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By Olivia Johnston, Christina Ruse, Anna Sikorzynska, Hanna Mrozowska

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Extra resources for Opportunities: Global Elementary Language Powerbook NE (Opportunities)

Sample text

Lately some women activists have begun to give the janëu to young females too. Formally the newly initiated young Hindu would begin the first of the four stages of life, brahmacarya (studenthood),and stay with a teacher for twelve years. The ceremony itself is quite elaborate and retains many features of an ancient rite of passage that involved quite serious risks. Even liberal Hindu families usually have their boys undergo upanayana and continue wearing the sacred thread that marks them off as belonging to the dvı¯ja¯tis (the ‘twice-born’).

The R . gveda provided the mantras, the sacred formulas that were indispensable and unchangeable. The Yajurveda gave basic instruction concerning the ceremonies to be followed, the Sa¯maveda suggested the tunes for reciting the hymns, which were effective only if sung at the appropriate pitch. The Atharvaveda, which was recognized only later, contains a motley collection of spells and incantations, largely outside the scope of the yajña. If the ‘decoding’ of the R . gveda which Subhash Kale has suggested is correct, the text would contain a great deal of astronomical knowledge that was hidden away by the vedic teachers,such as distances of planets from the earth and from each other,their orbits and that of the earth.

Similarly, the orderly progress of the universe had to be kept in motion by sacrifices performed at crucial junctures: new moon and full moon, solstice and the beginning of a new solar year, eclipses and other unusual events. It was formerly the duty of kings to arrange for public sacrifices for the well-being of their people. While for many centuries public vedic sacrifices had almost completely ceased to Vedic ritual 43 be performed, they are apparently on the increase again. Usually under the patronage of rich merchants, groups of brahmins are frequently employed to build fire-altars according to vedic patterns and to perform sacrifices in keeping with age-old rituals.

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