Chapter 3 – Summary of Ancient India: Vedic Culture and Popular Religious Forms

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A few centuries after the decline of the Harappan civilization, a new culture flourished in the same region and gradually spread across the Ganga-Yamuna plains. This culture came to be known as the Aryan culture.

Vedic Culture

  • Aryans settled on the banks of rivers Indus and Saraswathi. They composed many hymns in honour of the gods and goddesses they worshipped.

  • These were complying in four Vedas- the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.

Image of four Vedas

Image of Four Vedas

  • The word Veda means knowledge of the sacred spiritual knowledge. These Vedas were considered infallible as they imparted the highest spiritual knowledge.

  • Since our knowledge of the early Aryans is based on these Vedas, the culture of this period is referred to as the Vedic Culture.

  • The period is important not only for political unity of the country but also for cultural unity.

  • Ancient India saw the rise of two very important religions, Jainism and Buddhism which left a lasting influence on Indian life and culture.

  • Vedic religion was earlier also known as Brahmanism because the Brahmins played a major role in it.

  • The Brahmins had developed a vested interest demanding large charities at the end of the sacrifices.

  • The founder of Jainism is believed to be Rishabh deva, the first of the twenty four tirthankaras and as the last tirthankara Mahavira developed and gave final shape to the Jain doctrines.

  • The Jains lay great emphasis on severe penance and asceticism. The other movement was led by Gautama Buddha a younger contemporary of Mahavira.

  • He believed that there is sorrow in this world and that desire is the cause of that sorrow and it can be conquered by following the Eight-Fold Path.

Image of eight fold path

Image of Eight Fold Path

  • Basically, both these movements were against the orthodox and ritualistic Brahmanical religion. Both the reforms emphasised a good moral life and the importance of ethics.

  • Both of them founded an order of monks, established monasteries called sthanakas in Jainism and Buddhism.

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