ORIGINS OF HINDUISM

ORIGINS OF HINDUISM


Shiva

Hinduism is the oldest of the great religions. Its birth has been dated to between 2000 and 1500 B.C., a period of time when Aryans invaded the Indian subcontinent and grafted their religion onto beliefs of the people they conquered, namely the Dravidians. It is thought to have emerged from a kind of animism that predated organized religion and is still alive among some tribal peoples. Its origin however is unknown and difficult to date with any precision.

The origins of Hinduism are mixed and complex. One strand can be traced back to the sacred Sanskrit literature of the Aryans, the Vedas, which consist of hymns in praise of deities who were often personifications of the natural elements. Another strand drew on the beliefs prevalent among groups of indigenous peoples, especially the belief in the power of the mother goddess and the efficacy of fertility symbols. Hinduism, in the form comparable to its current expression, emerged around the beginning of the Christian era, with an emphasis on the supremacy of the god Vishnu, the god Shiva, and the goddess Shakti (literally, "power"). [Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Hindus in general believe that time is cyclical, much like the four seasons, and eternal rather than linear and bounded. Texts refer to successive ages (yuga), designated respectively as golden, silver, copper and iron. During the golden age people were pious and adhered to dharma (law, duty, truth) but its power diminishes over time until it has to be reinvigorated through divine intervention. With each successive age, good qualities diminish, until we reach the current iron or dark age (kali yuga) marked by cruelty, hypocrisy, materialism and so on. Such ideas challenge the widespread, linear view that humans are inevitably progressing.

Although the early history of Hinduism is difficult to date with certainty, the following list presents a rough chronology: 1) Before 2000 B.C.: The Indus Valley Civilisation; 2)1500–500 B.C.: The Vedic Period; 3) 500 B.C.–500 CE: The Epic, Puranic and Classical Age 500 CE–1500 CE: Medieval Period; 4) 1500–1757 CE: Pre-Modern Period; 5) 1757–1947 CE: British Period; 6) 1947 CE–the present: Independent India

Websites and Resources on Hinduism: Hinduism Today hinduismtoday.com ; India Divine indiadivine.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Oxford center of Hindu Studies ochs.org.uk ; Hindu Website hinduwebsite.com/hinduindex ; Hindu Gallery hindugallery.com ; Encyclopædia Britannica Online article britannica.com ; International Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu/hindu ; The Hindu Religion, Swami Vivekananda (1894), .wikisource.org ; Journal of Hindu Studies, Oxford University Press academic.oup.com/jhs

Hindu Texts: Clay Sanskrit Library claysanskritlibrary.org ; Sacred-Texts: Hinduism sacred-texts.com ; Sanskrit Documents Collection: Documents in ITX format of Upanishads, Stotras etc. sanskritdocuments.org ; Ramayana and Mahabharata condensed verse translation by Romesh Chunder Dutt libertyfund.org ; Ramayana as a Monomyth from UC Berkeley web.archive.org ; Ramayana at Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org ; Mahabharata holybooks.com/mahabharata-all-volumes ; Mahabharata Reading Suggestions, J. L. Fitzgerald, Das Professor of Sanskrit, Department of Classics, Brown University brown.edu/Departments/Sanskrit_in_Classics ; Mahabharata Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org ; Bhagavad Gita (Arnold translation) wikisource.org/wiki/The_Bhagavad_Gita ; Bhagavad Gita at Sacred Texts sacred-texts.com ; Bhagavad Gita gutenberg.org gutenberg.org

Early Religious Practices in India


horned figure on a Pre-Indus civilization in Kashmir, 2700 BC

Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “An ancient form of religious practice was the worship of spirits believed to dwell in trees, rivers, and rocks. Many Indians still hold such beliefs. One form these beliefs took is the worship of yakshas and yakshis, male and female deities associated with the fertility of the earth. Serpent kings called nagarajas and their consorts, naginis, as well as makaras, fabulous crocodilelike creatures, are all associated with the cult of life-giving waters. These early deities were incorporated into the major Indian religions as minor gods. [Source: Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]

“Only fragmentary information can be pieced together about the religion of the Indus Valley civilization. Horned animals, trees, many female figurines (probably mother goddesses), and phallic sculptures suggest that the people practiced some kind of fertility worship. Depictions of figures in yogic postures suggest that meditation was used. These images relate to those of later Indian religions, and some may be prototypes of later Indian deities.

