Like the Rig Veda, the only sources for the post Rig Vedic history of India are the later three Vedas - Yajur, Sama &Atharva Veda. There is no concrete proof of the timelines of these three Vedas. Commonly accepted chronology is that Yajur Veda and Sama Veda, composed perhaps between 1400 BC and 1100 BC, are older than Atharva Veda which was composed perhaps between 1100 and 900 BC. The present forms of all the four Vedas didn't take place for sure within these time frames. It had taken several more centuries before they would have arrived to the present forms. Yajur Veda has reference to fully developed caste systems, considerable advances in art, handicrafts, trade and occupation, which are evidently of much later date of early first millennium.
The four Vedas Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva are the earliest literatures of mankind. They also form the basis of the way of life that gradually metamorphosed into a religion, commonly and also erroneously at times, known as Hinduism. At their core the four Vedas are just books of knowledge and enlightenment as realized by the learned people of the time and presented in forms of manuals for rituals - mostly worship of natural forces. Rig Veda is the Knowledge of Recited Praise, Yajur Veda the Knowledge of Sacrifice, Sama Veda the Knowledge of Chanted Hymns and Atharva Veda the Knowledge of Prayers, Charms and Spells. Apart from Yajur Veda, all the other three were composed as perfect metrical verses. Many verses of Rig Veda are reused in various forms in all the other three later Vedas.
Almost all the ancient civilizations were worshipers of nature and natural forces. So it's nothing extraordinary or exceptional for the Indians to worship fire, water, sky, wind and earth - the five basic natural forces. At the dawn of civilization, when the human race was still under the spell of the powers and mysteries of the nature, it's very natural that most of her rituals would be centered around pleasing these mysterious forces. Metaphorically each of these forces was given a shape and form of super humans or Gods. All the knowledge, be it about philosophy or environment or mathematics or governance were packaged into the widely respected ritual manuals. Though the Vedas are regarded as religious books, still they have wealth of valuable information and knowledge and tremendous literary value. None other religious books in any other religion has such great value beyond the dogmatic significance. Most of the content in Vedas are relevant even now. That's precisely what makes the Vedas so unique. Most importantly the history of ancient India is impossible to construct without the Vedas.
Two versions of the Yajur Veda, Shukla (White) and Krishna (Black), have remained till date in various recensionsor Sakhas or theological schools specialized in learning various Vedic texts.
It's quite fascinating to know that some 3000 years ago Indians were equally concerned about the harmony between man and nature. Yajur Veda speaks about being "in accordance with the earth". It stresses about an all expanding growth of mankind "spreading with a hundred branches" in absolute harmony with the nature. It's very obvious that the crisis of natural resources, that we see today, shouldn't have been a matter of concern some 3000 years ago, when the population was sparse and resources plenty. When the people were settling down in newer places across India they were cutting down forests, which were just everywhere, to setup habitats. But still some where in their mind they did have this concern about the vices of exploiting the natural resources. It's indeed quite incredible to find that all the thoughts that we see today towards eco-friendliness, preserving forests and any natural resources and the stress on a greener way of living did come to the minds of our ancestors. These thoughts were considered so important that they were included in the religious manuals to be reminded to everyone during the practice of rituals.
Shukla Yajur Veda: 5.43
dyaammaa lekheerantarikshammaa himseeh prithivyaa sambhava |
ayam hi tvaa svadhitistetijaanah praninaaya mahate saubhaagaaya |
atastvandeva vanaspate shatavalsho viroha sahasravalshaa vi vayam ruhema |
Graze not the sky. Harm not mid-air. Be in accordance with the earth.
For this well-sharpened axe hath led thee forth to great felicity.
Hence, with a hundred branches, God, Lord of the Forest, grow thou up.
May we grow spreading with a hundred branches.
The following verses from Shukla Yajur Veda mention the numbers upto ten raised to the power of 12 in steps of powers of 10, namely ayuta (10 raised to the power 4, or 10K), niyuta (100K), prayuta (1million), arbuda (10 million), nyarbuda (100 million), samudra (1billion), madhya (10 billion), anta 100 billion) and parardha (1trillion).
