Vishnu is one of the principal deities of Hinduism, the Supreme Being or absolute truth in its Vaishnavism tradition. Vishnu is the "preserver" in the Hindu triad that includes Shiva. In Vaishnavism, Vishnu is identical to the formless metaphysical concept called Brahman, the supreme, the Svayam Bhagavan, who takes various avatars as "the preserver, protector" whenever the world is threatened with evil and destructive forces, his avatars most notably include Rama in the Krishna in the Mahabharata. He is known as Narayana, Vasudeva and Hari, he is one of the five equivalent deities worshipped in Panchayatana puja of the Smarta Tradition of Hinduism. In Hindu iconography, Vishnu is depicted as having a pale or dark blue complexion and having four arms, he holds a padma in his lower left hand, Kaumodaki gada in his lower right hand, Panchajanya shankha in his upper left hand and the Sudarshana Chakra in his upper right hand. A traditional depiction is Vishnu reclining on the coils of the serpent Shesha, accompanied by his consort Lakshmi, as he "dreams the universe into reality".
Yaska, the mid 1st-millennium BCE Vedanga scholar, in his Nirukta, defines Vishnu as viṣṇur viṣvater vā vyaśnoter vā, "one who enters everywhere". He writes, atha yad viṣito bhavati tad viṣnurbhavati, "that, free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu"; the medieval Indian scholar Medhātithi suggested that the word Vishnu has etymological roots in viś, meaning to pervade, thereby connoting that Vishnu is "one, everything and inside everything". Vishnu means "all pervasive". Vishnu is a Vedic deity, but not a prominent one when compared to Indra and others. Just 5 out of 1028 hymns of the Rigveda, a 2nd millennium BCE Hindu text, are dedicated to Vishnu, 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. Though a minor mention and with overlapping attributes in the Vedas, he has important characteristics in various hymns of Rig Veda, such as 1.154.5, 1.56.3 and 10.15.3.
In these hymns, the Vedic mythology asserts that Vishnu resides in that highest home where departed Atman reside, an assertion that may have been the reason for his increasing emphasis and popularity in Hindu soteriology. He is described in the Vedic literature as the one who supports heaven and earth. In the Vedic hymns, Vishnu is invoked alongside other deities Indra, whom he helps in killing the symbol of evil named Vritra, his distinguishing characteristic in Vedas is his association with light. Two Rigvedic hymns in Mandala 7 refer to Vishnu. In section 7.99 of the Rgveda, Vishnu is addressed as the god who separates heaven and earth, a characteristic he shares with Indra. In the Vedic texts, the deity or god referred to as Vishnu is Surya or Savitr, who bears the name Suryanarayana. Again, this link to Surya is a characteristic Vishnu shares with fellow Vedic deities named Mitra and Agni, where in different hymns, they too "bring men together" and cause all living beings to rise up and impel them to go about their daily activities.
In hymn 7.99 of Rigveda, Indra-Vishnu are equivalent and produce the sun, with the verses asserting that this sun is the source of all energy and light for all. In other hymns of the Rigveda, Vishnu is a close friend of Indra. Elsewhere in Rigveda and Upanishadic texts, Vishnu is equivalent to Prajapati, both are described as the protector and preparer of the womb, according to Klaus Klostermaier, this may be the root behind post-Vedic fusion of all the attributes of the Vedic Prajapati unto the avatars of Vishnu. In the Yajurveda, Taittiriya Aranyaka, Narayana sukta, Narayana is mentioned as the supreme being; the first verse of Narayana Suktam mentions the words paramam padam, which mean highest post and may be understood as the supreme abode for all souls. This is known as Param Dhama, Paramapadam or Vaikuntha. Rig Veda 1.22.20 mentions the same paramam padam. In the Atharvaveda, the mythology of a boar who raises goddess earth from the depths of cosmic ocean appears, but without the word Vishnu or his alternate avatar names.
