Top 13 Interesting Facts about the Vedic Period

The Vedic period of ancient India refers to the time between the Indus civilization and the occupation of the Indo-Gangetic plain. The name “Vedic” comes from the Vedas which are sacred texts of the period.

The Vedas have been classified into four Samhitas (collection of hymns) as follows:

Rigveda Samhita

The Rigveda Samhita is believed to be the oldest form of literature in the Indo-Iranian language. It comes in the form of 10 books or mandalas each offering prayers to the gods such as Indra, the god of heaven; Agni, the Hindu fire god; and Yama, the god of death who judges the destiny of souls.

Samaveda Samhita

The Samaveda Samhita is not a readable textbook. Its hymns are meant to be sung in specified melodies, and it has a liturgical significance. When it was written, a particular group of priests popularly known as Udgator were in charge of reciting these hymns or slokas.

Yajurveda Samhita

The Yajurveda Samhita has 40 mandalas and comprises of two sub-categories, the Krishna Yajurveda and the Sukla Yajurveda. The Krishna Yajurveda is the darker or original unarranged form where Yajnavalkya vomited out the lessons of Yajurved in the form of black vomit when he was asked to give back his learnings by his teacher Vaisampayana.

The Sukla Yajurveda tells of how he worshiped the sun god to relearn the Veda. Since he learned these teachings from the brighter sun, they got the name Sukla Yajurveda.

Atharvaveda Samhita

This Veda throws light upon the musculoskeletal system of the human body. Since the other three Vedas deal with the worship of god and music, Shiva decided that man needed to be fit and healthy to perform sacrifices and worship. This Veda enlightens us about diseases and their cures, black magic, and hypnotism. It comprises of three Upanishads: Prashna, Mundaka, and Mandukya.

Along with a little archaeological evidence, the Vedas are the only source to enlighten us about this era of history. This period is further classified into two time periods: the early Vedic period and the later Vedic period.

Vedic period

Let’s have a look now at the significant chronological events of these periods:

Early Vedic Period (c. 1500–c. 1100 BC)

1. Aryans and Immigrants

Iranian tribes such as the Dahae and Dahyu invaded the Indian subcontinent even before the emergence of the Aryans. These immigrants were not culturally developed, and they were generally hostile to the rules and regulations of society.

They had no belief in sacrifice and disobeyed the tenets of religion. Their colloquial language was crude, and often these differences and disagreements led to disputes. 

2. Battle of the 10 Kings

This war was the result of a struggle between two tribes. It was fought on the banks of the River Ravi (then known as Parushni). The Bharata tribe lived in the upper regions of the River Saraswati while the Purus tribe inhabited its southern part. Due to continuous disagreements and ongoing issues, the Bharatas, under the leadership of their king, Sudas, began fighting with the confederation of 10 kings.

The probable reason for the war is speculated to be the division of water from the River Ravi. The Bharata won the battle and the Purus king, Purukusta, died. After the war, the two tribes merged together into a new tribe called the Kuru.

3. Rigveda

The Rigveda is believed to be the ancient form of Sanskrit literature that was written during the early Vedic period. The Rigveda is divided into 10 books called mandalas, each mandala comprising of short poems or hymns narrating the political issues of the day and the lives of the priests.

4. Origin of Villages

The earliest tribes were nomads who herded cattle and lived off the land. Over time, they became more organized and formed communities based on pastureland and the local economy, cattle still being the most important commodity.

Group of families formed villages and often met together in vidhata or samiti which were similar to clan assemblies. They had a chief who was chosen for his bravery and who was in charge of protecting the community. 

5. Joint Family and Barter System

In the then patriarchal society, the grahapati, or heads of the households, used to make all the decisions. Families all lived together, and various occupations such as carpentry, bronze-working, and pottery existed alongside agriculture. Trade soon became international, and in the absence of a stable currency, the barter system came into being.

With gradual developments in the overall socio-economic state, the early Vedic period gradually transitioned into its secondary stage.

Later Vedic period (1100–500 BC)

This period is believed to cover the era of the Kuru and Panchala kingdoms.

6. Kuru Kingdom

This kingdom covered the northern regions of India including present-day Delhi, Haryana, and parts of Uttar Pradesh. This Iron Age tribe established their capital at Kurukshetra, and their two most prominent leaders were Parikshit and his son Janamejaya.

These rulers played a crucial role in furthering their kingdom and preaching their newly formed Srauta rituals; Janamejaya was known to have practiced Ashvamedha, a form of horse sacrifice (see 8). The Indian epic Mahabharata speaks in detail about the Kuru leaders and the Battle of Hastinapura which took place during the Kurukshetra War.

Later when Hastinapura was flooded, their capital was shifted to Kausambi. With growing differences within the family, the kingdom grew weak and was eventually defeated by the non-Vedic Salva tribe. 

