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Unformatted text preview: e Yamuna and the Ganges and eastward. They cleared (probably
by burning) the heavy forests that covered this region and
then settled there. They also moved farther northeast to the
Himalayan foothills and southeast along the Ganges, in what
was to be the cradle of subsequent Indian civilization. During
this age the importance of the Punjab receded. The Birth of Civilization 27 The late Vedic period is also called the Brahmanic Age
because it was dominated by the priestly religion of the
Brahman class, as evidenced in commentaries called the
Brahmanas (ca. 1000–800 or 600 B.C.E.). It is also sometimes called the Epic Age because it provided the setting
for India’s two classical epics, the Mahabharata and the
Ramayana. Both works were composed much later, probably between 400 B.C.E. and 200 C.E., but contain older
material and refer to older events.
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The Mahabharata, the world’s
Excerpt from Mahábhárata
longest epic poem, centers on the riat MyHistoryLab.com
valry of two Aryan clans in the region
northwest of modern Delhi, perhaps around 900 B.C.E. The
Ramayana tells of the legendary, dramatic adventures of
King Rama. Both epics reflect the complex cultural and social mixing of Aryan and other earlier subcontinent peoples.
By about 200 C.E., this mixing produced a distinctive
new “Indian” civilization over most of the subcontinent.
Its basis was clearly Aryan, but its language, society, and
religion incorporated many non-Aryan elements. Harappan culture vanished, but both it and other regional cultures contributed to the formation of Indian culture as
we know it.
Vedic Aryan Society Aryan society was apparently patrilineal—with succession and inheritance in the male line—and its
gods were likewise predominantly male. Marriage appears to
have been monogamous, and widows could remarry. Related
families formed larger kin groups. The largest social grouping
was the tribe, ruled by a chieftain or raja (“king” in Sanskrit),
who shared power with a tribal council. In early Vedic days the
ruler was chosen for his prowess; his chief responsibility was to
lead in battle, and he had no priestly function or sacred authority. A chief priest looked after the sacrifices on which religious
life centered. By the Brahmanic age the king, with the help of
priests, had assumed the role of judge in legal matters and become a hereditary ruler claiming divine qualities. The power of
the priestly class had also increased.
Although there were probably subgroups of warriors and
priests, Aryan society seems originally to have had only two
basic divisions: noble and common. The Dasas—the darker,
conquered peoples—came to form a third group (together
with those who intermarried with them) of the socially excluded. Over time, a more rigid scheme of four social
classes (excluding the non-Aryan Dasas) evolved. By the late
Rig-Vedic period, religious theory explicitly sanctioned these
four divisions, or varnas—the priestly (Brahman), the warrior/nob...
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.
- Spring '14