“Some time after the collapse of the Indus civilization, Aryans migrated down to the subcontinent from Central Asian steppes, bringing with them beliefs in gods, predominantly male, who personified forces and nature and were worshipped in elaborate sacrifices performed by Brahmins, the priestly class. The Aryans composed religious texts beginning with the Rig Veda, Soma Veda, and Athar Veda (ca. 1500–1200 B.C.), which contained hymns to the gods and descriptions of the customs, behavior, and traditions of Aryan life. The Upanishads, composed later (700–500 B.C.), contain profound philosophical speculations about the “One who lies behind.” This “One,” called Brahman, is eternal, formless, all encompassing, and the origin and essence of all things.”

Early History of Hinduism


Fertility goddess from Mohenjo-Daro

Hinduism is regarded by some scholars as the oldest surviving religion. It originated around the Indus Valley near the River Indus in modern day Pakistan. Some elements date back as far as 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. The earliest form of Hinduism was essentially nature worship. Based on study of its earliest scriptures, scholars say it “was full of childhood's simple faith" and was "not yet burdened with intellectual brooding." Under the Aryans Hinduism and the caste system evolved together.

The earliest forms of Hinduism arose from prehistoric faiths. The true beginnings of the faith began around 4000 B.C.with the combined practices of several tribal religions, which makes it the oldest still-practiced religion in the world. [Source: Jonathan H. Kantor, Listverse, July 31, 2016]

The Hindu synthesis began to develop between 500–300 B.C. as various forms of Hindu study coalesced into the practices we see today. The earliest records of Hindu gods, goddesses and Hindu beliefs were first written down in about the fourth century A.D. However, by this time, there was already a strong oral tradition which supported these beliefs. The early Hindu epics and myths help us to understand the evolution of the gods and goddesses and the development of beliefs which form the basis of the modern Hindu religion. [Source: British Museum]

Professor Gavin Flood wrote: “Hinduism's early history is the subject of much debate for a number of reasons. Firstly, in a strict sense there was no 'Hinduism' before modern times, although the sources of Hindu traditions are very ancient. Secondly, Hinduism is not a single religion but embraces many traditions. Thirdly, Hinduism has no definite starting point. The traditions which flow into Hinduism may go back several thousand years and some practitioners claim that the Hindu revelation is eternal. [Source: Professor Gavin Flood, BBC, August 24, 2009 |::|]

Indus Valley Religion

We know as little about the Indus religion and philosophy as we do about their language. The Indus people left behind no large monuments to their religions. Most of what is known is derived from small miniatures described as "small, modest, even humble expressions of human sentiment."

Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “An ancient form of religious practice was the worship of spirits believed to dwell in trees, rivers, and rocks. Many Indians still hold such beliefs. One form these beliefs took is the worship of yakshas and yakshis, male and female deities associated with the fertility of the earth. Serpent kings called nagarajas and their consorts, naginis, as well as makaras, fabulous crocodilelike creatures, are all associated with the cult of life-giving waters. These early deities were incorporated into the major Indian religions as minor gods. [Source: Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York ]

20120501-8nafs_aic000dr.jpg
Indus cow seal
“Only fragmentary information can be pieced together about the religion of the Indus Valley civilization. Horned animals, trees, many female figurines (probably mother goddesses), and phallic sculptures suggest that the people practiced some kind of fertility worship. Depictions of figures in yogic postures suggest that meditation was used. These images relate to those of later Indian religions, and some may be prototypes of later Indian deities.

“Some time after the collapse of the Indus Valley civilization, Aryans migrated down to the subcontinent from Central Asian steppes, bringing with them beliefs in gods, predominantly male, who personified forces and nature and were worshipped in elaborate sacrifices performed by Brahmins, the priestly class. The Aryans composed religious texts beginning with the Rig Veda, Soma Veda, and Athar Veda (ca. 1500–1200 B.C.), which contained hymns to the gods and descriptions of the customs, behavior, and traditions of Aryan life. The Upanishads, composed later (700–500 B.C.), contain profound philosophical speculations about the “One who lies behind.” This “One,” called Brahman, is eternal, formless, all encompassing, and the origin and essence of all things.”

