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The Rigveda (Sanskrit: ऋग्वेद ṛgveda, a tatpurusha compound of ṛc "praise, verse" and veda "knowledge") is a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns dedicated to the gods. It is counted as the holiest among the series of four Hindu canonical texts known as the Vedas. Geographical and ethnological passages in the Rigveda provide evidence that the Rigveda was composed between 1700–1100 BCE (the early Vedic period) in the Punjab (Sapta Sindhu) region of the Indian subcontinent. The Rig Veda is the oldest of all known religious books, and the oldest book in Vedic Sanskrit or any Indo-European language. The composition of the Rigveda is conventionally dated to before 1500 BCE <ref>India: What Can It Teach Us: A Course of Lectures Delivered Before the University of Cambridge by F. Max Müller</ref><ref>Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History by Edwin F. Bryant, Laurie L. Patton</ref><ref>Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization by Dr. David Frawley</ref><ref>The Supreme Wisdom of the Upanisads: (An Introduction) by Klaus G. Witz </ref><ref>World Treasures of the Library of Congress Beginnings by Irene U. Chambers, Michael S. Roth</ref> Some writers have traced astronomical references <ref>[1]</ref> in the Rigveda dating it to as early as 4000 BC, <ref>summarized by Klaus Klostermaier in a 1998 presentation</ref> a date well within the late Mehrgarh culture.

Today, this text is revered by Hindus around the world, primarily in India and Nepal. Its verses are recited at prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions.


[edit] Text

The Rigveda consists <ref>There is some confusion with the term "Veda", which is traditionally applied to the texts associated with the samhita proper, such as Brahmanas or Upanishads. In English usage, the term Rigveda is usually used to refer to the Rigveda samhita alone, and texts like the Aitareya-Brahmana are not considered "part of the Rigveda" but rather "associated with the Rigveda" in the tradition of a certain shakha.</ref> of 1,028 hymns (or 1,017 discounting the apocryphal valakhīlya hymns 8.49–8.59) composed in Vedic Sanskrit, many of which are intended for various sacrifical rituals. This long collection of short hymns is mostly devoted to the praise of the gods. It is organized in 10 books, known as Mandalas. Each mandala consists of hymns, called sūkta, which in turn consist individual verses called ṛc, plural ṛcas. The Mandalas are by no means of equal length or age: The "family books", mandalas 2-7, are considered the oldest part of the Rigveda, being the shortest books, arranged by length, accounting for 38% of the text. RV 8 and RV 9, likely comprising hymns of mixed age, account for 15% and 9%, respectively. RV 1 and RV 10, finally, are both the latest and the longest books, accounting for 37% of the text.

[edit] Preservation

The Rigveda is preserved by two major shakhas ("branches", i. e. schools or recensions), Śākala and Bāṣkala. Considering its great age, the text is spectacularly well preserved and uncorrupted, the two recensions being practically identical, so that scholarly editions can mostly do without a critical apparatus. Associated to Śākala is the Aitareya-Brahmana. The Bāṣkala includes the Khilani and has the Kausitaki-Brahmana associated to it.

This compilation or redaction included the arrangement in books as well as orthoepic changes, such as regularization of sandhi (called by Oldenberg orthoepische Diaskeunase). It took place centuries after the composition of the earliest hymns, about co-eval to the redaction of the other Vedas.

From the time of its redaction, the text has been handed down in two versions: The Samhitapatha has all Sanskrit rules of sandhi applied and is the text used for recitation. The Padapatha has each word isolated in its pausa form and is used for memorization. The Padapatha is, as it were, a commentary to the Samhitapatha, but the two seem to be about co-eval. The original text as reconstructed on metrical grounds (viz. "original" in the sense that it aims to recover the hymns as composed by the Rishis) lies somewhere between the two, but closer to the Samhitapatha.

[edit] Organization

The most common numbering scheme is by book, hymn and verse (and pada (foot) a, b, c ..., if required). E. g. the first pada is

  • 1.1.1a agním īḷe puróhitaṃ "Agni I laud, the high priest"

and the final pada is

  • 10.191.4d yáthāḥ vaḥ súsahā́sati "for your being in good company"

Hermann Grassmann had numbered the hymns 1 through to 1028, putting the valakhilya at the end. The entire 1028 hymns of the Rigveda, in the 1877 edition of Aufrecht, contain a total of 10,552 verses, or 39,831 padas. The Shatapatha Brahmana gives the number of syllables to be 432,000<ref>equalling 40 times 10,800, the number of bricks used for the uttaravedi: the number is motivated numerologically rather than based on an actual syllable count.</ref>, while the metrical text of van Nooten and Holland (1994) has a total of 395,563 syllables (or an average of 9.93 syllables per pada); counting the number of syllables is not straightforward because of issues with sandhi. Most verses are jagati (padas of 12 syllables), trishtubh (padas of 11 syllables), viraj (padas of 10 syllables) or gayatri or anushtubh (padas of 8 syllables).

