The Vedic Civilization – Part II

It was on the banks of river Saraswathi which once traversed a distance of 1,600 kms from Manasarovar to Gujarat and with a width of six to eight kms that the Vedic civilization flourished around 7000 years ago. It was during this period great strides were made by Indians in the field of spirituality, philosophy, literature, mathematics, medicine and other allied fields. The Vedic civilization laid down the foundation for the development of India’s political and ethical thoughts, social and religious customs and provided the essence of uniformity in the life of the people of Indian sub-continent. The Vedic civilization is unparalleled and unique in the history of mankind for it is the sole civilization among the ancient civilizations to be still thriving.

Extent and Population: From the towns discovered and artifacts excavated it appears that the Vedic civilization had spread from Suktagendor in Baluchistan in the west to Alamgirpur in Uttar Pradesh in the east and from Ropar in the Himalayan foot-hills in the north to Daimabad in the Ahmadnagar district of Maharashtra in the south. Some of the important sites are Lakhmirwala (about 225 hectares in size) in Punjab (India), Mohenjodaro (200 hectares with a population of 85 thousand), Harappa (150 hectares with a population of 65,000), both in present day Pakistan and Ganweriwala in Bahawalpur and Dholavira in Gujarat measuring 80 and 60 hectares respectively. In Ramayana there is reference to cities like Kasi, Kosala, Ayodhya, Kausambi and in Mahabharatha we have reference to cities like Dwaraka, Indraprastha and Magadha kingdom comprising areas of modern Bihar being ruled by Jarasandha. This shows that the Vedic civilization had spread far and wide.

Authors of the Vedic Civilization: Navarathna Rajaram and David Frawley have argued a costal origin for the Vedic civilization on the following basis.

  • There are over a 100 references to samudra (sea) in Rigveda. It has prayers to the safety of ships and passengers and the story of a ship wreck in which Bhujyu was travelling and he being rescued by Asvins.
  • Rigveda has 25 hymns in reference to sage Agastya who is said to the father of Tamil language and 100 hymns in reference to his elder brother Vasishta; both are descendants of Varuna, the God of sea.
  • The teachings of Varuna the sea God to seer Bhrigu are found in the Taittiriya Upanishad and the Taittiriya tradition of the Yajurveda was long been popular in south India.
  • We also reference to Jamadagni the father of Parashurama, who is credited to have created the western coast of India (Parashurama Kshetra).

Hence Navarathna Rajaram writes that the Rigveda appears to be the product of the mix of two groups of people; tribes and ruling families that inhabited the north and poet and sages from the coastal region and south India.

Racial Type: Based on the work Genes, Peoples and Languages by one of the world’s foremost population geneticists, Luigi Luca Cavalli Sforza, Navaratna Rajaram opines that the Indian population, upper castes, tribal, Dravidians and so forth are mainly of indigenous origin. The excavations at Harappa have brought to light skeletons belonging to members of various racial groups- all which are present in India today. There is no evidence that a new race intruded into north India during so called Harappan times and that the Dravidian inhabitants of the region were driven to the south.

Sources for the reconstruction of Vedic Civilization: Col James Tod, the celebrated author of Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan says-“Much reward him who would make a better digest of the historical and geographical matters in the Puranas. But we must discard the idea that the histories of Rama, Krishna and others are mere allegories- an idea supported by some, although their races, their cities and their coins still exists”. Speaking about the Puranas, F.E.Pargiter says that bards and minstrels handed down the accounts of dynasties verbally just like the Vedas were transmitted verbally from generation to generation, all which were put into writing at a later stage. Hence to get a complete picture of the Vedic civilization we have to carefully collate and critically examine different literary sources like the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharatha and the Jaina and Buddhist literary sources. This evidence should correlate with archeological, inscriptions (Seals) and geological findings. The discovery of river Saraswathi, the submerged city of Dwaraka, the date of Mahabharatha war, all have given a new dimension to reconstruct the history of ancient India.

