Chapter 2 – Vedic Civilization

Matthew G. Marsh

Around 1500 BCE a new ethnolinguistic group, the Indo-Aryans, began migrating into India from Central Asia. This migration was not a massive invasion but instead consisted of several waves of Indo-Aryan tribes moving into the Indian subcontinent. The earliest of these waves began with the arrival of a group called the Rig Vedic people, who appeared in India between 1500 BCE and 1400 BCE, the beginning of what is known as the Vedic period of Indian history. Due to a number of factors, such as the environment, native resistance, and inter-tribal fighting, the Indo-Aryan settlement of India moved slowly over the course of centuries. It would take nearly a thousand years for the various Indo-Aryan tribes to take control of northwestern and northern India.[1]

Much of our information about Indo-Aryan and Vedic society comes from the Vedas, the sacred literature of the Indo-Aryan and Vedic peoples. The Vedas are the mass compilation of literature gathered over a period of centuries. There are four main collections of the literature that provide historians with information on the Vedic civilization: the Rigveda, the Atharvaveda, the Samaveda, and the Yajurveda. The oldest of the Vedas is the Rigveda, which dates to approximately 1000 BCE, and it provides historians with information on the earliest form of Vedic society in India. It is important to note that, unlike the earlier Indus Civilization, at least initially the Indo-Aryans were semi-nomadic pastoralists. In the Rigveda, Indo-Aryans appear not as builders of cities, but as destroyers. As the Indo-Aryans subjugated the native tribes this would cause Indian civilization to shift from an urban setting to a rural one. However, apart from the use of horses and chariots, the Indo-Aryans possessed no other advanced technology. While India reverted to a rural civilization, in several ways continuity existed between the Indus and Vedic civilizations, particularly in agricultural and tool industries. Technologies that disappeared from India included much of the construction systems found in the Indus Civilization, the regulated system of weights and measures, and the major sanitation systems.[2]

[1]. Antonova et al., History of Ancient India, 31–36; Chopra et al., Comprehensive History, 23–25; Irfan Habib and Vijay Kumar Thakur, A People’s History of India, Vol. 3: The Vedic Age, 7th ed. (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2014), 3–6; Jha, Ancient India, 43–45; and Sharma, India’s Ancient Past, 106–08.

[2]. Antonova et al., History of Ancient India, 36–38; Chopra et al., Comprehensive History, 26–29; Habib and Thakur, The Vedic Age, 7–8; Jha, Ancient India, 46–48; Majumdar, Ancient India, 32–42; and Sharma, India’s Ancient Past, 109–10.


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History of Applied Science & Technology by Matthew G. Marsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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