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Cotton 1

Kelsie Cotton
Professor Marynel Ryan von Zee
Study of History
Importance of Religious Changes in India
Religion has been a part of life in India for a very long time. The differences of
transitions between the Vedic to and the Puranic religion are some of the most important in terms
of their effects on their beliefs. These changes are a large part of the culture of India and the
Hindu religion. In this paper I will go through investigate the different periods of within the
Hindu religion and show how the changes all came together in the end to create Hinduism as we
currently know it. Most of the focus will be on the internal influences of the religions and not as
opposed to cultural influences; such as rulers of the time, or wars taking place at the different
time periods. The first part of this paper will describe the early Vedic religion. This will be the
basis on which I will identify the changes between the Vedic and Puranic religion. The next part
section will cover the Upanishads religion and their incorporation of the Vedic religion into their
own philosophy and religion. After the Upanishads came the Buddhist religion,. The Buddhist
religion Buddhism has had a large influence on all of India. This paper will specifically explore
this influence on the changes within the Puranic religion. The last final part of the paper will
cover how the Puranic beliefs incorporates some of the major changes from the previous
religions. As many scholars have pointed out, the changes between these religions reflect the
slow change in ideas and social structure in India, as many scholars have pointed out.
Many renowned scholars have written on the subject of religion in ancient India. These
scholars include; Arthur Llewellyn Basham, who was once a worlds foremost scholar of ancient
Indian culture and religion1; R.C. Dutt who helped to publish two volumes about ancient India
civilization; Dr. Adolf Kaegi who translated the Rig Veda with some of his own notes; and
Abinash Chandra Bose who gathered together hymns from the early Vedic religion; and finally
Ranhakrishnan, who translated the Principal Upanisads, which is different from Upanishads,
with very few of his own personal comments or interpretations. Much of their works are general
histories, but do include with some focus on their individual research and specific topics that
they have been researching. All of these scholars used the ancient texts such as the Rig Veda and
other historical documents related to their studies. A majority of the texts and documents were
translated by from different scholars other than the ones that I just mentioned. Each of the
scholars cited in this paper has studied the ancient religions in using different ways techniques
with different independent focuses. Their work does shows some bias on some of the religious
toward various practices and rituals that had been performed by the different religions. None of
the scholars specifically studied the differences in the religions. However, they but still
managed to cover them differences in their research. I shall now use their research to help
examine the differences of progression through these religions.
In order to examine changes from the Vedic to Puranic religion, it is necessary to
understand the earliest religion beliefs of India. From thisese early religion beliefs one can

Basham, book jacket

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already begin to see the influence the religion has on everyday life. The earliest religion in India
is referred to as the Vedic religion. The Vedic religion is deeply rooted in the worship of nature
and have has many deities through which are related to certain natures. Within this religion there
are a series of texts known as the Veda texts2. These texts were written in the Sanskrit, most and
many people were unable to read them since a majority of the population was illiterate. Several
of the Veda texts were separated into several a number of different books3. One of the texts has
later became better known was the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda is the oldest text of the Vedic religion
and for over three thousand years before being written down4. Most of the Vedic religion had
been oral until the use of Sanskrit came about.
I assume this is not a direct quote from the book? If I am right I would rework the section this
way: One of these texts later became better known as the Rig Veda, the oldest text of the Vedic
religion. For three thousand years before being written down in Sanskirt most of the Vedic
religion was taught using an oral tradition. End the paragraph there. If the noted sections are
direct quotes, then the quotation marks need to be added as described in the APA or MLA
The Rig Veda illustrates many ways to honor and worship the deities of the Vedic
religion, but some practices that happen now in modern day Hinduism did not occur in ancient
India. The deities that were worshiped during the Vedic religion were mainly typed classified as
sun or fire types of deities. This would later lead to making sacrifices by fire in by the late Vedic
and early Upanishads religions. This passage from the Rig Veda is an example of the importance
of the sun deities; Usas, the Sun-gods, dwell in the highest realm, in the clear space of heaven,
but they are not the highest gods.5 This not only shows the early worship of the sun, but also the
fact the Vedic religion does not just worship one deity or higher power like many western
religions. Many practices developed later on.
With the Rig Veda now written down many others in India were able to learn about the
Vedic religion6. Within the Vedas texts there are hymns that were better known to those that
could not read straight from the texts. In fact this also these makes up a majority of the text since
as stated before it was passed orally. These hymns praised and asked for help from the deities
and even dictate what the people of the time should do, i.e. such as; Do not play with dice;
cultivate thy cornfields, delight in the gain, thinking highly of it. There are thy cattle, gambler,
there is thy wife. So has the noble Savitri himself told me.7 This hymn was from the Rig Veda,
telling and told those that would listen to not gamble, but to and follow the will of their deities.
The hymn is also an example that the Vedic religion has started to have influence over the way
people lived their lives. The hymns were not just for teaching but were used almost every day
and on special occasions. One example of this is blessings for a wedding, Live you two here, be
not parted, enjoy the full length of life, sporting with your sons and grandsons, rejoicing in your
own abode.8 This hymn offers blessings onto the married couple from the Rig Veda and goes
onto give blessings on to the couple from one of the deities so that the couple will have many

