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india History

india History

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Published by: vishwanath on Sep 20, 2009
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Geographical knowledge of the vedic period.
The geographical evidence as to be found in the hymns of Vedas thros some light on the course of Indo-Aryan migration and the origin of Hinduism. Whether the Indo-Aryans came from Central Asia or notdepends largely on the interpretation of the geographical allusions in the Rig and Yajur Vedas. The hymnsin praise of rivers in the 10th blcok are interesting. The author while singing the greatness of the Sindhuenumerates at least 19 rivers including the Ganges. The fifth Stanza gives a list of 10 streams, small andgreat-Ganges, Yamuna, Saraswati, Satluj, Ravi, Chenab, Jhelum, Maruwardwan (in J&K), Sushoma(Rowalpindi District) and probably Kanshi in the same district. This system of rivers did not remain theSaraswati. The existing delta of the Indus has been formed since the time of Alexander the Great.The Vedic hymns reveal the initial Aryan settlements in India : western tributaries of the Indus, the Gomti(modern Gomal) the Krumu (modern Kurram) and the Kubha (modern Kabul). The one river mentioned inthe North of Kabul is Suvastu (modern swat).But the main focus of the Rig Vedic settlements was in the Punjab and the Delhi region. When the Rig-Vedic hymns were compiled the focus of Aryan settlement was the region between the Yamuna and theSutlaj, south of modern Ambala and laong the upper course of river Saraswati. The most frequentlymentioned rivers are the Sindhu (Indus), the Sarasvati (modern Sarsuti), the Drishadvati (modernChitang), and the five streams of the Punjab.Regarding the other geographical features, the Vedic poets knew the Himalayas but not the land south of Yamuna, since they did not mention the Vindhayas, In the east also the Aryans did not expand beyondYamuna; for the river Ganga is mentioned only once in one late hymn.And possibly, the Aryans had no knowledge of the oceans since the word 'samudra' in the Vedic periodmeant a pool of water. But the later Vedic knowledge shows that the Aryans knew the two seas, theHimalayas and the Vindhyan mountainas and generally the entire Indo-Gangetic plain.The Aryans used various kinds of pottery and the sites where the painted grey were are found, confirmthe Aryan settlements. The Vedic texts show that the Aryans expanded from the Punjab over the whole of western Uttar Pradesh covered by the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. The Bharatas and Purus known as Kurupeople first lived between Sarasvati and Drishadvati just on the fringe of the Doab. Soon the Kurusoccupied Delhi and the Upper portion of the doab, that is the area called Kurukshetra, After this event, theKurus joined with the people called Panchalas who occupied the middle portion of the Doab or the moder districts of bareilly Dadaun and Farrukabad. It was the Kuru-Panchalas who had set up their capital atHastinapur situated in the district of Meerut. Later the Kauravas and the Pandavas belonging to the sameKuru clan fougth out a battle which led to the extinction of the Kuru clan.And by 600 B.C. the Aryans spread from the Doab further east to Kosala in Eastern U.P. and Vedeha innorth Bihar. The former town is associated with the story of Ramchandra, but it is not mentioned in Vedicliterature.
Indus And Vedic Civilisation
There is muc to be contrasted between the cultures of the Harappans and the Aryans. There are indeed afew points of similarities, but they are not of any significance. Why the points of contrast are more isprimarily because of geographic location, economic activity and the religious practices followed by boththe cultures. Far more important is the fact that the Aryans, with a plasticity of mind, made life vibrant;whereas, the Indus life looks more like stylized puppet show.The plasticity of the Aryan mind was shown in the language as well as the way in which they adaptedagricultural and settled life. The seals of the Indus Valley show that the pictographs remained statis,whereas, the Aryan language in the Rig Veda at places rises to musical levels. The success with which
the Aryan writings were composed reveals the ability of the Aryan mind to grasp the mulitiple dimensionsof human life. And language which exhibits immense potentialities in its vocabulary reveals that thecommunity is full of potentialities. On the other hand, out of nearly 400 characters known to theHarappans only a few were repeated time and again.The other manifestation of Aryan civilization, that is, its capacity to change and adapt itself, has given acontinuity to Indian Civilization despite the absence of mighty empires. On the other hand, the IndusValley people reached a blind alley and the never learnt anything from other civilizations like theSumerian. Adaptability or ability to respond to challenges is the hallmark of any youthful civilization. TheIndus civilization reached its senilithy by 2000 B.C. whereas the Aryan Civilization was full with creativedynamism.Archaeology is the only source of our knowledge of the Harappan civilization, but information concerningthe Vedic Aryans depends almost entirely on literary texts, which were handed down by the oral tradition.It is clear from the material remains that the Harappan civilization was in certain respects superior to thatof the Aryans. In Particular it was a city civilization of a highly developed type, while by contrast city lifewas unfamiliar to the Aryans. The superiority of the Aryans lay in the military field. In which their use of thelight horse chariot played a prominent part, or in literary exuberation.Harappans were peace loving city-dwellers and good planners as is evident by grid pattern towns,elaborate drainage system, street lights, kelp-burnt brick houses, fortifications, granaries, baths and wells.The early Aryans were not city builders. Their way of life, nomad-pastoralists as theywere, was dominatedby war like stock-breeding (they practiced a little agriculture) and migrations. City buildings etc. as a large-scale socio-economic activities is only much later mentioned in the later Vedic texts, epics and thePuranas.The Harrapa culture is located in the Indus Valley and western India and its urbanization is based on achalcolithic system with and absence of iron. Later Vedic society centering on the Ganges Valley fromwhich the Harappan culture is largely absent owes its gradual urbanization to iron technology, thewidespread domestication of the horse and the extension and intensification