Rigveda in Hindu portal

Ananthaa Vai Vedaah
The voluminous vedas were edited into four parts by the intellectual colossus Maharshi Veda Vyaasa. The European scholars due to their lack of proper understanding of Aarshavidya, have attempted to bind the timeless in time

The present limited form of the vedas that are available are merely the observations of great seers that they experienced in their samaadhi. Any attempt to lend a chronological order to this eternal source of knowledge. Can only be termed as quite audacious. Yet all the scholars unanimously agree that the Rgveda is the oldest available literature.

The structure/form of Rigveda: The Rgveda is hymn-oriented. The Rgveda mantras are called Rcha because they are hymns, praising various devaas. The group/collection of such Rchaas is known as a sukta. Therefore, Rgveda is essentially the suktas compiled together.

Branches of Rigveda: The various mantras such as the Rchas in the form of the Rgveda etc are for the Ritwiks’ use to perform different sacrificial activities. The compilation of the rchas in the Rgvedic form is for the facility of Hotr (Hota), the supreme among the Rtwicks. The composition of Rchas neither took place at a single period of time or place. We must, however, always remember that by the word ‘composition’ it is meant the flashes of realisation achieved by the Rshis during their samaadhi. Thus, the composition or the compilation of the Rchas was achieved by various masters teaching their pupil and the Hotas performing sacrifices hailing from different families and races. The result was that different editions of rchas evolved commonly called the Rgveda either independently or collectively. Thus, there were various branches of Rgveda based on its study, teaching and use in the sacrifices. Ekavimshathi bahufruchyam. According Mahabhashya, the commentary on Maharshi Paanini’s Ashtaadyaayi, by Bhagawan Patanjali, there were TWENTY ONE branches of Rgveda. The number of branches varies as stated by other texts. The Charanavyuha mentions Shaakalaa, Vaashklaa Aashvatayanee, Shaankhaayanee and Maandukaayanee as the most prominent branches of Rgveda. Each branch had its own samhitaa section and therefore it can be safely declared that there were as many samhitas as the branches. Unfortunately, only one branch of Rgveda is available today. Following the ancient tradition it is also known by it name as Shaakalaasamitaa. Whatever information perception and understanding we have Rgveda is based solely on this branch.
A collection of rchas is knowns as a sukta. There are 1028 suktaas in Rgveda. If the smallest sukta contains one rcha then the largest contains 58 rchas. In all there are about 10,600 rchas in all the suktas.
The Rgveda is classified in two ways.
The whole Rgveda is divided into 8 parts known as Ashtakaani. Each ashtakam is further divided into eight parts known as adhyaaya. There are an indeterminate number of vargas in these adhyaayas that are a collection of about five or six rchas. Thus, there are eight ashtakas and 64 adhyaayas in Rgveda. This classification did not gain much following as it was hypothetical. Second one is a more authentic and natural classification. A sukta is the most genuine and smallest unit of Rgveda that conveys its own individual point. The 1028 suktas are divided into 10 mandalas. This classification is also historical in nature 20 divided that each mandala of six of the ten is attributed to either one of rshis hailing from the same gotra (Mandalas 2-7). The rshis of these mandalas in order are Grtsamada, Vishwamitra, Vaamadeva, Atri, Bharadwaaja and Vasishta along with their descendents. The fact that these mandalas are ascribed only to one family each and their sequential classification confirm them to be the oldest. The ninth mandala is also known as Pavamaanamandala.

Singing the glory and worship of various deities is the fundamental subject matter of Rgveda. This veda is a vast collection of hymn in praise of the deities. The chief deities eulogised in this veda are Agni, Indra, Varuna, Vishnu, Savitaa, Marut, Mitra, etc. The hymns in praise of individual deva is known as suktas. The description of different factors related to the devaas also throws sufficient light on the social, historical, political and geographical conditions of those times. There are suktas devoted to other independent subjects other than the deities. Some describe a conversation, some preach ethics through the description of a game of dice. Others discuss social life and get others enumerate philosophical thoughts.

Rgveda is the oldest available literature of the mankind. The ancient most picture of the Aryan of Hindu race in its completeness is provided here. All aspects of Vedic civilisation and culture are available in this. There is vivid description of the religious, political, cultural, literacy,

social and scientific thought of the Hindu race and their development in Rgveda.

