An analysis of history of Tamil religion/Part:14


For Sumerians,religion wasn’t just a matter of church on Sunday or temple on Friday.They worshipped every day,all day.Their gods controlled every move they made,Sumerians believed that their role in the universe was to serve the gods who were neither good nor evil.They were simply powerful and required constant appeasement.To this end the ancient Sumerians devoted much of their time to ensuring their favour with the gods with
worship,prayer,and sacrifice.Sacrificial offerings of food and animals were routine.The gifts were taken to the temple (called a ziggurat) and given to the priests.It was believed that the priests could speak to the gods and offer them the gifts from the people.Idols, amulets and charms were also important.The high gods,however,were believed to have more important things to do than to attend to the common man's every day prayers,and so personal gods were devised as intermediaries between man and the high gods.The personal gods listened to the prayers and relayed them to the high gods.
Due to the emergence of the Home & home land,each sumerian city also had its own special gods,other than the prime or chief gods of nature.They believed that this one special god owned the city,the land and the people.The priests of the city ruled in place of this god.To honour this god the priests made the people build a temple.It was the largest and most important building in a sumerian city.It rose above the city like a hill.This temple was known as a Ziggarat.Because the mesopotamian world was a muddy, watery,sun-backed flat land,It is not surprising that its most characteristic major buildings would be Ziggarat,raised pyramid-platforms where god could be worshipped.All around the world people have associated gods with height and in this land of no mountains the only way to reach up was to build.Other than their patron god,also had small shrines dedicated to other gods.The
ziggurats housed workshops for craftsmen as well as temples for worship.There were artisans who sculpted,cut gems,fullers who stomped on woven wools to soften cloth,and metal workers who crafted weapons as well as artistic creations.In general,Ziggurats were built as tall as possible in an attempt to reach heaven.For example,The temple of Anu,in Uruk,rose 50 feet above the plain.The sumerians believed that the god lived on the top of the Ziggarat.The rectangular central shrine of the temple, known as a 'cella',had a brick altar or offering table in front of a statue of the temple's deity.The offering table was intended for animal and vegetable sacrifices. There were aisles along either side of the 'cella',which were rooms for priests.Near the temples there
were usually granaries and storehouses.The main people who worked at the temples were priests,priestesses,musicians,singers and slaves.Public rituals would take place in the temples each day.There were food sacrifices and libations (pouring oil or wine as an offering to a god).Usually,Daily sacrifices were made consisting of animals and foods,such as wine,beer,milk,and meats.Additionally special occasions called for
spectacular festivities that would sometimes last for days.Special feasts took place on the day of the new moon,on the 7th,15th,and last day of the month.However,The most important festival for ancient Sumerians was New Year's Day.On this day,the king had to symbolically marry a priestess who represented the goddess Inanna.The wedding ceremony between the king and Inanna was intended to ensure that the city would have a good harvest all year round and that people would be prosperous and well fed.
Ancestors were treated as gods at home.The family’s dead were buried beneath the floors of the house,worshipped,consulted and, at times,“fed” through tubes set in the floor.  Three times a day the priests brought food & drink to the god.Only the priests were allowed to enter the room where the god lived.The head of the temple was called the "sanga". The "sanga" was responsible for ensuring the temple's finances,buildings,and day-to-day activities were all in good order.The spiritual leader of the temple or the ruler was called an en and was often deified (made into a god).The "en" could be a man or woman depending upon the deity. Under the "en" were various priest classes, such as the guda, mah, gala, nindingir, and ishib.The roles of all of these classes is not known,though the "ishib" was in charge of libations,and the "gala" was a poet or singer.Each city had a governor (ensi) or a king (lugal) who often had religious duties,particularly to build and maintain temples.The wife of the king was called a lady or queen (nin).The queen might be in charge of important projects such as managing the affairs of a temple goddess.The city leaders had a
duty to please the town's patron deity.Pleasing the god of the city ensured the goodwill of that god or goddess as well as the goodwill of the other deities in the council of gods.In the earlier dynasties of Ancient Sumer,the priests often had the job of pleasing the gods.In later dynasties,kings assumed religious power.The priests,however,still held great authority through the interpretation of omens and dreams. Families also had their own special gods or goddesses.People prayed by clasping their hands in front of their chests.Sumerians believed their gods had absolute authority over their private life.Sumerians also believed gods created evil and misfortune.The gods were also thought to be responsible for all the good things in human life.Sumerians believed that humans should accept that there was good and bad and that the gods could not always help a person to solve a personal tragedy.The Sumerians also believed that they had been created as a labour-saving tool for the gods to use.Sumerians believed at the end of their life they would go to the underworld.

Further,Ordinary Sumerians believed that the gods controlled the past and the future,that the gods had revealed to them the skills that they possessed,including writing,and that the gods had provided them with all they needed to know.They had no vision of their civilisation having developed by their own efforts.They had no vision of technological or social progress.Sumerian priests altered the stories that they told,creating a new twist to old tales – without acknowledging this as a human induced change or wondering why they had failed to get it right the first time.New ideas were simply revelations from the gods.

[By:Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]

Part/ 15 Will follow... 

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