Unlike the modern Hindus, the Aryans of the Veda ate beef, used a fermented liquor or beer made from the soma plant, and offered the same strong meat and drink to their gods.
Within Sanskrit itself probably two words have to be distinguished: (1) drya, the origin of Aryan, from which the usual term arya is a derivative; (2) arya, which frequently appears in the Rig Veda as an epithet of deities.
The burning of widows on their husbands' funeral-pile was unknown, and the verses in the Veda which the Brahmans afterwards distorted into a sanction for the practice have the very opposite meaning.
The classical specimen of an advanced cosmogony is to be found in the Rig Veda (x.
So, too, fire-worship, especially of the sacrificial flame; the preparation of the intoxicating soma, which fills man with divine strength and uplifts him to the gods; the injunction to good thoughts and good works, imposed on the pious by Veda and Avesta alike: the belief in an unwavering order (rta)a law controlling gods and men and dominating them all; yet with this, a belief in the power of magical formulae (mantra), exclamations and prayers, to whose compulsion not merely demons (the evil spirits of deception druh) but even the gods (daeva) must submit; and, lastly, the institution of a priesthood of fire-kindlers (athravan), who are at once the repositories of all sacral traditions and the mediators in all intercourse between earth and heaven.
In the Veda no tendency shows itself as yet towards rendering divine honour to the cow; and though the importance assigned her in an agricultural community is easily understood, still the exact process of her deification and her identification with the mother earth in the time of Manu and the epics requires further elucidation.
The mantras or sayings composing the Samhita of the Atharva Veda differ from those of the other Vedas by being in the form of spells rather than prayers or hymns, and seem to indicate a stage of religion lower than that of the Rig Veda.