Vedic Religion


Early Phase—

The prayers to propitiate gods for physical protection and for material gains were the main concerns of the Rigvedic people.

The Rigvedic gods were generally personifications of different aspects of natural forces such as rains, storm, sun etc.

The attributes of these gods also reflect the tribal and patriarchal nature of the society as we do not find many goddesses mentioned in the text.

Indra, Agni, Varuna, Mitra, Dyaus, Pushana, Yama, Soma, etc. are all male gods.

In comparison, we have only a few goddesses such as Ushas, Sarasvati, Prithvi, etc which occupy secondary positions in the pantheon.

Indra is the most frequently mentioned god in the Rigveda. He was respected as a weather god who brought rains.

Maruts the god of storm aided Indra in the wars in the way tribesmen aided their leader in the tribal wars.

Agni, the fire god was the god of the home and was considered an intermediary between gods and men.

Soma was associated with plants and herbs.

Varuna was the keeper of the cosmic order known as rita. This rita was an important aspect of tribal set-up.

Pushan was the god of the roads, herdsmen and cattle.

During the entire Vedic phase people did not construct temples nor did they worship any statue.

 

Later Phase—

In the later Vedic period agriculture had become an important activity of the people.

Changes in the material life naturally resulted in a change in their attitude towards gods and goddesses too.

Thus, Vishnu and Rudra which were smaller deities in the Rigveda became extremely important.

Increase in the frequency and number of the yajna which generally ended with the sacrifices of a large number of animals.

This was probably the result of the growing importance of a class of brahmanas and their efforts to maintain their supremacy in the changing society.

These yajnas brought to them a large amount of wealth in form of dana and dakshina. Some of the important yajnas were – ashvamedha, vajapeya, rajasuya etc.

A path of good conduct and self-sacrifice was recommended for happiness and welfare in the last sections of the Vedas, called the Upnishads.

The Upnishads contain two basic principles of Indian philosophy viz., karma and the transmigration of soul, i.e., rebirth based on past deeds.

According to these texts real happiness lies in getting moksha i.e. freedom from this cycle of birth and re-birth.