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Hymns of the Rigveda. Introduction


Rigvedic Hymns - Introduction

Hymns of the Rigveda

THE VERSES of the Rikveda belong to the oldest literature known to men. The Rikveda is a collection of 1028 hymns (10,500 verses in all). The hymns are arranged in ten books of unequal length. Many verses don't seem spiritual at first glance, and yet Hindus keep them sacred. In fact, the Rikveda is the highest spiritual authority for orthodox Hindus. Ancient Aryans recited some of these verses (mantras) for prayer and many sorts of sacrifices, in order to get to wordly and more immaterial favours.

In the light of this and more, there is reason to believe that many verses contain masked information; without which one errs in understanding many essential points. Hence, what could be missing is an "Application program" for each verse, or even better, for a bundle or series of verses ad hoc, built on fit decoding keys.

There is much else to say about the Rigveda. The Rigveda (from Sanskrit 'rik', "praise, verse" and veda "knowledge") are Vedic Sanskrit hymns dedicated to devas. It is one of the world's oldest religious texts in continued use, and one of the oldest extant texts of any Indo-European language. Rigveda seems to have been composed in the North-Western region of the Indian subcontinent somewhere between 1700-1100 BCE, in the early Vedic period. The language and the culture the Rigveda is marked by, has similarities to the early Iranian Avesta culture of ca. 2200-1600 BCE.

The surviving form of the Rigveda is based on an early collection. It was later redacted and added to, several centuries after the hymns were composed. Exact dates are not established, but they fall within the pre-Buddhist period (500, or rather 400 BCE). The redacted text has been handed down in several versions. The Rigveda was probably not written down until the 300s to 500s CE.

The text is organized in 10 books, known as Mandalas, of varying age and length. Each mandala consists of hymns called suktas (literally, "well recited, eulogy"). The suktas consist of individual stanzas marked by units of verse (padas, "feet").

The most common numbering scheme is by book, hymn and stanza (and pada a, b, c . . ., if needed).

Tradition associates a rishi (seer, here: at least composer) with each rik of the Rigveda. Most suktas are attributed to single composers. In all, 10 families of rishis account for more than 95 percent of the riks.

The Rigvedic hymns are dedicated to various deities. Chief of them is Indra, a heroic god praised for having slain his enemy Vritra. Indra and Zeus and Norse Thor have common characteristics. Then there is Agni, the fire god, and Soma, the juicy god. Other prominent gods are the Adityas or Asura gods Mitra-Varuna and Ushas (the dawn). Also invoked are Savitri, Vishnu, Rudra, Pushan, Brihaspati or Brahmanaspati, and also deified natural phenomena such as Dyaus Pita (the shining sky, Father Heaven), Prithivi (the earth, Mother Earth), Surya (the sun god), Vayu or Vata (the wind), Apas (the waters), Parjanya (the thunder and rain), Vac (the word), many rivers (notably the Sapta Sindhu, and the Sarasvati River). The Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Sadhyas, Ashvins, Maruts, Rbhus, and the Vishvadevas ("all-gods") as well as the "thirty-three gods" are the groups of deities mentioned.

The hymns mention various further minor gods, persons, concepts, phenomena and items. They also contain some references to possible historical events.

The Rigveda describes a mobile, semi-nomadic culture, with horse-drawn chariots, oxen-drawn wagons, and metal (bronze) weapons. The geography described is consistent with that of the Greater Punjab. The horse (ashva), cattle, sheep and goat play an important role in the Rigveda. There are also references to the elephant (Hastin, Varana), camel (Ustra, especially in Mandala 8), donkey (khara, rasabha), buffalo (Mahisa), wolf, hyena, lion (Simha), mountain goat (sarabha) and to the gaur in the Rigveda. The peafowl (mayura), the goose (hamsa) and the chakravaka (Anas casarca) are some birds mentioned in the Rigveda.

According to Hindu tradition, the Rigvedic hymns were collected by Paila under the guidance of Vyasa, who according to tradition formed the Rigveda Samhita as we know it.

Later Hindu authors have interpreted and commented the Vedic ritual, discussing the meanings of difficult words. In the 1300s century, Sayana wrote an exhaustive commentary (bhasya) on it.

Since the 1800s, reformers, for example Aurobindo, have sought to re-interpret the Vedas to conform to modern and established moral and spiritual norms. They have moved the original ritualistic content to a more symbolic or mystical interpretation.

Horace Hayman Wilson was the first to make a complete translation of the Rig Veda into English, published in six volumes during the period 1850-88. Wilson's version was based on the commentary of Sayana.

In 1889, Ralph Thomas Hotchkin Griffith published his translation as The Hymns of the Rig Veda, in London. Later edition/reprint: The Hymns of the Rgveda: Translated with a Popular Commentary by Ralph T. H. Griffith; Edited by Jagdish Lal Shastri. Revised and enlarged ed. 2 Vols. (Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999). There is also a reprint of the first volume at Kessinger, Whitefish, MT, 2006).

✑ Information about Vedic gods: [Link]

• On to the Rikveda: First Book of the Rikveda.

Rigveda Hymns - END MATTER

Rigveda Hymns, LITERATURE  

Trv: Doniger, Wendy. The Rig Veda: An Anthology. London: Penguin Classics, 1981. — Selected hymns with introductory explanations.


Rigveda Hymns USER'S GUIDE to abbreviations, the site's bibliography, letter codes, dictionaries, site design and navigation, tips for searching the site and page referrals. [LINK]
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