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The Rig Veda

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The earliest of the four Hindu religious scriptures known as the Vedas, and the first extensive composition to survive in any Indo-European language, the Rig Veda is a collection of over 1000 individual Sanskrit hymns. A work of intricate beauty, it provides a unique insight into early Indian mythology, religion and culture. This selection of 18 of the hymns, chosen for their eloquence and wisdom, focuses on the enduring themes of creation, sacrifice, death, women, the sacred plant soma and the gods. Inspirational and profound, it provides a fascinating introduction to one of the founding texts of Hindu scripture, an awesome and venerable ancient work of Vedic ritual, prayer, philosophy, legend and faith.

352 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1001

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Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,926 followers
November 14, 2016
Doniger captures only about 10% (108/1028 hymns) of the Rig Veda here and the verses deemed more “interesting” are given a bit too much spotlight to be able to call this a representative selection. This makes this anthology a very personal selection that reflects the interests and obsessions of the author more than that of the seers of the original Vedic hymns. The only good thing about these obsessions is that they invoke the most amusing sort of vitriol from certain cliques! From a scholarly perspective, they only diminish the book.

That being said, Doniger’s work is a valuable counter point against most of the spiritual works that are commonly available when you go hunting for the Vedas. For me the high-point of these is Aurobindo’s commentary - these works look at the Vedic Hymns in the light of the Upanishads, but the Upanishads are almost certainly a later stage of evolution for the Vedic civilization. Doniger avoids this outlook and courageously looks at the hymns as and in themselves - giving free play to their focus on ritual, material well-being, and naturalism and showing that the verses are less spiritual and symbolic in nature than normally asserted. Doniger does not deny spiritual overtones (especially when she allows the commentaries of Sayana to be directly put forth), but instead shows that such aspects work nicely with the ritualistic and material aspects of the hymns to set up delicious riddling structures inside the hymns. Now, the problem with Doniger’s clearly biased selection is that the reader cannot be sure if this feature that comes to light is due to the sample itself or because this is in fact one of the important ways to understand the Vedas. Seems like there is no avoiding a 3000 page tome when it comes to the Vedas, which is what any realistic attempt which tries to incorporate the commentaries would come to.

All in all, this work if read in conjunction with Aurobindo will work as two nicely contrasting introductions to the reading of the Vedas. In that way it is valuable. Also, the barrage of 1 star reviews by fake accounts should also be an incentive for you to check out the book. But it is no Penguin “classic”. That should be reserved for more comprehensive and complete works.
Profile Image for Ronald Morton.
408 reviews149 followers
December 31, 2019
Apologies in advance, this is quite long and rambling – a lot of this is my notes as I tried to organize my thoughts during my read of this; it has been edited for cohesiveness, but I’m a lousy self-editor.

Back when I started reading the Murty Classical Library of India books (which I need to get back into now that some further volumes of interest – to me – have come out) I spent a lot time hopping around various websites in an attempt to bolster my knowledge of Indian Mythology, Religion, and History – in the course of all that research this book ended up on my Amazon wishlist. That’s not to say that the Rigveda in general ended up on my wishlist, but that this very specific (and very expensive) three volume set ended up there. It looks like – based on incomplete research I’m sure – that this is the only way currently to get the full text in English. I’m sure there are versions of the previous Griffith translation – as far as I can tell this was the last complete English translation of the work, and was translated back in 1889-92 – but this looks like it as far as recent and available translations go. Of course, at $350 it was always going to sit on my wishlist for a looooong time. Then I realized I could just ILL it, and here we are. Also, a couple months ago a paperback version of this was released; it’s still $175, but at least it’s slightly more attainable.

If you don’t know – I didn’t – the Rigveda is a collection of 1028 hymns; their primary purpose is to entice specific gods (or various gods, or “All Gods”) to attend a specific sacrifice. The poet of the hymn would have been hired by the “sacrificer” in order to call attention to the sacrifice. Basically there were a lot of these going on, and through the skills of the poet the sacrifice could be made successful (for which the poet was paid a portion). Think of it as very old and very complex advertising.

So, general background; and most of this comes from the (very well laid out and informative) 80ish page introduction to this edition (plus Mandala and Hymn introductions), but I’m also copying and pasting from Wikipedia where the sources overlap as it’s considerably easier than trying to OCR or paraphrase passages from the print edition.

First – the Rigveda is old. Like, really old. It’s old enough that it’s time of original composition is mostly a guess – there are historical references in the work that allow for a narrowing in of a time frame; an interesting note is that iron is not referenced in the work and this is also used in the pre-iron age dating of the work. Consensus is that the first texts were composed somewhere in the 1500 – 2000 BCE range. Which means this is roughly 3500 – 4000 years old: one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language. Amazingly, the oldest manuscript of this dates from around 1040 CE, which means it existed in oral form for some 2500 years. That’s crazy; as far as I’m coming up with its largely thanks to shakhas (theological schools specializing in learning Vedic texts) that this was passed down through many, many centuries.

The other thing about its age is that some of the major figures one thinks of in Hindu mythology are vastly different here, and pantheon in general is of a different makeup; at the time of the Rigved’a writing Shiva is still known by their ancient name (Rudra); Vishnu is given much lesser attention that one would assume (only 6 of the 1028 hymns are dedicated to Vishnu); and the two gods given the most attention and prominence are Indra and Agni. At the time that these hymns were composed Indra was basically the main god (he was the king of heaven) – especially in relation to sacrifice/ritual invocation for intersession; he both killed/smashed Vritra to release the contained waters of the Earth, as well as releasing the captive cattle in the Vala myth – in this way he is the remover/smasher of obstacles, and his prominence in these hymns is understood. He is of considerably lesser stature in post-Vedic mythology, but is very much one of the main guys here. The other god of prominence is Agni, who is fire, primal fire, the ritual fire, and the god of fire; due to the prominence fire played in these rituals, Agni’s inclusion also makes sense. The third “focus” of these hymns is Soma – as far as I can tell there is no deistic aspect of Soma (as opposed to Agni) at the time these hymns were composed (Soma is a deity in post-Vedic Hinduism though) – though the translators do on occasion refer to Soma as a god, so I could easily be misinformed on that; Soma was the ritual drink offered to the gods in these ceremonies, and actually has an entire Mandala dedicated to it in the Rigveda, as well as a handful of other hymns in other Mandalas; age effects our comprehension here as well: what actually is contained in Soma is not certain (the narcotic plant Sarcostemma acidum is the one most commonly cited though) and is a matter of scholarly disagreement.

