The Red Dot on Foreheads: Have you ever wondered why Indian women place a red dot on their foreheads, between their eyes? This goes back to Aryan days! In ancient times, a groom used to apply a spot of his blood on his bride's forehead, in recognition of wedlock! Today, married Indian women may choose to wear this mark. A married woman does not have to do this, but she can if she wants. However, if a woman is single, divorced or a widow, she can not wear this mark. It's a sign of marriage!
The Aryans, Warrior Clans: Things changed in the Indus Valley when a new group arrived, called the Aryans. The Aryans came from Central Asia (modern day Russia). They entered the Indus Valley through the fabled Khyber pass, bringing their horses with them. The Aryans were nomads. They raised livestock, rode chariots, and loved to gamble. They had no sophisticated government. They grouped in clans, and were ruled by warrior chiefs called rajas. Their history is one of constant war amongst themselves, between the various clans. We have little archaeological evidence, but have something else we can use to learn about them. The Aryans created marvelous stories, stories they told or sang for centuries. Besides Sanskrit, their language, they brought horses and Hinduism with them into India.
The Vedas: Aryan beliefs and daily life are described in the four Vedas, a collection of poems and sacred hymns, composed in about 1500 BC. Veda means knowledge. The Vedas are composed of the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. This is why the period from roughly 1500 BC to 1000 BC is called the Vedic Period. It is named after the Vedas. Around their campfires at night, the Aryan people told stories of the first god who created the world. This god's body parts turned into four different groups of people. Some historians believe this was the beginning of the caste system in India, or at least the idea of a caste system. During the Gupta Empire, these poems were finally written down, around 500 BCE. The Vedas were the law. The Vedas are the sacred text of Hinduism. (Today, about 80% of India's population are followers of Hinduism.)
The Ramayana & the Mahabharata: Around 1000 BC, the Aryans started to create two marvelous epics. We know about daily life during this period from these famous epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These epics are stories about Aryans life, wars, and accomplishments. School kids in India today know these stories very well. They're great stories! The Ramayana tells a story in which the (good) Aryan king Rama destroys the (evil) pre-Aryan king Ravana. The other epic, Mahabharata, talks of Aryan wars amongst themselves, where two clans, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, battle it out, and the Pandavas emerge victorious. This is why the period from roughly 1000 BC to 500 BC is called the Epics Period. It is named after these two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.