The Brahman priest (brahma) being thus the recognized head of the sacerdotal order (brahma), which itself is the visible embodiment of sacred writ and the devotional spirit pervading it (brahma), the complete realization of theocratic aspirations required but a single step, which was indeed taken in the theosophic speculations of the later Vedic poets and the authors of the Brahmanas (q.v.), viz.
It is, then, to one or other of those three collections of sacred texts and the respective class of priests, that the existing Brahmanas attach themselves.
The Udgatri's duties being mainly confined to the chanting of hymns made up of detached groups of verses of the Rigveda, as collected in the Samaveda-samhita, the more important Brahmanas of this sacerdotal class deal chiefly with the various modes of chanting, and the modifications which the verses have to undergo in their musical setting.
As regards the Brahmanas of the Rigveda, two of such works have been handed down, the Aitareya and the Kaushitaki (or Sankhayana)-Brahmanas, which have a large amount of their material in common.
It is, however, to the Brahmanas and Sutras of the Yajurveda, dealing with the ritual of the real offering-priest, the Adhvaryu, that we have to turn for a connected view of the sacrificial procedure in all its material details.
From the archaic style in which these mythological tales are usually composed, as well as from the fact that not a few of them are found in Brahmanas of different schools and Vedas, though often with considerable variations, it seems pretty evident that the groundwork of them must go back to times preceding the composition or final redaction of the existing Brahmanas.
If the literary style in which the exegetic discussion of the texts and rites is carried on in the Brahmanas is, as a rule, of a very bald and uninviting nature, it must be borne in mind that these treatises are of a strictly professional and esoteric character, and in no way lay claim to being considered as literary compositions in any sense of the word.
The chief interest, however, attaching to the Brahmanas is doubtless their detailed description of the sacrificial system as practised in the later Vedic ages; and the information afforded by them in this respect should be all the more welcome to us, as the history of religious institutions knows of no other sacrificial ceremonial with the details of which we are acquainted to anything like the same extent.
Whilst the Soma-sacrifice has been thus developed by the Brahmanas in an extraordinary degree, its essential identity with the Avestan Haoma-cult shows that its origin goes back at all events to the Indo-Iranian period.
Among the symbolic conceits in which the authors of the Brahmanas so freely indulge, there is one overshadowing all others - if indeed they do not all more or less enter into it - which may be considered as the sum and substance of these speculations, and the esoteric doctrine of the sacrifice, involved by the Brahmanical ritualists.
These speculations may be said to have formed the foundation on which the theory of the sacrifice, as propounded in the Brahmanas, has been reared.
Like the other Vedas it is divided into Samhita, Brahmanas and Upanishads, representing the spiritual element and its magical and nationalistic development.
As the ancestors of the Greeks, with the Aryans of India, the Egyptians, and others advanced in civilization, their religious thought was shocked and surprised by myths (originally dating from the period of savagery, and natural in that period) which were preserved down to the time of Pausanias by local priesthoods, or which were stereotyped in the ancient poems of Hesiod and Homer, or in the Brahmanas and Vedas of India, or were retained in the popular religion of Egypt.
In the South Sea Islands, generally, the fable of the union and separation of Heaven and Earth is current; other forms will be found in Gill's Myths and Songs from the South Pacific. The cosmogonic myths of the Aryans of India are peculiarly interesting, as we find in the Vedas and Brahmanas and Puranas almost every fiction familiar to savages side by side with the most abstract metaphysical speculations.
As among the gods and Asuras of the Vedas, there were many wars in the divine race, and as the incantations of the Indian Brahmanas are derived from those old experiences of the Vedic gods, so are the incantations of the Maoris.
- The gods of the Vedas and Brahmanas (the ancient hymns and canonized ritual-books of Aryan India) are, on the whole, of the usual polytheistic type.
The Brahmanas, on the other hand, later compilations, canonized books for the direction of ritual and sacrifice, are rich in senseless and irrational myths.