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Vedic India

Historical evidence suggests that India was inhabited by humans even as far back as 70,000 BC. The first known civilization to have prospered in northwest India is the Indus Valley Civilization (about 3300 BC to 1300 BC).
The emergence of the Vedas, the sacred texts of ancient India, heralded the Vedic Age (about 1500 BC to 500 BC). Vedic India was a glorious period of cultural, social, and intellectual growth. The Vedas went on to become the primary texts of Hinduism. The Vedic Civilization, though centered on northern India, has spread across the country and is considered the foundation of Indian culture and life.

Sacred Literature
The Vedic texts were passed down by oral tradition. It is estimated that Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas, was composed sometime between 1700 BC and 1100 BC. The later Vedas - the Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda draw heavily from the Rig Veda. The Vendanta texts - the Samhitas and the Upanishads - were commentaries or auxiliary texts dealing with philosophy, theology, sociology, politics, culture, and ethics.

The sacred texts of Vedic India attempted to provide a complete guide to life and religion. From describing the origins of the universe to ascertaining the roles of the various members of society, and from providing commentary on the ethical responsibilities of every individual to determining the rites, rituals, and hymns of worship, the Vedas were treated as the basis of life in Vedic India.

Veda-Centric Society
The Vedas laid down a system of classes, and society in Vedic India was organized into Varnas or classes. These were strictly occupational divisions. Marriage rules were, however, rigid, and intermingling was discouraged. In Vedic India the classes were all treated equally and society was patriarchal. Following the collapse of the Vedic period, two Varnas, Brahmins and Kshatriyas, took precedence and the class system turned into a caste system.

As prescribed by the Vedas, the Brahmins were given to intellectual pursuits. They sung hymns and poems in praise of the gods, preserved tradition and the sacred texts, cultivated sciences, and performed rituals. The Kshatriyas functioned as warriors and administrators. The king was a Kshatriya and so was the army. They meted out the law and were responsible for policy making. The Vaishyas were farmers and traders. They formed the economic backbone of Vedic society. The Shudras were artisans, masons, and laborers.

The king (Rajan) would regularly consult representatives of all the Varnas in times of decision making.

Vedic Religion
The religious tenets as propagated by the Vedas were unique in the sense that they were both monotheistic and polytheistic. A pantheon of gods was worshipped, but each deity was a form of the One Supreme Being (Brahma). The worship of the deities depended on the needs, times, and correspondence. The celestial bodies and the elements were worshipped as gods. The study of Vedic mathematics, astrology, and astronomy were very advanced and tied to the complex religion of the Vedas.