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Hindu Heritage Study Program  
 
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Hindu Heritage Study Program
 
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Principles and Practice of Hindu Dharma
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-HR 201.03
Understanding the History of the Religious Faith in India
Evolution of the Beliefs and Culture over the Time of Several Millennia
-~ Level - 2 ~
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Lesson - 39 :
On Various Ages or Periods in Ancient History
The Division of Ages in the History as Mile Stones
Please see below
for Lesson - 36
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One of the characteristics of Hinduism is its indifference to history. Very little information is ever given about the time or the name of the author of these works. They cared more for the soundness of the doctrine or the truth of experience than for the circumstances that gave birth to it. There are occasional mention of the names of the authors in some prayers and some circumstances and astrological positions that helps to determine the historical events at the time of occurrence.

This is an imperfect fragment of the reality and the so-called facts of ancient Hindu history are extremely uncertain. Most of the research on Hindu history was done by Western scholars or by Indians with Western education. Often, their works are incomplete and inaccurate. Any division of the period into ages is obviously artificial and overlapping. However, we make some convenient landmarks and divide them into some manageable periods of 'Ages.'

The first period extends from the earliest period of available records to the time of birth of Buddha, roughly from 2,500 B.C., or much earlier to 560 B.C.; [The Vedic Period]. The second period is till the fall of the Mauriyan empire, from 560 B.C. to 200 B.C. [The Age of Vedanga and Kalpa Sutra]. The third period is till the rise of the Guptas empire, from 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. [The Age of the Epics]. The fourth is till the death of King Harsha, from 300 A.D. to 650 A.D. [The Age of Puranas, Agamas and Dharshanas].

The fifth is till the invasion by the army of Mohammed Ghazni, from 650 A.D. to 1000 A.D. [The Age of Later Puranas, Agamas and Dharshanas]. This constitutes the ancient period of history of India and Hinduism. The medieval period is from the 11th century to the middle of the18th century [The Age of Bhakthi Movements and Bhakthi Schools].

This was the period when there were several invasions of the Indian Subcontinent by the armies of several Muslim rulers of Turkey and Persia. These later lead to the establishment of Mughal empire in Delhi and all over Northern India. Many Hindu temples were destroyed in these areas.

During this period, several Bhakthi movements were started and organized by the Hindus to escape the restrictions imposed by the Muslim rulers. Then comes the Modern age of Nationalism and reform from the middle of the 18th century till Indian Indipendence till today.

 
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Lesson - 40 :
The Ancient Age of the Vedas or Srutis
A period of Evolution of Prayers, Rituals and Philosophy
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The Vedic Age, the dawn of Hindu history, is again subdivided by some scholars into (a) Age of Mantras, (b) Age of Brahmanas and (c) Age of Upanishads. It must be clearly understood that this division is not strictly successive but is considerably overlapping. The Mantras or hymns are the creation of poets, the Brahmanas are elaborate ritualistic treatises and works of priests and the Upanishads are the teachings of philosophers and revelations of mystics. During the early period, the idea of one God as a religious belief has developed.

At the time many forms of worship were described in prayers. The concepts of 'Rita' or cosmic order of natural events [?rhythm] were seen to show the succession of season and harvest of crops. This was used later to indicate the Indian ideals of Dharma and Laws of Karma and the ethical and spiritual order. The celestial gods, especially Varuna, were extolled as the guardians of the 'Rita' and maintained by sacrifices. Thus Yajna or Ritualistic sacrifice became the means of the faith and 'Rita' became the end.

Gradually as the sacrifices became elaborate and complex, the age of the Mantras entered the age of the Brahmanas. In this ritualistic practice, a mechanical and soulless kind of practice began to prevail. However, the idea was developed that men owed a debt to Gods, Sages, Pitris (ancestors), other men and animals. All the old forms of gods were still worshipped. Prajapathi was the chief god and creator of the world. Vishnu rises in importance in sacrifices.

Shiva, said to be a pre-Aryan deity according to some scholars, was identified with Vedic God Rudra at this early time. Slowly, the rituals and sacrifices gain importance over the philosophy. We see the slow evolution of thoughts on various forms of god while Vedic teachings on One supreme Divine power is still maintained.

With the belief of great magical values of sacrifices and rituals to several celestial Deities, Priests became all powerful and supreme. After a period of decadence, the first period of renaissance came with the age of the Upanishads with Vedic texts accepted as authoritative Divine revelations.

 
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Chapter - 3 - A Review of the History of Hindu Traditions - Lessons 39 & 40
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Go to Lessons: - :~: 33 & 34 :~: 35 & 36 :~: 37 & 38 :~: 39 & 40 :~: 41 & 42 :~: 43 & 44 :~: 45 & 46 :~: 47 & 48 :
 
 
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