Aryan, name originally given to a people who were said to speak an archaic Indo-European language and who were thought to have settled in prehistoric times in ancient Iran and the northern Indian subcontinent. Aryans settled in India in Early Vedic Period. This is referred as Saptasindhu or the land of seven rivers; Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Indus and Saraswati.
The period of 1500 B.C and 600 B.C was divided into Early Vedic Age (Rig Vedic Period) and Later Vedic Age.
• Rig Vedic Period: 1500 B.C- 1000 B.C; It was in this period, Aryans were supposed to have invaded India.
• Later Vedic Period: 1000 B.C- 600 B.C
Characteristics of Vedic Era
I. Vedic Literature
The word Veda is derived from word root which means ‘to Know’ or ‘Superior Knowledge’. There are four important Vedas:
1. Rig Veda: It consists of 10 books and 1028 hymns sung in praise of different Gods. Mandals II to VII were known as Family Books as they were based on family sages such as Gritsamada, Vishvamitra, Bamadeva, Arti, Bharadvja and Vasishtha.
2. Yajur Veda: It describes the political life, social life, rules and regulations that should be followed. It is divided into: Krishna Yajur Veda and Shukla Yajur Veda
3. Sama Veda: It is a book of chants and prayers and consists of 1810 hymns.
4. Atharva Veda: It consists of magical spells, Indian Medicine and folk dances.
• These belonged to the second class of Vedas and are related to prayers and sacrificial ceremony.
• The Tandyamaha Brahamana is considered the oldest and has many legends.
• Vratyasoma is a ceremony mentioned in these legends through which non Aryans can be converted into Aryans.
• Satapatha Brahmana is the most voluminous and important one. It gives details about Philosophy, Theology, manner and customs of Vedic Period.
• The final part of Brahmana was Aranyakas. It had two parts attached to Rig Veda; Aitareya and Kausitaki.
• There are 108 kinds of philosophical texts which deal with Soul. These are called as Upanishad.
• Brihadarnayaka and Chandogya are the oldest Upanishads.
• The phrase ‘Satyamev Jayate’ is found in Mundaka Upanishad.
II. Aryan Conflicts
• The first batch of Aryans invaded India in circa 1500 B.C.
• They got into conflicts with the autochthonous inhabitants of India, i.e. the dasas or dasyus.
• While the Dasas did not provoke much violence from the Aryans, dasyuhatya or the slaughter of Dasyus is frequently mentioned in the Rig Veda.
• Indra is also mentioned as Purandara in the Rig Veda, which literally translates into ‘breaker of forts’.
• The mention of the Pre-Aryan forts could have been of Harappan settlements.
• The Aryans were easily able to conquer the natives as they possessed better arms, coats of mail (varman) and chariots driven by horses.
• The Aryans engaged in two types of conflicts: one with the indigenous populations and then among themselves.
• The Aryans were divided into five tribes called Panchajanas and sometimes procured the help of non-Aryans as well.
• The rulers of Aryan clan were Bharata and Tritsu assisted by priest Vasishtha.
• The country Bharatvarsha was named after the king Bharata.
III. The Dasarajan War
• India was ruled by the bharata clan and faced opposition from ten kings; five Aryans and five non-Aryans.
• The battle fought amongst them is called the battle of ten kings or the dasarajan war.
• Fought on the river parushni or ravi, the battle was won by the sudas.
• Later, the bharatas joined hands with the purus to form a new clan called the kurus.
• In the later Vedic times, the kurus and the panchalas played an important role in the politics of the upper gangetic plains where they established their rule together.
IV. Rivers in Vedic Age
• The term ‘Sapta Sindhu’ or the group of seven chief rivers is mentioned in the Rig Veda.
• The seven rivers were probably:
• Saraswati in the east,
• Sindhu (Indus) in the west,
• Satudru (Sutlej), Vipasa (Beas), Asikni (Chenab), Parushni (Ravi) and Vitasta (Jhelum) in between.