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[01:840:211] - Final Exam Guide - Everything you need to know! (83 pages long)


Department
Religion
Course Code
01:840:211
Professor
lammerts
Study Guide
Final

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Rutgers
01:840:211
FINAL EXAM
STUDY GUIDE

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LECTURE 1: VEDIC HINDUISM AND RITUAL IN ANCIENT INDIA
A note on the term “Hinduism”
-Ancient and medieval Indian people didn’t describe their religion as “Hinduism” because their
religion wasn’t considered as one religion → polytheistic religion
-In Persian language “Hindu” meant people who lived south of “Indus” River.
-Around 8th century C.E. → Islam came into the land and called everyone who were not Sikh
(Jian, Christian, or Muslim) → Hindu (so Hindus were culturally, historically, and theologically
so DIVERSE)
-common religion: BRAHMANISM (Brahman: center of time and space)
-Brahmins: priests
-Kshatriyas: political rules and warrior class
-Vaishas: commoners
-Shidras: servants and peasants
-Pariah: untouchables (slaves and criminals)
THE VEDAS
-earliest surviving literature of the Hindu tradition
-written in Sanskrit (ancient language of Indo-
→ “veda” means “knowledge, “to know”, “wisdom or idea”
-vedas was originally an ORAL composition (because Sanskrit wasn’t developed yet)
-written after 1000 C.E. (even if writing was invented during the 3rd century B.C.E. à for 2,000
years it was orally handed down (it is still practiced orally)
-earliest vedas contain MANTRAS (hymns, spells, prayers, song, etc) → used when they
perform ritual sacrifices (yajna).
-Today (starting from Ancient India) the Vedas are learned, memorized, taught by a class of
MALE priests (aka Brahmins)→ only they can perform ritual sacrifices
-Brahmins + those who participated in vedic sacrifices = “Aryas” which means “noble ones” or
“the civilized”
-those who are not Arya → Dasas (lit. demon, enemy, slave) and Dasyus (lit. enemy, foreigner)
-Vedas probably represent “elite” ritual associated with the upper strata of Arya society.
4 VEDAS: (each has associated schools of Brahmas that were responsible for perceiving the
texts and performing rituals associated with that school; many vedic ritual require participation of
Brahmins’s specialists associated with each of the four Vedas)
1. RIGVEDA (oldest veda; probably composed around Indus river valley)
-oldest text in Sanskrit
-“stratified” text (different portions composed at different times)
-has 1028 ritual mantras in verse organized in 10 books/”circles”(mandalas)
2. YAJUR
-contains prose texts and mantras that accompany the physical actions of ritual
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3. SAMA
-collection of songs (saman) based on the Rig Veda mantas with instructions on their
recitation.
4. ATHARVA
-collection of hymns, incantations, and magical spells
Vedic corpus further divides into 4 levels:
1. Samhita: mantra verses and ritual texts
2. Brahmana: prose commentaries on the rituals
3. Aranyaka: “forest” texts
4. Upanisad: philosophical exegesis
-Over time (1000 B.C.E. 200 B.C.E) new texts are added to the Vedas → After no more new
texts were added to the Veda, Hindu religious texts
How are the Vedas perceived within Hinduism?
-Ideas of scriptural authority: later (post Vedic) distinction of sruti and smrti-
1. sruti: which is “heard” by ancient sages → divine origin and not a product of men
-divine revelation
2. smrti: “remembered” “memorized” by men, product of men
-most later scriptures are classified as smrti
What were the earliest Vedic texts for?
-recite during sacrifices (yajna): religiously potent and effective ritual acts (karma: “action)
-ONLY type of religiously significant karma (action) are sacrifices.
-offerings were sacrificed to the gods by Agni (fire, the god of fire) → offered animals, ghee,
milk, grain, soma (intoxicant), etc.
-ritual sacrifices were made by male patron (yajamana) who was probably a wealthy ksatriya
(warrior/lord)
-ritual itself was performed by Brahmins → they are paid for the services
-only a married man with his first wife is eligible to patronize a sacrifice
-asvamedha sacrifice: horse sacrifice, performed on behalf of a king to ritually enhance his
dominion and political power; agnihotra sacrifice: oblation of milk → ensure the preservation of
the course of the sun
-other sacrifices performed to ensure the patron → immortal in the “heaven of gods” (svarga,
“heaven) after death
-rituals were complex and elaborate: required many Brahmins and assistants, had to say
specific recitations
The General Meaning of Vedic ritual
-you give something to the gods, dead ancestors or sages, you expect something back
-preserving the “truth” or “cosmic order” of things, gods, and the universe
-attainment of material or proximate benefits
-attainment of immortality
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