Historical Vedic religion

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Map of North India in the late Vedic period. The location of shakhas is labeled in green; the Thar Desert is dark yellow. Map of Vedic India.png
Map of North India in the late Vedic period. The location of shakhas is labeled in green; the Thar Desert is dark yellow.

The historical Vedic religion (also known as Vedism or ancient Hinduism [lower-alpha 1] ) refers to the religious ideas and practices among most Indo-Aryan-speaking peoples of ancient India after about 1500 BCE. [2] [3] [4] These ideas and practices are found in the Vedic texts, and they were one of the major influences that shaped contemporary Hinduism. [5]

Indo-Aryan languages Language family in the Indian subcontinent

The Indo-Aryan or Indic languages are a major language family of South Asia. They constitute a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family. In the early 21st century, Indo-Aryan languages were spoken by more than 800 million people, primarily in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Moreover, there are large immigrant and expatriate Indo-Aryan speaking communities in Northwestern Europe, Western Asia, North America and Australia. There are about 219 known Indo-Aryan languages in the world.

<i>Vedas</i> Ancient scriptures of Hinduism

The Vedas are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Hindus consider the Vedas to be apauruṣeya, which means "not of a man, superhuman" and "impersonal, authorless".


According to Heinrich von Stietencron, in the 19th century, in western publications, the Vedic religion was believed to be different from and unrelated to Hinduism. The Hindu religion was thought to be linked to the Hindu epics and the Puranas through sects based on Purohita, Tantras and Bhakti . In the 20th century, a better understanding of the Vedic religion, its shared heritage and theology with contemporary Hinduism, has led scholars to view the historical Vedic religion as ancestral to "Hinduism". [6] The Hindu reform movements and the Neo-Vedanta have emphasized the Vedic heritage and "ancient Hinduism", and this term has been co-opted by some Hindus. [6] Vedic religion is now generally accepted to be a predecessor of Hinduism, but they are not the same because the textual evidence suggests significant differences between the two [lower-alpha 2] , such as the belief in an afterlife instead of the later developed reincarnation and samsāra concepts. [8]

Heinrich von Stietencron was a German Indologist. He was a Professor and Director of the Institute of Indology and Comparative Religion at the University of Tübingen. He was a life member of the Academy of Sciences, Heidelberg and an honorary member of the Société Asiatique, Paris. He was awarded Padma Shri by the President of India in 2004.

<i>Tantra</i> Esoteric traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism

Tantra denotes the esoteric traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism that co-developed most likely about the middle of the 1st millennium AD. The term tantra, in the Indian traditions, also means any systematic broadly applicable "text, theory, system, method, instrument, technique or practice".

Bhakti literally means "attachment, participation, fondness for, homage, faith, love, devotion, worship, purity". It was originally used in Hinduism, referring to devotion and love for a personal god or a representational god by a devotee. In ancient texts such as the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, the term simply means participation, devotion and love for any endeavor, while in the Bhagavad Gita, it connotes one of the possible paths of spirituality and towards moksha, as in bhakti marga.

The Vedic religion is described in the Vedas and associated voluminous Vedic literature preserved into the modern times by the different priestly schools. [7] The Vedic religion texts are cerebral, orderly and intellectual, but it is unclear if the theory in diverse Vedic texts actually reflect the folk practices, iconography and other practical aspects of the Vedic religion. [7] The evidence suggests that the Vedic religion evolved in "two superficially contradictory directions", state Jamison and Witzel. One part evolved into ever more "elaborate, expensive, and specialized system of rituals", while another part questioned all of it and emphasized "abstraction and internalization of the principles underlying ritual and cosmic speculation" within oneself. Both of these traditions impacted Indic religions such as Buddhism and Jainism, and in particular Hinduism. [9] [10] The complex Vedic rituals of Śrauta continue to be practiced in Kerala and coastal Andhra. [11]

Buddhism World religion, founded by the Buddha

Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. It originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana.