In post-Vedic mythology, this legend becomes one of the basis of many cosmogonic myth called the Varaha legend, with Varaha as an avatar of Vishnu. Several hymns of the Rigveda repeat the mighty deed of Vishnu called the Trivikrama, one of the lasting mythologies in Hinduism since the Vedic times, it is an inspiration for ancient artwork in numerous Hindu temples such as at the Ellora Caves, which depict the Trivikrama legend through the Vamana avatar of Vishnu. Trivikrama refers to "three strides" of Vishnu. Starting as a small insignificant looking being, Vishnu undertakes a herculean task of establishing his reach and form with his first step covers the earth, with second the ether, the third entire heaven; the Vishnu Sukta 1.154 of Rigveda says that the first and second of Vishnu's strides are visible to the mortals and the third is the realm of the immortals. The Trivikrama describing hymns integrate salvific themes, stating Vishnu to symbolize that, freedom and life; the Shatapatha Brahmana elaborates this theme of Vishnu, as his herculean effort and sacrifice to create and gain powers that help others, one who realizes and defeats the evil symbolized by the Asuras after they had usurped the three worlds, thus Vishnu is the savior of the mortals and
Tantras refers to numerous and varied scriptures pertaining to any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. The religious culture of the Tantras is Hindu, Buddhist Tantric material can be shown to have been derived from Hindu sources, and although Hindu and Buddhist Tantra have many similarities from the outside, they do have some clear distinctions. The rest of this article deals with Hindu Tantra. Buddhist Tantra is described in the article on Vajrayana; the word tantra is made up by the joining of two Sanskrit words: rayati. Tantra means liberation of expansion of consciousness from its gross form, it is a method to expand the mind and liberate the dormant potential energy, its principles form the basis of all yogic practices. Hence, the Hindu Tantra scriptures refer to techniques for achieving a result; the Hindu Tantras total ninety-two scriptures. The latter two are used by the Śaiva Siddhāntins, thus are sometimes referred to as Shaiva Siddhanta Tantras, or Śaiva Siddhānta Āgamas.
In the Nāth Tradition, legend ascribes the origin of Tantra to Dattatreya, a semi-mythological yogi and the assumed author of the Jivanmukta Gita. Matsyendranath is credited with authorship of the Kaulajñāna-nirnāya, a voluminous ninth-century tantra dealing with a host of mystical and magical subjects; this work occupies an important position in the Hindu tantric lineage, as well as in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. In contradistinction to the Vaidik ritual, traditionally performed out-of-doors without any idols nor emblems, the Tantrik ritual is a matter of temples and idols; the Tantras are descriptions and specifications for the construction and maintenance of temple-structures together with their enclosed idols and lingas—an example of type of text is the Ajita Māhātantra. Another function was the conservation as state-secrets of texts for use by royalty to maintain their authority through rituals directed to deities controlling the political affairs-of-state—an example of this is the Śārada-tilaka Tantra.
Tantric texts are associated with a particular tradition and deity. The different types of Tantric literature are tantra, Āgama, saṃhitā, sūtra, upaniṣad, purāṇa, tīkā, prakaraṇa, paddhati texts, kavaca, nighaṇṭu, koṣa and hagiographical literature, they are written in regional languages. The major textual Tantra traditions with some key exemplary texts is as follows: Śaiva – Sadaśiva, Vāma or Tumburu, Dakṣiṇa or Bhairava Kularnava Tantra Amṛteṣaṭantra or Netratantra Netragyanarṇava tantra Niḥśvāsatattvasaṃhitā Kālottārā tantra Sarvajñānottārā Ṣaivāgamas Raudrāgamas Bhairavāgamas Vāma Āgamas Dakṣiṇāgamas Śivaśakti traditions – Yāmala Brahma yāmala Rudra yāmala Skanda yāmala Viṣṇu yāmala Yama yāmala Yāyu yāmala Kubera yāmala Indra yāmala Śākta – Kālī traditions, Śrīkula tradition Shakta Agamas Muṇḍamālātantra Toḍalatantra Cāmuṇḍatantra Devīyāmala Mādhavakula Yonigahavara, Kālīkulārṇava tantra Kaṇkālamālinī tantra Jhaṃkārakaravīra, Mahākālasaṃhitā Kālī tantra Kālajñāna tantra Kumārī tantra Toḍala tantra Siddhalaharī tantra Niruttārā tantra Kālīvilāsa tantra Utpatti tantra Kāmadhenu tantra Nirvāṇa tantra Kāmākhyā tantra Tārā tantra Kaula tantra Matsya Sūkta / Tārā Kalpa Samayā tantra Vāmakeshvara tantra Tantrajā tantra Yoginī tantra Kula - Kulamārga and Other tantras Kulārṇava tantra Mahānirvāṇa tantra Kulacūḍāmaṇitantra Kulārṇavatantra Guptasādhanatantra Mātṛkābhedatantra.
