Aryan Civilization Daily Life 1500-500 BCE

The Red Dot on Foreheads: Have you ever wondered why Indian women place a red dot on their foreheads, between their eyes? We did, so we asked a few people what the red dot meant. Here are two replies! “This goes back to Aryan days! In ancient times, a groom used to apply a spot of his blood on his bride’s forehead, in recognition of wedlock! Today, married Indian women may choose to wear this mark. A married woman does not have to do this, but she can if she wants. However, if a woman is single, divorced or a widow, she can not wear this mark. It’s a sign of marriage!” (Sudheer Birodkar) or “At one time, the tilak or bindi as it is called, was a sign of a happily married woman. Today, it is much more a fashion accessory–it can be any colour, any shape or size, and women often wear more than one.” (Gerald L Harrison; Adult educator: Asian Studies Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Canada).

Things do change over time. Things certainly changed in the Indus Valley when a new group arrived, called the Aryans. The Aryans came from Central Asia (modern day Russia). They entered the Indus Valley through the fabled Khyber pass. The Aryans were nomads. They raised livestock, rode chariots, and loved to gamble. They had no sophisticated government. They grouped in clans, and were ruled by warrior chiefs called rajas. Their history is one of constant war amongst themselves, between the various clans. We have little archaeological evidence, but have something else we can use to learn about them. The Aryans created marvelous stories, stories they told or sang for centuries.

The VEDAS : The Aryan beliefs and daily life are described in the four Vedas, a collection of poems and sacred hymns, composed in about 1500 BCE. Veda means knowledge. The Vedas are composed of the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. This is why the period from roughly 1500 BCE to 1000 BCE is called the Vedic Period. It is named after the Vedas.

The Ramayana & the Mahabharata : Around 1000 BCE, the Aryans started to create two marvelous epics. We know about daily life during this period from these famous epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These epics are stories about Aryans life, wars, and accomplishments. School kids in India, today, know these stories very well. They’re great stories! The Ramayana tells a story in which the (good) aryan king Rama destroys the (evil) pre-aryan king Ravana. The other epic, Mahabharata, talks of Aryan wars amongst themselves, where two clans, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, battle it out, and the Pandavas emerge victorious. This is why the period from roughly 1000 BCE to 500 BCE is called the Epics Period. It is named after these two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. How did the Aryans live? The Aryans clans, or tribes, settled in different regions of northwestern India. The tribes were called Gana (literally a “collection” – of people). The chief of each tribe was an hereditary job. If your father was the chief, someday, you would be chief. It was the only way to become a chief. The chief made decisions, after listening to a committee, or perhaps even to the entire tribe. People had a voice, but the chief was the boss.

Aryan Houses : The people in the Vedic period lived in straw and wooden huts. Some homes were made of wood, but not until later, during the Epics Period.

Yagna (central fire-place) : The life of the tribal Aryans was focused around the central fireplace called the Yagna. Dinner time was social time. The tribe would gather around the central fireplace, and share news, and the days happenings. Those who tended the central fireplace also cooked for the rest of the tribe. This was a very special job. The fire tenders were the go-between between the fire god and the people. These fire tenders, later on, formed the caste of priests. The Aryans ate meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, milk, and fish. The word for guest was Go-Ghna or eater of beef. What did they do when they were not working or fighting each other? The Aryans loved to gamble. They introduced the horse to ancient India and raced chariots. They played fighting games. They loved to tell stories. The ancient Aryans were proud and fierce, and deeply religious. They had many gods and goddesses.

Jobs : As the Aryans settled in and began to grow crops, people started to have occupations. In each tribe, people began to belong to one of four groups: the Brahmana (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (traders and agriculturists), and Shudra (workers). In the beginning, these were just occupations. You could move from group to group. This changed over time, until a person’s occupation or group depended upon birth. If your father was a farmer, you had to be farmer. Change from one group to another became very difficult.

Education Kids were taught by a guru (a teacher). Even chiefs sons had to obey the guru. All students followed a rigorous course of studies which were imparted orally. Writing was done on bark and leaves, and hence was perishable, so we have very few rock edicts to tell us what they studied or what they wrote. Clothing was initially made of animal skins. As the Aryans settled down, clothing began to be made of cotton.

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