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Author Topic: Vedic Hinduism  (Read 2120 times)

Nyktelios

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Vedic Hinduism
« on: November 16, 2014, 08:42:57 pm »
Hinduism is a topic I've been reading a lot about lately, and I have been coming across things that I find really fascinating. In particular, that ancient Hindus worshiped a pantheon of gods that has more or less died out in favour of the major gods who are honoured currently like Shiva, Vishnu, and the Goddess in her many guises. Hinduism, of course, is a very wide umbrella for many religious traditions in India, so bear with me if I generalize a bit. Also, I have some experience with studying Hinduism, but I'm not an expert by a long shot, so don't yell at me if I get something wrong :p

I noticed when I took a course on Hinduism in university that there is a lot that is familiar in Vedic religion. For example, the chief god Indra is lord of the heavens, while his brother Varuna is lord of the sea, and their third brother Yama is god of the dead. They bring to mind Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Indra also has a jealous wife named Shachi, who is reminiscent of Hera. Then there is Agni, god of the sacrificial flame who brings the offerings to the other gods in a role very similar to that of Hestia in ancient Greek religion. This must be an indication of Indo-European influence, and it is quite interesting the ways such different civilizations can have such startling similarities because of a certain connection.

Although Vedic religion honours a different pantheon of gods than is worshiped in modern Hinduism (generally speaking), it is still considered to be part of the same religious tradition, partly because many of the rituals and philosophies have survived into modern Hinduism. It just seems like an alien concept in "western" Abrahamic religion, in which is so monolithic, and is centered around a single deity or religious figure who is honoured in different ways by different denominations. The monotheistic emphasis is more on who is worshiped than the traditions of worship, but the opposite seems to be the case in a Hindu context.

Anyway, it's all very interesting. Just wanted to share.

Jainarayan

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Re: Vedic Hinduism
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2014, 09:37:59 am »
Quote from: Nyktelios;165494
This must be an indication of Indo-European influence, and it is quite interesting the ways such different civilizations can have such startling similarities because of a certain connection.

 
It is similar, because there is a connection.;) It's not an influence, it's a basis. They all have a basis in Proto-Indo-European religion. Granted, there is not a one-to-one correspondence between many of the gods but the similarities are striking. The differences can be accounted for by regional influences, and the drifting and separating of the Indo-European peoples and languages over the millennia.

Modern Hinduism is "puranic" Hinduism. That is, it is based on the Puranas, a large body of writings about the gods and their adventures and lives. Purana literally means history in Sanskrit. Vedic Hinduism isn't dying or dead but 99% of modern Hindus have never even read the Vedas. Many Hindus do take the Puranas literally, but most take them only as metaphors, allegories and morality tales. Vishnu is mentioned only 93 times in the Rig Veda, but there is an entire purana, the Srimad Bhagavatam (aka Bhagavata Purana) dedicated to him and his avatars. Fully one quarter of that book is dedicated to the life of Krishna. From these puranas spring most of modern Hindu belief and practice. The story of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati in the Shiva Purana is hilarious; the lesson I draw from it is "don't judge a book by its cover", and "steadfast love wins out".
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - Skandopanishad
 

Redfaery

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Re: Vedic Hinduism
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2014, 10:01:02 am »
Quote from: Gunnar Thorbjorn;165524
The story of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati in the Shiva Purana is hilarious; the lesson I draw from it is "don't judge a book by its cover", and "steadfast love wins out".

 
Indeed. The entire story of Parvati's very much active courtship of Shiva and their subsequent dynamic, passionate relationship would make a kickass rom-com. SHE pursued HIM.
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Redfaery

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Re: Vedic Hinduism
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2014, 10:05:59 am »
Quote from: Nyktelios;165494
Anyway, it's all very interesting. Just wanted to share.

 
To answer the original question anyway...Vedism is interesting to me because of its particular portrayal of Sarasvati. She was explicitly a river goddess - and one who was not to be trifled with. She was paired with Indra in some hymns, along with many of the other river goddesses. (River goddesses were a BIG THING in Vedic India) Sarasvati was in fact the number one River Goddess in Vedism, much like Ganga of the Ganges is now.
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Nyktelios

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Re: Vedic Hinduism
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2014, 04:20:16 pm »
Quote from: Gunnar Thorbjorn;165524
It is similar, because there is a connection.;) It's not an influence, it's a basis. They all have a basis in Proto-Indo-European religion. Granted, there is not a one-to-one correspondence between many of the gods but the similarities are striking. The differences can be accounted for by regional influences, and the drifting and separating of the Indo-European peoples and languages over the millennia.

 
I think, to some extent, Proto-Indo-European religion mixed with indigenous religions as well. Hera's cult on the Greek mainland is very old, probably older than that of Zeus, and even in her later Olympian form, she embodied all aspects of feminine life, and the female component of procreation. Like Persephone, the pomegranate is a symbol of hers, representing her power over death as well as fertility and life. Shachi, from what little I've read about her, seems to be just a beautiful but jealous wife of the chief sky god. That does sound a lot like Homeric accounts of Hera, but I think she was an established deity before the Proto-Indo-European influence spread over Greece.

It makes me wonder about Kali, because she is portrayed as black-skinned, whether she (or an earlier deity from whom she is derived) was depicted to look like someone native to India before Aryan conquest, and then was "demonized" because of her dark skin. The caste system in India (called "varna" in India, meaning "colour" or "covering") is based to some extent on skin colour, with the Brahmins being the highest caste and having the lightest skin colour, so maybe some of that prejudice is reflected in religion. I've read that Aryan/Indo-European were very into the dark-bad/light-good duality, so maybe Kali's native blackness led her to being portrayed as evil and barbaric by a culture that prized lighter skin as being more noble and civilized. Then again, Kali's worship might not go far enough back for that to have been a factor in her development as a deity.

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