the allegorical significance of rites, and the mystic meaning of the Samhitas.
The Upanishads marked a reaction against sacrificial religion and are highly philosophical, dealing with the ultimate truth and reality, knowledge of which would emancipate a man.
Important Upanishads are Mundaka, Taittireya, Aitareya, Chandogya and Katha.
Political Organisation:Rise of Big States:
With the progress of Aryan settlements in the eastern and southern part of India, the small tribal states of Rig Vedic period replaced by powerful states. Many famous tribes of Rig Vedic period like Bharatas, Parus, Tritsus and Turvasas passed into oblivion and new tribes like the Kurus and Panchalas rose into prominence.
The land of the Yamuna and Ganga in the east which became the new home of the Aryans rose into prominence.
Growth of Imperialism:
With the emergence of big kingdoms in the Later Vedic Age the struggle for supremacy among different states was of frequent occurrence. The ideal of Sarvabhauma or universal empire loomed large in the political horizon of ancient India. The sacrifices like Rajasuya and Asvamedha were performed to signify the imperial sway of monarchs over the rivals. These rituals impressed the people with the increasing power and prestige of the king. The Rig Vedic title of “Rajan” was replaced by the impressive titles like Samrat, Ekrat, Virat, Bhoja etc.
Origin of Kingship:
There were two theories regarding the origin of kingship. The Aitareya Brahmana explained the rational theory of election by common consent of origin of kingship. The Taittiriya Brahman explained the divine origin of kingship. It explained how Indra, “though occupying a low rank among the gods, was created their king by Prajapati.”
The king had absolute power. He realized taxes like “bali”, “sulka” and “bhaga”. The Satapatha Brahmana described the king to be infallible and immune from all punishment.
The sabha of the Rig Vedic Period died. The king sought the aid and support of the Samiti on matters like war, peace and fiscal policies. There are references to the Samiti sometimes electing or re-electing a king. However, in spite of the existence of the popular assemblies the powers of the king went on increasing due to the growth of large territorial states and the evolution of an official hierarchy.
In the work of administration the king was assisted by a group of officers who were known as Ratnins (Jewels).
Bhagadugha-collector of taxes
Akshavapa -superintendent of gambling
Govikartana- king’s companion in the chase
Rathakara (Chariot marker)
Gramani (leader of host or of the village)- In the Later Vedic Period Gramani was both a civil and military officer Gramani was the medium through which the royal power was exercised in the village.
According to Prasna Upanishada Adhikrita was the village officer and was lowest in the rank.
The king administered justice. Occasionally he delegated his judicial power to Adhyakshas. In the villages, Gramyavadin (Village judge) and Sabha (court) decided the cases. Punishments for crimes were severe.
The family remains the basic unit of the Vedic society. However, its composition underwent a change. The later Vedic family became large enough to be called a joint-family with three or four generations living together. The rows of hearths discovered at Atranjikhera and at Ahichchhtra (both in western Uttar Pradesh) show that these were meant for communal feeding or for cooking the food of large families. The institution of gotra developed in this period. This means that people having common gotra descended from a common ancestor and no marriage between the members of the same gotra could take place. Monogamous marriages were preferred even though polygamy was frequent. The most important change was the rise and growth of social differentiation in the form of varna system. The four varnas in which society came to be divided were the brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. The growing number of sacrifices and rituals during the period made the brahmanas very powerful.
They conducted various rituals including those related to different stages of agricultural operations.
The kshatriyas, next in the social hierarchy, were the rulers. They along with brahmanas controlled all aspects of life. Two Kshatriya kings Janak and Viswamitra attained the status of Rishi. The vaishyas, the most numerous varna were engaged in agriculture as well as in trade and artisanal activities. The brahmanas and the kshatriyas were dependent on the tributes (gifts and taxes) paid to them by the vaishyas. The shudras, the fourth varna were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They were ordained to be in the service of the three upper varnas.
They were not entitled to the ritual of upanayana samskara (investiture with sacred thread necessary to acquire education). The other three varnas were entitled to such a ceremony and hence they were known as dvijas. This can be construed as the beginning of the imposition of disabilities on the shudras as well as the beginning of the concept of ritual pollution.
Another important institution that began to take shape was ashrama or different stages of life.
Brahmacharya (student life), grihastha (householder), and vanaprastha (hermitage) stages are mentioned in the texts. Later, sanyasa, the fourth stage also came to be added. Together with varna, it came to be known as varna-ashrama dharma.
Position of women:
Some restrictions on women appeared during this period In a text women have been counted as a vice along with dice and wine. In another text, a daughter has been said to be the source of all sorrows. Women had to stay with her husband at his place after marriage. The participation of women in public meetings was restricted.
