the libations offered to him to the gods. Though the fire altar is not clearly
mentioned in the Rig Veda, it is discussed in great detail in later Vedic texts.
Fire was worshipped in the fire altar, which also served as an oven in which
food was prepared for the gods.
It cannot be asserted that the fire altar was typical of the Harappan people.
Fire altars have not been found in the main sites of Harappa and
Mohenjodaro. However, there is mention of one from Amri in Baluchistan.
While its identity is questioned, its date has yet to be determined. Several
round and rectangular structures in Lothal have been termed fire altars by
Rao. Since most structures can be dated to around 1500 BC, even if they are
considered fire altars, the influence of Vedic contacts cannot be ruled out.
Seven structures found in Kalibangan are called fire altars because a more
suitable term is not available. However their excavator, B B Lal, does not
express this opinion clearly. Further, they seem to have appeared towards the
end of the Harappan settlement in Kalibangan around 1650 BC, and their
presence is also attributed to Vedic contacts.
The cult of soma, called haoma in Avestan language, was typical of both the
Vedic and Iranian people. It occupies an important place in Vedic rituals,
because having drunk soma, Indra is thought to have performed extraordinary
feats. The identification of the plant has been a subject of long debate. Recent
archaeological discoveries show that the earliest evidence of the soma cult
occurs in Turkmenia. The haoma or soma seems to have appeared around
1800 BC. Soma clearly appears in the form of haoma in the Zend—Avesta, but
its cult or the drink of soma does not appear in the western branch of Indo-
European communities. It is possible that the practice started among the pre-
Zoroaster people from whom the Avestan people adopted it. The cult of this
drink obviously came to India via Iran.
The Harappan and pre-Vedic people generally buried their dead. The
cremation practice first appears in Swat valley of the Indian subcontinent.
Cremation is amply attested to