Rig Veda Samhita
(contributed by Prof.
G.C.ASNANI, MSc., Ph.D. (United Nations Service, Retd)
Veda is the oldest surviving religious record of the human race. Much before the
printing press came into existence,
Rig Veda was transmitted from one generation to another by word of mouth.
Naturally, question would arise about interpolations and mutilations
during this transmission.
is a true story, almost unbelievable,
to answer this question of interpolations and mutilations in respect of Rig Veda.
In his book “India ¾ What can it teach us?” (1882,
Second Indian Edition published in 1961 by Munshi Ram Manohar Lal,
Nai Sarak, Delhi-6),
Max Muller writes :-
by Memory :- This may sound startling,
but-what will sound still more startling,
and yet is a fact that can easily
be ascertained by anybody who doubts it-at the present moment, if
every MS. of the Rig-Veda were lost, we should be able to recover the whole of
it- from the memory of the Srotriyas in India.
These native students learn the
Veda by heart, and then they learn it from the mouth of their Guru, never from a MS.,
still less from my printed edition, -
and after a time they teach it
again to their pupils.
“I have had
such students in my room at Oxford, who
could repeat these hymns,
but who repeated them with the
proper accents (for the
Vedic Sanskrit has accents like Greek),
nay who, when looking through my printed edition of the Rig-Veda, could
point out a misprint without the slightest hesitation.
“I can tell you more.
There are hardly any various readings in our MSS.
of the Rig-Veda,
but various schools in India have
their own readings of certain
passages, and they hand down those
readings with great care. So, instead of collating MSS., as
we do in Greek and Latin, I have
asked some friends of mine to collate those Vedic students,
who carry their own Rig-Veda in their memory,
and to let me have the various readings from these living authorities.
“Here then we are not dealing
with theories, but with facts, which
anybody may verify. The whole of the
Rig-Veda, and a great deal more,
still exists at the present moment in the oral tradition of a number of scholars
who, if they liked, could
write down every letter,
and every accent, exactly as we find them in our old MSS.
“Of course, this learning by
heart is carried on under a strict
discipline; it is, in fact, considered
as a sacred duty.
native friend of mine,
himself a very distinguished Vedic scholar, tells me that a boy, who
is to be brought up as a student
of the Rig-Veda,
has to spend about eight years in
the house of his teacher. He has to learn ten books:
first, the hymns of the Rig-Veda;
then a prose treatise on sacrifices, called
the Brahmana; then the so-called
Forest-book or Aranyaka; then the
rules of domestic ceremonies; and
lastly, six treatises on
pronunciation, grammar, etymology, metre,
astronomy, and ceremonial.
“These ten books, it has been calculated,
contain nearly 30,000 lines,
each line reckoned as thirty-two syllables.
“A pupil studies every day, during
the eight years of his theological apprenticeship,
except on the holidays, which are
called "non-reading days". There
being 360 days in a lunar year, the
eight years would give him 2,880 days. Deduct from this 384
holidays, and you get 2,496
working days during the eight years. If you divide the number of lines, 30,000,
by the number of working days, you
get about twelve lines to be learnt each day,
though much time is taken up, for
practising and rehearsing what has been learnt before.
this is the state of things at present, though I doubt whether it
would last much longer and
impress on my
India, and therefore impress
settled as Civil Servants in
India, the duty of trying to learn
all that can still be learnt from those
living libraries. Much ancient
Sanskrit lore will be lost for ever when that race of Srotriyas becomes
Generally, Srotriyas are
Brahmins by birth and by caste.
Profession used to be
by birth generally and caste was by profession.
Also, caste implied certain
discipline and code of conduct. The higher the caste, the greater was the discipline
required. Through professional
status, each caste used to have its
own status in society in ancient times.
Now that status by birth has lost its validity.
society is losing caste-consciousness and also related status by virtue of birth.
of castes in Hindu society and hence irrelevance of caste-status by birth had
been recognised in India even some
5,000 - 8,000 years back from today.
The date of the Mahabharata is placed
Christ i.e. 5,000 - 8,000 years back
In Mahabharata, the eldest
was asked by Yaksha to give correct answer to his question,
if the former wanted his brothers back to life.
Yaksha’s question was,
“Is caste-status by birth or by conduct
?” Yudhisthira’s answer was on the following lines:
“In ancient times, there was purity of blood and hence caste, profession and status, by
intermingling of blood has taken place by intercaste marriages to such an extent
that caste, profession and status
by birth have no meaning now.
One’s caste and status are by one’s conduct and not by birth. A
Brahmin’s conduct is characterised by truthfulness, charity, forgiveness,
nobleness, benevolence, observance
of appropriate rites and mercy. If
these qualities are not present in one who is born in a Brahmin family,
then he is not a Brahmin. If,
on the other hand, these
qualities are present in one who is born in a Sudra family, then he is a Brahmin”.