Date of the Vedic Age: Based on astronomical data Indians have fixed the date on which the Mahabharatha war took place. According to Aryabhatta, Kaliyuga began from 3102 B.C. and the date of Mahabharatha war was 3138 B.C. In modern times scholars like Dr. Mankad fixed 3201 B.C. as the date of the war and mathematicians and astrophysicists making use of planetarium software and taking the astronomical data available in the text of the epic Mahabharatha itself as the basis, have assigned the year 3067 B.C. as the date of the Mahabharatha war.  Another famous astronomer Varahamihira says that Yudhisthira became king in saka era 2526 B.C. corresponding to 2469 B.C. or 2447 B.C. Dr. P.C.Sengupta based on Vedanga Jyotisha has fixed 2449 B.C. as the date of Mahabharatha war. The date arrived by the Kashmiri historian Kalhana was 2448 B.C., one year less than that assigned by P.C.Sengupta. Considering either 3067 B.C. or 2449 B.C. as the date in which the Mahabharatha war took place helps us to reconstruct the history of ancient India including arriving at the approximate age of Rama and the composition of Rigveda.

Age of Rama and Rigveda: In Vayu Purana we have a total of 94 kings from Manu to Bhrihadbala belonging to the Ikshavaku dynasty. Bhrihadbala died in the Mahabharatha war and was 29 generation after Rama, the famous king of Ayodhya. Taking Vayu Purana as the basis for the list of ancient Indian kings and the year 2449 B.C. as the date of Mahabharatha war and allotting 40 years for each generation, the date of Rama would be 3609 B.C. Sudasa was anterior to Rama by 18 generation and his date would be 4329 B.C. (It was during his period that the III and VII mandala of the Rigveda, considered to be the oldest was composed) Mandhatra who drove the Dhruyus out of North-west India was anterior to Sudasa by 27 generation and his date would be 5409 B.C. and Manu the first king was anterior to Mandhatra by 20 years and his date would be 6209 B.C. If we take 3067 as the date of Mahabharatha war and try to reconstruct the chronology of the Ikshavaku rulers, we get 4227 B.C. as the date of Rama, 4947 B.C. as the date of Sudasa, 6027 B.C.as the date of Mandhatra and 6827 B.C. as the date of Manu. Cuneiform inscriptions found in Mesopotamia record that Mesopotamia’s trade in the east was with three countries, Dilmun (the Persian Gulf region around Bahrain), Makan (Oman peninsula) and Meluhha (India). It is said that trade received a tremendous boost from the time of Sargon of Akkad from 2350 B.C. though there is clear evidence of early trade which can be placed in 2800-2500 B.C. Robert. H. Brunswig who has critically examined the evidence relating to artifact association showing contact with Mesopotamia and Persian Gulf and the radio-carbon dates of five Harappan sites, suggested a three period framework for the Indus Civilization; the formative phase- 2800-2500 B.C., the mature phase- 2500-2200 B.C. and the late phase- 2200-2000 B.C., after which the Harappan culture as a distinct entity gradually ceased to exist. This shows that Vedic civilization flourished around 4329 B.C. / 4947 B.C. and the Harappa civilization (actually the urban culture of the Vedic civilization) was posterior to the Vedic period.

Vedic Literature: The word Veda is generally applied to a branch of literature which has been handed down from time immemorial by verbal transmission and is declared to be sacred knowledge or divine revelation (Sruti). They are

  • The Rigveda which is the oldest and consists of 1017 hymns addressed to various gods. The composers of the Rig Veda were members of ten priestly families, namely Kanvas, Angirases, Agastyas, Grtsamadas (Kevala Bhrgus), Atris, Visvamitras, Vasisthas, Kasyapas, Bharatas and Bhrugus. Apart from these families we also have hymns composed jointly by members of different families and those composed by Rishis whose family’s identity is unknown.
  • The Yajurveda is mostly in prose and makes use of verses of the Rigveda to explain sacrifices. It is divided into Krishna Yajurveda and Sukla Yajurveda.
  • The Samaveda is a collection of melodies and the text of it is almost wholly drawn from Rigveda.
  • The Atharvaveda consists of hymns which are chanted or sung. It is a collection of songs, spells and incantations for the healing of disease, restoration of harmony and the exorcism of evil spirits.

To each of the four Vedas are attached the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The Samhitas are the books of hymns or psalms, which are sung to the praise of various gods. The Brahmanas are the treatises relating to prayers and sacrificial ceremony. They deal with rituals, sacrifices, their mystic meanings and sacred significance. The Aranyakas are the last books or concluding portions of the Brahmanas. They deal with the philosophical doctrines, the allegorical significance of rites and the mystic meaning of the text of the Samhitas. Finally the Aranyakas developed into Upanishads which are purely philosophical texts. The Upanishads are believed to be 108 in number although only 13 of them are accorded the status of major or principal Upanishads. They explain the various theories of the creation of the universe; explain the doctrine of the transmigration of the souls, the doctrine of Karma and explain about God (Brahman) and the Soul (Atman). German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was so profoundly influenced by Indian thoughts that he admitted his indebtedness to Indian wisdom, to Plato and Kant for the best of his ideas. He regarded the Upanishads as the solace of his life and death.