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is an ancient Indian religion. Followers of Jainism are called "Jains", a word derived from the Sanskrit word jina (victor) referring to the path of victory in crossing over life's stream of rebirths by destroying karma through an ethical and spiritual life. Jainism is a transtheistic religion, and Jains trace their spiritual ideas and history through a succession of twenty-four victorious saviours and teachers known as tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhanatha, who according to Jain tradition lived millions of years ago, the twenty-third being Parshvanatha in 900 BCE, and the twenty-fourth being the Mahāvīra around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology. Their religious texts are called Agamas.

Kerala State in southern India

Kerala is a state on the southwestern Malabar Coast of India. It was formed on 1 November 1956, following passage of the States Reorganisation Act, by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), Kerala is the twenty-third largest Indian state by area. It is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

Some scholars consider the Vedic religion to have been a composite of the religions of the Indo-Aryans, "a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian, new Indo-European elements", [12] which borrowed "distinctive religious beliefs and practices" [13] from the Bactria–Margiana culture, [13] and the remnants of the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley. [14]

Indo-Aryan peoples Indo-European speaking ethnolinguistic group in South Asia

The Indo-Aryan peoples or the Indic peoples are a diverse collection of ethnolinguistic groups speaking Indo-Aryan languages, a subgroup of the Indo-European language family. There are over one billion native speakers of Indo-Aryan languages, most of them native to the Indian subcontinent and presently found all across South Asia, where they form the majority.

Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex Archaeological culture

The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex, also known as the Oxus civilization, is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia, dated to c. 2400–1600 BC, located in present-day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya. Its sites were discovered and named by the Soviet archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi (1976). Bactria was the Greek name for the area of Bactra, in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Marguš, the capital of which was Merv, in modern-day southeastern Turkmenistan.

Defining terms

According to Indologist Jan Heesterman, the terms Vedism and Brahmanism are “somewhat imprecise terms”. They refer to ancient forms of Hinduism based on the ideologies found in its early literary corpus. [15] Vedism refers to the oldest version, states Heesterman, and it was older than Brahmanism. Vedism refers to the religious ideas of Indo-Europeans who migrated into the Indus River valley region of the subcontinent, whose religion relied on the Vedic corpus including the early Upanishads. [15] Brahmanism, according to Heesterman, refers to the religion that had expanded to a region stretching from the northwest subcontinent to the Ganges valley. [15] Brahmanism included the Vedic corpus and non-Vedic literature such as the Dharmasutras and Dharmasastras, and was the version of ancient Hinduism that gave prominence to the priestly (Brahmin) class of the society. [15] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Brahmanism separately refers to both the predominant position of the priests (Brahmans) and also to the importance given to Absolute Reality (Brahman) speculations in the early Upanishads, as these terms are etymologically linked. [2]

The word Brahmanism was coined by Gonçalo Fernandes Trancoso (1520–1596) in the 16th century, [16] and is related to the metaphysical concept of Brahman that developed from post-Vedic ideas during the late Vedic era (Upanishads). [17] [18] [19] The concept of Brahman is posited as that which existed before the creation of the universe, which constitutes all of existence thereafter, and into which the universe will dissolve into, followed by similar endless creation-maintenance-destruction cycles. [20] [21] [22] [lower-alpha 3]

<i>Brahman</i> metaphysical concept, unchanging Ultimate Reality in Hinduism

In Hinduism, Brahman connotes the highest Universal Principle, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In major schools of Hindu philosophy, it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. It is the pervasive, genderless, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. Brahman as a metaphysical concept is the single binding unity behind diversity in all that exists in the universe.

The Upanishads, a part of the Vedas, are ancient Sanskrit texts that contain some of the central philosophical concepts and ideas of Hinduism, some of which are shared with religious traditions like Buddhism and Jainism. Among the most important literature in the history of Indian religions and culture, the Upanishads played an important role in the development of spiritual ideas in ancient India, marking a transition from Vedic ritualism to new ideas and institutions. Of all Vedic literature, the Upanishads alone are widely known, and their central ideas are at the spiritual core of Hindus.

Origins and development

The Vedic religion was probably the religion of the Vedic Indo-Aryans, [25] [26] [lower-alpha 4] and existed in northern India from c. 1750–500 BCE. [28] [lower-alpha 5] The Indo-Aryans were a branch of the Indo-European language family, which originated in the Sintashta culture and further developed into the Andronovo culture, which in turn developed out of the Kurgan culture of the Central Asian steppes. [31] [lower-alpha 7] bringing with them their language [35] and religion. [36] [37] They were closely related to the Indo-Aryans who founded Mitanni kingdom in northern Syria [38] (c.1500–1300 BCE).

