Later Vedic Period (1000 – 600 BC) Notes

Later Vedic Period (1000 – 600 BC)

▪ Advent of Iron Age
▪ Origin of Sam Veda, Yajur Veda & Atharva Veda
▪ Composition of Samhitas, Brahmanas & Upanishads
▪ Marked by invention of PGW (Painted grey ware) for bowls & dishes

Samhitas: Collection of Vedic hymns & Mantras

Sama Veda

▪ Book of chants
▪ Origin of Indian music
▪ For recitation, prayers of Rig Veda were set to tunes
▪ Modified collection is known as Sama Veda

Yajur Veda

▪ Contains hymns & rituals, sacrifices, Royal ceremonies
▪ Rajsuya & Vajpeya mentioned for the 1st time
▪ Written in verse and prose form

Atharva Veda

▪ Origin of Indian medicine
▪ Contains formulae, charms & spells to ward off evil & diseases
▪ Composed by a non-aryan
According to Satapatha Brahamana Rig veda, Sama Veda & Yajur veda constitutes Traya Veda & were composed by Aryans


▪ Prose commentaries of all four Vedas
▪ 18 in number
▪ Most important is Satapatha Brahamanas
▪ Full of ritualistic formulae & explains social and religious meaning of rituals & sacrifices


▪ Forest books → Composed in forests
▪ Were meant to study in forests
▪ Describes the lifestyle of Sanyasis in forests

Developments in Later Vedic Period

▪ Satapatha brahamanas refers to expansion of Aryans into eastern Gangetic plains i.e. Aryans
expanded from Punjab to whole of Uttar Pradesh covered by Ganga – Yamuna Doab
▪ Soon Kuru occupied upper portion of the doab along with Delhi & set up their capital at Hastinapur
▪ Kurus coalesced with Panchalas who occupied middle portion of the doab
▪ This era marks the famous Mahabharata war at land of Kurus i.e. Kurukshetra
▪ In later Vedic times, people hardly knew the use of burnt bricks as mud structures have been discovered at Hastinapur
▪ From traditions we learnt that Hastinapur was thoroughly flooded and remnant of Kuru clan moved to Kaushambi near Allahabad.

Later Vedic people succeeded in their second phase of expansion because of use of iron weapons & horse drawn chariots (Around 1000 BC iron appeared in Dharwar district of Karnataka & at Gandhar)

▪ Iron was called shyama or Krishana Aya (Black metal)
▪ Agriculture was now chief means of livelihood with rice & wheat main crops along with the use of wooden ploughshare → Predominantly pastoral society became agricultural
▪ For the 1st time Vedic people came to be acquainted with Rice & called it Vrihi (in Vedic text recommended in Vedic rituals)

Later Vedic Period Crops Name

  • Wheat
  • Godhuma
  • Barley
  • Yava
  • Rice
  • Vrihi
  • Sugarcane
  • Ikshu
▪ Famous pottery of this age was ‘Painted Grey Ware’ and ‘Northern Black Polished Ware.
▪ Term Rashtra (Territory) appeared for the 1
st time in this period

Famous King’s ceremony of this age:

▪ Rajasuya Sacrifice: Supposed to confer supreme power on him (To impress/influence people)
▪ Vajapeya: Chariot race in which royal chariot was made to win the race against his kinmen
▪ Ashvamedha: Unquestioned control over area on which royal horse ran uninterrupted

Later Vedic Period Administration

▪ Popular assemblies lost their importance & royal power increased at their cost (Vidhata completely disappeared)
▪ Sabha & Samiti continued to hold their ground but women were no longer permitted to sit on sabha & it was now dominated by nobles & brahamanas
▪ Collection of taxes and tributes became common & responsibility for the same lied with officer called “Sangrihitri”
▪ Even now king did not maintain a standing army & tribal units were mustered at the time of war