Basham, pg.7
Bose, pg. 1-2; Basham, pg. 8
Basham, pg. 7
Kaegi, pg. 59
Basham, pg. 7
Bose, pg. 195
Bose, Pg. 137

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children. The teachings that the hymns brings introduce early are many of the ideas that continue
to be expressed throughout much of the history of India.
Hymns were mostly read out by the sages or priests of the religions. There were even
families that highly educated and well known in the for making sacrifices of to the Vedic
religion9. These families were known as Vedic Rishis. These families spent a great amount of
time learning and following the practices of the Rig Veda. Vedic Rishis produced a large amount
of priests and would perform any sacrifices that needed to be made. Families from India at
present time tend to find great pleasure in tracing their ancestry to these families. Having
families even today show pride of their ancestry is an example that the Vedic religion continues
to influence India today, even if it is just indirectly. The families, by some scholars, have
separated into three different categories which Dutt brings into question. Some scholars have
addressed the categories that separate different families within India. In this discussion Dutt
specifically questioned the place of the Vedic Rishis families, The ancient Vedic Rishis did not
answer to any of these classes, did not belong exclusively to any of these categories, and were
therefore a standing puzzle to modern writers. 10 This shows that there is are still some areas of
the religion that are still hard for us to understand but many scholars continue to try to define it
them. The best way for someone to describe the Vedic Rishis classes would be a pre-caste
system. Dutt later goes onto say that scholars have come to the conclusion that the Vedic Rishis
must have been before the caste system. (The caste system is one of the more well known aspects
of Hinduism which many people known without studying the Hindu religion in depth.) Even
without working outside of these categories the Vedic Rishis represent an important part of the
Vedic religion and to future ideas that the religion changes into becomes. Dutt later goes onto say
that scholars have come to the conclusion that the Vedic Rishis must have been before the caste
system. The caste system is one of the more well known aspects of Hinduism which many
people known without studying the Hindu religion in depth. The Vedic religion slowly began to
change, and as time went on the religion changed because of due to the change in ideas and
ruling. These changes directly from the Vedic religion are small but still important, especially to
the Upanishads.
As the end of the period of the Vedic religion came to an end, began the start of the
Upanishads their religion and philosophy gained in prominence. Some of the changes that the
Upanishads did instigated to the Vedic religion traditions would now be considered a barbaric
practice. One of the changes of the Upanishads is the sacrificing of material objects to the gods.
None of these sacrifices are were human sacrifices, but instead were those of gold and cattle11.
The sacrifices that were made were done by fire because of the worshiping of they were
dedicated to the sun gods. The fact that the Upanishads are willing to make sacrifices shows that
the ideas of the times were also changing evolving. These rituals and sacrifices are very
important to the Brahmanas. The Brahmanas is , they are the part of the Upanishads that asksed
for the sacrifices to the gods. There are other This is one example of the spiritual doctrines that
the Upanishads use in their religious practices that are similar to that of the Rig Veda.
These Upanishads doctrines are similar to Christianity for in the belief of a universal
being which has a large influence on the religion of the Upanishads. With the belief of the one