[edit] Contents

See also: Rigvedic deities

The chief gods of the Rigveda are Agni, the sacrificial fire, Indra, a heroic god who is praised for having slain his enemy Vrtra, and Soma, the sacred potion, or the plant it is made from. Other prominent gods are Mitra-Varuna and Ushas (the dawn). Also invoked are Savitar, Vishnu, Rudra, Pushan, Brihaspati, Brahmanaspati, as well as deified natural phenomena such as Dyaus Pita (the sky), Prithivi (the earth), Surya (the sun), Vayu (the wind), Apas (the waters), Parjanya (the rain), Vac (the word), many rivers (notably the Sapta Sindhu, and the Sarasvati River). Groups of deities are the Ashvins, the Maruts, the Adityas, the Rbhus, the Vishvadevas (the all-gods). It contains various further minor gods, persons, concepts, phenomena and items, and fragmentary references to possible historical events, notably the struggle between the early Vedic people (known as Vedic Aryans, a subgroup of the Indo-Aryans) and their enemies, the Dasa.

Image:Rigveda MS2097.jpg
Rigveda manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century
  • Mandala 1 comprises 191 hymns. Hymn 1.1 is addressed to Agni, and his name is the first word of the Rigveda. The remaining hymns are mainly addressed to Agni and Indra. Hymns 1.154 to 1.156 are addressed to Vishnu.
  • Mandala 2 comprises 43 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra. It is chiefly attributed to the Rishi gṛtsamda śaunohotra.
  • Mandala 3 comprises 62 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra. The verse 3.62.10 has great importance in Hinduism as the Gayatri Mantra. Most hymns in this book are attributed to viśvāmitra gāthinaḥ.
  • Mandala 4 consists of 58 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra. Most hymns in this book are attributed to vāmadeva gautama.
  • Mandala 5 comprises 87 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra, the Visvadevas (gods of the world), the Maruts, the twin-deity Mitra-Varuna and the Asvins. Two hymns each are dedicated to Ushas (the dawn) and to Savitar. Most hymns in this book are attributed to the atri family.
  • Mandala 6 comprises 75 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra. Most hymns in this book are attributed to the bārhaspatya family of Angirasas.
  • Mandala 7 comprises 104 hymns, to Agni, Indra, the Visvadevas, the Maruts, Mitra-Varuna, the Asvins, Ushas, Indra-Varuna, Varuna, Vayu (the wind), two each to Sarasvati (ancient river/goddess of learning) and Vishnu, and to others. Most hymns in this book are attributed to vasiṣṭha maitravaurṇi.
  • Mandala 8 comprises 103 hymns to different gods. Hymns 8.49 to 8.59 are the apocryphal valakhīlya. Most hymns in this book are attributed to the kāṇva family.
  • Mandala 9 comprises 114 hymns, entirely devoted to Soma Pavamana, the plant of the sacred potion of the Vedic religion.
  • Mandala 10 comprises 191 hymns, to Agni and other gods. It contains the Nadistuti sukta which is in praise of rivers and is important for the reconstruction of the geography of the Vedic civilization and the Purusha sukta which has significance in Hindu tradition. It also contains the Nasadiya sukta (10.129), probably the most celebrated hymns in the west, which deals with creation.

[edit] Rishis

See also Anukramani.

Each hymn of the Rigveda is traditionally attributed to a specific rishi, and the "family books" (2-7) are said to have been composed by one family of rishis each. The main families, listed by the number of verses ascribed to them are:

[edit] Translations

The Rigveda was translated into English by Ralph T.H. Griffith in 1896. Partial English translations by Maurice Bloomfield and William Dwight Whitney exist. Griffith's translation is good, considering its age, but it is no replacement for Geldner's 1951 translation (in German), the only independent scholarly translation so far. The later translations by Elizarenkova depends heavily on Geldner, but Elizarenkova's translation (in Russian) is valuable in taking into account scholarly literature up to 1990. Partial translations exists in many other languages.

