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introduction

The Indus valley civilization saw its genesis in the holy land now known as India
around 2500 BC. The people inhabiting the Indus River valley were thought to be
Dravidians, whose descendants later migrated to the south of India. The
deterioration of this civilization that developed a culture based on commerce and
sustained by agricultural trade can be attributed to ecological changes. The second
millennium BC was witness to the migration of the bucolic Aryan tribes from the
North West frontier into the sub continent. These tribes gradually merged with their
antecedent cultures to give birth to a new milieu.
The Aryan tribes soon started penetrating the east, flourishing along the Ganga and
Yamuna Rivers. By 500 BC, the whole of northern India was a civilized land where
people had knowledge of iron implements and worked as labor, voluntarily or
otherwise. The early political map of India comprised of copious independent states
with fluid boundaries, with increasing population and abundance of wealth fueling
disputes over theThe Vedic period is characterized by Indo-Aryan culture associated with the texts
of Vedas, sacred to Hindus, which were orally composed inVedic Sanskrit. The Vedas are some of
[23]
the oldest extant texts in India and next to some writings in Egypt and Mesopotamia are the oldest
[24]
in the world. The Vedic period lasted from about 1500 to 500 BCE, laying the foundations
of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society. The Aryans
established Vedic civilization all over north India, particularly in the Gangetic Plain. This period
succeeded the prehistoric Late Harappan, during which immigrations of Indo-Aryan-speaking
tribes overlaid the existing civilizations of local people whom they called Dasyus. The Aryans,
[25]
originally came from the Caspian Sea area of Asia. Settling first in Bactria and then in the Hindu[26]
Kush area of India, before settling in the Ganges and Yamuna River valleys.
Many scholars throughout history have maintained that the Aryans subjugated the "backward
[27]
aboriginies" that had previously lived in northern India. However, discoveries of advanced
civilizations in the Indus River valley, caused many scholars to change their theories in this regard.
The Aryans may have received as much from the neighboring cultures of northern India as they
[28]
contributed. Indeed when the Aryans moved into India, they were semi-nomadic pastoralists, their
[29]
[30]
clothing was simple, they had no regular legal institutions and their religion was a very basic form
of animism. The basis of the Aryan economy had always been centered around cattle
[31]
raising. During this period of time, the cow began to be venerated in Aryan society. Thus, the
[32]
origins of the later Hindu belief in India that cows are sacred may have started during this time.
Early Vedic society consisted of largely pastoral groups, with late Harappan urbanization having been
[33]
abandoned. After the time of the Rigveda, Aryan society became increasingly agricultural and was
socially organized around the four varnas, or social classes. In addition to the Vedas, the principal
texts of Hinduism, the core themes of the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are said to
[34]
have their ultimate origins during this period. The Mahabharata remains, today, the longest single
[35]
poem in the world. The events described in the shorter, Ramayana are from a later period of history
[36]
than the events of the Mahabharata. The early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds, in part,
[37]
to the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture in archaeological contexts.
[38]

The Kuru kingdom corresponds to the Black and Red Ware and Painted Grey Ware cultures and to
the beginning of the Iron Age in northwestern India, around 1000 BCE, as well as with the
composition of the Atharvaveda, the first Indian text to mention iron, as yma ayas, literally "black

metal." The Painted Grey Ware culture spanned much of northern India from about 1100 to 600
[37]
BCE. The Vedic Period also established republics such as Vaishali, which existed as early as the
6th century BCE and persisted in some areas until the 4th century CE. The later part of this period
corresponds with an increasing movement away from the previous tribal system towards the
establishment of kingdoms, called mahajanapadas.

