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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.

REFERENCES

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.)

A. M. OSIPOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.