Religion in the Indus Valley: Before 2000 B.C.

An examination of South Asian religious life begins with the Indus Valley civilisation located in the basin of the river Indus, which flows through present-day Pakistan. Embracing two cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, with about 40,000 people, it had developed by about 2500 B.C., although its origins reach back to the Neolithic period, and largely disappeared by 1500 B.C. The Indus Valley was a developed urban culture similar to the civilisations of Mesopotamia. Its people enjoyed quite a high standard of living with sophisticated water systems. Most houses had drainage systems, wells, and trash chutes. Grain was the basis of the economy and large grain stores collected grain as tax. Indus Valley civilisation was extensive, extending from the eastern foothills of the Himalayas, to Lothar on the Gujarat coast, and to Sutgagen Dor near the Iranian border. The Indus civilisation did not develop as a result of contact with other civilisations such as Sumer or Egypt but was an indigenous development growing out of earlier, local cultures.


Kernosovskiy idol, discovered in 1973 in Kernosovka, Ukraine and dated to the middle of the third millennium BC and associated with the late Pit Grave (Indo-European,Yamna) culture

Professor Gavin Flood of Oxford University wrote: “ We know little of the religion, social structure or politics of this early civilisation and we do not know the language, but seals have been found with what looks like a script inscribed on them. This has not been deciphered successfully and some scholars now question whether it is in fact a script, although this is contentious. [Source: Professor Gavin Flood, BBC, August 24, 2009 |::|]

“Religion in the Indus valley seems to have involved temple rituals and ritual bathing in the 'great bath' found at Mohenjo-Daro. There is some evidence of animal sacrifice at Kalibangan. A number of terracotta figurines have been found, perhaps goddess images, and a seal depicting a seated figure surrounded by animals that some scholars thought to be a prototype of the god Shiva. Others have disputed this, pointing out that it bears a close resemblance to Elamite seals depicting seated bulls. One image, carved on soapstone (steatite), depicts a figure battling with lions which is reminiscent of the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh myth. |::|

“There may be continuities between the Indus Valley civilisation and later Hinduism as suggested by the apparent emphasis on ritual bathing, sacrifice, and goddess worship. But ritual purity, sacrifice and an emphasis on fertility are common to other ancient religions.” |::|

Indus Phallic Symbols and Animal Cults

Religious life may have revolved around fertility cults. Miniatures of decorated, pregnant females with high collars and headdresses, collected from Mohenjo-Daro seem to suggest the Indus Valley civilization worshipped mother-goddess figures. Terra cotta figures, often heavily adorned with jewelry and wearing elaborate headdresses, have been excavated from a number of sites. As a balance some scholars also believe the Indus people paid homage to phallic gods as well. The miniatures may have been offerings brought by people who hoped their wishes would be granted.

20120501-519px-Civilta ValleIndoMappa.png
Indus Valley Civilization

A figure with a human face, the trunk of elephant, the hind quarters of a tiger and the hind legs of bull has been found on seals. Humans with the horns of bulls or water buffalos have been found on tokens. These discoveries have led some scholars to conclude the Indus people were members of animal cults.

Among the other animals depicted on tokens and seals are rhinos, crocodiles and elephants. Images of unicorns are particularly common. The unicorn symbol disappeared from the subcontinent after the Indus Valley civilization collapsed. Another token shows a human head set before a horned figure like an offering.

Scores of stone phallic, vulva and bull figures have been found that are similar to iconic symbols in Hinduism. Some archaeologists and historians present this as evidence that Indus religion may have been the precursor to Hinduism. The bull was mount of the Hindu god Shiva. Indus phallic symbols' resembled the lingams (phallic emblems) used in the worship of Shiva. Some tokens show humans bowing before a pipal tree shading figures that may be deities. Pipal trees symbolize fertility and protection in Hinduism.

One three-sided seal that was unearthed depicts a squatting god surrounded by animals which, some scholars say, may have been a forerunner of Shiva. Some of the most beautifully carved images on seals are of cattle, which suggests a link to cattle worship.

Aryans

The Hindu religion is thought to have originated with the Aryans (early Indo-Europeans), a loosely federated, semi-nomadic herdsmen people who spread both east and west from Central Asia, taking their sky gods with them. The Aryans first settled in the Punjab and later moved on to the Ganges Valley. They are also ancestors of pre-Homeric Greeks, Teutons and Celts.

