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Rituals Religious Beliefs during Indus Civilization4



One of the most elaborate public rituals was the Horse Sacrifice (Ashvamedha). In this ritual a horse was allowed to roam for a year followed by warriors of a particular local ruler or maharaja. Wherever the horse roamed was claimed as land for the ruler. But this could presumably be challenged by other local rulers.

Finally at the end of the year a great Horse Sacrifice was held to celebrate the ruler's power and authority. Other major public rituals were the Enthronement Ritual (rajasuya) and the Ritual of Building the Fire Altar (agnicayana). These lasted for many days and also included the ritual use of drink called Soma.

As might well be imagined, as the rituals became more complex and expensive, the priests became more specialized in one or another aspect of the ritual process. Initially, long prose commentaries were composed. However, eventually these were written down. These commentaries explained the ritual. They were called Brahmanas which were the utterances "pertaining to the priestly function".

Also, special schools and branches of specialization developed in centers of learning just outside the settled areas or village-enclosures in various parts of North India. The products of these specialized schools were called Aranyakas. These were the utterances "pertaining to the forest schools."

Finally, the priests began to speculate on the deeper meaning of the ritual process. Further they also began a kind of elementary philosophizing about the relation of the ritual to the cosmos and to the human community. This was mainly to the priestly community. However, subsequently this was addressed to the ruling warrior community as well.

These early speculative and proto-philosophical reflections came to be collected in a group of compositions called Upanishads. Upanishads literally meant "sitting down near" the teacher and learning special, secret teachings. Upanishads came to be composed already in the ninth and eighth century B.C.E. These continued to be composed well into the first centuries of the Common Era.

Around the 11th or 12th century B.C.E., the Brahmanas and Aranyakas came into existence. These utterances taken together, namely, the Vedic verse collections (Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva), the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads are referred to as the Veda or shruti (literally "that which has been heard") or "scripture."The ritual part of the Vedas is referred to as the ritual Action Portion (karma-kanda). On the other hand, the proto-philosophical speculations of the Upanishads are referred to as the Knowledge Portion (jnana-kanda).

There is, however no specific information pertaining to the rituals carried out by the ancient people of the Indus valley civilization. In such a case, it is the symbols so discovered during the archeological excavations which provide us a plethora of necessities of Indus people. These symbols reciprocally also required a political and ritual edifice for their maintenance.


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