Religious Life of Vedic Age
People in the Vedic Age were solely polytheists. They contemplated life and the world from the spiritual standpoint and had no scientific outlook. The Vedic Aryans believed in the concepts of one in many. They worshiped the various forces of nature, but at the same time believed in the basic unity of nature. The Vedic people worshiped many gods not because of the fear of natural phenomena, but for gaining their favours.
The hymns of the Rig-Veda were mainly sung for the glorification of the Gods in order to peace them. God was regarded as the ruler, ordinaries of the period of life, protector of men and the giver of happiness. The religion of the Vedic Aryans was a form of nature worship. For the different appearances of the sky, different deities were imagined such as Varuna, Indra, Mitra, Dyu were the principal sky gods and Indra, among them, was conceived as the producer of rain. Rain, thunder, cloud, morning and night were all mysteries and they were taken to be some super natural powers.
This was the beginning of the process of personifications by which the natural phenomena were developed into Gods. The luminaries which follow a fixed course across the sky were regarded as the Devas. There was no fixed order of seniority among the Vedic Gods. However, in the Rig-Veda, a triple classification of Vedic Gods has been hinted, according to which the three corresponding orders are
1. Terrestrial (prithvisthan),
2. Aerial or Intermediate (Madhyasthan)
3. Celestial (Dyusthana)
Prithvi, Agni, Soma, Brihaspati, and the rivers belong to the first order; Indra , Apamanapat, Vishnu, Aditya, Rudra, Ahi budhanya, Vayuvata, Parajanya, Apah, Matarisvan etc. to the second and Dyaus, Varuna, Mitra, Surya, Savitri, Pushan, Vishnu, the Adityas, Ushas and the Asvins to the third.
Divisions of Gods
The Gods are usually stated to be 33 in number, divided into three groups corresponding to the three divisions of the universe. In appearance, they are human, the parts of their bodies being identified poetically with the phenomena of nature- such as rays or flames.
On the whole, the Gods are benevolent, the only one with malevolent traits being Rudra. The Gods were perceived to subdue the forces of evil and regulate the order of nature, which they themselves followed and enforced on the mortals.
Important Vedic Gods
Indra: Among the aerial or atmospheric Gods, Indra has the highest number of hymns, (about 250), attributed to him. His physical proportions and powers are stupendous. He is an efficient car warrior (rathestha), a winner (Jitendra) and a soma drinker (somapa). His father is Dyaus (heaven). He killed the demon Vritra and destroyed the forts of his enemies and therefore, is called Purendara. He is the Aryan war Lord, who fulfilled the dual functions of the War-God and the weather God as well.
Indra was associated with storm and thunder and his hand bore the thunderbolt, with which he destroyed the enemies. He was also known as Shatakratu, Vritraham and Maghavan on account of his power. His wife was Indrani or Sachi.
Agni:The Second position is held by Agni. About 200 hymns in the Rig-Veda are addressed to the Fire-God (Agni). He was an intermediary between the Gods and the mortals, for the consumed the sacrificial offerings and carried them to the Gods. He dwelt In the waters of heaven in the form of lighting and on the earth, in many forms.
Varuna:The third position is occupied by Varuna. He was seen as the king, the universal monarch who lived in a golden palace in the heaven. He sent his spies everywhere and controlled many natural phenomena. He regulated the Sun and the dawn. He supported the heaven, the earth and air. He was the bestower of rain and regulated seasons. He was the God of water,clouds,oceans and rivers. He determined the path for all stars in heaven. He was the moral Governor of all deities and tied the sinners with his pasha (noose).
Sun:Several Gods were associated with the Sun. Surya (the common word for sun) drove across the sky in a flaming chariot, like the Greek God ‘Helios’. Savitri, the stimulator or God of light, was another solar God. The famous Gayatri Mantra is addressed to him.
Rudra:He was associated with storm and was also invoked to ward off the epidemics and disaster. He had, however, a beneficent aspect, for he was the guardian of healing herbs.
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