Socio-Religious Life of Vedic Age

Early Vedic Period

  • Early Vedic people worshipped forces of nature and personified them as gods and goddesses.
  • Indra, Agni, Varuna, and Marut were some of their gods while Usha: Aditi, Prithvi were some of their goddesses.
  • Some of the solar Gods and goddesses referred to in the Rig Veda are Surya, Savitri and Pushau.
  • Varuna is the enforcer as well as an upholder of law and order. He is known as God of moral law.
  • Though Aryan society was patriarchal, women were treated with dignity and honour.
  • Niyoga: A widow could marry the younger brother of her deceased husband.
  • Soma and sura,the alcoholic drinks were consumed.
  • No animal worships.
  • Aghanya: The cow was not to be killed.
  • The society were compromised of four varnas: Brahmans,Kshatriya,Vaisya and Sudra.

Rig Vedic Gods & Goddesses

Rig Vedic Gods & Goddesses
IndraGod of thunderstorms, lightning and fierce weather. Also known as Purandhara (Breaker of Forts).
Fire or AgniMessenger between gods and human beings
VarunaThe god of oceans, guardian of moral law and God of truth
DeusSky god (most ancient)
SomaLord of the plants, or of the woods (Vanaspati).
Usha Goddess of the dawn
VishnuGod of three worlds
MarutsStorm god
PrithviGoddess of grain and of procreation
SuryaDestroyer of darkness.
PushanResponsible for marriages, journeys, roads, and the feeding of cattle.
AditiGoddess of eternity
ArnayaniGoddess of forest

Later Vedic Period

  • The period between 500 BC and 500 AD saw the crystallisation of the caste system. The number of castes increased because of growth of several crafts, the arrival of new elements in population, inter-caste marriages (Anuloma and Pratiloma) and inclusion of many Tribes in caste hierarchy.
  • In later Vedic times, Rigvedic tribal assemblies lost importance and royal power increased at their cost. Women were no longer allowed to sit in Sabha.
  • The condition of women began deteriorating from the later Vedic period and they suffered on account of education and social roles which restricted them to be in the houses.
  • Later Vedic period saw rise of four-fold varna classification (Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras) and institution of gotra.
  • Later Vedic time also saw an established ashrama system or the division of life span into four distinct stages i.e., brahmacharya (period of celibacy, education and disciplined life in guru’s ashram), grihastha (a period of family life), vanaprastha (a stage of gradual detachment and Sanyasa (a life dedicated to spiritual pursuit away from worldly life). However, these stages were not applicable to women or to people from lower varnas.
  • Purdah and sati were not prevalent.
  • Rigvedic gods, Indra and Agni, lost relevance in later Vedic period, their place was taken by a new trinity of Gods where Brahma enjoyed the supreme position, while Vishnu became preserver and Shiva completed the trinity. Religion became extremely ritualistic.
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