Samhita Brahmana Aranyaka Upanishad
Rigveda 1.Aitareya2.Kausitaki 1.Aitareya2.Kausitaki 1.Aitareya2.Kausitaki
Samaveda 1.Tandyamaha                  orPancavimsha2.Sadvimsha

3.Jaiminiya

  Jaiminiya 1.Chandogya2.Kena
ShuklaYajurveda    Satapatha 1.Brhadaranyaka2.Isha
KrishnaYajurveda    Taittiriya   Taittiriya 1.Taittiriya2.Katha3.Maitri

4.Shvetashvatara

Atharvaveda    Gopatha 1.Prashna2.Mundaka3.Mandukya

The Vedangas: The next section of the Vedic literature consists of Vedangas which are subsidiary sciences necessary for the study of the Vedas. They are Shiksha (phonetics), Kalpa (rituals). Vyakarana (grammar), Nirukta (etymology) Chhandas (metrics) and Jyotishya (astronomy). Besides these six, there are other sciences like Ayurveda (medicine), Gandharvaveda (music and dancing), Shilpaveda (architecture) and Dhanurveda (art of warfare). Among the Vedangas, the Kalpa Sutras is divided into Grihyasutras (which gives instructions regarding the various ceremonies that  are to be performed at different stages in the life of a householder), Srautasutras (which deal with the great Vedic sacrifice involving  the services of a number of priests), Dharmasutras (deal with the social usages, customs and practices of everyday life, including religious, civil and criminal laws) and Sulvasutras (describes minute rules pertaining to the measurement and construction of the fire-altars and the place of sacrifice. They are it seems the oldest books on Indian geometry).

Rulers of the Vedic Age: The Puranas contain information of all the rulers who ruled India beginning with the first king Manu. Pliny quoting Megasthenes writes that from the days of father Bacchus to Alexander (Bacchus was also known as Dionysos) their kings are reckoned at 154 whose reigns extended over 6451 years and three months. Arrian declares that from the time of Dionysos to Sondrakottos the Indians counted 153 kings and a period of 6042 years; among these a republic was thrice established, one for 300 years, another for 120 years and another of unknown period which Arrian did not take into account. We get a complete picture of the rulers of the Vedic age when we collaborate the list of the names of the kings given in the Puranas with other literary sources. The Rigveda contains reference to several tribes/dynasties like Anus, Purus, Yadus, etc. In the Puranas the geography of the five Aila or lunar tribes was given. Accordingly the Purus were located in Haryana-UP, Anus in Kashmir, Druhyus to the west of Punjab, Yadus to South-West (Rajasthan and Western M.P.) and Turvasas to the South-East of the Yadus. To the North-East of the Purus were the tribes of Iksvaku or solar race.

Political Life: monarchy was the prevailing form of government. The duties of the king included protection of his people’s life and property and repulsing the attacks of his enemies. He also acted as a representative of his people on public and religious functions such as the performance of a sacrifice. We have instance of kings like Harishchandra and Rama who were known for their truthfulness and righteousness. There were popular assemblies of elders called Sabha and Samithi and are described as twin daughters of prajapati, the creator. They had a say in the running of the administration and selection of the king. Doctrine of divinity of king was not known during the Vedic period. We do not find references to any judicial organization in Vedic literature. Probably the Sabha functioned as a popular court. The king was assisted by a senapathi, purohit and a gramapati. The senani was the commander of the army; the purohit was the King’s Counsel and the gramapati head of the village, which was the lowest unit of administration. At Mohenjodaro a very big hall about 25 metres square has been discovered. Its roof is supported by 20 rectangular brick pillars set with great accuracy in four rows of five pillars each. The hall was divided into long corridors inter-speared with low benches having even seats. This hall probably served the purpose of public assembly. The uniformity and standardization in brick size, weights and measures and civic regulations in respect of town planning in the Vedic cities excavated shows the existence of good governance.