Related to it’s age, this was composed in Vedic Sanskrit, which is sufficiently old on its own, but the iteration used in the composition of the Rigveda directly descends from the ancient (like, really ancient) Avestan language; as such, some portions of the Sanskrit utilized in the Rigveda is essentially untranslatable (or at best comes down to guessing or estimating) due to a lack of other sources; basically there are numerous hapaxes within the work, and without any other example of the word in context at best reasonable guess can be made. Some (very few thankfully) of the terms are complete mysteries.

The overall structure of the text is both simple (as in we can define the rules of organization) and complex (which I’ll elaborate on a bit, but mostly comes down to the structure being formalized at a certain point, with changes occurring later that do not adhere to the rules as defined). The text is composed of 1028 hymns (containing 10,600 verses) broken into 10 Mandalas. The oldest of these Mandalas are Mandala 2 through 7, commonly referred to as the “family books” because each Mandala consists of hymns composed by members of the same clan; the “core” (more on that in a moment) of these Mandalas should be considered of one work, with deisticly focused “cycles” within. These Mandalas are ordered from shortest (least number of hymns) to longest (most hymns). Which seems simple, however if you look at the hymn counts:

Mandala 2 comprises 43 hymns
Mandala 3 comprises 62 hymns
Mandala 4 comprises 58 hymns
Mandala 5 comprises 87 hymns
Mandala 6 comprises 75 hymns
Mandala 7 comprises 104 hymns

You will see that this is not strictly true. This is because the “core” of the Mandalas were in place at the time the ordering of these Mandalas were formalized, however hymns were later added to some of these books which changed the hymn counts. Within each of the Mandalas the hymns are grouped by the deity they address – So the Agni hymns are all together, followed by the Indra hymns, followed by groupings addressing other gods (or, in some cases, “All Gods”) – within these groupings the hymns are ordered by their descending counts of verses. So the longest hymn within the grouping goes first and the count descends from there (in the instances where two hymn have equal verses there is a meter/syllable count tie breaker). But even these rules are not strictly followed; some hymns appear to have had verses tacked on after ordering was formalized; some appear to have been combined; and some verses are included in the “three verse” portion of the cycle based on their tṛca composition (made up of three verse stanzas). Additionally, some of the later additions to the Mandalas (referenced above) stand out because they are appended to the end of deistic cycles (or to the Mandala as a whole) and do not follow this ordering logic.

Outside of the “family books” are Mandalas that were added later – Mandala 8 is primarily attributed to the Kāṇva family (dominating the first 2/3rds of the Mandala) and the Anukramaṛī family (the latter 1/3rd), but the hymns contained within should be studied as separate works, as opposed to the deistic cycle structure of the “family books” as they are not viewed as linked in the same structural way; they do get organized by poet, then deity, then descending verse count: but many of the groupings contain 3-6 hymns of almost no connection outside of the poet. Mandala nine – commonly referred to as Soma Mandala – consists of 114 hymns entirely focused on Sóma Pávamāna or "Purifying Soma" (which is why a Soma hymn is included in Mandala 8 and elsewhere; these address Soma, but not specifically Sóma Pávamāna). As these hymns were compiled based solely on the common theme, their organization is different – they are organized by poetic meter, then descending verse count. Seeing as the organization is neither based on set cycles, nor on specific poet, they should be considered separately, lacking unifying textual themes (absent the overall theme of the entire Mandala). The last Mandalas added to the formal structure of the Rigveda were Mandala 1 and Mandala 10 – both consist of 191 hymns, and are the largest two Mandalas in the work. Though they are the “newest” of the Mandalas, they contain some of what are considered to be the oldest hymns in the work (this would appear to mostly apply to Mandala 1, it seems like 10 is mostly made up of the newest hymns in the Rigveda).

One other note – and this was merely something that interested me – I found the idea of Vedic poetic meter to be fascinating; this is likely because I don’t read a ton of poetry; and moreover I do not read much eastern poetry in scholarly editions (like this) where I am exposed to the details of the meter as it exists in the original translation. I know this sounds stupid (because it kind of is) but it never really occurred to me that poetic meter would be substantially different across languages and cultures and eras, but of course it is. I’m pulling this from Wikipedia (because it’s really difficult to seek out all the keyboard combinations to write these in the way they are – probably correctly – written in this edition; complete with accents and diacritics) – but here are the major meters utilized in the Rigveda; I was aware of exactly zero of these prior to reading this book:
Gayatri – 24 syllables; 3 verses of 8 syllables
Ushnih – 28 syllables: 2 verses of 8;
Anushtubh – 32 syllables: 4 verses of 8 syllables; 1 of 12 syllables
Brihati – 36 syllables: 2 verses of 8; 1 verse of 12; 1 verse of 8 syllables
Pankti – 40 syllables: 5 verses of 8 syllables
Tristubh – 44 syllables: 4 verses of 11 syllables
Jagati – 48 syllables: 4 verses of 12 syllables
If you type the word syllables more than three times it ceases to look like a word…