Vaiṣṇava – Vaikhanasas, bhakti-oriented tantras of Kṛṣṇa and Rāma Pāñcarātra saṃhitā texts Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitā Jayākhya saṃhitā Pārameśvara saṃhitā Pauśkara saṃhitā Pādma saṃhitā Nāradīya saṃhitā Haṃsaparameśvara saṃhitā Vaihāyasa saṃhitā Śrīkālapraā saṃhitā Vaikhānasa Āgamas Gautamīya tantra Bṛhadbrahmasaṃhitā Māheśvaratantra Sātvatatantra Rādhātantra Agastyasaṃhitā and Dāśarathīyatantra Īśānasaṃhitā and Ūrdhvāṃnāyasaṃhitā Mantra-śāstra - textbooks on Mantras, metaphysics of mantric sound, related practices and rituals Prapañcasāra tantra and its commentaries and Ṭīkās Śāradatilaka tantra by Lakṣmaṇa Deśikendra Mantramuktāvali of Paramahaṃsa Pūrṇaprakāśa Mantramahodadhi of Mahīdhara Mantradevaprakāśikā of Viṣṇudeva Mantrakamalākara of Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa Mantraratnākara of Yadunātha Cakravartin Mantramahārṇava of Mādhava Rāya Vaidya Tantrasāra of Kṛṣṇānanda āgamvāgiśa Nibandha - handbooks on ritual worship and puja Kriyākalpataru of śaktinātha Kalyānakara Kaulāvalīnirṇaya of Jñānānandagiri Paramahaṃsa śāktanandataraṃgiṇī of Brahmānanda Giri śāktakrama of Pūrṇānanda śrītattvacintāmaṇi of Pūrṇānanda āgamakalpadruma of Govinda āgamakalpalatikā of Yadunātha āgamatattvavilāsa of Raghunātha Tarkavāgīśa, āgamachandrikā of Rāmakṛṣṇa Tantrachintāmaṇi of Navamīsiṃha Prāṇatoṣiṇī of Rāmatoṣaṇa Vidyālaṃkāra Śhivarahasya Śaivakalpadruma Saura Tantras Ganapatya Tantras Others – supernatural, astrology, etc.
Most Hindu Tantras remain untranslated. One translated exception is the Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra, which according to Christopher Wallis, is atypical of most Tantric scriptures. Sir John Woodroffe translated the Tantra of the Great Liberation into English along with other Tantric texts. Other tantras which have b
Hanyu Pinyin abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, written using Chinese characters; the system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters; the pinyin system was developed in the 1950s by many linguists, including Zhou Youguang, based on earlier forms of romanizations of Chinese. It was published by revised several times; the International Organization for Standardization adopted pinyin as an international standard in 1982, was followed by the United Nations in 1986. The system was adopted as the official standard in Taiwan in 2009, where it is used for international events rather than for educational or computer-input purposes, but "some cities and organizations, notably in the south of Taiwan, did not accept this", so it remains one of several rival romanization systems in use.
