Indian Mythology

Vedic Culture

What were the stages of the development of Hindu mythology?

What we think of now as Hindu mythology, as it emerged from the early Indo-European culture in India, begins with the Vedic, or Samhita, period, which extends from about 1500 B.C.E. to about 900 B.C.E. and is notable for the production of collections (samhitas) of sacred scriptures known as the Vedas. Next came the Brahmanical and Aranyaka period from about 900 to about 600 B.C.E., during which time the Brahmanas (“Commentaries”) and Aranyakas (“Forest Texts”) were developed. Between about 800 and 400 B.C.E., the Upanishadic period, the early Upanishads (philosophical additions to the Vedas) were composed. The Epic Period extends from about 400 B.C.E. to about 400 C.E. This is the period of the gradual composition of the two great mythological epics, the Mahabharata, which, in addition to its primary story, contains the philosophical appendix, the Bhagavadgita, and the Rāmāyana. The Puranic Period is that of the Puranas, sacred texts dating from about 250 C.E. to about 1000 C.E. Hinduism and its mythology continued to develop in the Middle Ages and into modern times, with the emergence of various movements and forms such as Tantra, and various teachings of popular gurus, or swamis.

Hindu mythology can be thought of as a vast collection of complex and sometimes conflicting metaphors that developed over many centuries in an attempt to shed light on the meaning of the universe, the world, and life.


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