Different stages in the evolution of Indian Culture
Indian culture is the oldest surviving culture in the world. It has passed through centuries of continuity and changes. It was not evolved in any particular phase of Indian history; but in every phase it continued to assimilate certain new features, which in turn provided it with
distinctiveness in each succeeding phase. If we look to the eternal march of Indian culture, we will notice that Indian culture along with its essential features remained receptive to new ideas. This receptiveness has given a new progressive outlook to Indian culture.
1.The Harappan Culture:
The Harappan culture was essentially a city culture drawing sustenance from a large area extending from modern Punjab to as far as Gujarat. The traces of this culture have been found in various places in Pakistan and in India, Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The Harappan people lived in well-populated cities and towns with all amenities of a developed city life. Among the popular deities, the mother Goddess and Pashupati Siva were the most prominent. Serpents, trees and certain animals were also worshipped. These elements of religion, though contrary to the Vedic religion, were subsequently adopted in Hinduism. Good progress was achieved in the field of architecture, science and technology. Harappan civilisation has made an important contribution to the growth and development of culture and civilisation in India during the subsequent phases.
2.The Vedic Culture:
The Vedic culture, which is associated with the advent of the Aryans in India, is the cornerstone of Indian culture. The word Veda comes from the root Vid (to know). The Rigveda is the earliest, Veda, and is also the first testament of the world. The other Vedas are the Samaveda and
the Yajurveda. The Atharvaveda is the later Veda. The later Vedic literature comprises: (i) the Samhitas of four Vedas; (ii) the Brahmans attached to each of the Samhitas; (iii) the Aranyakas and Upanishads (which are mostly attached to the Brahmanas). The Brahmanas are treatises relating to prayer and sacrificial ceremony. The Aranyakas and the Upanishads deal with the philosophical doctrines, allegorical significance of rites, etc.
The Vedic Aryans contributed to three facets of Indian culture. At the level of social institutions the idea of a Varn (occupational groups) society was evolved at this time. The
responsibility of maintaining this social order was undertaken by Indian society. At the religious
level, the ritual of sacrific became the keystone of religious ritual. Finally, the philosophcal thought of this period was gathered together in a body of literature (for example, the Upanishads) which not only contained subtle metaphysical doctrines attracting the respect of Indian intellectuals through the centuries, but was also germinal to many of the later systems of
thoughts. It was the acceptance or rejection of these three facets that constituted the dominant
trend in the evolution of Indian cultural ideas and institutions.
3. Later Vedic Age:
The period following that of the Rigveda is known as the later Vedic Age, when later Vedic Samhitas, Brahmans, Upanishads, etc. were composed. During this period stately cities and extensive compact kingdoms came into existence. The society underwent a complete change.
The concept of Varnasrama (varnas-ashramas) became the focal points of the social and individual life, the functions and duties. The privileges and status of the four varnas were minutely defined. Significant changes also took place in the religious life of the people. We discover three distinct currents of religious thought- the ritualistic, the philosophic and the ascetic. Hinduism was fully expounded in the later Vedic literature- the Brahamanas, the Upanishads and Aranyakas. The doctrines about the Soul (Atman), the Absolute (Brahma), relation between God and man, and the principles of Karma, maya, mukti, trans-migration of soul and other special features that have dominated Hindu way of life and thought were evolved, stated and elaborated in the Upanishads. But the most important achievement of this period is the
geographical conquest of India. The rivers, the mountains and the general features of every part of India were known. The Aryan culture and thoughts were spread all over the country.