The rig vedic hymns are addressed to anthropomorphic

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Unformatted text preview: ve worshiped numerous gods, most of whom embodied or were associated with powers of nature. The Rig-Vedic hymns are addressed to anthropomorphic deities linked to natural phenomena such as the sky, the clouds, and the sun. These gods are comparable to those of ancient Greece (see Chapter 3) and are apparently distantly related to them through the Indo-European heritage the Greeks and Aryans shared. The name of the Aryan fathergod Dyaus, for example, is linguistically related to the Greek Zeus. In Vedic India, however, unlike Greece, the father-god had become less important than his children, especially Indra, god of war and the storm, who led his heavenly warriors across the sky to slay dragons or other enemies with his thunderbolt. (See Document, “Hymn to Indra.”) Also of major importance was Varuna, who may have had connections with the later Iranian god Ahura Mazda (see Chapter 4) and the Greek god of the heavens, Uranos. Varuna was more remote from human affairs than Indra. Depicted as a regal figure seated on his heavenly throne, he guarded the cosmic order, Rta, which was both the law of nature and the universal moral law or truth. As the god who commanded awe and demanded righteous behavior, Varuna had characteristics of a supreme, omnipresent divinity. Another prominent Vedic god was Agni, the god of fire (his name, which is the Sanskrit word for fire, is related to Latin ignis, meaning “fire,” and thus to English ignite). He mediated between heaven and earth through the fire sacrifice, and was thus the god of sacrifice and the priests. He was also god of the hearth, and thus of the home. Like flame itself, he was a mysterious deity. Chronology Ancient India ca. 2250–1750 (2500–1500?) B.C.E. Indus (Harappan) civilization (written script still undeciphered) ca. 1800–1500 B.C.E. Aryan peoples invade northwestern India ca. 1500–1000 B.C.E. Rig-Vedic period: composition of RigVedic hymns; Punjab as center of Indo-Aryan civilization ca. 1000–500 B.C.E. Late Vedic period: Doab as center of Indo-Aryan civilization ca. 1000–800/600 B.C.E. Composition of Brahmanas and other Vedic texts ca. 800–500 B.C.E. Composition of major Upanishads ca. 700–500 B.C.E. Probable reintroduction of writing ca. 400 B.C.E.–200 C.E. Composition of great epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana CRAIMC01_001-039hr.qxp 8/12/10 3:57 PM Page 29 Chapter 1 Document The Birth of Civilization 29 Hymn to Indra This hymn celebrates the greatest deed ascribed to Indra, the slaying of the dragon Vritra to release the waters needed by people and livestock (which is also heralded at one point in the hymn as the act of creation itself). These waters are apparently those of the dammed-up rivers, but possibly also the rains as well. This victory also symbolizes the victory of the Aryans over the dark-skinned Dasas. Note the sexual as well as water imagery. The kadrukas may be the bowls used for soma in the sacrifice. The vajra is Indra’s thunderbolt; the name Dasa for the lord of the waters is also tha...
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.

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