Later Vedic Period Notes for UPSC Exam


  • In the later Vedic period, Aryans moved to the eastern regions, using fire and iron tools. They settled in the Guru Panchala region, which included the Indo-Gangetic plains and the upper Ganga valley. 
  • They also gained knowledge of the eastern and western seas (Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean) and the Narmada and Vindhya mountains.


  • In this period, the Jana evolved into janapadas (territories).
  • Janapadas frequently fought over land.
  • The power of the Rajan (chief) became more pronounced, and they were supported by a council known as Ratnin.
  • Leadership became hereditary.
  • There was no permanent army.
  • Rajans performed various rituals like Rajsuya, Vajpeya, and Ashwamedha to establish their rule.
  • They used titles like Samrat, Ekrat, and Virat.
  • The term “rashtra,” indicating a territory, emerged in this era.
  • Dependence on assemblies like Sabha and Samiti reduced, and Vidhata disappeared.
  • Women were no longer allowed to participate in these assemblies.


  • During this time, people began to focus more on farming multiple crops and looking after cattle. This shift limited their nomadic lifestyle.
  • They started growing crops like wheat, barley, rice, and moong urad. Iron was discovered and used for clearing forests to make space for agriculture.
  • With increased agricultural production, taxes like Bali and Bhaga became common, and people contributed to the king’s treasury. Officials called Samgrahitri and Bhagdukha collected these taxes.
  • People also excelled in various crafts, such as metalwork, carpentry, jewellery making, dyeing, and pottery.

Social Structure:

  • Society was divided into four main castes based on the caste system.
  • The practice of marrying outside one’s caste (caste exogamy) and a strict social hierarchy became more common.
  • Sacrifices played a significant role and gave more power to the Brahmanas (priests).

Varna System:

Varna System
  • The Varna system became more distinct, emphasising birth over occupation.
  • It followed the Varnashrama Dharma, which described the four stages of life.

Social Mobility:

  • Social mobility, or the ability to move between social classes, was limited during this period.

Position of Women

Position of Women
  • During this time, women were often restricted to household duties and had lower status. They couldn’t participate in public meetings like Sabha and Samiti.
  • Some customs like Sati and Purdah were seen, which limited women’s freedom. However, it’s worth noting that there were exceptional women scholars like Gargi, Maitri, and Katyayani, despite the generally lower position of women.

Institution of Marriage

Institution of Marriage
  • During this time, child marriage became more common. They introduced the “gotra” system, which forbade marriage between people from the same gotra, and there’s mention of a Chandrayana Penance for men marrying women of the same gotra.


  • During this era, people began to worship idols more, which was a change in their religious practices. Sacrifices also became more elaborate and important in society.
  • Magic and omens became intertwined with daily life and religion, and the Brahmins gained more importance, maintaining their superior position.
  • They performed large-scale yajnas, like the Ashwamedha, to show their authority over leaders and territories. The importance of male gods like Indra and Agni decreased, while Prajapati, the god of creation, became the supreme deity.
  • Deities were divided, and Pushan, the god of cattle, was associated with the Shudra class.

MCQ Test on Later Vedic Society, Economy, Polity & Religion

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