Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

UPSC: Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

The document Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
All you need of UPSC at this link: UPSC


  • Rig Veda Samhita is the only literary source from which we know about the Aryans in India.Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC
  • This literature had grown in course of centuries and was orally handed down from generation to generation.
  • Aryans settled in the Sapta Sindhu region or the land of the seven rivers, comprising eastern Afghanistan, Punjab, (India and Pakistan) and parts of western U.P.
  • A famous incident mentioned in the Rig Veda (7th Mandala) and Atharva Veda is the battle between king Sudas and a confederacy of ten kings.
  • The war, fought on the bank of river Parushni (Ravi), ended with the victory of Bharatas led by Sudas; the defeated side was led by the Puru king Purukutsa.
  • Family (kula) was the basis of both social and political organisation, and was headed by Kulapas or Grihapatis.
  • Starting with family, the hierarchy in the ascending order was village (grama), clan (vis), people or tribe (jana), and country (rastra).
  • Several families, living under a common head, formed the clan.
  • The post of king (Rajan) was normally hereditary and generally descended by primogeniture.

Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

  • Non-monarchial organisations are also suggested by Ganapati or Jyestha as the head of ganas.
  • Protection of life and property of the people, maintenance of peace, and defence of the realm were the main duties of the king.
  • King was also the upholder of the established order and moral rules (dhritavrata).
  • The Purohita (domestic priest) was the foremost among officials.
  • The Purohita was the sole associate of the king as his preceptor, friend, philosopher and guide. He accompanied the king to the battle-field and gave him support by prayers and spells.
  • There were other officials such as Senani, the leader of the army, and Gramini, the head of the village in civil as well as military matters.
  • Popular assemblies functioned as checks on the king.
  • Sabha (council of tribal elders), Samiti (general assembly of the tribe), Vidatha and Gana (the nature and functions of the last two are not known) were the tribal assemblies.
  • Sabha and Samiti were more important.
  • Women participated in Sabha and Vidatha.
  • It is the period when the later Samhitas-Atharva, Yajur and Sutras were composed.
  • The king became more powerful and claimed to be the absolute master of all subjects except the Brahmanas.
  • The theory of the king being the visible emblem of Prajapati was propounded.
  • The king performed various rituals and sacrifices to strengthen his position:
    1. Rajasuya- conferred supreme power on the king.
    2. Asvamedha (Horse sacrifice) - meant to establish his supremacy over his neighbours.
    3. Vajapeya (Chariot race)—meant to establish his supremacy over his own people within the kingdom.
  • Later Samhitas refer to the Ratnins (Member of the council of advisors).
  • There are references to the priest (Purohita), commander-in-chief (Senani), Charioteer (Suta), Treasurer (Sangrahitri), and tax-collectors (Bhagadugha).
  • Members of the royal court included the crowned queen (Mahishi), chamberlain (Kshattri) and the game companion (Akshavapa).
  • Tribal assemblies lost their importance.
  • Vidatha and Gana completely disappeared.
  • Samiti also gradually faded out. Samiti in the Upanishads denotes only a learned body, sometimes presided over by a king.
  • Sabha, instead of being a popular village assembly, continued as the king’s court, or privy council, or a judicial assembly.
  • The killing of an embryo, and drinking Sura (wine) were included among serious crimes.
  • Treason was a capital offence.
  • Women were denied inheritance and the right to own property.
  • The political pattern changed from tribal polity to monarchy in most cases and to republics in the case of a few.
  • The term ‘Aryan’ or ‘Indo-Aryan’ and ‘Indo-European’ primarily denotes a linguistic concept.
  • Sir William Jones was the first to suggest that the striking similarity between Sanskrit, on the one hand, and Greek, Latin etc., on the other, could be due to descent from a common parent language.
    Try yourself:_________  is the only literary source from which we know about the Aryans in India.
    View Solution


  • The veda consists of four different classes of literary composition, namely Mantras, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC
  • Mantras: (saying, song, formula) consists of the oldest division of vedic literature and is distributed in four samhitas (or collections); Rig Veda Samhita, Sam Veda Samhita, Yajur Veda Samhita and Athrva Veda Samhita.Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC
  • The first three are known as Trayi (three fold knowledge).

1. Rig Veda

  • It is a collection of lyrics in praise of different gods. These were recited by the priests styled Hotri.
  • It contains 1028 hymns, divided into 10 mandalas and some times into 8 astakas. But the former division is more popular, II-VII mandalas are the earliest and are also called family books.
  • It gives us an insight into the political, social, economic and religious life of the people of Rig Vedic India.

2. Sam Veda (books of chants)

  • All of its verses except 75 being taken directly from Rig Veda.
  • Its songs were meant to be sung at some sacrifice by a special class of priests called Udgatri.
  • Yajur Veda (book of sacrificial prayers)—It deals with the procedure for the performance of sacrifices.
  • It contains rituals as well as hymns recited by Advaryu.

3. Atharva Veda (book of magical formula) 

  • Also known las non-Aryan work, some of its hymns are as old as the earliest hymns of Rig Veda. From the historical and scientific point of view, it resembles the Rig Veda, however its spirit is different.

Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

  • It is divided into 20 books.
  • It is a collection of songs, spells and incantations for the cure of disease, the restoration of harmony and the exorcism of evil spirit etc.

4. Yajur Veda

  • Yajurveda is one of the four Vedas, and one of the scriptures of Hinduism. 
  • The earliest and most ancient layer of Yajurveda samhita includes about 1,875 verses, that are distinct yet borrow and build upon the foundation of verses in Rigveda.


  • They marked the transition from the Vedic to later Brahmanical social order.
  • They explain meaning of sacrifices and also the methods of performing them.
  • They are commentaries on various hymns of the Vedas to which they are appended.
  • Each Brahmana is connected with one of the Samhitas.
  • To Rig Veda—Aitareya Brahmana and Kaushitaki Brahmana.
  • To Sama Veda—Tandya-maha Brahmana, Sadvinsa Brahmana, Jaiminya Brahmana.
  • To Yajur Veda--Satapatha Brahmana; most exhaustive and most important of all the Brahmanas; points out the progress of culture from Panchala to Videha.
  • To atharva Veda—Copatha Brahmana

Aranyakas (Forest Book)

  • These are the books of instructions to be given in the forest meant for wood dwelling hermits.
  • They are found as appendices to the Brahmanas.
  • It marks the transition from ritualistic to philosophical thought.


  • Secret or esoteric doctrine. its name is derived from Upanisad i.e. “to sit near some one”. 
  • There are 108 Upnishads altogether. They contain deep speculations of a philosophical character which revolve around the two concepts of Brahma and Atma.
  • Immediately before coming to India, the Indo-Aryans formed part of the Indo-Iranian tribes.
  • The main focus of the Rigvedic culture was the Punjab and Delhi region.
  • The geographical knowledge of the early Aryans did not extend beyond Yamuna.
  • The main cause of the tribal wars among the early Aryan settlers, the most famous of which is ref erred to as the Battle of Ten Kings in the Rigveda, was cattle and land disputes.
  • The chief opponents of the Aryans were the indigenous people of non-aryan origin known as Panis and Dasas or Dasyus. The factor which enabled the Aryans to emerge victorious in the struggle against the indigenous tribes was superior military equipment of the Aryans.
  • Use of improved implements of iron was largely instrumental in accelerating the process of Aryan expansion.
  • The centre of Aryan activity in the later Vedic period was from the Yamuna to the western border of Bengal.
  • The distinguished tribes of the later Vedic period:
    (i) Kurus
    (ii) Panchalas
    (iii) Videhas.
  • The vedic hymns constantly refer to the wars between Sudas, the ruler of the Aryan tribe of Bharatas, and the non-Aryan (Dasyu) prince Divodasa.
  • The Aryan expansion of India did lead to:
    (i) Opening of new geographic areas.
    (ii) Emergence of predominantly agrarian economy.
    (iii) Discovery of the rich iron deposits in Magadha leading to great improvement in technology.
  • An inscription of 1400 B.C. which describes that the Vedic gods were found in Asia Minor at Boghaz-koi.

Five Main Teachings of Jainism

  • (i) Non-injury (ahimsa)
    (ii) Non-lying (satya)
    (iii) Non-stealing (asateya)
    (iv) Non-possession (aparigraha)
    (v) Observe continence (Brahmacharya).
  • The first four principles are of Parsavanath and the fifth Bramacharya was included by Mahaviara.

Five Categories of Siddhas (devotees)

  • Tirthankara who has attained salvation.
  • Arhat, who is about to attain Nirvana
  • Acharyas, the head of the ascetic group
  • Upadhyaya, teacher or saint, and
  • Sadhu, class which includes the rest.

Five Principles of Jainism as Preached by Mahavira

  • Rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Vedic rituals.
  • Did not believe in the existence of God.
  • Believed in karma and the transmigration of soul.
  • Laid great emphasis on equality.
  • The concept, “The world is God and God is my soul”, was propounded in the Brahmasutra.
  • In Vedic literature God Indra is called Purandara, destroyer of forts, because Aryans had to fight with the enemies living in fortified places.
  • Rigveda contains the famous Gayatri mantras.
    Try yourself:________ is also called book of chants.
    View Solution

Vedic Sun Gods

(i) Savitri

(ii) Vishnu Urukrama

(iii) Savita
Vedic Sun GodVedic Sun God

  • Kalpa Vedangas contains the Grihya and the Dharma Sutras.
  • In the Vedic homes the fire was kept burning continuously because it was:
    (i) Personification of sacrificial fire.
    (ii) Second in importance to Indra.
    (iii) Messenger between the gods and devotees.