Social Life: During the Vedic period patriarchal form of society prevailed. The head of the family was the father. It was a joint family system. Society was divided into various classes like priests, warriors, craftsmen and labourers. A workers quarter has been excavated at Harappa. Ratnagar says some sort of caste system was prevalent in the society as people living in the citadel were segregated from those of the lower town. At Mohenjodaro they were separated by some 150 meters and at Kalibangan by 40 meters. In Dholavira the town was divided into four different localities, the acropolis, the bailey, the middle town and the lower town all enclosed by defense walls. But in the early Vedic period there was no caste system. People could change their occupations according to their needs or talents and dined freely with each other. It is only in the tenth mandala of the Rigveda there is reference to the caste of Brahmana, Kshtriya, Vaishya and Sudra. (The tenth mandala or the Rigveda is a later composition). In fact the composer of the third mandala of Rigveda is Vishwamitra who was a Kshtriya king and after severe austerities became a sage. In Ramayana we find Guha, the Nisada chief and leader of Dasas and Kaivartas who is described as a close friend and companion of Rama. Rama even sent him the news of his safe return after his victory over Ravana. In Mahabharatha we find Dharmavyadha, a butcher in Mithilarajya instructing a Brahmana in Vedanta. The Upanishads has several references to Brahmins seeking the knowledge of Brahman from Kshtriya kings.

Position of women: Women were held in great respect. In social and religious gatherings they occupied the same position as men. The girls were married only after they attained the age of 18 years. There was no child marriage, parda system, sati system and monogamy prevailed. Like boys the girls also received education. The Rigveda mentions the names of learned women like Lopamudra, Nivavasi, Ghosha, Apala and Vishwavara who attained to the ranks of Rishis and composed hymns. The term dampati used in the Rigvedic period designates the mistress as well as the master of the house. The wife was admitted to full religious rites and participated in all the major ceremonies and offering of the husband

Dress, ornaments and cosmetics: Cotton fabrics were used so also wool. Men and women used a shawl which covered their upper body called adhivasa, atka or drapi and a lower garment similar to the present day dhoti called vasa or paridhana and an inner garment called nivi. Ornaments were worn by both men and women of all classes. Necklaces, armlets, finger-rings and bracelets were worn by men and women; and girdles, nose-studs, ear-rings, bangles and anklets by women alone. The rich wore the ornaments of gold, silver, ivory and other semi-precious stones like lapis-lazuli, jasper, carnelian and agate while the poor wore ornaments made out of copper, bone, shell and terracotta. They used collyrium, face-paint, hair wash, powder and other cosmetics. Round metal rod in copper and bronze with both ends rounded and polished were probably used for applying cosmetics. Bronze mirrors and ivory combs have been found in Mohenjodaro.

Amusements: Gambling, chariot racing, hunting, playing chess, dancing and singing were some of the pastime activities of the Vedic people.

Vedic Inscriptions/Seals: More than 4000 seals have been discovered majority of them at Mohenjodaro (1540) and Harappa (985). Other towns where these seals have been discovered are Lothal, Kalibangan and Chanhudaro. These seals ranged in size from half an inch to just over two and a half inch square although the most common sizes run from 0.7 to 1.2 inches. These seals made out of steatite or soap stone, faience, ivory, clay and stone were of two types, square with a carved animal and inscription and rectangular with an inscription only. A majority of seals (1159) depict the unicorn standing before a fire altar. The picture of bull occurs in 55 pieces of seals.

Did the Seal contain the Vedic script? Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat and Michael Witzel in their book The Myth of Indus Valley Script say that the seals contain nonlinguistic symbols which served key religious, political and social functions. Science Historian Dr.B.V.Subbarayyappa has propounded that the seals are numerical on the additive-multiplicative decimal system which records the agricultural production and management so essential for the sustenance of a civilization. It was Father Heras who first postulated the theory that the Indus Valley people were Tamilians and their script was an ancient form of Tamil. Dr. Asko Parpola and I.Mahadevan who have done extensive research on these seals claim that the language contained in the seal is Dravidian. But Dr.Navaratna Rajaram who has also done extensive research on the Indus seals questions that if the authors of the Harappa civilization were Dravidians and if the Harappa seal contain Dravidian script, why did the Tamils used Brahmi script when they began to write instead of using their own Indus script? Dr. Natwar Jha in his Vedic Glossary on Indus Seals argues that the script on Indus seal is old Brahmi or Proto-Brahmi and the language of the seals is Vedic Sanskrit. Even earlier the noted archaeologist Dr.S.R.Rao had held the view that the script of the seal is old Brahmi and the language was Sanskrit.