Rgvaidic Dharma: Aryans or Hindus consider the Veda as the root source of their Dharma.   Today Hindu Dharma has undergone tremendous change. Some worship the almighty as one with attributes and some without any form. Some believe in many Gods  and some only in one. Various schools of philosophy like Advaita, Vishistaadvaita, Dwaita and Traita, where all owe their roots to the vedas. The basic Dharma of Rgveda is the worship of deities. This worship could be in the form of propitiating many deities or one single supreme consciousness.

a) The Worship of Many deities: On the surface, worship of many deities does seem to be the fundamental Dharma of Rgveda. 33 deities figure prominently in Rgveda.   On being worshipped these Devas or gods bestow on man with various powers and wealth. Maharshi Yaska classified these Devas into three categories.    Prithvi sthaaneeya, Antariksha sthaaneeya and Dyusthaaneeya ie., terrestial, those belonging to space and those belonging to heaven.

b) Single God theory: The hidden meaning of Vaidic  mantras indicate toward one single Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent Lord. The vaidic sages worshipped one single supreme consciousness. This supreme consciousness is Paramaatman, Eeshwara, Purusha or Bhrahman. The various deities are merely  the expression of his various powers and characteristics. There are many mantras that support this fact.

Indram mitram Varunamagniraahuryo divyassuparno garutmaanEkam sad Vipraa bahudhaa vadantyagnim yamam maatraarishwaanamaahuhu(Rgveda - 1.644.6)
Though one, the supreme consciousness is called by many names suchas - Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, Divya, Suparna, Garutmaan, Agni, Yama and Maataarishwa by the wise.
Yaskacharya too echoes the same theory.

Mahaabhaagyad devataaya Eka Eva aatmaa bahudhaa stuy
The soul of all the Devas is one.   It is glorified in many ways.
Rishi Dayananda through irrefutable arguments has proved the same.

c) Sacrifice:  The vaidic dharma is known as the Dharma of sacrifies.  But the exact meaning of the word Yagna is not clear.   Many sages have defined Yagna as acts of selfless service.   No matter what the meaning be, Rgveda endorses it.

Philosophical thought evolution in Rgveda.
The philosophical thought evolution of the Hindus has its seeds in Rgveda.    Atman - Paramaatman, creation - genesis, death, rebirth and salvation etc have been deeply and exhaustively discussed in Rgveda.

a) Eswara, Jeeva - Prakriti : The Hindus accept three factors responsible for the creation and administration of the universe. They are Eeshwara, Jeeva and Prakriti.   Creation comes into being with the union of Jeeva and Prakriti. Eeshwara is the regulator and administrator of creation. The Jeeva is bound and is caught in vicious circle of birth and death by Prakriti i.e., nature.  He attains freedom from this bondage having realised from true self and achieves absolute emancipation and becomes ever blissful.   Many mantras in Rgveda endorse this three-factor point.

b) Creation:  There about 6 to 7 suktaas in Rgveda regarding the genesis of this Universe.   The Naasadiya, Hiranyagarbha and Purusha suktaas are the most famous.   Naasadiya sukta (10.129) describes the condition before the creation, and evolution of the Universe.

In the beginning there was nothing. There were neither worlds nor sky, neither momentum nor pace, neither birth nor death nor immortality, neither day nor night. Only the Omnipotent, supreme consciousness, existed in dormant form.

Desire was born in His heart and the seed of creation was born, where from He Himself was born or his creation, whether the devas were born before the creation or after ? Who has ever understood?

 The supreme consciousness, the supreme Lord is the only Lord of this creation and he alone should known and understood. The Hiranyagarbha sukta too describes the process of creation. In the beginning the Hirayagarbha Parmaatman alone existed.  He was the sole lord of all created being.  He bears on his person the earth and celestial worlds.

Each sookta of Rgveda has its own Deva, where in that particular Deva is worshipped through hymns in his praise. Yaaska the Niruktakaara defines Deva as – Devo daanaad dyotanaad deepanaad vaa

