Aryans: Developers of Vedas (Pillars of Hinduism)

  • The authoritative Sanskrit Dictionary (450 AD), the famous Amarakosha gives the following definition:

mahakula kulinarya sabhya sajjana sadhavah

  • An Arya is one who hails from a noble family, of gentle behavior, good-natured and of righteous conduct.
  • And the great epic Ramayana has a singularly eloquent expression describing Lord Rama as:

arya sarva samascaiva sadaiva priyadarsanah

  • Arya, who worked for the equality of all and was dear to everyone.
LORD RAM is believed to be the most noble Aryan and people worship him in India with great zeal .
His subjects were supposed to be the happiest on earth and people even today wish to live under his kingship.
  • As I had mentioned earlier in the post named-sapt sindhu civilization, it was Aryans who took up the land in the erstwhile Indus valley and it is also presumed the original natives of the Indus valley were actually the Dravidians or we can say, the present day Tamils who are the descendant of Dravidians.
  • The Aryans are derived from ‘arya’.
  • They did come from central Europe and other parts of Western Asia to India.
  • Hitler also proclaimed himself as an Aryan and the German  race as an Aryan race, also wearing the swastik on his arm and spreading it as a Nazi symbol when actually its an Aryan/Hindu symbol but it is in the exact opposite alignment.
  • Swastik symbolizes the four Yugas (epochs) which form a cycle. They are: Satya Yuga, the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga 
  • In essence, the Aryan civilization has its roots deep in central Asia and they left no stone unturned in propagating all their teachings,way of life, their culture in India.
  • This is evident as Sanskrit : The language in which they wrote the Vedas is still in practise in India, whereas we discussed earlier that the writings of Indus Valley Civilization haven’t been deciphered whereas the writings from this period is still studied and followed by Hindus in India.

What are Vedas??

  • Veda is a Sanskrit word which is derived from ‘vid’ which means “to know”, which is derived from ‘ueid’, which has an Indo-European root.
  • The vedas were composed in the Iron Age, and are supposedly the oldest Hindu scriptures.
  • There are 4 types of Vedas and hence, they are called as ‘Chaturvedas (meaning 4 Vedas in Sanskrit- the language in which the Vedas were composed):
  1. Rig Veda-‘Wisdom of the Verses’ (composed between 1700 and 1100 BCE)
  2. Yajur Veda -‘Sacrifices and Mathematical Knowledge ‘(composed between 1000 and 600 BCE)
  3. Sama Veda– ‘Music Compositions, “sam” means melody or song‘ (composed around the time of Rig Veda )
  4. Atharva Veda– ‘Mathematics and Geometry oriented study coded in the form of shlokas‘(composed around the time of Rig Veda)
  • The vedas described the way of living life, specific rules for the benefit of the society as it is mentioned in every religion.
  • The Vedas is a very complex topic as it deals with the philosophical and the spiritual side of Humans.
  • Vedas are also integrated into ‘samhitas’ (hymns/mantras) and ‘srutis’ (heard), but we won’t go into it as it deals with the thoughts, beliefs and other aspects of Hinduism.
The sacred syllable ‘OM’
  • Vedas were of the opinion that this knowledge was heard by them and they themselves din’t invent it!
  • They believed that the presence of Gods lies in these revealed words.
  •  Because they contain the sacred syllables from which Gods and mortals were born, the vedas are thought to have preceded the universe, itself created from the sacred syllable ‘OM’.
  • Therefore, I would like to just give an overview because it would be a bit too much to understand all of their philosophies.
  • Let me also tell you that the basis of this are the scriptures that were found and is not based on the sayings or writing of a single person.

Pancha Bhuta and the Gods:

  • The Hindus, even today believe in the power of the sacred 5 elements:
  1. Earth (Prithvi)
  2. Fire (Agni)
  3. Water (Jal)
  4. Air (Vaayu)
  5. Ether/Space (Aakasha)