Societal Division in Later Vedic period

▪ Later Vedic period was divided into four vernas:
  • 1. Brahamanas
  • 2. Kshatriyas / Rajanas
  • 3. Vaishyas
  • 4. Shudras
▪ Growing practice of sacrifice greatly added to power of brahamanas
▪ Vaishyas were placed in the category of Dvija or Twice born and regarded as only tribute payers;
on which Kshatriyas & Brahamans lived
▪ All 3 higher vernas shared one common feature : Upanayana or investiture with sacred thread according to Vedic mantras
▪ Shudras were deprived of sacred thread ceremony & recitation of Gayatri Mantra
▪ Certain sections of the artisans such as Rathkaras / Chariot makers enjoyed a higher status & were entitled to sacred thread ceremony

According to Aitareya Brahmana

▪ In relation with prince, Brahamana is described as seeker of livelihood & acceptor of gifts but
removable at will
▪ A vaishya is tribute payer, meant for being beaten & oppressed at will
▪ Shudras as servant of another & meant for being beaten & made to work at will by another
Institution of Gotra appeared in later Vedic times, literally it mean cow pen i.e. a place where cattle belonging to whole clan are kept, but in due time it signified as descent from a common ancestors. No marriage could take place between persons belonging to same Gotra or having the same lineage.

Later Vedic period refers to 3 divisions of India viz.

  • ▪ Aryavrata (Northern India )
  • ▪ Madhyadesha (Central India)
  • ▪ Dakshinpatha ( Southern India)

Later Vedic period mentions 4 Ashrams

Brahamchari → For Student
Grihastha → For householder
Vanaprastha → Hermit (a stage of gradual detachment)
Sanyasin / Ascetic → Who renounced the world fully Not applicable to women & people of lower varnas

Gods of Later Vedic Period

▪ Two outstanding Rig Vedic gods Indra & Agni lost their former importance & Prajapati (The
creator) came to occupy the supreme position along with Rudra (The destroyer) & Vishnu
(Protector of people)
▪ Pushans (Supposed to look after cattles) became god of Shudras although in Rig Veda cattle rearing was primary occupation of Aryans
  • Asvins → Protector of agriculture (Killer the rats)
  • Savitri → To fix a place where a new home could be built
  • Surya → Remove Demons
▪ Signs of Idolatry appeared in later Vedic times & mode of worship changed considerably as
sacrifices became far more important than mere prayers along with formulae(Mantras) carefully pronounced by sacrifier
▪ Sacrifier was known as Yajamana (Performer of Yajna) & Guests were known as Goghna (Fed on cattle) →Sacrifices involved killing of animals at large scale especially cattles
▪ These formulae, Rituals & sacrifices were invented & elaborated by priests called brahamanas who claimed monopoly of priestly knowledge but still territory was not given as gifts in post Vedic period

Status of Women in later Vedic period

Status of women declined as primarily pastoral society now became agricultural & women which in pastoral time worked neck to neck with men for fetching milk & all, begin doing all household chores, with men going to plough the field & grow grains
  1. ▪ Deprived to attend assemblies
  2. ▪ Deprived of education
  3. ▪ Deprived of Upanayana ceremony
  4. ▪ Child marriage became common
  5. ▪ Purdah and sati was not prevalent


▪ Towards the end of Vedic period around 600 BC, a strong reaction against priestly domination, cults & rituals began especially in lands of Panchalas & Videha & upanishads were compiled.
▪ Upanishads were mainly philosophical texts criticizing the rituals & laid stress on Right belief & Right knowledge of self-i.e. Relation of Atman with Brahma should be properly understood
▪ Upanishads describes dialogues between guru & shishya and were probably written by Kshatriyas
▪ Brahma emerged as supreme entity in Upanishads comparable to powerful kings of the era
▪ Upanishads followed principle of Jnana i.e.
  • 1. True knowledge for peace
  • 2. Changelessness, Indestructibility & immortality of soul
  • 3. Salvation
End of Later Vedic Period marked the beginning of territorial kingdoms such as Panchala Janapada, Koshala Janapada etc. & wars were not fought only for cattles but also for territory.

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