The word Hànyǔ means'the spoken language of the Han people', while Pīnyīn means'spelled sounds'. In 1605, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci published Xizi Qiji in Beijing; this was the first book to use the Roman alphabet to write the Chinese language. Twenty years another Jesuit in China, Nicolas Trigault, issued his Xi Ru Ermu Zi at Hangzhou. Neither book had much immediate impact on the way in which Chinese thought about their writing system, the romanizations they described were intended more for Westerners than for the Chinese. One of the earliest Chinese thinkers to relate Western alphabets to Chinese was late Ming to early Qing dynasty scholar-official, Fang Yizhi; the first late Qing reformer to propose that China adopt a system of spelling was Song Shu. A student of the great scholars Yu Yue and Zhang Taiyan, Song had been to Japan and observed the stunning effect of the kana syllabaries and Western learning there; this galvanized him into activity on a number of fronts, one of the most important being reform of the script.
While Song did not himself create a system for spelling Sinitic languages, his discussion proved fertile and led to a proliferation of schemes for phonetic scripts. The Wade–Giles system was produced by Thomas Wade in 1859, further improved by Herbert Giles in the Chinese–English Dictionary of 1892, it was popular and used in English-language publications outside China until 1979. In the early 1930s, Communist Party of China leaders trained in Moscow introduced a phonetic alphabet using Roman letters, developed in the Soviet Oriental Institute of Leningrad and was intended to improve literacy in the Russian Far East; this Sin Wenz or "New Writing" was much more linguistically sophisticated than earlier alphabets, but with the major exception that it did not indicate tones of Chinese. In 1940, several thousand members attended a Border Region Sin Wenz Society convention. Mao Zedong and Zhu De, head of the army, both contributed their calligraphy for the masthead of the Sin Wenz Society's new journal.
Outside the CCP, other prominent supporters included Sun Fo. Over thirty journals soon appeared written in Sin Wenz, plus large numbers of translations, some contemporary Chinese literature, a spectrum of textbooks. In 1940, the movement reached an apex when Mao's Border Region Government declared that the Sin Wenz had the same legal status as traditional characters in government and public documents. Many educators and political leaders looked forward to the day when they would be universally accepted and replace Chinese characters. Opposition arose, because the system was less well adapted to writing regional languages, therefore would require learning Mandarin. Sin Wenz fell into relative disuse during the following years. In 1943, the U. S. military engaged Yale University to develop a romanization of Mandarin Chinese for its pilots flying over China. The resulting system is close to pinyin, but does not use English letters in unfamiliar ways. Medial semivowels are written with y and w, apical vowels with r or z.
Accent marks are used to indicate tone. Pinyin was created by Chinese linguists, including Zhou Youguang, as part of a Chinese government project in the 1950s. Zhou is called "the father of pinyin," Zhou worked as a banker in New York when he decided to return to China to help rebuild the country after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, he became an economics professor in Shanghai, in 1955, when China's Ministry of Education created a Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language, Premier Zhou Enlai assigned Zhou Youguang the task of developing a new romanization system, despite the fact that he was not a professional linguist. Hanyu Pinyin was based on several existing systems: Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz of 1931, the diacritic markings from zhuyin. "I'm not the father of pinyin," Zhou said years later. It's a lo
Gautama Buddha known as Siddhārtha Gautama in Sanskrit or Siddhattha Gotama in Pali, Shakyamuni Buddha, or the Buddha, after the title of Buddha, was a monk, sage, philosopher and religious leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught in the northeastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Gautama taught a Middle Way between sensual indulgence and the severe asceticism found in the śramaṇa movement common in his region, he taught throughout other regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kosala. Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, he is believed by Buddhists to be an enlightened teacher who attained full Buddhahood and shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering. Accounts of his life and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarised after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about 400 years later.
Scholars are hesitant to make unqualified claims about the historical facts of the Buddha's life. Most people accept that the Buddha lived and founded a monastic order during the Mahajanapada era during the reign of Bimbisara, the ruler of the Magadha empire, died during the early years of the reign of Ajatasatru, the successor of Bimbisara, thus making him a younger contemporary of Mahavira, the Jain tirthankara. While the general sequence of "birth, renunciation, search and liberation, death" is accepted, there is less consensus on the veracity of many details contained in traditional biographies; the times of Gautama's birth and death are uncertain. Most historians in the early 20th century dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE. More his death is dated between 411 and 400 BCE, while at a symposium on this question held in 1988, the majority of those who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death; these alternative chronologies, have not been accepted by all historians.
