Spread, expansion and penetration of the Aryans in India
Geographical references indicate that the Aryans spread gradually over to north India. The Aryan expansion proceeded from the Sapta-Sindhu (seven rivers) to the Brahmavarta (eastern region of the Punjab), and they gradually penetrated to eastern India. The Aryan power began to be established in Delhi, Meerut, Kosala, Kashi, North Bihar, etc.
The Aryan civilisation spread to Bengal towards the end of or immediately after the Vedic age. Dharmasutra is a part of Vedic literature. Its study creates the impression that Bengal was outside the Aryavarta.
Aryan expansion began in the south also. The Aryans undertook an expedition to the south in some un-ascertainable past. The existence of several The large kingdom of Sattwata in Vidarbha, the Dandaka Kingdom near Nasik, Mulaka and Ashmaka Kingdoms on the Godavari bank were clear demonstration of the expansion of Aryan power in the south by the end of the Vedic age.
It is not the fact that everywhere in north India and the Deccan the Aryan Kingdoms were established. There are references to the facts that some of the kingdoms were under Non-Aryans. Over and above this, in regions of dense forests, there lived such non-Aryan tribes as Pulindas, Nishadas, Savaras, Kalingas, and Andhras, etc.
In the south, unchallenged supremacy of the Aryans had never been established. Even in the north, co-existence and mutual influence of the Aryan and non-Aryan civilization are matters of deep observation. The Aryans and non-Aryans could not avoid contact with each other. It led to an unexpected synthesis of twin cultures.
The contributions of the both Aryans and non-Aryans to the establishment of Aryan power over the Gangetic valley are invaluable. Indeed, it can be said that what happened in India in the Vedic Age is not to be called the triumph of the Aryans only. It is proper to describe it as one of the Aryan movement and expansion.
Social Life of Aryans during the Vedic Period
During the early Vedic period, families of the Aryans were patriarchal in character. The ownership of the property rested with the head of the family.
The position of women was very high among the Aryan people. They could receive higher education and were looked upon with much regard and esteem. Women could join the politics and could take part in the proceedings of Sabha and Samiti. Child marriage was not prevalent and women could select their husbands. Some of the notable women of this age were Apala, Ghosha, Vishwavara etc.
There was no hereditary caste distinction in the early Vedic age. The Aryan Society was divided into four Varnas on the basis of duties. Those who took up the work of war came to be known as the Kshatriyas, workers in trade and agricultural field were known as Vaishyas and those who had taken up the priestly duties became known as Brahmans. So, initially the Aryan society became divided into three Varnas.
In later period, the non-Aryan captives, the aboriginals and those who surrendered themselves with the Aryans were given a place in Hindu society and they were known as Sudras, i.e., the fourth Varna.
The Aryan people generally took vegetarian food. The most common food was milk and milk products, fruits, vegetables, wheat and barley. Meat was taken on special occasion. On festive occasions, ‘Somarasa’ was taken.
As dresses, they used clothes made of cotton, wool and animal skins. The dress of Aryans generally consisted of two parts – Vasas or lower part and Adhivara or upper part. The ladies used an undergarment, known as nivi. Shoes and ornaments were also used.
Economic Condition of the Aryans
The Aryans were pastoral people and agriculture was their chief livelihood. Lands raised for cultivation were called ‘Urvara’ or ‘Kshetra’. The normal method for ploughing fields was by a means of a pair of oxen tied to the yoke.
The primary crops were wheat and barley. Every member of the family normally worked at the fields and agricultural processes, like filling the soil, cutting of grooves, sowing the seeds, cutting of corn with sickle were known to them.
They were also familiar with utilisation of manures.
Taming of Animals
Cattle and cow were held in high esteem and were seen as goddesses. There was nothing like money to buy things- one had to exchange their cattle or any other valuable. Cows were considered holy by the Aryans. Cows and oxen were functional for agriculture also.
Milk was one of the fundamental drinks of the Aryans and hence they gave a lot of importance to the cows. Cows were also used as unit of value in the batter system, predominant during that time.
Besides cows, goat, sheep, buffalo were also domesticated by the Aryans.
Trade and profession
The professions of goldsmith, carpenter, blacksmith, weavers etc., were rather widespread. The barter system was prevalent during the Rigvedic period.
The reference of ‘Niska’, a type of coin is also found.
Roads were constructed for trade and commerce. The Aryans also utilised ships and boats for shipping of goods.
The religion of the early Aryans was a form of nature-worship. They worshipped numerous Gods, like Sky, Surya (Sun), Indra, Varuna, Prithvi (earth), Agni (sacrificial fire), Vayu (Wind), Usha (dawn) and Aditi (mother of Gods or sometimes cow) etc. The rivers like Ganga and Saraswati were also considered to be goddesses.
The Vedic religion evolved into the Hindu paths of yoga and vedanta. Divinities of the early Aryans can be divided into three categories viz.- Celestial Gods, Atmospheric Gods and Terrestrial Gods. This illustrates that the Aryans had faith in a great number of Gods. But there is also mention in the Rigveda that the unity of the God-head was also recognised by the Aryans. The various deities worshipped, were considered by them to be the manifestation of the Supreme Being.
The Aryans offered sacrifices to the Gods to appease them. This was generally accomplished by chanting verses, which was done by calling a priest who helped common man perform these rituals. The common man performed simple sacrifices, offering milk, ghee, grain etc. But majestic sacrifices, such as the Ashvamedha were made by kings.
Moreover the Aryans envisioned the human spirit of the Gods and therefore, each God had a human form. No reference of idol worship is found. It appears that they despised image-worship. The Aryans were broadly optimists and hence sorrier facets of life have not been underlined in their religion. They were full of heartiness and their mindset towards life was full of optimism and aspiration.
Hindus claim that the Hindu scripture was composed sometime around 3000 BCE by several sages in direct contact with their god, Krishna. They claim that there is no evidence that outsiders – Aryans – invaded the Indus Valley and brought Hindu scripture with them. They blame the notion of this invasion on Christian scholars from the 19th century.
It is not clear as to when writing was learnt by the Aryans. But after it became widespread, some Brahmins (priests) considered it a sacrilege to change from communicating their religion orally. Some other Brahmins supported the innovation, and they put traditional Aryan stories into writing, in what became known as the Vedas – Veda meaning wisdom.
The Vedas have been described as reflecting a rural lifestyle of the Aryans as opposed to the more urban culture of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa civilization.
The Vedas implied that humanity is basically good, and, in contrast to the view of sin in West Asia, sin among the Hindus was viewed as a force from outside oneself – an invader. Hinduism’s Vedas saw evil as the work of demons that might take the form of a human or some other creature, which could be removed by the prayers and rituals of priests.