  • The Indus Valley Civilization worshipped the Mother Goddess, the Bull, The Horned Deity and sacred trees. Such ideas continued with the Aryans, and have continued within present day Hinduism. Some of the more abstract ideas of the Vedas appealed to few, most preferred more earthy forms of worship. 
  • The earliest religious ideas of the Aryans were as with most ancient civilizations, nature and animal worship. 
  • Whatever they feared or they could not explain they attributed to divine forces, and personified them into male and female gods.
  • This is not very different from the early Greek Mythology.
  • Indra was the most popular among them during the early Vedic period.
  •  Next in importance to Indra was Agni who was regarded as an intermediary between the gods and people. 
  • Varuna was supposed to be the upholder of the natural order. There were also female gods like Aditi and Ushas. 
  • There were no temples and no idol worship during the early Vedic period. 
  • Prayers were offered to the gods in the expectation of rewards.
  • Ghee, milk and grain were given as offerings. Elaborate rituals were followed during the worship.
  • Marriages and other important religious activities were solemnized in the presence of fire, a practice that still continues in Hinduism today.
  • Fire was considered the purest of all the five elements, and was held in high esteem.
All the names of rivers described earlier are Rig Vedic names

Vedic Ideologies: Philosophies of Hindu Religion

  • The overall summary as described by Hindu Acharyas and their disciples studying them even today is : (This is just a part of it)
  • Life of Humans revolves inside the world called ‘SANSAR’, which held a human in binds subjecting him to rules, responsibilities and ensured a healthy contribution from him towards the society
  • SANSAR was termed as a constant flux from which the man should escape, leave all worldly (SANSARI) pleasures and sacrifice everything to unite with the Supreme Lord.
  • This world is a myth and that worldly pleasures are of no value, that sacrifice and spiritual practises like penance is the true road to unite with the Supreme Being.
  • According to the Vedas-“A Person can achieve everything by being simple and humble.
  • I would like to focus more on the administration and other characteristics of the Aryans’ first phase in Indus Valley Civilization.

Vedic System:

  • A settled lifestyle brought in its wake more complex forms of government and social patterns.
  • This period saw the evolution of the caste system, and the emergence of kingdoms and republics.
  •  The events described in the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, are thought to have occurred around this period. (1000 to 800 BC).

Mathematical Supremacy (Atharvaveda and Yajurveda):

  • Geometry is used throughout the Rig Veda.
  • The emphasis was not on proofs but on usage.
  • Furthermore, the Rishis (sages) had knowledge of the concept of precision
  • The depth of precision was based on the requirements of the task or study being described. For example, descriptions of constructions were limited in precision whereas descriptions of astronomical phenomena were described in greater precision.
  • The following verse in the Rig Veda deals with the formation of the universe.

Who was the measurer prama? What was the model pratimâ? What were the building materials for things offered nidânam ãjyam? What is the circumference (of this universe) paridhih? What are the meters or harmonies behind the Universe chandah? What is the triangle (yoke) praugam [which connects this universe to the source of driving force, the engine]?

  • All these Sanskrit words (ie: prama) are geometrical terms.
  • Chariots are described in great detail in many different verses in the Rig Veda and Yajur Veda.
  •  Dr. Kulkarni writes:
  • The proficiency in chariot building presupposes a good deal of knowledge of geometry… The fixing of spokes of odd or even numbers require knowledge of dividing the area of the circle into the desired numbers of small parts of equal area, by drawing diameters. This also presupposes the knowledge of dividing a given angle into equal parts.
Chariots have always been an integral part of Indian Traditions.

  •  For example, three types of fire altars, garhapatya, ahavaniya and dakshina are mentioned in the Rig Veda , defined in the Shatapatha Brâhmana as being square, circular and semi circular, respectively, and also having the same area.
  • Considering that ritualistic fire altar designs were not changed over a period of time and that the shastras were recited for several millennia before being written down, the rishis must have had a method to calculate the square root of the number two and the value of pi, without which they would not be able to determine whether the three altars had the same area or not.

Error Correction & Detection Codes

  • The Rig Veda was recited using a special method of recitation which is akin to modern error correction and detection codes.
  • This feature has allowed it to be passed on from generation to generation for many millennia without the introduction of errors
  • The rishis had focused on developing methods of chanting which can detect any errors in chanting of a mantra, such as omitting a syllable or replacing one syllable by another.
  • For each mantra, there are several different methods of chanting, each method capable of detecting one type of error.
  •  For illustration, consider one half of the famous gayatri mantra of the sage Vishvamitra. The standard method of recitation is called Samhita patha (given below).

Samhita Patha

tatsaviturvarenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi
Separate all compound words into their constituents and number the words:

tat savituh varenyam bhargah devasya dhimahi
1  2  3  4  5  6
In the kramapatha chant, use a text obtained by combining two neighboring words according the rules of sandhi, resulting in six words.