The evidence of the early texts suggests that Siddhārtha Gautama was born into the Shakya clan, a community, on the periphery, both geographically and culturally, of the eastern Indian subcontinent in the 5th century BCE. One of his usual names was "Sakamuni" or "Sakyamunī", it was either a small republic, or an oligarchy, his father was an elected chieftain, or oligarch. According to the Buddhist tradition, Gautama was born in Lumbini, now in modern-day Nepal, raised in the Shakya capital of Kapilvastu, which may have been either in what is present day Tilaurakot, Nepal or Piprahwa, India. According to Buddhist tradition, he obtained his enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, gave his first sermon in Sarnath, died in Kushinagar. Apart from the Vedic Brahmins, the Buddha's lifetime coincided with the flourishing of influential Śramaṇa schools of thought like Ājīvika, Cārvāka, Ajñana. Brahmajala Sutta records sixty-two such schools of thought. In this context, a śramaṇa refers to one who toils, or exerts themselves.
It was the age of influential thinkers like Mahavira, Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambalī, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, as recorded in Samaññaphala Sutta, whose viewpoints the Buddha most must have been acquainted with. Indeed and Moggallāna, two of the foremost disciples of the Buddha, were the foremost disciples of Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, the sceptic. There is philological evidence to suggest that the two masters, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, were indeed historical figures and they most taught Buddha two different forms of meditative techniques. Thus, Buddha was just one of the many śramaṇa philosophers of that time. In an era where holiness of person was judged by their level of asceticism, Buddha was a reformist within the śramaṇa movement, rather than a reactionary against Vedic Brahminism; the life of the Buddha coincided with the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley during the rule of Darius I from about 517/516 BCE. This Achaemenid occupation of the areas of Gandhara and Sindh, to last for about two centuries, was accompanied by the introduction of Achaemenid religions, reformed Mazdaism or early Zoroastrianism, to which Buddhism might have in part reacted.
In particular, the ideas of the Buddha may have consisted of a rejection of the "absolutist" or "perfectionist" ideas contained in these Achaemenid religions. No written records about Gautama were found from his lifetime or from the one or two centuries thereafter. In the middle of the 3rd century BCE, several Edicts of Ashoka mention the Buddha, Ashoka's Rummindei Minor Pillar Edict commemorates the Emperor's pilgrimage to Lumbini as the Buddha's birthplace. Another one of his edicts mentions the titles of several Dhamma texts, establishing the existence of a written Buddhist tradition at least by the time of the Maurya era; these texts may be the precursor of the Pāli Canon. "Sakamuni" in mentioned in the reliefs of Bharhut, dated to circa 100 BCE, in relation with his illumination and the Bodhi tree, with the inscription Bhagavato Sakamunino Bodho. The oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts are the Gandhāran Buddhist texts, repor
The samudra manthana is one of the best-known episodes in the Hindu philosophy narrated in the Bhagavata Purana, in the Mahabharata and in the Vishnu Purana. The samudra manthana explains the origin of the nectar of immortality. Sāgara manthana - Sāgara is another word for Samudra, both meaning an ocean or large water body. Kshirasāgara manthana - Kshirasāgara means the ocean of milk. Kshirasāgara = Kshira + Sāgara. Indra, the King of Svarga, while riding on the elephant Airavata, came across Sage Durvasa who offered him a special garland given to him by Shiva. Indra accepted the gift and placed it on the trunk of the elephant as a test to prove that he was not an egoistic deva; the elephant, threw the garland on the ground. This enraged the sage as the garland was a dwelling of Sri and was to be treated as a prasada or religious offering. Durvasa cursed Indra and all devas to be bereft of all strength and fortune. In battles following the incident, the Devas were defeated and the Asuras, led by Bali, gained control over the universe.