(Ref : Mahabharata, Vana Parva,
and Social Status by birth have no religious
It is the
conduct, not birth, which should command
respect, according to the principles of Hindu religion. This
idea is emphasised in “Manusmriti”
also. This meant discipline
of body, mind and intellect,
from childhood onwards, generation after generation,
than 200 generations
Hindus who preserved
us up to the present century.
a joke? Can
we even comprehend what all this
means? Caste system produced
and preserved this sacred and brilliant tradition of professional specialization.
Undoubtedly, over many past
centuries, there have crept in,
aberrations of the caste system in the Hindu Society and interpolations in some
Hindu Scriptures, but aberrations are
not to be found in the basic principle of caste system.
We must respect and accept what is right and unequivocally
reject what is wrong.
it must be emphasized that it is Hindu society itself which has been
fighting against the aberrations of caste-system,
and Hindu society itself has largely eliminated the same. What have non-Hindu critics of caste system contributed?
They have mostly contributed abuses on
Hinduism and attempted to destroy Hinduism itself, without recognizing its merits, saying that Hinduism has caste system.
human community ever existed in the past,
have caste system in one
form or the other. Let non-Hindu critics talk anything claiming casteless and
classless society of their own religions.
We know a little of every
religious community making such claims.
Information Technology has thrown light on the goings on inside every
non-Hindu community. Sitting in glass houses, let no one
throw stones at Hindu community.
Is Hinduism other-worldly ?
places, Rig-Veda Samhita reflects the
and prayers of Hindus living
their normal life.
That is the Hindu view of life. In Hindu view of life,
there are four objectives of a successful human life :-
1. Dharma : Righteousness.
2. Artha :
of normal worldly desires.
4. Moksha : Liberation from
worldly desire; attainment of enlightenment; God-realization; Self-realization.
The life of an ideal Hindu is divided into four stages,
each for a period of a quarter century:
1. Brahamacharya : Unmarried
2. Grihasta : Married
: Living in a forest as a recluse,
along with one’s spouse.
4. Sanyasa :
Renunication of all
family conn-ections, and moving from
place to place as an ascetic. (This type of Sanyasa appears to have got introduced at a
later stage in the History of Hinduism. Most
ancient Rishis were living in the forests along with their spouses).
are several variations, particularly of the last two stages ¾ Vanaprasta and Sanyasa.
Normally, Vanaprasta and
Sanyasa stages of life
be embraced by
after going through the
stage of Grihasta. As such,
the teachings of a recluse were firmly rooted in his experiences, aspirations
and prayers as a house-holder, a citizen who had actively participated in
the life of society in various capacities including even having functioned as
the ruler of an empire.
This class of men and women had passed through the battlefield of life,
had tasted all pleasures and pains of life and then taken to solitary
contemplative life. Their teachings and
compositions in prose or poetry, bear
a stamp of wisdom born out of real
experience of life and then deep contemplation.
composition of hymns of the Rig-Veda was done by Hindu recluses,
ascetics, Rishis and Sages rooted
in the realities of life inside the society.
were not composed
by cowherd boys and shepherds while they were grazing
their flocks of cattle, cows and sheep in the grass fields.
are couched in chaste
Sanskrit of their times, observing strict
rules of grammar and metre. Some
scholars have deciphered these Vedic hymns as capsules
containing, in cryptic form, formulae of various branches of mathematics, astronomy, chemistry
and other sciences. The hymns of these Vedas appeared before ancient sages of the Hindu
race after their prolonged period of strict discipline,
austerity and deep contemplation.
The ideas locked inside these Vedic hymns are supposed to be divine
revelations to these Sages, Rishis of
yore. The names of the 407
Rig-Vedic Sages or Rishis (men as
well as women) who composed
particular Hymns or to whom the
same were revealed, are faithfully
recorded in the original texts.
For the same reason, feelings
and aspirations expressed in the vedic hymns are regarded as divinely approved
and consistent with the Laws of Nature; the
observance of these Laws in one’s life will bring the fulfilment of the four
religiously sanctioned objectives of human life, viz. Dharma,
Artha, Kama, Moksha. Hymns
are classified as “SHRUTI” ¾
the “Heard” ones-as heard by
the Rishis, the Sages,
in state of deep contemplation, and
transmitted for the good of society. For example,
the desire for material
prosperity, good health and honoured
long life of 100 years so often seen
in Vedic hymns
to be regarded as unworthy of an elevated person; such aspirations are consistent with the Laws of Nature and should
Genuine renunciation will come and a pilgrim on the path of religious
life will make solid, substantial and sound progress when, through experience accompanied by thoughtful analysis and
contemplation, he feels an inner urge
for retiring from the pursuit of worldly pleasures. Otherwise,
pre-mature renunciation with worldly
ambitions still lurking in the mind of a religious pilgrim will result in
downright hypocrisy, that will bring blockades in the pilgrim’s progress
on the path of God-realization. Not only
family, community and his
country will come to grief when the noble principles of renunciation and
selflessness are proclaimed on the public platforms or exhibited through one’s
dress but an under-current of selfishness and narrow-minded worldly aspirations
are dragging the man or the woman in the opposite direction.