Deva is the one who bestows things, or who shines or who illuminates. There are 33 Devas in Rgveda. Yaaska has classified Devas into three categories. Prithvi sthaneeya, antariksa sthaneeya and Dyusthaneeya – i.e terrestial deities, deities of space and deities of heaven. The following are the prominent Devas of Rgveda.
  • Indra: Indra is the greatest of all Devas in Rgveda. Indra has been extolled in 1028 suktas of Rigveda. He is the racial as well as the national deity of the Aryan race due to his virtues. He is the king of all Devas. According to Rgveda Indra is endowed with three special characteristics – a) The accomplisher of great feats, b) master of unparalleled might and c) The vanquisher of the Asuraas. Indra’s favourite weapon is the thunderbolt – Vajra. Twashta designed this deadly weapon for Indra. Indra is also known as Shakra. Shachipat, Shachivaan. Shatakratu etc., Dyou is Indra’s father. Agni and Pusha are his brothers and Indraani (Shachi Devi) is his wife.
  • Agni: Agni is the second most important deity in Rgveda on the basis of his influence and magnitude. 200 hymns are devoted to Agni. Just as Indra is the lord of seasons and war Agni is the lord of household activities. No religious activity is possible without Agni.
  • Varuna: After Indra and Agni Varuna enjoys the third place among Devas in Rgveda in terms of importance. He is praised only in 12 suktaas. Yet he is the ruler and administrator of the world. He makes people follow the law.
  • Marut: Marut is not a single deity but a group of deities and therefore they are always addressed in plural. The Marutas are the object of glorification in 42 suktaas. They are known as the sons of Rudra and Prushni.
  • Vishnu: Vishnu’s glories are sung in 152 suktas belonging to the 1st mandala. Though a minor deity in Rgveda Vishnu attained great importance later. Actually Vishnu means the Sun.
  • Surya: According to the description in Rgveda the physical Sun itself is Surya Deva. Thus we find the description of physical attributes of Surya.
  • Savitaa: Though there is much similarity in Surya and Savitaa, Savita has been described differently. Savita is the lord of day and night. The sacred Gayatri mantra glorifies Savita.
  • Mitra: Mitra is a close friend of Varuna. He is very compassionate and mighty.
  • Ushas: The Rgvedic poets have exhibited exemplary poetic skills in describing Ushas. 20 suktas are devoted to Ushas. She is the presiding deity of beauty, grace and charm.
  • Soma: Soma is an important diety of Rgveda. Nearly the complete Ninth mandala is devoted to Soma. There are 120 hymns in his praise.Pushan: Pushan is mentioned is 8 sukta of Rgveda. 5 of these appear in the sixth mandala. Pushan is described as the lord of all animate and inanimate living beings and the protector of the paths.
  • Vaata: Vaata is the deity of air. He has been praised in two short suktas of the Rgveda. He is considered as the inspirer and soul of Vaayu. Vaata is the respiration of the Devas like Rudra, Vaata cures diseases and enhances the life span. His speed is awesome. He is only heard and cannot be seen.
  • Vaastoshpati: Though described in only one sukta, Vaastoshpati is mentioned seven times in Rgveda. He bears similarity to soma in characteristics. The Vaastoshpati sukta is employed during house-warming ceremony. According to Rgveda the blessings of Vaastoshpati should be sought by householders seeking all the necessary objects essential to run a household.
  • Vaak: The Rgveda describes Vaak as the presiding deity of speech. She is praised as a great power born of Brahma. Vaak is essentially another form of Brahma. She is the motivator of the Gods and helps them discharge their duties properly. Through here brilliance she transforms her devotees into Rishis, Brahmana and erudite. One should recite the Vaak sukta to attain great oratory skills.
  • Rudra: Rudra is described only in a few rchas yet as a very powerful Devata. In Rgveda, Rudra is described as the father and master of the Marutas. He is the most powerful among the powerful and indomitable. He supervises the world. Rudra is known as Aadi Deva; the first deity. Rudra is the deity of health and medicinal plants as well.
  • Yama: Yama is the God of life and shows the path to the dead. The fourteenth to eighteenth sukta of the tenth mandala of Rgveda deals with the spiritual science of death, life after death and similar topics. According to the vedic mantras Vivasvan and Sarayu the daughter of Twashta are the parents of Yama. The word Yama is derived from the root `Yam’ and means the controller of all beings. The suktas related to Yama are recited during the last rites of a man - burning the dead body on/in a pyre.
               Rigveda (Conclusion)

In the concluding edition of the series on Rigveda, we furnish a few popular sayings that are rich with profound meaning.

Agne sakhye maa rishaamaa vayam tava
O Supreme Lord! may we never suffer and perish and always enjoy your 
        benign grace.

Ekam sadvipraa bahudhaa vadanti
The one Supreme Lord is known by various names by the learned.

Eko Vis’wasya bhuvamasya raajaa
He is the sole master of the universe.

Yastanna veda kimrucha karishyati
What use are the vedas for the one, who does not know the brahman.

Sangacchadhvam samvadadhvam
Walk unitedly. Speak unitedly.

S’uddhaah pootaa bhavata yajniyaasah
Be pure and clean and lead a philonthrophic life.

Satyamoochurnara evaa hi chakruhu
Men expounded the truth and practiced it.

Na sa sakhaa yo na dadaati sakhye
He is not a true friend who does not help a friend in need.

Ritasya panthaa na taranti dushkrutah
Wrong-doers cannot cross the path of righteousness.

Dakshinaavanto amrutam bhajante
Generous persons attain immortality.

Samaanaa hrudayaani vah
May your minds unite.

Na rite sraantasya sakhyaaya devaah
Even the devas do not befriend persons why shy away from hardwork.

Upa sarpa maataram bhumim
Serve your motherland.

Yatemahi svarajye
Let us always strive for our sovereignty.

By: +Prof: Koti Madhav Balu Chowdary


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