Indian History
General Knowledge

Religion & Economy of Early Vedic Period

Religion of Early Vedic Period


» During the Rigvedic time the Gods worshipped were generally the personified powers of Nature. It wasbelieved that divine powers were capableof conferring both boons and punishments on man. Fire was sacred as it was regarded to be the intermediary between man and God.
» There were nearly 33 Gods. Later day tradition classified them into 3 categories of terrestrial (pnthvisthana), aerial or intermediate (antarihihazlhana) and celestial (dyusthana) god.
  1. Terrestrial (Prithvisthaniya): Prithivi, Agni, Soma, Brihaspati and rivers
  2. Aerial/Intermediate (Antarikshasthaniya): Indra, Rudra, Vayu-Vata,Parjanya
  3. Celestial (Dyusthaniya) : Daus, Surya (In 5 forms : Surya, Savitri, Mitra,Pushan, Vishnu), Vaninar, Aditi, Usha and Asvin.

» Indra, Agni and Varuna were the most popular deities of Rigvedic Aryans. Indra or Purandara (destroyer of fort): The most important god (250 Rigvedic hymns are devoted to him); who played the role of warlord and was considered to be the rain god.

Agni : The second most important god (200 Rigvedic hymns are devoted to him); fire god was considered to be the intermediary between the gods and the people.

Varuna : Personified water; was supposed to uphold 'Rita' or the natural order('Ritasyagopa').
» Surya (Sun) was worshiped in 5 forms : Surya, Savitri, Mitra, Pushan and Vishnu.
Surya (Sun): God who used to drive daily across the sky in his chariot driven by seven horses.
Savitri (the god of light): The famous Gayatri Mantra is addressed to her.
Mitra : A solar god
Pushan : The god of marriage; main function-guarding of roads, herdsmen and straying cattle
Vishnu : A god which covered earth in three steps (Upakrama)
Soma : Originally a plant producing a potent drink during courses of Agnishtoma sacrifice, could be hemp/ bhang, called king of plants; identified later with the moon. The 9th mandala of Rig Veda, which contains 114 hymns, is attributed to the Soma. That's why it is called 'the Soma Mandala'
» Other Gods/Goddesses : Rudra (the god of animals), Dyaus (the oldest god and the father of the world), Yam a (the god of death). Ash win/Nastya (the god of health, youth and immortality); Aditi (the great mother of gods), Smdhu (river goddess).
» Sometimes gods were visualised as animals but there was no animal worship.
The nature of Rigvedic religion was Henotheism i.e. a belief in many gods but each god standing out in turns as the highest.
» Their religion primarily consisted of the worship of gods with a simple ceremonial known as Yajna or sacrifice. Sacrifices consisted of offerings of milk, ghee, grain, flesh and soma.


» The Aryans crossed the nomadic stage. Yet, great importance was attached to herds of cattle. Various animals were domesticated
» The vedic people were probably not familiar with cat and camel. Tiger was not known, but the wild animals like lion, elephant and boar were known to them.
» In all probability, very little of trade was there.
» Money and markets were known but they were not extensively used. Cows and gold ornaments of fixed value were the media of exchange. Coins were not known.
» Complexity in producing goods made its appearance. Men of various professions like carpenters, smiths, tanners, weavers, potters and grinders of com were there.
» The art of healing wounds and curing diseases were in existence. There were experts in surgery. Along with herbs and drugs charms and spells were regard as equally potential in healing diseases.