involved the killing of animals on a large scale and were accompanied by
formulae meant to be pronounced carefully by the sacrificer.
In both periods people worshipped gods for material benefits and not for
In addition to the simplest form of soma sacrifice, grand sacrifices, called
sattras, were performed. These grand sacrifices were elaborately developed
and systematised, and for this, a regular science of sacrifice has now been
evolved. Priesthood became a profession and a hereditary one. The yajamana
(sacrificer) had practically nothing to do but to give liberal fees to these
priests. A formidable array of priests, divided into four groups headed by four
chief priests, was required for the correct performance of the extremely
complicated and elaborate ritual. The chief priests were hotri (the invoker),
udgatri (the chanter), adhvaryu (the performer) and brahmin (the supervisor).
There was a lot of emphasis on rituals and sacrifices. This type of
excessive ritualism produced a natural reaction in the form of Sramana
religion, which protested against the divine origin of the Vedas and efficacy
of the sacrifices. The origin of Sramana religion seems to have influenced the
authors of the Aranyakas and the Upanishads who turned away from the
useless ritual to true knowledge (jnana) for peace and salvation. These
Sramanas were recruited from all people irrespective of caste and creed.
Their teachers were anti-Vedic and anti-Brahmanic and they challenged
Vedic learning and Vedic rituals. Yajnavalkya is known to be the first thinker
to have called attention to Sramanas (recluses). These were also known as
titthiyas or tirthankaras. They led a celibate life, and are said to have
possessed paranormal powers. Even the Ajivikas were known as Sramanas.
Before Gosala there were two Ajivika leaders namely, Nandavachchha and
Kisasankichchha who were also regarded as tirthankars.
The Sramana movement seems to have opened the eyes of some of the
Vedic thinkers who felt the great necessity of reforming the Vedic religion.
They adopted the good aspects of the Sramana religion and at the same time
tried to remove the evils of sacrifices, rituals, casteism, and the like, from the
Vedic religion. This reformed Vedic religion is known from the Aranyakas
and the Upanishads.
The Aranyakas stressed the efficacy of the inner or mental sacrifice as
distinguished from the outer or