Vedic Family

  • The basic unit of the Aryan tribal society was the patriarchial family.
  • The birth of a son was especially welcome, for the son’s presence was essential at important ceremonies.
  • The sanctity of marriage had been recognised and the tie of marriage was a binding force all through life.
  • The term niyoga, with reference to women, stand in the Vedic society for cohabitation of a childless widow with her husband’s brother until the birth of a son.
  • The word dampati, used in the Rigvedic period, designates mistress as well as master of the house.
  • The most common crime-mentioned in the Rigveda was cattle-lifting.
  • The staple food of the Vedic Aryans was barley and rice.
  • The name Aghnya (not to be killed) mentioned in many passages of the Rigveda, applies to cows.
  • The Jana during the Vedic period refers to tribe.
  • The sage, who is said to have Aryanised South India, was Agastya.
  • In the Vedic period the people called Pani were those who controlled trade.
  • The four-fold division of society is mentioned in Purusa-sukta of Rigveda.
  • The term dvija (twice born) in the Vedic period referred to Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.
  • The vedic god incharge of right, truth and moral order (rita) was Varuna.
  • The earliest Iron Age occupation in India has been associated with Painted Grey Ware.
  • Gayatri mantra is addressed to savitri.
  • In the Atharvaveda, the two popular Vedic bodies (the Sabha and Samiti) have been called as the twin daughters of Prajapati (the creator).
  • In the Vedic period, the institution of kingship was created as a result of national insecurity due to absence of a leader.
  • The famous Vedic saying, “War beings in the minds of men”, is stated in the Atharvaveda.

Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

Atharva Veda

  • The Vedic conception of life after death is:
    (i) Life after death was envisaged in terms of punishment for evil and reward for excellence or goodness.
    (ii) Sinners went to the House of Clay, and the pious to be rewarded to the World of the Fathers.
    (iii) In some of the later hymns there is a hint of metempsychosis.
  • A Rigvedic Painted Grey Ware site excavated recently in haryana is Bhagwanpur.

Important Facts

Four Noble Truths

1. The world is full of sorrow.

2. Desire is the cause of sorrow.

3. If desire are conquered, all sorrows can be removed.

4. Desire can be removed by following the eight fold path.

Eight Fold Paths

1Right understanding

2. Right thought

3. Right speech

4. Right action 

5. Right livelihood

6. Right effort

7. Right mindfulness

8. Right concentration

Famous Bhikshus of the Time of Buddha

  • Sariputta, possessed the profoundest insight into the dharmma.
  • Moggalana, had the greatest super-natural powers.
  • Ananda, the devoted disciple and constant companion of the Buddha.
  • Maha Kassapa, the President of the Buddhist Council held at Rajagriha.
  • Anuruddha, Master of right mindfulness.
  • Upali, master of vinaya, and Rahul, the Buddha‘s son.
    Upali Buddha Statue
    Upali Buddha Statue
  • In the Mahayana Buddhism, the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was also known as Maitreya.

Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC
Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

  • The tax which the kings used to collect from the people in the Vedic period was called Bali.
  • Various social rituals and the performance of several ceremonies or samskaras from conception to cremation have been described in the Grihya-Sutras.
  • A branch of Vedic science, which has been highly appreciated and revived by the modern scientists recently, is Vedic Mathematics.
  • The system of taxation and revenue administration in the Later Vedic period:
    (i) Settled life and stable agriculture led to the production of surplus which could be collected by the king in the form of taxes.
    (ii) The king received regular contributions from the people in the shape of bali and shulka.
    (iii) An official called bhagadugha collected the royal share of the produce.
  • Administrative system of the Later Vedic period:
    (i) On account of an assured income from the taxes the king could appoint many officers.
    (ii) We hear of twelve ratnins, the forerunner of the latter day council of ministers
    (iii) The beginning of a regular system of provincial government may be traced in references to the sthapati and the shatapati.
  • Later Vedic officials:
    (a) Samagrahitri—Treasurer
    (b) Bhagadugha—Collector of taxes
    (c) Kshattri—Village Officials
    (d) Akshavapa—Superintendent of gambling
    (e) Adhikrita—Superintendent of Police
  • Judicial system of the Later Vedic period:
    (i) The king played a very large part in the administration of justice.
    (ii) Certain cases were referred to the tribe for adjudication, and the judicial work of the tribal assembly was entrusted to a small body of sabhasadasor assessors.
    (iii) Civil cases were sometimes decided by arbitration.
  • Rivers According to their ancient names:
    Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC
    Chenab River
    Chenab River
  • Propounders of the Schools of Indian Philosophy:
    Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC
  • Gramani was also known as the ‘king maker’ (raja-kartri).
  • Like the Vedic Aryans the custom of sacrificial fire was also followed by the ancient Iranians.

Mauryan Provinces and their Capitals

  • (a) Uttarapatha— Taxila (Northern Province)
    (b) Avantiratha— Ujjain (Western Province)
    (c) Dakshinapatha— Suvarnagiri (Southern Province)
    (d) Prachya— Tosali (Eastern Province)
    (e) Central Province— Pataliputra
  • The Rigvedic concept of Rita denotes the: 
    (i) Cosmic order or law prevailing in nature. 
    (ii) Ethical and moral order. 
  • The ‘Wedding Hymn’ describing the oldest marriage ritual is found in the Rigveda.
  • The most well-known variety of grain grown by the Vedic Aryans was known as Yava.
  • In the Rigveda the term duhitri used for the daughter literally means the milker of the cow.

Try yourself:Tosali (Eastern Province) is capital of _____
View Solution

The document Revision Notes: Vedic Culture Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
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