Indus Valley Civilization
(also known as the Harappan Civilization, as the first of its cities to be unearthed was located at Harappa)
The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilization (3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE) that was located in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly present-day Pakistan and northwest India. Flourishing around the Indus River basin, the civilization extended east into the Ghaggar-Hakra River valley and the upper reaches Ganges-Yamuna Doab; it extended west to the Makran coast of Balochistan, north to northeastern Afghanistan and south to Daimabad in Maharashtra. The civilization was spread over some 1,260,000 km², making it the largest ancient civilization.
The Indus Valley is one of the world's earliest urban civilizations, along with its contemporaries, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. At its peak, the Indus Civilization may have had a population of well over five million. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley developed new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin). The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick, roadside drainage system, and multistoried houses.
Some Indus valley seals show swastikas, which are found in other religions worldwide, especially in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The earliest evidence for elements of Hinduism are alleged to have been present before and during the early Harappan period. Phallic symbols interpreted as the much later Hindu Shiva lingam have been found in the Harappan remains.
Many Indus valley seals show animals. One motif shows a horned figure seated in a posture reminiscent of the Lotus position and surrounded by animals was named by early excavators Pashupati (lord of cattle), an epithet of the later Hindu gods Shiva and Rudra.
In view of the large number of figurines found in the Indus valley, some scholars believe that the Harappan people worshipped a Mother goddess symbolizing fertility, a common practice among rural Hindus even today. However, this view has been disputed by S. Clark who sees it as an inadequate explanation of the function and construction of many of the figurines.
Ram Prasad Chanda, who supervised Indus Valley Civilisation excavations, states that, “Not only the seated deities on some of the Indus seals are in Yoga posture and bear witness to the prevalence of Yoga in the Indus Valley Civilisation in that remote age, the standing deities on the seals also show Kayotsarga (a standing or sitting posture of meditation) position. The Kayotsarga posture is peculiarly Jain. It is a posture not of sitting but of standing. In the Adi Purana Book XV III, the Kayotsarga posture is described in connection with the penance of Rsabha, also known as Vrsabha.”
Christopher Key Chappel also notes some other possible links with Jainism. Seal 420, unearthed at Mohenjodaro portrays a person with 3 or possibly 4 faces. Jain iconography frequently depicts its Tirthankaras with four faces, symbolizing their presence in all four directions. This four-faced attribute is also true of many Hindu gods, important among them being Brahma, the chief creator deity. In addition, Depictions of a bull appear repeatedly in the artifacts of the Indus Valley. Lannoy, Thomas McEvilley and Padmanabh Jaini have all suggested that the abundant use of the bull image in the Indus Valley civilization indicates a link with Rsabha, whose companion animal is the bull. This seal can be interpreted in many ways, and authors such as Christopher Key Chappel and Richard Lannoy support the Jain interpretation.
Legacy (See: Iron Age India)
In the aftermath of the Indus Civilization's collapse, regional cultures emerged, to varying degrees showing the influence of the Indus Civilization. In the formerly great city of Harappa, burials have been found that correspond to a regional culture called the Cemetery H culture. At the same time, the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture expanded from Rajasthan into the Gangetic Plain. The Cemetery H culture has the earliest evidence for cremation; a practice dominant in Hinduism today.
[Compare: Map of the Indus Valley Civilization and Map of the Vedic Period]
Right: "The Five Elements in Sanskrit" (see Akasha)
Many traditions hold a belief in the five classical elements, although they are seen as symbolic as representations of the phases of matter. These five elements are invoked during many magical rituals, notably when consecrating a magic circle. The five elements are air, fire, water and earth, plus aether (or spirit), which unites the other four.
"The five-angled star, the Vehme-Star, is the hieroglyph of 'revolving or turning generation', of "rebirth"--one of the most important articles of faith in the Aryan religion." --Guido von List; 'The Secret of the Runes'
"Briefly, then, it's main outliners (earth-based/month-birth classification system) are as follows: the assertion that all human beings are born under the direct sway of one or other of the four principal elements, i.e. Earth, Air, Fire or Water--and that all must and do live and act in accordance with the general characteristics of these essential forces. Some authorities insist upon a pre-Odinic, a pre-Norse paganism, which gave to these four elements definite personalities, and deified them severally as Ymir (Earth; pronounced "Imyer"), Kari (Air), Loki (Fire) and Hfler (Water; pronounced "Fler" or "Fleer"). Students of Norse mythology wil recognize in Ymir and Loki (Earth and Fire) two of the leading Nordic gods, these probably being descended to a later evolution of the same idea." --Margaret Baillie-Sanders (UK), 'Your Birthday Month and You', 1932
* Sumerian pentagram: "The five elements are air, fire, water and earth, plus aether (or spirit), which unites the other four." --Wikipedia
* Germanic vehme-star: "From the One (Ginnungagap) grows the Four (Muspellsheim, Adhumbla, Ymir and Niflheim) which then form the Five--the homogeneous One." --Guido von List, 'The Religion of the Aryo-Germanic Folk'
The Vedic period (or Vedic age) was a period in history during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed. The time span of the period is uncertain. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas, was composed roughly between 1700 and 1100 BCE, also referred to as the early Vedic period. The end of the period is commonly estimated to have occurred about 500 BCE, and 150 BCE has been suggested as a terminus ante quem for all Vedic Sanskrit literature.
