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Values of Vedas and life of the people

Updated on September 19, 2016

Four Vedas

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Valuable Vedas

The four Vedas -Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Athravanaveda were composed during the period following the Indus Valley Civilisation. Hence, this period from 1500 to 600 BC is known as the Vedic Age.

Veda is the Sanskrit word derived from the root `Vid’ that means `to know’. The word `Veda’ means `knowledge’.

All the four Vedas are written in Sanskrit and contain hymns in praise of various gods and goddesses. Three important gods are especially mentioned: Agni, the god of fire; Indra, the god of rain, storm and war and Varun, the god of sky.

Here, we take a part of one such hymn, a dialogue between sage Vishvamitra and two rivers (Sutlej and Beas) that were worshiped as goddesses.

Saint Vishvamitra and the rivers

Vishvamitra :- O rivers, descend from the mountains like two swift horses, like dazzling cows that lick their calves. You move chariots to the sea, through the power of Indra. You are full of water and wish to unite with one another.

The rivers :- We, who are full of water, move along the paths the gods have made for us. Once we start flowing, we cannot be stopped. Why do you pray to us, O’ sage?

Vishvamitra :- O sisters, please listen to me, the singer who has come from a distance with his chariots and carts. Let your water not rise above our axles, so that we can move across safely.

The rivers :- We pay heed to your prayers so that you can cross safely.

Vedas

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The Society

The society was divided into four groups called Varnas.

Brahmins:- Brahmins were India’s priests and were seen as the highest Varna and their duty was to study and teach the Vedas, to perform sacrifices and to receive gifts.

Kshatriyas :- Kshatriyas were rulers and warriors.

Vaishyas :- Vaishyas were farmers, craftspeople and traders.

Shudras :- Shudras were workers and servants.

aswamedha yagam

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Ashvamedha

Ashvamedha was a big sacrifice. This was a ritual by a king, in which a horse was let loose by him to wander freely. The horse was guarded by the king’s men. If any king tried to stop the horse in his territory, the king had to battle with the king who was performing the Ashvamedha. If he allowed to let the horse pass, it was believed that he had accepted the superiority of the king who wanted to perform the sacrifice. So in this way, the might of the king was recognized. These kings were invited to the sacrifices which was held at the end of the entire process. All those who came, brought gifts for the king. The raja who performed Ashvamedha was a central figure in those ritual. Tales of is glory were chanted. Common people called vish or vaishya would would give gifts to the king. Shudras were not allowed to perform any ritual.

The Four Ashramas

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Ashramas (stages of life)

Brahmacharya :- The men were to lead a simple life and study the Vedas during the early years of their lives. (This was only for the brahmins, kshatriyas and vaishyas.)

Grihastha :- The men had a marry and lead a life of a householder.

Vanaprastha :- The men had to live in rest and meditate.

Sanyasa :- The men had to renounce everything and lead a life of a sanyasi. The women were not allowed to study the Vedas and had to step into the ashramas that their husband followed.

Life of the people

The people who composed the hymns described themselves as Aryans. They called their opponents as Dasas or Dasyus.

From the Rigveda we come to know that cattle and horses were very important to the people of the Vedic Age who are generally referred as the Aryans. There are many prayers in the Rigveda for cattle, children and horses. Battles were fought to capture cattle in which horses were yoked and chariots were used. Wars were also fought for territory, people and water. Land that was captured was used for cultivation, people were used as workers and water was put to good agricultural use.

The war booty was divided into several parts. A good part was kept by the leaders, some given to the priests and the rest distributed amongst the people (common men). Some portion of wealth was used for the performance of yajnas or sacrifices in which the priests made offering into the fire. There were meant for gods and, goddesses. Offering could include grain, ghee and in some cases, animals. Most men became soldiers. There was no well-defined army for any kingdom. People met at assemblies to discuss war, its proceedings and peace. Leaders were selected on the basis of their bravery and warring skills.

Occupations

The main occupations of the people were agriculture and cattle – rearing. Besides these, other common occupations were chariot – making, pottery – making, metal work, jewelery – making, weaving, carpentry, tanning and fishing. Many people were priests, who also performed the duties of doctors and teachers. They had enough knowledge about plants and medicinal herbs. They passed on the knowledge of the Vedas to the younger generation.

Pottery is made up of clay

Clay is first molded into the desired shape. Pottery can be either shaped by hand or shaped on a wheel. The earliest pottery was hand – made. With the passage of time, the potter’s wheel was discovered. The clay is thrown on to the center of a potter’s wheel, which is rotated. The potter molds the clay to the desired shape on the wheel. This shaped pottery is then fired in a kiln (or furnace ) at a high temperature. This process strengthens the pottery, thus making it permanently.


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