[Advaita-l] Scholarly Article on Why Vedas are Valid

Kalyan K kalyankc.81 at gmail.com
Wed Nov 2 10:44:24 CDT 2011

Namaste Vidyasankar-ji,

Here is my long-delayed response to your post.

>We might be talking at cross purposes here. My point is not that there
>should be no temples for the vedic gods. My point is that we need not
>have an expectation of temple worship for indra, agni, vAyu, varuNa etc.

Why is that we should not have such an expectation? I do not think that
just because yajna is a mode of worship, we should not have such

In any case, I interpreted it as meaning that they should not have temples
since you mentioned that they were not supposed to be worshipped in

>My counter to that would be to suggest that we need to revisit what we
>mean by primary vedic gods and minor vedic gods.

Good point raised. I will tell my point of view below. In the meanwhile,
here are a few questions to ponder about -

1. Can you say that purusha is a major rig vedic god due to purusha sukta?
2. Can you really say that Indra and Agni are minor vedic gods?

>The popular gods of
>today have been the popular gods of yesterday and of the day before
>yesterday too, as far as I can see.

Here is a counter example - Shirdi Sai baba was not a popular god  (as he
did not exist) 150 years back. Today, he is very popular.

Even leaving the above example aside, if we talk of the vedic gods, we are
talking in the scale of thousands of years. So how can we assume that the
popular gods of today are the same as the popular gods of 1000 BCE (for

Also, I realized that I made a mistake earlier, by equating the "major
vedic gods" with the "popular gods of the vedic age". It is very much
possible that the popular gods in the vedic age were not the same as the
major vedic gods. Perhaps this could be because most of the inhabitants of
India at that time were not aware of the vedas, with the vedas being
restricted to only an elite few. If you believe that the pashupathi seal of
Harappan civilization is the same as Lord Shiva, then Shiva is probably the
oldest known god to receive worship in India. So there exists a possibility
that Shiva (and may be also Vishnu) were always popular (though it is also
possible that they became popular only at a later date). But does it mean
that they are the major vedic gods? (please see below)

>I could point out that the only god
>who is honored with a long nAmAvalI in the veda is rudra-Siva, whose
>worship remains widespread today, and that vishNu, who is equated
>with the yajna, continues to be worshipped today, both in big temples.

Certainly the status of Vishnu and Shiva increased (in the vedas) from the
early vedic to the later vedic ages. In Sathapatha brahmana we find that
Agni is the lowest among the gods and Vishnu is the highest one, with all
the others in between. However, you are saying the above, only with the
benefit of hindsight. The fact that Shiva has a namavali and Vishnu is
equated with yajna does in no way stand apart without the benefit of

>If you look at the AraNyaka and brAhmaNa literature, rather than
>accept an academic scholar's approach of counting number of hymns
>in the Rk-saMhitA, you will see that the deva-s you would think to be
>primary to the vedic world view are not so primary in terms of their
>worshipfulness. It is all a matter of what one's perspective is.

I am sorry but the Aranyaka and brahmana literature is mostly "later vedic
literature". I doubt if trying to understand the rig veda by using the
later vedic literature is a correct approach. And for that matter, even the
upanishads (for example) talk of the knowledge of brahman. It does not mean
that brahman was primary to the world view of Rig veda. I think it is
better to use the rig veda itself to try to understand it. In fact, even in
tradition, we (followers of sankara) consider upanishads as jnana kanda and
most of the rig veda samhita as karma kanda. So we are implicitly
acknowledging the internal differences in the vedic literature.

Now here is my point of view - I have no problem with counting hymns. What
is the problem with that? In fact, I think this is the most objective way
of assessing the relative importance of the gods in the rig veda. The
difference between rig veda and mahabharata is that the former is not a
story with characters, where as the latter is a story. In a story, we can
assess the importance of a character in a more straightforward way, without
resorting to counting. But in rig veda, such an approach is not possible.
So I completely endorse the method of counting.

>In the Mahabharata, for example, indra is
>the king of the deva-s, but just read the number of times a kshatriya
>hero either himself boasts or is praised by others as being the equal
>of or better than indra. What this indicates is that even as early as
>the time the epic was written, indra was not so much a god to be
>put on a pedestal and worshipped, but rather one who was to be
>emulated by kings, to be jealous of and to be rivalled. And that was
>indeed the age of great yajna-s like rAjasUya and aSvamedha, with
>the kings of the epic as their patrons.

It is well-known that by the epic period, Indra's importance as a god has
diminished drastically. A lot of water has flown in the ganga between the
rig vedic period and the epic period. So I doubt if we can use the above
information as the basis for judging the importance of Indra (as a god) in
the rig vedic period. Also, please note that the mahabharata explicitly and
repeatedly praises vishnu and shiva as the supreme gods. Vishnu, as
Krishna, is a main character in the epic and even though Shiva is not among
the main characters, he is always there in the background and he is
definitely treated as a supreme god. The question is whether the rig veda
does the same.

>The problem is that a minor fraction of people seem to know what
>anything is, when it comes to the veda!

May be this is because the vedas, even though they are held in high esteem,
do not reflect the popular religion? Just a thought.

>For example, you will not
>find a single traditional ritualist considering including Jehovah or Allah
>or Jesus, in spite of centuries of cultural and political contact with the
>votaries of those religions, but they have all along been open to the
>"folk deities" of the numerous groups that populate India.

Your point is correct. I think this is probably due to the exclusive nature
of these gods.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list