Transmission of texts in the Vedic period was by oral tradition alone, and a literary tradition set in only in post-Vedic times. Despite the difficulties in dating the period, the Vedas can safely be assumed to be several thousands of years old. The associated culture, sometimes referred to as Vedic civilization, was probably centred early on in the northern and northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent, but has now spread and constitutes the basis of contemporary Indian culture.
After the end of the Vedic period, the Mahajanapadas period in turn gave way to the Maurya Empire (from ca. 320 BC), the golden age of classical Sanskrit literature.
The origin of the Vedic civilization and its relation to the Indus Valley civilization, Indo-Aryan migration and Gandhara Grave culture remain controversial and politically charged in Indian society, often leading to disputes on the history of Vedic culture.
[See also: California textbook controversy over Hindu history]
It should be noted, again, that these "Aryans" were very likely ancient Mediterraneans (not Semitic, Turkic, or Mongol-influenced; all of which expanded at a much later time) who were partially descended from the Ice Age proto-Norse of a much earlier time; and whom had adopted, to a large degree, their language. Light hair and eyes were probably fairly common among them.
Historical Vedic religion
The religion of the Vedic period (1500 BC to 500 BC) (also known as Vedism, Vedic Brahmanism, ancient Hinduism or, in a context of Indian antiquity, simply Brahmanism) is a historical predecessor of modern Hinduism. Its liturgy is reflected in the mantra portion of the four Vedas, which are compiled in Sanskrit. The religious practices centered on a clergy administering rites. This mode of worship is largely unchanged today within Hinduism; however, only a small fraction of conservative Śrautins continue the tradition of oral recitation of hymns learned solely through the oral tradition.
Texts dating to the Vedic period, composed in Vedic Sanskrit, are mainly the four Vedic Samhitas, but the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and some of the older Upanishads (Bṛhadāraṇyaka, Chāndogya, Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana) are also placed in this period. The Vedas record the liturgy connected with the rituals and sacrifices performed by the 16 or 17 Śrauta priests and the purohitas. According to traditional views, the hymns of the Rigveda and other Vedic hymns were divinely revealed to the rishis, who were considered to be seers or "hearers" (Śruti means "what is heard") of the Veda, rather than "authors". In addition the Vedas are said to be "apaurashaya", a Sanskrit word meaning "uncreated by man" and which further reveals their eternal non-changing status.
The mode of worship was worship of the elements like fire and rivers, worship of heroic gods like Indra, chanting of hymns and performance of sacrifices. The priests performed the solemn rituals for the noblemen (Kshatriyas) and wealthy Vaishyas. People prayed for abundance of children, rain, cattle (wealth), long life and an afterlife in the heavenly world of the ancestors. This mode of worship has been preserved even today in Hinduism, which involves recitations from the Vedas by a purohita (priest), for prosperity, wealth and general well-being. However, the primacy of Vedic deities has been seconded to the deities of Puranic literature.
The Vedic period is held to have ended around 500 BC, Vedic religion gradually metamorphosizing into the various schools of Hinduism, which further evolved into Puranic Hinduism. However aspects of the historical Vedic religion survived in corners of the Indian subcontinent, such as Kerala where the Nambudiri Brahmins continue the ancient Śrauta rituals, which are considered extinct in all other parts.
[See also: Vedic priesthood]
Hindu astrology (also known as Indian astrology, more recently Vedic astrology, also Jyotish or Jyotisha, from Sanskrit jyotiṣa, from jyótis- "light, heavenly body") is the traditional Hindu system of astronomy and astrology.
Jyotiṣa is one of the Vedanga, the six auxiliary disciplines used to support Vedic rituals.
Literature in Sanskrit begins with the Vedas, and continues with the Sanskrit Epics of Iron Age India; the golden age of Classical Sanskrit literature dates to late Antiquity (roughly the 3rd to 8th centuries AD).