[edit] Hindu tradition

According to Indian tradition, the Rigvedic hymns were collected by Paila under the guidance of Vyāsa, who formed the Rigveda Samhita as we know it. According to the Śatapatha Brāhmana, the number of syllables in the Rigveda is 432,000, equalling the number of muhurtas (1 day = 30 muhurtas) in forty years. This statement stresses the underlying philosophy of the Vedic books that there is a connection (bandhu) between the astronomical, the physiological, and the spiritual.

The authors of the Brāhmana literature described and interpreted the Rigvedic ritual. Yaska was an early commentator of the Rigveda. In the 14th century, Sāyana wrote an exhaustive commentary on it. Other Bhāṣyas (commentaries) that have been preserved up to present times are those by Mādhava, Skaṃdasvāmin and Veṃkatamādhava.

[edit] Dating and historical reconstruction

Image:Rigvedic geography.jpg
Geography of the Rigveda, with river names; the extent of the Swat and Cemetery H cultures are also indicated.

The Rigveda is far more archaic than any other Indo-Aryan text. For this reason, it was in the center of attention of western scholarship from the times of Max Müller. The Rigveda records an early stage of Vedic religion, still closely tied to the pre-Zoroastrian Persian religion. It is thought that Zoroastrianism and Vedic Hinduism evolved from an earlier common religious Indo-Iranian culture.

The Rigveda's core is accepted to date to the late Bronze Age, making it the only example of Bronze Age literature with an unbroken tradition. Its composition is usually dated to roughly between 1700–1100 BC.<ref>Oberlies (1998:155) gives an estimate of 1100 BC for the youngest hymns in book 10. Estimates for a terminus post quem of the earliest hymns are far more uncertain. Oberlies (p. 158) based on 'cumulative evidence' sets wide range of 1700–1100. The EIEC (s.v. Indo-Iranian languages, p. 306) gives 1500–1000. It is certain that the hymns post-date Indo-Iranian separation of ca. 2000 BC. It cannot be ruled out that archaic elements of the Rigveda go back to only a few generations after this time, but philological estimates tend to date the bulk of the text to the second half of the second millennium.</ref> The text in the following centuries underwent pronunciation revisions and standardization (samhitapatha, padapatha). This redaction would have been completed around the 7th century BC.<ref>Oldenberg (p. 379) places it near the end of the Brahmana period, seeing that the older Brahmanas still contain pre-normalized Rigvedic citations. The Brahmana period is later than the composition of the samhitas of the other Vedas, stretching for about the 9th to 7th centuries. This would mean that the redaction of the texts as preserved was completed in roughly the 7th century BC. The EIEC (p. 306) likewise gives a 7th century date.</ref>

Writing appears in India around the 5th century BC in the form of the Brahmi script, but texts of the length of the Rigveda were likely not written down until much later, the oldest surviving manuscript dating to the 11th century. While written manuscripts were used for teaching in medieval times, they were written on bark or palm leaves, which decomposed quicker in the tropical climate, until the advent of the printing press from the 16th century. The hymns were thus preserved by oral tradition for up to a millennium from the time of their composition until the redaction of the Rigveda, and the entire Rigveda was preserved in shakhas for another 2,500 years from the time of its redaction until the editio princeps by Müller, a collective feat of preservation unparalleled in any other known society.

Puranic literature names Vidagdha as the author of the Pada-text.<ref>The Satapatha Brahmana refers to Vidagdha Sakalya without discussing anything related to the Padapatha, and no grammatical work refers to Vidagdha as a padakara. But the Brahmanda Purana and the Vayu Purana say that he was the Padakara of the RV. The Satapatha Brahmana is older than the Aitareya Aranyaka. The Aitareya Aranyaka is generally dated to the 7th century BCE. Jha, Vashishtha Narayan. 1992. A Linguistic Analysis of the Rgveda-Padapatha. Sri Satguru Publications. Delhi</ref> Other scholars argue that Sthavira Sak of the Aitareya Aranyaka is the padakara of the RV.<ref>The Rkpratisakhya of Saunaka also refers to Sthavira Sakalya. Jha, Vashishtha Narayan. 1992. A Linguistic Analysis of the Rgveda-Padapatha. Sri Satguru Publications. Delhi</ref> After their composition, the texts were preserved and codified by a vast body of Vedic priesthood as the central philosophy of the Iron Age Vedic civilization.

