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Hoffmann , b All such details can be followed up later on in books on dreams e. For Vedic magic in general, see Henry , Stutley Much of the specifically medical lore has been treated by Filliozat and, with more emphasis on the Atharva Veda, by Zysk On the conception of the structure of organisms that underlies much of the medical literature see Jamison , and for the development of embryos see Rolland In India, an increasing interest in Vedic ritual can be observed since independence.

At Poona, again, special attention has also been paid to the actual performance of Vedic rituals. The Soma ritual, for example, is regularly performed only in certain districts of Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This was followed by a Pravargya van Buitenen Due to the interest stirred by these rites among the -mainly- Dutch ritualists, J. Staal was able to help organize and film a large Agnicayana in Kerala in and again in The first resulted in a feature film, some 30 video tapes and a large 2 volume book production with many photos Staal Vedic recitation has increasingly been studied during the past few decades e.

Vedic mythology has attracted at least as much scholarly attention as Vedic ritual. Though still indispensable for their detailed and stimulating engagement with the text especially Bergaigne and Hillebrandt , these treatments suffer from overschematization and reliance on the nature-mythology paradigm then current. The felt necessity to assign each divinity to a natural force resulted in some extremely unconvincing solar, lunar, and netherworld deities. It is rather discouraging constantly to encounter, at the end of a stimulating and nuanced discussion fully utilizing the textual resources, the same shortcut taken: Nonetheless, the seminal nature of these works, particularly of Bergaigne's, should not be forgotten.

Bergaigne's announced method of "complicating the ideas by simplifying the vocabulary" -- i. Thieme, for example, adopts Bergaigne's statement as his watchword see Thieme a, p. For an elegant and revealing appraisal revealing also of the author of Bergaigne, Oldenberg, and others, see Renou The same overschematic tendency marks a more recent approach towards Vedic mythology, the Trifunctionalism associated especially with the French scholar G. For many decades Vedic has furnished much of the evidence for the "Trifunctional" analysis of Indo-European ideology, a theory that sees all aspects of the culture of the Indo-Europeans and its daughter cultures as reflecting a social and ideological division into three major classes or "Functions": In terms of mythology, most gods will be associated primarily with one function, and mythological events will represent aspects of the function s of their participants, e.

This approach has yielded a number of important insights into Vedic religion, but to use it as the sole interpretive paradigm requires serious distortion of the material. Though some gods and their exploits fit neatly into one of the three functions, others, including some of the most important e. Agni and Soma , take an uneasy place or must be left totally out of account. The approach also risks an oversimple equating of socio-political and religious schemata. Indeed, what is striking about the Vedic pantheon is its lack of overarching organization.

Some gods are transparently "natural" -- their names merely common nouns, with little or no characterization or action beyond their "natural" appearance and behavior e. Others are deified abstractions, again with little character beyond the nouns that name them e. Others belong especially to the ethical and conceptual sphere e. VaruNa, Mitra , others to ritual practice Soma, the deified libation. Despite their disparate affiliations, the divinities do not remain compartmentalized; gods of apparently different 'origins' are often invoked together and can participate together in mythic activity.

Whatever the history and sources of this complex pantheon, it cannot be reduced to a single organizational principle, nor can certain members, that might not conform to such a principle, be defined as outsiders and latecomers, given that gods of various types have counterparts outside of Vedic. Before proceeding to a discussion of individual deities and myths, it is well to understand how we know what we know about them. As usual, this is controlled by the texts, and, as usual, there is nothing straightforward about the sources of our knowledge.

The poetic texts are of course addressed to the gods we wish to learn about. Since both the targeted god s and the poet are intensely familiar with the divine attributes and exploits, the texts are deliberately allusive, scrambled, and obscure: As Thieme once proposed: Take Schiller's Ode to Joy and replace the word "joy" by another, and then let someone guess to whom the hymn is addressed! In the prose texts mythological episodes are introduced to illuminate ritual detail. Though this purposeful employment probably compromises the integrity of the myths less than is sometimes supposed e.

Thus, because of the fragmentary nature of our evidence, considerable effort is required simply to assemble and make coherent the relevant data. So, as with ritual, much of the scholarship on Vedic mythology at least that not concerned with natural or functional identifications , has been essentially "descriptive" -- again a term used without pejorative connotation. For good or ill, many of the main 20th century currents in general mythological scholarship have passed Vedic by, e.