Before I give my general thoughts on the Rigveda itself I want to go into a bit of detail about this particular edition, and why it’s the one I recommend (from your library unless you’ve got deep pockets) if you want to tackle this work. As noted previously, there is an 80+ page introduction – this gets into a ton of detail about the historical context of the work, the composition of the work as a whole, the structure of the work, the background of the poets, the difficulties of translating Vedic Sanskrit in general, the added difficulty of translating the Rigveda (especially because of its use of ellipsis in the text), and the overall presentation decisions made by the translators in the text itself. That’s a lot of stuff, and it all was really helpful in reading the material. Additionally, the translators have chosen to not use footnotes in the text (thank god), instead they’ve included an introduction to each Mandala; where appropriate they’ve provided an introduction to each poet as their groupings come up; and they’ve included an introduction to each hymn (yes, all 1028 of them, and only a handful are short introductions, and those are typically because the hymn in question was discussed in tandem with a preceding complimentary hymn). These introductions provide background on the rituals themselves, the myths and stories referenced in the hymns, the difficulty in translating certain passages, the riddles contained in the hymns, the general critical reception and discussions around questionable passages, and so on. I honestly can’t imagine trying to muddle through these hymns without the commentary – most of the hymns that are not specific invocations tend to only reference events and people, with an apparent expectation that the reader has a working knowledge of (at the time current, now deeply ancient) religious/mythic/ritualistic workings. Even having read some of the older texts as provided through the Murty series, most of the references here so vastly pre-date those works that very little of my knowledge ended up applicable to the work as a whole.

So, finally (only took 2000+ words to get here), my general thoughts on the Rigveda itself. Mandala 1 is a slog – there are certainly exceptional individual hymns contained, but it didn’t really click with me while I was reading it (even the translators indicated in its introduction that it was underwhelming). That said, the “family books” that make up the core of the Rigveda are exceptional, and the fairly cohesive structure across these books really heightened my enjoyment of these Mandalas. There are a number of stand-out hymns in Mandala 8, but taken as a whole it was a bit of a letdown following the “family books”. I had anticipated a certain level of tedium when approaching Mandala 9 (the Soma Mandala) as 100+ hymns dedicated specifically to Sóma Pávamāna seemed to have the potential towards tedium. Surprisingly, despite the limited scope, I found this Mandala just as exhilarating as the “family book” Mandalas; there is a great deal of variety in the way Sóma Pávamāna is approached in this Mandala, and I found myself breezing through it. I found that there was much more to enjoy in Mandala 10 (vs Mandala 1) but am left wondering if my initial reaction to Mandala 1 was driven more by lack of reference in approaching it (which of course slowly resolved as I read through all of these Mandalas); but it’s a question that will need to remain unanswered, as I’m not really willing to dedicate ~300 pages of re-reading to confirm or refute this hypothesis.

I actually found that I enjoyed reading all of the introductions (the overall introduction, the Mandala introductions, and the Hymn introductions) as much as reading the hymns themselves (which is of course good as these account for probably half of the page count here). There is a wealth of information imparted in these introductions – from historical and mythological background to explications of the non-translatable (but exceptionally notable) poetic devices being utilized in the Vedic Sanskrit. I have a hard time envisioning reading all 1028 without these scholarly introductions, and would likely have stopped reading at a fairly early point just because I would have been quickly and thoroughly lost.

This really isn’t for everyone – the comparison I’m about to make is flawed in a number of ways, but does get the overall point across: as this is a collection of 1028 hymns (some connected thematically, many standing firmly on their own), one should likely consider the enjoyment they would get by picking up a Christian hymnal (though three times their normal size) and reading straight through it. Now, again, that’s a flawed comparison, seeing as the Christian hymnal would not have the same formal structure, organization, or weight of history behind it; also the variety of hymn here is without parallel in western religious hymns; the variety of mythology described is vastly more interesting in the limited “praise” structure of the Christian hymns; and you certainly would not find the blatant and inferred eroticism (not to mention the adversarial tone taken with the gods in some of these hymns) in the that church hymnal. But the point that I’m trying to make is that this – at 10,600 verses this as long as many ancient epic poems, without the overall unifying story/journey that those epics contain. So it is a much different kind of reading than I had done when reading the Murty Classical Library of India books, and I did not have a good frame of reference at all in approaching this work. That said, I am exceptionally glad that I did, and that I did so with this particular edition as my guide. I feel considerably more knowledgeable leaving this work than I did going in, and that is of a value that cannot be overstated.
Profile Image for Wendy.
Author 2 books7 followers
May 14, 2008
The Rig Veda is a must read book for anyone who is researching the origins of religion, or the origins of man. For people who read things in their simplest form, I do not recommend this, or any religious text, as it will be pointless, and you will derive nothing from it. For those who can explore a book it it's most literal, descriptive, metaphoric way . . . I recommend this book, and all religious texts as a path to the past, but not as a guide for the future or present time.
Profile Image for mahesh.
212 reviews8 followers
February 9, 2021
RigVeda Written by "Bibek Debroy" is a compact manual before plunging into the timeless universe of ancient Rigveda. The author has given his best effort to interpret a few of the Hymns of Rigveda in English.
Rigveda Samhita is an Eternal storehouse with a never-ending supply of knowledge for humankind through Hymns. It gives a glimpse of Vedic society and the progression of the idea of god and creation. It is surprising to see our ancestors worshiped every element in nature as gods and goddesses instead of only humans. Every shloka contains devotion, prayer, appreciation, wishes, and merits for gods and goddesses. Currently, we do worship shiva and Vishnu as chief gods, but in Vedic times Indra and Agni were chief deities.

A Short Review of RigVeda might help you embark journey based on my understanding

Veda is light of Santana dharma containing teachings of Brahaman for the seekers of universal truth.
Veda divided into 4 parts(Usually it is 3, Atharva Veda is the new edition)
Rig Veda
Yajur Veda
Sama Veda
Atharva Veda
During Rig Veda times, offerings are done through Hymns so it is called Rigveda Samhita. The rig is derived from the word "rik" ( Mantra).
Rigveda is classified into 10 mandalas and they consist of 10,859 verses in total.

