Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vedic religion

While we have already discussed the religious elements found in the excavations at the Indus-Ghaggar sites, it would be equally important to see what the Vedic religion was and whether we find any traces of it in the IVC. We will discuss the religious concepts of the Rig Veda that later on evolved philosophically and ritualistically in the later period of Brahmanas. It is obvious from the mention of the first word “Agni” in the first hymn of the Rig Veda that the Vedic rituals were fire (Agni) centric. Yajnya (fire sacrifice) and the various offerings through it to the abstract Vedic gods is the only medium to link human beings with the divine. Vedic ritual also prominently includes Soma (an intoxicating herb or ephedra) ritual.  

Indra is a major deity and about a quarter part of the Rig Veda is dedicated to the praise of Indra. He is demon slayer (like Vrutra), destroyer of the fortified cities of the enemy, a warrior himself helping Sudasa clan to win the wars, his favorite weapon is thunderbolt (vajra), he is destroyers of the dams and he is the king. (RV 8.48)  

Following the Soma (deified ephedrine drink), other major God is the Varuna. Varuna, on many occasions, has been coupled with Mitra as “Mitra-Varuna”. Varuna is the protector of truth and morality, god of the high-arched sky and ocean. Varuna’s main epithet in the Rig Veda is Asura. Mitra personifies the agreement or contract and he sustains earth and heaven. (RV 7.87, 3.59). Nasatya, Prajapati, Vishnu etc. are others include almost 645 gods from the Rig Vedic pantheon.  
Female deities are almost absent from the Rig Veda, except for deification of some natural elements. The female deities include Aditi (mother of Adityas), Ratri (nights), Prithvi (Earth), Sarasvati (the river), Ushas (Dawn) and Vac (speech). Aditi gets more importance and is associated with Adityas as their mother. However, according to Griffith, the name Aditi is used in the Rig Veda in different contexts such as a female goddess, a name of the earth, another name of Agni and even as a name of the male god. (The Rig Veda, by Ralph T.H. Griffith) Mostly, Aditi is depicted as the mother of Adityas and has a minor role to perform. It is often suggested by scholars that the Vedic people were patriarchal treating women as a better half, subordinate to male. 

All the offerings were made through the fire ritual, yajnya, to praise the gods. Thus, the sacred fire altar attained such prominence that, even its construction and dismantling became a sacred ritual in later times, such as in Agnichyayana. However, except for this construction of the sacred fire altar we do not find any reference to the idol worship.  Rather idolatry appears to be prohibited in the Vedic religion. “Na tasya Pratima asti” (There is no image of Him.) [Yajurveda 32:3]. The word “Pratima” has been interpreted by some as symbol, claiming that the symbolism is abundantly present in Rig Veda, such as of “Purusha” in Purushsukta. However, symbolism does not mean “Pratima” (image, embodiment) that always is artificial and a human creation. The God has no image because to Vedics He is formless and is to be worshiped through the oblations in sacred fire while chanting the praises of Him in systematic order was the way the Vedic rituals were conducted. Looking at the Rig Vedic hymns those were specifically meant for the fire-centric rituals and total absence of any reference to the idol worship, it is hard to infer that the Vedic people were ever idol worshipers. 

The Rig Veda also does not mention anywhere that the Vedic’s were phallic or feminine organ worshipers. There is not a single verse in praise of these sex organs. This does not mean that they did not know the people who were phallic worshipers. The Rig Veda seems completely hostile against the people worshiping “shisnadeva” (Phallic God.) 

“na yātava indra jūjuvurno na vandanā śaviṣṭha vedyābhi |
sa śardhadaryo vi
uasya jantormā śiśnadevā api ghurta na ||”(RV 7.21.5)


"None of (ná) the demonic spirits (yātáva) [who] do not (ná) worship (vándanā) [you] with knowledge (vedyā́bhi
), Oh most-mighty (śaviṣṭha) Indra (indra), have pressed forwards (jūjuvurno) [against] us (no). May that (sá) excellent one (aryo) triumph over (asya) the defiant ones (śardhat) in both directions (víu); also (api), may the children (jantór) of the phallic gods (śiśnádevā) not (mā́) go after (gur) our (na) lawful work ()."

sa vāja yātāpadupadā yan svarātā pari adatsaniyan |
anarvā yacchatadurasya vedo ghnañchiśnadevānabhi varpasā bhūt || (RV 10.99.3)

Horace Hayman Wilson translates it as follows:

“Going to the battle, marching with easy gait, desiring the spoil, he set himself to the acquisition of all (wealth). Invincible, destroying the phallus- worshippers, he won by his prowess whatever wealth (was concealed in the city) with the hundred gates.”

