The late Vedic age saw the compilation of the two great
ITHIHASAS (epics), the RAMAYANA and the MAHABHARATA. The legends of both which Ramayana and Mahabharata
consist have come down, by tradition, from the earliest period of the Vedic age.
The stories of these epics are secular in nature but they not only describe the
feats of their heroes but also refer to the influence that the gods had on their
exploits. Thus the stories of the gods were supplemented
and expanded as they were woven into the narratives and the heroes themselves
got assimilated into Indian popular religion and became deified.
Further development of the Indian society brought about changes in religious
concepts and an increase in the size of the pantheon. This grew by a process
of absorption and combination, adopting popular deities into a sophisticated
and well-developed assembly and merging several deities into one. Thus the minor
Vedic deity Vishnu was identified with Vasudeva and another epic hero Krishna.
|BRAHMA - VISHNU - MAHESHA
THE HINDU TRINITY
Later, Krishna himself got assimilated with a pastoral flute-playing deity and
became the subjects of many poems and legends. At the same time, an
ancient fertility god, Shiva, was elevated to the higher ranks of the pantheon and became an important
deity with a variety of forms that gave him popularity equal to that of Vishnu.
Shiva and Vishnu were visualized as forming a triad with
Eventually the traditional legends, myths and tales were incorporated into the
PURANAS summing up all that was to be known about the gods. The word PURANA means "old" and
the Puranas wove same historical legends and mythological fictions as the VEDAS
and ITHISASAS. But they give a more definite and connected representation of
the cosmogony and mysticism of these poems, and they expand and systematize their
chronological computations and genealogies. They reduce the formless and fleeting
religious conceptions of the Vedas and the popular family traditions of the Ithihasas
to a fixed body of definite mythology.
The popular heroes of the Vedic age were transformed into Gods and the shadowy
gods of the Vedas gradually took the positive forms under which they appear in
the Puranas and have been worshipped since. In the Puranas the gods assumed a
substantial shape and individual character. The sacrificial rites and observances
of the worship of the gods, for the first time were given a paramount place.
The concept of TRIMURTI - the PURANIC
GODS - emerged and gained importance over
the centuries. BRAHMA the Creator, VISHNU the preserver and SHIVA or MAHESHA
the destroyer came to denote the three characteristics of GOD - Generator, Operator
and Destructor and the basis of the HINDU TRINITY.