The Rigveda describes a mobile, nomadic culture, with horse-drawn chariots and metal (bronze) weapons. According to some scholars the geography described is consistent with that of the Punjab (Gandhara): Rivers flow north to south, the mountains are relatively remote but still reachable (Soma is a plant found in the mountains, and it has to be purchased, imported by merchants). Nevertheless, the hymns were certainly composed over a long period, with the oldest elements possibly reaching back before the split of Proto-Indo-Iranian (around 2000 BC) <ref>minority opinions name dates as early as the 4th millennium BC; "The Aryan Non-Invasionist Model" by Koenraad Elst</ref> Thus there is some debate over whether the boasts of the destruction of stone forts by the Vedic Aryans and particularly by Indra refer to cities of the Indus Valley civilization or whether they hark back to clashes between the early Indo-Aryans with the BMAC in what is now northern Afghanistan and southern Turkmenistan (separated from the upper Indus by the Hindu Kush mountain range, and some 400 km distant). In any case, while it is highly likely that the bulk of the Rigveda was composed in the Punjab, even if based on earlier poetic traditions, there is no mention of either tigers or rice<ref>There is however mention of ApUpa, Puro-das and Odana in the Rigveda, terms that, at least in later texts, refer to rice dishes, see Talageri (2000)</ref> in the Rigveda (as opposed to the later Vedas), suggesting that Vedic culture only penetrated into the plains of India after its completion. Similarly, it is assumed that there is no mention of iron although the term ayas (metal) occurs in the Rig Veda. <ref>The term "ayas" (=metal) occurs in the Rigveda, usually translated as "bronze", although Chakrabarti, D.K. The Early Use of Iron in India (1992) Oxford University Press argues that it may refer to any metal. If ayas refers to iron, the Rigveda must date to the late 2nd millennium at the earliest.</ref> The Iron Age in northern India begins in the 12th century BC with the Black and Red Ware (BRW) culture. This is a widely accepted timeframe for the beginning codification of the Rigveda (i.e. the arrangement of the individual hymns in books, and the fixing of the samhitapatha (by applying Sandhi) and the padapatha (by dissolving Sandhi) out of the earlier metrical text), and the composition of the younger Vedas. This time probably coincides with the early Kuru kingdom, shifting the center of Vedic culture east from the Punjab into what is now Uttar Pradesh.

Some of the names of gods and goddesses found in the Rigveda are found amongst other belief systems based on Proto-Indo-European religion as well: Dyaus-Pita is cognate with Greek Zeus, Latin Jupiter (from deus-pater), and Germanic Tyr; while Mitra is cognate with Persian Mithra; also, Ushas with Greek Eos and Latin Aurora; and, less certainly, Varuna with Greek Uranos. Finally, Agni is cognate with Latin ignis and Russian ogon, both meaning "fire".

Some writers have traced astronomical references[2] in the Rigveda dating it to as early as 4000 BC<ref>summarized by Klaus Klostermaier in a 1998 presentation</ref>, a date well within the Indian Neolithic. Claims of such evidence remain controversial. <ref>e.g. Michael Witzel, The Pleiades and the Bears viewed from inside the Vedic texts, EVJS Vol. 5 (1999), issue 2 (December) [3]; Elst, Koenraad (1999). Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate. Aditya Prakashan. ISBN 81-86471-77-4.; Bryant, Edwin and Laurie L. Patton (2005) The Indo-Aryan Controversy, Routledge/Curzon.</ref> but are a key factor in the development of the Proto-Vedic Continuity theory.

N. Kazanas <ref>N. Kazanas, A new date for the Rgveda Philosophy and Chronology, (2000) ed. G C Pande & D Krishna, special issue of Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research (June, 2001)</ref> in a polemic against the "Aryan Invasion Theory" suggests a date as early as 3100 BC, based on an identification of the early Rigvedic Sarasvati River as the Ghaggar-Hakra and on glottochronological arguments. Being a polemic against mainstream scholarship, this is in diametral opposition to views in mainstream historical linguistics, and supports the controversial Out of India theory, which assumes a date as late as 3000 BC for the age of late Proto-Indo-European itself.

[edit] Flora and Fauna in the Rigveda

The horse (Ashva) and cattle play an important role in the Rigveda. There are also references to the elephant (Hastin, Varana), Camel (Ustra, especially in Mandala 8), Buffalo (Mahisa), lion (Simha) and to the Gaur in the Rigveda.<ref>Talageri 2000, Lal 2005</ref> The peafowl (Mayura) and the Chakravaka (Anas casarca) are birds mentioned in the Rigveda.

