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The Rigveda (Sanskrit: ऋग्वेद ṛgveda, a compound of ṛc "praise, verse" and veda "knowledge") is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It is counted among the four canonical sacred texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas. Some of its verses are still recited as Hindu prayers, at religious functions and other occasions, putting these among the world's oldest religious texts in continued use. The Rigveda contains several mythological and poetical accounts of the origin of the world, hymns praising the gods, and ancient prayers for life, prosperity, etc.
It is one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language. Philological and linguistic evidence indicate that the Rigveda was composed in the north-western region of the Indian subcontinent, roughly between 1700–1100 BC (the early Vedic period). There are strong linguistic and cultural similarities with the early Iranian Avesta, deriving from the Proto-Indo-Iranian times, often associated with the early Andronovo and Sintashta-Petrovka cultures of ca. 2200–1600 BC.
The surviving form of the Rigveda is based on an early Iron Age (c. 10th c. BC) collection that established the core 'family books' (mandalas 2–7, ordered by author, deity and meter ) and a later redaction, co-eval with the redaction of the other Vedas, dating several centuries after the hymns were composed. This redaction also included some additions (contradicting the strict ordering scheme) and orthoepic changes to the Vedic Sanskrit such as the regularization of sandhi (termed orthoepische Diaskeuase by Oldenberg, 1888).
As with the other Vedas, the redacted text has been handed down in several versions, most importantly the Padapatha that has each word isolated in pausa form and is used for just one way of memorization; and the Samhitapatha that combines words according to the rules of sandhi (the process being described in the Pratisakhya) and is the memorized text used for recitation.
The Padapatha and the Pratisakhya anchor the text's fidelity and meaning and the fixed text was preserved with unparalleled fidelity for more than a millennium by oral tradition alone. In order to achieve this the oral tradition prescribed very structured enunciation, involving breaking down the Sanskrit compounds into stems and inflections, as well as certain permutations. This interplay with sounds gave rise to a scholarly tradition of morphology and phonetics. The Rigveda was probably not written down until the Gupta period (4th to 6th century AD), by which time the Brahmi script had become widespread (the oldest surviving manuscripts date to the Late Middle Ages). The oral tradition still continued into recent times.
The original text (as authored by the Rishis) is close to but not identical to the extant Samhitapatha, but metrical and other observations allow to reconstruct (in part at least) the original text from the extant one, as printed in the Harvard Oriental Series, vol. 50 (1994).
The text is organized in 10 books, known as Mandalas, of varying age and length. The "family books": mandalas 2–7, are the oldest part of the Rigveda and the shortest books; they are arranged by length and account for 38% of the text. The eighth and ninth mandalas, comprising hymns of mixed age, account for 15% and 9%, respectively. The first and the tenth mandalas are the youngest; they are also the longest books, of 191 suktas each, accounting for 37% of the text.
Each mandala consists of hymns called sūkta (su-ukta, literally, "well recited, eulogy") intended for various sacrificial rituals. The sūktas in turn consist of individual stanzas called ṛc ("praise", pl.ṛcas), which are further analysed into units of verse called pada ("foot"). The meters most used in the ṛcas are the jagati (a pada consists of 12 syllables), trishtubh (11), viraj (10), gayatri andanushtubh (8).
For pedagogical convenience, each mandala is synthetically divided into roughly equal sections of several sūktas, called anuvāka ("recitation"), which modern publishers often omit. Another scheme divides the entire text over the 10 mandalas into aṣṭaka ("eighth"), adhyāya ("chapter") and varga ("class"). Some publishers give both classifications in a single edition.
The most common numbering scheme is by book, hymn and stanza (and pada a, b, c ..., if required). E.g., the first pada is
and the final pada is
The major Rigvedic shakha ("branch", i. e. recension) that has survived is that of Śākalya. Another shakha that may have survived is the Bāṣkala, although this is uncertain. The surviving padapatha version of the Rigveda text is ascribed to Śākalya. The Śākala recension has 1,017 regular hymns, and an appendix of 11 vālakhilya hymns which are now customarily included in the 8th mandala (as 8.49–8.59), for a total of 1028 hymns. The Bāṣkala recension includes 8 of these vālakhilya hymns among its regular hymns, making a total of 1025 regular hymns for this śākhā. In addition, the Bāṣkala recension has its own appendix of 98 hymns, the Khilani.
In the 1877 edition of Aufrecht, the 1028 hymns of the Rigveda contain a total of 10,552 ṛcs, or 39,831 padas. The Shatapatha Brahmana gives the number of syllables to be 432,000, 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 and the post-Rigvedic pronunciation of syllables like súvar as svàr.
