Need of Bhagvatism - Bhagavatism and Brahmanism, History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev

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UPSC : Need of Bhagvatism - Bhagavatism and Brahmanism, History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev

The document Need of Bhagvatism - Bhagavatism and Brahmanism, History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC (Civil Services) Prelims.
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Bhagavatism and Brahmanism

  • The Rig Veda indicates the nature of the religious beliefs and practices of the Aryans in India.
  • They believed in many gods like Indra, Varuna, Agni, Surya and Rudra.
  • Sacrifices, ritual offering of oblations of food, meat and drink to fire in honour of the gods, constituted the main religious practice.
  • The Aranyaka and Upanisad sections of the Vedic literature envisage a progressive outlook.
  • The former group of texts usually deal with the interpretative aspect of sacrificial act, while the latter, especially some of the major Upanishads are concerned first with pantheism and then with theism centred on one eternally existing absolute entity, brahman or atman, also known by several other names. 
  • The final evolution of the Vedic religion or religion of the Aryans took place in these later Vedic texts and the institutional form of the Vedic religion came to be known as Brahmanism.
  • Almost simultaneously with the appearance of religions of non-theistic nature, creeds of a definitely theistic character came to be evolved.
  • The central figures around which they grew up were not primarily Vedic deities but came from unorthodox sources.
  • Pre-Vedic and post-Vedic folk-elements were most conspicuous in their origin. There were also some semi-historical personages at the focal points of the movements.
  • The important factor that activated these movements, was Bhakti, the single-souled devotion of the worshipper to a personal God with the postulation of some moral link.
  • This stimulus led to the evolution of different religious sects like Bhagavatism, Saivism and Saktism
  • It had significant impact in course of time on the popular forms of Buddhism and Jainism.
  • Bhagavatism was a marked departure from Brahmanism because the abstract idea of a universal soul of the Upanishads was substituted by a personal God who was not to be worshipped by Brahmanic mode of worship but by bhakti or devotion.

Need of Bhagvatism

  • The fundamental principles which Brahmanism taught were too dogmatic, orthodox, ritualistic, formal and too rigid to be pursued. The people, who were always in need of an ethical and emotional cult in which it was possible to find both satisfaction of the heart and moral guidance understood nothing of it. It was in these circumstances that Bhagavatism found a favourable atmosphere.
  • There was the need of a popular hero who could be made the rallying centre to counter-act the mighty influence of the heterodox or heretical sects which challenged Brahmanism in the 6th century B.C.
  • There was also the need of the absorption or assimilation of new ethnic groups, tribal groups and foreigners and bringing back of those, if possible, who were then known as sramanas, sanyasin, parivrajaka or yogi into the Aryan fold.

Evolution

  • Bhagavatism had four different stages in its growth
  • The central features of this stage, which continued till 300 B.C. are the founding of a popular monotheism of Krishna-Vasudeva, its alliance with Sankhya-Yoga, the deification of the founder of the religion, and a deep religious sentiment on the basis of bhakti.
  • The Brahmanising of the religion, the identification of Krishna with Vishnu, and the pre-eminence of Vishnu, as not merely a great God but as the greatest of them all, belong to the second stage.
  • The third stage is the transformation of the Bhagavata religion into Vaishnavism and the incorporation of the elements of the philosophical schools of the Vedanta, the Samkhya and the Yoga. This process took place from the christian era till A.D. 1200.
  • The philosophic systematisation attempted by the great theologians Ramanuja was the last stage.
  • A sutra in Panini’s Astadhyayi refers to the worshippers of Vasudeva whom epic and puranic traditions describe as a hero of the Sattvata race.
  • The Chandogya Upanishad speaks of Krishna, the son of Devaki, a pupil of the sage Ghora Angirasa, who was a sun-worshipper priest.
  • Vasudeva-Krishna appears to have played the most dynamic role in the great Kuruksetra war, and helped in the establishment of righteousness after the destruction of impiety.
  • The large number of people who worshipped him exclusively as their personal God were at first known as Bhagavatas.
  • Bhagavatgita is the most popular treatise of Bhagavatism.
  • According to it, knowledge, action and devotion is the three paths which lead one to attain salvation or Nirvana.
  • The knowledge or gyana is the realisation by an individual that every soul is a part of the universal soul (parmatma).
  • No body can touch or perish a soul, soul never dies and soul neither feels pleasure nor pain.
  • Ignorance is more a spiritual blindness than an intellectual weakness which can be removed by karmayoga. 
  • The Gita suggest karma-marga as an easier alternative to attain salvation.
  • To regard oneself as the doer of actions and aspiring for their results is maya (illusion) which is the greatest obstruction in the attainment of Salvation by an individual.
  • The social aim of this doctrine is to contribute individual’s share in the improvement of the society.
  • According to Gita, the easiest path to attain salvation by an individual is bhakti or devotion to God.
  • Gita preaches that God gives next life to an individual according to one’s karmas or action in this life.
  • God takes birth when necessary: “whenever dharma (piety) waves and adharma (unrighteousness) spreads in the world, I take birth”.
  • The Indian version of the ‘Trinity’ came to be known as the Trimurti. It includes the Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
  • The first of these, Brahma was incorporated from the Vedic pantheon, in the later religion he came to be regarded as expression of the actual of creation, rather than as a separate God in his own right. Each of the three Gods reflected as it were the world as a whole.
  • The followers of Vishnu referred to him not only as the custodian of the universe but also as its creator and destroyer.
  • The main divinity, Vishnu, appears in the early texts under the name Narayana, who would appear to be the deity worshipped by the native tribes of northern India.
  • In the texts of the Brahmanas he is regarded as the mighty god and is even on occasion placed higher than the later Vedic god Prajapati, “the creator of the universe.”
  • Actually, the idea of Bhakti or devotion to God which is primary to Bhagvatism started with the Upanishad’s idea of worship.
  • The truly unique capacity of this branch of Hinduism to assimilate various local belief and ceremonies of worship are the causes of its enormous popularity in India.
  • The concept of vyaha and avataras helped a lot in that process. 
  • The evidence of the notion vyuha is that the all powerful God Narayana-Vishnu consistently reveals himself in four different forms; this led to an incorporation of several popular social gods within the concept of Vishnu.
  • Among these divinities was the figure of Vasudeva who became almost more important in later Vaishnavite literature than Narayana himself.
  • The worship of Vasudeva, and later of Vishnu came to embrace veneration of Sankarshana to whom farming tribes paid homage.
  • Another divinity Krishna who soon became popular, was also incorporated in Vaishnavism. 
  • The spread of Vasudeva worship in early Mauryan period is testified by the record of Magasthenes.
  • Vasudeva is described by Magasthenes as a heroic warrior and vanquisher of demons.
  • The worship of Vasudeva, according to Indian sources, was particularly popular in Mathura.
  • It can be assumed that the Greek writer was depicting that period of early Vaishnavism when Vasudeva was already deified but not yet equated with the figure of Krishna.
  • In the famous Helieodorous inscription of Besnagar (2nd Century B.C.) there is a mention of reverence of the ‘God of Gods’ Vasudeva and to judge by this inscription, the worship of Vasudeva was widespread not merely among Indians, but also among the Greeks inhabiting north-western India.
  • On the basis of other epigraphic evidence (1st century B.C.), it can be concluded that the cults of Vishnu, Narayana and Vasudeva merged together as one at about that time.
  • In the early centuries A.D. temples were already being made to the deities (Vishnu, Krishna etc), a characteristic feature of medieval Hinduism.
  • There is a reference for example to the temples built in honour of Sankarshana in the Arthashastra.
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