Krama Patha


1+2  2+3   3+4  4+5  5+6   
tatsavituh saviturvarenyam varenyambhargah bhargodevasya devasyadhimahi

  6+6
dhimahiti dhimahi.
  • To understand its error detecting capability, divide the chant into syllables so that the syllable ends with an vowel a, i, u etc. 
  • Both the third syllable and sixth syllables are same namely vi. 
  • Suppose we commit an error and chant the third syllable as va. 
  • According to the krama chanting, the sixth syllable should be same as the third syllable. He would pronounce it as vi, since we are assuming he will make only one error. 
  • Then he notices that an error has taken place since va is different from vi. An error has obviously occurred, but he does not know which is correct, va or vi?
  • The various forms of chanting are called as vikratis and there are eight of them.

  

First usage of Pi

  • In the Rigveda, a formula to find the area of a circle is mentioned showing that the Rishis knew of pi, approximating it to be equal to 22/7!!!
  •  It was used in the formula for the area of a circle
  • Area of a circle = pi*(AB/2)^2 where AB is the diameter of a circle.
  • In the Yajurveda also, 1×3=3, 3×5=15, 5×7=35, etc is seen.

Big Numbers

  • In Yajurveda, numbers starting from four and with a difference of four forming an arithmetic series is discussed.
  • The Yajurveda also mentions the counting of numbers upto 10^18, the highest being named parardha.
  • In the Taittiriya Upanishad, there is an anuvaka (section)
  • The anuvaka provides a precise calculation of a series of multiplications by 100 to give number 10010 units of human bliss that can be had when one attains Brahman.
Concept of Infinity
  • The concept of infinity was also known during Vedic times.
  • They were aware of the basic mathematical properties of infinity and had several words for the concept-chief being ananta, purnam, aditi, and asamkhyata.
  •  Asamkhyata is mentioned in the Yajur Veda, and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as describing the number of mysteries of Indra as Ananta.
  • The Atharva Veda states that:
  • Infinity can come out of infinity only and infinity is left over from infinity after operations on it
  •  These two statements are elaborated in the opening lines of the Isha Upanishad.

pûrnamadah pûrnamidam pûrnât pûrnamudachyate
pûrnâsya pûrnamadaya pûrnamevâvasishyate


From infinity is born infinity.
When infinity is taken out of infinity,
only infinity is left over.


Atharva Veda

  • The concept of one, arithmetic progression, and arithmetric series are also seen in the Vedas as well.
  •  In Atharva Veda, the fact that 1×1 and 1/1 = 1 is stated.

Concept of Shunya (Zero)

  • The concept of Shunya, or zero void, was originally conceived as the symbol of Brahman, expressing the sum of all distinct forms.
  •  The symbol of zero and the decimal system of notation is described in the Atharva veda.
  •  It describes how the number increases by 10 by writing zero in front of it.
  •  While there is no explicit mention of zero, it must have been common knowledge based on how it is used.
  • In fact, the concept of shunya was not just mathematical or scientific, but is deeply rooted in all branches of thought – especially metaphysics and cosmology. 
  • Shunya is the transition point between oposites, it symbolizes the real balance between divergent tendencies.
  •  Most ancient mathematicians defined zero as the sum of two equal and opposite quantities.
  •  Zero produces all figures, but is itself not limited to a certain value. Zero is the primary or final reservoir of all single numbers. 
  • The symbol of zero and the decimal system of notation is described in the Atharva veda.

Courtesy: Hindupedia.com

Administration:

  • Vedic Aryans divided their Land/Kingdom in three units;
  1. Gram (village)
  2. Vis (sub domain) and
  3. Jana (kingdom).
  • A Gram was the smallest unit of this political system and a collection of Grama make a Vis or subdivision.
  • In the same way a number of Vis build a kingdom.
  • The leader of a Gram was called gramani and
  •  the Vish leader was called as Vishpati.
  • A kingdom or Rashtra was ruled by a Rajan or king.
  • The king was selected by the consent and approval of people from a royal family.
  • The major duty of a king was to protect the people.
  • The major tribal kingdoms in the period(1500-1000) were Bharatas, Matsyas, Yadus, Purus.
  • The Soldiers on foot and on chariots, armed with bow and arrow were common.
  •  The king occupied spies and messengers and collected taxes from the people which he had to redistribute among the inhabitants.