We have to get our desires for worldly pleasures and possessions
washed out clear before we walk on the path of renunciation.
rare exceptional cases, skipping the
householder’s stage of life and going straight into the life of sanyas is
permitted but not encouraged.
Worship of God in many forms
of the hymns of Rig-Veda Samhita will show that a Hindu has inherited the
following view of worship of God :- A Hindu believes in one and
only one God, but he does not believe in one and only one form of manifestation
of God. A Hindu sees and adores God
in a hundred, thousand and many more forms. He sees and worships God in everything, particularly where there is manifestation of life,
energy, beauty, strength and
valour. He worships the Sun,
the Moon, the Earth, the Sky,
the Rivers, the Stars, the Days,
the Nights, the Forests, the
Animals, the Plants and what not,
as manifestations of one and only one God.
has been sometimes mis-understood and even mis-construed that Hindus do not
believe in one God but in many Gods;
this is wrong and misleading. It must be emphasised that Hindus
believe in one and only one God, but having manifestations in millions of
forms, shapes and even in abstract
qualities and emotions.
For example, a mother’s love
of a chaste wife to
her husband in the face of difficulties and dangers is the manifestation of
exquisite dance and music
is a manifestation
of divinity. The Sun, the Moon,
the Stars, the Rivers, the Ocean,
the Rocks, the Trees, everything
is worshipped by a Hindu as a manifestation of God. A Hindu accepts
Omnipresence of God and does not deny His presence anywhere. God is also
hence He sees the sincerity of
Worship of a devotee in
whichever form the devotee worships Him.
does not recognise existence of anything outside God,
anything without God; even Satan does not exist outside God. There cannot be God and
a Satan outside God.
Equation E = mc2
expresses that mass is made up of energy. How many shapes and forms of mass do we see? solids, liquids,
gases, yellow, red,
green, heavy, light,
etc. These are all
manifestations of one and the same
energy; so also are infinite number
of forms of one and the same God.
and other scientists penetrated through diverse
forms of mass and brought us into the realm of
one energy. Still space-time
continuum remained separately. The Sages of the Vedas had penetrated deeper than the realm of
energy, space and time. They had
discovered the deeper realm of ONE
REALITY with quality of Consciousness,
Spacelessness, Timelessness and
Blissfulness, in which the entire universe exists, although having the appearance of vast diversity,
multiplicity and opposites.
The path traversed by the Rishis,
the Sages, the Mystics was not
one of modern physics, but one of
deep contemplation and experience.
This experience of
blissfulness at the bottom of everything seen in Nature is expressed through
their Hymns given in the Vedas. Many of them, at
various times and places, have
declared : “I have seen
THAT”. Some have gone further
and declared “I AM THAT”.
given by different Rishis at different times and at different places are
tallying, one with the other.
This confirms the
objectivity of these subjective experiences.
We cannot just dismiss these away as fictions of mind.
We must face and acknowledge the Truth and give credit where
it is due. This is the wonderful treasure we have all inherited as members of
this blessed human race on this Earth. Let us appreciate it,
live it and spread joy and blissfulness all around.
Hindu does not confine limitless God within the walls of a temple or a church. A Hindu does not
accept the authority of any person on the earth-in the past, at present or at any future instant of time-as the sole exclusice
authority and mouth-piece of God.
A Hindu is free to
think, to feel, to believe, to disbelieve.
in respect of religious Scriptures, a
Hindu is supposed to listen to and contemplate on what is written in the Shruti
(Vedas), Smritis (Coded laws of life),
Itihas (History of great men),
but finally he should
dictates of his
own conscience. This is
given to a Hindu by the very
to follow. This
is the uniqueness, the broadminded
open-ness of Hinduism.
and shall survive as
long as human race survives
on this sacred Mother Earth.
many of the Scriptures of other religions of the world give this freedom to
their followers ?
Worship of NATURE :
A Hindu is particularly fond of worshipping NATURE.
At the time of daybreak, the twilight of the Dawn sends a Hindu into
raptures of ecstacy.
