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Later Vedic Age

Later Vedic Period


The Later Vedic Age, spanning roughly from 1000 BCE to 600 BCE in ancient India, represents a period of significant cultural and social developments following the Rigvedic era. Characterized by the composition of the Samhitas and Brahmanas, this phase witnessed the emergence of new Vedic texts, ritualistic practices, and the stratification of society into distinct varnas. The Later Vedic Age laid the groundwork for subsequent philosophical and religious movements, setting the stage for the later evolution of classical Indian civilization.

Political Life of Later Vedic Aryans

  1. Shift in Warfare: Territorial conflicts replaced wars fought for cows. The increase in the size of kingdoms correlated with the growth of royal power.
  2. Evolution of Monarchy: The king, typically a Kshatriya, saw the office becoming almost hereditary. While traces of chief or king election persisted, hereditary kingship was on the rise.
  3. Regional Variations in Titles:In various regions, people addressed kings by different names, such as Virat in the north, Samrat in the east, Svarat in the west, and Bhoja in the south.
  4. King’s Control Over Social Order: The king’s influence extended beyond politics, gradually emerging as the controller of the social order. Rituals like Rajasuya, Asvamedha, and Vajapeya enhanced the king’s power and prestige.
  5. Transformation of Assemblies: Popular assemblies diminished in significance, giving way to an increase in royal power. The vidhata disappeared, and the sabha and samiti, while continuing, underwent a change in character.
  6. Dominance of Nobles: Nobles and princes began to dominate the sabha and samiti, sidelining the influence of popular assemblies.
  7. Exclusion of Women:A shift in the composition of the sabha occurred as they no longer permitted women to participate.
  8. Military Mobilization: Kings lacked a standing army in later Vedic times, relying on tribal units mobilized during times of war.
  9. Shared Sacrifices for Victory: During wartime, kings partook meals from the same plate as their people, symbolizing a shared commitment and strategy for victory.

Social Life of Later Vedic Aryans

  1. Varna System:The Later Vedic society structured four varnas: Brahmanas, Rajanyas or Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras. The Upanayana ceremony, which involved the sacred thread, privileged the first three varnas, while excluding Sudras.
  2. Brahmanical Influence: Brahmanas gained power through the growing emphasis on sacrifices. They conducted rituals, managed festivals tied to agricultural activities, and held authority over religious ceremonies.
  3. Social Hierarchy and Prince’s Dominance: in the later vedic, the prince, representing the Rajanya order, sought supremacy over the other varnas. A hierarchal description in the Aitareya Brahmana illustrated the perceived positions of Brahmanas, Vaisyas, and Sudras, highlighting their social roles and status.
  4. Patriarchal Family Structure: A patrimonial system evolved in families, emphasizing the father’s authority. Women generally held lower status, with references to practices like Sati and child marriages.
  5. Institution of Gotra: The concept of gotra emerged, signifying descent from a common ancestor. Marriage restrictions within the same gotra were enforced, and caste exogamy was widespread.
  6. Ashrams or Stages of Life: Later Vedic times witnessed an incomplete establishment of the Ashram system, which included Brahmachari, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, and Sanyasa. Only three stages were mentioned in Later Vedic texts, and complete retirement (Sanyasa) was not well-established at this point.
  7. Craftsmen’s Status: Certain craft groups like Rathakaras enjoyed special status and were entitled to wear the sacred thread. This exemplified the intersection of social roles and professional distinctions in the Later Vedic age.

Economic Life of Later Vedic Aryans

  1. Agricultural Dominance: Agriculture was the primary livelihood in the later Vedic age, with settled communities relying on ploughing, often performed with wooden ploughshares. Even royalty engaged in manual labor, as seen in the example of Balarama, Krishna’s brother, known as the “wielder of the plough.”
  2. Crop Evolution: Barley persisted, but rice (vrihi) and wheat (godhuma) gained prominence as chief crops. Wheat became a staple in Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh over time.
  3. Ritualistic Agriculture: Agricultural produce, especially rice, played a significant role in rituals during the later Vedic age.
  4. Introduction of Iron The use of iron, referred to as Syama or Krishna Ayas, expanded around 1000 BCE, enabling extensive forest clearance and increased cultivation.
  5. Craft Specialization: Diverse arts and crafts thrived, with a deepening of craft specialization. Vedic people excelled in metallurgy, evident in the discovery of copper objects at Painted Grey Ware (PGW) sites.
  6. Occupational Diversity: Many occupational groups emerged, including stone breakers, jewellers, astrologers, physicians, and more. Both Vedic texts and excavations highlight a cultivation of specialized crafts.
  7. Advancements in Weaving and Handicrafts: Weaving, predominantly carried out by women, was a widespread practice. Leatherwork, pottery, and carpentry experienced significant progress.

Later Vedic Age Religion

  1. The two outstanding gods, Indra and Agni lost their former importance. On the other hand, Prajapati (The Creator) came to occupy the supreme position in the later Vedic age. Some of the other minor gods of the Rigvedic period also became prominent, such as Rudra (the god of animals) and Vishnu (the preserver and protector of people).
  2. In later Vedic times, people recognized Pushan, originally believed to oversee cattle, as the god of the Sudras, and there are also signs of idolatry.
  3. The cult of sacrifices was the cornerstone of this culture and was accompanied by numerous rituals and formulae. Sacrifices became far more important and they assumed both public and domestic character.In public sacrifices, the kings and the entire community actively participated, and individuals carried out private sacrifices in their houses while leading a settled life and maintaining well-established households. The killing of animals on a large scale, particularly the destruction of cattle wealth, constituted a significant aspect of these sacrifices. The guest, referred to as “goghna,” was one who consumed cattle. The one who performed the yajna was called the “Yajamana,” and they undertook various important yajnas, including Ashvamedha, Vajapeya, Rajasuya, etc.
  4. The Brahmanas claimed a monopoly of priestly knowledge and expertise. Sometimes, those officiating the sacrifices claimed a portion of territory as Dakshina and were given cows, gold, cloth, and horses as rewards. there are many vedic texts also.

Read Also: The Age of the Rig Veda


The Later Vedic Period, from 1000 BCE to 600 BCE, marked a crucial phase in ancient Indian history. It witnessed the evolution of cultural, social, and political structures, including the codification of the Varna system, the rise of hereditary kingship, and the emergence of complex rituals. Later vedic texts also played a vital role into it. Technological advancements in agriculture, craft specialization, and early signs of urbanization reflected changing economic landscapes. These developments laid the foundation for the philosophical and religious traditions that would shape classical Indian civilization. Overall, the Later Vedic Period was a transformative era, paving the way for the rich tapestry of Indian culture and society.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the Vedic age?

Ans1. The Vedic Age was between 1500 BC and 600 BC. This is the next major civilization that occurred in ancient India after the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization by 1400 BC. The Vedas were composed in this period and this gives this age the name.

Q2. Who were the important gods of later Vedic period?

Ans2. During the Later Vedic period, the mode of worship became complex and complicated. The Early Vedic gods such as Indra, Agni, Varuna, etc lost their importance and were replaced by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Q3. Which is the oldest and biggest Veda?

Ans3. Rig Veda is the oldest of the Vedas, the sacred texts of Hinduism. It means “The Knowledge of Verses”. Written in Sanskrit around 1500 BC,Rig Veda consists of 1028 poems arranged into 10 circles or Mandalas.

Read Also: Indo Aryan Invasion

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