The Vedic Towns: Important archaeologists who excavated some of the famous urban settlements of the Vedic civilization were Rakkal Das Banerjee (Mohenjodaro in Pakistan), Dayaram Sahni (Harappa in Pakistan)), S.R.Rao (Lothal in Gujarat), Y.D.Sharma (Ropar in Punjab, India), B.B.Lal and B.K.Thapar (Kalibangan in Rajasthan), W.A.Fairservis (Allahdino in Pakistan), R.S.Bisht (Dholavira in Gujarat and Banawali in Haryana), Amarendra Nath (Rakhigarh in Haryana), Aurel Stein (Suktagendor in Pakistan), George F.Dales (Balakot in Pakistan), J.S.Khatri and Madhav Acharya (Kunal in Haryana), J.P.Joshi (Surkotda in Gujarat) and N.G.Majumdar and E.J.H.Mackay (Chanhudaro in Pakistan). Out of over 2600 archaeological sites of the Vedic towns (so called Indus Valley Civilization) as many as 2000 (i.e. 80%) of the sites are found on the banks of river Saraswathi. There are very large sites on this river banks like Rakhigarhi, Lakshmirwala, Bhatinda, Ganweriwala, each of which is larger than either Harappa or Mohenjodaro. There are also other culturally vibrant sites like Ropar, Kunal, Kalibangan, Kotdiji, Dholavira, Surkotada, Lothal, Rangapura, etc.

Streets: The cities (Mohenjodaro and Harappa) had wide and straight roads. They were at right angles, running due north and south and east and west. The street intersected at right angles dividing the city into square and rectangular blocks.

Houses: the open courtyard was the basic feature of the house planning. The court yard which was paved with bricks was surrounded by chambers. The doors and windows opened into it. A remarkable feature of the houses was their windowless outer walls; the doors opened on to the narrow lanes rather than on to the main street. Every house had a kitchen and a bathroom placed at the street side. It was well paved with bricks. The houses had two or more stories, had wooden doors, window and narrow stairs. Roofs of the houses were flat and made of wood. Every house had a brick lined well.

Bricks: Houses were constructed with burnt bricks of standard size. The common size of bricks was 11×5.25×2.25 inches. For special purpose like covering drains big sized bricks were made measuring 20.5×8.5×2.25 inches. L shaped bricks were used for corners.

Drainage: Below the main streets and sometimes even in small lanes ran a principal drain covered with bricks or stones and provided with sumps and inspection chambers at regular intervals. The drains were built using bricks and cemented with mud and mortar. Their size was 12 inches deep and nine inches wide. From these drains waste water flowed to culverts four to five feet deep and two and a half feet wide and covered with corbelled roofs. From these culverts water was emptied into river Sindhu.

Commerce and Industries: The urban centers of Vedic civilization were booming with industrial activities. The major industries were pottery making, textiles and construction. Wheel made pots were made which were plain and designed for utilitarian purposes. They were used as storage jars, cooking utensils, dishes, bowls and cups. Chanhudaro was an important industrial town noted for shell work and bangle making. In Gujarat there were specialized industrial centers as at Nageshwar for shell cutting, Nagwada for jewellery, Kuntasi for bead making, pottery and copper artifacts. Banavali in Haryana produced beads and jewellery as the discovery of a goldsmith’s house would suggest. Bead making requires techniques of sawing, flaking, grinding and boring, all which the Vedic artisans were aware of. Other professionals were carpenters and blacksmiths.

External Trade: The Vedic people had extensive trade relationship with west Asia. Concrete evidence of this trade is now available in cuneiform inscriptions which have been found in Mesopotamia. These documents record that Mesopotamia’s trade in the east was with three countries, Dilmun, Makan and Meluhha (India). During the Akkadian times boats from Meluhha came to Sumer and Akkad which indicates direct trade between the two countries and the decline starts in 2000-1900 B.C. during the time of third dynasty of Ur. Trade with Mesopotamia was direct. But later during the time of the Dynasty of Lasra (2075-1763 B.C.), it was probably under Dilmun middlemen. Trade received a boost from the time of Sargon of Akkad who mention the arrival of Meluha ship and felt proud it. The Mesopotamian documents give a long list of imports from Meluhha. These include shells, ivory, carnelian, copper, lapis lazuli, a variety of woods, pearls, spices, cotton, birds and animals. So extensive was the foreign trade that Lothal folk had to build an artificial brick structure 219 x 37 metres to receive ships and handle cargo. Indian imported woolen goods and even foodstuff.  The discovery of two terracotta mummies from Lothal is significant. It is interesting to note that Egyptian mummies are said to have been wrapped in Indian muslin. It is therefore not unlikely that some Indians probably travelled to Egypt and had seen mummies via land route through Mesopotamia. The overseas trade relations of the Vedic people is attested by the discovery of stone seals and a terracotta amulet depicting boats at Mohenjodaro and the discovery of five clay model of boats from Lothal by S.R.Rao.

