Brahmanism refers to the religion that came about from the ancient Aryan’s polytheistic means of nature-worship. This group of people conquered northern India, and the ancient Aryans were also responsible for the spread of the religion to various parts of the country. It can be found on the Biblical Timeline Poster around 800 BC.
Brahmanism is said to have developed for a number of years, and its earlier stages were between the years 1500 to 400 BC. According to scholars, there were four Vedas that date from 1500 to 800 BC. These Vedas included the Rig-Veda or ancient hymns,
Sama-Veda or song-service, Yajur-Veda or liturgy, and the Atharva-Veda or magical incantations and popular exorcisms.
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The Brahmanas, or series of explanations of the rites, customs, and texts in the four Vedas, were developed in 1000 to 600 BC. These were composed for the use of priests or the Brahmins. The Brahmanas were followed by the Upanishads, which was between 800 and 500 BC. These were mainly concerned with the pantheistic concepts on the end of man and the true nature of deity. In 600 to 400 BC, the Sutras were composed, and these included guides to the proper way of observing the different customs and rites. Among the Sutras, the most important ones are the Dharma-Sutras (law guides) and the Grhya-Sutras (house guides). The law guides referred to manuals of various social and religious customs while the house guides are involved with the different domestic rites. The practical aspect of Brahmanism is chiefly intended for priests, as well as the layman. However, the Upanishads and Brahmanas present the religion in its more speculative side.
The Manava-Dharma-Sastra or the Laws of Manu was developed in the 5th century BC. It has some relevance to the law guides and is a type of metrical treatise. Along with the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Manava-Dharma-Sastra involves the important aspect of the Brahmin literature.
The Vedic religion came to a two-fold change during the time that the Upanishads and Brahmanas were developed. There were both the practical and theoretical aspect of the Vedic belief, and it was associated with the pantheistic means of salvation. Popular Brahmanism transformed to its more popular aspect mainly because of the influence of the priests or Brahmins. They details of several rituals practiced became more complex, and it came about because of the Brahmins’ fondness for the use of forms and symbols.
In the popular form of Brahmanism during this period, there was the concept of retribution for sin that was introduced. Based on this idea, good actions result to positive effects while evil acts produce more miseries in the future. This refers to the doctrine of action or karma, a concept in which the idea of rebirth had some connection.
Although the idea of experiencing joy in heaven was reserved to the just, there were different types of fates that people will face after they die. These fates vary in terms of the amount or nature of guilt a person has, and the long stages of torture in hell, as well as series of rebirths in various forms whether of men, animals or plants. An individual goes through slow transitions until rebirth as a man in a remarkable and noble state has been achieved.
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