Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
I assume that by the term ‘pre-vedic’, the question refers to the Vedic time period and not to the vedas themselves. As I understand it, the present day deities have come to be worshipped only over the past 4000(?) years or so. Prior to that, I have observed from my reading of several ancient texts that people tended to worship and revere several aspects of nature… usually those that had a direct impact on their daily lives. It was the general attitude that anything more powerful than them should be appeased in order to not incur their wrath. People back then knew that they had to live and conduct themselves in perfect harmony with nature if they expected to survive and flourish, and that if they messed up something, they would all just perish. For them, nature was the most powerful deity ever. And they revered all five elements of nature with equal reverence – air, water, earth, space and fire. With the onset on the Vedic period, these five elements gained greater importance after they were classified as the Pancha Maha Bhoota or Five Great Elements that govern our lives.
For instance, they worshipped rivers because they thought that if they appease the rivers, there would be no floods and their crops and villages on the river banks will not get destroyed. They worshipped mountains and rain and thunder and fire, etc. Thus came the concept of holding sacrifices (yagnas) to appease the Fire God, Agni. They would hold lofty mountains as sacred.
But there was no common set of deities that people prayed to. If somebody was a farmer, they would pray to all those forces of nature that would most likely affect him – the rivers, the rain, the earth, etc. A person doing another occupation need not necessarily have worshipped those. He would have another set of deities that he reveres. And nobody criticized one another for who they thought worthy of worship. This forms the very foundation of Sanatana Dharma. And this also explains why Sanatana Dharma is not a religion at all. For a faith to be called a ‘religion’, it has to have a founder and a single holy book… both of these are absent as far as Sanatana Dharma is concerned. It is just a way of life. There is nothing more to it. And that is also why I refrain from using the word ‘Hinduism’. It is not an ‘ism’ at all.
This is a very deep subject and might deviate into various areas which would make this answer excruciatingly long. So I’ll not go there. But I hope you get the drift.