Food and Dress:
In the later Vedic age rice became staple food of the people. Gradually the practice of eating meat was declined. Killing of cow was looked with disfavour. Wool was used in addition to cotton.
In the villages small peasant owners of land were replaced by big landlords who secured possession of entire villages. Agriculture was the principal occupation of the people. Improved method of tilling the land by deep ploughing, the Aryans knew manuring and sowing with better seeds. More lands were brought under cultivation.Many rituals were introduced to initiate the process of agriculture. It also speaks of ploughing with yokes of six and eight oxen.
The buffalo had been domesticated for the agricultural purposes and was extremely useful in ploughing the swampy land. The god Indra acquires a new epithet ‘Lord of the Plough’ in this period. The number and varieties of plant food increased. Apart from barley, people now cultivated wheat, rice, pulses, lentils, millet,sugarcane etc. The items of dana and dakshina included cooked rice. Thus with the beginning of food production agricultural produce began to be offered in the rituals. Tila, from which the first widely used vegetable food-oil was derived increasingly, came to be used in rituals. The cultivator yielded two harvests a year.
But the cultivator was not free from trouble. Dangers of insects and damage of crops through hailstorm very badly affected the land of kurus and compelled many people to migrate. There has been a continuous increase in the population during the later Vedic period due to the expansion of the economy based on agriculture. The increasing number and size of Painted Grey Ware (PGW) settlements in the doab area shows this. Vedic people also acquired better knowledge of seasons, manuring and irrigation. All these developments resulted in the substantial enlargement of certain settlements such as Hastinapur and Kaushambi towards the end of the Later Vedic period.
Trade and Commerce
With the growth of civilization, the volume of trade and commerce had increased by leaps and bounds. Both inland and overseas trades were developed. Inland trade was carried on with the Kiratas inhabiting the mountains. They exchanged the herbs for clothes, nattresses and skins.
The people became familiar with the navigation of the seas. Regular coinage was not started. There was a class of merchants called ‘Pani’ who controlled the trade. References to “ganas” or corporations and the “sreshthins” clearly speak of the formation of guilds or corporations for facilitating trade and commerce. Usury and money lending was also practiced in this period.
The coins which were in circulation were “Nishka”, “Satamana” and “Krishnala”. The unit value of goods was a gold bar called “nishka” weighing three hundred and twenty ratis, which was also the weight of a satamana. A ‘Krishnala’ weighed one rati, i.e. 1.8 grams.
Use of Iron
The main factor in the expansion of the Aryan culture during the later Vedic period was the beginning of the use of iron around 1000 BC. The Rigvedic people knew of a metal called ayas which was either copper or bronze. In the later Vedic literature ayas was qualified with shyama or krishna meaning black to denote iron. Archaeology has shown that iron began to be used around 1000 BC which is also the period of later Vedic literature. The northern and eastern parts of India to which the Aryans later migrated receive more rainfall than the north-western part of India. As a result this region is covered with thick rain forests which could not be cleared by copper or stone tools used by Rigvedic people. The use of iron tools now helped people clear the dense rain forests particularly the huge stumps left after burning, in a more effective manner. The iron plough could turn the soil from deeper portions making it more fertile.
Religion was overshadowed with rites and rituals. The Rig Vedic gods, Varun, Indra, Agni, Surya, Usha etc. lost their charm. New gods like Siva, Vishnu, Brahma etc. appeared in the Later Vedic Period. Certain less important duties of the Rigvedic Period now became popular with the Common People. One of them was Rudra who already bore the epithet of Siva. Very soon Rudra came to be worshipped as ‘Mahadeva’ (great god) and the lord of animate beings (Pasupati).
Vishnu, the preserver rose into Prominence during this period. He occupied the place of Varuna, as the most sublime among the celestials. To attain his “Paramapada” (highest step) became the goal of the rishis.
Rituals and Sacrifices:
During this period the rites and ceremonies of Vedic religion were elaborated and became complex. In the Rig Vedic age Yanjas were a simple affair which every householder could do,but in the later Vedic age sacrifice became an important thing in worship. Now the priestly class devoted their energy to find out the hidden and mystic meaning of the rites and ceremonies.
Vedic hymns were regarded as charms to be used in sacrifice. The belief that gods were satisfied by Yanjas led to a rise in the number, variety of sacrifices which were prescribed for every householder. In fact every Aryan performed a number of sacrifices under the supervision of the Brahmana priest.
A large number of cattle and other animals, which were sacrificed at the end of each yajna, must have hampered the growth of economy. Therefore, a path of good conduct and self-sacrifice was recommended for happiness and welfare in the last sections of the Vedas, called the Upnishads. The Upnishads contain two basic principles of Indian philosophy viz., karma and the transmigration of soul, i.e., rebirth based on past deeds. According to these texts real happiness lies in getting moksha i.e. freedom from this cycle of birth and re-birth.