The Aryans and the Vedic Age

The Aryans were warriors who first appeared in northern India around 1500 BCE. Most Aryans were nomadic cattle herders. Sometimes they practiced slash-and-burn agriculture by cutting the trees on a plot of land to create a field. When the vegetation dried, they set it on fire. The ashes fertilized the soil for a few growing seasons. Once the soil became exhausted, the Aryans would repeat the process in a new area. They did not remain in one place for long, so the Aryans did not build permanent homes, unlike the earlier Indus River Valley culture.

The Aryans were skilled warriors. Their experience as cattle herders made them able horsemen. They built chariots with spoke wheels, which were faster and easier to control than chariots with solid wheels.

Their military skills allowed bands of Aryans to control the native Dravidian people and to spread their language and culture to most of the subcontinent.

About 1000 BCE, the Aryans discovered iron ore in the Ganges River Valley. The heavy monsoon rains created dense vegetation in the valley. When the Aryans cleared the trees and brush, the fertile land allowed them to farm along the banks of the Ganges. Within 500 years, several Aryans villages had grown into small states.

The Aryans spoke Sanskrit. Its similarities with European languages suggest that the Aryans came through the mountains of the Hindu Kush from present-day Afghanistan. However, no stories of a great journey are found in the songs and poems of the Aryan people.

The first Aryans on the subcontinent could not read or write, but they did have a rich oral tradition. For hundreds of years, Aryan songs and epic poems were handed down to the next generation.

About 500 BCE, the Aryans began to compose a body of texts called Vedas, based on their traditional stories. Veda is a Sanskrit word that means knowledge. The Rig Veda is a collection of more than 1000 poems that survives to this day. Historians label the period of Indian history lasting from about 1500 BCE to 322 BCE as the Vedic Age, due to the influence of these stories on the subcontinent.

Source: The Aryans and the Vedic Age
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