RLGA01H3 Lecture Notes - Yajurveda, Atharvaveda, Samaveda
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Hindutva means “Hinduness” and is a term that has gained political currency in recent
years. This term is significant because many Indians use this term to describe their
religious traditions rather than the term “Hindu” which is not a precise term as the word’s
origin shows it is a term based on the perspective of outsiders.
Bharata is the modern name for India and originates from King Bharata in the story
Mahabharata. In this story the Pandavas and Kauravas (groups who are cousins) battle
each other led by Krsna (Pandavas).
Karma means “action” but indicates a system of cause and effect that spans several
lifetimes. Human beings receive rewards or punishments based on the merits or demerits of
their behaviour. The system has its own rules and hierarchy which are very complex. This
theory is significant as it implies continuing rebirths (samsara) and has become an idea of
life that has been adopted by many non-Hindus.
Samsara is the endless cycle of suffering caused by birth, death and rebirth (i.e.
reincarnation. This theory states that at the time of death one’s karmic balance is inherited
by the next life of that person. This theory is significant as it motivates many Hindus to
obtain a supreme wisdom to be liberated from the cycle.
Mohenjo-Daro is one of the two towns that existed near the banks of the Indus River and
made up the Indus Valley civilization which flourished between 3000 to 1500 BCE.
Mohenjo-Daro means “the mound of the dead”. The culture of Mohenjo-Daro still falls under
the term of Harappa civilization which is a more narrow term for Indus Valley civilization.
Mohenjo-Daro indicates the excellent architecture of the Harappa civilization and their
religious beliefs with procreation.
Harappa is one of the two towns that existed near the banks of the Indus River and made
up the Indus Valley civilization which flourished between 3000 to 1500 BCE. Harappa
civilization indicates the population of the Indus Valley civilization rather than just those in
the city. Their culture is very similar in regards with architecture and beliefs in procreation
Aryans refer to the Indo-European people who migrated to Indian subcontinent between
1750 and 1500 BCE. The Indo-Europeans were new immigrants and were appointed the
term “Aryan” meaning noble ones. They were not highly organized as they were people who
moved from place to place rather than being settled agriculturalists. The Aryans are
significant as their language has evolved into Sanskrit which is the official language of the
Sanskrit is the official language of the Hindu religion and evolved from the Aryan
language of the Indo-Europeans. Sanskrit shares several similarities with the languages of
the Aryans such as Latin or English. For example, the Sanskrit word for god is deva akin to
the English words divine and deity.
Rishi (or rsis) are the seers in the Hindu religion that transmitted the sacred words of the
Veda to others.
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Vaidik dharma is used to describe Hinduism as the religions of the Veda. The Veda is the
earliest surviving compositions by the Indo-European people. This term indicates the
importance of the Veda and its great influence on Hinduism.
Mahabharata is one of the two major Hindu epics and is considered the “fifth Veda”. The
story is about the king called Bharata but mainly regards the war between Pandavas and
the Kauravas who are groups of cousins. Krsna leads the Pandavas with Arjuna and tells
him it is acceptable to fight after trying peaceful means if it is for righteousness. This epic
is significant because it contains the 18 chapters which make up the Bhagavad Gita, one of
the most holiest books in Hindu tradition.
Ramayana is one of the two major Hindu epics and has been enjoyed by the Hindu culture
for over 2000 years. The story concerns the young prince Rama, his wife Sita and their
devotee Hanuman (a monkey with divine ancestry). It has taken complex forms over the
centuries and has been re-enacted many times. According to a traditional statement the
story of Rama and Sita will be told as long as the rivers flow on earth and as long as
Puranas is a term for “ancient stories” and is a way to divide tales.
The Bhagavad Gita was written in 200 BCE and added to the Mahabharata is one of the
holiest books in the Hindu tradition. The Gita speaks of loving devotion to the lord and
importance of selfless action. In the Gita, Krsna instructs his cousin Arjuna (who is
generally understood to be any human soul seeking spiritual guidance) on the nature of the
human soul, God and how one can reach liberation.
Vedas are the earliest surviving composition by the Indo-European people meaning
‘knowledge’. The four Vedas were composed between 1500 BCE and 600 BCE. The Veda is
an important part of the Hindu tradition. The Vedas are divided into four sections known
as the samhitas (hymnic compositions), brahmanas (ritual treatises), Aranyakas
(compositions for the forest) and Upanisads (sitting near [the teacher]).
Upanisads depicts the sacrificial world view of the early Vedic age. The Upanisads reflect a
rethinking and reformulation of earlier hymns or rituals. The Upanisads usually are
conversations between a teacher and a student, a husband and a wife or between fellow
Yajur Veda is one of the four Vedas written by the Indo-European people. Instructions on
sacrificial rituals are contained in the brahmanas (ritual treatises) section of this book.
Atharva Veda contains material that is considered non-Aryan. It contains incantations
and remedies to ward off illness and evil spirits. The chants in this book are used for
medical or other healing purposes.
Sama Veda is one of the four Vedas written by the Indo-European people. It borrows
sections Rg Veda but its hymns are meant to be sung in a specific manner.
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Prana is an internal air current of the body, is often spoken of as the basic animating
principle. Prana is a central concept in Yoga where it is believed to flow through a network
of fine subtle channels called nadis. It’s most subtle material form is the breath, but is also
to be found in blood and it’s most concentrated form is semen in men and vaginal fluid in
Atman is the term for human soul. This word is significant because to achieve higher
wisdom and liberation from samsara one must experientially know the relationship
between Atman and Brahman (Supreme Being).
Brahman is the term for Supreme Being. Brahman pervades and yet transcends the
universe as well as human thought meaning it cannot be properly described. To know
Brahman is to enter a new state of consciousness which also cannot be described. To
achieve higher wisdom and liberation from samsara one must experientially know the
relationship between Atman and Brahman.
Triloka means “three realms” and it depicts the Aryan belief the world is separated into
Purusa is a term that means primeval man. In a hymn called Purusa Sukta (Hymn to the
Supreme Person) the Purusa is sacrificed for the purpose of creating the universe.
The Laws of Manu attributed to the sage Manu, articulates the etiquette and duties of
each class (varna) and of each age group in the new brahman-dominated society. This is
significant as it is the new basis of Hindu Laws after the Vedas and the roles of some
groups have changed (e.g. women).
Varna means class such as rajanya (king). Every varna has their own etiquette and duties
according to the Laws of Manu.
Jatis means birth groups but translated as caste which is the shorthand term to refer to
thousands of social communities that have multiplied throughout the centuries. Each caste
has different practices and one’s violation of these rules resulted in exile.
Ksatriya is a varna and represents the royal class. They were allowed to learn the Vedas
but not teach them. Their dharma is to protect the people and their country. The ksatriyas
usually traced their ancestry back to the sun or the moon. This varna’s etiquette and duties
are outlined in the Laws of Manu.
Vaisya is a varna and represents the mercantile class who were in charge of all commercial
transactions. They were allowed to learn the Vedas but not teach them. Their duties were to
rear cattle, trade and engage in agricultural work. The power of wealth and economic
decisions lay with this class.
Sudra is a varna and represents the servant class. The dharmasastras say that the duty of
a sudra is to serve the other classes, especially the Brahmins. Sudras cannot recite ancient
texts and must follow their duties to gain good karma. The sudra was not allowed to
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