7. Mahabharata

The Mahabharata is concerned with pride and power and tells the story of the Kaurava and the Pandavas, two branches of the Kuru family who fought with each other to decide who was to be the king of Hastinapura. It is divided into 18 books called parbas with an additional khila, or appendix, which enlightens us about the life of Lord Krishna.

It starts with an introduction called the Adi Parva and ends with the Svargarohana Parva which depicts the ascent to heaven. The contemporary sage Veda Vyasa is thought to have been the author of the epic, he himself being dictated to by the god Ganesha.  

8. Ashvamedha

Ashvamedha is the sacrifice of a horse by a king to establish his undisputed popularity. The Srauta tribe introduced this sacrificial ritual where a horse, along with the king’s warriors, would be set off into neighboring or enemy territories for a year. Wherever the horse goes without being killed is considered to be under the imperial power of the king.

In the horse’s absence, prayers and rituals are performed, and when the horse returns a year later, it is bathed, fed, decorated with gold ornaments, and then burnt to death. The horse was believed to represent the sun, and prayers were offered to it.

According to the Manusmriti, an ancient religious text, men who provide a horse sacrifice daily for a century were supposed to achieve the same virtuous status as those who do not eat meat at all. Later, the sacrifice of the horse became popular in other countries too.

9. Panchala Dynasty

The Panchalas reigned for two centuries before they merged with the Nanda dynasty. Their empire stretched from the northern Himalayas to central India. Separated by the River Ganges, they are classified as the Northern Panchalas ruled by Drupad and the Southern Panchalas governed by Drona.

Drupad was Drona’s disciple when the former’s father was alive. After his father passed away, he insulted his teacher Drona, accusing him of being a poor brahmin, which prompted Drona to declare war. Drona beat Drupad with the assistance of his disciple Arjuna. 

10. Urbanization and Growth of Imperialism

Urbanization began to spread, and by the middle of the sixth century, small political groups from different corners of the country formed mahajanapadas or republics. Vedic culture had expanded from Magadh in the east to Mathura in the north while the Deccan plateau in the south along the banks of the River Narmada marked their southern limit.

These newly formed states began to exhibit their superiority, often using sacrificial rituals like Rajasuya and Vajapeya to show the supremacy of their chiefs. Slowly, feudalism came into being.

11. Division of Caste and Occupation

The later Vedic period witnessed the division of humanity based on caste, occupation, power, and social status. The four groups formed were:

  • Brahmins who were royalty and were showered with gifts and power with the right to education. They were scholars, priests or teachers.
  • Kshatriyas who were rulers, administrators or warriors.
  • Vaishyas who were agriculturalists, farmers or merchants .
  • Shudras who were made to do menial jobs and also called the servant class. 

Unfortunately, this irrational caste system continues even today.

12. Introduction of Marriage

During this time, marriage was bound up with many conditions such as dowry, status, and all kinds of rules of convention. Some popular types of unions introduced in the later Vedic period are as follows:

  • Brahma vivah: Marriage within the same caste and creed following Vedic rituals.
  • Daiva vivah: Marriage of a girl with a guru as payment by the girl’s father.
  • Arsa vivah: Marriage of a couple where the groom gifts a cow and a bull in return for the bride.
  • Prajapati vivah: Marriage which does not involve the exchange of a dowry.
  • Gandharva vivah: Marriage where the bride gets to choose her groom during a ritual called swayamvara.
  • Paisach vivah: Marriage where a sleeping or mentally unstable bride is seduced.
  • Rakshasha vivah: Marriage of a runaway couple or, to be more specific, when the groom abducts the bride.

13. Chaturashrama

One critical aspect of the Vedic culture was chaturashrama, or the classification of an entire life of a Brahmin man into four periods:

  • Brahmacharya: Strict and disciplined life to be led under the supervision of a teacher.
  • Grihastha: Taking charge of family life.
  • Vanaprastha: Preparing to give up all homely ties and move towards a spiritual life.
  • Sannyasa: Moving away from the mundane world and aiming to achieve salvation or moksha.

The above phenomenon did not apply to women or other classes of society.


Agriculture formed the principal part of Vedic socio-economic life, and it was a period during which humans became more civilized and educated. Women were treated with respect, they had access to education, and purdah (the separation of women) and sati (a widow’s sacrifice) were not prevalent.  People were guided by spiritual values and believed in life after death.

The people balanced work and pleasure, cultivating crops, raising livestock, eating simple food, and drinking intoxicating beverages such as soma.

Some of their favorite pastimes were chess and chariot racing. They were always aware of attack from their enemies and remained prepared for battle at all times. Vedic literature characterized this ancient period in history.

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