Vedic religion is the basis of Hinduism and the beliefs and rituals in Hinduism have their roots in Vedic religion. The superficial differences that exists are mainly pecularities of the generation and era.
“ Vedic ” is derived from the samskrit root word “Ved” meaning knowledge. It refers collectively to the three hindu religious texts- The Atharva Veda , The Sama Veda and The Yajur Veda. Vedic religion refers to the rituals , rites and chants mentioned in the three books of the Veda.
“Hinduism” is formed by the addition of the suffix “ism” to the word Hindu . Hindu was a term popularly used by foreigners in the medieval period [7th AD ]for the people of the Indian sub-continent. Hinduism was coined by European scholars in the 18th -19th Century for the collection of religious practices prevalent in the Indian sub-continent when Europeans began to make their inroads here.
Names of Deities
The names given to gods and goddesses in the vedic religion were different from that of Hinduism. In the former the following names are prominent namely Agni, Aditi, Aruna,Ashwin, Indra, Mitra,Prithvi, Pushan,Rudra,Soma, Surya,Savitr,Sarasvati,Usha,Vayu,Varuna,Yama etc. In Hinduism the names are Brahma,Ganesh,Katrikeya, Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswati, Shiva, Vishnu, Yama etc. Some names are found in both while some vedic deities exist in Hinduism in a different name.
Forms of the Deities.
The deities of the Vedic religion were forces that represented nature such as rivers,wind, earth, fire, waters etc or entities that were not given any physical representation in the form of statues or icons. In Hinduism all the deities are represented by distintive statues and icons housed in temples or shrines.
Rites and Rituals.
The most common and basic form of ritual in Vedic religion was the Yag-gi-an performed on a fire altar.People sat around the fire burining in the altar,reciting mantras in praise of the deity for whom the ceremony was being performed. An officiating priest poured ghee and threw a fistful of a specially prepared mixuture of ingrediants into the flames at regular intervals . In Hinduism the dities are housed in temples or Shrines , adorned with clothings and decorated with flowers and colours. The rituals are very elaborate involving circulating the flame of fire around the deity accompanied by chants.
There is not much difference in basic underling philosophy of the two. Vedic philosophy talks of “ Satya” and “rta” as the basis of the Universe. Satya is the invisible aspect of which rta is the visual expression. This is not much different from the concept in Hinduism of Atma/spirit and Prakrit /material world. The latter is the visual expression of the former which is the invisible aspect. The spirit permeates and underlies every aspect and entity of the material Universe/Prakriti , from the pebble to the stars. It evolves through birth/creation and death/destruction of every successive material entity, its consciousness [awareness and knowledge]evolving gradually till it attains the human body which Hinduism claims is the ulitimate vehicle for enlightenment. For in the human form the spirit gets the opportunity to unite with the suprem spirit or
Param-Atma/Paramatma. Here again there are successful stages of human consciousness depending on the predominane of the three qualities/gunas namely Sattvic, Tamasik and Rajasik. Through each successive brith the spirit gains experience and learns to look inwards and eventually gains enlightenment/awareness to finally unite[ Yoga/Join] with the Paramatma. It thus ceases to be born again. Human life was guided by the conept Purusharth[Purush-Arth] i.e Gyan/knowledge –Kama/Desire-wealth-moksh/enlightenment. For this purpose a Hindu life was divided into four Ashramas/stages i.e The Brahmacharya Ashrama –devoted to education i.e gaining knowledge and awareness or Gyan ; The Grihastashram/ life of a householder -devoted to fullfilment of desires such love and sexual satisfaction, acquiring of wealth and achieving ones ambitions i.e fulfilment of kama/desires ; The Vana and Sanyas Ashram – devoted practices to gain knowledge of God i.e Moksh or enlightenment. Thus the Hindu’s life begins with God and ends with God with only the intervening period devoted to material life.
It would be an academic mistake to view the two as separate, as is common among western scholars. Concepts like vedic religion and Hinduism were coined by the West . The people of the Sub-continent called themselves both in the Vedic period and now, as Arya and their beliefs as Dharam. Dharam can be compared with Christianity and Islam or any of the other isms but Dharam cannot be clubbed under the category of a Religion for it does not have the criteria of a religion.