It may be seen that already in the Vedic period these beings are set in opposition to each other in the various levels of the universe, with typical functions attached. This concept obviously is in need of further elaboration. The principal Vedic gods. The name of this god is identical with the common noun agni- 'fire', and there is little about this god that is not interpretable in the framework of deified Fire, especially ritual Fire.

It is important to note that Agni, along with Soma, is one of the few gods that are actually present and visible on the offering ground. Indra, the most vividly realized Vedic god, embodies the powerful Aryan warrior. Soma, as already noted, is the deified soma drink, as well as the plant from which it is derived. VaruNa, a stern but just king-figure; Mitra, VaruNa's constant partner; Aryaman, [57] a more shadowy figure than Mitra and VaruNa, though frequently joined with them.


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USas 'Dawn' is the most prominent goddess in Vedic and functions as the friend of poets. This seems to be a very old notion. Certain gods are merely deified roles or concepts, like Savitar 'Impeller'. Some of these, like TvaSTar 'Fashioner', acquire a certain amount of "personality. The process of the development of their later prominence is rather controversial. For example, Kuiper argues that ViSNu was more prominent in the Vedic conceptual scheme than the texts allow us to recover, more prominent even than Indra, as central mediating figure between the older Asuras and the younger Devas -- a theory that depends crucially on accepting Kuiper's views on the Asura-Deva rivalry for which see below.

This list scarcely exhausts the Vedic divinities. Indeed it is not really possible to determine exactly how many gods there are, as a number of divine titles seem sometimes to be merely epithets of a particular god, sometimes to have an independent or quasi-independent existence. In fact, in the course of the Vedic period we must reckon both with conflation of two originally separate gods through the reinterpretation of one name as an epithet, and with sundering of a god and his epithet into two distinct deities.

Needless to say the literature on the individual gods is extremely copious. Nonetheless, there are still important gaps. However, many others have not been so studied. Our information about them is inadequate and has been interpreted through obsolete schemata. Moreover, the relations among gods, especially gods of apparently different types, and between gods and their epithets, deserves restudy, in order to gain a clearer picture of the nature and development of the curiously mixed Vedic pantheon.

For Bergaigne , Vol. This baldly presented set of equations does not do justice to the subtlety or lack thereof of each scholar's discussion of these gods or the textual evidence, but does show what the "bottom line" inevitably was. In the words of Macdonell , The first major challenge though cf. Bergaigne's mitra 'friend' just mentioned to this set of conflicting interpretations was that of Meillet , who, with the French penchant for a social interpretation of religion, interpreted Ved. Though vehemently attacked by Hillebrandt in his second ed.

The most vigorous disputes have taken place between Thieme esp. Thieme, in his more rigorously philological approach, identifies the gods with social abstractions: Mitra as Meillet's 'Contract', Aryaman as 'Hospitality'. This connection has been pursued not only by Thieme e. An important alternative view, which has not met general acceptance, is that of Kuiper e. This brief sketch barely touches on the immense literature on even one set of Vedic gods; it is meant simply to illustrate the types of argument and evidence used to approach the problems presented by these divine figures.

Thus one must study them through study of their characteristics, and especially through philological examination of the words that name these characteristics. The situation is rather different with the warrior god Indra, who is the hero and also villain of numerous episodes, in which he displays both his unopposable physical power and, morally more dubious, his trickery. Thus, the study of this important god can proceed by methods more familiar in other mythological traditions: This dramatic but richly enigmatic myth has been extensively treated from various points of view.

Nevertheless, even this well known myth can be taken up for a re-examination, notably on comparative grounds, which do not only include materials from the Indo-Iranian notably Kafiri and Greek cows of Geryoneus, cf. Schmidt sphere, but also much more far-flung "versions" of a much older, general Eurasian stratum. For other myths about Indra, see e. Lanman , Bloomfield , Oldenberg on Namuci; Sieg , Schneider on the stealing of Soma from heaven; Oertel and Rau on the "misdeeds" of Indra; Dandekar , p. Without cataloging every mythic episode and its treatment in the secondary literature, we will make global reference to several scholars who collected and annotated a number of myths from a variety of texts, namely M.