Tradition associates a rishi (the composer) with each ṛc of the Rigveda. Most sūktas are attributed to single composers. The "family books" (2–7) are so-called because they have hymns by members of the same clan in each book; but other clans are also represented in the Rigveda. In all, 10 families of rishis account for more than 95% of the ṛcs; for each of them the Rigveda includes a lineage-specific āprī hymn (a special sūkta of rigidly formulaic structure, used for animal sacrifice in the soma ritual).
|Angiras||I.142||3619 (especially Mandala 6)|
|Kanva||I.13||1315 (especially Mandala 8)|
|Vasishtha||VII.2||1276 (Mandala 7)|
|Vishvamitra||III.4||983 (Mandala 3)|
|Atri||V.5||885 (Mandala 5)|
|Kashyapa||IX.5||415 (part of Mandala 9)|
|Grtsamada||II.3||401 (Mandala 2)|
There are, for example, 30 manuscripts of Rigveda at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, collected in the 19th century by Georg Bühler, Franz Kielhorn and others, originating from different parts of India, including Kashmir, Gujarat, the then Rajaputana, Central Provinces etc. They were transferred to Deccan College, Pune, in the late 19th century. They are in the Sharadaand Devanagari scripts, written on birch bark and paper. The oldest of them is dated to 1464. The 30 manuscripts of Rigveda preserved at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune were added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2007.
Of these 30 manuscripts, 9 contain the samhita text, 5 have the padapatha in addition. 13 contain Sayana's commentary. At least 5 manuscripts (MS. no. 1/A1879-80, 1/A1881-82, 331/1883-84 and 5/Viś I) have preserved the complete text of the Rigveda. MS no. 5/1875-76, written on birch bark in bold Sharada, was only in part used by Max Müller for his edition of the Rigveda with Sayana's commentary.
Müller used 24 manuscripts then available to him in Europe, while the Pune Edition used over five dozen manuscripts, but the editors of Pune Edition could not procure many manuscripts used by Müller and by the Bombay Edition, as well as from some other sources; hence the total number of extant manuscripts known then must surpass perhaps eighty at least
The Rigvedic hymns are dedicated to various deities, chief of whom are Indra, a heroic god praised for having slain his enemy Vrtra; Agni, the sacrificial fire; and Soma, the sacred potion or the plant it is made from. Equally prominent gods are the Adityas or Asura gods Mitra–Varuna and Ushas (the dawn). Also invoked are Savitr, Vishnu, Rudra, Pushan, Brihaspati or Brahmanaspati, as well as 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 theVishvadevas ("all-gods") as well as the "thirty-three gods" are the groups of deities mentioned.
The hymns mention various further minor gods, persons, phenomena and items, and contain 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 or Dasyu and their mythical prototypes, the Paṇi (the Bactrian Parna).
The Rigveda's core is accepted to date to the late Bronze Age, making it one of the few examples with an unbroken tradition. Its composition is usually dated to roughly between 1700–1100 BC. The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (s.v. Indo-Iranian languages, p. 306) gives 1500–1000 BC. Being composed in an early Indo-Aryan language, the hymns must post-date the Indo-Iranian separation, dated to roughly 2000 BC. A reasonable date close to that of the composition of the core of the Rigveda is that of the Indo-Aryan Mitanni documents of c. 1400 BC. Other evidence also points to a composition close to 1400 BC
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 and Rudolf Roth onwards. The Rigveda records an early stage of Vedic religion. There are strong linguistic and cultural similarities with the early Iranian Avesta, deriving from the Proto-Indo-Iranian times, often associated with the early Andronovo culture (or rather, the Sintashta culture within the early Andronovo horizon) of ca. 2000 BC.
The text in the following centuries underwent pronunciation revisions and standardization (samhitapatha, padapatha). This redaction would have been completed around the 6th century BC. Exact dates are not established, but they fall within the pre-Buddhist period (500, or rather 400 BC).
Writing appears in India around the 3rd 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. While written manuscripts were used for teaching in medieval times, they were written on birch bark or palm leaves, which decompose fairly quickly in the tropical climate, until the advent of the printing press from the 16th[dubious – discuss] century CE. Some Rigveda commentaries may date from the second half of the first millennium CE. 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 princepsby Rosen, Aufrecht and Max Müller.
After their composition, the texts were preserved and codified by an extensive body of Vedic priesthood as the central philosophy of the Iron Age Vedic civilization. The Brahma Purana and theVayu Purana name one Vidagdha as the author of the Padapatha. The Rk-pratishakhya names Sthavira Shakalya of the Aitareya Aranyaka as its author.