Mandala one
181 lessons and 2006 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, Vayu, Soma juice, Ribu, Tvahsta, Ashwini, Vishwadevas
Mandala two
43 lessons and 429 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, Rudra, Maruths
Mandala Three
62 lessons and 617 Mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, Yupa, Usha
Mandala Four
58 lessons and 589 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, Shyena(Falcon), Dadhikra, Ghrita
Mandala Five
87 lessons and 727 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, Apria, Mitra, Varuna, Savita, Parajaya, Prithvi
Mandala Six
75 lesson and 765 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, cow, Saraswathi, Dhyava Prithvi
Mandala Seven
104 lessons and 841 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, water, vastopathi, Vishnu, frog song
Mandala Eight
103 lessons and 1716 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, Adity and Aditi
Mandala Nine
114 lessons and 1108 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, soma
Mandala Ten( Most important mandala)
181 lessons and 1754 mantras
Addressed to - Indra, Agni, Yama-Yami, Manasa, River, Vishwakarma, Purusha, Herbs, HiranyaGharba, Urvasi, and Pururava

Thank you!
Profile Image for Omar Ali.
218 reviews197 followers
June 29, 2016
Full Disclosure: I have not actually read every hymn in the book, but I jdid read multiple hymns in each of the 10 books of the Rig Veda. The hymns are (as expected) very repetitive, but they do give you a picture of the culture of the Indo-Europeans who came to India around 1800 BC (or so we believe these days, this may be adjusted as ancient DNA from Indian sites yields its secrets). It is a window (and probably the most complete and most ancient window we have) into the Indo-European world that played such a huge role in the creation of the present cultures of much of Eurasia.. from Western Europe to India (and beyond). The heroic age, so to speak.
This is a translation by Indologist Ralph Griffith, who lived most of his life in India (he was the pincipal of Benares college in the Hindu holy city of Benares) and is buried in South India. A more recent and scholarly translation is now available but is very expensive. This one is free to download on kindle and is available in its entirety at http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigve...

In the original Sanskrit, the hymns are arranged in stanzas and follow particular rules of rhyme and meter. They are meant to be sung and still are, in religious ceremonies and sacrifices to the Gods. The ten books were not all composed at the same time, or by the same authors and there are differences in style and subject. The tenth book in particular is different from the others and is more didactic and philosophical and is thought to be the last to be composed (and was composed by persons well acquainted with the earlier books). There are three hymns about creation in the tenth book and one of them has a certain skeptical and questioning tone that has made it the best known piece from the Rig Veda, frequently anthologized and quoted. I am reproducing it in full here, but also adding the two others that follow it, to give a more complete flavor of the original context:

HYMN CXXIX. Creation

THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
2 Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
3 Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.
4 Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit.
Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.
5 Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?
There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder
6 Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
7 He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

HYMN CXXX. Creation.

THE sacrifice drawn out with threads on every side, stretched by a hundred sacred ministers and one,
This do these Fathers weave who hitherward are come: they sit beside the warp and cry, Weave forth, weave back.
2 The Man extends it and the Man unbinds it: even to this vault of heaven hath he outspun, it.
These pegs are fastened to the seat of worship: they made the Sāma-hymns their weaving shuttles.
3 What were the rule, the order and the model? What were the wooden fender and the butter?
What were the hymn, the chant, the recitation, when to the God all Deities paid worship?
4 Closely was Gāyatrī conjoined with Agni, and closely Savitar combined with Usnih.
Brilliant with Ukthas, Soma joined Anustup: Bṛhaspati's voice by Brhati was aided.
5 Virāj adhered to Varuṇa and Mitra: here Triṣṭup day by day was Indra's portion.
Jagatī entered all the Gods together: so by this knowledge men were raised to Ṛṣis.
6 So by this knowledge men were raised to Ṛṣis, when ancient sacrifice sprang up, our Fathers.
With the mind's eye I think that I behold them who first performed this sacrificial worship.
7 They who were versed in ritual and metre, in hymns and rules, were the Seven Godlike Ṛṣis.
Viewing the path of those of old, the sages have taken up the reins like chariot-drivers.

HYMN CXC. Creation.

FROM Fervour kindled to its height Eternal Law and Truth were born:
Thence was the Night produced, and thence the billowy flood of sea arose.
2 From that same billowy flood of sea the Year was afterwards produced,
Ordainer of the days nights, Lord over all who close the eye.
3 Dhātar, the great Creator, then formed in due order Sun and Moon.
He formed in order Heaven and Earth, the regions of the air, and light.

The hymns of the ten books (as long in total as the poems of Homer) tell of a people who worship many Gods, with a few being mentioned very frequently, including Agni, Indra, Varuna and Soma. The hymns are obsessed with great warriors, with “beauteous horses and of kine, In thousands”, with lots of soma drinking and fort-breaking.. These warriors hoped to win ” wealth, renowned and ample, in brave sons, troops of slaves, far-famed for horses”. They also had priests who wanted the warriors to be generous with gifts (including mead). And they gambled, and got into trouble because of it:
The following hymn is fascinating, but also a rarity in being unusually didactic:

HYMN XXXIV. Dice, Etc.

