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Scripture of India

Vedism is a polytheistic religion brought to India around 1500 B.C.E. by invading Aryan tribes who gradually conquered the earlier Indus Civilization (already in its decline). Vedism later developed into Hinduism. Early Vedism was a life and earth-affirming, positive faith appropriate to battle-loving tribes whose chieftains and gods/goddesses and heroes resemble divinities and characters. There are also parallels to Celtic and Teutonic mythology and rituals. Vedic sacrifices were conducted in any properly consecrated open place. Vedism stressed hope for an afterlife in heaven and lacked the concepts of karma and reincarnation which would come to dominate Hinduism. The term veda is linguistically linked to the Latin video (I see) and reflects a knowledge which is received through a form of vision/revelation and which in the form of sacred words mysteriously reenacts the process of creation.

Scriptures : The Vedas (veda, literally "knowledge" from the Sanskrit root vid-, to know), a collection of hymns composed between 1500 and 900 B.C.E. and passed orally from teacher to student. There are four Vedas: the Rig-Veda (the oldest; 1028 sacred hymns to accompany sacrifices to the many gods), the Sama-Veda (verses arranged for ritual purposes), the Yahur-Veda (sacrificial formulae), and the Atharva-Veda (magical spells). Additional Vedic scriptures are the Brahmanas (theological treatises dealing with the details and symbolic significance of Vedic ritual).

Gods : Early Vedic gods are similar to the gods of the Greek pantheon, gods of natural forces appropriate to a nomadic warrior people. Eventually we find literally hundreds of thousands of major and minor gods, spirits, and demons.

Indra : God of war, and rain storm, who at the dawn of time destroys the dragon Vritra with his thunderbolt, thus liberating the cosmic waters and making the creation possible. He "sets free the river's path; all riverbanks yield to his manly might. . . . The mother earth, now brown and bare, will soon wear a wedding gown of green."

Varuna : Maintainer of cosmic and moral order (rta), the mighty Lord of knowledge and magic who controls the evolving universe. The heavenly bodies are his all-seeing eyes, observing the actions of humans on earth. He is often associated with the sun-god, Mitra, who establishes laws for humankind and ensures the wellbeing of society. Indra, Varuna, and Mitra (Persian Mithra) are children of the boundless Earth Mother Aditi (the roles of mother-daughter-wife and father-son-husband are often merged in mythology).

Vak : a goddess of sacred speech and reciting prayers and mantras.

Agni : God of fire, through whose power sacrifice rises to the heavens. The cult of fire profoundly affects the religion and mythology of Iran (Zoroastrianism, which is still practiced by a minority population called the Parsis in India who emigrated from Iran after that country’s Islamization).

Soma : God of the hallucinogenic soma (or hoama) juice. Soma, the god, coalesces with soma, the drink of the gods, which gives Indra the power to slay the dragon. As drink as well as god, Soma confers great strength, wisdom, and immortality. Soma also provides a form of union between the priest and the god.

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