Hindu Gods And Heroes Studies in the History of the Religion of India

Hindu Gods And Heroes Studies in the History of the Religion of India
  • Engels
  • Hardcover
  • 9783849175061
  • december 2012
  • 80 pagina's
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THE VĒDIC AGE Let us imagine we are in a village of an Aryan tribe in the Eastern Panjab something more than thirty centuries ago. It is made up of a few large huts, round which cluster smaller ones, all of them rudely built, mostly of bamboo; in the Other larger ones dwell the heads of families, while the smaller ones shelter their kinsfolk and followers, for this is a patriarchal world, and the housefather gives the law to his household. The people are mostly a comely folk, tall and clean-limbed, and rather fair of skin, with well-cut features and straight noses; but among them are not a few squat and ugly men and women, flat-nosed and nearly black in colour, who were once the free dwellers in this land, and now have become slaves or serfs to their Aryan conquerors. Around the village are fields where bullocks are dragging rough ploughs; and beyond these are woods and moors in which lurk wild men, and beyond these are the lands of Other Aryan tribes. Life in the village is simple and rude, but not uneventful, for the village is part of a tribe, and tribes are constantly fighting with one anOther, as well as with the dark-skinned men who often try to drive back the Aryans, sometimes in small forays and sometimes in massed hordes. But the world in which the village is interested is a small one, and hardly extends beyond the bounds of the land where its tribe dwells. It knows something of the land of the Five Rivers, in one corner of which it lives, and something even of the lands to the north of it, and to the west as far as the mountains and deserts, where live men of its own kind and tongue; but beyond these limits it has no knowledge. Only a few bold spirits have travelled eastward across the high slope that divides the land of the Five Rivers from the strange and mysterious countries around the great rivers Gagā and Yamunā, the unknown land of deep forests and swarming dark-skinned men. In the matter of religion these Aryans care a good deal about charms and spells, black and white magic, for preventing or curing all kinds of diseases or mishaps, for winning success in love and war and trade and husbandry, for bringing harm upon enemies or rivals—charms which a few centuries later will be dressed up in igvēdic style, stuffed out with imitations of igvēdic hymns, and published under the name of Atharva vēda, ''the lore of the Atharvans,'' by wizards who claim to belong to the old priestly clans of Atharvan and Agiras. But we have not yet come so far, and as yet all that these people can tell us is a great deal about their black and white magic, in which they are hugely interested, and a fair amount about certain valiant men of olden times who are now worshipped by them as helpful spirits, and a little about some vague spirits who are in the sun and the air and the fire and Other places, and are very high and great, but are not interesting at all. This popular religion seems to be a hopeless one, without ideals and symbols of love and hope. Is there nothing better to be found in this place? Yes, there is a priestly religion also; and if we would know something about it we must listen to the chanting of the priests, the brahmans or men of the ''holy spirit,'' as they are called, who are holding a sacrifice now on behalf of the rich lord who lives in the largest house in the village—a service for which they expect to be paid with a handsome fee of oxen and gold. They are priests by heredity, wise in the knowledge of the ways of the gods; some of them understand how to compose iks, or hymns, in the fine speech dear to their order, hymns which are almost sure to win the gods' favour, and all of them know how the sacrifices shall be performed with perfect exactness so that no slip or imperfection may mar their efficacy. Their psalms are called ig-vēda, ''lore of the verses,'' and they set themselves to find grace in the ears of the many gods whom these priests worship, sometimes by open praise and sometimes by riddling description of the exploits and nature of the gods. Often they are very fine; but always they are the work of priests, artists in ritual. And if you look heedfully into it you will also mark that these priests are inclined to think that the act of sacrifice, the offering of, say, certain oblations in a particular manner with particular words accompanying them, is in itself potent, quite apart from the psalms which they sing over it, that it has a magic power of its own over the machinery of nature.[1] Really this is no new idea of our Vēdic priests; ten thousand years before them their remote forefathers believed it and acted upon it, and if for example they wanted rain they would sprinkle drops of water and utter magic words. Our Vēdic priests have now a different kind of symbols, but all the same they still have the notion that ceremony, ita as they call it, has a magic potency of its own. Let us mark this well, for we shall see much issuing from it. Who are the gods to whom these priests offer their prayers and psalms? They are many, and of various kinds. Most of them are taken from the religion of the people, and dressed in new garb according to the imagination of the priest; and a few are priestly inventions altogether. There is Dyaush-pitā, the Sky-father, with Pithivī Mātā, the Earth-mOther; there are Vāyu the Wind-spirit, Parjanya the Rain-god, Sūrya the Sun-god, and Other spirits of the sky such as Savitā; there is the Dawn-goddess, Ushās. All these are or were originally deified powers of nature: the people, though their imagination created them, have never felt any deep interest in them, and the priests who have taken them into their charge, though they treat them very courteously and sing to them elegant hymns full of figures of speech, have not been able to cover them with the flesh and blood of living personality. Then we have Agni the Fire-god, and Sōma the spirit of the intoxicating juice of the sōma-plant, which is used to inspire the pious to drunken raptures in certain ceremonies; both of these have acquired a peculiar importance through their association with priestly worship, especially Agni, because he, as bearing to the gods the sacrifices cast into his flames, has become the ideal Priest and divine Paraclete of Heaven. Nevertheless all this hieratic importance has not made them gods in the deeper sense, reigning in the hearts of men. Then we find powers of doubtful origin, Mitra and Varua and Vishu and Rudra, and figures of heroic legend, like the warrior Indra and the twin charioteers called Aśvinaā and Nāsatyā. All these, with many Others, have their worship in the ig-vēda: the priests sing their praises lustily, and often speak now of one deity, now of anOther, as being the highest divinity, without the least consistency



december 2012
Aantal pagina's
80 pagina's


Lionel D Barnett
Tredition Classics



Overige kenmerken

Extra groot lettertype
209 g
Verpakking breedte
127 mm
Verpakking hoogte
203 mm
Verpakking lengte
203 mm

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