Shukla Yajur Veda: 17.2
imaa me'agna'ishtakaa dhenavah santvekaa cha dasha cha dasha cha shatancha shatancha sahasrancha sahasranchaayutanchaayutancha niyutancha niyutancha prayutanchaarbudancha nyarbudancha samudrashcha madhyanchaantashcha paraadheshchaitaa me'agna'ishtakaa dhenavah santvamutraamushmilloke
A similar list is available in Taittiriiya Samhita of Krişhņa Yajur Veda (4.4.11 and 7.2.20), Maitrāyaņi Samhita 2.8.12, Kathaka Samhita (17.10) etc. The Atharvaveda Samhita (6.25.1 thru 6.25.3, 7.4.1) specially emphasizes the common relationship between one and ten, three and thirty, five and fifty, nine and ninety, clearly indicating that the persons of the Vedic age had a good grasp of the basics of decimal system for positive integers.
O Agni, may these bricks be mine own milch kine: one, and ten, and ten tens - a hundred, and ten hundreds - a thousand, and ten thousand - a myriad, and a hundred thousand, and a million, and a hundred millions, and an ocean middle and end, and a hundred thousand millions, and a billion. May these bricks be mine own milch-kine in yonder world and in this world.
The number four three two (four hundred and thirty two) million occurring frequently in Sanskrit works occurs in Atharva Veda (8.3.21).
Yajur Veda also has the first reference to numeric infinity (purna or fullness) stating that if you subtract purnafrom purna you're still left with purna.
It's quite a unique development in the field of science and mathematics on the part of the Indians compared to their contemporaries. At the same time it's quite confusing to learn that the same people, who had such in depth knowledge about mathematics lacked the knowledge of technology and engineering. The people of Indus Valley Civilization might not have known such level of mathematics, but they were masters in technology of town planning, navigation, ship building and many others.
Sama Veda is the first book of songs known to mankind. It forms the earliest foundation of Indian Classical Music. It also sets the foremost legacy of using songs as a form of worship, which over the ages has been proved to be the most popular form of worship in all religions. Music and sound not only play an important role in spirituality, but also in our normal lives. Sama Veda uses the sound, lyrics and music in a wonderful way to create the right aura and ambiance for spirituality and divinity.
The text for the songs of Sama Veda are taken mainly from Rig Veda. The original Rig Vedic verses are altered a bit to fit into lyrical forms of Sama Veda. Many syllables are further modified and even added, where ever needed, to suit singing. Even a notation is also followed, though it is textually represented much later when the Vedic texts are first written. This is no doubt the first instance of notated music in the world. The text of Sama Veda, without modification and additions of syllables, is known as the Sama Veda Samhita. The song book has two variants - Gramagya, containing songs meant for singing (geya) in villages (grama) , & Aranyageya, containing songs meant for singing in the forest (aranya).
Sama Veda (Samhita): 220.127.116.11
namah sakhibhyah poorvasadbhyo namah saakannishebhyah |
yunje vaacham shatapadeem ||
yunje vaacham shatapadeem gaaye sahasravarttani |
gaayatram traishtubham jagat ||
gaayatram traishtubham jagadvishvaa rupaani sambhritaa |
devaa okaamsi chaktrire ||
Praise to the friends who sit in front! to those seated together, praise
I use the hundred-footed speech speech.
I use the hundred-footed speech, I sing what hath a thousand paths,
Gayatra, Trishtup, Jagat hymn.
Gayatra, Trishtup, Jagat hymn,the forms united and complete,
Have the Gods made familiar friends.
Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas, is often criticized for dealing with super naturals. But philosophically it's perhaps much more deeper than the other three Vedas. It, no doubt, deals with topics more complex in nature.
It's the first Vedas that speaks about medicine and physiology. The first book of Atharva Veda speaks of the following:
The following verses speak about the importance of Sabha and Samiti, the two popular forms of meetings during the Vedic Age. It's again an early example of argumentativeness of the Indians. The main purpose of these meetings was to discuss things of relevance openly in a common forum. The importance of such meetings is great in the proper governance of a country. It's clear from this verse that these meetings were taken quite seriously by the people. It's being pointed out that everyone should be fair in their words and every man should respect every other man in these meetings.
Atharva Veda: 7.12.1
sabhaa cha maa samitishchaavataam prajaapaterduhitarau sanvidaane |
yenaa samgachchhaa upa maa sa shikshaanchaaru vadaani pitarah sangateshu ||
In concord may Prajapati's two daughters, Gathering and Assembly, both protect me.