What a beauty! What a grandeur! The
Sages who composed the hymns to the Dawn
seem to be
dancing in the river of ecstatic joy.
You see this, you feel this, when you read the Hymns addressed to the
The compiler of this collection has exihibited his weakness for this
grandeur by giving a large number of verses under “Dawn”. So also his
weakness for Clouds, Winds and Rain;
he is a meteorologist who has enjoyed the sight and lessons learnt from
viewing the clouds in the sky.
Sun evokes a feeling of joy, strength, valour and heroism.
The moon is the personification
of sheer beauty. The
rivers nourish the land. The rains are a
nectar poured from the heaven. Clouds
are the Chariots of Wind god. Words fail to correctly convey the joy and feelings
expressed by the Hindu Rishis and Sages when they saw the wonders of Nature,
the wonders of LIFE. They
and positive outlook
on life. The reading
and repeated recitation
of these hymns will pump life,
strength and courage into any one who cares to read and/or recite the same.
These constitute the precious
heritage bequeathed by the Hindu Rishis and Sages to the whole human race for
the good of the whole human society on this earth.
Hymns give energy and power which should also be handled with suitable care and
as nuclear energy or the nuclear fission material should be handled and used
with appropriate restrictions and discipline, so should the Vedic Hymns be.
6. Samhitas and Upanishads
have been some variations in nomenclature about what constitutes a Veda,
Veda Samhitas, Brahmanas,
Aranyakas, Upanishads, etc.
are sometimes all taken together to constitute a Veda.
However, it is generally accepted that Samhita is the principal component while other components are
specialised treatises to elaborate specific ideas which are contained in the
Samhitas; e.g. Brahmanas give
Upanishads elucidate the philosophical ideas contained in the Samhitas. During the last two
centuries, the Vedas have been introduced
particularly through the medium of German and English languages.
In the western world, the Upanishads have received maximum acceptance and appreciation.
However, it may be stated that
the philosophy expounded in the
the inspired, revealed,
mystic poetry of
the Samhita. One may even venture to suggest an analogy that Samhitas are
the milk; taken to the forest,
this milk ferments and turns to form curd
(Yoghurt); the Rishis churned the curds and separated butter from the
milk, the curds, the butter
as well as the buttermilk are beneficial for the body system of the society.
For convenience and with some sort of
justification, the Upanishads may be considered as
the butter. For brevity, however,
we shall refer to the Rig-Veda Samhita as Rig-Veda.
7. Positive Attitude
towards Human Birth on the Earth.
of Rig Veda gives a very clear impression of a buoyant,
vigorous and joyful attitude towards life on this earth.
The Hindu Society appreciated,
enjoyed and aspired for a full life of
100 years, lived
prosperity and austerity. The same impression is carried through Valmiki’s Ramayana as
well as Mahabharata.
literature of later times, we find a marked tilt towards attitude of pessimism,
negativism. Aspiration for honour
and prosperity came to be regarded as a sort of undesirable worldly weaknesses
and inferiority of mind.
The spirit of strength and valour started declining,
giving place to a sort of disgust
with life, ready and even anxious to
quit this earth, harping on miseries
on the earth, transitoriness of
worldly things, praying to God never
birth on this earth,
Political history of later times also shows marked
The country which was once
buoyant and bold, became weak, meek and
the Hindus started getting beatings from many sides;
their prayers also started showing attitude of helplessness and disgust for
we do not value and respect the beauties and bounties so abundantly given to us
by NATURE, from sunrise to sunset and
during the night, and also from
season to season, year after year,
how can we expect to
be happy on this Earth?
Let us respect and appreciate elements of NATURE, the very manifestations of God in a hundred thousand forms,
as did our ancient
Rig-Veda, filled with ecstacy and adoration, bursting with energy and
enthusiasm for life,
and aspiring to fill the whole surface of the earth and space around us, with vigour and joyfulness,
health and prosperity, long life
and desire to live and
be born again and again on
this Sacred Mother Earth.
To regain the lost glory and vigour,
prosperity and happiness, to fulfil
our destined role of spreading real joy and spirituality in the whole human race,
let us sing with the Rishis of Rig Veda :
me, amongst so many immortal
divinities of the universe, who is
the Self-radiant, and whose glory we
should meditate on? And after having
lived a full life, who will deliver
us back to this living world so that we
to see a father
and a mother?” (1.24.1) “The
supreme God, the foremost adorable,
whose auspicious name we meditate on,
will deliver us back to this world so that we
may be born again to see a father
and a mother”. (1.24.2)
selections are made from Rig Veda Samhita.
These are based mostly on 13
volumes published by Veda Pratishthana, New Delhi, on behalf of
Narendra Mohan Foundation,
Pusa Road, New Delhi, India.