Bloomfield primarily in his series "Contributions to the interpretation of the Veda" , H. This brings us to our next question: This question is, of course, parallel to the one we asked about ritual in the two text types, and it is equally difficult to answer. Sieg , Jamison attempt to construct a unified picture from these different types of evidence, when they seem to reflect a similar underlying phenomenon. On the one hand, most of the same gods are mentioned in both types of texts, and many of their characteristics and deeds are at least superficially the same.

However, there are some important differences. In the general religious picture, the power of the ritual, the sacrifice, seems to have usurped some of the gods' power. Even in early Vedic men could use the ritual to manipulate or at least influence gods' behavior, as we will see; in the middle and late Vedic period the sacrifice is almost coercive and the gods subject to it -- though it does not seem to be the case that the gods are imprisoned by the sacrifice and completely controlled by it, as is sometimes claimed.

Moreover, there have been two obvious and important changes in the ranks of the deities themselves. On this change, see e. Gonda , , Perhaps hundreds of mythic episodes in Vedic prose texts begin with the sentential formula "The Devas and the Asuras were in contention". On such formulae, see Jamison, to appear, a. Yet in the RV the epithet asura is often used of some of the most respected of the Devas, e. The difference in treatment of the word asura in mantra and prose texts, the apparent emergence of a distinct group of supernatural beings, the Asuras, counterpoised to the gods, has been called, by Kuiper , p.

For full details of the history of the problem, see W. For example, Kuiper himself believes that there is no real contradiction between the two textual levels: Some Asuras joined the ranks of the Devas the ones who receive both titles in the RV ; others remained in perpetual opposition. Though such a scenario could encompass both types of evidence about the Asuras, it unfortunately finds very little support in the texts. A recent survey of the philological evidence, Hale , while not producing a final answer to the question, gives us the means to achieve such a solution and to reject, as contrary to the textual evidence, a number of previous discussions of the issue.

This leads to another important question that remains to be thoroughly explored, namely the relation between myth and ritual in Vedic. Although in the early period of Vedic studies, their intimate connection was not questioned, the sheer mass of material to be surveyed in each area generally guaranteed that in practice each was pursued independently.

Oertel , O'Flaherty , esp. Nonetheless, the intimacy of the two within this tradition and not only the Vedic one [64] cannot be denied: Agni, Soma ; the recital of mythic episodes in liturgical context; the use of mythology to explain details of the ritual or the ritual itself; the embedding of ritual activity in mythological narrative -- all these point to a deep connection felt by the composers of the text Hoffmann It seems time now to reexamine this connection without preconceptions, in order to distinguish true cases of secondary influence from organic and historical connections.

The "Philosophy" of Vedic religion. The ritual oblations and the hymns of praise that accompany them are not offered to the gods out of sheer celebratory exuberance. Rather, these verbal and alimentary gifts are one token in an endless cycle of exchanges -- thanks for previous divine gifts, but also a trigger for such gifts and favors in the future. This principle is so pervasive and so obvious in Vedic literature that it had seldomly been explicitly discussed in the secondary literature cf. But this comparative dearth of secondary literature should not conceal its importance -- or its application to other domains of Vedic thought.

In fact, anna is much more than actual food; it can stand for a variety of substances, especially those that are exchanged among men and gods.

Thus a whole UpaniSad Taitt. As often in India, the concept survives to this day and it has indeed been discussed by modern anthropologists, e. McKim Marriott, under the designation "code substance". It is the substance "food" which is given, altered, and returned, in short, exchanged; it functions as a code for the actual exchange. Indeed old Vedic religion, like so many others, base their relationship between human beings, ancestors, and gods on proper exchanges.

This has recently been studied, following Hubert and Mauss , Mauss , by Sahlins As Sahlins has noted, if one party gives a gift of a value of , the other party returns one of 50 - keeping the path open for future transactions. The same happens with the gods, usually in the context of fire ritual. It is the fire god Agni who carries the offerings to the gods.

As such, transubstantiated food can travel towards the gods in the form of smoke and aroma medha and is consumed by them. What remains here on earth is a gift by the gods who have tasted the offering while sitting at the sacred fire, soiled it by their spittle and rendered it consumable only to their socially inferior relations, the human beings: It is not useless or thrown away as "soiled" food is apt to be. Instead, as especially AV extols in great detail, the "remnant" has enormous potential cf.

The exchange of "food" takes part on the offering ground, the model of the universe. The gods, though they are believed, at another level of thought, to come to this earth for their sacrificial feast during a hospitable reception, actually partake of the food in heaven. Apart from this very obvious ucchiSTa , the gods also give other return gifts to men -- e.