Dutt, vol. 1 pg. 98

Dutt, vol. 1 pg. 105
Dutt, vol. 1 pg. 190

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universal being it causes the other gods of the Vedic religion to be were not considered longer
observed or worshiped like the universal being. Later on, in the How the Puranic religion to be
discussed later, reconciles the Vedic and the Upanishads religion beliefs of their gods are put
together. will be discussed later. During this time the caste system at the time was very
confusing because the castes at the where not really defined. Dutt goes on to discribes the
situation this way,the new castes were formed by inter-marriages among the parent castes12.
This passage shows the confusion that many people had when it came to defining the castes.
Over time the castes settles down solidify into the better known castes definitions. This
clarifcation comes around the time of the rise of the Puranic religion.
There are still some similarities between the Upanishads and the Vedic religion, although
not the doctrines of the Upanishads religion. This is Specifically, the use of the Rig Veda for both
their philosophy and their religion. One of the texts that use the Rig Veda to support the
Upanishads philosophy is the Principal Upanisads13. This text helped to bring even more new
ideas to the people of India. One idea that is brought by the Principal Upanisads is that the
people should not focus on the worship of the deities. Verily, there are two forms of Brahman,
the formed and the formless, the mortal and the immortal, the unmoving and the moving, the
actual and the true.14 (Brahman is what those that studied and practiced the religion referred to
themselves as.) Theis passage states that there are more than just the deities to worship but their
worshipers own physical and spiritual beings. It leads away from the focus of just worshiping
and depending on the deities for happiness. The need for approval for of all the deities to be
honored faded as the belief of the one universal being came to play. The importance of believing
in one universal being when looking at the fore mentioned passage is that the universal being
would support of the exploring of oneself physical and mental self. One passage from the Vedic
Reg Veda severs to be a good contrast to the Principal Upanisads, Agni, Deva, who knewest all
the ways, lead us by the right path to felicity. Remove from us the sin that astray; we will thee
the most ample adoration.15 This hymn shows the change of focus that the Principal Upanisads
brings to the people of India.
The Principal Upanisads uses the Rig Veda to support even their claim of self knowledge.
The guidance of the deities is not really expressed in this passage since they are setting away
from the deities guide and claiming that the gods want them to depend on themselves more. This
section is very confusing. Im not sure what passage you are referring to, so I am not able to
find the support for this statement.
The Principal Upanisads also brings to teaches the Brahman that they are also equal to
the gods. One passage that helps to reinforce this idea is; Aum is Brahman. Aum is this all.16
Aum from this passage is a symbol to represent three states of mind; sleeping, waking and
dreaming; it can be recited many times, mostly in prayers and rites. With this the Brahman can
believe that they are equal to the deities, or can believe that the deities will always be with them,.
This passage it really depends on how one interrupts it the passage. The Principal Upanisads
does not take away from the spiritual belief of the Upanishads religion. There are even parts that
have innovations to the gods to help and protect them.

Dutt, vol. 1 pg. 245

Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanisads
Radhakrishnan, pg. 537
Bose, pg. 357
Radhakrishnan, pg. 535

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May He protect us both. May He be pleased with us both. May we work together with
vigour; may our study make us illumined. My there be no dislike between us. Aum,
peace, peace, peace.17
Theis passage is asking Brahma, one of the more well known gods of the modern Hinduism, to
help them with their work and watch over them. The both in this passage is confusing but can
also refer to the person and their wisdom or spiritual self since that is what a large part of the
texts focuses on. The way that he is capitalized shows that the belief in the one universal being
and yet shows the Aum which stands for different mental stages of the human mind. These ideas
will help the changing facilitate the transition from the Upanishads religion to the Puranic
religion. These changes of ideas and way that the religion is practiced helps to bring about the
next few changes that will occur. The Puranic religion, which is better know today as Hinduism,
is where shows many of the changes beliefs and practices that are currently well known today,
which is and are greatly influenced by the Buddhist religion.
The Puranic religion is what is better known today as Hinduism. Around the same time
Over time the Buddhist religion had a major influence on both the Puranic religion and the
architecture. Around the same time the Upanisads brings a more subjective view to the Vedic
religion and allowed the Brahman to accept other religions than those based off the Vedic
religion. After a time As these changes progress the old gods of the Upanisads and the Vedic
religion stopped being worshiped the same way and began to become just names that were
known18. The Rig Veda was not held as highly as it had been during the time of the Vedic and
Upanishads religions. Buddhism became a major religion and had begun spreading through
India of the time of the more modern Hinduism. Buddhism began to change the focus of the
worship practices of the religion. The Upanishads religion focused on spiritual and physical
worship of the deities and understanding of the self before changing into the more symbolic
worship of the Puranic religion.
The Upanisads, as mentioned earlier, sacrificed animals and food to worship the gods but the
Puranic religion begins to focus on idols as a subject to be worshiped within the religion19. This
can be seen even now but the worship of image worship of the cows and statues of the deities.
The image worship was helped by the Buddhist religion. Image worshiping was taken from the
Buddhist religion since image worshiping had begun to gain ground in the Buddhist religion20.
The practice of sacrificing gold and animals to the gods had slowly dying down and with the
arrival of image worshiping. I found this section particularly difficult to understand and some
what repetitive. If I were you I would rewrite it something like this,
An example of this change is the transition from the Upanisads practice of making sacrifices of
gold, food, or animals to the gods, to the Puranic practice of worshiping idols and images. This
practice was supported by the burgeoning Buddhist religion, and can still be seen today in the
religious worship of both cows and images of their deities.
Going from sacrificing to image worshiping was a big change for the Puranic religion,.
This change and becomes a big part of the practicing worship of the deities in the Puranic this