The Devas sought Vishnu's help. The Devas formed an alliance with the Asuras to jointly churn the ocean for the nectar of immortality and to share it among themselves. However, Vishnu told the Devas; the churning of the Ocean of Milk was an elaborate process: Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod, Vasuki, a nāgarāja who abides on Shiva's neck, became the churning rope. The Asuras demanded to hold the head of the snake, while the Devas, taking advice from Vishnu, agreed to hold its tail; as a result, the Asuras were poisoned by fumes emitted by Vasuki. Despite this, the Devas and the Asuras pulled back and forth on the snake's body alternately, causing the mountain to rotate, which in turn churned the ocean; when the mountain was placed on the ocean, it began to sink. Vishnu, in the form of the Kurma turtle, came to their rescue and supported the mountain on his shell; the Samudra Manthana process released a number of things from the Ocean of Milk. One was the lethal poison known as Halahala, which in some versions of the story, escaped from the mouth of the serpent king as the demons and gods churned.
This terrified the gods and demons because the poison was so powerful that it could destroy all of creation. The gods approached Shiva for protection. Shiva consumed the poison to protect the three worlds but it burned the throat of shiva; as a result, his throat was hence called Neelakantha. All kinds of herbs were cast into the ocean and fourteen Ratnas were produced from it and were divided between the Asuras and the Devas. Though the Ratnas are enumerated as 14, the list in the scriptures ranges from 9 to 14 Ratnas. Most lists include: According to the quality of the treasures produced, they were accepted by Shiva, Maha rishi's, or Surabhi, given by Vishnu, the Devas and the Asuras. There were three categories of Goddesses. Apsaras: various divine nymphs like Rambha, Punjisthala etc. who chose the Gandharvas as their companions. Varuni: taken - somewhat reluctantly - accepted the Asuras. Threetypes of supernatural animals appeared: Kamadhenu or Surabhi: the wish-granting cow, taken by Brahma and given to the sages so that the ghee from her milk could be used for Yajna and similar rituals.
Airavata and several other elephants, taken by Indra. Uchhaishravas: the divine seven-headed horse, given to Bali. Three valuables were produced: Kaustubha: the most valuable ratnam in the world, worn by Vishnu. Parijat: the divine flowering tree with blossoms that never fade or wilt, taken to Indraloka by the Devas. Sharanga: a powerful bow, symbolic of the Asuras' belligerence. Additionally produced were. Dhanvantari: the Vaidya of the Devas' with Amrita, the nectar of immortality. Halahala: the poison swallowed by Shiva; this list varies from Purana to Purana and is slightly different in the epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Lists are completed by adding the following Ratna: Shankha: Vishnu's conch Jyestha: the goddess of misfortune The umbrella taken by Varuna The earrings given to Aditi, by her son Indra Kalpavriksha plant Nidra or sloth Finally, the heavenly physician, emerged with a pot containing the amṛta, the heavenly nectar of immortality. Fierce fighting ensued between the Devas and the Asuras for it.
To protect it from the Asuras, Garuda flew away from the battlefield. The Devas appealed to Vishnu, who took the form of Mohini and, as a beautiful and enchanting damsel, distracted the Asuras. An asura drank some nectar. Due to their luminous nature, the sun deva Surya and the moon deva Chandra noticed the switching of sides, they informed Mohini who, before the nectar could pass the asura's throat, cut off his head with her discus, the Sudarshana Chakra. However, some of the nectar had managed to get down his throat and he did not die: from that day, his head was called Rahu and his body Ketu, which both became planets; the story ends with the rejuvenated devas defeating the asuras. The med
Homa is a Sanskrit word that refers to a ritual, wherein an oblation or any religious offering is made into fire. A homa is sometimes called a "sacrifice ritual" because the fire destroys the offering, but a homa is more a "votive ritual"; the fire is the agent, the offerings include those that are material and symbolic such as grains, clarified butter, milk and seeds. It is rooted in the Vedic religion, was adopted in ancient times by Buddhism and Jainism; the practice spread from India to East Asia and Southeast Asia. Homa rituals remain an important part of many Hindu ceremonies, variations of homa continue to be practiced in current-day Buddhism in parts of Tibet and Japan, it is found in modern Jainism. A homa ritual is known by alternative names, such as yajna in Hinduism which sometimes means larger public fire rituals, or jajnavidhana or goma in Buddhism. In modern times, a homa or havana tends to be a private ritual around a symbolic fire, such as those observed at a wedding; the Sanskrit word homa is from the root hu, which refers to "pouring into fire, sacrifice".
