Primary Sources - Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism
For more background information on religions see: http://home.comcast.net/~mruland/WHAP/Notes/foundations/wreligion.htm The Aryan invasion of the subcontinent around 1,500 B.C.E. brought with it a new religion that featured a pantheon of gods that the Aryans worshiped through ritualism and with burnt sacrifices. Over the next thousand years, the religion matured, probably incorporating some elements of Harappan theology and certainly establishing a rigid social structure. Around 500 B.C.E., Indians began to record their extensive oral religious traditions in what has become known as the Vedic literature. The oldest of the four Vedas is the Rig-Veda, and it is there that the Hindu creation myth and the basis for the caste system can be found. Another glimpse of the origins of the Hindu caste system can be seen in The Law of Manu, written around 200 C.E., viewed as a guide to proper behavior for Hindus. Selections from both texts are included below. The Rig Veda is a collection of hymns counted among the four Hindu religious scriptures known as the Vedas, and contains the oldest texts preserved in any Indo-Iranian language & the world. It was first orally passed down in India & then later on finally was documented. It consists of 1,017 hymns (1,028 including the apocryphal valakhilya hymns 8.49-8.59) composed in Vedic Sanskrit, many of which are intended for various sacrifical rituals. These are contained in 10 books, known as Mandalas. This long collection of short hymns is mostly devoted to the praise of the gods. However, it also contains fragmentary references to historical events, notably the struggle between the early Vedic people (known as Vedic Aryans, a subgroup of the Indo-Aryans) and their enemies, the Dasa. The chief gods of the Rig-Veda are Agni, the sacrificial fire, Indra, a heroic god that is praised for having slain his enemy Vrtra, and Soma, the sacred potion, or the plant it is made from. Other prominent gods are Mitra, Varuna and Ushas (the dawn). Also invoked are Savitar, Vishnu, Rudra, Pushan, Brihaspati, Brahmanaspati, Dyaus Pita (the sky), Prithivi (the earth), Surya (the sun), Vac (the word), Vayu (the wind), the Maruts, the Asvins, the Adityas, the Rbhus, the Vishvadevas (the all-gods) as well as various further minor gods, persons, concepts, phenomena and items. Some of the names of gods and goddesses found in the Rig-Veda are found amongst other Indo-European peoples as well: Dyaus is cognate with Greek Zeus, Latin Jupiter, and Germanic Tyr, while Mitra is cognate with Persian Mithra and Ushas with Greek Eos, Latin Aurora and, less certainly, Varuna with Greek Uranos. Finally, Agni is cognate with Latin ignis and Russian ogon', both meaning "fire".1 Document 1 – Old Order (Hinduism (The Vedic Age)
Thousand-headed Purusha, thousand-eyed, thousand-footed he, having pervaded the earth on all sides, still extends ten fingers beyond it. Purusha alone is all this—whatever has been and whatever is going to be. Further, he is the lord of immortality and also of what grows on account of food. Such is his greatness; greater, indeed, than this is Purusha. All creatures constitute but one quarter of him, his three-quarters are the immortal in the heaven. With his three-quarters did Purusha rise up; one quarter of him again remains here. With it did he variously spread out on all sides over what eats and what eats not. From him was Viraj born, from Viraj evolved Purusha. He, being born, projected himself behind the earth as also before it. When the gods performed the sacrifice with Purusha as the oblation, then the spring was its clarified butter, the summer the sacrificial fuel, and the autumn the oblation. The sacrificial victim, namely, Purusha, born at the very beginning, they sprinkled with sacred water upon the sacrificial grass. With him as oblation the gods performed the sacrifice, and also the Sadhyas [a class of semidivine beings] and the...
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