The Vedic period is named after the Indo-Aryan culture of north-west India, although other parts of India had a distinct cultural identity during this period. The Vedic culture is described in the texts of Vedas, still sacred to Hindus, which were orally composed in Vedic Sanskrit. The Vedas are some of the oldest extant texts in India. The Vedic period, lasting from about 1750 to 500 BCE, contributed the foundations of several cultural aspects of the Indian subcontinent. In terms of culture, many regions of the subcontinent transitioned from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age in this period.
Historians have analysed the Vedas to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper Gangetic Plain. Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent from the north-west. The peepal tree and cow were sanctified by the time of the Atharva Veda. Many of the concepts of Indian philosophy espoused later, like dharma, trace their roots to Vedic antecedents.
Early Vedic society is described in the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text, believed to have been compiled during 2nd millennium BCE, in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. At this time, Aryan society consisted of largely tribal and pastoral groups, distinct from the Harappan urbanisation which had been abandoned. The early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds, in part, to the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture in archaeological contexts.
At the end of the Rigvedic period, the Aryan society began to expand from the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, into the western Ganges plain. It became increasingly agricultural and was socially organised around the hierarchy of the four varnas, or social classes. This social structure was characterised both by syncretising with the native cultures of northern India, but also eventually by the excluding of indigenous peoples by labeling their occupations impure. During this period, many of the previous small tribal units and chiefdoms began to coalesce into Janapadas (monarchical, state-level polities).
In the 14th century BCE, the Battle of the Ten Kings, between the Puru Vedic Aryan tribal kingdoms of the Bharatas, allied with other tribes of the Northwest India, guided by the royal sage Vishvamitra, and the Trtsu-Bharata (Puru) king Sudas, who defeats other Vedic tribes—leading to the emergence of the Kuru Kingdom, first state level society during the Vedic period.
Since Vedic times, “people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms”, a process sometimes called Sanskritisation. It is reflected in the tendency to identify local deities with the gods of the Sanskrit texts.
The Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent from about 1200 BCE to the 6th century BCE is defined by the rise of Janapadas, which are realms, republics and kingdoms — notably the Iron Age Kingdoms of Kuru, Panchala, Kosala, Videha.
The Kuru kingdom was the first state-level society of the Vedic period, corresponding to the beginning of the Iron Age in northwestern India, around 1200 – 800 BCE, as well as with the composition of the Atharvaveda (the first Indian text to mention iron, as syama ayas, literally “black metal”). The Kuru state organised the Vedic hymns into collections, and developed the orthodox srauta ritual to uphold the social order. Two key figures of the Kuru state were king Parikshit and his successor Janamejaya, transforming this realm into the dominant political and cultural power of northern Iron Age India. When the Kuru kingdom declined, the centre of Vedic culture shifted to their eastern neighbours, the Panchala kingdom. The archaeological Painted Grey Ware culture, which flourished in the Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh regions of northern India from about 1100 to 600 BCE, is believed to correspond to the Kuru and Panchala kingdoms.
During the Late Vedic Period, the kingdom of Videha emerged as a new centre of Vedic culture, situated even farther to the East (in what is today Nepal and Bihar state in India); reaching its prominence under the king Janaka, whose court provided patronage for Brahmin sages and philosophers such as Yajnavalkya and Aruni. The later part of this period corresponds with a consolidation of increasingly large states and kingdoms, called mahajanapadas, all across Northern India.
In addition to the Vedas, the principal texts of Hinduism, the core themes of the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are said to have their ultimate origins during this period. The Mahabharata remains, today, the longest single poem in the world. Historians formerly postulated an “epic age” as the milieu of these two epic poems, but now recognise that the texts (which are both familiar with each other) went through multiple stages of development over centuries. For instance, the Mahabharata may have been based on a small-scale conflict (possibly about 1000 BCE) which was eventually “transformed into a gigantic epic war by bards and poets”. There is no conclusive proof from archaeology as to whether the specific events of the Mahabharata have any historical basis. The existing texts of these epics are believed to belong to the post-Vedic age, between c. 400 BCE and 400 CE. Some even attempted to date the events using methods of archaeo-astronomy which have produced, depending on which passages are chosen and how they are interpreted, estimated dates ranging up to mid 2nd millennium BCE.
History of India, Wikipedia. Retrived 03 September 2017