Though the Vedic Age cannot be dated exactly, the majority of historians locate it between 2500 BC and 1200 BC. The Vedic Age is the synonym of the Aryan age in India. The Aryan migration into India was gradual and protracted. They fought against the non- Aryans, defeated them, subjugated them, and finally inter-mixed with them. Indelible has been the imprint of their cultural contributions. However, the only source of our information about them is the vast and rich literature, known as the Vedas. Veda is derived from the root-word ‘Vid’, meaning ‘to know’. Veda means knowledge in general.The four Vedas are Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. Each Veda has parts called the Samhitas. The Samhitas have parts called the Brahmanas attached to them. The Arcnyakas and Upanishads are attached to the Brahmanas. Together, all these form a virtual ocean of knowledge. But, originally, these were orally transmitted from generation to generation, and were originally not in written form.

Plain-living and high-thinking was the ideals cheristed by the Vedic Aryans. The richness of their spiritual tradition has given India its extraordinary vibrancy and life. The recitation of Vedic hymns with austere serenity and singular devotion orchestrated the mystic rhythms of India’s spiritual tradition.

The Vedic Aryans worshipped the principal phenomena of nature like the Sky (father Dyaus), the Earth (mother Prithvi), the Sun, the Moon , the Dawn, the Thunder, the Wind etc. Each of these was personified. The Vedic Aryans also worshipped 33 gods and goddesses, as the Rig Veda tells us. There was no hierarchy among gods, though Varuna was the most venerated one in the early Vedic pantheon. He was the god of ‘rita’ and so the custodian of truth and morality. Later, Indra came to enjoy a more important status among the gods, and commanded the largest number of Rig Vedic hymns.

There was also Maruta or the god of storms. Vayu and Vata (wind-gods), Parjanya (rain-god) Rudra (thunder-god) were prominent gods of the atmosphere. Brihaspati, Prithivi, Soma and Agni were the popular gods of the earth. Agni (fire) was a god himself as well as a medium for invoking other divinities. The ‘Yajna’ or fire-sacrifice was primary to all acts of worship and the first offerings were always made to him. Soma was the venerated drink of the gods, an intoxicating elixir that bestowed immortality on gods and humans. Formless deities like Visvakarma (the all-creating), Prajapati (Lord of creatures), Dhatri (the establisher) and Vidhatri (the ordainer) etc also were offered worship.


These divinities were primarily benevolent in nature. Propitiated properly through the simple ceremony of yajna (fire-sacrifice), the chanting of Vedic hymns and the offering of Soma, these divinities were supposedly showering benevolence and dispelling the demons of evil Everybody could offer worship directly to the gods and goddesses. There was no class of priests; they were not necessary in the mode of direct worship. The gods were dominant while the goddesses were sober and tolerant in disposition. Usha (Dawn), Aditi, Prithvi and Saraswati were, as such, subordinate in status, The Rig Vedic religion was Henotheism, i.e. belief that the god being worshipped is the most powerful. Thus, it can be said that the Vedic Aryans were monotheistic in their polytheism. However complex it may sound, the Vedic religion was characteristically simple. Equality, fraternity, absence of distinctions based on caste and colour, and the eternal religion (sanatana dharma) of humanism were the key features of the religion of the Vedic Aryans.

The period following that of the Rig Veda is known as the later Vedic age. This was when religion got caught in the cob-webs of rituals and caste-divisions. The Brahmins came to usurp the highest positions of society and dominated, through a monopoly of religion, the other three castes, namely, Kshatriya (warriors), Vaisya (the traders) and Sudras who were the ‘menial’ class. The Aryan expansion lay at the root of it all.

New gods and goddesses like Brahma, Visnu, Krishna Vasudeva, Gandharvas, Apsaras etc. appeared during the later Vedic and Epic periods. The concept of ‘Karma’ or action and sin led to increased Brahminical influence through rituals in the name of redemption and under the plea of condonation of sin. Superstitions and sub-cultural trends grew stronger.

Yet the Vedic Aryans left a legacy on which the Indian culture has thrived through the ages. Foremost among these was their positive spiritual ideas and original contributions in the field of religious faith and philosophy. Equally important has been their contributions in the field of literature. The caste-system and the ‘Varnashrama’ modes of life, the high social status of women, the patriarchal and social system of disciplined and collective responsibility and accountability, the sense of equality and fraternity, the language of Sanskrit and the insitutions of pilgrimage and heritage were contributions of phenomenal significance. All these evoked the timeless within the realms of life. It has not only shaped India’s culture through the ages, but has been at the root of a continuous expansion of the ontology of conscious phenomena.