9 Vedas through the Passage of Time
Even today, more than five thousand years after the origin of the Vedas, a Hindu simply cannot visualize a good life without the observance of the Vedic principles. When a child is born, when he is later baptized with the thread ceremony, when he is married, and finally, when he dies, there always will be Vedic ceremonies. Whether it is a new business, sickness in the family, or a religious festival, Hindus always look toward their religious priests to guide them, bless them, and give them eternal support.
In the beginning, rituals were a very important part of Hindu worship. The main function of these rituals was to usher in a solemn and sacred atmosphere and prepare the devotee to receive the hymns of knowledge in the most appropriate manner. The real teaching was, of course, conveyed in the hymns of knowledge. Clarified butter (known as ghee), rice, and many other things were offered as sacrifice in the fire of the Havan Yajna, an ancient Hindu ritual of Aryan origin. Later in the Upanishad scriptures, the sages downplayed the importance of the rituals. It was felt that followers were paying too much attention to them, while ignoring the real teachings of the knowledge of the Divine.
Rituals are the symbolic deeds for sacrifice (yajna), which is considered to be the basis of a good life. Rituals would prepare a person to perform various duties properly; they were not meant to be the end in itself.
Hinduism is also called the Vedic religion, as Vedas are the very foundation of this faith. Even today, all Hindus commonly practice Vedic rites, including the ones settled outside of India. Nonetheless, changes to the same have been made time and again. The original rites have been considerably modified; the lengthy, repetitive rites have often been replaced with shortened, meaningful ones. Yet, prolonged “Havan” ceremonies lasting over several hours, with hundreds of devotees participating and scores of priests chanting together are not a rare sight! The old and the new run hand in hand. An individual may opt for any as per his/her choice. Many respected saints and sages have drawn attention to the shortcomings of some Vedic customs, but none have ever downplayed the importance of the Vedas. Over time, suggestions have been incorporated to supplant the Vedic rites with “actual deeds-karma” or “service actions”, but the Vedic ceremonies and sacraments continue to survive over the millennia in one form or another.