The central feature of Aryan religious life was, however, sacrifice. Small oblations were restricted to the domestic sacrifice, but from time to time larger sacrifices were organized in which not only the entire village but also the entire tribe participated. The goodwill of the Gods was necessary to the continually warring tribes, and the Aryans felt that the sacrifice persuaded the god into granting them boons. The Gods were believed to participate unseen by the humans. The sacrifice was certainly a solemn institution, but its also served purpose of releasing energies and inhibitions, through the general conviviality which followed at the end of the sacrifice and particularly after the liberal drinking of soma.
One aspect of the ritual of sacrifice was the important role of the priests, hence the description Brahman, applied to him who possessed the mysterious and magical power Brahma; another aspect was the gradual acceptance that the God, the Priests, and the offering passed through a moment of complete identity.
The ritual of sacrifice resulted in some interesting by-products. Mathematical knowledge grew, since elementary mathematics was necessary for the elaborate calculations required to establish the positions of the various objects in the sacrificial arena. The frequent sacrifice of animals led to some knowledge of animal anatomy, and for a long time anatomy was more advanced than physiology or pathology (although sacrifices in the early Vedic period consisted of offering of milk, juice of the soma plant, grains ghee and flesh, only in the later Vedic period did animal sacrifices got prominence).
Ritualism In the later part of the Vedic period the powerful priestly class emerged and they transformed the simple Vedic religion into a complicated ritual religion filled with superstitions. The emphasis was placed more on rituals than on religious chanting of the sacred hymns of the Vedas. Complicated mantras were composed to make the sacrifices more effective. On account of this, Brahmins emerged as an important class in the society. Besides, the complicated rituals resulted in growth of superstitions. A small error during the yajnas was said to bring the wrath of the gods on the person for whom the sacrifice was offered. Gradually the performance of sacrifices became costly and beyond the reach of an average man. This brought in discontent among the masses which gave rise to various religious reformers like Bhagwan Mahavira and Gautam Buddha, in the sixth century B.C.
New Gods The nature gods like Indra and varuna of the early Vedic period lost their importance in the later Vedic times. In their place, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva became prominent. Brahma was the creator of life. Ram and Krishna were believed to be the incarnations of Vishnu. Shiva was considered to be the destroyer of the universe. During the later Vedic period, Ganesh too was worshipped. Besides, the female energy as represented by Shakti, Durga, Kali and Parvati came into prominence.
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