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Later Vedic Period (1000-500 B.C)

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Later Vedic Period (1000-500 B.C)

The Later Vedic period saw a more rigid introduction of the class system compared to the earlier Vedic civilisation. The  Later Vedic period is actually the rebirth of urban civilisation which saw advancements in the field of agriculture and trade.  The Later Vedic period is divided into four main varnas mainly Brahmanas, rajanyas or kshatriyas, vaisyas and shudras. While the Brahmanas conducted rituals and officiated festivals, the rajanyas represented the order of the warrior nobles.  The Vaishyas were cattle rearers, artisans and metal workers. The shudras were the lowest of the order and were not entitled to the scared thread ceremony.

Features of Later Vedic Period

  • Chiefdom gave way to kingdom and kingship became hereditary
  • The nobles and Brahmanas began to dominate the assemblies and women were no longer allowed to attend the assemblies
  • The first three varnas were known as Dvijas or twice born
  • Instances of polygamy and child-marriage can be seen in the Later Vedic Age.
  • The later Vedic age also saw the establishment of ashramas or the four stages of life. – brahmachari, grihasta, vanaprastha and sanyasa.
  • Music was the main source of entertainment though people also indulged in gambling and chariot racing.
  • Women were discouraged to study and only Brahmanas and Kshatriyas were privileged to receive education

Mahajanapadas

Mahajanapadas


The period also saw the second stage of urbanization in India. Sixteen monarchies or republics called Mahajanpadas were spread across Northern India mostly ruled by Aryans.

Maha-Janapadas (600-400 B.C): These republics were Kasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji (or Vriji), Malla, Chedi, Vatsa (or Vamsa), Kuru, Panchala, Machcha (or Matsya), Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara, Kamboja — stretching across the Indo-Gangetic plains from modern-day Afghanistan to Bengal and Maharashtra.

Sanskrit was mainly spoken by the noble class while the general mass used dialects referred as Prakrits. All the sixteen Republics were encapsulated in four major towns namely Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala and Magadha around 400 B.C.

Upanishads (late Vedic text), also known as Vedanta was composed at this time, which had great impact on the Hindu Philosophy at that time. It is also considered that the Upanishads were the major inspirations behind the rise of Buddhism and Jainism.

Features of Upanishads

  • They were originally part of the Vedas, but with time they form their own identity
  • It consists of 200 main sections of prose and poetry and explores idea that the material world is unreal and emotions such as desire and suffering
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