Between 2000 and 1000 B.C. successive waves of Aryans migrated to India from Central Asia (as well as eastern Europe, western Russia and Persia) . The Aryans invaded India between 1500 and 1200 B.C., around the same time they moved into the Mediterranean and western Europe. The relatively light-skinned Aryans drove many of the original dark-skinned Dravidian inhabitants south. Some scholars believe they conquered the Indus River civilizations of Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Others think the Indus civilization had already been destroyed or was moribund when they arrived.

Aryans are defined as early speakers of Vedic Sanskrit, an Indo-European language that provided the basis for all the languages in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as the majority those in Europe.

Based on linguistic evidence Aryans are believed to have originated from the steppes of Central Asia. They were led by a warrior aristocracy whose legendary deeds are recorded in Rig Veda. The term “arya” in Sanskrit means “noble.” The Aryans introduced the horse-drawn chariot, the Hindu religion and sacred books known as the Vedas to present-day India.

The term “Aryan” has been used by European writers since 1835 but fell into disfavor in the mid 20th century because of its association with Nazi propaganda, which described the people of northern and central Europe as being the purest representatives of an “Aryan race.” Today, historians and ethnologist who discuss Aryans make it very clear they are taking about speakers of Aryan languages and are not taking about Aryan blood, hair, eyes or other features.

Aryan Religion

20120501-Lion-hunt_relief_(Aslantepe).jpg
Early Indo-European charioteers
in this case, the Hittites
The Aryans were originally nature worshipers who revered a number of gods and believed that their gods represented forces of nature. Most of the important deities were male, including a celestial father and a king of gods who lit up the sun, exhaled the wind and knew the pathway of the birds.

Brahmins, a priestly class sort of like the Druids, were the only people who could perform religious ceremonies based initially on knowledge that was passed down orally over the centuries. Their ability to memorize was quite extraordinary because the rituals they presided over were quite involved and complex. The hymns and knowledge associated with these rituals has survived intact since 1000 B.C. Aryans that settled in the Punjab and wrote hymns to natural deities of which 1028 were recorded in the Verdic verses. The “Brahmanas” were written between 800 and 600 B.C. to explain the hymns and speculate about their meaning.

Among the differences between the early Aryan religion and Hinduism are: 1) Aryan religion had no icons and no personal relationships with a single supreme deity whereas Hinduism does; 2) Aryan offering were made for something in return while Hindus make offering as a sign of worship; 3) The Aryan gods rode chariots while Hindu ones ride mounted on their animals; and 4) nearly all the early Aryan gods were male while Hindus have male and female gods as well as ones with cobra heads and ones that are worshiped with phallic symbols. ["World Religions" edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York]

Aryan Sacrifices

The Aryans conducted elaborate sacrifices and incorporated fire and an inebriating drink called soma ("Drink of Strength") into them. The sacrifices were often so complex and expensive only the upper classes could afford them. In royal sacrifices the king was sprinkled with soma and a horse was set free for year and then captured and sacrificed in the name of the queen to insure good health for the royal family.

20120501-Aarti-night.jpg
Hindu fire ritual
In the early days cattle were sometimes sacrificed. The Vedas describe funerals in which a cow was slaughtered while mantras were chanted and the body of the animal was used to cover the human body on the funeral pyre, limb by limb, in a clear effort to create a double of the human body and direct negative energy into it. In most cases however it seems that milk, ghee and vegetable substance were offered up at ritual ceremonies rather than cows or any other animals.

Sacrifices were festive events meant to be enjoyed and bring fertility and prosperity. They were not intended to help people in the afterlife. Aryan religion was concerned mostly with the here and now not the hereafter. Some elements of the sacrifice though were identified with parts of the cosmos and the sacrifice was regarded as a re-enactment of creation.

Sometimes human sacrifices were held. The victims were usually criminals provided to the king or volunteers who hoped to gain quick trip to a better world. Animal sacrifices are largely a thing of the past. The ritual lives on the offerings of rice balls and marigold pedals left at temples.

See Ancient Cow Eating, Sacred Cows

Vedic Period Religion, 1500–500 B.C.