The word Aryan comes from the Sanskrit aria meaning


noble. Historians believe the original home of the
Aryans was in the lands south of the Ural Mountains in
what is now Kirghizstan. When life became tough,
because food was scarce, drop in temperature and the
pressure applied by the yellow-skinned tribes in the
north, the Aryans began to move away in different
directions. Some went to Greece, some to Iran, and
some to Afghanistan. From the eastern front some
groups moved to India. The whole process of migration
took place between 2000 to 1500 BC. They entered
India from the north west and initially settled in the
land between the tributaries of the River Indus. There
were more than 1200 such settlements of migrants.
Many of them settled along the banks of Saraswati
river. They settled to an agrarian life, supplemented by
cattle grazing. These settlers along the banks of
Saraswati river came to be known as Saraswats.
As time went on, the aryan settlers went south and
east along the river valleys and occupied the land
between the Himalayas in the north and the Vindhyas
in the south. This land, the land of the Aryans, came to
be called Aryabarta.
Figure below:The Aryan settlements in Indus region

The coming of Aryans marks the beginning of a historic period in India. Between the
decline of Harappan civilization 1500 BC and 500 BC is a "dark" period about which little
is known. The Indus Valley (or Harappan) Civilization was the largest

civilization in the world during its reign from 3000 to 1500 BC. This culture
was unique in that its cities were extraordinarily similar throughout a
geographically widespread area, yet there is no physical evidence of a
central unifying government. Regardless, the civilization appears to have
been very peaceful, with an emphasis on trade rather than agriculture or
war. For reasons yet undetermined, this civilization began to deteriorate
around 2000 BC, with little of it remaining by 1500 BC.

Back to "Indus Valley Civilization" Chronology


A group of warrior nomads, the Aryans, began to migrate into the Indus
Valley region around the time that the Harappan Civilization began to
decline. Scholars disagree about whether the Aryans overtook the
Harappan Civilization by force, or simply moved in and coexisted with them
during their decline. Regardless, the nomadic Aryans were predominately a
cattle-breeding society, and they learned how to live as settled
agriculturists from the remaining Harappan people. Therefore, the Aryans
absorbed remnants of the Harappan Civilization and integrated them into
their own culture to form the Vedic culture. Since the Indus Valley
Civilization left no written records, the nature of the transition from the
Harappan culture to the resulting Vedic culture is that much more a
mystery.
There are several possible arguments against the idea of Aryan invasions.
According to the invasion theory, the Aryans were a group of primitive
nomads who came out of Central Asia with chariots, iron weapons, and
superior battle tactics; and thus overthrew the Indus Valley culture.
However, this theory can be called into question for several reasons. First,
there has been no evidence of horses, chariots, or iron discovered at the
Indus Valley excavation sites. Also, the idea of Aryans using chariots has
been questioned since they are not typically the vehicles of nomads, and
chariots would not have been suitable for crossing the mountainous terrain
that an Aryan invasion would have required. Further, some scholars assert
that excavation evidence points to internal factors and floods as the cause
of destruction of the Harappan culture rather than outside invasion.
However, other scholars argue that the Aryans were undoubtedly a
conquering people when they first spread into India, then they gradually
mixed with the indigenous Harappan culture. According to this view, the
Aryans were a fierce and conquering people whose culture was oriented
around warfare. Their religion also reflected their culture, as it was
dominated by warring storm-gods and sky-gods. This warlike nature was
preserved in the later Vedic religion (see the "Rig Veda"), where the god
Indra was portrayed as a conquering deity who smashed cities and killed
enemies. In the "Hymn to Parusha" in the "Rig Veda", the god Parusha
sacrificed himself to himself, and out of his parts came the different classes
of Indian peoples. This became the basis for the socially stratified caste
system. Perhaps the Aryans used this creation myth to subjugate the
darker-skinned people they conquered (the Harappans). Further, the
Aryans saw themselves as superiors to the people they conquered as
evidenced in the Indo-European root word of their name, "ar", meaning
"noble" or "superior".Aryan is in fact a linguistic term indicating a speech group of
Indo-European origin, and is not an ethnic term. However this inaccuracy has

