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Unformatted text preview: indu god Shiva, especially where he is depicted with
three faces and an erect phallus. Also found in Indus artifacts are the pipal tree and the left-handed swastika, both
symbols of later importance to Hindus.
Terra-cotta figurines of females, often pregnant or carrying a child, are similar to female images in several prehistoric cultures. As possible precursors of Shiva’s consort
(known as Devi, Durga, and by other names), they too may
represent an element of pre-Aryan religion that reemerged
later to figure in “Hindu” culture. Yet other aspects of Indus
religion—burial customs, for example—are not clearly related to later Indian practices. They remind us, however,
that the Indus peoples, like all others, had their own ways of coming to
terms with the mysteries of birth,
life, and death. The Vedic Aryan Civilization The Passing of Indus Civilization Sometime in the period from
about 1800 to 1700 B.C.E., Indus civilization disappeared. It is not clear
whether its demise was related to the
warlike Aryan invaders who may first
have appeared in the upper Indus
about 1800 B.C.E. and later used
their horse-drawn chariots to subdue
indigenous peoples and move across
the north Indian plains. Some scholars think it was destroyed by abnormal flooding (perhaps from careless We know more about the Aryan culture that effectively “refounded” Indian civilization around 1500 B.C.E. Yet unlike
Indus civilization, it was not urban and left neither city ruins
nor substantial artifacts beyond tools, weapons, and pottery.
Virtually our only source of knowledge about ancient Aryan
life are the words of the Vedas, the Aryan sacred texts—hence
we know the culture as “Vedic.” Although the latest Vedic
texts date from perhaps 500 B.C.E., the earliest may go back
to 1700 B.C.E. Transmitted orally through the centuries, the
Vedas were not written down until writing was reintroduced
to India sometime after 700 B.C.E. (Indeed, until recently,
writing down the Vedas at all was shunned in favor of memorization and recitation among the Brahmans.) The Vedas are
ritual, priestly, and speculative, not historical works. They reveal little about events but do offer insight into the religion,
society, values, and thought of early Aryan India.
Veda, which means “knowledge,” is the collective term
for the texts still recognized today by most Indians as the
holiest sources of their tradition. For Hindus, Veda is the
eternal wisdom of primordial seers preserved for thousands
of years in an unbroken oral tradition. The Vedas are the
four major compilations of Vedic ritual, explanatory, and
speculative texts. The collection of 1,028 religious hymns
known as the Rig-Veda represents the
oldest materials of the Vedas. The latest of these hymns date from about
1000 B.C.E., the oldest from perhaps
1700–1200 B.C.E., when the Aryans
spread across the northern plains to
the upper reaches of the Ganges.
Aryan is a different kind of term.
The second-millennium invaders of
northern India called themselves
Aryas as opposed to the peoples
whom they conquered....
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.
- Spring '14