Both these verses clearly speak about the people those were engaged in phallic worship and resided in the fortified cities, were bitter opponents and sometimes enemies of the Vedic people. Some scholars have attempted to translate “shisnadeva” as unchaste, lewd (Griffith), vulgar or licentious deities. However, close examination of both the verses reveals that the verse 7.21.5 speaks about “yatava”, those follow occult practices, as well. In addition, it refers to the people who do not respect or practice Vedas and who are the children of the Shisnadeva. Verse 10.99.3 clearly speaks about destruction of the city of hundred gates belonging to shisnadevan (Phallus worshippers). It also makes it clear that the Vedic people closely knew the phallic worshiping civilization and had had some skirmishes with them.  Translating “shisnadeva” as unchaste, lewd, vulgar or licentious deities is meaningless and shows prejudice of the scholars. However, it would be important to see how Nirukta of Yaska interprets the verse 7.21.5.  

”May he, the noble one, defy the manifold creatures, let phallus worshippers not penetrate our sanctuary. May he overpower them, i.e. the manifold creatures who are hostile to us. Let the phallus worshippers, i.e. the unchaste Sisna (phallus) is derived from (the root) snath (to pierce) not approach our sanctuary, i. e. our truth, or sacrifice.”-Nirukta 4.19 (The Nighantu & The Nirukta, The oldest Indian Treaties on Etymology, Philology, and semantics. By Laxman saroop, Motilal Banarasidas, New Delhi, Second reprint 1967) 

Yaska catches on what both the verses clearly indicate - phallic worshippers to whom the Vedics were hostile and did not desire to have them come close to their society. Calling phallic worship “unchaste” is the point of the view of the outsider observers and not of the people who knew ethos of it.  

Even if we overlook the exaggerations or misinterpretation about phallic worship of the poets of the verses, it makes clear that the Vedic people were not the phallic worshipers of any kind. Moreover, there was hostility between the Vedics and the phallic worshipers. It is uncertain whether these phallic worshipers Rig Veda talks about belonged to IVC or to some other civilization because the phallic worship was practiced in other regions on the globe as well in ancient times. 

“This worship was so general as to have spread itself over a large part of the habitable globe; for it flourished for many ages in Egypt and Syria, Persia, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy; it was and is vigor in India and many parts of Africa, and was found in America on its discovery by the Spaniards.”  (“Ancient Symbol Worship: Influence of the Phallic Idea in the Religions of Antiquity” by Hodder Michael Westropp and Charles Staniland Wake, 1875, page 21). 

The phallic worship was divine enough to connect human with the Lord creator, the authors further clarifies. Hence, we cannot ascribe any specific region or human society to have it introduced first but it could have been rather an independent phenomenon. Vedic verses could be talking about the phallic worshipers of Persia or India, to which is not certain from the Vedic verses. 

That the Indus society worshiped male and female sexual organs and their personified deification is clear and undeniable from the excavated finds at the IVC. It is clear from the Rig Vedic texts that the Vedic people had organized their religion around the fire sacrifices and worshiped abstract deities.  There is no slightest indication that the both societies shared anything, even if in every possibility they knew each other. Both the societies had different faiths, which clashed with each other. The Phallus cult has no place in Vedic rituals. The God Phallus (Shisna Deva) is however mentioned in Rig Veda (7.21.5, 10.99.3) as well as in Nirukta (4.29) but its worship is banned.” Thus states Alain Daniélou. (The Phallus: Sacred Symbol of Male Creative Power by Alain Daniélou, 1995) There is no reference to the Yoga either in Rig Veda. 

Rig Veda also refers to the ayajju, ayajvan, (those do not perform fire sacrifice), anindra (Those who do not have god like Indra) anyavrata (Having different religious rites) etc. indicating how their religion was set around fire sacrifice and how they distinguished other societies they came across. 

Associating Vedic culture with the IVC is thus becomes seriously problematic to the overenthusiastic Vedicist scholars.  


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  4. Shisn deva may be connected to Jainism....!!

    Mention of Vratya in Rig-Veda
    Mention of Rishabha in Rig-Veda

    A naked statue at Harappa OR RV ~ Hariyupiya...???
    Mention of Vatarashana Muni in Rig veda

    Connection of Vatarashana Muni with sramana in Taittiriya Aranyaka of Krishna Yajur Veda ~

    वातरशना ह वा ऋषयः श्रमणा ऊर्ध्वमन्थिनो बभूवुस्तानृषयोऽर्थमायंस्ते।

    All these clearly indicate Sramana Tradition or Jainism in proto form was original religion of Indus People.

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  6. Vratya Kshatriya mentioned in Manu Smriti was extensively connected with Sramana Tradition.

    Atharvaveda connect Vratya with Magadha (RV ~ Kikatas). The description of Vratya in Atharvaveda is very valuable.

    The So Called Mother Goddess Terracotta figures recovered from Indus Sites also have remarkable similarity with Yakshini Terracotta Figures of Mauryan Period.