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Ṛta(m) (Skt., ‘fixed order, rule’). In Hinduism, the sense of fundamental order and balance which obtains in the universe and must be observed and sustained through appropriate sacrifices, rituals, and behaviours. Ṛta as a word is related to ṛtu, the seasons, which recur with regularity out of the control of humans—or for that matter, of gods. Mitra and Varuṇa are invoked in the Vedas as guardians of ṛta, but they are never regarded or described as its creator or controller. Ṛta is deeper and more fundamental than the gods, and anticipates the impersonal law of karma, and the pervasive rule of dharma.

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