“1. SPRUNG from tall trees on windy heights, these rollers transport me as they turn upon the table.
Dearer to me the die that never slumbers than the deep draught of Mujavan’s own Soma.
2 She never vexed me nor was angry with me, but to my friends and me was ever gracious.
For the die’s sake, whose single point is final, mine own devoted wife I alienated.
3 My wife holds me aloof, her mother hates me: the wretched man finds none to give him comfort.
As of a costly horse grown old and feeble, I find not any profit of the gamester.
4 Others caress the wife of him whose riches the die hath coveted, that rapid courser:
Of him speak father, mother, brothers saying, We know him not: bind him and take him with you.
5 When I resolve to play with these no longer, my friends depart from me and leave me lonely.
When the brown dice, thrown on the board, have rattled, like a fond girl I seek the place of meeting.
6 The gamester seeks the gambling-house, and wonders, his body all afire, Shall I be lucky?
Still do the dice extend his eager longing, staking his gains against his adversary.
7 Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving-hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous woe.
They give frail gifts and then destroy the man who wins, thickly anointed with the player’s fairest good.
8 Merrily sports their troop, the three-and-fifty, like Savitar the God whose ways are faithful.
They bend not even to the mighty’s anger: the King himself pays homage and reveres them.
9 Downward they roll, and then spring quickly upward, and, handless, force the man with hands to serve them.
Cast on the board, like lumps of magic charcoal, though cold themselves they burn the heart to ashes.
10 The gambler’s wife is left forlorn and wretched: the mother mourns the son who wanders homeless.
In constant fear, in debt, and seeking riches, he goes by night unto the home of others.
11 Sad is the gambler when he sees a matron, another’s wife, and his well-ordered dwelling.
He yokes the brown steeds in the early morning, and when the fire is cold sinks down an outcast.
12 To the great captain of your mighty army, who hath become the host’s imperial leader,
To him I show my ten extended fingers: I speak the truth. No wealth am I withholding.
13 Play not with dice: no, cultivate thy corn-land. Enjoy the gain, and deem that wealth sufficient.
There are thy cattle there thy wife, O gambler. So this good Savitar himself hath told me.
14 Make me your friend: show us some little mercy. Assail us not with your terrific fierceness.
Appeased be your malignity and anger, and let the brown dice snare some other captive.”

There are also occasionally names of rivers, astronomical observations, names of animals and plants that may point to where the composers were living and what was going on around them. …One thing is clear, a lot of fighting was going on. So naturally, there are hymns to weapons, including this one which not only mentions bows and arrows, but also the coiled arm-guard that would protect an archer from the friction of the bowstring:

From Book 6 HYMN LXXV. Weapons of War

He lays his blows upon their backs, he deals his blows upon their thighs.
Thou, Whip, who urgest horses, drive sagacious horses in the fray.
14 It compasses the arm with serpent windings, fending away the friction of the bowstring:
So may the Brace, well-skilled in all its duties, guard manfully the man from every quarter.
15 Now to the Shaft with venom smeared, tipped with deer-horn, with iron mouth,
Celestial, of Parjanya's seed, be this great adoration paid.
16 Loosed from the Bowstring fly away, thou Arrow, sharpened by our prayer.
Go to the foemen, strike them home, and let not one be left alive.
17 There where the flights of Arrows fall like boys whose locks are yet unshorn.
Even there may Brahmaṇaspati, and Aditi protect us well, protect us well through all our days.
18 Thy vital parts I cover with thine Armour: with immortality King Soma clothe thee.
Varuṇa give thee what is more than ample, and in thy triumph may the Gods be joyful.
19 Whoso would kill us, whether he be a strange foe or one of us,

Book 9 is unique in being entirely devoted one diety: Soma. The identity of Soma remains disputed to this day, but it was clearly the juice of a plant and was much admired for its ability to give vigor in battle and clarity in thought. The following extracts give a flavor of these hymns:

HYMN XXIII. Soma Pavamana.

1. SWIFT Soma drops have been effused in streams of meath, the gladdening drink,
For sacred lore of every kind.
2 Hither to newer. resting-place the ancient Living Ones are come.
They made the Sun that he might shine.
3 O Pavamana, bring to us the unsacrificing foeman's wealth,
And give us food with progeny.
4 The living Somas being cleansed diffuse exhilarating drink,
Turned to the vat which drips with meath.
5 Soma gows on intelligent, possessing sap and mighty strength,
Brave Hero who repels the curse.
6 For Indra, Soma! thou art cleansed, a feast-companion for the Gods:
1ndu, thou fain wilt win us strength
7 When he had drunken draughts of this, Indra smote down resistless foes:
Yea, smote them, and shall smite them still.

From HYMN XXX. Soma Pavamana.
Pour on us, Soma, with thy stream manconquering might which many crave,
Accompanied with hero sons.
4 Hither hath Pavamana flowed, Soma flowed hither in a stream,
To settle in the vats of wood.
5 To waters with the stones they drive thee tawny-hued, most rich in sweets,
O Indu, to be Indra's drink.
6 For Indra, for the Thunderer press the Soma very rich in sweets,
Lovely, inspiriting, for strength.

With a little imagination you can imagine an HBO series about these people (and it would be worth watching).

The underlying philosophy is pagan and heroic and may not strike many of us as particularly deep, though I guess that someone like Christopher Beckwith (who writes about central Asian history with great feeling) would say this IS a deep philosophy, even an attractive one.

And of course these are, after all, hymns that are meant to be recited. Their very sound is supposed to have quasi-magical properties. Their addressees are higher beings who can bestow favors or withdraw them. This level of usefulness is meaningless to a modern secular person, but even a modern secularized Hindu may feel the recitation creates a psychological connection to his or her people, to their language and sounds, and to their traditions and community values. .. Just like reciting the Quran and hearing it being recited provides some psychosocial connection/rootedness/whatever to an Arab (or a wannabe Arab for that matter) and (magical or placebo) benefits to the true believer.

All of which is not without consequences.

All in all, worth downloading on Kindle for free.

It seems to me that Shinto and Japanese cultural traditions may be a good example of what a successful and relatively intact pagan religion of this type might look like today. Modern Hinduism may be too much of a "wounded civilization" to be a good model of what the original Indo-European religion could have evolved into...the day of old are by now buried under centuries of dust, reinvention, editing, myth-making and plain old monotheist beating-down. But who knows, those wandering warrior pagans may rise again..
The closing hymn of book 10: HYMN CXCI. Agni.