May every man I meet respect and aid me. Fair be my words, O Fathers, at the meetings.
The following verse speaks about atoms as the smallest unit of any object.
Atharva Veda: 12.1.26
shilaa bhumirashmaa paamsu saa bhumih samdhrita dhrita |
tasyai hiranyavakshase prithivyaa akaram namah ||
Rock earth, and stone, and dust, this Earth is held together, firmly bound.
To this gold-breasted Prithivī mine adoration have I paid.
Here 'atoms' (Pāṃsu) are described forming the stone, the stones agglutinating to form the rocks and the rocks held together to form the Earth. This is quite a unique realization made by the Indians some 3000 years back much before the concepts of atoms and molecules in modern science came into existence.
Most importantly Atharva Veda refers to Iron as a metal for the first time, thus heralding the start of theIron Age and the end of Bronze Age sometime around 1100BC.
Atharva Veda: 11.3.5, 6, 7
ashvaa kanaa gaavastandulaa mashakaastushaah ||5||
kabru faleekaranaah sharo'bhram ||6||
shyaamamayo'sya maamsaani lohitamasya lohitam || 7||
Horses are the grains, oxen the winnowed ricegrains, gnats the husks. (5)
Kabru is the husked grain, the rain cloud is the reed. (6)
Grey iron is its flesh, copper its blood. (7)
The above hymn is in glorification of Odana or the boiled rice, a staple diet for most Indians even now. It glorifies Odana metaphorically in many ways by saying that Brihaspati is its head, Brahma the mouth, Heaven and Earth are the ears, the Sun and Moon are the eyes, the seven Rishis are the vital airs inhaled and exhaled, and so on.
Atharva Veda mentions the Kuru King Parikshita. The Kuru kingdom, or the confederation of tribes, would have been an important one in northern India around 1100 BC. The first reference of Anga is found in the Atharva Veda along with the Magadha (referred to as Kikata in Rig Veda), Gandhara (present day Kandahar region in Afghanistan) and Mujavat (perhaps an ancient non Aryan settlement beyond the Himavat, the Himalayas, and the Hindukush in the Pamir region), apparently as lands of despised people. Champa, capital of Anga was one of the biggest cities and ports in Ancient India with trade links with far off places like Thailand (perhaps referred to as the mythical Suvarnabhumi) and Vietnam. Chedi, mentioned in Rig Veda, was also another important kingdom. All of these early kingdoms later became Mahajanapadas, or Great Kingdoms, over the next few centuries.Avesta
Gatha 2, Yasna 29.2
Avestan Rig VedicAdâ tashâ gêush peresat ashem Ada tasa goh aprisat ashamKathâ tôi gavôi ratush | Katha te gave ratus |Hyat hîm dâtâ kshayañtô hadâ Yah him dhata kshayat sadaVâstrâ gaodâyô thwakshô | Vastra godhah tvakshah |kêm hôi ushtâ ahurem Kam asya ushatha asuramYê dregvôdebîsh aêshemem vâdâyôit || Yah drugvadbhi ishmam vadhayayet ||
- Skt. tasa, Creator - related to the root tvaksh and Av. thwaksh meaning creation
- Skt. go and gava, cow, cattle - used here in the sense of people, signifying the world.; godha is used in the sense of sustainer (coming from Skt. root dha) of the world (go)
- Av. asha, arsh, eresh, arta come from Skt. rita meaning divine law, truth in general, righteousness; Skt.rita --> Av. arta --> arsha --> asha; Like the RV rita the Avestan asha is also a very important concept; ratu, a related word, is used in the sense of Prophet, apostle, someone who stands for righteousness and truth
- Skt. vastra, coming from root vas meaning to remain, to live, to shine, is used in the sense of active
- Skt. kshayat, powerful, dominant - comes from root kshi
- Skt. asura and Av. ahura - God
- Skt. and Av. dru, meaning enemy - drugvadbhi comes from dru, used in the sense of wicked.