These reciprocal relations between men and gods are mirrored also in the social relations between men -- e. As Heesterman and others have justly pointed out, it would be wrong to consider these rewards merely wages; however, it is equally misleading to see them as gifts freely bestowed from the spontaneous gratitude of an overflowing heart. The gift and usually its extent and nature is mandated by the reciprocal system.

Other aspects of exchange are visible in the rules of hospitality see e. Thieme b and marriage. Here, too, a certain amount of reciprocity is seen, as for example in the function of Aryaman as god of marriage: The underlying principle is the exchange of brides.

It should be noted that Vedic recitation is preceded by the actual mentioning of the name of the poet, not only to keep alive [65] his memory but also to supply him with "spiritual food". The extraordinary power and prestige accorded to verbal behavior is another important aspect of Vedic thought that is visible from the earliest times. The very existence of the RV is a tribute to this notion -- the multitude of elaborate hymns directed to the same divinity, composed by a variety of bardic families, results from the belief that the gods were most pleased by "the newest hymn", as the text often tells us.

The better the hymn, the greater the reward -- to the poet from the patron, to the latter from the god. But what is most prized is not elegant verbal trickery, but rather the putting into words of a cosmic truth. This aspect of Vedic religion has been much discussed -- and much disputed -- especially in the last fifty years or so.

Renou and Silburn , Gonda , Thieme , Schmidt Norman Brown , , , which is in fact already found in the RV and has counterparts in other Indo-European cultures see e. In the prose texts the emphasis has shifted slightly from this correct formulation, as freely composed poetry has been replaced by rote recitation in the liturgy. But its influence is still to be discerned in the great stress laid on correct pronunciation of the ancient verses [67] and especially on correct knowledge.

On the one hand, it is quite commonly translated 'cosmic order' or 'cosmic harmony'. On the other hand it has been strenuously argued esp. Insisting on a single translation for a cultural complex of such importance is no doubt a mistake though in the tradition of Bergaigne's method discussed above ; nonetheless, it is clear that an abstract yet active Truth is credited with power on the human cf. Many words in Sanskrit as well as in other languages cannot be rendered by a single good translation of the term. The rather bland 'Cosmic Order' fails to capture the nature of this power, but merely names the macrocosmic aspect of its results.

The common word for 'truth' in Skt. In this scheme, the primordial sages appear more like an afterthought. In this process, various abstract and less abstract notions take part, e. These seemingly disparate concepts are dealt with in some of the so-called speculative hymns of the RV and AV. As so often in Vedic thought, their mutual spheres of influence have perhaps to be conceived as concentric circles or frames.

In this way, she is imminent in this world as well. Her 'representatives' certainly are so: The rakSas "damages", fever takman , revenge meni , etc. Indeed, as has been seen, the notion of reciprocity is not confined to sentient beings, but also informs the Vedic conception of the phenomenal world, in a system we might term "natural economy". In this schema, natural phenomena originating in heaven come to earth and nourish and are even transformed into other phenomena that ultimately make their way to heaven again, thus participating in a cycle in which nothing is wasted or lost see Frauwallner , p.

For instance, heavenly water falls as rain to earth, produces plants which are eaten by animals ; both plant and animal products are offered at the ritual and thus ascend to heaven in the smoke of the offering fire, to become rain again. The system of identifications and transformations this cycle sets up contributed largely to the middle Vedic system of homologies we will discuss below. The importance of reciprocity and the power of the word are ideas difficult to escape in early Vedic texts and appear in a variety of guises.

However, more traditionally 'philosophical' issues are harder to approach in the RV. For example, Vedic cosmology and cosmogony have been intensively investigated, but it is difficult to produce a clear and consistent picture of either. Certain elementary notions are clear: Indra, are credited with cosmogonic activities -- finding the sun, separating heaven and earth, spreading out the earth, etc.

Other notions are alluded to frequently but not particularly clearly -- features like the heavenly ocean, or events like divine incest usually, but not always, between heaven and earth. There is no dearth of other such references in the RV, but this is perhaps our problem: The detailed and elaborate schemas of e. It is even more likely that, beyond the straightforward 'facts' on which there was agreement like the three "worlds" , this intellectual area was a legitimate forum for speculation, and that the speculation was not aimed at producing a precise picture -- the exact number of the divisions of heaven or the exact location of the heavenly ocean, or to produce a precise "history" -- who created the earth, when, and how -- for this as we like to think [68] most unhistorical of people.