Both groups were rooted in the Andronovo-culture [39] in the Bactria-Margiana era, in present northern Afghanistan, [38] and related to the Indo-Iranians, from which they split-off around 1800–1600 BCE. [40] Their roots go back further to the Sintashta culture, with funeral sacrifices which show close parallels to the sacrificial funeral rites of the Rig Veda. [41]

The immigrations consisted probably of small groups of people. [31] Kenoyer (1998) notes that "there is no archaeological or biological evidence for invasions or mass migrations into the Indus Valley between the end of the Harappan phase, about 1900 B.C. and the beginning of the Early Historic period around 600 B.C." [42]

For an overview of the current relevant research, see the following references: [43] [44] [45] [46] </ref> [lower-alpha 8] The commonly proposed period of earlier Vedic age is dated back to 2nd millennium BCE. [53]

The Vedic beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era has been proposed to be closely related to the hypothesised Proto-Indo-European religion, [54] [lower-alpha 9] and shows relations with rituals from the Andronovo culture, from which the Indo-Aryan people descended. [55] According to Anthony, the Old Indic religion probably emerged among Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran. [12] It was "a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new Indo-European elements" [12] which borrowed "distinctive religious beliefs and practices" [13] from the Bactria–Margiana Culture (BMAC). [13] This syncretic influence is supported by at least 383 non-Indo-European words that were borrowed from this culture, including the god Indra and the ritual drink Soma. [56] According to Anthony,

Many of the qualities of Indo-Iranian god of might/victory, Verethraghna, were transferred to the adopted god Indra, who became the central deity of the developing Old Indic culture. Indra was the subject of 250 hymns, a quarter of the Rig Veda. He was associated more than any other deity with Soma, a stimulant drug (perhaps derived from Ephedra ) probably borrowed from the BMAC religion. His rise to prominence was a peculiar trait of the Old Indic speakers. [38]

The oldest inscriptions in Old Indic, the language of the Rig Veda, are found not in northwestern India and Pakistan, but in northern Syria, the location of the Mitanni kingdom. [57] The Mitanni kings took Old Indic throne names, and Old Indic technical terms were used for horse-riding and chariot-driving. [57] The Old Indic term r'ta, meaning "cosmic order and truth", the central concept of the Rig Veda, was also employed in the Mitanni kingdom. [57] Old Indic gods, including Indra, were also known in the Mitanni kingdom. [58] [59] [60]

The Vedic religion of the later Vedic period was consolidated in the Kuru Kingdom, [32] and co-existed with local religions, such as the Yaksha cults, [61] [62] [63] and was itself the product of "a composite of the Indo-Aryan and Harappan cultures and civilizations". [64] White (2003) cites three other mainstream scholars who "have emphatically demonstrated" that Vedic religion is partially derived from the Indus Valley Civilization. [14] The religion of the Indo-Aryans was further developed when they migrated into the Ganges Plain after c. 1100 BCE and became settled farmers, [32] [65] [66] further syncretising with the native cultures of northern India. [61] [ page needed ] [lower-alpha 10]

Textual history

A Yupa sacrificial post of the time of Vasishka, 3rd century CE. Isapur, near Mathura. Mathura Museum. Isapur sacrificial pillar of Vasishka.jpg
A Yupa sacrificial post of the time of Vasishka, 3rd century CE. Isapur, near Mathura. Mathura Museum.