Then the Creator of the world asked Asha, "Where is thy Prophet for the world who, capable, world-forester and vigorous, would sustain her always? Whom do you intend as her Lord, as one who can thwart the violence of the wicked?" -- Translated by Jatindra Mohan Chatterji, 1967Upon this the Creator of the Kine (the holy herds) asked of Righteousness: How (was) thy guardian for the Kine (appointed) by thee when, as having power (over all her fate), ye made her? (In what manner did ye secure) for her, together with pasture, a cattle-chief who was both skilled and likewise energetic? Whom did ye select as her (life's) master who might hurl back the fury of the wicked? -- Translated by L. H. Mills, 1898Then the Ox-Creator asked of the Right: "Hast thou a judge for the Ox, that ye may be able to appoint him zealous tendance as well as fodder? Whom do ye will to be his lord, who may drive off violence together with the followers of the Lie?" -- Translated by C Bartholomae
Let's see another hymn from Gatha. This is from Yasna 28.8.
Avestan Rig Vedic
Vahishtem thwâ vahishtâ ýêm Vasishtham tvâm Vasishthah ayam
Ashâ vahishtâ hazaoshem | Ashâya Vasishthâya sujoshâm |
Ahurem ýâsâ vâunush Asura yâse vanvânah
Narôi Ferashaoshtrâi maibyâ câ | Nare Prishoshtrâya mahyam cha |Yaêibyas câ ît rånghanghôi Yemyah ca rasasiVîspâi ýavê vanghêush mananghô || Vishvaya yavaya vasoh manasah ||
- Skt. Vasishtha & Av, Vahishta, means most excellent, the superlative of Skt. vasu & Av. vohu - come from the Skt. root vas, meaning to shine, to grow bright; The Persian behest, meaning heaven and the Englishbest come from Av. vahishta; Vasishtha is a composer of RV and very famous personality in Hinduism;
- Skt. sujosham, Av. hazaoshem come from the Skt. root jush and Av. zaosha, meaning to be delighted, enjoy, love, cherish - used in the sense of divine love and enjoying divine delight - I, the best, will enjoy You, the best, with Asha, the best
- Skt. vanvana, meaning loving - comes from root van, akin to Eng. win and Lat. venus; winning by physical means of hurting and injuring is transformed into winning by means of love; another example of simplistic physical meanings getting transformed into something more profound philosophic; more such cases discussed here
- Skt. rarasi, meaning bestowing - comes from root ra
This one (myself), being at his best (Purity), would realize You, the best (Deity), with Rectitude, the best (faculty). I, beloving, would worship Ahura, for manly Frashoshtra, and for me, as well as for those, to whom You consign Conscience, for all time. -- Chatterji
The best I ask of Thee, O Best, Ahura (Lord) of one will with the Best Asha, desiring (it) for the hero Frashaostra and for those (others) to whom thou wilt give (it), (the best gift) of Good Mind through all time. -- Mills
The similarities in the languages indeed mean that the composers of Gatha and those of Rig Veda were very closely associated. In the Aryan Trail we've mentioned that a group of Indo Aryans stayed back in Central Asia and Afghanistan while the others entered India. For a very long time the Indo Aryans of India and Afghanistan had a very good relation, practiced almost the same religion and followed the same tradition. Around the timeline of Atharva Veda there seems to be an intellectual conflict between two groups of Aryans that leads to their separation. One group continues to stay in Afghanistan and very soon comes in close contact with the Iranian peoples coming from the steppes (Timber Grave Culture) and settling in various parts of Iran. We may call this group of people proto Avestan as their language gradually moves away from the Rig Vedic Sanskrit and takes the shape of Avesta. Zarathushtra, one of them, eventually founds the Zoroastrian religion. As the Avestans stay close to the Iranians - their kins, being members of the same Indo Iranian peoples - their language starts picking up more Iranian components. It's not a surprise that Avestan, despite the strong Rig Vedic connection, is classified as an Iranian language.
The other group of Indo Aryans, who separates from the proto Avestan peoples, move towards India and stay connected to the culture and religion of the Aryans of India.
Now if we assume that the proto Avestan peoples stayed in Central Asia and Afghanistan for a long time then we should expect the reference to places from this region in their texts. In fact they are better than the Rig Vedic peoples in this respect. The first chapter of Vendidad, a later Avestan text, is about sixteen perfect lands created by Ahur Mazda, the Highest God of the Zoroastrians.
The Vendidad starts with:
Ahura Mazda spake unto Spitama Zarathushtra, saying:
"I have made every land dear (to its people), even though it had no charms whatever in it: had I not made every land dear (to its people), even though it had no charms whatever in it, then the whole living world would have invaded the Airyana Vaeja."