become so current in historical studies of early India that it would sound unduly
obscure to refer to the Aryans as 'the Aryan speaking peoples'. In Sanskrit, however,
the word 'Aryan' means 'a noble man'. Aryans were the most illustrious race in
history. They were tall, fair complexioned, good-looking and cultured people. Groups
of Aryans are said to have settled in different countries and developed some of the
most remarkable civilizations of the world. People belonging to the various parts of
the world claim themselves to the proud descendents of the Aryans. In fact Adolf
Hitler used the German pride of being the descendant of the Aryans as his tool to
spread racial hatred against the so-called non-Aryans, during the World War II.
Original Home of the Aryans It is generally believed that they were not the original
inhabitants of India. Many theories have been put forward in favor and against the
argument. Some historians say that the original home of Aryans was Central Asia.
Others are of the opinion that their original home was in southern Russia (near the
Caspian sea) or in the south-east Europe (in Austria and Hungary). German scholar
Max-Muller thought that the original home of the Aryans was somewhere near the
Caspian Sea. From there they had migrated to the European countries. Two groups
of Aryans are said to have come to Persia and India. The Aryans who had migrated
to India are known as the 'Indo-Aryans'. They were the first people who entered India
through the north-western passes. The common descent of the Aryans is also
indicated by the fact that Sanskrit, the language of the Indo-Aryans, is closely related
to many languages of Europe and some languages of Western Asia. From this it can
be concluded that in olden times the ancestors of these people who spoke similar
languages must have once lived as neighbors. Bhagwan S. Gidwani in his book 'The
Return of the Aryans' contends that Aryans were the original inhabitants of India and
from here they migrated to other places in the world. He argues that if Aryans did
migrate from other places to India then why is there no reference to those places in
their books, such as Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, etc. According to Bal Gangadhar
Tilak Aryans originally inhabited Siberia but due to the falling temperature had to
leave Siberia for greener pastures.
is generally believed that the Aryans came to India in groups that settled in the
areas of North-Western Province in Pakistan and the Punjab which they had then
named Sapt-Sindhu or the 'land of seven rivers', namely, the Indus, the Sutlej, the
Ravi, the Beas, the Chenab, the Jhelum and the Saraswati. Later, they called this
area Brahmavarta or 'the land of Brahma'. The Aryans were found to have been
occupying the whole of the present region of Punjab from about 1500 B.C. The first
group of Aryans fought against the Dravidians and other inhabitants whom they
defeated and are supposed to have been pushed down towards south of India. The
Aryans were also victim of infighting and inter-tribal wars.
There is an interesting reference to the inter-tribal conflicts in Rig-Veda. The most
famous being the Battle of the Ten Kings. Sudas, we are told, was the king of the
Bharat tribe settled in western Punjab, and Vishwamitra was his chief priest, who
had conducted successful campaigns for the king. But Sudas wished to dismiss
Vishwamitra and appoint another chief priest in his place, Vasishtha, since the latter
was supposed to have greater priestly knowledge. This infuriated Vishwamitra, who
formed a confederacy of ten tribes and attacked Sudas, but Sudas was victorious.
Cattle-stealing and land disputes were probably a frequent cause of inter-tribal wars.

Wars were not confined to inter-tribal fighting alone. The Aryans had still to contend
with the indigenous people of northern India, who were of non-Aryan origin. The
enemies were described by Aryans as Panis and Dasas. The Panis were
troublesome, as they were cattle-thieves and cattle were the main wealth of the
Aryans. The fight with the Dasas were more prolonged as they were well settled in
the land. The Dasas were defeated is clear from the fact that the word Dasa later
came to be mean a slave. The Dasas were held to be inferior because of their darker
skin and flat features quite unlike theirs.
The Aryans pushed their way along the river Ganga and Yamuna from Sapt Sindhu
and by and by occupied the whole of Northern India from the Himalayas to the
Vindhayas. The area was called as Aryavartha or 'the land of the Aryans'. The period
between 100 B.C. and 600 B.C. during which the Aryans settled in the Gangetic
valley, was known as the later Vedic age. During this period the Aryans occupied
vast areas in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Bengal and other parts of North India.
The events relating to Ramayana and Mahabharata took place during the later part
of the Vedic period.