Radhakrishnan, pg.541
Dutt, vol. 1 pg.305
Dutt, vol. 2 pg. 188
Dutt. vol. 2 pg. 188

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religion. In the Puranic religion the deities that are worshiped are a combination of the gods of
the Vedic religion and the idea of the universal being of from the Upanishad religion21. The
Puranic religion refers to them mostly as deities and with the universal being they spilt it into
three beings. Dutt believes that the ideas of the three major beings, Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma,
in the Puranic religion were taken from the Buddhist religion22. The deities that they worship in
the Hindu religion are still very similar to the ones that were worshiped in the Vedic religion.
Even the Upanishads religion of the universal god is obvious when examining the three major
gods of the Puranic religion., although many of the deities names have changed from the earlier
religion. This was a major change for the Puranic religions and these gods would to be the focus
of the image worship.
Buddhism had a large affect on more than the Puranic religion, than just the influence of
image worship, and the idea of the trinity. Buddhism had a large The influence of Buddhism
extended to on the architecture in India at the time. Much of the stone work that happened in
India before the arrival of the Buddhist religion were mostly for engineering, such as bridges and
walls around cities23. Buddhism brought with it into India was stone structures that were not
entirely for engineering purposes. Stone monasteries and columns were a few of the specific
structures that Buddhism brought with it. Even though most of these structures were made for the
Buddhist religion that they still have a major affect on the architecture of India. The architecture
became more elaborate and they were able to create structures and statues that they had not been
able to before. The Hindu religion also had a time where they created their own styles of
temples but was helped along the way with by the Buddhist religion. Hinduism then took ideas
from the Buddhist architecture, which this was reflected in many of their architectures and
temples later on24. The influence of the Buddhist structures on the Hindu religion helped even
with the image worshiping. The temples that were built during the rise of the Hindu religion
became the central buildings of worship25. The type of worship that went on at the temples was
called puja which Basham calls says, is not so much an act of prayer as of homage and
entertainment.26 The fact the puja was not just a prayer is important for it is another change
within the religion. Before Initially the Vedic religion was worshiped in hymns and then later on
sacrifices. Now public shrines are This is not the only place where for those practicing the
Hindu religion, since worshippers could also have small shrines at their homes and to practice
their worship. These home shrines were centered on images of the deities which helped with the
spread of image worshiping. There are more changes within the Hindu religion from the Vedic
religion such as the texts that they use in their practice of worship. The Hindu religion also had a
time where they created their own styles of temples but was helped along the way with by the
Buddhist religion. Hinduism does not use the Rig Veda as the Vedic and Upanishads religions
did. The dharma Sastras are one of the texts that can be used to understand the way that the
Hindu religion was during the time that the Buddhist religion was around. This text is spilt up
into sixteen parts and each has a specific view on either a certain god, like Vishnu27. The
importance of the change in texts also goes a long with the change of gods. Since the gods have

Dutt, vol. 2, pg.188-189

Dutt, vol.2, pg. 188
Dutt, vol. 2 pg. 64
Dutt, vol. 2, pg. 81
Basham, pg. 108
Basham, pg. 108
Dutt, vol. 2, pg. 197