1. THOU, mighty Agni, gatherest up all that is precious for thy friend.
Bring us all treasures as thou art enkindled in libation's place
2 Assemble, speak together: let your minds be all of one accord,
As ancient Gods unanimous sit down to their appointed share.
3 The place is common, common the assembly, common the mind, so be their thought united.
A common purpose do I lay before you, and worship with your general oblation.
4 One and the same be your resolve, and be your minds of one accord.
United be the thoughts of all that all may happily agree.
Profile Image for Raya.
111 reviews24 followers
September 14, 2022
What's there to criticize about a text talking about life centuries ago?

In all seriousness, what are the things which flash through our minds when we hear the term 'ancient literature'? Possibly, outdated stories, bland ideologies, and mostly irrelevant things which the modern reader can do without.

The RigVeda astonished me by its ironically fresh content. At times humorous and explicit, spiritual and worldly, I had a great time reading this. Every hymn stands on its own and every character has some interesting story behind, forming an engaging mix of prose and poetry which binds it all.

The names of the several Gods might be daunting to some, especially people outside the Hindu school of thought but it doesn't ruin the reading experience as this edition has detailed footnotes.
Needless to say, it's a book you should definitely be picking up at some point in your life.
42 reviews
November 16, 2020
This is not a complete translation of Rigveda. The author herself writes that it is only 10% of it! All of it is scattered and is not even in a sequential order. This translation of Rigveda makes no sense and whatever I read of it, I can see that the translation itself is faulty and fails to capture the metaphysical essence of the Veda completely.

This book is a joke.
Profile Image for Gavin White.
Author 3 books19 followers
January 19, 2014
An excellent anthology of hymns from one of the oldest holy books. I've had this copy for years now and I still find the notes and introductions to be exceedingly useful. These sections give a little background to each hymn and more importantly they discuss many of the metaphors used in the verses. Many of these metaphors like the various manifestations of heavenly cattle, the central role of the sun in many cosmological myths, and the idea of sacrifice are also keys to other archaic traditions.
Profile Image for Holybooks.com.
50 reviews3 followers
May 13, 2020
‘Rigveda’ means praise/verse of knowledge. It is counted among the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism known as the Vedas. The others are Yajur Veda or Yahurveda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda is the oldest of them and it consists of 1,028 Vedic Sanskrit hymns and 10,600 verses in all, organized into ten books. Public domain PDF version here: https://www.holybooks.com/rig-veda/
Profile Image for Keerthi Vasishta.
304 reviews8 followers
June 21, 2021
An excellent and exhaustive translation. Though he sometimes leaves certain verses translated to Latin, they are too few to effect the overall work. It isn't the easiest to read but it's a literal translation which makes it forgivable.
I began this last year sometime around the same part of the year. Finally finished it. Worth the effort as well. Mandala 10 is the most intriguing and demands re-reading. The others not so much, except the odd verse. It's beautifully written but I now know for a fact there is not great truth buried deep inside this tome and if there is, it will forever escape me.
Profile Image for Arun.
31 reviews23 followers
January 17, 2013
An incredible work of vedic philosophy.

This one is quite thoughtful as all the others but I think it's worth quoting. As this throws a new direction on the origin of the Universe.

10.129 Creation Hymn (Nasadiya)

6. ''Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has risen?''
Profile Image for Heron.
544 reviews14 followers
February 25, 2015
Obviously, I can't judge the quality of writing in a 3000 year-old sacred text, but this translation was nice. I felt taken care of while I read and the introduction was really quite funny. The Rig Veda itself was very heavy on footnotes, some of which I felt were less instructive than trivial. But it was fascinating reading these ancient hymns while simultaneously watching this translator work through their ancient and modern significances.
Profile Image for Roger Burk.
427 reviews29 followers
November 10, 2021
Many years ago, I set myself the task of reading the Rig Veda at a rate of maybe one hymn a day. I was interested in how it compared to other collections of ancient religious poetry I had read, viz. the Psalms and the Homeric Hymns. I have now finished. Here is my report.

The Rig Veda is much longer than the Psalms, which in turn are much longer than the HH, so to an extent a comparison is not fair. It is also in parts rather older than the other two collections. But it seems like the bulk of the Rig Veda is some variation on, "Come, O Indra/Agni/Varyaman, sit here on the well-mown green grass and drink the well-pressed Soma we have prepared for thee! Grant us victory over the Dasyu who do not sacrifice, and much spoil. Give us great wealth, many cows, and many sons." Nonetheless, there are parts that vary from that basic theme, as noted below. It includes some of the myth-telling that predominates in the HH, but being unfamiliar with the legendarium I was not always able to follow it. There is relatively little about repentance and pleas for forgiveness, compared to the Psalms.

Here are some examples that stood out for me, mostly because they were not typical of the whole work:

Book 5, Hymn LXXXV: A rare flash of repentance and general benevolence: "If we have sinned against . . . a stranger, Varuna, forgive us."

Book 7, Hymn CIII: A charming poem about frogs singing in the springtime, as out of place as the Song of Songs in the Old Testament.

Book 8:

Hymn XIX: A slightly petulant complaint that the god is not up to snuff:
Son of Strength, Agni, if thou wert the mortal . . . And I were the Immortal God
I would not give thee up, Vasu, to calumny, or misery, O Bounteous One.
My worshipper should feel no hunger or distress, nor, Agni, should he live in sin.
Like a son cherished in his father's house.

Hymn XXXI: On the power of sacrifice:
As in all frays the hero, so swift moves his car whom Gods attend.
The man who, sacrificing, strives to win the heart of Deities will conquer those who worship not.
Ne’er are ye injured, worshipper, presser of juice, or pious man.
The man who, sacrificing, strives to win the heart of Deities will conquer those who worship not.
None in his action equals him, none holds him far or keeps him off.
The man who, sacrificing, strives to win the heart of Deities will conquer those who worship not.
Such strength of heroes shall be his, such mastery of fleet-foot steeds.
The man who, sacrificing, strives to win the heart of Deities will conquer those who worship not.

