Read this article to learn about the Vedic period of India, its migrations, settlements and literary:
Migrations and Settlements:
India, as is well known, derives its name from the Sindhu (Indus) and the earliest civilisation of this country which was predominantly urban had its cradle in the valley of the same river, called the Indus civilisation.
Far different is the picture of another civilisation which had its principal home higher up in the Indus valley called the Vedic or Rig Vedic culture.
The people who evolved this culture called themselves Aryas or Aryans and were probably an invading or immigrant people, whose first arrival in India is dated a little earlier than 1500 B.C. We do not find clear and definite archaeological traces of their advent. The Aryan migration to Indian was not a single concerted action, but one covering centuries and involving many tribes.
In the Rigveda, the land where the Vedic Aryans lived is called by the name of Sapta-Sindhu or the ‘land of the seven rivers’ which included the Indus or Sindhu with its principal tributaries on the west and the river Saraswati on the east. The region of Sapta-Sindhu witnessed the composition of the sacred hymns which describe the early growth and development of the Vedic culture.
The earliest life of the Aryans seems to have been mainly pastoral, agriculture being a secondary occupation. The Aryans did not lead a settled life, with the result that they could not leave behind any solid material remains.
The Vedic age spans almost a millennium of Indian history (1500-600 B.C.), a period which witnessed crucial changes in North India. These developments are evident in a number of spheres-social, economic, political and religious.
The identification of the original home of the Aryans has been a very difficult riddle to solve with claims and counter-claims being made by several scholars. The word Aryan literally means of high birth, but generally refers to language, though some use it as race.
Max Muller, the great German Scholar declared emphatically that the term “Aryan, in scientific language, is utterly inapplicable to race. It means language and nothing but language”. Philological studies by Filippo Sasetti, (a Florentine) in the late 16th century led to the discovery of close affinities between Sanskrit and some of the principal languages of Europe such as Greek, Latin, Gothic, Celtic and also Persian.
These similarities could have been only when their ancestors must have lived together for a sufficiently long time. In 1786, Sir William Jones in his address to the Asiatic Society of Bengal tried to prove a definite relation between the Vedic Sanskrit and the principal European languages.
The scholars have given a common name ‘Indo-European’ to this group of languages and the people speaking them were known as Indo- Europeans. On this basis it has been surmised that this Indo-Europeans migrated or dispersed to the various parts of the world, including India. The Indo-Aryans in due course of time orally composed the Rigveda Samhita which on linguistic grounds is dated between 1500 and 1000 B.C.
The language of Zend Avesta, which is the oldest text in the Iranian language, is also similar to the Rig Vedic Sanskrit. The two texts use the same names for several gods and even for social classes suggesting that the Vedic culture and the ancient Aryan culture of Iran seem to have derived from one and the same Indo- Iranian culture.
There is archaeological evidence outside India to show that in Asia Minor and other countries of Western Asia there was some activity of the Aryans. Some inscriptions of about 1400 B.C. found at Boghaz-koi in Cilicia (Asia Minor), the capital of the ancient Hittites, mention some Aryan deities such as Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatyas. On the evidence of Indian archaeological objects, it is assumed that the Aryans were the authors of the Painted Grey Ware Culture (1100-600 B.C.) with its epicentre located in the Ganga-Yamuna doab.
Originally the Aryans seem to have lived somewhere in the Steppes, stretching from southern Russia to Central Asia, bordering the Oxus and the Jaxartes, and the Aral and Caspian seas. From this base sections many of them may be presumed to have pushed up the highlands of Afghanistan, and then to have descended from this base into the plains of the Punjab.
In the opposite direction other Aryan tribes from the same region moved westwards into Iran. The main tribes known among the Aryan speaking people are the Hittites, Indo-Aryans, Iranians, Kassites, Mitannis and Greeks. While Hittites migrated to Cappadocia (Asia Minor) in about 1950 B.C., the Indo-lranians came to the Pamirs and the Oxus and Jaxartes valleys in about 2000 B.C.
Then the Iranians went to Iran and the Indo- Aryans entered India in about 1500 B.C., but not earlier than 2000 B.C. Kassites occupied Babylonia in about 1760 B.C., while the Mitannis migrated to other parts of Mesopotamia around 1500 B.C. Finally the Greek Aryans went to Greece around 1200 B.C.
Many scholars like Ganganath Jha, D.S. Trivedi, L.D. Kalla, etc., tried to prove that the Vedic Aryans were the indigenous people, who regarded Sapta-Sindhu as their original home. This view, though highly favoured at one time, has not many supporters now. Had India been the original home of the Aryans they would have certainly tried to fully Aryanise the whole of the sub-continent.
Besides, the vast disparities between the Harappan and vedic cultures further prove that had the Aryans been the indigenous people these disparities would not have been noticed, particularly when the epicenter of both these cultures was the Indus region.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was of the opinion that the original home of the Aryans was the Arctic region. This view was propounded by him in his book, ‘The Arctic Home of Aryans.’ According to Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Pargiter, the original home of the Aryans was Tibet. The view has been expounded by them in the ‘Satyarth Prakash’ and ‘Ancient Indian Historical Traditions’ respectively.
Dating the Vedic:
As regards the age of the Vedas, Jacobi’s view was that the Vedic civilization flourished between 4500 and 2500 B.C. According to Dr. Winternitz “The available evidence merely proves that the Vedic period extends from an unknown past say X to 500 B.C., none of the dates 1200-500 B.C., 1500-500 B.C. and 2000-500 B.C., which are usually assumed, being justified by facts. Only it may be added, as a result of recent researches, that 800 B.C. should be substituted for 500 B.C. and that the unknown date more probably falls in the third rather than in second millennium before Christ.”