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Arrival of the Aryans. A fair skinned people that originated somewhere near the Caspian and Black Sea region They were semi-nomadic, living in tribal communities and herding sheep, goats and cattle with a little farming on the side

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who were the aryans

A fair skinned people that originated somewhere near the Caspian and Black Sea region

  • They were semi-nomadic, living in tribal communities and herding sheep, goats and cattle with a little farming on the side
  • They were able to cover great distances because they had horses and light, spoke-wheeled chariots
  • They were warlike and glorified fighting
  • The society was very male dominated and probably very hierarchical
  • They had no writing, but spoke a language which we now call “Proto Indo-European”

Who were the Aryans?


Who were the Aryans?

  • For reasons we don’t know, they spread out of their homeland from c. 2000 BC
  • They went southeast into Iran and eventually over the Hindu Kush into India
  • They went west into Asia Minor, Greece, Italy and as far as England and Ireland
  • As they moved, their language spread – it is parent language of many major world languages today (guess which)

Archeologists believe they crossed into the Indus Valley around 1500 BC

  • This is around when the Indus Valley Civilization was declining
  • Did they destroy Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa? Or did they just take advantage of a society already on the decline?
  • After 1500 BC, they began to settle in the Indus region and gradually spread across the Ganges Valley to the east
guess the meaning





Snake (Serpent)

Foreigner (Barbarian)


Teeth (Dental)

Great (Majestic)

King (Regal)


Dead (Murder)

Guess the Meaning

the vedas

When the Aryans arrived in India they didn’t have a written language

  • So, they passed down their teachings orally from generation to generation in the form of stories, poems, epics and other wisdom literature
  • This oral literature was maintained by Brahmin priests; each Brahmin family had a section and was assigned to keep an exactly copy in memory
  • At some point, they developed a written language (Sanskrit) and wrote everything down in “books of knowledge” or Vedas
  • So we call the time from 1500 BC – 500 BC the Vedic Period.
  • The Vedas are the foundation of later Hindu religion and philosophy

The Vedas

religious beliefs

Blend of polytheism and monotheism – many gods but all considered different aspects of a single divine force

  • The gods were mainly good and helpful; if something bad happened, it was the work of demons
  • Some of the most important gods were:
    • INDRA (king of the gods; god of war and thunder)
    • AGNI (god of fire; killed demons; messenger to other gods)
    • VARUNA (god of rivers/rain; all seeing; protector of law)
  • But there were many others
  • These and most other gods were male

Religious Beliefs

religious rituals

Religious practice put a big emphasis on sacrifices called “YAGNA”; the sacrifices were very complicated and some took a year to prepare

  • Another practice was to drink “SOMA” which might have caused hallucinations
  • The priests would also chant thousands of different “MANTRAS” which praised the gods and gave people special powers

Religious Rituals

religious myths

Creation myth – everything came out of one seed, including gods and people

  • Was Vedic Hinduism the religion of the Aryans or did it come from the Indus Valley people? Maybe both.
  • Eventually, the religion evolved into today’s Hinduism, but we’ll learn more about that later

Religious Myths

social hierarchy varnas

Brahmins = priests

    • Allowed to study and teach the Vedas
  • Kshatriyas = warriors & villages chiefs
    • Could study the Vedas but not teach them
  • Vaisyas = artisans, merchants, farmers
    • Normally, couldn’t study or teach the Vedas
  • Sudras = servants
    • Did the dirty jobs that no one else wanted

Social Hierarchy (Varnas)



  • Wealth was decided by how many cows you had, so they couldn’t be eaten
  • Cows are still considered holy today