Hymn XLVI, l. 25: The transactional nature of man's relationship with the god: "We have served thee that thou mightest give much to us, yea, mightest quickly give great wealth."

Hymn LXII, ll. 4-6: A note of desperation:
Where are ye? whither are ye gone? whither, like falcons, have ye flown?
Let your protecting help be near.
If ye at any time this day are listening to this my call,
Let your protecting help be near.
The Aśvins, first to hear our prayer, for closest kinship I approach:
Let your protecting help be near.

Hymn LXXXIX, ll. 3-4: A rare acknowledgment of doubt:
One and another say, There is no Indra. Who hath beheld him? Whom then shall we honour?
Here am I, look upon me here, O singer. All that existeth I surpass in greatness.

Hymn CXII: On life:
We all have various thoughts and plans, and diverse are the ways of men.
The Brahman seeks the worshipper, wright seeks the cracked, and leech the maimed. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.
The smith with ripe and seasoned plants, with feathers of the birds of air,
With stones, and with enkindled flames, seeks him who hath a store of gold. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.
A bard am I, my dad's a leech, mammy lays corn upon the stones.
Striving for wealth, with varied plans, we follow our desires like kine. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.
The horse would draw an easy car, gay hosts attract the laugh and jest.
The male desires his mate's approach, the frog is eager for the flood, Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.

Book 9, Hymn CXIII: An unusual yearning for heaven:
Pavarnana, place me in that deathless, undecaying world
Wherein the light of heaven is set, and everlasting lustre shines. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.
Make me immortal in that realm where dwells the King, Vivasvān's Son,
Where is the secret shrine of heaven, where are those waters young and fresh. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.
Make me immortal in that realm where they move even as they list,
In the third sphere of inmost heaven where lucid worlds are full of light. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.
Make me immortal in that realm of eager wish and strong desire,
The region of the radiant Moon, where food and full delight are found. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake:
Make me immortal in that realm where happiness and transports, where
Joys and felicities combine, and longing wishes are fulfilled. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.

Book 10 has a greater variety of poems in it. It seems many scholars believe it to be written later than the others. Here are some samples:

Hymn XVI: A rather touching hymn, to be sung over a cremation pyre I think.

Hymn XVIII: A moving prayer at the burial of a worthy husband.

Hymn XIX: A passionate plea for the return of lost cattle.

Hymn XXXIV: On dice and the evils of gambling.

Hymn LVIII: To summon back to life one on the point of death--"Thy spirit, that went far away . . . We cause to come to thee again that thou mayst live and sojourn here."

Hymn LXI seems to recount a mythical story, but lines 5-8 are translated into Latin, not English. They start "Membrum suum virile." I think they're dirty.

Hymn LXXXII: Seems to be a hymn to a Creator before the gods, who is no longer readily accessible: "Ye will not find him who produced these creatures: another thing hath risen up among you. / Enwrapt in misty cloud, with lips that stammer, hymn-chanters wander and are discontented."

Hymn LX: The famous "Purusha Sukta," thought by some to be much later than the rest, which describes a cosmic transcendent being who is sacrificed by the gods to create the world, including the four main castes.

Hymn XCV: A dialogue between a beautiful demigodess and her human husband.

Hymn XCVII: An ode to medicinal herbs, apparently to be chanted by the physician over the patient.

Hymn XCVIII: A prayer for rain.

Hymn CXXI: Seems to address one supreme god named Prajāpati: "He is the God of gods, and none beside him."

Hymn CXXV: To speech personified: "I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first of those who merit worship."

Hymn CXXIX: A meditation on the mystery of creation: "Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? / The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being? / He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, / Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not."

Hymn CXLV: A hymn to an herb being used by one wife to drive off another in a polygamous marriage.

Hymn CLIX: The song of triumph of a victorious wife: "I am victorious, and my Lord shall be submissive to my will. / My Sons are slayers of the foe, my Daughter is a ruling Queen / . . . / Destroyer of the rival wife, Sole Spouse, victorious, conqueror, / The others' glory have I seized as ’twere the wealth of weaker Dames. / I have subdued as conqueror these rivals, these my fellow-wives, / That I may hold imperial sway over this Hero and the folk."

Hymn CLXII: A prayer for defense against malignant forces that would attack an unborn baby.

Hymn CLXIII: In incantation for healing: "I drive thy malady away."

Hymn CLXXV: To the press-stones that press out the soma.

Hymn CLXXXIV: A prayer for successful conception, "that in the tenth month thou mayst bear."
Profile Image for Prabodh Sharma.
68 reviews2 followers
September 12, 2021

Information on the text:
Given beautifully by the authors in the preface and I am just producing the summary here.

"The word veda literally means knowledge. The root is vid, ‘to know’. The Vedas are thus texts that provide knowledge. Many years ago, the Vedas were referred to as trayi or three. The Atharva Veda is believed to have been a later addition to the sacred canon. Each of the Vedas has two parts, a samhita and the brahmanas. The samhita part consists of mantras or incantations. But these mantras are difficult to interpret without commentaries. This is what the brahmanas set out to do. They explain the hymns and indicate how these are to be used in sacrifices. The brahmanas also have detailed descriptions of sacrifices and how they are to be conducted. The samhitas and the brahmanas are often known as karma kanda, that is, the part of the Vedas that deals with rituals. In addition, Vedic literature also includes jnana kanda. This is the part that deals with supreme knowledge. Included in jnana kanda are the aranyakas and the upanishads.

