Hinduism by Madhu Bazaz Wangu, Joanne O'Brien, Martin Palmer

By Madhu Bazaz Wangu, Joanne O'Brien, Martin Palmer

Offers the historical past, customs, and ideology of Hinduism, describing the mysteries and myths that sustained its development over the centuries.

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In late Vedic times they tended to live as hermits in the forest and chose not to participate in the Hindu social structure with its many castes. Ascetics emerged from all sections of society and rivaled the Brahmins in commanding the highest respect of the people. The passion that fueled the austere devotion of the ascetic in the forest was itself revered as sacrificial; this passionate dedication to 36 HINDUISM the austere life was compared to a fire on the altar. The repetition of Vedic chants that characterized the lives of the Vedic priests was thought to be equivalent to the austere devotion of these ascetics.

But, after all, who knows, and who can say Whence it all came, and how creation happened? The gods themselves are later than creation, So who knows truly whence it has arisen? Whence all creation had its origin? He, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not, He, who surveys it all from highest heaven, He knows, or perchance he knows not. 6, 7 The Late Vedic Period and the Upanishadic Period 35 within one’s own mind. The compilation of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas clearly shows how fascinated and absorbed the Vedic priests were with their rituals and the process of elaborating on them and interpreting them.

In the late Vedic period the worldview gradually changed. Major gods of the early Vedic period lost their importance. In later Vedic writings interest shifted away from celestial and atmospheric gods toward devas who were located on the land. Also, more attention was directed toward sacrificial rituals. It was during this period that the Brahmins, or priests, gained importance and power in early Hindu society. Eventually people came to question the Brahmins’ role. The period following the Vedic period, the era of the Upanishads, showed the results of this questioning.

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