Texts dating to the Vedic period, composed in Vedic Sanskrit, are mainly the four Vedic Samhitas, but the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and some of the older Upanishads [lower-alpha 11] are also placed in this period. The Vedas record the liturgy connected with the rituals and sacrifices. These texts are also considered as a part of the scripture of contemporary Hinduism. [72]

Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?
Nasadiya Sukta, Rig Veda , 10:129-6 [73] [74] [75]


The idea of reincarnation, saṃsāra, is not mentioned in the early layers of the historic Vedic religion texts such as the Rigveda. [76] [77] The later layers of the Rigveda do mention ideas that suggest an approach towards the idea of rebirth, according to Ranade. [78] [79]

The early layers of the Vedas do not mention the doctrine of Karma and rebirth but mention the belief in an afterlife. [80] [81] According to Sayers, these earliest layers of the Vedic literature show ancestor worship and rites such as sraddha (offering food to the ancestors). The later Vedic texts such as the Aranyakas and the Upanisads show a different soteriology based on reincarnation, they show little concern with ancestor rites, and they begin to philosophically interpret the earlier rituals. [82] [83] [84] The idea of reincarnation and karma have roots in the Upanishads of the late Vedic period, predating the Buddha and the Mahavira. [85] [86] Similarly, the later layers of the Vedic literature such as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (c. 800 BCE) – such as in section 4.4 – discuss the earliest versions of the Karma doctrine as well as causality. [87] [88]

Ancient Vedic religion lacked the belief in reincarnation and concepts such as Saṃsāra or Nirvana. Ancient Vedic religion was an complex animistic religion with polytheistic and pantheistic aspects. Ancestor worship was an important, maybe the central component, of the ancient Vedic religion. Elements of the ancestors cult are still common in modern Hinduism, see Śrāddha. [89] [90]

According to Olivelle, some scholars state that the renouncer tradition was an "organic and logical development of ideas found in the vedic religious culture", while others state that these emerged from the "indigenous non-Aryan population". This scholarly debate is a longstanding one, and is ongoing. [91]


A Srauta yajna being performed in Kerala, South India Yajna1.jpg
A Śrauta yajna being performed in Kerala, South India

Specific rituals and sacrifices of the Vedic religion include, among others: [92] [ verification needed ]

The Hindu rites of cremation are seen since the Rigvedic period; while they are attested from early times in the Cemetery H culture, there is a late Rigvedic reference invoking forefathers "both cremated (agnidagdhá-) and uncremated (ánagnidagdha-)". (RV 10.15.14)


Though a large number of names for devas occur in the Rigveda, only 33 devas are counted, eleven each of earth, space, and heaven. [95] The Vedic pantheon knows two classes, Devas and Asuras. The Devas (Mitra, Varuna, Aryaman, Bhaga, Amsa, etc.) are deities of cosmic and social order, from the universe and kingdoms down to the individual. The Rigveda is a collection of hymns to various deities, most notably heroic Indra, Agni the sacrificial fire and messenger of the gods, and Soma, the deified sacred drink of the Indo-Iranians. [96] Also prominent is Varuna (often paired with Mitra) and the group of "All-gods", the Vishvadevas. [97]


In the Hindu tradition, the revered sages of this era were Yajnavalkya, [98] [99] Atharvan, [100] Atri, [101] Bharadvaja, [102] Gautama Maharishi, Jamadagni, [103] Kashyapa, [104] Vasistha, [105] Bhrigu, [106] Kutsa, [107] Pulastya, Kratu, Pulaha, Vishwamitra Narayana, Kanva, Rishabha, Vamadeva, and Angiras.[ citation needed ]

Ethics — satya and rta

Ethics in the Vedas are based on concepts like satya and ṛta .[ citation needed ]

In the Vedas and later sutras, the meaning of the word satya (सत्य) evolves into an ethical concept about truthfulness and is considered an important virtue. [108] [109] It means being true and consistent with reality in one's thought, speech and action. [108]

Vedic ṛtá and its Avestan equivalent aša are both thought by some to derive from Proto-Indo-Iranian *Hr̥tás "truth", [110] which in turn may continue from a possible Proto-Indo-European *h2r-tós "properly joined, right, true", from a presumed root *h2er-. The derivative noun ṛta is defined as "fixed or settled order, rule, divine law or truth". [111] As Mahony (1998) notes, however, the term can be translated as "that which has moved in a fitting manner" – although this meaning is not actually cited by authoritative Sanskrit dictionaries it is a regular derivation from the verbal root -, and abstractly as "universal law" or "cosmic order", or simply as "truth". [112] The latter meaning dominates in the Avestan cognate to Ṛta, aša . [113]