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: Rivers flow north to south, the mountains are relatively remote but still visible and reachable (Soma is a plant found in the high mountains, and it has to be purchased from tribal people). Nevertheless, the hymns were certainly composed over a long period, with the oldest (not preserved) elements possibly reaching back to times close to the split of Proto-Indo-Iranian(around 2000 BC) Thus there was 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 rather hark back to clashes between the early Indo-Aryans with the BMAC in what is now northern Afghanistan and southern Turkmenistan (separated from the upperIndus by the Hindu Kush mountain range, and some 400 km distant).
While it is highly likely that the bulk of the Rigvedic hymns were composed in the Punjab, even if based on earlier poetic traditions, there is no mention of either tigers or rice in the Rigveda (as opposed to the later Vedas), suggesting that Vedic culture only penetrated into the plains of India after its completion. Similarly, there is no mention of iron as the term ayas occurring in the Rig Veda refers to useful metal in general. The "black metal" (kṛṣṇa ayas) is first mentioned in the post-Rigvedic texts (Atharvaveda etc.). The Iron Age in northern India begins in the 10th century in the Greater Punjab. There is a widely accepted timeframe for the initial codification of the Rigveda by compiling the hymns very late in the Rigvedic or rather in the early post-Rigvedic period, including the arrangement of the individual hymns in ten books, coeval with the composition of the younger Veda Samhitas. This time coincides with the early Kuru kingdom, shifting the center of Vedic culture east from the Punjab into what is now Uttar Pradesh. The fixing of the samhitapatha (by keeping Sandhi) intact and of the padapatha (by dissolving Sandhi out of the earlier metrical text), occurred during the later Brahmana period.
Some of the names of gods and goddesses found in the Rigveda are found amongst other belief systems based on Proto-Indo-European religion, while words used share common roots with words from other Indo-European languages.
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), ass (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.
Of the Brahmanas that were handed down in the schools of the Bahvṛcas (i.e. "possessed of many verses"), as the followers of the Rigveda are called, two have come down to us, namely those of the Aitareyins and the Kaushitakins. The Aitareya-brahmana and the Kaushitaki- (or Sankhayana-) brahmana evidently have for their groundwork the same stock of traditional exegetic matter. They differ, however, considerably as regards both the arrangement of this matter and their stylistic handling of it, with the exception of the numerous legends common to both, in which the discrepancy is comparatively slight. There is also a certain amount of material peculiar to each of them.
The Kaushitaka is, upon the whole, far more concise in its style and more systematic in its arrangement features which would lead one to infer that it is probably the more modern work of the two. It consists of thirty chapters (adhyaya); while the Aitareya has forty, divided into eight books (or pentads, pancaka), of five chapters each. The last ten adhyayas of the latter work are, however, clearly a later addition though they must have already formed part of it at the time of Pāṇini (ca. 5th c. BC), if, as seems probable, one of his grammatical sutras, regulating the formation of the names of Brahmanas, consisting of thirty and forty adhyayas, refers to these two works. In this last portion occurs the well-known legend (also found in the Shankhayana-sutra, but not in the Kaushitaki-brahmana) of Shunahshepa, whom his father Ajigarta sells and offers to slay, the recital of which formed part of the inauguration of kings.
While the Aitareya deals almost exclusively with the Soma sacrifice, the Kaushitaka, in its first six chapters, treats of the several kinds of haviryajna, or offerings of rice, milk, ghee, &c., whereupon follows the Soma sacrifice in this way, that chapters 7–10 contain the practical ceremonial and 11–30 the recitations (shastra) of the hotar. Sayana, in the introduction to his commentary on the work, ascribes the Aitareya to the sage Mahidasa Aitareya (i.e. son of Itara), also mentioned elsewhere as a philosopher; and it seems likely enough that this person arranged the Brahmana and founded the school of the Aitareyins. Regarding the authorship of the sister work we have no information, except that the opinion of the sage Kaushitaki is frequently referred to in it as authoritative, and generally in opposition to the Paingya—the Brahmana, it would seem, of a rival school, the Paingins. Probably, therefore, it is just what one of the manuscripts calls it—the Brahmana of Sankhayana (composed) in accordance with the views of Kaushitaki.
