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Rig Veda - Shweiky 1 Ramy Shweiky Professor Chamberlain...

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Shweiky 1 Ramy Shweiky Professor Chamberlain MMW2, Section #C06 13 March. 2007 The Rig Veda: Stratification or Equality? Little is know about the Vedic Aryan people who made their way to the Indus Valley region from Eastern Europe and Central Asia around 1500 B.C. This nomadic, Indo-European civilization did not leave urban city ruins or many other artifacts besides weapons and tools (Craig 32). Though they did not leave their mark on material culture, through their spiritual and religious ideas and beliefs, the Vedic civilization has greatly influenced Indian culture. Through the ancient Aryan sacred texts called the “Vedas”, we have discovered virtually all that we know about their culture. These priestly, speculative texts offer insight into the Aryan society’s values as well as their religion (32). The indigenous Indus River people who inhabited the Indus Valley before the coming of the Aryans were a highly formalized urban civilization, which had a writing system, both characteristics absent from the Aryan culture (Chamberlain 3/1/07). The disappearance of the Indus River people around 1700-1500 B.C, the same time period in which the Vedic Aryans arrived in the Indus Valley, raises questions about the relationship between the two very different civilizations. Many scholars believe that the passing of the Indus River people was related to the warlike Aryan invaders and that the two cultures did not get along (Craig 31). It is apparent that the Aryans had lighter skin than the Indus River people, calling them Dasas, or dark-skinned (Chamberlain 3/1/07). Since not much can be deduced from physical artifacts of the two cultures, scholars look to the Vedas, the ancient Vedic texts for evidence of the relationship between the two cultures as well as the relationship between the Aryan society itself.
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Shweiky 2 Many scholars interpret the Vedas, especially the earliest Rig Veda, as a text that promotes the separation and stratification of society, stressing the division of classes, or varnas. However, analyzing the Rig Veda , I will argue that the text actually promotes the equality of all people and acceptance of the two cultures, revealing their syncretic relationship in regards to the different beliefs and ideas of the two cultures. It is important to pose this question of interpretation to better understand the meaning of the Rig Veda, and the relationship between the Vedic Aryan civilization and the indigenous Indus River people. A better understanding of the Rig Veda, and the relationship between these two very different cultures, as well as the relationship between the people within the Aryan culture will help shed light on the influence that the Vedic texts have on the development of the later Hindu religion of India, as especially the rigid caste system, as well as other social patterns that developed in later Indian society.
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