Due to the nature of Vedic Sanskrit, the term Ṛta can be used to indicate numerous things, either directly or indirectly, and both Indian and European scholars have experienced difficulty in arriving at fitting interpretations for Ṛta in all of its various usages in the Vedas, though the underlying sense of "ordered action" remains universally evident. [114]

The term is also found in the Proto-Indo-Iranian religion, the religion of the Indo-Iranian peoples. [115] The term dharma was already used in the later Brahmanical thoughts, where it was conceived as an aspect of ṛta. [116]

Post-Vedic religions

The Vedic period is held to have ended around 500 BCE. The period between 800 BCE and 200 BCE is the formative period for later Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. [117] [118] According to Michaels, the period between 500 BCE and 200 BCE is a time of "ascetic reformism". [119] According to Michaels, the period between 200 BCE and 1100 CE is the time of "classical Hinduism", since there is "a turning point between the Vedic religion and Hindu religions". [120] Muesse discerns a longer period of change, namely between 800 BCE and 200 BCE, which he calls the "Classical Period", when "traditional religious practices and beliefs were reassessed. The brahmins and the rituals they performed no longer enjoyed the same prestige they had in the Vedic period". [121]

The hymn 10.85 of the Rigveda includes the Vivaha-sukta (above). Its recitation continues to be a part of Hindu wedding rituals. 1500-1200 BCE, Vivaha sukta, Rigveda 10.85.16-27, Sanskrit, Devanagari, manuscript page.jpg
The hymn 10.85 of the Rigveda includes the Vivaha-sukta (above). Its recitation continues to be a part of Hindu wedding rituals.

Some scholars consider the term Brahmanism as synonymous with Hinduism and use it interchangeably. [124] [125] Others consider them different, and that the transition from ancient Brahmanism into schools of Hinduism that emerged later as a form of evolution, one that preserved many of the central ideas and theosophy in the Vedas, and synergistically integrated new ideas. [126] Of the major traditions that emerged from Brahmanism are the six darshanas, particular the Vedanta, Samkhya and Yoga schools of Hinduism. [127]


Vedic religion was followed by Upanishads which gradually evolved into Vedanta, which is regarded by some as the primary institution of Hinduism. Vedanta considers itself "the purpose or goal [end] of the Vedas." [128]


According to David Knipe, some communities in India have preserved and continue to practice portions of the historical Vedic religion, such as in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh state of India and elsewhere. [129] Of the continuation of the Vedic tradition in a newer sense, Fowler writes the following:


According to German Professor Axel Michaels, the Vedic gods declined but did not disappear, and local cults were assimilated into the Vedic-brahmanic pantheon, which changed into the Hindu pantheon. Deities such as Shiva and Vishnu became more prominent and gave rise to Shaivism and Vaishnavism. [131]

Interpretations of Vedic Mantras in Hinduism

The various Hindu schools and traditions give various interpretations of the Vedic hymns.

Mīmāṃsā philosophers argue that there was no need to postulate a maker for the world, just as there was no need for an author to compose the Vedas or a god to validate the rituals. [132] Mīmāṃsā argues that the gods named in the Vedas have no existence apart from the mantras that speak their names. To that regard, the power of the mantras is what is seen as the power of gods. [133]

Adi Shankara, an 8th-century CE philosopher who unified and established the main currents of thought in Hinduism, [134] interpreted Vedas as being nondualist or monist. [135] However, the Arya Samaj New religious movement holds the view that the Vedic mantras tend to monotheism. [136] Even the earlier Mandalas of Rig Veda (books 1 and 9) contains hymns which are thought to resemble monotheism. [137] Often quoted isolated pada 1.164.46 of the Rig Veda states (trans. Griffith):

Indraṃ mitraṃ varuṇamaghnimāhuratho divyaḥ sa suparṇo gharutmān,
ekaṃ sad viprā bahudhā vadantyaghniṃ yamaṃ mātariśvānamāhuḥ
"They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān.
To what is One, sages give many a title they call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan".

