Vedic religion was the religion of the Indo-Aryans,
and existed in northern India from c. 1750 to CE.
The Indo-Aryans were a branch of the Indo-European language
family, which originated in the Kurgan culture of the Central
Asian steppes. The Indo-Aryans were pastoralists ( Witzel,
Michael (1995) ), "Early Sanskritization: Origin and
Development of the Kuru state", EJVS vol. 1 no. 4 (1995)) who
migrated into north-western India after the collapse of the Indus
Valley Civilization, bringing with them their language
and religion. They were closely related to the Indo-Aryans
who founded Mitanni kingdom in northern Syria
(ca.1500-1300 BCE). Both groups were rooted in the
the Bactria-Margiana era, in present northern Afganistan, and related to the Indo-Iranians, from which they split-off
around 1800-1600 BCE.
Aryan invasion/migration theory has been challenged by some
to a lack of archaeological evidence and signs of cultural
continuity, hypothesizing instead a slow process of
acculturation or transformation. Nevertheless,
linguistic and archaeological data clearly show a cultural change
after 1750 BCE, with the linguistic and religious data
clearly showing links with Indo-European languages and religion.
Singh, "The dominant view is that the Indo-Aryans came to the
subcontinent as immigrants."
Vedic beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era were closely
related to the hypothesised Proto-Indo-European religion, and
the Indo-Iranian religion.
Anthony, the Old Indic religion probably emerged among
Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan
River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran. It
was "a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new
David W. (2007), The Horse The Wheel And Language. How Bronze-Age
Riders From the Eurasian Steppes Shaped The Modern World,
Princeton University Press ) which borrowed
"distinctive religious beliefs and practices"
from the Bactria–Margiana Culture.
are indeed no references to reincarnation in the Rig Veda. Or for
that matter in the other Vedas (Sama, Yajur and Atharva).
Reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul, was also
known as metempsychosis (Latin through Greek: ‘meta’-after,
‘empsuhkos’- having a soul inside). There are several clear
dates and times that will help us determine when this idea
appeared. It is very clear that this was a developed idea by the
time of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).
the Rig Veda the soul of the dead is carried aloft by the
fire-god, Agni, who consumes the material body at cremation, to
the heavenly worlds where it disports itself with the gods in
perfect, carefree bliss. There will be eating and drinking of
heavenly food and drink, reunion with father, mother, wife and
by the time of Buddha, the idea of incarnation was popular at
least in the North India.
Even in the Greco-Roman world
it was develop later and as a science rather than religious
philosophy. Thus even
in the Rig Veda except in the mandalas One and Ten which were
writter late, the idea do not appear.
Until then though concepts of material and non-material
worlds did exist with life forms in both worlds, those that has
Jada (non-gods - Asura) and those that has non-material bodies
named devas. Evidently
Chapters one and ten has indirect references.
For example in chapter 10 we
your spirit return again, to perform pure acts for exercising
strength, and to live long to see the sun.” Rig Veda 10.4.57.4
death repeats the death of the primordial man (purusa), which was
also the first sacrifice" (RV 10:90).
excerpt from the Rig Veda states (10: 16. 1-4):
"Burn him not up, nor
quite consume him, Agni: let not his body or his skin be
O Jatavedas, when thou hast matured him, then send him on his way
unto the Fathers...
Let thy fierce flame,
thy glowing splendour, burn him with thine auspicious forms,
O Jatavedas, bear this man to the region of the pious.......
O Agni, to the Fathers send him who, offered in thee, goes with
Wearing new life let him increase his offspring, let him rejoin a
other three Vedas Yajur and Atharvan contains more reference.
This is also true of the later Brahmanas and Aranyakas.
Shukla Yajur Veda (Shukla)
“The sun God grants bodies
in different births, according to your deeds,
providing a happy or unhappy place on this earth.
May radiant beams prove helpful to you.”
Yajur Veda 35.2
whatever works he did in this world,
he comes again from that world to this world…”
The texts of Brahmanas (900
BC) also do not contain the doctrine of transmigration. In these
texts too, the atman longs for the world of the fathers, for
immortality, as in Rig Veda.
Elst thus says (http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/does-the-rig-veda-mention-reincarnation-or-not-part-1/)
: "The concept of reincarnation is first explained in the
the core doctrine of the Upanishads is not dependent on a
theory of the afterlife, such as the theory of reincarnation.
Hinduism, by contrast, it is merely the factual situation that
most people believe in reincarnation, but the core doctrine in its
original form is not dependent on it. The goal of Buddhist
meditation may be conceived as stopping the wheel of
reincarnations, but the goal of Hindu meditation is not so
defined. Check Patanjali, who mentions knowledge of past lives in
passing, but doesn’t define the goal of yoga in terms of the
reincarnation cycle. It is simply, technically, the isolation (Kaivalya)
of consciousness from its field of objects in which it is mostly
entangled, regardless of what happens to the conscious subject
before birth or after death....... That’s it for the Rg-Veda.
The other quotes which the reader gives, are taken from the
younger Yajur- and Atharva-Veda. They were partly contemporaneous
with the older Upanishads, and it is not unreasonable if we come
across reincarnation beliefs there. " .
In the later Vedas the concept
of reincarnation is indeed present and Dr Koenraad Elst asserts:
"In Yajurveda 19.47, however, the reincarnation doctrine
may indeed be implied:
“There are two paths for the
One path Pitryana provides birth again and again through union of
father and mother,
good and bad deeds, happiness and sorrow.
The other path of Devayana frees the soul from cycle of birth and
provides bliss of salvation.
The whole world reverberates with both these paths.
And after both, the soul again takes birth as progeny of father
This is the same concept
enunciated repeatedly in the older Upanishads:
either we can go to heaven (way of the gods) or
can come back here (way of the ancestors).
This doctrine has the same
origin as the doctrine of the old Upanishads, where indeed it is
introduced as an innovation."
But these are of much later
origin even well into
the Christian Era when classical Sanskrit became predominant.