There have been two major theories about the early development of early south Asian traditions: 1)The Aryan migration thesis: that the Indus Valley groups calling themselves 'Aryans' (noble ones) migrated into the sub-continent and became the dominant cultural force; and 2)The cultural transformation thesis: that Aryan culture is a development of the Indus Valley culture. According to the The Aryan migration thesis there were no Aryan migrations (or invasion) and the Indus valley culture was an Aryan or Vedic culture. According to the cultural transformation thesis Hinduism derives from their religion recorded in the Veda along with elements of the indigenous traditions they encountered. [Source: Professor Gavin Flood, BBC, August 24, 2009 |::|]

Professor Flood wrote: “If we take 'Vedic Period' to refer to the period when the Vedas were composed, we can say that early vedic religion centred around the sacrifice and sharing the sacrificial meal with each other and with the many gods (devas). The term 'sacrifice' (homa, yajna) is not confined to offering animals but refers more widely to any offering into the sacred fire (such as milk and clarified butter). |::|

“Some of the vedic rituals were very elaborate and continue to the present day. Sacrifice was offered to different vedic gods (devas) who lived in different realms of a hierarchical universe divided into three broad realms: earth, atmosphere and sky. Earth contains the plant god Soma, the fire god Agni, and the god of priestly power, Brhaspati. The Atmosphere contains the warrior Indra, the wind Vayu, the storm gods or Maruts and the terrible Rudra. The Sky contains the sky god Dyaus (from the same root as Zeus), the Lord of cosmic law (or rta) Varuna, his friend the god of night Mitra, the nourisher Pushan, and the pervader Vishnu.” |::]

The religion of the Rigveda is essentially simple, though it has many gods. This is natural, as the hymns are the product of a long period of priestly effort, and represent the deities of the various tribes. Most of the objects of devotion are the personifications of natural phenomena. They may be broadly classed as 1) Terrestrial gods, like Prithvi, Soma, Agni; 2) Atmospheric gods, like Indra, Vayu, Maruts, Parjanya; 3) Heavenly gods, like Varuna, Dyaus, ASvins, Surya, Savitri, Mitra, Pushan, and Visnu — the latter five forms being all associated with the different phases of the sun’s glory. Among these deities, Varuna occupies the place of honour, and is extolled in many a sublime hymn. He is god of the sky, and with him is bound up the conception of rita, first indicative of the cosmic and then of moral order. Next comes Indra, the god of thunder-storm, whose majesty is another favourite subject of praise. He causes the rain to fall and thus relieves the dryness of the earth. His importance grew with the advance of the Aryans to regions noted for storm and seasonal rainfall. It must not, however, be supposed that any kind of hierarchy among the gods was in the course of formation. The Rigveda also refers to some minor deities like the Ribhus (aerial elfs) and Apsaras (water-nymphs). [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]


2nd century BC Nanaghat Sanskrit inscriptions from Maharashtra, India

The poets at different times ascribed pre-eminence to different gods, as they had to serve many masters and needs. The Rigveda also mentions abstract deities, such as Sraddha (faith) and Manyu (anger); and among goddesses Usas (goddess of Dawn) inspires much noble poetry. To propitiate these gods, prayers and sacrifices or oblations of milk, ghee, grain, fish, etc. were offered. The utmost stress was laid on the performance of the latter in order that the worshippers may enjoy all happiness and prosperity. There is also a tendency in a few hymns of the Rigveda to identify one god with others, or to group them in pairs (e. g., dyavd-prithvi), and carrying it further the composers arrive at the great monotheistic doctrine that “the gods are one and the same, only sages describe them differently.”

The Vedas are Hinduism's oldest and most sacred texts, and compiled by Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana. They are considered divine revelation or sruti ("that which has been heard") as opposed to texts of human origin, smrti ("that which is remembered"). Brahmin priests methodically memorized the content of the Vedas to ensure their consistent transmission to subsequent generations. The Vedas also provide early records of astronomy and mathematics in India that came out of Vedic ritual and temple construction. [Source: PBS, The Story of India, pbs.org/thestoryofindia]

The Vedas are the most ancient religious texts which define truth for Hindus. They got their present form between 1200-200 B.C. and were introduced to India by the Aryans. Hindus believe that the texts were received by scholars direct from God and passed on to the next generations by word of mouth. Vedic texts are sometimes called shruti, which means hearing. For hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, the texts were passed on orally. |::|