Moreover, the verses of 10.129 and 10.130, deal with the one being (Ékam sát). The verse 10.129.7 further confirms this (trans. Griffith):

iyám vísṛṣṭiḥ yátaḥ ābabhūva / yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná / yáḥ asya ádhyakṣaḥ paramé vyóman / sáḥ aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda
"He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not, He who surveys it all from his highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps even he does not"

Sramana tradition

The non-Vedic śramaṇa traditions existed alongside Brahmanism. [138] [139] [lower-alpha 12] } [140] [141] These were not direct outgrowths of Vedism, but movements with mutual influences with Brahmanical traditions, [138] reflecting "the cosmology and anthropology of a much older, pre-Aryan upper class of northeastern India". [142] Jainism and Buddhism evolved out of the Shramana tradition. [143]

There are Jaina references to 22 prehistoric tirthankaras. In this view, Jainism peaked at the time of Mahavira (traditionally put in the 6th century BCE). [144] [145] Buddhism, traditionally put from c. 500 BCE, declined in India over the 5th to 12th centuries in favor of Puranic Hinduism [146] and Islam. [147] [148]

Kalash people

According to the historian and Sanskrit linguist Michael Witzel, some of the rituals of the Kalash people have elements of the historical Vedic religion, but there are also some differences such as the presence of fire next to the altar instead of "in the altar" as in the Vedic religion. [149] [150]

See also


  1. Scholars such as Jan Gonda have used the term ancient Hinduism, distinguishing it from "recent Hinduism". These terms are chronologically differentiated. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica from the Vedic religion emerged Brahmanism, a religious tradition of ancient India. It states, "Brahmanism emphasized the rites performed by, and the status of, the Brahman, or priestly, class as well as speculation about Brahman (the Absolute reality) as theorized in the Upanishads (speculative philosophical texts that are considered to be part of the Vedas, or scriptures)." [1]
  2. Stephanie W. Jamison and Michael Witzel (1992) "... to call this period Vedic Hinduism is a contradictio in terminis since Vedic religion is very different from what we generally call Hindu religion – at least as much as Old Hebrew religion is from medieval and modern Christian religion. However, Vedic religion is treatable as a predecessor of Hinduism". [7]
  3. For the metaphysical concept of Brahman, see: [23] [24]
  4. Michaels: "They called themselves arya ("Aryans," literally "the hospitable," from the Vedic arya, "homey, the hospitable") but even in the Rgveda, arya denotes a cultural and linguistic boundary and not only a racial one." [27]
  5. There is no exact dating possible for the beginning of the Vedic period. Witzel mentions a range between 1900 and 1400 BCE. [29] Flood (1996) mentions 1500 BCE. [30]
  6. The Aryan migration theory has been challenged by some researchers, due to a lack of archaeological evidence and signs of cultural continuity, hypothesizing instead a slow process of acculturation or transformation. Nevertheless, linguistic and archaeological data clearly show a cultural change after 1750 BCE, with the linguistic and religious data clearly showing links with Indo-European languages and religion. According to Singh, "The dominant view is that the Indo-Aryans came to the subcontinent as immigrants."<ref name='FOOTNOTESingh2008186'>Singh 2008, p. 186.
  7. The Indo-Aryans were pastoralists [32] who migrated into north-western India after the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization, [27] [33] [34] [lower-alpha 6]
  8. Some writers and archaeologists have opposed the notion of a migration of Indo-Aryans into India. [47] [48] Edwin Bryant used the term "Indo-Aryan controversy" for an oversight of the Indo-Aryan migration theory, and some of its opponents. [49] These ideas are outside the academic mainstream. Mallory and Adams note that two types of models "enjoy significant international currency", namely the Anatolian hypothesis, and a migration out of the Eurasian steppes. [50] According to Upinder Singh, "The original homeland of the Indo-Europeans and Indo-Aryans is the subject of continuing debate among philologists, linguists, historians, archaeologists, and others. The dominant view is that the Indo-Aryams came to the subcontinent as immigrants. Another view, advocated mainly by some Indian scholars, is that they were indigenous to the subcontinent." [51] An overview of the "Indigenist position" can be obtained from Bryant & Patton (2005). [52] See also the article Indigenous Aryans
  9. See Kuzʹmina (2007), The Origin of the Indo-Iranians, p.339, for an overview of publications up to 1997 on this subject.
  10. Up to the late 19th century, the Nuristanis of Afghanistan observed a primitive form of Hinduism until they were forcibly converted to Islam under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan. [67] [68] [69] However, aspects of the historical Vedic religion survived in other corners of the Indian subcontinent, such as Kerala, where the Nambudiri Brahmins continue the ancient Śrauta rituals. The Kalash people residing in northwest Pakistan also continue to practice a form of ancient Hinduism. [70] [71]
  11. Upanishads thought to date from the Vedic period are Bṛhadāraṇyaka, Chāndogya, Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana.
  12. Cromwell: "Alongside Brahmanism was the non-Aryan Shramanic culture with its roots going back to prehistoric times." [138]