Social Life (Rig-Vedic and post Rig-Vedic period):

  • Women were given equal opportunities as men for their spiritual and intellectual development.
  • There were women poets like Apala, Viswavara, Ghosa and Lopamudra during the Rig Vedic period.
  • Women could even attend the popular assemblies.
  •  There was no child marriage and the practice of sati was absent.
  • However, the post-rig vedic period saw an altogether shift in the society making it patriarchal.
  • In the family, the power of the father increased during the Later Vedic period.
  • There was no improvement in the status of women.
  • They were considered inferior and subordinate to men. Women also lost their political rights of attending assemblies.
  • Child marriages had become common.
  • According the Aitreya Brahmana a daughter has been described as a source of misery.
  • However, the women in the royal household enjoyed certain privileges.
  • People started praying for the abundance of sons.

Economy:

  •  Agriculture grew more prominent with time as the community gradually began to settle down in post-Rigvedic times.
  • Their wealth was estimated in terms of their cattle.Cattle were held in high esteem and frequently appear in Rig Vedic hymns.
  • With the knowledge and use of iron they were able to clean forests and bring more lands under cultivation.
  •  Carpentry was another important profession and the availability of wood from the forests cleared made the profession profitable.
  •  Carpenters produced chariots and ploughs.
  •  Workers in metal made a variety of articles with copper, bronze and iron. Spinning was another important occupation and cotton and woolen fabrics were made.
  • Goldsmiths were active in making ornaments.
  • The potters made various kinds of vessels for domestic use.
  • Trade was another important economic activity and rivers served as important means of transport.
  •  The economy was based on bartering with cattle and other valuables such as salt or metals.
  • In the later times, gold coins called nishka were used as media of exchange in large transactions.

Later Vedic Period:

    Gradual Shift towards the East:


    • The Aryans further moved towards east in the Later Vedic Period.
    • The Satapatha Brahmana refers to the expansion of Aryans to the eastern Gangetic plains.
    • One important development during this period is the growth of large kingdoms.
    •  Kuru and Panchala kingdoms flourished in the beginning.
    • Parikshat and Janamejaya were the famous rulers of Kuru kingdom. Pravahana  Jaivali was a popular king of the Panchalas.
    • He was a patron of learning.
    • After the fall of Kurus and Panchalas, other kingdoms like Kosala, Kasi and Videha came into prominence.
    • The famous ruler of Kasi was Ajatasatru.
    • Janaka was the king of Videha with its capital at Mithila.
    • His court was adorned by scholar Yajnavalkya. Magadha, Anga and Vanga seem to be the easternmost tribal kingdoms.
    •  The later Vedic texts also refer to the three divisions of India –
    1. Aryavarta (northern India)
    2. Madhyadesha (central India)
    3. Dakshinapatha (southern India).

      Formation of Emperors:

      • Larger kingdoms were formed during the later Vedic period.
      • Many jana or tribes were amalgamated to form janapadas or rashtras in the later Vedic period. Hence the royal power had increased along with the increase in the size of kingdom.
      • The king performed various rituals and sacrifices to strengthen his position. They include Rajasuya (consecration ceremony), Asvamedha (horse sacrifice) and Vajpeya (chariot race). The kings also assumed titles like Rajavisvajanan, Ahilabhuvanapathi, (lord of all earth), Ekrat and Samrat (sole ruler).
      • In the later Vedic period, a large number of new officials were involved in the administration in addition to the existing purohita, senani and gramani.
      •  They include the treasury officer, tax collector and royal messenger.

      Social System:

      • The society got divided into four divisions:
      1. Brahmins (The ones who studied religious scriptures, texts and claimed to carry the message of the gods)
      2. Kshatriyas (The Nobles and Soldiers)
      3. Vaisyas (Farmers, Traders, Businessmen)
      4. Shudras (Workers, Labourers)
      • This system came to be known as the Varna system and it was thoroughly established during the Later Vedic period.
      • The two higher classes ; Brahmana, and Kshatriya enjoyed privileges that were denied to the Vaisya and Sudra.
      • A Brahmin occupied a higher position than a Kshatriya but sometimes Kshatriyas claimed a higher status over the Brahmins.
      • Many sub-castes on the basis of their occupation appeared in this period.
      • This was the greatest bane of the later Vedic-Period as it discriminated among the people and only a son of brahmin could become a brahmin.
      • This created a larger divide and ultimately started many malpractices like untouchability, caste-ism and racism.

