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Ancient religion of India that was contemporary with the composition of the Vedas and was the precursor of Hinduism. The religion of the Indo-European-speaking peoples who entered India c. 1500 BCE from the region of present-day Iran, it was a polytheistic system in which Indra was the highest-ranked god. It involved the worship of numerous male divinities connected with the sky and natural phenomena. Ceremonies centred on ritual sacrifice of animals and on the use of soma to achieve trancelike states. These ceremonies, simple in the beginning, grew to be so complex that only trained Brahmans could carry them out correctly. Out of Vedism developed the philosophical concepts of atman and Brahman. The spread (8th–5th century BCE) of the related concepts of reincarnation, karma, and release from the cycle of rebirth through meditation rather than sacrifice marked the end of the Vedic period and the rise of Hinduism. The Hindu initiation ceremony, upanayana, is a direct survivor of Vedic tradition.
Variants of VEDIC RELIGION
Vedic religion or Vedism
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Vedic religion, visit Britannica.com.
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