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Early Vedic Period – Ancient India Dynasties

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Early Vedic Period – Ancient India Dynasties

shape Introduction

Rig Veda is the only source of knowledge of this Early Vedic Period. Rig Veda is the oldest text in the world. The Veda consists of 1028 hymns divided into 10 mandalas. The Vedic literature was composed in Sanskrit. To begin with, the Vedas were recited and not written. They were taught by oral method. Hence they were called as Sruti (heard) and Smriti (memorized). But later on, they were reduced to writing after the invention of scripts.

shape History

Early Vedic Period – History:

  • Aryans are distinguished by their common Indo-European Language family which is widely disseminated in the Eurasian Region.

  • Max Muller opines that they’ve lived in the Central Asia/Steppes region who then invaded into Indian Subcontinent. Names of certain animals and plants common to Indo-European languages are cited as proofs.

  • Their main occupation being Pastoral while Agriculture remained as a Secondary Horse played a significant role in the Pastoralist life, which was domesticated near the Black Sea.

  • The term Arya appears in Rig Veda for 36 times indicating Aryans as a Cultural community

  • Aryans appeared in India around 1500 BC and settled near Eastern Afghanistan, NWFP, Punjab and fringes of western Uttar Pradesh. The whole region is called the Land of Seven Rivers.

  • They Aryans came into contact with the indigenous inhabitants Dasyus and the Aryan chief who overpowered them is called as Tarsadasu.

  • Sapta Sindu mentioned in the Rig Veda. Sindu is the river of Par Excellence while The Saraswati or Naditarana is the best of rivers in the Rig Veda.


Rig Vedic name Modern Name
Sindu Indus
Vitasta Jhelum
Asikani Chenab
Parushni Rav
Vipas Beas
Sutudr Sutlej


Early Vedic Period – Ancient India Dynasties – Tribal Conicts:

  • The Aryans introduced Chariots driven by horses for the first time in West Asia and India.

  • They were better equipped with arms and varman.

  • These led to their successes of conquests everywhere.

  • The Aryans were divided into 5 tribes called Panchajana who fought among themselves.

  • The battle of Ten Kings or the Dasrajan War was fought between 5 Aryan and 5 non-Aryan tribes against Bharata King Sudas in which the Bharata won.

  • They later joined with the Purus and established a new tribe called Kurus who ruled the upper Genetic Plains.


Early Vedic Period – Material life and Economy:

  • Their success is attributed to the use of Chariots, horses and better arms made of bronze.

  • They also introduced the Spoked Wheel.

  • They had better knowledge of Agriculture which was used mainly to produce fodder.

  • Plowshare made of wood was mentioned in Rig Veda.

  • Wars were fought for the sake of cow. Gavishthi is called the search for cows.

  • The land was not important in their life.

  • Aryans never lived or settled in cities.


Early Vedic Period – Ancient India Dynasties – Tribal polity:

  • Assemblies of the period – Sabha, Samiti, Vidatha and Gana

  • The two most important assemblies were sabha and the samiti. Women attended the Sabha and Vidatha.

  • Bali – voluntary contributions made by people


  • The king did not maintain a regular standing army. There was tribal system of government in which military element was string. Military functions were performed by different tribal groups called Vrata, Gana, Grama, Sardha


Important Positions


  • Tribal Chief – Rajan – king’s post had become hereditary. Election of the king through Samitis

  • Purohita – High Priest – Vishvamitra and Vasishtha. Vishwamitra composed Gayatri Mantra.

  • The Senani – army chief – who used spears, axes, and swords

  • Information on officer collecting taxes and officers administering justice are not found

  • Vrajapati – the officer who enjoyed authority over a large land. He led the heads of families called Kulapas and heads of fighting hordes called Gramanis to battle.

  • Early Vedic Period – Tribe and Family:

    • Kinship was the basis of social structure

    • Primary loyalty was given to Jana or the Tribe.