That these signals are sometimes contradictory is not surprising: It has often been noted that the so-called "speculative hymns" see Renou a , linguistically among the latest of the RV, are in great part cosmogonic, but the import of this has not been entirely grasped. If early Vedic religion had possessed a detailed, agreed upon cosmogony, speculation would not have been necessary -- or rather the speculation would have been based upon -- or have disputed -- the facts of this shared vision. Moreover, the speculations are often framed as questions "who? The power of ritual. The system of reciprocity identified for early Vedic remained in force in the middle Vedic period, notwithstanding a large amount of political and social change.

Indeed, the ritual, which had been one step in the cyclic exchange of favors between men and gods, has become the compelling mainspring, to which even the gods are in some sense subordinate. So, it is clear that the elevation of the ritual in the middle Vedic period has affected every aspect of the religious and a large section of the social realm. In turn, the new power of the ritual derives from the strengthening of the system of identifications we discussed briefly above.

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The ritual ground is the mesocosm in which the macrocosm can be controlled. Objects and positions in the ritual ground have exact counterparts in both the human i. The recognition of these bonds of identification -- many of which are far less obvious than the example just given -- is a central intellectual and theological enterprise, the continuation of the 'formulation of mythical truths' discussed above. The universe can be viewed as a rich and often esoteric system of homologies, and the assemblage, manipulation, and apostrophizing of homologues in the delimited ritual arena allows men to exert control over their apparently unruly correspondents outside it.

This "ritual science" is based on the strictly logical application of the rule of cause and effect, even though the initial proposition in an argument of this sort "the sun is gold" is something that we would not accept. Smith ; for references to other lit. Due to the large amount of middle Vedic texts, ideas of cosmology can be traced in much more detail and more successfully than in the older Vedic period of the RV. The sun is thought, in the standard view, as moving across the sky in daytime, setting in the west and moving underground to its rising point in the east.

However, there also is a divergent, apparently more speculative and "learned" view Sieg which holds that it has two sides, a bright and a dark one, and that it turns its dark side downwards in the evening, travels backwards across the sky during the night and turns down its bright side again in next morning in the East.

Similarly, the minority view of the stars as being holes in a stone sky, illuminated by the light behind it Reichelt, survives at least in one text JUB 1. In fact, this wish, -- and not the avoidance of violence as such, as Heesterman will have it -- can be seen as the motivating force underlying much of the ritual reform that took place at the beginning of the period. Rather they delegate these actions and substitute another person and avoid direct "contact". The tale has become main myth of justification of the priestly class Witzel b, n.

Indeed, in ritual, the killing of sacrificial victims is done outside the sacrificial ground by helpers, and it is not even referred to overtly. This line of thought is in need of a detailed treatment. If we can indeed trace a development in "philosophy", then it is the gradual increase in importance of the idea of a second death and of retribution for one's action in this world Schmidt These are new ideas, and the way at least one of them is introduced is indicative of their singularity: Apparently, this kind of framework is a literary device of introducing novel or important thoughts cf.

All of this may indicate that the ideas of second death and recurrent rebirth , even of karma , are nothing but the gradual, but logical outcome of Brahmanical thought. One can see this gradual development quite clearly also in the case of the veneration of the cow Alsdorf , W. Srinivasan , Witzel a.

Nevertheless, it is typical of the uneven pace of development in various groups of Vedic society that even in the last part of ChU, at 8. It is from such a background that the thinking of the UpaniSads emerges. The authors of these texts furthered thought that, if not radically new, still involved a thorough rethinking of the existing premises. This can be observed in the development of the texts themselves: The system of homologies, the mystical identifications, remain the intellectual underpinning of these new texts -- the identifications simply become more esoteric and more all-encompassing.

Moreover, the ritual itself, though its actual performance seems less a concern, increasingly becomes the subject of similar identifications. On the one hand, the ritual becomes interiorized: Moreover, not only the simple objects used in ritual, but also whole sections of the ritual, particular recitations, and finally even complete rituals come to have cosmic counterparts e. This is accompanied by an increasing use of multiple identifications A.

