Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/194
several times mentioned by that name as well as by other epithets later peculiar to Çiva, such as Çankara and Mahādeva. Vishṇu now occupies a somewhat more prominent position thh in the Rigveda. A new feature is his constant identification with the sacrifice. The demons, now regularly called Asuras, perpetually appear as a group of evil beings opposed to the good gods. Their conflicts with the latter play a considerable part in the myths of the Yajurveda. The Apsarases, who, as a class of celestial nymphs endowed with all the seductive charms of female beauty, occupy so important a place in post-Vedic mythology, but are very rarely mentioned in the Rigveda, begin to be more prominent in the Yajurveda, in which many of them are referred to by individual names.
Certain religious conceptions have, moreover, been modified and new rites introduced. Thus the word brahma, which in the Rigveda meant simply "devotion," has come to signify the essence of prayer and holiness, an advance towards its ultimate sense in the Upanishads. Again, snake-worship, which is unknown to the Rigveda, now appears as an element in Indian religion. That, however, which impresses on the Yajurveda the stamp of a new epoch is the character of the worship which it represents. The relative importance of the gods and of the sacrifice in the older religion has now become inverted. In the Rigveda the object of devotion was the gods, for the power of bestowing benefits on mankind was believed to lie in their hands alone, while the sacrifice was only a means of influencing their will in favour of the offerer. In the Yajurveda the sacrifice itself has become the centre of thought and desire, its correct performance in