Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/129

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consigned to an underground darkness after death. So little, indeed, do the Rishis say on this subject, and so vague is the little they do say, that Roth held the total annihilation of the wicked by death to be their belief. The early Indian notions about future punishment gradually developed, till, in the post-Vedic period, a complicated system of hells had been elaborated.

Some passages of the Rigveda distinguish the path of the fathers or dead ancestors from the path of the gods, doubtless because cremation appeared as a different process from sacrifice. In the Brāhmaṇas the fathers and the gods are thought to dwell in distinct abodes, for the "heavenly world" is contrasted with the "world of the fathers."

The chief of the blessed dead is Yama, to whom three entire hymns are addressed. He is spoken of as a king who rules the departed and as a gatherer of the people, who gives the deceased a resting-place and prepares an abode for him. Yama it was who first discovered the way to the other world:—

Him who along the mighty heights departed,
Him who searched and spied out the path for many,
Son of Vivasvat, gatherer of the people,
Yama the king, with sacrifices worship. (x. 14, 1).

Though death is the path of Yama, and he must consequently have been regarded with a certain amount of fear, he is not yet in the Rigveda, as in the Atharva-veda and the later mythology, a god of death. The owl and pigeon are occasionally mentioned as emissaries of Yama, but his regular messengers are two dogs which guard the path trodden by the dead proceeding to the other world.