Hindu Mythology

Hinduism has been one of the main religions in India for over 2000 years.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.

Very little is known about the religion of the Indus civilization because no written records exit. There is, however, an assumption that parts of the Harappan tradition were held in common by ancient religions of the Middle East as well as the later Hinduism. Prominent among the evidence discovered are the many seals discovered at the sites along the Indus River, as well as in Mesopotamia. Some of these seals clearly indicate the sacredness of the bull which later became a common tradition in Hinduism. Other features are the horned god. These seals have two faces in profile, and one facing forward. The figure is surrounded by a tiger, an elephant, a rhinoceros, and a buffalo. His legs are bent with his feet pressed together in a yoga position which has led some to believe that this god is most likely a proto-Shiva. Shiva is the three-faced Hindu god of death, destruction, and fertility. Some of these sites have also yielded terra-cotta figurines. Similar, in many respects, to evidence discovered in Egypt and Iran, some of these figurines are of broad-hipped pregnant-looking females. Representative of the Great Mother or nature, these types of deities, as well as the bull, are common among early agricultural societies of Eurasia. Excavations of Indus cities have not revealed any buildings that can positively be identified as temples. No large statues or monumental sculptures, similar to those found in Egypt, have been discovered. This lack of temples and statuary has resulted in the belief that the focus of religious life was primarily centered in the home. Anthropologists are relatively certain that the peoples of the Indus civilization emphasized ritual purity. Much of this is evidenced by the presence of drainable baths in most of the residences, as well as a great bath or pool surrounded by a pillared hall with small cell-like rooms. Scholars have surmised that washing and bathing were integral to the preservation of purity and that cleanliness was considered necessary to ward off evil spirits. Similar to the culture of Egypt, it appears that the Indus religion recognized some type of life after death. Unlike later Indians, who practiced cremation, this civilization carefully buried their dead with their heads facing north and the feet pointing south. Included in the graves were pottery jars containing food and weapons for use in the afterlife.

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