Sculptural Art: Some of the artifacts of this period are the polished red male torso found in Harappa, the figure of a beard man or priest king made out of white limestone and the statuary of a dancing girl made out of bronze found at Mohenjodaro, a copper chariot found at Daimabad, a copper figure of a dog found at Lothal and two silver crowns with tiara found at Kunal.

Monuments: The great bath, granary and an assembly hall at Mohenjodaro, the workers quarters and a granary at Harappa, the dockyard at Lothal, a reservoir and a stadium (or ceremonial ground) at Dholavira are some of the important structures of that period.

Education: The Vedic Literature (the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads appended to them) formed the chief subject of instruction and the vital part of education during the Vedic period. The Vedas were transmitted orally by word of mouth from teacher to pupil. The main subjects taught were not only the Vedas, but also spiritual knowledge (Brahma Vidya), grammar, mathematics, chronology, dialectics, ethics, astronomy, military science, Vedangas, etc. The six Vedangas helped the proper understanding, recitation, and the sacrificial use of the Vedas. Girls also received education.

Religious Life: In the early stage of the Vedic period forces of nature was worshipped and most of the Rigvedic hymns are addressed to gods like Indra, Agni, Vayu, Varuna, etc. They had classified their gods into three categories namely heavenly gods, atmospheric gods and terrestrial gods. Later worship of Mother Goddess became popular so also the worship of Shiva in the form of Linga. Figurines of mother goddess have been discovered at places like Mohenjodaro, Banawali and Kotdiji. Many conical and cylindrical stone pieces, which look exactly like a Shiva-linga, have been discovered. To please their gods they performed yagas. At Lothal, Kalibangan and Rakhigarhi fire altars have been found. Also many sacrificial altars have been discovered which shows animals were sacrificed to please gods. Excavation in various sites  have resulted in the findings of religious symbols like swastika, Om, pipal tree, bull, engraving of snake on seals. The great bath or pushkarni have been discovered at Mohenjodaro. It is about 56 metres long and 34 metres wide and has six entrances. The bath consists of a large quandrangle in the centre and galleries and rooms on all sides. In the centre of the quadrangle is a large swimming pool, about 25 metres long, seven metres wide and two and a half metres deep. The floor of the swimming pool is made of bricks laid on edge and the walls have been made water-tight by using specially trimmed brick in gypsum mortar. Dr. Mackay feels that since people had bathrooms in their houses only on special occasions people frequented this bath (just as people now assemble during Kumbh mela).

Depopulation of the Vedic towns: In 1750 B.C. the Yamuna took an eastward diversion and became a tributary of Ganga and in 1500 B.C. the Sutlej took a westward diversion and became a tributary of Sindhu. This deprived the Saraswathi of water and it was reduced to a petty rivulet, left with only the seasonal water of ephemeral streams coming down from the Siwalik. Also due to destruction of forest due to over grazing and using wood to burn bricks used for construction of buildings led to ecological disasters. Natural calamities like earth quake and economic recession due to the decline of trade with the Mesopotamia were other factors which led to the depopulation of Vedic cities and the migration of the population to the east towards the Gangetic plains.

Achievements of Vedic people

Political: They were the first to introduce people’s participation in running the administration of a country by constituting sabha and samithi. They introduced the concept of running the government on dharmic lines.

Social: The concept of ashrama dharma was the unique contribution of the Vedic people. How a man should live, what should be his duties and goal was explained in ashrama dharma which divided man’s life into four stages namely-

  • Brahmacharya– wherein one is supposed to acquire knowledge or skill to earn a living,
  • Gruhasta– when he is supposed to lead the life of a householder,
  • Vanaprastha– wherein he devolves his household responsibilities to his offspring and retires to forests and
  • Sanyasa– wherein he contemplate on the ultimate reality.

