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(CIVILIZATION in the INDUS VALLEY – continued)

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CIVILIZATION in the INDUS VALLEY (3 of 3)

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Aryans, beginning Hinduism and the Vedas

When the Indo-Europeans called Aryans arrived in the Indus Valley they were illiterate. They enjoyed gambling and they drank and sang around their campfires. And like other pastoral people, they were storytellers. They had sacred hymns, myths and oral history – stories that expressed their desire to please the gods. Like the Hebrews, they had a father god of the heaven, sky and atmosphere: Dyaus Pitar (sky father). They had a male god of thunder and rain called Indra, who also was a god of that other disturbance: war. Indra was also called the "breaker of forts." And Indra was what the men thought a man should be: a warrior with courage, strength and energy who, like they, enjoyed drinking and making war. They had a god called Agni who was fire. They believed that Agni hungrily devoured the animals that they sacrificed in their rituals of burning. These sacrifices were performed by priests to obtain from their gods the gifts of children, success in war, wealth, health, longevity, food, drink or anything else that contributed to their happiness.

These Indo-European speaking people had a hymn about creation. It described the world as created, of course, by something they understood: birth. They believed that their father god, Dyaus Pitar, the embodiment of sky, had mated with his own daughter, the goddess that was earth.

They were creative in their storytelling and a later version of their creation theory developed, as follows:

In the beginning was nothing, neither heaven nor earth nor space in between. Then non-being became spirit and said: "Let me be!" He warmed himself, and from this was born fire. He warmed himself further, and from this was born light.

The Indo-European speakers had a story that described humanity as having been created with virtue and everlasting life. According to this story, the gods were concerned that humanity would become gods like themselves, and to guard against this the gods plotted humanity's downfall. The gods talked Dyaus Pitar into creating a woman who lusted after sensual pleasures and who aroused sexual desires in men. According to this story, the world had become overcrowded because humankind lived forever like the gods. So Dyaus Pitar decided to make humankind mortal, and he created the goddess Death – not a goddess who ruled over death, but death herself. This creation of mortality for humankind pleased the gods, for it left them separate and of a higher rank than humans. According to this story, Dyaus Pitar proclaimed that he did not create the goddess Death from anger. And the goddess Death was at first reluctant to carry out the task assigned her, but she finally did so while weeping. Her tears were diseases that brought death at an appropriate time. To create more death, the goddess Death created desire and anger in people – emotions that led to their killing each other.

Hindu Scripture

Image of the Vedas as bound books

The Vedas

Hindus were to claim that Hindu scripture was composed sometime around 3000 BCE by several sages in direct contact with their god, Krishna. They would claim that there is no evidence that outsiders – Aryans – invaded the Indus Valley and brought Hindu scripture with them. They blame the notion of this invasion on Christian scholars from the 19th century.

When writing spread to the Aryans is not known. But after it arrived some Brahmins (priests) considered it a sacrilege to change from communicating their religion orally. Some other Brahmins supported the innovation, and they put traditional Aryan stories into writing, in what became known as the Vedas – Veda meaning wisdom.

The Vedas have been described as reflecting a rural lifestyle of the Aryans as opposed to the more urban culture of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa civilization. note16

The Vedas became wisdom literature, a literature that Hindus considered an infallible source of timeless, revealed truth. The most important of the Vedas was the Rig Veda, which consisted of hymns or devotional incantations of 10,562 written lines in ten books. Another Veda, the Yajur Veda, focused less on devotional incantations and more on sacrificial procedures as a means of pleasing the gods. A third Veda, the Sama Veda, was mainly concerned with the god Indra. Indra was now seen as the god that had created the cosmos, the ruler of the atmosphere, and the god of thunderbolts and rain – Dyaus Pitar having diminished in importance. Also mentioned in the Sama Veda were other gods of the sky and atmosphere: Varuna, guardian of the cosmic order; Agni, the god of fire; and Surya, the sun. A fourth Veda, the Atharya Veda, was a collection of 730 hymns, totaling six thousand stanzas. It contained prescriptions for prayer, rituals for curing diseases, expiations against evils, protections against enemies and sorcerers; and it contained prescriptions for creating charms for love, health, prosperity, influence, and a long life. Among the Vedas were descriptions of funeral rites that included cremation, and there were descriptions of lengthy and solemn rituals for marriage.

The Vedas implied that humanity is basically good, and, in contrast to the view of sin in West Asia, sin among the Hindus was viewed as a force from outside oneself – an invader. Hinduism's Vedas saw evil as the work of demons that might take the form of a human or some other creature, which could be removed by the prayers and rituals of priests.

Sources

A History of Ancient India by L.P. Sharma, 1992

A History of India, 4th Edition, by Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, 1998

A New History of India, Wolpert, Stanley, fifth and sixth editions, 1999

A Study of History, Arnold Toynbee, 1947

Encylopedias Britannica and Wikipedia

 

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