    • Jana occurs for about 275 times in Rig Veda.

    • Vis is another term for the tribe which is mentioned 170 times in Rig Veda.

    • Grama is smaller tribal units.

    • Samgrama is the clash between gramas.

    • Kula, the term for a family is rarely mentioned.

    • The family is represented by Griha.

    • Patriarchal societies and the birth of a son was desired to fight wars

    • Women could attend assemblies, offer sacrifices and compose hymns

    • Practices of polyandry, women remarriage and levirate were found but child marriage was not in vogue.


    Early Vedic Period – Social divisions:

    • Varna was the term used for color.

    • The dasas and the dasyus were treated as slaves and shudras.

    • Arya Varna and Dasa varna was mentioned in the Rig Veda

    • Four-fold differentiation on the basis of occupation viz. Warriors, priests, people, and shudras were found but this division was not very sharp.

    • Social inequalities had started to appear but the society was still tribal and largely egalitarian.


    Early Vedic Period – Rig Vedic Gods:

    1. Nature worship

    2. Attributes of various gods

      a. Indira – Purandara – 250 hymns

      b. Agni – re god – 200 hymns

      c. Varuna – upholding natural order

      d. Soma – God of plants

      e. Maruts – personication of storms

      f. Aditi and Usha – female divinities – represented the appearance of dawn


    3. Dominant mode of worship – prayer and sacrice.


      a. But the worship was not accompanied by rituals or sacrificial formula.


      b. Their worship was towards fulfilling their material life and well being.

    Dynasties of Ancient India:

    Two major dynasties of India, the Maurya Empire (321 BC- 185 BC) and Gupta Empire (240 BC-550 AD), were originated from Magadha.

    Apart from Maurya and Gupta dynasties, there were other dynasties which were started from Magadha,

    • Haryanka dynasty (544-413 BC)

    • Shishunaga dynasty (413-345 BC)

    • Nanda dynasty (424-321 BC)


    Dynasties of Ancient India – Haryanka dynasty:

    • Haryanka is the name of a new dynasty founded in Magadha by Bimbisara.

    • Bimbisara founded the dynasty by defeating the Brihadrathas.

    • Bimbisara was a contemporary of Buddha.

    • Pataliputra and Rajagriha were the capitals of the Magadhan kingdom. Magadha falls in the Patna region of Bihar


    Dynasties of Ancient India – Shishunaga dynasty:

    • Haryankas were overthrown by Sisunaga and he founded the Sisunaga dynasty there.

    • Kalasoka the son and successor of Sisunaga was succeeded by Mahapadma Nanda and him founded the Nanda dynasty.

    • Ajatasatru’s successor Udayin was the founder of the city of Pataliputra.


    Dynasties of Ancient India – Nanda dynasty:

    • The Nanda Empire was an ancient Indian dynasty originated from Magadha and was established in 424 BC.

    • Mahapadma Nanda was the founder and the first king of the Nanda dynasty.

    • He overthrew the Magadha dynasty and established the new Empire.

    • Initially, the Nanda Dynasty inherited a large kingdom of Magadha and subsequently, the boundaries of Nanda Dynasty was expanded in all directions by its rulers.

    • Nanda formed a vast army, including 200000 infantry, 20000 cavalries, 2000 war chariots and 3000 war elephants.

    • At its peak, the Nanda Empire expanded from Bengal in the east to Punjab in the west.

    • In the southern side, it extended to the Vindhya Range.

    • Dhana Nanda was the last ruler of Nanda Dynasty.

    • In 321 BC, Chandragupta Maurya defeated him and founded the Maurya Empire.


    Dynasties of Ancient India – Mauryan Emperors:

    The Mauryan Emperors List

      1. Chandragupta Maurya (321 BC-298 BC)

      2. Bindusara (298 BC-272 BC)

      3. Ashoka Maurya (269-232 BC)

      4. Dasaratha Maurya

      5. Samprati

      6. Salisuka

      7. Devvarman

      8. Satadhanvan

      9. Brihadratha Maurya


    Dynasties of Ancient India – Mauryan Empire Origin:

    • The Mauryan Empire started from Magadha was founded in 321 BC by Chandragupta Maurya.

