We have read about Societal, Political and Economic structure of the Vedic Period. We can divide Vedic Period into two parts and this demarcation is done by the Iron Revolution of the 1000 BCE. Because of the Iron Revolution the Rigvedic and Later Vedic Period have a slightly different composition. Now, we will read the Vedic Period Religion.
Vedic Period Religion
From Sanatan Religion to Brahmanical Religion
Rigvedic Religion was the only Religion which has no founder and no clear-cut evidence of its beginning. This is the reason it is known as SANATANA (Eternal) Religion. One can also call it as Non-Universalising Religion.
In the Rigvedic Period, the Religion was the Constitution. And it always fulfilled the requirement of that time. There are pieces of evidence, that Rigvedic Deities were mainly male deities with two or three female deities. The important deities of Rigveda are,
- Indra (Purandhara): Deity for War, Breaker of Forts, Deity of Rain.
- Agni: Mediator (between God and People), Fire Cult.
- Marut: God of Wind.
- Varuna: God of Ocean, Symbol of Morality, Rta or Moral Duty.
- Soma: Intoxicating Syrup, described in the IX Mandal of Rigveda.
- Aditi and Usha were the Female deities of Rigvedic Period.
In the Rigvedic Period, Prayers and Oblations were the modes of worship. The objective of worship was Wealth i.e. Cows and Brave Sons. But 1000 BCE Iron Revolution changed the Society, Political and Economic Structure of the Rigvedic Period. So, it was obvious that Religion also changed or amended itself after the Iron Revolution or 1000 BCE.
Later Vedic Period Religion
As we have seen that Religion was the Constitution in the pre-modern era or Rigvedic Period. So, with the change in the economy, political structure and society, Religion also changed. And this led to the birth of Brahmanical Religion or Later Vedic Period Religion.
There were 16 types of priests during Rigvedic Period and one of them was Brahmin. With the emergence of Brahmanical Religion, this priest became more powerful representative of religion.
In the Later Vedic Religion, Prajapati: Brahma (creator), Vishnu (Protector) and Rudra (Destroyer of Evil Powers) emerged as new deities. Rituals and Sacrifices became the mode of worship. Because they became an important medium to give social acceptance to the new changes. And they also became or increased the source of income of priestly class.
Yajnopavita ceremony (wearing of the sacred thread) was restricted to the priestly class only.
The most important feature of Brahmanical religion was the concept of Mantra Shakti, which enhanced the power and status of the priestly class. But the objective of the prayers and sacrifices was still wealth and Brave Sons.
Vedic Period was succeeded by a new period called 6th Century BCE or Buddha Period. We will discuss it in next coming post.
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