Homa traditions are found all across Asia, over a 3000-year history. A homa, in all its Asian variations, is a ceremonial ritual that offers food to fire and is linked to the traditions contained in the Vedic religion; the tradition reflects a reverence for fire and cooked food that developed in Asia, the Brahmana layers of the Vedas are the earliest records of this ritual reverence. The yajñā or fire sacrifice became a distinct feature of the early śruti rituals. A śrauta ritual is a form of quid pro quo where through the fire ritual, a sacrificer offered something to the gods and goddesses, the sacrificer expected something in return; the Vedic ritual consisted of sacrificial offerings of something edible or drinkable, such as milk, clarified butter, rice, barley, an animal, or anything of value, offered to the gods with the assistance of fire priests. This Vedic tradition split into Smarta; the homa ritual practices were observed by different Buddhist and Jaina traditions, states Phyllis Granoff, with their texts appropriating the "ritual eclecticism" of Hindu traditions, albeit with variations that evolved through medieval times.
The homa-style Vedic sacrifice ritual, states Musashi Tachikawa, was absorbed into Mahayana Buddhism and homa rituals continue to be performed in some Buddhist traditions in Tibet and Japan. The homa ritual grammar is common to many sanskara ceremonies in various Hindu traditions; the Vedic fire ritual, at the core of various homa ritual variations in Hinduism, is a "bilaterally symmetrical" structure of a rite. It combines fire and water, burnt offerings and soma, fire as masculine and water as feminine, the fire vertical and reaching upwards, while the altar and liquids being horizontal; the homa ritual's altar is itself a symmetry, most a square, a design principle, at the heart of temples and mandapas in Indian religions. The sequence of homa ritual events from beginning to end, are structured around the principles of symmetry; the forms and means of offerings, states Michael Witzel, are symbol of the masculine and feminine, such as ghee offered into the fire from a ladle ritually shaped in form of a yoni.
The fire-altar is made of brick or stone or a copper vessel, is always built for the occasion, being dismantled afterwards. This fire-altar is invariably built in square shape. While large vedis are built for major public homas, the usual altar may be as small as 1 × 1 foot square and exceeds 3 × 3 feet square. A ritual space of homa, the altar is movable; the first step in a homa ritual is the construction of the ritual enclosure, the last step is its deconstruction. The altar and mandapa is consecrated by a priest, creating a sacred space for the ritual ceremony, with recitation of mantras. With hymns sung, the fire is started, offerings collected; the sacrificer enters, symbolically cleanses himself or herself, with water, joins the homa ritual, gods invited, prayers recited, conch shell blown. The sacrificers pour offerings and libations with hymns sung, to the sounds of svaha; the oblations and offerings consist of clarified butter, curd, saffron, coconut, perfumed water, seeds and herbs. The altar and the ritual is a symbolic representation of the Hindu cosmology, a link between reality and the worlds of gods and living beings.
