The age of history in which the Vedas were composed in the Indian subcontinent is known as the Vedic Age. The Vedas were composed by the Aryans. There are four Vedas—the Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Arthaveda. The period when the Aryans first settled in India during 1500–1000 BC is known as the Early Vedic Period. Later, between 1000 BC and 500 BC, the Aryans moved eastwards and settled along the banks of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. This period is known as the Later Vedic Period. Literary Sources of the Vedic Period are as follows:
Literary Sources of the Vedic Period
- The Vedic texts are divided into two chronological groups—the Early Vedic texts (1500–1000 BC) when most Rigvedic hymns were composed and the Later Vedic texts (1000–500 BC) which include the remaining three Vedas and the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.
- The Vedic texts shed light on the political, social, economic, and religious life of the Aryans.
- The Rigveda is considered one of the oldest religious texts in the world. The hymns in the Rigveda are dedicated by the sages to God. They were passed orally from teachers to disciples. It forms the basis of Indian philosophy.
- The Samaveda contains 1875 hymns. They are supposed to be sung at the time of sacrifice by priests.
- The Yajurveda contains 2086 hymns that give us glimpses of the social and religious life of the Aryans.
- The Arthaveda has 731 hymns that mostly deal with magic and charm. Some hymns also deal with the medicinal values of various herbs.
- The Brahmanas are in prose and explain the social and religious importance of rituals. Each Veda has several Brahmanas.
- The Aranyakas, also known as the ‘Forest Books’, are written for guiding hermits and students residing in the forests. They form the concluding part of the Brahmanas.
- The Upanishads are the philosophical commentaries on the Vedas. They deal with various doctrines such as Karma and Moksha.
- Apart from these, some other Vedic texts are the Vedangas (deals with pronunciation and grammar), the Sutras (deals with yajnas and sacrifices), the Upvedas (subsidiary Vedas), the Darshanas (include six schools of Indian philosophy), the Dharmashastras (these are the law books which lay down the duties of the priests, kings and people) and the Ashtadhyayi (a treatise on Sanskrit grammar written by Panini).
- The epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata tell us about the social, political, economic and religious life of the people. Ramayana tell us about the Aryan expansion into the south. Mahabharata containing ‘Bhagwad Gita’ is considered the sacred religious text of the Hindus. It deals with Hindu philosophy.
- These epics provide us with information about the existence of many Aryan kingdoms of that time. It sheds light on the high ideals of family life of the Aryans.
Also, Read The Vedic Period