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Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. These religions are also all classified as Eastern religions. Although Indian religions are connected through the history of India, they constitute a wide range of religious communities, and are not confined to the Indian subcontinent.

Varuna Vedic deity associated with waters

Varuna is a Vedic deity associated initially with the sky, later also with the seas as well as Ṛta (justice) and Satya (truth). He is found in the oldest layer of Vedic literature of Hinduism, such as hymn 7.86 of the Rigveda. He is also mentioned in the Tamil grammar work Tolkāppiyam, as the god of sea and rain.

Shruti or Shruthi in Sanskrit means "that which is heard" and refers to the body of most authoritative, ancient religious texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism. It includes the four Vedas including its four types of embedded texts—the Samhitas, the early Upanishads.

Yajna Ritual offering sacrifice in Hinduism

Yajna literally means "devotion, worship, offering", and refers in Hinduism to any ritual done in front of a sacred fire, often with mantras. Yajna has been a Vedic tradition, described in a layer of Vedic literature called Brahmanas, as well as Yajurveda. The tradition has evolved from offering oblations and libations into sacred fire to symbolic offerings in the presence of sacred fire (Agni).

Hindu texts are manuscripts and historical literature related to any of the diverse traditions within Hinduism. A few texts are shared resources across these traditions and broadly considered as Hindu scriptures. These include the Vedas and the Upanishads. Scholars hesitate in defining the term "Hindu scripture" given the diverse nature of Hinduism, many include Bhagavad Gita and Agamas as Hindu scriptures, while Dominic Goodall includes Bhagavata Purana and Yajnavalkya Smriti to the list of Hindu scriptures. There are hundreds of thousands of scripture, literature, plays, dramas, musical and various other scientific and artistic book before the 1000 C.E. That's why it is consider before the invention of Printing press in Germany, Hindu texts were most abundant than any other civilizations from millennia. There are two historic classifications of Hindu texts: Shruti – that which is heard, and Smriti – that which is remembered. The Shruti refers to the body of most authoritative, ancient religious texts, believed to be eternal knowledge authored neither by human nor divine agent but transmitted by sages (rishis). These comprise the central canon of Hinduism. It includes the four Vedas including its four types of embedded texts - the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the early Upanishads. Of the Shrutis, the Upanishads alone are widely influential among Hindus, considered scriptures par excellence of Hinduism, and their central ideas have continued to influence its thoughts and traditions.

The Atharva Veda is the "knowledge storehouse of atharvāṇas, the procedures for everyday life". The text is the fourth Veda, but has been a late addition to the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism.

The Vedanga are six auxiliary disciplines of Hinduism that developed in ancient times, and have been connected with the study of the Vedas. These are:

  1. Shiksha : phonetics, phonology, pronunciation. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, accent, quantity, stress, melody and rules of euphonic combination of words during a Vedic recitation.
  2. Chandas : prosody. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the poetic meters, including those based on fixed number of syllables per verse, and those based on fixed number of morae per verse.
  3. Vyakarana : grammar and linguistic analysis. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the rules of grammar and linguistic analysis to establish the exact form of words and sentences to properly express ideas.
  4. Nirukta : etymology, explanation of words, particularly those that are archaic and have ancient uses with unclear meaning. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on linguistic analysis to help establish the proper meaning of the words, given the context they are used in.
  5. Kalpa : ritual instructions. This field focussed on standardizing procedures for Vedic rituals, rites of passage rituals associated with major life events such as birth, wedding and death in family, as well as discussing the personal conduct and proper duties of an individual in different stages of his life.
  6. Jyotisha : Auspicious time for rituals, astrology and astronomy. This auxiliary Vedic discipline focussed on time keeping.