[edit] More recent Indian views

The Hindu perception of the Rigveda has moved away from the original ritualistic content to a more symbolic or mystical interpretation. For example, instances of animal sacrifice are not seen as literal slaughtering but as transcendental processes. The Rigvedic view is seen to consider the universe to be infinite in size, dividing knowledge into two categories: lower (related to objects, beset with paradoxes) and higher (related to the perceiving subject, free of paradoxes). Swami Dayananda, who started the Arya Samaj and Sri Aurobindo have emphasized a spiritual (adhyatimic) interpretation of the book.

The Sarasvati river, lauded in RV 7.95 as the greatest river flowing from the mountain to the sea is sometimes equated with the Ghaggar-Hakra river, which went dry perhaps before 2600 BC or certainly before 1900 BC. Others argue that the Sarasvati was originally the Helmand in Afghanistan. These questions are tied to the debate about the Indo-Aryan migration (termed "Aryan Invasion Theory") vs. the claim that Vedic culture together with Vedic Sanskrit originated in the Indus Valley Civilisation (termed "Out of India theory"), a topic of great significance in Hindu nationalism, addressed for example by Amal Kiran and Shrikant G. Talageri. Subhash Kak has claimed that there is an astronomical code in the organization of the hymns. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, also based on astronomical alignments in the Rigveda, in his "The Orion" (1893) claimed presence of the Rigvedic culture in India in the 4th millennium BC, and in his "Arctic Home in the Vedas" (1903) even argued that the Aryans originated near the North Pole and came south during the Ice Age.

[edit] Notes


[edit] Editions

  • Friedrich Max Müller, The Hymns of the Rigveda, with Sayana's commentary, London, 1849-75, 6 vols., 2nd ed. 4 vols., Oxford, 1890-92.
  • Theodor Aufrecht, 2nd ed., Bonn, 1877.
  • V. K. Rajawade et. al., Rgveda-samhita with the commentary of Sayanacarya, Pune, 1933-46, 5 vols. Reprint 1983.
  • B. van Nooten und G. Holland, Rig Veda, a metrically restored text, Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 1994.

[edit] Translations

  • Latin: F. Rosen, Rigvedae specimen, London, 1830
  • French: A. Langlois, Paris 1948-51 ISBN 2-7200-1029-4
  • English: Ralph T.H. Griffith, Hymns of the Rig Veda (1896)
  • German: Karl Friedrich Geldner, Der Rig-Veda: Aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche übersetzt Harvard Oriental Studies, vols. 33, 34, 35 (1951), reprint Harvard University Press (2003) ISBN 0-674-01226-7
  • Russian: Tatyana Ya. Elizarenkova, Nauka, Moscow 1989-1999.
  • Hungarian (Partial): Laszlo Forizs, Rigvéda - Teremtéshimnuszok (Creation Hymns of the Rig-Veda), Budapest, 1995 ISBN 963-85349-1-5 Hymns of the Rig-Veda in Hungarian

[edit] Bibliography



  • Thomas Oberlies, Die Religion des Rgveda, Wien 1998.
  • Oldenberg, Hermann: Hymnen des Rigveda. 1. Teil: Metrische und textgeschichtliche Prolegomena. Berlin 1888; Wiesbaden 1982.
  • Die Religion des Veda. Berlin 1894; Stuttgart 1917; Stuttgart 1927; Darmstadt 1977
  • Vedic Hymns, The sacred books of the East vo,l. 46 ed. Friedrich Max Müller, Oxford 1897



[edit] External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
  • Rig Veda (Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute)

The Rigveda   (Mandalas: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10)
Deities: (Devas) Agni, Indra, Soma, Ushas | (Asuras) Mitra, Varuna, Vrtra | Visvedevas, Maruts, Ashvins
Rivers: Sapta Sindhu; Nadistuti; Sarasvati, Sindhu, Sarayu, Rasā
Rishis: Saptarishi; Gritsamada, Vishvamitra, Vamadeva, Atri, Angiras, Bharadvaja, Vasishta
de:Rig Veda

es:Rig Veda eo:Rigvedo fr:Rig-Veda hi:ऋग्वेद it:Rig Veda he:ריג ודה nl:Rig-Veda ja:リグ・ヴェーダ pl:Rygweda pt:Rig Veda ru:Ригведа sa:ऋग्वेद sl:Rigveda tr:Rigveda zh:梨俱吠陀


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