One of the oldest books in the world
- There four Veda – the Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda.
- The oldest Veda is the Rigveda, composed about 3500 years ago.
- The Rigveda includes more than a thousand hymns, called sukta or “well-said”.
- These hymns are in praise of various gods and goddesses.
- Three gods are specially important: Agni, the god of fire; Indra, a warrior god; and Soma, a plant from which a
special drink was prepared.
- These hymns were composed by sages (rishis).
- Priests taught students to recite and memorise each syllable, word, and sentence, bit by bit, with great care.
- Most of the hymns were composed, taught and learnt by men. A few were composed by women.
- The Rigveda is in old or Vedic Sanskrit, which is different from the Sanskrit you learn inschool these days.
- The books we use are written and printed.
- The Rigveda was recited and heard rather than read.
- It was written down several centuries after it was first composed, and printed less than 200 years ago.
Sanskrit and other languages
- Sanskrit is part of a family of languages known as Indo-European.
- Assamese, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri and Sindhi, and many European languages such as English, French, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish belong to this family.
- They are called a family because they originally had words in common.
- Take the words ‘matr’ (Sanskrit), ‘ma’ (Hindi) and ‘mother’ (English).
- Other languages used in the subcontinent belong to different families.
- Those used in the north-east belong to the Tibeto-Burman family; Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam belong to the Dravidian family; and the languages spoken in Jharkhand and parts of central India belong to the Austro-Asiatic family.
How historians study the Rigveda
- Historians, like archaeologists, find out about the past, but, in addition to material remains, they examine written sources as well.
- Hymns in the Rigveda are in the form of dialogues.
Cattle, horses and chariots
- There are many prayers in the Rigveda for cattle, children (especially sons), and horses.
- Horses were yoked to chariots that were used in battles, which were fought to capture cattle.
- Battles were fought for land, which was important for pasture, and for growing hardy crops that ripened
quickly, such as barley.
- Some battles were fought for water, and to capture people.
- Some of the wealth that was obtained was kept by the leaders, some was given to the priests and the rest was distributed amongst the people.
- Some wealth was used for the performance of yajnas or sacrifices in which offerings were made into the fire.
- These were meant for gods and goddesses.
- Offerings could include ghee, grain, and in some cases, animals.
- Most men took part in these wars.
- There was no regular army, but there were assemblies where people met and discussed matters of war and
- They also chose leaders, who were often brave and skilful warriors.
Words to describe people
- People were described in terms of the work they do, the language they speak, the place they belong to, their family, their communities and cultural practices.
- There are two groups who are described in terms of their work — the priests, sometimes called brahmins, who performed various rituals and the rajas.
- These rajas were not like the ones you will be learning about later.
- They did not have capital cities, palaces or armies, nor did they collect taxes.
- Sons did not automatically succeed fathers as rajas.
- The word vaishya comes from vish.
- Several vish or jana are mentioned by name.
- People who composed the hymns described themselves as Aryas and called their opponents Dasas or Dasyus.
- These were people who did not perform sacrifices, and probably spoke different languages.
- The term dasa (and the feminine dasi) came to mean slave.
- Slaves were women and men who were often captured in war.
- They were treated as the property of their owners, who could make them do whatever work they wanted.
- The Rigveda was being composed in the north-west of the subcontinent, there were other developments elsewhere.
Silent sentinels—the story of the megaliths
- Megaliths (literally big stones) these were carefully arranged by people, and were used to mark burial sites.
- The practice of erecting megaliths began about 3000 years ago, and was prevalent throughout the Deccan, south India, in the north-east and Kashmir.
- Megaliths can be seen on the surface, other megalithic burials are often underground.
- Sometimes, archaeologists find a circle of stone boulders or a single large stone standing on the ground.
- These are the only indications that there are burials beneath.
- Burials have some common features.
- The dead were buried with distinctive pots, which are called Black and Red Ware.
Finding out about social differences
- Archaeologists think that objects found with a skeleton probably belonged to the dead person.
- Sometimes, more objects are found in one grave than in another.
- These finds suggest that there was some difference in status amongst the people who were buried.
- Some were rich, others poor, some chiefs, others followers.
Were some burial spots meant for certain families?
- Sometimes, megaliths contain more than one skeleton.
- These indicate that people, perhaps belonging to the same family, were buried in the same place though not at the same time.
- The bodies of those who died later were brought into the grave through the portholes.
- Stone circles or boulders placed on the surface probably served as signposts to find the burial site, so that people could return to the same place whenever they wanted to.
A special burial at Inamgaon
- Inamgaon is a site on the river Ghod, a tributary of the Bhima.
- It was occupied between 3600 and 2700 years ago.
- Adults were generally buried in the ground, laid out straight, with the head towards the north.
- Sometimes burials were within the houses.
- Vessels that probably contained food and water were placed with the dead.
- One man was found buried in a large, four legged clay jar in the courtyard of a five-roomed house (one of the largest houses at the site), in the centre of the settlement.
- This house also had a granary.
- The body was placed in a cross- legged position.
What skeletal studies tell us
- It is easy to make out the skeleton of a child from its small size.
- There are no major differences in the bones of a girl and a boy.
- Sometimes, people decide on the basis of what is found with the skeleton.
- If a skeleton is found with jewellery, it is sometimes thought to be that of a woman.
- There are problems with this. Often, men also wore ornaments.
- A better way of figuring out the sex of a skeleton is to look at the bone structure.
- The hip or the pelvic area of women is generally larger to enable child bearing.
- These distinctions are based on modern skeletal studies.
- About 2000 years ago, there was a famous physician named Charaka who wrote a book on medicine known as the Charaka Samhita.
- There he states that the human body has 360 bones.
- This is a much larger number than the 200 bones that are recognised in modern anatomy.
- Charaka arrived at this figure by counting the teeth, joints and cartilage.
Occupations at Inamgaon
- Archaeologists have found seeds of wheat, barley, rice, pulses, millets, peas and sesame.
- Bones of a number of animals, many bearing cut marks that show they may have been used as food, have also
- These include cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep, dog, horse, ass, pig, sambhar, spotted deer, blackbuck, antelope, hare, and mongoose, besides birds, crocodile, turtle, crab and fish.
- There is evidence that fruits such as ber, amla, jamun, dates and a variety of berries were collected.
- These writings were on animal bones.
- These are called oracle bones, because they were used to predict the future.
- Then fortunetellers studied these cracks, and tried to predict the future.
- As you may expect, they sometimes made mistakes.
- These kings lived in palaces in cities.
- They amassed vast quantities of wealth, including large,elaborately decorated bronze vessels.
- However, they did not know the use of iron.
- Beginning of the composition of the Vedas (about 3500 years ago)
- Beginning of the building of megaliths (about 3000 years ago)
- Settlement at Inamgaon (between 3600 and 2700 years ago)
- Charaka (about 2000 years ago)