of plough agriculture. (Iron,horse and plough being nearly absent - some evidence in later Harappan sites).The expansion and budding off of the Harappan system in the east as far as Alamgirpur (U.P.) and to theneighbouring areas was neither 'colonisation' nor was it 'political expansion' of any from, it was rather theexpansion in terms of the permeations of the socio-economic and socio-cultural systems of Harappansociety whereas, the Aryan advance towards eastern region - the Doab of the Ganges and Jamuna - wasno doubt facilitated by their horse chariots and effective weapons and can be viewed as 'colonisation' or 'political expansion' though not all the Aryan culture contacts and expansion need have been of a violentkind.The focal centers of the Harappan culture remained for a long time the twin cities of Harappa andMohenjo-daro and it is from these centers that Harappan culture budded off, whereas the focus of attention of the Rig Veda was the Punjab and in the later Vedic period it shifted to the Doab of the Gangesand Jamuna rivers. The Punjab seems gradually to fade into the background and was regarded even withdisapproval.The Harappan society had a very complex social stratification, division of labour and multiplicity of craftsand industries, urbanism was its marked feature with Harappans enjoying a settled and sedentary life,and in this society the priest and the merchant played dominant roles perhaps constituting a 'ruling' elite.On the other hand, in the early period the Aryans were organized into a social organization which may bedescribed as 'tribal' or rural' one with a minimal of division of labour and sedentariness. It was sed fullywith more pronounced and increased division of labour when specialized trades and crafts appeared. Butin this society it was not the priests and the merchants (Vaishyas) but the Priests and the Kshtriya whoconstituted the rule in elite (though with a tendency to rivalry).
In the Harappan society the Priestly class was of great importance as the central authority. Though thereis little evidence in the Rig Veda of any special importance of the priests, however in later Vedic society,the priests as a class assumed a form of institutional authority. The institutions of slavery and prostitutionwere common to both the societies.The entire Harappan civilization was the product of an available food surplus (wheat and barley), a fairlyhigh level of craft industry, a script and most important of active commercial intercourse by which it wasable to obtain its different and varied material from places far and near both in India (the sub-continentoutside the Harappan sphere was not terra-incognita) and outside (i.e. Sumerian towns, Baluchistan andCentral Asia). Both northern and southern India was connected in Harappan period by ties of brisk trade.But the early Aryans did not fully emerged out from the food-gathering and nomadic pastoral stage. Theyhated the panis, i.e. those who indulged in trade. Though by the end of the Vedic age trade contracts andcommercial inter-course did not reach the Harappan level. It was only by the end of the Vedic period thatthe Aryans had some familiarity with the sub-continent.The religion of the Harappan differed widely from that of the Vedic people. The Harappan practiced thecults of Sakti (mother Goddess) and Pasupati (Proto-Shiva) of animal-tree and stone worship and of Phallus and Yoni, i.e. fertility cult. The early Aryans condemned many of these cults. Harappansworshiped Mother Goddess but the Female deities played a minor part in Vedic religion though the Aryansprovided spouses to their gods by later Vedic times. But the fear of the Phallus worship was replaced inthe Yajur veda by its recognition as an official ritual. Siva also gained increased importance in the later Vedas. The Aryans anthropomorphized most of the forces of nature and prayed to them as Indra, Varuna,Agni, Mitra, Rudra, Soma, Surya, and Asvins. The fire of sacrificial cult was common to both. VedicAryans worshipped the cow while the Harappans reserved their veneration for bulls. The Harappans wereiconic and the Aryans aniconic. Ascetic practices were known to both.That the Harappan had a ruling authority or elite and / or an administrative organization cannot bedoubted. Almost uniform planning of the cities and presence of sanitary system, standard weights andmeasures, assembly halls, huge granaries and citadels point to the existence of an authority, but what itwas like as the later Vedic period the Aryan tribes had consolidated in little kingdoms with capitals and asedimentary administrative system with important functionaries the Purohit and the twelve ratrins playingdominant role in support of the monarchy, the prevalent form of government.The food habits of the Harappans were almost identical with those of the later Aryans if not early Aryans.The Harappans unlike the Aryans, preferred indoor games of outdoor amusements (chariot racing andhunting) though dice was popular past time with both. Playing music, singing and dancing were commonto both. But about the musical instrument of the Harappan little is known or not known while the Aryanshad the drum, lute and flute with cymbals and the harp as later additions. The Harappans buried their dead - the Aryans largely created their dead. The Harappans used a script, which remains undecipheredto date in spite of many claims for its deco din, where as references to writing in Vedic society came at amuch later stage.In art the Harappans made considerable progress. Their works of art add tour comprehension of their culture. In fact, the earliest artistic traditions belong to them. In sculpture (beareded man from Mohenjo-daro and two sand stone statuettes from Harappa), though a very few sculptures survive, in metal (bronzedancing girl) and ivory works, in terracotta's (small images and figures of animals, birds or human or animal and inscription a 9 Harappan script on them), and in their pottery (painted red and black, at timesglazed), the Harappan show vigor, variety and ingenuity. On the other hand, Rig Vedic age is devoid of any tangible proof of Aryan achievements in these directions. In fact the Rig Veda says nothing of writing,art and architecture. The art of ceramics made Harappan, the Vedic pottery was a simple one.The Harappans lacked that plasticity and dynamism of mind which is very essential for further growth andsurvival and they refused to learn from others, on the other hand, the Aryans possessing what theHarappans lacked, were youthful enough to be receptive, adaptive and assimilative, transforming

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