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Hindu Heritage Study Program  
 
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Hindu Heritage Study Program
 
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Principles and Practice of Hindu Dharma
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-HR 201.03
Understanding the History of the Religious Faith in India
Evolution of the Beliefs and Culture over the Time of Several Millennia
-~ Level - 2 ~
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Lesson - 41 :
Ages of the early Vedic Period of Hinduism
Age of the Manthras - ( Before 2,500 B.C. to 560 B.C. )
Please see below
for Lesson - 42
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Age of the Manthras and recitations: The history of Hinduism practically begins in the dim past with the Hymns recorded in Rig-Veda, as the beginning of "the Age of Mantras". We see the march of thoughts from the early period of worship of half-personified and half-deified forces of nature like Fire, Wind and Rain to the worship and realization of Absolute Spirit. At this time, we see several deities and idols being considered, then are abandoned, later overthrown and then new ideas are developed, questioned, analyzed and accepted.

This is the period when "Aryans" are said to have arrived in Indus Valley, contested with local inhabitants and among their own tribes. The Bharathas and Purus are the important tribes of this time. The religion consisted of worship of gods in heaven, air and earth through prayers and sacrifices. Varuna was the great god of cosmic and spiritual order. Indra was the god of power. Prajapathi, Lord of all beings, was worshipped. The religious practice at this time was highly ritualistic, performing various rituals to fire and water. Unity of all the gods and the universe as One Supreme Truth was asserted even at this early period.

Even at this early period, there was no Henotheism, of making one`God' supreme at each prayer. There was not even just Monotheism but Monism was stressed. The concept of "There is but One God, called by many names" is seen here. All are considered the children of Goddess Aditi, the boundless One. They prayed to the Supreme Spirit that is in and beyond this world. They believed that the world is only It's partial manifestation. Many rituals evolved out of this practice to keep the faith.

The earliest prayers of Hinduism were written in the form of Veda. The Rig Veda Samhita, with its ten mandalas, was the main literature of this period. Lime stone figurines and terra-cotta seals of animals were seen as art as part of the Indus valley civilization, believed to be specimens of Indo-Sumerian art. They had several musical instruments and recognised dancing as art. They also had gold jewelry at this time. Sages Atri, Bharadwaja, Gritãmada, Vãmadeva, Madhucchandas, Vishvamithra and Vashishta belong to this age.

 
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Lesson - 42 :
Age of the Sruthis or the Revealed Texts
Age of the Brahmanas and Upanishads of Vedas
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Age of the Brahmanas or Rituals: During the period of Brahmanas, the `Aryans' moved Eastward from Indus Valley and established in the Gangetic plains and began to penetrate into the Bengal and Deccan plains. Kurus and Panchalas are the prominent tribes. The religious practice consisted of elaborate and complex ritualism requiring special class of priests. Vishnu and Rudra become the important Deities and worshipped. The Veda was divided into 'Rig', 'Yajur' and 'Sama'. The idea of four Ashramas and explanations of four Varnas were seen in the later portions of Rig Veda.

The Vedangas or accessory to study of Veda began at this time. Elaborate ritualistic treatises called Brahmanas were produced. Later, Atharva Veda, with collection of charms and spells, was recognised as the fourth Veda. Progress in knowledge of several metals and exact science and national arts arises from the building of sacrificial altars. Sages Aithareya, Shandilya and Pippilada are known in this period.

Age of the Upanishads and Knowledge: During the period of Upanishads, all of Northern India was said to have been well popularized with the Vedic thoughts or said to be "Aryanized." Slowly, the Vedic teachings and practice began moving South and merged with the so called "Dravidian" cultures there. Overland and maritime trades with Persia, Egypt and Greece were carried on. The highest truths and philosophy of Hinduism were discovered and taught. The Upanishads emerge out of the quest of the time as the principal Hindu Philosophy.

Ramayana and Mahabharatha belongs to this period and Bhagvat Gita becomes the essence of Upanishadic teachings. The beginning of Buddhism and Jainism is seen in this period. The Brahmi Script of forty-six letters was developed. Stone cuttings, stone polishing and bead making are seen in this period. Statues and coins of Kings of Magadha and Shunga Dynasty were seen. Sages Janaka, Yajnavalkya, Agasthya, Kapila, Sanathkumara, Valmiki, Vyasa, Mahavira and Gouthama Buddha belong to this period.

 
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Chapter - 3 - A Review of the History of Hindu Traditions - Lessons 41 & 42
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Go to Lessons: - :~: 33 & 34 :~: 35 & 36 :~: 37 & 38 :~: 39 & 40 :~: 41 & 42 :~: 43 & 44 :~: 45 & 46 :~: 47 & 48 :
 
 
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