History of Hinduism denotes a wide variety of related religious traditions native to the Indian subcontinent. Its history overlaps or coincides with the development of religion in Indian subcontinent since the Iron Age, with some of its traditions tracing back to prehistoric religions such as those of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization. It has thus been called the "oldest religion" in the world. Scholars regard Hinduism as a synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no single founder.

Pancharatra ancient Indian religious movement around Narayana-Vishnu (Vaishnavism)

Pancharatra was a religious movement in Hinduism that originated in late 1st millennium BCE around the ideas of Narayana and the various avatars of Vishnu as their central deities. The movement later merged with the ancient Bhagavata tradition and contributed to the development of Vaishnavism. The Pancharatra movement created numerous literary treatises in Sanskrit called the Pancharatra Samhitas, and these have been influential Agamic texts within the theistic Vaishnava movements.


Śrauta is a Sanskrit word that means "belonging to śruti", that is, anything based on the Vedas of Hinduism. It is an adjective and prefix for texts, ceremonies or person associated with śruti. The term, for example, refers to Brahmins who specialise in the śruti corpus of texts, and Śrauta Brahmin traditions in modern times have been reported from Coastal Andhra.

Indigenous Aryans

The Indigenous Aryans theory, also known as the Out of India theory (OIT), proposes that the Indo-European languages, or at least the Indo-Aryan languages, originated within the Indian subcontinent, as an alternative to the established migration model which proposes the Pontic steppe as the area of origin of the Indo-European languages. The indigenist view sees the Indo-Aryan languages as having a deep history in the Indian subcontinent, and being the carriers of the Indus Valley Civilization. This view proposes an older date than is generally accepted for the Vedic period, which is generally considered to follow the decline of Harappan culture.

Vedic period Ancient South Asian Period

The Vedic period or Vedic age, is the period in the history of the northern Indian subcontinent between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and a second urbanisation which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE. It gets its name from the Vedas, which are liturgical texts containing details of life during this period that have been interpreted to be historical and constitute the primary sources for understanding the period. These documents, alongside the corresponding archaeological record, allow for the evolution of the Vedic culture to be traced and inferred.

Dravidian religion was centered the worship of Goddess as mother, protector of villages and the 7 sisters often called the 7 Dravidian sisters.

<i>Rigveda</i> Most ancient Veda of the Hindus

The Rigveda is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It is one of the four sacred canonical texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas.

Samaveda The musical Veda of Hinduism

The Samaveda, is the Veda of melodies and chants. It is an ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, and part of the scriptures of Hinduism. One of the four Vedas, it is a liturgical text which consists of 1,549 verses. All but 75 verses have been taken from the Rigveda. Three recensions of the Samaveda have survived, and variant manuscripts of the Veda have been found in various parts of India.

Puranic chronology

The Puranic chronology gives a timeline of Hindu history according to the Hindu scriptures. Two central dates are the Mahabharata War, which according to this chronology happened at 3138 BCE, and the start of the Kali Yuga, which according to this chronology started at 3102 BCE. The Puranic chronology is referred to by proponents of Indigenous Aryans to propose an earlier dating of the Vedic period, and the spread of Indo-European languages out of India.

Agni Fire god of Hinduism

Agni is a Sanskrit word meaning fire, and connotes the Vedic fire god of Hinduism. He is also the guardian deity of the southeast direction, and is typically found in southeast corners of Hindu temples. In the classical cosmology of the Indian religions, Agni as fire is one of the five inert impermanent elements (pañcabhūtá) along with space (ākāśa), water (ap), air (vāyu) and earth (pṛthvī), the five combining to form the empirically perceived material existence (Prakriti).

<i>Jabala Upanishad</i> Hindu text on spirituality, monastic life, renunciation

The Jabala Upanishad, also called Jabalopanisad, is a minor Upanishad of Hinduism. The Sanskrit text is one of the 20 Sannyasa Upanishads, and is attached to the Shukla Yajurveda.


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