VEDA -THE SACRED BOOK OF THE ARYANS
HISTORY ANCIENT & MEDIEVEL - 11
The end of the Indus cities is still obscure. The discovery in the upper levels of Mohenjo-daro of human skeletons lying pell-mell, with a skull having a cut-mark, points to invasion and massacre, but this interpretation has been rightly challenged. It may be noted that the Cemetery H. Culture, found at Harappa and at two sites in the former Bahawalpur State, has been associated with invaders. This H Culture, represented by Jerry-Built Walls, Black-On-Bright-Red Pottery and two successive burial strata (the lower and upper characterized respectively by complete inhumations and fractional pot-interments) had a clear stratigraphic break from the Harappa Culture itself, signifying a time interval.
Another theory ascribes the end of Mohenjo-daro to heavy flooding, for some traces of recent alluvium have been noticed on hillocks in the lower Indus basin. Traces of flood-havoc have been noted at Lothal also. The excavations in progress at Kali Banga, however have not so far yielded any evidence either of invaders or of floods, not are there traces of a general decline such as have been found at Mohenjo-daro itself. Here perhaps the drying up of the Ghaggar, owing either to climatic fluctuations or to a diversion of the waters, might have led to the desertion of many sites.
It may be surmised that while individual cities may have been deserted on local or regional considerations, the civilization as a whole did not meet with a sudden and violent end. The devolution of Harappa Culture at Lothal and the Punjab lends support to this view.
ARYANS IN INDIA
Some time in the 2nd millennium B.C., a new race generally called Aryans or Indo-Aryans entered India. The word Aryan is borrowed from Arya in Sanskrit or Airyan in Zend, which means ‘of good family.’
The most accepted view is that they lived in the great steppe land which stretches from Poland to Central Asia.1 They were semi-nomadic people. In the 2nd millennium B.C., they started moving from their original home and migrated westwards, southwards and eastwards. The branch which went to Europe were the ancestors of the Greeks, Romans, Celts and Teutons. Another branch went to Anatolia. The great empire of the Hittites grew up from the mixture of these people with the original inhabitants. One branch of Aryans remained in their original home. They were the ancestors of the Slavonic people. Those who moved southwards came into conflict with the West Asian civilizations. The Kassites, who conquered Babylon, belonged to this stock. In the excavations at Boghar-koi in Asia Minor, which date about 1400 B.C inscriptions are found containing the names of deities like Indra, Varuna and Nasatya. These gods are also mentioned in the Rg-Veda. To the same period as the Boghax-koi, belong in clay tablets with cuneiform script discovered at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt where references are found of princes of Mitanni in North-west Mesopotamia, bearing Indo-Aryan names.
- Some Indian scholars believe that India was the original home of the Aryans, from where they migrated to different parts of Asia and Europe.
The Aryan invasion or rather immigration of penetration into India was not a single organized action but one extending over centuries. They came in wave after wave at short intervals, and hard struggle ensued with the indigenous people of the land. There are passages in the Rig-Veda, which indicate the severity of the struggle.
The exact course of Aryan expansion in India cannot be traced due to lack of archaeological evidence. The Aryan settlements consisted of small villages with dwellings of wood and reed, which perished long ago.
VEDA -THE SACRED BOOK OF THE ARYANS
It is the only literary source from which we know about the Aryans in India. It is not a single individual work of a particular time. It had grown in course of centuries and was orally handed down from generation to generation. The Rg-Veda Samhita is the earliest literary production of the Aryans, constituting the source for the earliest phase of the Vedic civilization.
Rig-Vedic civilization flourished in what are now Afghanistan, the Punjab, parts of Sind and Rajasthan; North West Frontier Province, Kashmir and Eastern India up to the Sarayu (Ghaghara); Later Vedic civilization flourished in the whole of India to the north of the Narmada and some regions to the south of it.
Some scholars hold that the caste system, which has been a characteristic feature of Indian life, dates back to the age of the Rig-Veda. They argue that the Word Varna (Colour) which later denoted caste, occurs in the Rig-Veda.
The word varna is used in the Rig-Veda with reference only to Arya and Asa having respectively a fair and dark complexion, but never with reference to Brahmana or Rajanya (Ksatriya) although these frequently occur in the Rg-Veda.
The Purusa-sukta, a part of the Rig-Veda, it is stated that Brahmana, Rajanya, Vaisya and Sudra sprang respectively from the mouth, arms, thighs and feet of the Cosmic Man (Purusa) and these names later signified the four castes.
The professions of priest and warrior occupied a position well above the common people (Vis), they were neither exclusive nor hereditary. Priests went to the battlefield and Rajanyas perofrmed sacrifices for others. There are instances of marriages of Brahmanas with Rajanya women and of the union of Aryas and Dasas. Further, there was no ban on taking food cooked by the sudras nor was there any trace of untouchability.
Family, which was the foundation of the social and political organization, was of the patriarchal type, matriarchy being unknown. There is indisputable evidence of joint family which comprised parents, Grand Parents, Wife, Brothers, Sisters, Sons, Daughters, Cousins, Nephews, Nieces, Sister-In-Law and sometimes also the mother-in-law. Common residence, food and worship forged strong bonds of kinship among the members.
The patriarch was the head of the family. He had, in theory, absolute power over the life of the children and full control of the family property which he could divide in any way he liked. In practice, these powers were exercised judiciously. On the father’s death or physical incapacity, the management of the household devolved on the eldest son.
The Aryans-in India had ceased to be nomads and had taken to settled life, so that families resided in fixed dwelling houses of a primitive type, made of wood and bamboo.
Though bricks were used to build fire-altars, there is no evidence of their use in other structures. Houses contained several rooms, besides a sitting room and apartments for ladies. Several such houses, built near each other for purposes of mutual defence, constituted the village; there is no trace of city life.
Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food were taken. Wheat and barley were probably the principal foodgrains, rice was introduced later. References are found to preparations such as sweet cakes and bread. There were also milk, butter, ghee and curd as also Sugar-Cane, Fruits And Vegetables. Fish, Birds, Goats And Sheep, Horses and cattle formed part of the non-vegetarian menu, the food being cooked in earthen pots of roasted on pits.
Drinks included soma, the exhilarating juice of a hill plant, its use being restricted to religious ceremonies and sura a mild intoxicating drink. In some verses of the Rig-Veda, the drinking of sura was not looked upon with favour. It was, however, condemned in later times.