Read this article to learn about the geographical expansion of India during Vedic Period !
Rig Vedic or Early Vedic Period (1500-1000 B.C.):
The Rig-Veda is the only source to give us an idea of the geographical expanse of the Early Vedic period.
When the early Rig Vedic hymns were written, the focus of Aryan culture was the region between the Yamuna and Sutudri (Sutlej) and along the upper course of the river Sarasvati.
The geographical area eventually occupied by the Rig Vedic tribes is clearly indicated by the mention of certain rivers, mountains localities, tribes and kingdoms which permit of easy identification. The Rigveda mentions the following rivers: Kubha (modern Kabul), the Suvastu (Swat), the Krumu (Kurram), the Gomati (Gumal), the Sindhu (Indus) and its five tributaries viz., Vitasta (Jhelum), Askini (Chenab) Parushni (Ravi) Sutudri (Sutlej) and Vipasa (Beas), the Sushoma (Sohan), the Marudvridha (Maruwardwan), the Sarasvati, the Drishadvati (the Rakshi or Chitang), the Yamuna, the Ganga and the Sarayu.
The mention of these rivers implies the possession by the Aryans of a considerable portion of the country stretching from eastern Afghanistan to the upper valley of the Ganges. The major part of this area came to be known as Sapta Sindhu or the land of the seven rivers by the Aryans (comprising the five tributaries of the river Indus, Indus and the Sarasvati). The country of the Aryans was also designated as Aryavarta in the latter scriptures.
The Rig Vedic Aryans were not acquainted with the seas or oceans. Rig-Veda mentions the word Samudra which probably meant only a collection of water and not sea in this period. The Rig Vedic Aryans were not familiar with any kind of desert.
The Himalaya or the Himavanta mountains are well known to the Rig Vedic sages but not the Vindhyas or Satpuras. The other hills referred to are Arjika, Mujavant (referred to as the source of soma), Silament (Suleman ridge), etc.
The Vedic Tribes:
The whole of the territory known to the Vedic Aryans was divided into a number of tribal principalities ruled normally by the leaders of the various tribes or kings. In the Dasarajna Yuddha or the battle often kings, alluded to in various Rigvedic hymns many important Vedic tribes and their personalities are found mentioned.
This battle was between Sudas, a Bharata king of the Tritsu family and the tribal confederacy of ten kings led by Visvamitra; the federation consisting of the five well-known tribes – Puru, Yadu, Turvasa, Anu and Druhya-along with five of little note, viz., Alina, Paktha, Bhalanas, Siva and Vishanin.
In the bloody struggle on the banks of river Parushni (Ravi) the Bharatas emerged victorious. The Sudas had to fight against the three non-Aryan tribes-Ajas, Sigrus and Yakshus under the leadership of king Bheda, but these new associations were also defeated on the banks of river Yamuna.
The Bharatas were in the Rig Vedic age, settled in the region between the Sarasvati and Yamuna. The Purus were another very important tribe living on either side of the Saraswati. The Anus, Druhyus, Yadus and Turvasas were the allies of the Purus against the Bharatas.
These five are the Panchjanah (the five people) of the Rig-Veda according to Zimmer. Yadu and Turvasa tribes lived in the southern Punjab. The extreme north-west was occupied by the Gandharis, Pakthas, Alinas, Bhalanas and Vishanins. The Matsyas and Chedis were settled to the south of the Punjab in the region of Rajasthan and Malwa.
The chief opponents of the Aryans were the indigenous people of non-Aryan origin such as Panis and Dasas. The Panis in Rigveda are described as wealthy people who refused to patronise the Vedic priests and perform Vedic rituals, and who stole the cattle of the Aryans. More hated than the Panis were the Dasas or Dasyus, who were black-skinned, malignant and non-sacrificing and spoke a language totally different from that of the Aryans. Other prominent Non-Aryan Tribes were the Anasa, Ayagna, Avrata, Akasman, Asura, Murdvark, etc.
Later Vedic Period (1000-600 B.C.):
This period was marked by further expansion of the Aryans to parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, northern Bihar and parts of eastern Rajasthan. The Sathapatha Brahmana throws light on this expansion to the eastern Gangetic plains.
It reports the founding of a realm called ‘Videha’ by a Prince, Videgha Madhava. The Purus and the Bharatas were amalgamated to form the Kurus, the kingdom of which corresponds to modern Thaneswar, Delhi and the upper Gangetic Doab.
The Panchalas were also a composite class whose territory roughly corresponds to the modernn day Bareilly, Badaun, Farukhabad and adjoining districts. The major socio-political centre of this period was the Kuru- Panchala janapada of the Ganga-Yamuna doab.
Further, regions to the east, such as Kosala (eastern Uttar Pradesh, its early capital was Ayodhya, later replaced by Srawasti. Kashi (Varanasi), Videha (north Bihar), Magadha (South Bihar), Anga (set up their settlements on the rivers Son and the Ganges) and Vangas (eastern Bengal).
Northern tribes were the Uttarakurus, the Uttara Madras, Gandharis, Kambojas and the Kekayas. In South India there were tribes like Satvantas, Vidarbhas, Nishadas, etc., some non-Aryan tribes of the later Vedic period mentioned in the Aitareya Brahmana are the Andhras, Pundras, Sabaras, Pulindasand Mutibs.
The later Vedic texts mention rivers such as the Narmada, Gandak, Chambal, etc. The Satapatha Brahmana mentions the Eastern and Western Seas (Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea). The later three Vedas give three broad divisions of India, viz. Aryavarta (Northern India), Madhyadesa (Central India), and Dakshinpatha (Southern India).