Ordering the Cosmos: An Analysis of Religion and Society as Portrayed in the Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa
Schwerda, Paul Fabian
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AbstractThis dissertation focuses on one of ancient India's most fascinating and unique pre-Hindu religious commentaries. The Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa was composed circa 800 BCE and remains one of the most intriguing texts of its type. Brāhmaṇas are middle Vedic texts concerned with the justification of sacrifices and rituals. Their aim is to explain why certain rituals have the form they do and what are some of the deeper insights necessary to manipulate the world through sacrifice. The rituals and sacrifices come in large variety of shapes. There are simple offerings of clarified butter into the fire at sunrise and sunset; there are also manifold variations of rituals focussing on the divine beverage Soma. Apart from the ritual commentary, the text also contains clues to social history and other idiosyncracies in ideology pertaining to the Jaiminīyas.
Interpreting these undercurrents significantly enhances our knowledge of the middle Vedic period. A period which is probably the least studied and well-understood era in ancient Indian history. It is, however, an era of massive changes in religion, philosophy and way of life. The Vedic Indians started to settle down after having lived semi-nomadic for centuries. Their area now encompasses almost the entirety of North India. Religiously, novel ideas revolutionise the ideas about the world. The old panthenon loses importance and there is an emphasis on a creator god. It is a preliminary step into the direction of religious and philosophical monism found in the slightly later Upaniṣads.
The four chapters of the dissertation explore various aspects of Vedic belief system, religion, ritual, and society.
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