VEDAS AND ARYAN CULTURE

Please pay special attention to the italicized technical terms
The Rig Veda is a collection of oral hymns composed by a group of anonymous authors in North
India around 1,200 BC. The community of people who created the ig !eda called themsel"es
the Aryans #noble$. The origin of the %ryans is much debated, but it is generally agreed that they
originated somewhere in Central %sia and migrated &outh to India around 1,'00 BC. %s the
%ryans mo"ed south they con(uered and displaced the original inhabitants of India who already
li"ed in well)de"eloped cities in the Indus !alley, which is in modern *a+istan.
The %ryans brought with them their liturgical and poetic language, Sanskrit. &ans+rit was related
to other Indo-European languages, li+e ,atin, -ree+, .rench and *ersian. /hate"er language or
languages the %ryans spo+e at home, they always composed their ritual and poetic te0ts in
&ans+rit. &ans+rit, therefore, became and remained the official religious, liturgical and
bureaucratic language of India from the !edic era until about the 12
th
century %1. 2"en after the
12
th
century it continued to be the liturgical language of 3indus and Buddhists.
The ig !eda is a collection of &ans+rit hymns and poems4some about natural phenomena li+e
the night or the sunrise5 other hymns are cosmogonic4or e0planations of the creation #genesis$
of the uni"erse. 6ne such cosmogonic hymn is the hymn about the ritual dismemberment and
sacrifice of Purusha, the cosmic man.
&acrifice and sacrificial offerings played an important part in !edic culture, because this culture
belie"ed that the uni"erse was maintained by the regular offering of sacrifice through which
humans e0pressed their relationship to the natural uni"erse and to the -ods. &acrifices were
large)scale public occasions which had "ery precise rules and were considered successful only if
they were carried out meticulously by a group of religious specialists +nown as the Brahmins. %
sacrifice could be sponsored or patroni7ed by any person of means4a +ing, a politician, a
merchant or e"en a farmer. The sacrifice ritual consisted of creating an altar made of bric+s,
lighting a ritual fire in it and ma+ing offerings of food, especially butter, which would be
sprin+led into the fire. The idea was that the fire would carry the food up into the realm of the
-ods. Thus, a !edic sacrifice was not necessarily the sacrifice of an animal, it was more li+e an
elaborate than+sgi"ing ritual in which food offerings were made to the gods who were forces of
nature.
Technical terms:
Cosmoony8 #cosmos9genesis$8 ha"ing to do with the birth of the cosmos.

Parado!8 % statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense, but is
intentionally so in order to steer your mind towards the truth. % parado0 is not nonsense, though
at first glance it seems to be nonsensical.
"ome#or$: Do#nload %&atha Upanishad: Nachi$etas and Death'( Print it o)t* read
care+)lly* ,rin to class( -e ready +or short e!am on that and the P)r)sha "ymn(
SACR./.CE 0/ PURUS"A10r 2an(
18 *urusha, #man$ has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet. 3e filled the earth
and e0tended beyond it by ten finger lengths.
28 *urusha was all of this8 whate"er has been, whate"er is yet to be. 3e is the ruler of all
immortality5 all li"ing creatures are a (uarter of him5 while three (uarters of him is immortal, and
in hea"en.
:8 /ith three (uarters of him *urusha rose upwards, while a (uarter of him remained here. .rom
the (uarter remaining here he spread out in all directions into that which eats, and that which
does not eat.
;8 .rom him !ira< #woman$ was born, and from !ira< came man.
;8 /hen the -ods spread out the sacrifice with *urusha as the offering, spring was the clarified
butter, summer the fuel, and autumn the oblation.
'8 They sprin+led *urusha4and the sacrifice was born at the "ery beginning, upon the sacred
grass. /ith him the -ods and the sages sacrificed.
=8 .rom the sacrifice in which e"erything was offered the melted fat was collected, and he made
it into those beasts who li"e in the air, in the forest, and in the "illages.
>8 .rom that sacrifice the "erses and chants were born, the rhythmical metres were born.
?8 3orses were born from it, and those other animals that ha"e two rows of teeth5 cows were
born from it, and also goats and sheep.
@8 /hen they dismembered *urusha how many parts did they di"ide him intoA /hat do they call
his mouth, his two arms, his thighs and his feetA
108 3is mouth became the Brahmin priests and poets5 his arms became Bshatriyas, warriors and
+ings5 his thighs became !aishyas, the merchants5 and from his feet ser"ants, or &hudras, were
born.
118 Coon was born from his mind5 from his eye came the sun, and from his breath the /ind was
born.
128 .rom his head the s+y e"ol"ed, from his na"el the middle space, from his two feet the earth,
and the s+y from his ears. Thus the -ods set the world in order.
1:8 /ith the sacrifice the -ods sacrificed to the sacrifice.
3)estions:
.denti+y areas that seem especially di++ic)lt to )nderstand ,eca)se they are )nclear(
4hen did the sacri+ice ta$e place5 ma$e a timeline: this happened +irst* then this(
Can yo) identi+y any parado!es in this myth5
4hy is lan)ae one o+ the +irst thins to e6ol6e o)t o+ the sacri+ice5