The Vedic period is referred to the time span between the end of the Indus Valley Civilisation and the rise of the first Indian empire under the Mauryas. The Dravidians were displaced by the Aryan invaders during the third century B.C. Although the Aryans enforced their philosophical and social ideals on India and penetrated the entire fabric of Indian civilisation with such forms as the caste system, the Aryans were inexorably absorbed into the Indian population and the main stream of Indian civilisation. The Aryans invaders were agricultural nomads.
Considering the background of these agricultural nomadic invaders, it is evident that the architecture of the Vedic Period was neither monumental nor permanent nor concentrated in urban development. With the disappearance of the Indus valley culture and its cities, the new Indo-Aryan population was largely distributed in small settlements located in the plains and forests. The building materials that they used were the ones most readily obtainable for constructing shelters like wood, bamboo, thatch, and, probably only later, brick. Buildings of this kind were expected from people without any kind of tradition of colossal architecture. But the methods of construction in thatch and bamboo were actually practiced by the Dravidians long before the intrusion of the northern invaders. The Dravidian style of architecture comprised of pyramid shaped temples which are dependent on intricate carved stone in order to generate a step design consisting of several statues of deities, dancers, kings and warriors. The architecture of the Vedic period encompasses huts of round and square shape, and also some tower like structures. The resemblance of these descriptions to the conical huts of the primitive Toda tribes in South India today suggests that these forms were of Dravidian rather than Aryan origin. Among the materials that were used there is mention of metals, such as tin, lead, and silver, as well as copper and iron, specified in the later Vedic books, and there are also references to woven stuffs and ritual vessels. The cities of the Vedic period were rectangular in arrangement and divided into four quarters by two main roads intersecting at right angles, each leading to a city gate. One of these quarters enclosed the fortress and another part was the suburban area. A third quarter was set aside for the merchants and the last for tradesmen who could exhibit their merchandise.
In the Vedas there is reference of fire alters and sacrificial halls. In the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata there are indication of shrines and assembly halls. It is significant to note that stone is only occasionally referred to as a building material. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata refers to big painted halls, so there might have been the convention of wall paintings in those times. Later features of Hindu and Buddhist architecture as the horseshoe-shaped chaitya arch presumably had their origin in the Vedic Period. One of the most important architectural developments of the Vedic Period was the layout of the Indo-Aryan village. This was the plan that, by reason both of its commodity and specific metaphysical implications, has survived in countless arrangements in the architecture of Hinduism and Buddhism. This characteristic plan was derived from the fortified camps of the Aryan invaders. It was a rectangle with its sides oriented to the four quarters and intersected by two avenues terminating in four gateways. The plan was intended as a kind of microcosm, with the five divisions of the village corresponding to the five elements of the universe, and each of the gateways dedicated to one of the four Vedic deities typifying the positions of the sun in its course through the heavens. These village plans also included a broad path girdling the buildings within the outer walls which the householders circumambulated with recitations to ensure the favour of the gods. This feature, together with the metaphysical symbolism attached to the gateways, is perpetuated in the plan and ritual of the Buddhist Stupa. The regularity of these early plans, based on straight intersecting avenues, is possibly a survival of the systematic arrangements of the Indus cities adapted to the metaphysical and architectural needs of the new Aryan civilisation.
In the southern part of India a number of rock- cut tombs found at Mennapuram and Kolikode in Malabar owe heir origin in the Vedic period. They have been described as hollow stupas, since they are domed chambers with a monolithic stone column at the centre. Intended for the burial of Aryan chieftains, these caves are presumably translations into stone of Vedic round huts of wood or thatch. The chief importance of the Vedic Period lies in the development of architecture as a science and the invention of types that survive in later Hindu and Buddhist architecture. Various remains of undetermined antiquity, generally classified as Neolithic or prehistoric, may belong to the Vedic Period, for example, the cromlechs found at Amravati in southern India, erected around burial-places, and interesting as possible prototypes for the Buddhist railing or vedika.
In later years the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, much of Buddhist architecture, were directly influenced by the simple village structures of the Aryan villages. The remarkable part of the art during the Vedic period is that these masterpieces of world architecture evolved from people of nomadic background.
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