Vedic Religion

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vedic Religion


the religious belief of the ancient Indians during the period of the dissolution of the primitive social structure and the formation of a class society, which has found expression in the oldest Indian literary monuments, the Vedas. The basic characteristics of the Vedic religion were deification of the forces of nature, animism, and primitive magic. Its main gods were the sky god Varuna; the goddess mother-earth Prithivia; the sun gods under the names Surya, Savitar, Mitra, Vishnu, and Pushan; the moon god Soma; the storm god Rudra; the thunder god Indra; the fire god Agni, and others. The goddess Aditi was considered the mother of the gods. According to the ideas of the Indians, the gods were in a state of permanent struggle with evil demons, the asuras. The gods and demons, almost without exception, received direct worship as the phenomena of nature.

With the growth of property and social inequality, the gods began to personify not only nature but also forces of society, for example, Indra began to appear as king of the gods and the god of war and Varuna as the guardian of order. The Vedic religion began to sanctify the social inequality of men.

The worship of the gods consisted of sacrifices to them, accompanied by the recital of hymns and magic formulas that expressed petitions to the gods. The priests constituted a peculiar estate, the varna of the Brahmans. Some traits of the Vedic religion, as the holy character of the Vedas, the elect position of the highest varnas, the worship of the gods Vishnu, Rudra-Siva, and others have been preserved in present-day Hinduism. The later Vedic religion is often called Brahmanism.


Piatigorskii, A. M. Materialy po istorii indiiskoi filosofii. Moscow, 1962.
Bongard-Levin, G. M., and G. F. Il’in. Drevniaia India. Moscow, 1969. Chapter 6.
Radhakrishnan, S. Indiiskaia filosofiia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from English.)
Keith, A. B. Religion and Philosophy of the Vedas and Upanishads. Cambridge-London, 1925. (Harvard Oriental Series, vols. 31-32.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(77) While the similarities are striking (78) and accidental convergence improbable, there is no underlying force in the older Vedic tradition that would have had the strength to produce this development that always remained at the fringe of Vedic religion. Attempts to see a gradual devaluation of the term asura are mistaken: the term was always ambivalent, it is just that there were in late Vedic texts more frequent references to hostile human "bosses." But there is ample motivation on the Iranian side.
What the communal forces are calling as Vedic religion is as such the dominant stream which was prevalent then, Brahmanism.
Terms like 'Vedic', 'Vedic religion', 'Vedic Indian', 'Vedic community', etc.
In spite of the profound alternations affecting vedic religion as it evolved into Brahmanism and what falls generally under the rubric of "Hinduism," the post-vedic traditions often continued to communicate the new by employing the old vedic terms.
to show that the association of the two, as formulated in various ways by Hindu tradition, was inspired by the wish to harmonize pilgrimage with the Vedic religion" (p.
In its first appearance, and at its most concise, H's thesis is this: The prehistory of Vedic religion is one of "sacrifice" being reduced to "ritual." While "sacrifice" is a dualistic, agonistic, competitive process, with life and the "goods of life" always at risk, "ritual" is monistic, predictable, even solipsistic - and therefore divorced from any connection with the great issues of human existence that "sacrifice" constantly confronts.
Thus, in my view, there probably was once a single devanam asurah in earliest Vedic religion, and that god was Varuna.