Notes on the Religious Beliefs and Faith of the Aryans in the Early Vedic Age

The heart of Indian culture was the spiritual life of -the Vedic Aryans. Every nook and corner reverberated with the echoes to Vedic chants.-The Vedic Aryans worshipped the various manifestations of nature. They appeased the venerated gods and goddesses through the rites of 'Vajna' and chanting of 'mantras'.

Neither temple nor deity was to be found in those days. Nature was the befall and. end-all of their existence. The Vedic hymns were composed to sing the glory of nature.

The Rig-Veda mentions that 33 gods and goddesses were worshipped by the Aryans. These divinities were placed under three categories, namely, divinities in heaven, in the atmosphere and on the earth. Each category had eleven divinities.

Prominent among the divinities of heaven were Indra, Varuna and the Sun. The wind god maruta and Prajanya were prominent divinities of the atmosphere. Among the divinities of the earth, the earth (prithvi), Fire (Agni), Brihaspati and some were quite popular.

Divinities of the early Vedic Age:

Indra was the most powerful god of the early Vedic Age. He was also known as Purandara and the destroyer of forts. He used to annihilate the 'Rakshasas' by deploying his 'Vajra' weapon. He, too, was the god of rain. For this he was venerated by the Vedic sages for supply of water.

Varuna was the god of truth and wind. No sinning soul can escape from his clutches. Surya (sun) was the destroyer of darkness. He embodied light, life, wealth and energy and so was worshipped for these. The Rig-Veda describes him as the embodiment of all energy.

Usha was the goddess of dawn. The Rig-Veda sings the praise of her mystic charm. Visnu was also venerated as the god of three worlds. Maruta was the god of storm. He was venerated as the god of lightening. Soma was the wine god. Yama was venerated in those days as a god whose task was to bless the people to lead a happy life.

Prithvi (earth) was venerated as the goddess of grain and of procreation. Conspicuously venerated in thee a day was Agni (Fire). Every family had a hearth for invoking Him. Fire-god acted as the co­ordinator among all divinities. The offerings into fire were sent by him, to various gods and goddesses. So the Vedas describe him as Haryana. These divinities apart, others like Pajamas, Savitri, Saraswati and Brihaspati were also venerated in those times.

Mode of Worship:

The mode of worship of those times was simple and never pompous. They chanted the hymns composed by them to appease the various divinities. The institution of fire-ceremony or Yajna was another mode to appease the gods and goddesses. They offered milk, ghee, grains wine (somarasa), meat and fruits etc. as offerings into fire. They believed that performing of the fire-sacrifice (Yajna) would be beneficial for the entire mankind. They normally worshipped the Sods and goddesses in expectation of favors through water, cattle male-progeny. Every Aryan family was a centre of worship.

All members of a family would take a joint part in the offering of prayers and performing of fire-sacrifice. This simple mode of worship, with a composition and collective undertone, was a characteristic feature of the Aryan life style in early Vedic age.

Monotheism:

The Rig Vedic age saw the prevalence of monotheism. In spite of worshipping various divinities, the Aryans believed that all the* divinities are but manifestations of a single absolute truth or nature. They had realized that the various divinities they worshipped were nothing but integral parts of one Absolute Truth.

Religious Importance:

The uniqueness of religion in early Vedic Age was quite impressive. An analysis of their religious tradition reveals that they worshipped the various manifestations of nature. The gods and goddesses were all equated on an equal footing.

There was no distinction among the divinities of the three categories of heaven, atmosphere and the earth. There was yet to be the emergence of the priestly class in the society. In other words, there was no exclusive class for performance of worship and religious rites.

Every family performed these religious rites, including the Yajna, all by itself. The gods outnumbered the goddesses. No shrine or temple was constructed for worship. Image worship was unknown in those days. They worshipped shapeless and invisible divinities. All these were the characteristic features of the Vedic religion.

Other Religious beliefs:

Apart from worship and Yajan, the Aryans also believed in life after death. Actions determined the destiny of man. Good actions entitled one to a heavenly abode whereas evil actions inevitably led to hell. They burnt their dead and consigned the ashes to water, with the belief that the departed soul would thereby rest in peace.

The simplicity of faith was characteristic of the early Vedic religion. The Aryans invoked and worshipped the various forms of nature through hymns and the rites of Yajna. They, thereby, set a new trend which, in course of time, formed the basis of eternal Hindu religion. Their religion spoke of an egalitarianism not, only among gods and goddesses but also among men and women of the society- Equality of the sexes in religious worship was a beacon feature of their religion as well.