DONE BY FIONA CHIA AND KARISH KAUR
Aum Symbol in red
What are the main historical periods of Hinduism?
Hindus hold a belief that time goes around in loops, meaning that time is cyclical in a way or another; just imagine going about in circles, our experiences may be different throughout time, but the constant being time itself(this might be confusing, in simpler terms it means there is an endless cycle of beginning-end-beginning.) Hindu priests believe that time is eternal for Brahma, the creator of everything. Yes, we mean, everything. The birds, the bees, the flowers, the trees, anything, you name it, Brahma created it.
Unlike the common notion of time we use in our modern society, Hindus believe that our notion of time is limited and progressive. There are no one year marks in Hinduism, nor is there a final cataclysm. A door closes, another door opens. Which essentially means that when a chapter ends in our life, another new chapter begins.
God of creation Brahma
Here’s a rough timeline:
500 BCE- 500 CE: The Epic, Puranic and Classical Age
500 CE- 1500 CE: Medieval Period
The Vedas, Mahabharata and the Upanishads were the main perpetrators of ancient Hinduism writings. The Gods, Vishnu the preserver, Shiva the destroyer and remember good ol’ Brahma? Yes, he was the god of all creation. This period is particularly distinctive, for this was also when the Caste system was introduced into India’s society.
Firstly, let us introduce to you one of the Gods that were introduced to Hindus in early times, and it’s none other that Lord Shiva himself. In Shaivism, Shiva was believed to be the Supreme God, where the first concept of supreme being originating none other than from Hinduism itself, and pre-historic India attesting the first Supreme being as Shiva, which directly translates to “the supreme one”.
However, Shiva also went by another name, and that was Mahadeva, which….you guessed right! It means the Lord of all Lords, or rather, the God of all Gods. He also went by other names, also known as Maheshvara, the great Lord, Mahadeva, the great God, Shambhu, Hara, Pinakadhrik, bearer of the axe and Mrityunjaya, conqueror of death. He is the spouse of Shakti, the goddess. He also is represented by Mahakala and Bhairava, the terrible, as well as many other forms including Rudra.
During c.500 BCE to 500 CE , the idea of dharma (law, duty, truth) which is central to Hinduism was expressed in a genre of texts known as Dharma Sutras and Shastras. During this period the vedic fire sacrifice became minimised with the development of devotional worship (puja) to images of deities in temples. The rise of the Gupta Empire (320-500 CE) saw the development of the great traditions of Vaishnavism (focussed on Vishnu), Shaivism (focussed on Shiva) and Shaktism (focussed on Devi). From this period we can recognise many elements in present day Hinduism, such as bhakti (devotion) and temple worship. This period saw the development of poetic literature. These texts were composed in Sanskrit, which became the most important element in a shared culture. The Gupta Period was the age where education flourished, and classical Sanskrit literacy was introduced. The Gupta Society was ordered in accordance with the Hindu beliefs, allowing Hindus to practice their religion freely and introduce their gods to the non-believers, leading to the rise of the devotion to the Gods, Shiva, Vishnu and Devi.
Afterwhich, during the Medieval period, which was the 500 CE to 1500 CE, there was a newfound devotion towards different deities in Hinduism, and these deities were none other than Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. Shiva was relatively unknown in the Vedic period, as he was perceived as a god of anger, death and destruction. It was during this period that he gained popularity as a result of the coming together of different groups of people speaking different languages, and he was the common god that these diverse groups of people worshipped.
Whereas for Devi, the Devi Sukta of the Rigveda was a more commonly studied hymn by the people during this period,
As for Vishnu, he was one of the more important deities in Hinduism, even till today, there are temples erected in his name. He was known as the Supreme being in the Vaishnavism tradition, along with Shiva and Brahma, Vishnu forms the Holy Trinity, which is known as Trimurti. Vishnu is a Vedic deity, but not a prominent one when compared to Indra, Agni and others. Just 5 out of 1028 hymns of the Rigveda, a 2nd millennium BCE Hindu text, are dedicated to Vishnu, and he finds minor mention in the other hymns. Vishnu is mentioned in the Brahmana layer of text in the Vedas, thereafter his profile rises and over the history of Indian mythology, states Jan Gonda, Vishnu becomes a divinity of the highest rank, one equivalent to the Supreme Being. However, what was prominent in this particular age was that Hinduism underwent profound changes, aided in part by teachers such as Ramanuja, Madhva, and Chaitanya.Followers of the Bhakti movement moved away from the abstract concept of Brahman, which the philosopher Adi Shankara consolidated a few centuries before, with emotional, passionate devotion towards the more accessible Avatars, especially Krishna and Rama.
Conclusively, we have seen the rise in popularity in the race for the most famous God in these periods, but these three particular Gods are the gods that are still being widely worshipped in today’s society, and we still hear temples and statues being erected in their names. So who actually cares who becomes the most famous god, because god knows, these three made it out of the battle of the Gods shining, literally, in gold.
As such, we can see how hinduism has developed through the ages and is still relevant in society today.