Asanghãmca shôithranãmca vahishtem frâthweresem azem ýô Ahurô Mazdå
The best (vahishtem) lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created (frâthweresem, from the Av. root thwaksh)
- the Airyana Vaeja
- the plain which the Sughdhas inhabit, gâum ýim Sukhdhô-shayanem - modern Sughd Province in Tajikistan and ancient Sogdiana
- the strong, holy Mouru, Môurum sûrem ashavane - ancient Margiana, areas around modern day Mary/Merv in Turkmenistan. Mouru may be a cognate of Skt. maru meaning desert and also mountain.
- the beautiful Bakhdhi with high-lifted banner, Bâxdhîm srîrãm eredhwô-drafshãm - Balkh in Afghanistan and ancient Bactria, Skt. Vahlika
- Nisaya, that lies between the Mouru and Bakhdhi, Nisâim ýim añtare Môurumca Bâxdhîmca - as mentioned, it's a place between Merv & Balkh.
- the house-deserting Haroyu, Harôyûm ýim vish-harezanem - area around Herat in Afghanistan, Skt. Sarayu, Persian Harirud River.
- Vaekereta, of the evil shadows, Vaêkeretem ýim dûzhakô- sayanem - probably some place in north east Iran.
- Urva of the rich pastures, Urvãm pouru-vâstrãm - area around Hamum Lake in Iran
- Khnenta which the Vehrkanas inhabit, Xneñtem ýim Vehrkânô- shayanem - Gorgan in Iran, Skt. Vrika
- the beautiful Harahvaiti, Harahvaitîm srîrãm - Vedic Saraswati, modern Arghandab, Greek Arachosia, a tributary of Helmand.
- the bright, glorious Haetumant, Haêtumañtem raêvañtem hvarenanguhañtem - Helmand River in Afghanistan. Though Arghandab matches etymologically with Saraswati, but Helmand basin is generally identified with Saraswati.
- Ragha of the three races, Rakhãm thrizañtûm - modern Rai, south of Tehran
- the strong, holy Chakhra, Caxrem sûrem ashavanem - a place by the name Carx in the ancient Khorasan in Central Asia (Northern Iran)
- the four-cornered Varena, Varenem ýim cathru-gaoshem - Bannu, Skt. Varnu
- the Seven Rivers, Hapta Heñdu - Skt. Sapta Sindhu or the land of the Seven Rivers, that's the Punjab.
- the land by the sources of the Rangha, where people live who have no chiefs, upa aodhaêshu Ranghayå ýô asârô aiwyâxshayeiñti - Rangha or Rasa, a mythical river in Rig Veda with strong Indo European connections, may be one of the unexplored or lesser explored northern tributaries of Indus in Hindukush region.
Vṛtrāṇyanyaḥ samitheṣu jighnate vratānyanyo abhi rakṣate sadā |Havāmahe vāṃ vṛṣaṇā suvṛktibhir asme indrāvaruṇaā śarma yachatam || 7.83.9
We can very well assume that going by the popular images of Indra and Varuna their worshipers - the devayanistsand the pitriyanists - would surely be two different lots. There are references to devayana and pitriyana in Rig Veda and Atharva Veda. Following is one instance from Atharva Veda.One of you Twain destroys the Vṛtras in the fight, the Other evermore maintains his holy Laws.We call on you, ye Mighty, with our hymns of praise. Vouchsafe us your protection, Indra-Varuṇa.
Anrina asmin anrinah parasmin tritiye loke anrinah syama |Ye devayanah pitriyanah ca loka sarvan patho anrina a kshiyema || 6.117.3 (Atharva Veda)
May we be free in this world and that yonder, in the third world may we be unindebted.May we, debt-free, abide in all the pathways - the devayana and pitriyana.
In west Asia the Kassites have been ruling in Babylon since 16th century BC. Their rule came to an end in 1155 BC when it fell to Elam (Iran). Finally after five centuries Babylon was conquered back by native ruler Nebuchandrezzar I in 1125 from the Kassites. Around the same the Hittites (Turkey) were declining and the Assyrians becoming more and more powerful. The first Assyrian Empire was established around the same time. Also Israel was getting formed.
Reference and Useful Links
- Rig Veda
- Shukla (White) Yajur Veda: Devanagari English Translation
- Krishna (Black) Yajur Veda