IF there is one thing of which we can be proud of as Hindus, it is our freedom to think and to express. Which is why we have not ceased to change.
When the Aryans- opened their eyes to the wonders of the world, they loved what they saw. The world was real. “The world is the most beloved of all,” said the Atharva Veda. And the Rig Veda said: “There is no waiting for a world to come. We must be happy here and now.”
The world was thus the most enjoyable place to live in to the Aryans. They naturally began to worship Nature. They had no idea of a Supreme Being. The Rig Veda was unaware of sin, evil, Satan, of hell and heaven, of life after death, of immortality. It exhorted the Aryan to be “courageous and resolute.” In short, “to stand erect. ”
The Vedic Aryan was a lover of life, of drinks (soma) and long life. Ayushman Bhava-this was the Aryan way of greeting.
There was no temple or idol at this stage. Instead, the patriarch of the family lighted the sacrificial fire, poured libation (soma) on the fire and invoked the family gods for the family welfare. There was no priestly class in those days.
The patriarch was a practical man. He was a thriller, warrior and priest all at one time. There was no caste yet. The Aryans were not other-worldly. Even Vasishta, the Vedic sage, who sang of the great valour of the Aryan hero Sudas, accepted a reward of 200 cows, two chariots, four horses with gold trappings.
The Aryan did not distinguish himself in art (painting, sculpting), but excelled in Sanskrit, his language. He made it into a language of the gods.
The Aryans were a war-like people. The chief of their gods, Indra, was a warrior god. The Rig Veda hymn calls upon Indra to destroy the Dasyus. “We are surrounded on all sides by the Dasyus,” they complained why this animus? Because the Dasyus were different. The Rig Veda celebrated the victory of the Aryans over the Dasyus by incorporating several hymns in praise of the valour of the Aryans.
Did the Aryan come from outside India? This remains a perennial controversy. But Vivekananda says: “There is not one word in our scriptures, not one, to prove that the Aryans came from anywhere but India.” His argument was: if Aryans came from outside, they would have a lively memory of it, like the Jews remembered their Egyptian exile. But they had no such memory.
Should we then close the subject? No. That is not our say. The quest must continue for the final truth. In the meantime, we must go by the scientific evidence we have. Both molecular biology and population genetic are against the western theory of Aryan invasion. But Western indo-logists are reluctant to give up their pet belief that the west civilised the world.
The Aryans were notorious for two vices: for gambling and drinking. They could gamble away their brothers and even wives. As for their addiction to soma, it was a cause celebre. It broke up the Arayan family into two.
The Aryan was not opposed to wealth, but earned through worthy ways. And he was a proud man. “May I not have to live on the earning of others”-This was his constant plea to the gods. Which is why god Savitre says: “Delight in this wealth won by toil.”
Women enjoyed a very high status in Aryan society. Beauty, purity, suspiciousness – these were associated with women. Monogamy was the ideal. “May you two dwell here. Be not parted. Enjoy the full span of your life, sporting with sons and grandsons.” This was the benediction to newly married couples.
Dear Readers, when the Vedas were being written, the universe was beautiful and real to the Aryans. In a thousand years or so, it became a maya. Such was the measure of the change. It was a long way he traversed. On the way, the Aryans crossed many oases. Some chose to settle down at some oases. Others marched on. The quest of the Hindu must continue.
The Kshatriyas were not happy with the rituals of the priests. They took to speculation and produced hundreds of Upanishads.
The Aryan gave considerable importance to character. The Rig Veda exhorts the students to discuss matters among themselves so that “your mind comes to one accord.”
On meat eating, there is considerable controversy. I leave it to your judgement. Here are some facts: The Aryans used to sacrifice horses. (It has been the habit of all people to eat the sacrificed animal.) we know that Yajnavalkhya used to eat meat. And in the public lungar (kitchen) of Ashoka, meat was served, although the Emperor reduced the number of animals killed.
Dear Reader, it is up to you to live in any of the oases, but remember the Hindu is in a quest to know the final truth. We cannot give it up.