      Religion-Became Ritual Based, Lost its Essence:

      • Gods of the Early Vedic period like Indra and Agni lost their importance.
      • Prajapathi (the creator)
      • Vishnu (the protector) and
      • Rudra (the destroyer) became prominent during the Later Vedic period.
      • Sacrifices were still important and the rituals connected with them became more elaborate.
      • The importance of prayers declined and that of sacrifices increased. Priesthood became a profession and a hereditary one.
      • The methods for sacrifices were invented and elaborated by the priestly class.
      • Therefore, towards the end of this period there was a strong reaction against priestly domination and against sacrifices and rituals.
      • Also, the authors of the Upanishads, which is the essence of Hindu philosophy, turned away from the useless rituals and insisted on true knowledge (jnana) for peace and salvation.

      Conclusion:

      • The injustice and discrimination in the name of god gave birth to Jainism and Buddhism.
      • But, we will talk about that later.
      • Next time we shall see the advent of ALEXANDER THE GREAT and also the rise of Magadha kingdom along with the esteemed universities of nalanda and takshashila.

      SUMMARY:

      • Veda is a Sanskrit word which is derived from ‘vid’ which means “to know”, which is derived from ‘ueid’, which has an Indo-European root.
      • An Arya is one who hails from a noble family, of gentle behavior, good-natured and of righteous conduct.
      • There are 4 types of Vedas and hence, they are called as ‘Chaturvedas (meaning 4 Vedas in Sanskrit- the language in which the Vedas were composed):
      1. Rig Veda-‘Wisdom of the Verses’ (composed between 1700 and 1100 BCE)
      2. Yajur Veda -‘Sacrifices and Mathematical Knowledge ‘(composed between 1000 and 600 BCE)
      3. Sama Veda– ‘Music Compositions, “saam” means melody or song‘ (composed around the time of Rig Veda )
      4. Atharva Veda– ‘Mathematics and Geometry oriented study coded in the form of shlokas‘(composed around the time of Yajur Veda)
      5. Vedas are also integrated into ‘samhitas’ (hymns/mantras) and ‘srutis’ (heard), but we won’t go into it as it deals with the thoughts, beliefs and other aspects of Hinduism.
      6. There were no temples and no idol worship during the early Vedic period. Whatever they feared or they could not explain they attributed to divine forces, and personified them into male and female gods.
      7. Geometry is used throughout the Rig Veda. the rishis had a method to calculate the square root of the number two and the value of pi, without which they would not have been able to determine the various desgin and construction of buildings and altars found.
      8. The Rig Veda was recited using a special method of recitation which is similar to modern error correction and detection codes.
      9.  In Atharva Veda, the fact that 1×1 and 1/1 = 1 is stated.
      10. The Atharva Veda states that:Infinity can come out of infinity only and infinity is left over from infinity after operations on it.
      11. The Yajurveda also mentions the counting of numbers upto 10^18, the highest being named parardha.
      12. The symbol of zero and the decimal system of notation is described in the Atharva veda.
      13. In the Rigveda, a formula to find the area of a circle is mentioned showing that the Rishis knew of pi, approximating it to be equal to 22/7!
      14. Women were given equal opportunities as men for their spiritual and intellectual development. There were women poets like Apala, Viswavara, Ghosa and Lopamudra during the Rig Vedic period.
      15. Vedic Aryans divided their Land/Kingdom in three units;
        1. Gram (village)
        2. Vis (sub domain) and
        3. Jana (kingdom).
      16. Agriculture grew more prominent with time as the community gradually began to settle down in post-Rigvedic times. Their wealth was estimated in terms of their cattle. Carpenters, Goldsmiths, mining of iron was rampant and barter system was prevalent.
      17. The Aryans further moved towards east in the Later Vedic Period.
      18. Big kingdoms came into existence. Emperors gave names to themselves, started neglecting the masses,society also got divided into categories inviting evils like caste discrimination, untouchability, women were ill-treated and were treated as second class citizens in the later part of the Rig Vedic era.
      19. Thus, we observe that the people in power ignored the teachings and the wisdom of the vedas to satisfy their greeds and the brahmins who were supposed to carry the word of the Gods, exploited the people.