So, as the actual physical performance of the elaborate Vedic rituals seems to decline --at least with some part of the Brahmanical population-- the concept and structure of ritual spawn intense intellectual activity including also among some KSatriyas and women, cf. Oldenberg , Renou a, Horsch , Witzel a. The UpaniSads then do not represent a break with the intellectual tradition that precedes them, but rather a heightened continuation of it, using as raw material the religious practices then current Renou a.

The early UpaniSads, with their dialogue form, the personal imprint of the teacher, the questioning and admissions of innocence -- or claims of knowledge -- from the students, seem to reintroduce some of the uncertainties of the late RV, give the sense that the ideas are indeed speculation, different attempts to frame solutions to real puzzles. Still, certain new doctrines emerge. These views have to be taken up in more detail now as they are closely linked with the emergence of the "classical" doctrine of rebirth, reincarnation and karma.

It is interesting to note, and consistent with the system that all men are reborn within a cycle of eternal return already in the older Vedic texts. No one wants to escape this cycle, as one indeed wishes to do in later, post-Vedic Hinduism. In fact, the ones who "escape" are precisely those who have committed some obvious actions that undermine this closed system: Kuiper , and there are no sons: These persons are doomed to oblivion. The concept of karma , however, is new.

The texts themselves indicate this at least once when ChU 5. Apparently, the idea was not very "popular" pace O'Flaherty, , introd. This sets the stage H. Schmidt b for the development of a consistent theory of automatic retribution in one's next life according to the actions karma undertaken in this one. The idea that it was the KSatriyas who introduced this concept thus seems rather far-fetched. Nevertheless it has had and still has its adherents e. Women usually do not appear in such public assemblies of learned disputation. When they do so, they stand out as very special persons.

Similarly, the idea that it was the Jainas, the aboriginals, etc. There simply are no early records of the Jainas and even less of the aboriginal inhabitants of Northern India. Vedic thought quite naturally led to this stage, -- though the outcome was not necessarily the one we find in the UpaniSads.

The cycle of automatic rebirths see above is now broken for the first time: The ascetics of the time of the older UpaniSads e. Until this time, it was only the lot destined for felons who had committed severe offenses see above. The traditional society quite consequently regarded them as socially "dead" once they had left, and did not allow for a return. The question may be asked why this happened precisely at this moment, and in this area of Northern India as the texts indicate, in the east of the Vedic area, in Kosala and Videha, N.

The Kosala-Videha area was one of great mixture of peoples due to various movements of tribes and individuals, and consequently also of ideas Witzel a: These developments and the emergence of large kingdoms such as those of Kosala and Magadha set the stage.

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This area and time, we believe, supplied the ideal ferment for the meeting of ideas and the development of new concepts. The word for "town" nagara , also: But we have hardly touched on how these religious institutions affected or were experienced by individuals, or what, as it were, non-institutional, "popular" beliefs and practices were mixed, in the religious lives and consciousnesses of individuals, with those "official" ones we have discussed.

The evidence for these questions is very scant and, for the most part, indirect, given as always the nature of our texts and their means of preservation. Even for daily life, outside the narrow sphere of solemn and brahmanized house ritual, material can only be discovered accidentally, so to speak, between the lines. As for the specific questions raised above, we will briefly discuss what little we can glean about personal and popular religious experience.

Although the hymns of the RV are attributed to individual poets, who indeed often speak in the first person and sometimes by name, the poet's persona in such cases is usually that of a generic figure. The individuality lies in the art -- the ingenious deployment of poetic devices -- rather than the emotional revelations of the poet. Of course, even in this apparently revelatory set of poems, we must be wary of misinterpreting a poetic and religious topos as direct personal experience.

This is, to some degree, also a danger with Zarathustra. Asunder wanders my mind, pondering far away Indirectly, this kind of experience is also reflected in the self-praise of a small bird RV It is important to remember, however, how rare such visionary passages are in the RV, even in the hymns devoted to Soma, the intoxicating or hallucinatory drink. Attempts to see early Vedic religion as shamanistic falter on the textual evidence.

The unalloyedly ritualistic focus of middle Vedic texts makes recovery of personal religious experience extremely difficult. There is other middle Vedic evidence for personal religious experience, which has not been sufficiently exploited, namely the semi- mythological tales involving human protagonists in the various prose texts.

The more individual, questioning nature of the UpaniSads, compared to the earlier Vedic texts, has already been discussed -- where it was also noted that many of the apparently "personal" features of the UpaniSads are actually better interpreted as literary devices, topoi utilized to signal particular points of view.

