What Is Brahmanism: The Facts and a Definition

Discover How This Ancient Religion Came to Be

Brahmanism, also known as Proto-Hinduism, was an early religion in the Indian sub-continent that was based on Vedic writing. It is considered an early form of Hinduism. Vedic writing refers to the Vedas, the hymns of the Aryans, who if they actually did so, invaded in the second millennium B.C. Otherwise, they were the resident nobles. In Brahmanism, the Brahmins, who included priests, performed the sacred offices required in the Vedas.

 Discover how this ancient religion came to be through castes, rituals and belief system.

The Highest Caste

This complex sacrificial religion emerged in 900 B.C. The strong Brahman power and priests who have lived and shared with the Brahman people included an Indian society caste where only members of the highest caste were able to become priests. While there are other castes, such as the Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras, the Brahmins include priests who teach and maintain sacred knowledge of the religion.

One large ritual that occurs with local Brahman males, that are part of this social caste, includes chants, prayers, and hymns. This ritual occurs in Kerala in South India where the language is unknown, with words and sentences being misunderstood by even the Brahmans themselves. Despite this, the ritual has been a part of the male culture in generations for more than 10,000 years.

Beliefs and Hinduism

The belief in one true God, Brahman, is at the core of the Hinduism religion.

The supreme spirit is celebrated through the symbolism of the Om. The central practice of Brahmanism is sacrifice while Moksha, the liberation, bliss and unification with the Godhead, is the main mission. While the terminology varies by the religious philosopher, Brahmanism is considered to be the predecessor of Hinduism.

 It is regarded as the same thing due to the Hindus getting their name from the Indus River where the Aryans performed the Vedas.

Metaphysical Spirituality

Metaphysics is a central concept to the Brahmanism belief system. The idea is that "that which existed before the creation of the universe, which constitutes all of the existence thereafter, and into which the universe will dissolve into, followed by similar endless creation-maintenance-destruction cycles" according to Sir  Monier Monier-Williams in Brāhmanism and Hindūism. This type of spirituality seeks to understand that which is above or transcends the physical environment we live in. It explores life on earth and in spirit and acquires knowledge about human character, how the mind works and interaction with people. 

Reincarnation

The Brahmans believe in reincarnation and Karma, according to early texts from the Vedas. In Brahminism and Hinduism, a soul reincarnates on earth repeatedly and eventually transforms into a perfect soul, reuniting with the Source. Reincarnation can happen through several bodies, forms, births and deaths before becoming perfect.

To read about the change from Brahmanism to Hinduism, see "From 'Brahmanism' to 'Hinduism': Negotiating the Myth of the Great Tradition," by Vijay Nath.

Social Scientist, Vol. 29, No. 3/4 (Mar. - Apr. 2001), pp. 19-50.

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Gill, N.S. "What Is Brahmanism: The Facts and a Definition." ThoughtCo, Jun. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-brahmanism-119210. Gill, N.S. (2017, June 25). What Is Brahmanism: The Facts and a Definition. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-brahmanism-119210 Gill, N.S. "What Is Brahmanism: The Facts and a Definition." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-brahmanism-119210 (accessed May 28, 2018).