Religion in Later Vedic Period
The two outstanding Rig Vedic gods, Indra and Agni, lost their former importance. On the other hand Prajapati, the creator, came to occupy the supreme position in later Vedic pantheon. Rudra, the god of animals, became important in later Vedic times and Vishnu came to be conceived as the preserver and protector of the people. In addition, some symbolic objects began to be worshipped, and we notice signs of idolatry. Pushan, who was supposed to look after cattle, came to be regarded as the god to the sudras. Important female deities during the Later Vedic Age were: Usha (goddess of Dawn), Aditi (Mother of Gods), Prithvi (Earth Goddess), Aryani (Forest Goddess) and Saraswati (River deity). The mode of worship changed considerably. Prayers continued to be recited, but they ceased to be the dominant mode of placating the gods. Sacrifices became far more important, and they assumed both public and domestic character. The guest were known as the goghna or one who was fed on cattle. The priests who officiated at sacrifices were regarded generously and given dakshinas or gifts.
The Chief priests who were engaged in performing the sacrifices were:-
The Chief Priests received voluntary offering from the people called Bali
- Hotri: The invoker, he recited hymns from Rig Veda
- Adhvaryu: The executor, he recited hymns from Yajur Veda.
- Udgatri: The singer, he recited hymns from Sama Veda
| Important Vedic Rituals
- Rajasuya: The King's influence was strengthened by rituals. He performed this sacrifice, which was supposed to confer supreme power on him.
- Asvamedha: A King performed the Asvamedha, which meant unquestioned control over the area in which the royal horse ran uninterrupted. The ceremony laster for three days at the end of which horse sacrifice was performed.
- Vajapeya: A king performed the Vajpeya or the chariot race, in which the royal chariot was made to win the race against his kinsmen. The ritual lasted for seventeen days and was believed not only to restore the strength of the middle-aged king but also to elevate him from the position to raja of that of samrat
- Garbhadhana: A ceremony which is performed to promote conception in women
- Pumsayam: This ritual is performed to procure a male child
- Semontonayam: It is ritual performed to ensure the safety of the child in the womb.
- Jatkarma: It is a birth ceremony performed before the cutting of the umbilical cord.
- Culakarma: It is a ritual, also known as tonsure, performed for boys in their third year.
- Upanayana: It is an initiation ceremony to confor dvija(twice horn) status of boys of the higher varnas in their eight year.