History of Punjab: Aryan Conquest of the Punjab
The mountains in the north-west is the primitive home of the Aryans, who migrated into
the Punjab. Bands of these immigrants penetrated into the Punjab through the Himalyan passes. Being fresh from
a cold northern country, they were very fair in color and called themselves Arya, meaning honourable.
They bore the closest relation to the inhabitants of Iran and had a very similar language. Their
first conquisition was the Punjab, and the period of when they invaded is uncertain, but is generally
accepted they came some 2500 years ago, about 1500 B.C.
The Four Vedas
During this time, the four Vedas, the oldest living scriptures in the world, composed around 1500-1700 BC,
supplies evidence concerning the life of the Aryans who settled in the Punjab.
The Rig Veda, meaning fount of knowledge, is regarded by Hindus as the highest, the most sacred scriptures.
The Vedas are four in number, the Rig, the Sama,
the Yajar and the Atharvan, and they are each a collection of hymns and prayers. The hymns belong to different
ages, and, before the art of writing was introduced, were preserved by the saintly families to whom they are
believed to have been revealed. In that shape, they were handed down for generations from father to son. Gradually,
the hymns were written in Sanskrit during the later period of the Aryan existence.
Features and Language
The Aryans of the Punjab bear a close resemblance to their brothers of the West with their straight noses and
finely-chiselled features. They once spoke Sanskrit in its rude form, and also speak in a language common
to Greek, Germanic, and Celtic languages. Even today, if one looks at the various Indian languages, one will
find words common to many of the Western languages.
Battles Between Aryans and Early Inhabitants
The Rig Veda provides evidence that the primitive Aryans were not allowed to settle in the Punjab unmolested as
long and bloody struggles were maintained in the wild. The inhabitants dwelt in cities built of stone, and possessed horses,
cattle and chariots. They fought desperately for hearth and home, and the Aryans lost many battles before being finally
able to subdue the early inhabitants. The Aryans fought in chariots drawn by horses. They had swords, axes, bows, spears,
trumpeters, and standard-bearers. Trumpets and drums were used to excite them to valorous deeds or to convey
the orders of commanders. The drum is the most ancient instrument used by the Hindus and it roused the warlike spirit
of the warriors.
Battles Between Aryans and Inhabitants
Veneration for the Cow
The Aryans were a people given more to the keeping and breeding of cattle than to the work of the plough. They were
pastoral people, of nomadic habits. They often prayed their gods to bestow upon them many cows abounding in milk.
The deities were invoked to protect the cows from misfortune, to increase the herds and to make the pastures green.
The cow was pronounced to be the animal favored of the Al-mighty, and since it was so useful to man, its perservation
became a religious obligation. The Aryans also kept humped oxen and camels.
Early Inhabitants of the Punjab
Their Organization and Civilization
In their earlier colonies each father was the priest of his own family circle, and the vedic communities were
organized into kingdoms. Those that were successful in war were often rewarded with slave women, dresses,
cows, gold and chariots. The life of the Aryans of the Punjab was martial and manly. Their warlike character
developed, and they adapted themselves to the conditions of tropical climate, very different than their cold, northern
home. They dug channels for the purpose of irrigating their fields, and sowed beans, barley and sesame.
They were acquainted with the arts of spinning and weaving and working of leather. They had among them
carpenters, carriage makers, ship builders, goldsmiths, and other artisans. The possessed some knowledge of
navigation; they had physicians who understood the healing properties of herbs. Also, monogamy seems to have
been the rule, and a prince had to content himself with one wife.
Social Customs and Status of Woman
Women enjoyed a higher social status in Vedic times than that now accorded to her. She was termed the light of the
dwelling. She had the privilges of acquiring knowledge, and some of the most eloquent hymns in the Vedas are
attributed to female authors, ladies and queens. Child-marriage, although not absolutely prohibited, was not
encouraged. Distinctions of caste were unknown, and Brahminism represented a profession, not a distinct caste.
The practice of sati, or the burning of a widow, was not sanctioned by the Vedas. In addition, unlike
modern Hindus, the ancient Aryans held beef in esteem as an article of food. There were at one time beef-eating
gods and beef-eating worshippers. The Aryans settlers of the Punjab were a spirit-drinking race and indulged
freely in beer, wine, and spirit. Sages and sainds drank and offered the fermented juice to the gods. The Aryans
buried their dead, often in mountains, where they would become prey to the birds.