The UpaniSadic experience as such is a separate topic, as it is situated right between Brahmanical "philosophy", i. As we noted above, there is a certain circularity in identifying particular elements embedded in Vedic religion as "popular", since the texts in which they appear are uniformly brahmanical products. Such identifications may rather reflect our own notions of what is suitably serious and "high", rather than any real stratification in our sources. Nonetheless, there are some checks on these sources. Many of them are popular maxims.

Of someone who has died, people say: On the other hand, we can utilize texts that lie somewhat outside the Vedic frame. Smith , should be taken into account.


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Brahmins and Brahminical concerns play, according to M. Smith, only a very minor role in the c. However, the role of truth, keeping one's oaths etc. However, with regard to religion and culture in general this approach has to be revived as to arrive at a comprehensive picture of Vedic religion.

Moreover, the "orthodox" belief in the transcendent power of the ritual in middle Vedic times seems to have been somewhat undercut, or supplemented by a continuing, indeed in part growing adherence to individual gods. O'Flaherty and in Nagatomi New gods also arise in this period, e. They have to be appeased or sent back to their origins. We know very little about actual popular worship during this period. The question in each case remains how old these appendixes are. A much neglected topic also is that of snake worship.

Both their roles have to be investigated in detail see Witzel, forthc. Snake worship as such has been attested since the RV. They are feared, of course, because of their poison, and many legends and beliefs are connected with them. These, including many of the Vedic ones, have been collected by J. A special rite concerning snakes is the sarpabali Winternitz The beginning of the worship of images is another mystery. Another typical object of worship in later times, the various sacred trees cf. In late Vedic texts there are cases such as: This indicates, at least, that very shortly after the end of the Vedic period the villagers actively worshipped particular trees -- a fact still common in modern India in the case of such trees as the Pipal, which cannot be cut down but can only be transplanted.

This provides some idea of what was happening during the late Vedic period, but with hardly a trace in the Vedic canon. Finally, we come to the problem of true heterodoxy in the Vedic period. The two founders of Buddhism and Jainism, however, were not the only prominent teachers of the time. It is, certainly surprising that all these movements are recorded from the eastern part of N. Nevertheless, one would expect some inkling of new ideas in more western texts such as PB or ChU. For their connections with the UpaniSad literature see Horsch, The problem has been briefly alluded to above; however, as has been stated, the cultural situation in the 'homeland' of heterodoxy, the Vedic East Kosala, Videha has not been understood well enough.

The area was one with a constantly changing ferment of older and new tribes, various social systems, emerging great powers, etc. By the time of the Buddha c.

That the east indeed was different from the more central and western sections of Northern India can easily be noticed in the simple fact that in the east, graves were built that differed from what is described in the Vedic texts. There are a number of other indications of a differences in language and customs, such as dialects Witzel a , social structure etc. Little can be said about the religion of the aboriginal tribes that survived in Northern India before merging into the lower Hindu castes. The process of Sanskritization Srinivas had been going on, at that time, as we witness already in the RV where some kings with clearly non-Indo-Aryan names were being praised as performing proper Aryan rituals cf.

Even clearer is the evidence from the later and eastern section of AB: Adoption has been a favorite type of inclusion since the RV. Apart from this we get tantalizing glimpses of what may have been aberrant behavior, perhaps early Tantra, in the AB 7. Nothing much for a connection with Vedic beliefs can be deduced from the few seemingly religious objects found in the Indus civilization. Notably the remnants of so-called fire rituals at Kalibangan may represent nothing more than a community kitchen. Untersuchungen zum altindischen Glauben und Kultus. Vedic metre in its historical development.

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The religion of the Veda. An English translation and study. In retrospect and prospect. Language, Ritual and Meaning. A text of the Black Yajurveda. Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra. Rules for the Vedic Sacrifices. Translated into English [with Skt. Olexa Horbatsch et al. Studia Indogermanica et Slavica, Suppl. Der Steinerne Himmel, IF 32, Journal of Vedic Studies 1, , ; 2, The Civilization of Ancient India. Religions of Ancient India. Publications de l'Institut de Civilisation Indienne, Fasc. For additional information, see the Global Shipping Programme terms and conditions - opens in a new window or tab This amount includes applicable customs duties, taxes, brokerage and other fees.

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