Religion and Burial Practices in Vedic Period

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Elements of pre-Vedic tradition and Aryan religious practices evolved through Vedism into Brahmanism which is the precursor of Hinduism. The four Vedas - Rigveda, Yarurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda are the main sources of Vedic religion and are considered as divinely revealed scriptures. The Brahmanas, Aramyakas and Upanishads are also dated to Vedic period. Vedic religion evolved into Hinduism in about 5th century BC and also greatly influenced Buddhism. The Hindu rites of cremation have their origin in Vedic period as well although the deceased were sometimes buried uncremated.

Brahmanism mostly bases on the philosophy and worship practices of the Vedas - chanting of the Vedic hymns, worshiping heroic gods and performing sacrifices. Religious rites and ceremonies were performed by the priests - brahmans who taught that everything in the universe comes from the eternal, infinitive, irreducible, omnipotent and omnipresent spirit which they called Brahma. Vedic religion also includes the concepts of transmigration of the souls, reincarnation, the nature of morality and causality which was closely tied with the varna and caste systems.

Vedic literature reveals that a wide pantheon of anthropomorphic deities and deified natural phenomena were worshipped in Vedic period: Indra (one of the main gods), Agni (personification of sacrificial fire), Soma (sacred ritual drink - probably hallucinogenic of an unidentified plant) and many others whom were offered sacrifices for prosperity and general well-being. Unlike many other ancient civilizations which built magnificent temples for worship of their deities, early Vedic religious rites and sacrifices required no temples, while the religious ceremonies often took place on an open space. However, the most significant sacrifices such as the soma sacrifice and ashvamedha (horse-sacrifice) conducted by wealthy men and kings in public required many priests and were accompanied with celebrations and feasting which lasted for days and sometimes even months.

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