Vedic Culture (Part - 1) UPSC Notes | EduRev

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  • Rig Veda Samhita is the only literary source from which we know about the Aryans in India.
  • 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.
Symbols of Buddha’s Life
EventSymbolsOccurance
Birth

Lotus and Bull

In 563 B.C. at Lumbini
Great RenunciationHorseAt the age of 29
NirvanaBodhi TreeAt the age of 35 at Bodhgaya under a pipal tree
First Sermon or WheelDharma ChakaraAt Sarnath near Varanasi
Parinivana or DeathStupaAt the age of 80 in 483B.C.at Kusinagar in U.P.

 

  • 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—
    • I. Rajasuya- conferred supreme power on the king;
    • II. Asvamedha (Horse sacrifice) - ment to establish his supremacy over his neighbours;
    • III. 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.

Literature

  • The veda consists of four different classes of literary composition, namely Mantras, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.
  • 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.
  • The first three are known as Trayi (three fold knowledge).

Rig Veda—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.

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.

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.
 

Buddhist Councils
 Place and Year        Presided byPurpose and Outcome
FirstAt Sattapani (Rajgriha) in 483  B.C. (after the death of Buddha) Mahakassapa Upali To maintain the  purity of the Master’steaching; Settlement of the Sutta Pitaka (Buddha’s saying) and the Vinaya Pitaka by Ananda and Upali respectively.
SecondAt Vaishali, a century after Buddha’s death  Sabakami  To decide the controversy between the Vajji monks; Division of the Buddhist Sangha into the orthodox ‘Sthavir-avadin’ (or Therav-adins) and the unorthdox Mahasan-ghikas
ThirdAt Pataliputra   around 250 B.C.  Moggaliputta Tissa, under the the patronage of AshokaTo settle the dispute arising out of the rival claims to authority; Final compilation of the‘Tripitakas’ (a third one—Philosophical in-
terpretation of the earlier two); Sending of missionaries to different parts of the world.
Fourth  In Kashmir,  century A.D.     Vasumitra in the Ist  (helped by Asvaghosha),  To settle the  differences among all the 18 sects of Buddhism and to co-mpose the comme-ntaries under the petronage of   Kanis-hka. Division of Buddhism in ‘Maha-yana’ and ‘Hinayana’, codification of the Sarvastivadin doct-under the rines as ‘Mahavibhasa’.
  • 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.

Brahmanas—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.

Upanishads (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.
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