However, that the gods were not entirely indifferent to man, but gave him their assistance, is proved among other things by the serious expiatory character which was not quite eliminated from the Vedic sacrifices.
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In their hands the sacrificial ceremonial, developed to the extremest detail, became an irresistible power over the gods.
A proverb says: "The sacrificer hunts Indra like game, and holds him fast as the fowler does the bird ; the god is a wheel which the singer understands how to turn." The gods derive their whole might and power from the sacrifice as the condition of their existence, so that the Brahmins are indispensable for their continued existence.
The symbol of Shiva is the phallus ( linga ); linga stones are indeed met throughout India (especially in the holy places) in extraordinary numbers.
The darker shades of this superstition, degenerated into fetichism, are somewhat relieved by the piety and elevation of many Hindu hymns or songs of praise ( stotras ), which surpass even the old Vedic hymns in religious feeling.
If the ancient Indian religion was essentially a religion of sacrifice, this religion of the ancient Persians may be described as a religion of observance.
Inasmuch as, in the old Avesta, the sacred book of the Persians, the war between the good god Ormuzd and the Devil ends eschatologically with the complete victory of the good god, we may designate the earliest Parseeism as Monotheism.
At first, instead of the sacrifice of the horse, human sacrifice seems to have been in vogue, so that here also the idea of substitution found expression.
For the later Indians had a saying: "At first the gods indeed accepted men as sacrificial victims.
Then the sacrificial efficacy passed from them to the horse. They accepted the horse, but the sacrificial efficacy went to the steer, sheep, goat, and finally to rice and barley: Thus for the instructed a sacrificial cake made of rice and barley is of the same value as these [five] animals" (cf.
Hardy, "Die vedisch-brahmanisehe Periode der Religion des alten Indiens", Münster, 1892, p. Modern Hinduism with its numberless sects honours Vishnu and Shiva as chief deities.
" The Vedic sacrificial prayers express no spirit of humility or submission; even the word "thank" is unknown in the Vedic language.