The reconciliation of Bhagavatism with orthodox Brahmanism not only
assured a permanent position to the former, but gave an altogether new turn
to the latter. Henceforth Bhagavatism, or as it may now be called by its more
popular name, Vaishnavism, formed, along with Saivism, the main plank of
the orthodox religion in its contest with Buddhism. It was mainly due to its
influence that the worship of images, unknown in the Vedic period, gradually
dominated the Brahmanical religion. The sacrificial ceremonies prescribed in
the Vedas no doubt survived, but gradually receded into the background.
Brahmanism acquired its characteristic form soon after the period of the
Upanishads (about 800 to 400 BC). Theoretically the Vedic religion forms its
basis, but in fact it is only one of the main factors in the long and ever
evolving cultural synthesis.
It is an aggregation of innumerable religious beliefs, of cults, of customs
and of rituals. It cannot be treated as a single religion, since it has no founder,
no single sacredotal order to institute set dogmas, and no central organisation.
The diverse beliefs and views stem from the meeting of different races
and cultures: these include the Deccan Neolithic (dating from about 2000 to
750 BC); the Dravidian, which contributed greatly to the development of the
later devotional cults; the tribal and aboriginal groups which constitute the
lowest stratum of society; and the Aryan culture.
From the interaction of the above groups arose a vast, uncoordinated
mass of new and continually changing religious beliefs and practices, some
being developed, others modified, and others almost disappearing. Anything
that has even a vestige of religious significance is never discarded and may
come again to the fore centuries later. Thus no single religious system can be
said to represent Brahmanism in its entirety.
Origin of Brahmanism
The worship of yaksas and nagas and other folkdeities constituted the most
important part of primitive religious beliefs. Both literary and archaeological