Vedic Religion, Mythology and Society
The early civilizations of India have proven to be a highly intellectual, god fearing, and advanced collaboration of people. From approximately 2700 B.C.E to around 500 B.C.E two societies flourished in the northern region of India known as the Indus Valley. The Indus Valley Civilization and later, the Aryans - believed by some to have migrated to India from Europe and the middle East - paved the foundation of Hinduism through the influences of their cultures, early religions and social structures. Unfortunately, there is little to be said of the earliest inhabitants, the people of the Indus Valley Civilization because there still does not exist a decipherment of the Indus Valley Script. Based on loose interpretations of artifacts found in ancient Indus Valley cities, we have been able to depict that the people of the Indus Valley were originally a nomadic tribe, but later had a high degree of uniformity amongst city development, a language written on a variety of small 1 inch seals, and may have worshiped Goddesses or a pre-Siva God, often seen on these seals with three faces, bullhead, sitting in a yogic position. According to A.L Bashman’s book The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism, over time the Indus Valley Civilazation began to dwindle because they were driven from their lands by natural disasters, such as the sudden rise in the level of the sea bed south of the delta of the Indus River (Bashman, 1989, pg. 2).
Although we have been able to extract minuscule clues from the Indus Valley Civilization, most of Hinduism's pre-history stems from an religious Aryan ancient text called The Veda, consisting of four traditions, the Rg-, Yajur-, Sāma-, and Atharva-. It is important to mention that the Veda’s are thought of as eternal, or not written by human beings, and the Aryan people passed down knowledge of the Veda’s from generation to generation through word of mouth. People saw the Veda’s as extremely sacred texts or scriptures and they were verbally relayed for nearly 3000 years with little to almost no change to them. By some the translation of the Veda’s into written word was viewed as against the religion because traditionally not everyone was actually allowed or able to learn the Veda’s in early times, and also it was as if physical written words tainted the sacredness of the scripture. The priestly class of the Vedic Aryans, known as the Brahmans, were viewed as the preservers of vedic tradition. They were allowed to attend the various theological schools which would specialize in the memorization of specific texts within the Veda’s.
The Veda’s were composed chronologically with the Rg-Veda as the first text “written”. The Rg-Veda consists of 10 books of 1028 hymns praising various deities, guessed to be composed in early Sanskrit as early as 1200 BCE over a period of a few hundred years. The Sāma-Veda is a book of songs, all based on the hymns of the Rg-Veda. The Yajur-Veda consists of 4 books: one book is the white Yajur-Veda, and the other three are the black Yajur Veda. Within these books lies vital information regarding procedures for rituals and sacrifices. Lastly, the Atharva-Veda is a collection of hymns and “magical” material (spells, charms, imprecations, and incantations), and this Veda is essentially overlapping magic and religion.
Each of the four Veda’s have a vast number of gods, or devas, being acknowledged and praised. However, within the Veda’s, stories or myths of the gods are scarcely present; that information was assumed to be common knowledge. All the pantheon of Vedic religion are divided into two classes: the gods (devas) which follow rta, the cosmic order, the set course of nature, and the demons (asura), follow anrta, or anti-rta, in an attempt to overturn the natural course of things. The gods uphold rta, which is essentially moral and physical universal law.
Many other gods or devas are deities...