The ritual is a symmetric exchange, a "quid pro quo", where humans offer something to the gods through the medium of fire, in return expect that the gods will reciprocate with strength and that which they have power to influence. The homa ritual of consecrated fire is found in some Buddhist traditions of Tibet and Japan, its roots are the Vedic ritual, it evokes Buddhist deities, is performed by qualified Buddhist priests. In Chinese translations of Buddhist texts such as Kutadanta Sutta and Suttanipata, dated to be from the 6th to 8th century, the Vedic homa practice is attributed to Buddha's endorsement along with the claim that Buddha was the original teacher of the Vedas in his previous lives. In some Buddhist homa traditions, such as in Japan, the central deity invoked in this ritual is Acalanātha. Acalanātha is another name for the god Rudra in the Vedic tradition, for Vajrapani or Chakdor in Tibetan traditions, of Sotshirvani in Siber
Indian religions, sometimes termed as Dharmic faiths or religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. These religions are all classified as Eastern religions. Although Indian religions are connected through the history of India, they constitute a wide range of religious communities, are not confined to the Indian subcontinent. Evidence attesting to prehistoric religion in the Indian subcontinent derives from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings; the Harappan people of the Indus Valley Civilisation, which lasted from 3300 to 1300 BCE, had an early urbanized culture which predates the Vedic religion. The documented history of Indian religions begins with the historical Vedic religion, the religious practices of the early Indo-Iranians, which were collected and redacted into the Vedas; the period of the composition and commentary of these texts is known as the Vedic period, which lasted from 1750–500 BCE. The philosophical portions of the Vedas were summarized in Upanishads, which are referred to as Vedānta, variously interpreted to mean either the "last chapters, parts of the Veda" or "the object, the highest purpose of the Veda".
The early Upanishads all predate the Common Era, five of the eleven principal Upanishads were composed in all likelihood before 6th century BCE, contain the earliest mentions of Yoga and Moksha. The Reform or Shramanic Period between 800–200 BCE marks a "turning point between the Vedic Hinduism and Puranic Hinduism"; the Shramana movement, an ancient Indian religious movement parallel to but separate from Vedic tradition defied many of the Vedic and Upanishadic concepts of soul and the ultimate reality. In 6th century BCE, the Shramnic movement matured into Jainism and Buddhism and was responsible for the schism of Indian religions into two main philosophical branches of astika, which venerates Veda and nastika. However, both branches shared the related concepts of saṃsāra and moksha; the Puranic Period and Early Medieval period gave rise to new configurations of Hinduism bhakti and Shaivism, Vaishnavism and much smaller groups like the conservative Shrauta. The early Islamic period gave rise to new movements.
Sikhism was founded in the 15th century on the teachings of Guru Nanak and the nine successive Sikh Gurus in Northern India. The vast majority of its adherents originate in the Punjab region. With the colonial dominance of the British a reinterpretation and synthesis of Hinduism arose, which aided the Indian independence movement. James Mill, in his The History of British India, distinguished three phases in the history of India, namely Hindu and British civilisations; this periodisation has been criticised, for the misconceptions. Another periodisation is the division into "ancient, classical and modern periods", although this periodization has received criticism. Romila Thapar notes that the division of Hindu-Muslim-British periods of Indian history gives too much weight to "ruling dynasties and foreign invasions," neglecting the social-economic history which showed a strong continuity; the division in Ancient-Medieval-Modern overlooks the fact that the Muslim-conquests took place between the eight and the fourteenth century, while the south was never conquered.
According to Thapar, a periodisation could be based on "significant social and economic changes," which are not related to a change of ruling powers. Smart and Michaels seem to follow Mill's periodisation, while Flood and Muesse follow the "ancient, classical and modern periods" periodisation. An elaborate periodisation may be as follows: Indian pre-history including Indus Valley Civilisation. Evidence attesting to prehistoric religion in the Indian subcontinent derives from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings such as at Bhimbetka, depicting dances and rituals. Neolithic agriculturalists inhabiting the Indus River Valley buried their dead in a manner suggestive of spiritual practices that incorporated notions of an afterlife and belief in magic. Other South Asian Stone Age sites, such as the Bhimbetka rock shelters in central Madhya Pradesh and the Kupgal petroglyphs of eastern Karnataka, contain rock art portraying religious rites and evidence of possible ritualised music; the religion and belief system of the Indus valley people have received considerable attention from the view of identifying precursors to deities and religious practices of Indian religions that developed in the area.
However, due to the sparsity of evidence, open to varying interpretations, the fact that the Indus script remains undeciphered, the conclusions are speculative and based on a retrospective view from a much Hindu perspective. An early and influential work in the area that set the trend for Hindu interpretations of archaeological evidence from the Harrapan sites was that of John Marshall, who in 1931 identified the following as prominent features of the Indus religion: a Great Male God and a Mother Goddess.