Indus Valley and Vedic Culture

Anne Murphy, a professor at Seton Hall University, wrote: Some scholars postulate that there are continuities between elements of the Indus Valley culture, “such as possible goddess or fertility worship, and later religious developments in South Asia, such as the growth of the cult of the goddess in Hinduism. The great Hindu god Shiva, who gained prominence later, may also relate to a figure present on Indus Valley seals. Similarities between the Indus Valley and later cultures are difficult to verify, because the script found in the Indus Valley is undeciphered and available evidence is entirely material. [Source: Anne Murphy, Asia Society ~~]

“In contrast, our understanding of the culture that immediately followed, that of the arya (or “nobles” as they called themselves in their texts), is almost exclusively shaped by literary evidence. By 1200 B.C.E., the Vedic culture of the arya came to dominate the central plains of the north. Vedic culture is so named for the literature of the period, the Veda. The word veda comes from the Sanskrit root vid (to know) and veda generally means “wisdom,” or in this context, a set of texts that deal primarily with ritual. It is not exactly clear from the available evidence how the arya—who spoke a language (Sanskrit) with Central Asian roots and had cultural ties to the Greeks and Romans—came to dominate the area. ~~“Interactions between the arya and other local peoples are to a degree reflected in a late hymn from the Rig Veda (the earliest of the Vedic texts), which describes a hierarchical division of society into four varna or classes: brahmins or ritual specialists; ksatriya or warriors; vaishyas or merchants; and shudras, made up of laborers, artisans, and farmers. According to this schema many non-Aryans (but almost certainly not all) would have been relegated to the lowest class of shudras. ~~

“The veda provide insight into the religious life and worldview of the Sanskrit-speaking people, a class of ritual specialists or priests (brahmins) who transmitted the texts orally within families or lineages for generations. A key concept found in the Vedic texts is sacrifice, which often involved animals or plants and nonliving materials like spices and cloth. The ritual acts and words of sacrifice were the primary means of communicating with the various deities, gaining their favor, and preventing calamity. The correct ritual action was held to bring about a particular effect if completed correctly. ~~

“Prominent among the gods invoked and assuaged through sacrifice was the warrior god Indra, a testament to the militaristic nature of early Indo-Aryan culture, and Agni, the god of fire. Agni is the primary intermediary between the gods and men through the sacrificial fire. Many of the Vedic gods are no longer prominent in contemporary Hinduism, but the veda are considered to be revelation by many practicing Hindus, and aspects of Vedic practice such as the use of the sacrificial fire persist.” ~~

Mixing of Indus, Aryan and Dravidian Beliefs


area where the Nanaghat inscriptions were found

Hinduism and Hindu culture is believed to have originated from a intermixing of Aryan and Dravidian beliefs. It is believed that one reason there are so many gods and different customs in Hinduism is that is how the Aryan and Dravidian beliefs accommodated one another.

The source of Dravidian culture, is believed to be the ancient Indus Civilization, which flourished around 2000 B.C. in what is now Pakistan. Members of this civilization worshiped an earth goddess, similar to the Hindu goddess Shakti, and revered yogi-like male figures that surrounded themselves with animals and were worshiped with phallic symbols, suggesting Shiva. As is true in Hinduism today certain animals, such as bulls, and certain plants such as pipal trees, were held sacred.

Scores of stone phallic, vulva and bull figures have been found in Indus ruins and some archaeologists and historians present them as evidence this culture may have been the precursor to Hinduism because the bull was mount of the Hindu god Shiva and the phallic symbols' resembled the “lingams” (phallic emblems) used to worship Shiva.

One three sided Indus seal that was unearthed depicts a squatting god surrounded by animals which, some scholars say, may have been a forerunner of Shiva. Some of the most beautifully carved images on seals are of cattle, which suggests a link to cattle worship. Some tokens show humans bowing before a pipal tree shading figures that may be deities. Pipal trees symbolize fertility and protection in Hinduism.

The Mother Goddess did not become a major part of Hinduism until relatively late. It is believed that she existed on the fringe in the early years of Hinduism and became incorporated when the time was right. The Shiva-like practices were absorbed at a much earlier time.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Indian History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “The Creators” by Daniel Boorstin; “A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples” by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications

Last updated December 2023


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