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changed so much since the Vedic religion it is important that the texts change with it. There is
still some that believe that the Veda texts should be used along side with the Dharma sastras.
Within the Dharma sastras there are some issues within them about which of the three major
gods is the more superior power. This struggle of understanding also shows the struggle to
understand how much control the people of India have over themselves because of political
issues at the time28. A specific protocol contained within these texts is the defining definition of
the caste system. This is a major change from the confusion of the caste system during the
Having a defined caste system has become a very important part of life in India even
today. This caste system becomes a very important part of the culture in India and has created
many problems since the awareness of how unfair the caste system is. Having a caste system in
the Hindu religion is an important part since they can be directly found in the Dharma sastras.
The Dharma sastras says this, according to R.C. Zaehner, Not all dharma men are equal; they
are born into that station of life29 This based on karma which is what a person gets depending
how many good deeds they did in their current life. Because of this belief they created the caste
system which separated many people in India. Im having trouble with this section. It seems that
you are trying to convey the importance of the caste system being embedded within the religion,
but it is difficult to follow your train of thought. I would suggest reworking this section paying
specific attention to progression of the ideas.
Many of the changes that have happened between the Vedic religions up to the Puranic religion
have had some sort of importance for either the culture of India or the religion before or after it.
From the Vedic religion to the Puranic religion there are many different changes that have
and continued to affect the religion and the culture in India. All of the following sources have
made significant contributions to following and understanding the role of religions in Indias
history. Dutt covers many important subjects when it comes to India and the ancient religions
and cultures. Dutt and Basham back each other up unintentionally with many of their sources and
research. Basham focuses more on the modern Hinduism and does talk about the Vedic religion
and the Upanishads religion. Bose contains many hymns from the Rig Veda which was also
translated by Adolf Kaegi. Radhakrishnan translated the Principal Upanisads that covers much of
the Upanishads philosophy and religion. The combination of this information illustrates the
importance of various religions on the current culture in India.
Some would wonder at the importance of the early religion of the Vedic. Its importance is
shown through the basic knowledge and teachings that of the Rig Veda. The Vedic religion also
sets the basis for the Upanishads religion and the Puranic religion. Upanishads were provided
both the start of the caste system and differences of the in ways to practice of religions. The
Puranic religion is where many of the important changes that affect the culture of India take
place. The architecture and caste system have had the more profound effects on the culture of
India, arguably even more then the changes within the religions. These changes that come from
different religions hadve had a major effect on the culture of India, as well. It is easy to see the
changes when looking at the Vedic religion the affects that the religion has on culture since it sets
boundaries, such as the no gambling for the people who practiced the Vedic religion. The

Dutt, vol. 2, pg. 203

Zaehner, pg.109

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Upanishads religion was the starting of the caste system, even if a little confused, which would
then lead to the actual caste system from the Puranic religion. Even though these changes seem
little and small they still have a profound effect on the culture of India. The changes of the
religions also have a big affect since they are so deeply rooted in the culture of India. This
proves that the changes, however small, does affect the people of India by either their religion or
the affects of the architecture on buildings. All of the changes that have happened throughout
time in India helped to create the Hinduism that is well known today. The Puranic religion alone
proves that a single religion can have a large affect on a country throughout time as these
religions did.
Primary Sources
Kaegi, Adolf. The Rigveda. Translated by R. Arrowsmith. India: Amarko Book Agency, 1975.
Upanisads. The Principal Upanisads. Translated by S. Radhakrishnan. London: George Allen &
Unwin LTD, 1968.
Vedas. Hymns from the Vedas. Translated by Abinash Chandra Rose. India: Asia Publishing
House, 1966.
Secondary Sources
A.L.Basham. The Origins and Development of classical Hinduism. Edited by Kenneth G. Zysk.
Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1989.
Dutt, R.C. A History of Civilisation In Ancient India. Vol. 1. 2 vols. Fountain: Vishal Publishers,
Zaehner, R.C. Hinduism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.

(I discovered that Upanishads is the correct way to spell it and Upanisads is just a part of the
text) I would suggest that you try to incorporate this in the second paragraph when you
introduce the source you are using.
I can see that you put a lot of effort into the research for this paper. However, there are a couple
of things that I noted while reading this Im not sure if you were tired when writing this or what,
but there were/are many places that you tended to restate things unnecessarily. Also, I was
confused by the capitalization regarding dharma Sastras, it was done differently throughout the
section. For the most part the things marked in red are things that I would remove, while those
marked in purple are additions I would make, Finally those marked in green are those that I
have difficulty understanding or didnt have enough information to make a viable suggestion on.