THE VEDAS (c.1200 BCE onwards)

With the Vedas, the *Indo-European languages* make themselves at home in South Asia, as part of the *South Asian language scene*; a zoomable look at *Vedic India*
The earliest layers of the Vedas seem to locate themselves in the northern Punjab, near the Khyber Pass, after which the geographical references spread eastward along the Gangetic plain
A tribute to some of the less-commonly-portrayed Vedic deities
Indra, the single most important Vedic god, survives in a limited way here and there, mostly on the fringes
Agni, the other most important Vedic deity, is here seen crowned with flames, in an image from the medieval South Indian temple complex of Madurai
Mitra, though ignored today, not only had an Indo-Iranian following (with a cult in ancient Persia), but also became very popular as a Roman soldiers' god
Goddesses are not prominent in the Vedas; the famous Gayatri mantra has been personified into "Shri Gayatri-ji," but she remains quite obscure
Sarasvati, a minor Vedic river goddess, has now become the goddess of learning and knowledge
Surya or Vivasvan (the Shining One), the Sun God, has had a livelier career than most Vedic deities-- he has even been turned into a feminine sunflower
These three modern Madhubani paintings of Varuna, Agni, and Yama are carefully labeled (since the viewers might not recognize the deities otherwise), and represent a new, self-consciously "textualized" trend
The Vedic gods were also commonly used in much-later mythology to symbolically transfer powers to newer deities, and thus legitimate them
On the whole, in modern Hindu bhakti, or devotionalism, the Vedic gods are reduced to the status of minor godlings who perform limited tasks under the supervision of the post-Vedic major deities
Nowadays, the Vedic deities' ancient stories tend to be told, if they are told at all, in "Amar Chitra Katha" comics: here Indra and his consort Shachi both have two-armed and entirely human (super-hero and super-model) bodies.

Swami Dayanand Sarasvati founded the "Arya Samaj" in Bombay in 1875 as a specifically neo-Vedic organization
Some of the most remarkable claims about the Vedas are made nowadays by modern Indians trained in technical fields (engineering, in this case), but not in Vedic Sanskrit
The Indus Valley "Priest King" here reappears as a Vedic patriarch. According to some of the wilder modern claims, the ancient Aryans-- incredibly ancient, sometimes going back to 10,000 BCE or even further-- originated in India, and spread their civilization outward to all other peoples.

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