    • Pataliputra, the modern day Patna was the capital city of the Mauryan Empire.


    Dynasties of Ancient India – Mauryan Empire Expansion:

    Mauryan Empire was one of the world’s largest empires of that time and expanded to an area of 5,000,000 k\({m}^{2}\)

    Dynasties of Ancient India – Mauryan Empire Expansion – Ashoka :

    • Ashoka ascended the throne in 273BC and ruled up to 232 BC. He was known as Devanampriya Priyadarshini the beautiful one who was the beloved of Gods.

    • He was known as Devanampriya priyadarsini the beautiful one who was the beloved of Gods.

    • Ashoka fought the Kalinga war in 261 BC Kalinga is in modern Orissa. Ashokan inscriptions were deciphered by James Princep.

    • After the battle of Kalinga Ashoka became a Buddhist, being shocked by the horrors of the war.

    • Ashoka was initiated to Buddhism by Upagupta or Nigrodha a disciple of Buddha

    • For the propagation of Buddhism Ashoka started the institution of Dharmamahamatras.

    • The IV Major Rock Edict of Ashoka tells about the practice of Dharma.

    • The Major Rock Edict XII of Ashoka deals with the conquest of Kalinga.

    • Ashoka held the third Buddhist council at his capital Pataliputra in 250BC under the presidentship of Moggaliputa Tissa.

    • He sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka for the spread of Buddhism (Mahendra and Sanghamitra)

    • Ashoka spread Buddhism to SriLanka and Nepal. He is known as the Constantine of Buddhism.

    • In his Kalinga Edict, he mentions All man are as my children.

    • Ceylon ruler Devanmpriya Tissa was Ashoka’s first convert to Buddhism. Ashoka ruled for 40 years and died in 232 BC.

    • The emblem of the Indian Republic has been adopted from the four lion capital of one of Ashoka’s pillars which are located in Sarnath.

    • Rock-cut architecture in India made a beginning during Ashoka’s reign.


    Dynasties of Ancient India – Mauryan Empire Expansion – Chanakya :

    • Chanakya, also known as Kautilya was the teacher of Chandragupta Maurya.

    • He was originally a teacher of Takshashila University.

    • He is considered to be the main architect in the establishment of the Maurya Empire by defeating the powerful Nanda Empire.

    • His original name was Vishnugupta.


    Dynasties of Ancient India – Mauryan Empire Expansion – Key Points :

    • Major sources for the study of Mauryan Empire are the Arthasastra of Kautilya and Indika of Megasthenes.

    • Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire. It is also said that his mother was Mura women of lower birth hence got the name Maurya.

    • Chandragupta Maurya was converted to Jainism, abdicated the throne in favor of his son.

    • Bindusara passed his last days at SravanOabelagola (Near Mysore) where he died in 298 BC.

    • Bindusara was a follower of Ajivika sect.

    • Bindusara was known as Amitragatha.

    • Megasthenese the first foreign traveler to India mentions the existence of seven castes in India during the Mauryan period. Stanika in Mauryan administration refers to the tax collector.


    shape Quiz

    1. What was the standard unit of exchange of Aryans?

      A. Gold
      B. Milk
      C. Wheat
      D. Cow


    Answer: Option D

    Explanation:

    Cow was the standard unit of exchange of Aryans. The reference of Cow in the Rig-Veda shows that the Rigvedic Aryans were predominantly pastoral people. The term for war in the Rig Veda is Gavishthi or search for cows.