Ecological Consciousness: The love and respect for nature in the form of worshipping trees, water, sun, fire and animals shows the ecological awareness of the Vedic people. The representation of trees and leaves especially pipal on many seals have been found. The discovery of some seals portraying the swastika and the wheel indicates the worship of sun symbolically, while the worship of snakes is evidenced by the discovery of a tablet showing a seated deity with a hooded cobra over his head.

Yoga: At Mohenjodaro we have a seal where a three faced deity is seated cross legged on a throne in an erect meditative posture or yoga posture and surrounded by animals like elephant, tiger, buffalo, deer and rhinoceros. This deity is being identified as Shiva also called Mahayogin and Pashupati. In Harappa was found a figure in yogic posture. All these probably indicate that the genesis of yoga began during the Vedic age.

Literature: They gave the world the perfect spoken language called Sanskrit. The literary works composed during those periods, namely the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Bhagvath Gita, epics like Ramayana and Mahabharatha even today inspires the present generation of literature lovers.

Sanatana Dharma: Another unique contribution of the Vedic civilization was the evolution of Sanatana Dharma, a way of life based on the ideals of ethics, tolerance, altruism and respect for all forms of life. It was this aspect of tolerance of Sanatana Dharma which made the world greatest philosopher, Immanuel Kant to observe that the tolerance which the Hindus possess make them believe that the religion of other countries are also good and for this reason they (Hindus) never compel others to embrace Hinduism.

Gurukul System: The Gurukul system wherein education was freely imparted to pupils apart from free lodging and boarding in the house of the teacher was another legacy of the Vedic civilization.

Spiritual: The contribution of the Vedic seer in the intellectual realm was unique. Thousands of years earlier than ancient Greeks, the Vedic rishis had pondered over the nature of ultimate Reality and realized it. The result was the collection of several Upanishads containing lofty philosophical ideas about metaphysics and ontology. Unlike the Greeks they did not merely speculate but realized reality. The Vedic people perceived God in all animate and inanimate things. They emphasized that Brahman or God is the essence of the universe. They evolved the doctrines of immortality of soul, karma and reincarnation.

Technological innovations: In the development of a civilization, harnessing and efficient use of energy is essential. We have evidence to the use of cattle power for transport and wind power for sailing their boats by the Vedic people. They built ocean going ships and long before Hippalus discovered the monsoon winds, the Vedic people possessed a sound knowledge of the periodicity and regularity of the winds in the Indian Ocean without which their vessels could not have made regular voyages to the Mesopotamian ports. The binary and the decimal system of measurements, the technology of water proofing, well digging, invention of corbelled arch, metal saw, fine tubular drills, concept of town planning and laying of their town on a gridiron plan were some of the innovations of the Vedic people. According to Navaratna Rajaram, the Sulva/Sulbasutras were text on geometry and mathematics which contained detailed mathematical instructions for the design and construction of Vedic altars found at various urban sites of the Vedic civilization like Kalibangan, Lothal, etc. The knowledge of the Sulva/Sulbasutras which was first used for religious and ritualistic purpose was later applied for town planning and architectural purposes like construction of the harbor at Lothal. Abraham Seidenberg, author of History of Mathematics credits Sulbasutra as inspiring all mathematics of ancient world from Babylonia to Egypt to Greece.

To sum up the Vedic civilization was an indigenous flowering of civilization which took place on the banks of river Saraswathi some 7000 years back. It was on the banks of this river that many towns sprang up and it represented the urban culture of Vedic civilization which was misrepresented as a separate culture and called Harappa or Indus Valley Civilization. Today there are many nations in this world which have nothing in common with the ancient civilization which flourished in their territory. Mexico of today has nothing in common with the ancient Mayan civilization, Egypt with the Nile civilization, Iraq with the Mesopotamian civilization, Greece with the ancient Greek civilization and Italy with the Roman civilization. But India is the only exception; for it still retains its religion, its customs, tradition and philosophy of life which it inherited from the Vedic civilization.

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Comments

  • Venkatram Rao K  On July 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Varahamihira date is controversial as he belongs to 1st Cen BC (Not 5th Cen AD) and as per his work the Kaliyuga date (3102 BC) tallies as he mentioned Saka King Rule (550 BC) but not Salivahana Saka (78 AD) as Salivahana is not even born at the time of Sri Varaha Mihira.

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