Each of these two Brahmanas is supplemented by a "forest book", or Aranyaka. The Aitareyaranyaka is not a uniform production. It consists of five books (aranyaka), three of which, the first and the last two, are of a liturgical nature, treating of the ceremony called mahavrata, or great vow. The last of these books, composed in sutra form, is, however, doubtless of later origin, and is, indeed, ascribed by Hindu authorities either to Shaunaka or to Ashvalayana. The second and third books, on the other hand, are purely speculative, and are also styled the Bahvrca-brahmana-upanishad. Again, the last four chapters of the second book are usually singled out as the Aitareyopanishad, ascribed, like its Brahmana (and the first book), to Mahidasa Aitareya; and the third book is also referred to as the Samhita-upanishad. As regards the Kaushitaki-aranyaka, this work consists of 15 adhyayas, the first two (treating of the mahavrata ceremony) and the 7th and 8th of which correspond to the 1st, 5th, and 3rd books of the Aitareyaranyaka, respectively, whilst the four adhyayas usually inserted between them constitute the highly interesting Kaushitaki (brahmana-) upanishad, of which we possess two different recensions. The remaining portions (9–15) of the Aranyaka treat of the vital airs, the internal Agnihotra, etc., ending with the vamsha, or succession of teachers.
According to Hindu 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 discussed and interpreted the Vedic ritual. Yaska was an early commentator of the Rigveda by discussing the meanings of difficult words. In the 14th century, Sāyana wrote an exhaustive commentary on it.
A number of other commentaries bhāṣyas were written during the medieval period, including the commentaries by Skandasvamin (pre-Sayana, roughly of the Gupta period), Udgitha (pre-Sayana),Venkata-Madhava (pre-Sayana, ca. 10th to 12th century) and Mudgala (after Sayana, an abbreviated version of Sayana's commentary).
Since the 19th and 20th centuries, some reformers like Swami Dayananda Saraswati, founder of the Arya Samaj and Sri Aurobindo have attempted to re-interpret the Vedas to conform to modern and established moral and spiritual norms. Dayananda considered the Vedas (which he defined to include only the samhitas) to be source of truth, totally free of error and containing the seeds of all valid knowledge. Contrary to common understanding, he was adamant that Vedas were monotheistic and that they did not sanction idol worship. Starting 1877, he intended to publish commentary on the four vedas but completed work on only the Yajurveda, and a partial commentary on the Rigveda. Dayananda's work is not highly regarded by Vedic scholars and IndologistLouis Renou, among others, dismissed it as, "a vigorous (and from our point of view, extremely aberrant) interpretation in the social and political sense."
Dayananda and Aurobindo moved[clarification needed] the Vedantic perception of the Rigveda from the original ritualistic content to a more symbolic or mystical interpretation.[dubious – discuss] For example, instances of animal sacrifice were not seen by them as literal slaughtering, but as transcendental processes.
Questions surrounding the Rigvedic Sarasvati River and the Nadistuti sukta in particular have become tied to an ideological debate on the Indo-Aryan migration (termed "Aryan Invasion Theory") versus the claim that Vedic culture, together with Vedic Sanskrit, originated in the Indus Valley Civilization (termed "Out of India theory"), a topic of great significance in Hindu nationalism, addressed for example by K. D. Sethna and in Shrikant G. Talageri's The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis. Subhash Kak (1994) 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) had claimed presence of the Rigvedic culture in India in the 4th millennium BC, and in his The Arctic Home in the Vedas (1903) even argued that the Aryans originated near the North Pole and came south during the ice age.
Debate on alternative suggestions on the date of the Rigveda, typically much earlier dates, are mostly taking place outside of scholarly literature. Some writers out of the mainstream claim to trace astronomical references in the Rigveda, dating it to as early as 4000 BC, a date well within the Indian Neolithic. Publications to this effect have increased during the late 1990s to early 2000s in the context of historical revisionism in Hindu nationalism, notably in books published by Voice of India.
The first published translation of any portion of the Rigveda in any Western language was into Latin, by Friedrich August Rosen (Rigvedae specimen, London 1830). Predating Müller's editio princeps of the text, Rosen was working from manuscripts brought back from India by Colebrooke.
H. H. 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 ofSāyaṇa. In 1977, Wilson's edition was enlarged by Nag Sharan Singh (Nag Publishers, Delhi, 2nd ed. 1990).
In 1889, Ralph T.H. Griffith published his translation as The Hymns of the Rig Veda, published in London (1889).
A German translation was published by Karl Friedrich Geldner, Der Rig-Veda: aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche Übersetzt, Harvard Oriental Studies, vols. 33–37 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1951-7).
Geldner's translation was the philologically best-informed to date, and a Russian translation based on Geldner's by Tatyana Elizarenkova was published by Nauka 1989–1999
A 2001 revised edition of Wilson's translation was published by Ravi Prakash Arya and K. L. Joshi. The revised edition updates Wilson's translation by replacing obsolete English forms with more modern equivalents, giving the English translation along with the original Sanskrit text in Devanagari script, along with a critical apparatus.
In 2004 the United States' National Endowment for the Humanities funded Joel Brereton and Stephanie W. Jamison as project directors for a new original translation to be issued by Oxford University Press.
Numerous partial translations exist into various languages. Notable examples include:
Courtesy : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigveda
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