    2. The Earliest Settlements of Aryan tribes were at

      A. UttarPradesh
      B. Bengal
      C. Sapta Sindhu
      D. Delhi


    Answer: Option C

    Explanation:

    It seems that during the Early Vedic period, the Aryans settled in the Saptasindhu and were divided into a number of tribal principalities ruled

    3. What is the modern name of the Drishadvati river (rig Vedic)?

      A. Saraswati
      B. Krumu
      C. Ghagghar
      D. Gomal


    Answer: Option C

    Explanation:

    • Ghagghar is the modern name of Drishadvati.

    • The Drishadvati River is a river hypothesized by Indologists to identify the route of the Vedic river Saraswati and the state of Brahmavarta.

    • According to Manusmriti, the Brahmavarta, where the Rishis composed the Vedas and other Sanskrit texts of the Vedic religion, was at the confluence of the Saraswati and Drishadwati rivers during the Vedic period.


    4. How many times does the word ‘Jan’ occur in Rigveda?

      A. 275
      B. 9
      C. 170
      D. 8


    Answer: Option A

    Explanation:

    5. In how many Mandalas, Rigveda was divided?

      A. 10
      B. 12
      C. 13
      D. 14


    Answer: Option A

    Explanation:

    • In 10 Mandalas, Rigveda was divided. The Rigveda is an ancient Indian collection of Sanskrit hymns.

    • It is one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism known as the Vedas.

    • The text is a collection of 1,028 hymns and 10,600 verses, organized into ten books (Mandalas).

    • A good deal of the language is still obscure and many hymns as a consequence are unintelligible.


    6. Anga was located to the southeast of Magadha and its capital was___?

      A. Champa
      B. Rajagriha
      C. Shravasti
      D. Kashi


    Answer: Option A

    Explanation:

    • Champa was capital of Anga.

    • Bimbisara conquered the kingdom of Anga.

    • It was located to the south east of Magadha.

    • With this Magadha gained control of the important river port of Champa.

    • Trade from South India was carried on through the Bay of Bengal.


    7. Who was the founder of the Nanda dynasty?

      A. Panduka Nanda
      B. Bhutapala Nanda
      C. The indo – Greeks
      D. Mahapadma Nanda


    Answer: Option D

    Explanation:

    • Mahapadma Nanda was the founder of the Nanda dynasty.

    • The Nanda dynasty originated from the region of Magadha in ancient India during the 4th century BCE.

    • Mahapadma Nanda, who has been described in the Puranas as “the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas” defeated many other kingdoms, including the Panchalas, Kasis, Haihayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Surasenas and the Vitihotras; to name a few.

    • He expanded his territory south of the Vindhya Range into the Deccan Plateau.

    • The Nandas, who usurped the throne of the Shishunaga dynasty c. 345 BCE were thought to be of low origin.


    8. Which traveler wrote an interesting book ‘Indica’ in which he gave a vivid account of Chandragupta Maurya’s reign?

      A. IBN Batuta
      B. Nicolo Conti
      C. Abdur Razzaq
      D. Megasthenes


    Answer: Option D

    Explanation:

    • Megasthenes is an ambassador of Selecus Nikator, who visited the court of Chandragupta Maurya and wrote an interesting book ‘Indica’ in which he gave a vivid account of Chandragupta Maurya’s reign.

    • It is an account of Mauryan India by Megasthenes.


    9. Which of the following was the prosperous port in Mauryan empire?

      A. Toshali
      B. Tamralipati
      C. Suvarnagiri
      D. Ujjaini


    Answer: Option B

    Explanation:

    • Toshali – Port on Mahanadi river.

    • Tamralipti – Port on Ganga river and the most prosperous port in Mauryan empire.

    • Suvarnagiri – Town on the banks of Krishna river.

    • Ujjain – Town on the banks of Ujjaini river.


    10. In which of the following year an inscription of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka was discovered in Delhi?

      A. 1922
      B. 1969
      C. 1966
      D. 1954


    Answer: Option C

    Explanation:

    In 1966, an inscription of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273–235 BC) was discovered near Srinivaspuri, Delhi .