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A term occurring in the Ṛg Veda, indicating the inherent active power, or truth, which informs and orders the universe and human society. Ṛta therefore underscores all proper cosmic, moral, and ritual activity. It is activated and maintained by the devas, especially Mitra and Varuṇa, and through the verbal formulae employed in the sacrificial ritual (yajña). Part of what it expresses is the dynamic, but integrated and interdependent nature of all phenomena. It therefore prefigures aspects of later conceptions such as the Upaniṣadic brahman (neut.) and, in particular, dharma. The latter term, which in the Ṛg Veda refers to those (predominantly ritual) actions and laws which maintain ṛta, later becomes synonymous with the underlying order itself, as well as activities which express and maintain it. See also anṛta.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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