Different theories explain the Vedic Period, c. 1200 BCE, when Indo-Aryan
people on the Indian subcontinent migrated to the Ganges Plain.
Describe the defining characteristics of the Vedic Period and the cultural consequenes of the Indo-Aryan Migration
The Indo-Aryans were
part of an expansion into the Indus Valley and Ganges
1800-1500 BCE. This is explained through Indo-Aryan Migration and Kurgan theories.
The Indo-Aryans continued to
settle the Ganges Plain, bringing their distinct religious beliefs and
The Vedic Period (c. 1750-500 BCE)
is named for the
Vedas, the oldest scriptures in Hinduism, which were composed during this period. The period can be divided into the Early Vedic (1750-1000 BCE) and Later Vedic
(1000-500 BCE) periods.
A large, fertile
plain encompassing most of northern and eastern India, where the Indo-Aryans
debate the origin of Indo-Aryan peoples in northern India. Many have rejected
the claim of Indo-Aryan origin outside of India entirely, claiming the
Indo-Aryan people and languages originated in India. Other origin hypotheses include
an Indo-Aryan Migration in the period 1800-1500 BCE, and a fusion
of the nomadic people known as Kurgans. Most history of this period is derived
from the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in Hinduism, which help chart the
timeline of an era from 1750-500 BCE, known as the Vedic Period.
Indo-Aryan Migration (1800-1500 BCE)
from the north are believed to have migrated to India and settled in the Indus
Valley and Ganges Plain from 1800-1500 BCE. The most prominent of these groups
spoke Indo-European languages and were called Aryans, or "noble
people" in the Sanskrit language. These Indo-Aryans were a branch of the
Indo-Iranians, who originated in present-day northern Afghanistan. By 1500 BCE,
the Indo-Aryans had created small herding and agricultural communities across
migrations took place over several centuries and likely did not involve an
invasion, as hypothesized by British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler in the
mid-1940s. Wheeler, who was Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of
India from 1944 to 1948, suggested that a nomadic, Indo-European tribe, called
the Aryans, suddenly overwhelmed and conquered the Indus River Valley. He based
his conclusions on the remains of unburied corpses found in the top levels of
the archaeological site of Mohenjo-daro, one of the great cities of the Indus
Valley Civilization, whom he said were victims of war. Yet shortly after
Wheeler proposed his theory, other scholars dismissed it by explaining that the
skeletons were not those of victims of invasion massacres, but rather the remains of
hasty burials. Wheeler himself eventually admitted that the theory could not be
Kurgan Hypothesis is the most widely accepted scenario of Indo-European
origins. It postulates that people of a so-called Kurgan Culture, a grouping of
the Yamna or Pit Grave culture and its predecessors, of the Pontic Steppe were the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language. According to this theory, these
nomadic pastoralists expanded throughout
the Pontic-Caspian steppe and into Eastern Europe by early 3000 BCE. The Kurgan
people may have been mobile because of their domestication of horses and later use
of the chariot.
Period (c. 1750-500 BCE)
Vedic Period refers to the time in history from approximately 1750-500 BCE, during
which Indo-Aryans settled into northern India, bringing with them specific religious
traditions. Most history of this period is derived from the Vedas, the oldest
scriptures in the Hindu religion, which were composed by the Aryans in Sanskrit.
Civilization is believed to have been centered in the northwestern parts of the
Indian subcontinent and spread around 1200 to the Ganges Plain, a 255-million
hectare area (630 million acres) of flat, fertile land named after the Ganges
River and covering most of what is now northern and eastern India, eastern
parts of Pakistan, and most of Bangladesh. Many scholars believe Vedic
Civilization was a composite of the Indo-Aryan and Harappan, or Indus Valley,
Indo-Aryans in the Early Vedic Period, approximately 1750-1000 BCE, relied
heavily on a pastoral, semi-nomadic economy with limited agriculture. They
raised sheep, goats, and cattle, which became symbols of wealth.
Indo-Aryans also preserved collections of religious and literary works by memorizing
and reciting them, and handing them down from one generation to the next in their
sacred language, Sanskrit. The Rigveda, which was likely composed during
this time, contains several mythological and poetical accounts of the origins
of the world, hymns praising the gods, and ancient prayers for life and
into tribes, the Vedic Aryans regularly clashed over land and resources. The Rigveda describes the most notable of
these conflicts, the Battle of the Ten Kings, between the Bharatas tribe and a
confederation of ten competing tribes on the banks of what is now the Ravi River
in northwestern India and eastern Pakistan. Led by their king, Sudas, the
Bharatas claimed victory and merged with the defeated Purus tribe to form the
Kuru, a Vedic tribal union in northern India.
Vedic Period (c. 1000-500 BCE)
the 12th century BCE, Vedic society transitioned from semi-nomadic to settled
agriculture. From approximately 1000-500 BCE, the development of iron axes and
ploughs enabled the Indo-Aryans to settle the thick forests on the western
This agricultural expansion led to an increase in trade and competition
for resources, and many of the old tribes coalesced to form larger political
units. The Indo-Aryans cultivated wheat, rice and barley and implemented new
crafts, such as carpentry, leather work, tanning, pottery, jewelry crafting, textile
dying, and wine making.
exchanges were conducted through gift giving, particularly between kings and
priests, and barter using cattle as a unit of currency. While gold, silver,
bronze, copper, tin, and lead are mentioned in some hymns as trade items,
there is no indication of the use of coins.
invasion of Darius I (a Persian ruler of the vast Achaemenid Empire that stretched
into the Indus Valley) in the early 6th century BCE marked the beginning of
outside influence in Vedic society. This continued into what became the Indo-Greek
Kingdom, which covered various parts of South Asia and was centered mainly in modern
Afghanistan and Pakistan.