The Vedas are apourusheya. Their authorship cannot be ascribed to any human author. The Vedas were revealed; they were shrutis. They were not written down or composed. They were communicated by the supreme godhead or the divine essence (brahman) to the ancient seers (rishis). Most scholars would agree that the Vedas were compiled sometime between 4000 B.C. and 1000 B.C. and that it is impossible to narrow down the range further. The earliest of the Vedas is clearly the Rig Veda. This reached a stage of final compilation between 1000 B.C. and 900 B.C.

The Rig Veda derives its name from the word rik, which means a mantra. There are 10,589 verses in the Rig Veda Samhita. These are divided into ten mandalas or books. The bulk of the mantras are addressed to Indra. Agni comes next in order of importance. Agni is regarded as a messenger who summons the other gods to the sacrifice and carries the offerings to them. Mitra is an aspect of the sun that presided over the day. Correspondingly, Varuna presided over the night.

Analysis of the text:
The book is a abridged version which excludes repeated mantras. Thus it makes it concise and readable. The most delightful aspect of Rig Veda is the philosophy. Some excerpts:

1. Ekam sad vipra vahudha vadanti - truth is one, but the learned speak of it in various ways.

2. He who has no bones created all living beings that have bones. Did anyone see him being created? Where then were to be found the life, the blood and the soul of the earth? Who is the learned one who knows the answers to these questions?

3. Seven are the rays that sit astride the sun’s chariot. Seven are the wheels and seven the horses that Surya uses to drive through time. Seven are the forms of speech that worship the sun. The seven sisters praise Surya in the four directions. (The text goes on to say that the 7rays of sun are essentially one. This is strikingly close to modern understanding of white light and it's Vibgyor components)

4. I am the one whose learning is incomplete. Yet, with all due humility, I wish to know how the gods were created. The learned ones used seven different types of thread to create the universe that can be seen and lived in.

5. He who created the six regions of the universe is Prajapati. He himself was not born. Who can comprehend the nature of Prajapati? I am the ignorant one, but I wish to learn of this knowledge. Who knows of the origin of the sun? Let that learned one come here and reveal to me the knowledge.

6. The supreme rays of the sun suck up the water from the earth. The water is borne by the sun and is then rained down on earth. It is this rain that leads to the seed of food grains being implanted in the womb of the earth.

7. Twelve are the spokes (the twelve months) on the sun's wheel. O Agni! The seven hundred and twenty twin sons are always present. (The seven hundred and twenty twin sons are the three hundred and sixty days and three hundred and sixty nights in any year.)

8. The universe is in constant movement. That which is near today, is far tomorrow. That which is far today, is near tomorrow.

9. The two birds have beautiful wings. They sit on the same tree and are friends. One of the birds eats the sweet fruit that grows on the tree. The other does not eat the fruit, it merely manifests itself. (The two birds are the divine soul (paramatman) and the human soul (atman). The tree is the world. The paramatman and the atman are intimately connected with each other. The atman savours the fruit of the world, that is, the rewards of actions. But the paramatman does not savour these fruit. It remains a detached and passive spectator.)

10. The atman is always mobile. When life is over, the atman forsakes the physical body that is dead and enters a new one. The atman resides with the physical body, but is itself immortal. Through its powers, the atman moves all the time.

11. So vast is the universe that he who has created it does not know its full expanse. When the atman tries to visualise the universe, the universe seems to disappear.

12. I ask you about the end of this earth. I ask you about the centre of this universe. I ask you about the origin of horses. I ask you about the origin of speech.

13. What use are the mantras of the Vedas to someone who does not understand the nature of the great brahman? He who knows the paramatman is the one who is the most learned. He gets to sit in the most elevated of places.

14. From a great distance, I have seen the many forms of powerful smoke. (I therefore know that there must be a fire.)

15. Vishvakarma is regarded as the creator of the universe. Later, he came to be regarded as the architect of the gods. Where was Vishvakarma at the time of creation? What did he look like then? Where did he start his act of creation? How did he go about the task? Who knows why Vishvakarma created the land masses of the earth? Why did he create the vast expanse of the sky? Who knows the answers to these questions?

16. It is certainly the case that learned men go to that most happy of places.

17. O Adityas! All of us men will eventually die. But grant us long lives. May we live for many years.

Of course, the Vedic religion is not the same as later Hinduism. It contains creatures like Dadhikra who was a mythical being, a bit like a celestial horse. The Gods are also different in their hierarchy. Cows seem to be quite important and their killing is prohibited.

Historical elements:

1. "May those who invade us on horses not be able to rob us of our cows. May they not be able to kill these cows. " This proves the theory of multiple invasions from the Aryans.

2. The battle of the ten kings (dasha rajna) was a fairly important battle to which stray references can be found in the Rig Veda. Sudas was the king of the Tritsu tribe. He crossed the river Parushni (Iravati or Ravi) with Indra’s aid and put his enemies to flight. Ten kings or tribes were allied against Sudas, but they were defeated.

3. Sukta on non violence: O Mitra, Aryama and Varuna! O Maruts! Make us non-violent and grant us fame.

Literary elements:

1. The Frog Song: What is remarkable about this sukta is the element of satire in the comparison of the priests to the frogs. It may be one of the first ever satire.

2. Yama and Yami: This beautiful tale is of Yami proposing to Yama for marriage but Yama refusing.

3. Story of Urvashi and Pururava: Urvashi was an apsara from heaven who was banished to the earth. There she encountered King Pururava and Pururava wished to marry Urvashi. Urvashi agreed, subject to two conditions being met. The first was that Pururava should always take care of two rams that Urvashi possessed. The second condition was that Urvashi should never see Pururava naked.

4. Story of Sarama and the Panis. Sarama is a messenger of the gods. The panis were robbers. The dialogue is between them where she is asking the robbers to release the cows or to suffer the wrath of Indra.

5. Story of the wife of Indra where she asserts that she would be victorious over the co-wives!
Profile Image for Adrian Rose.
Author 1 book5 followers
August 19, 2018
This is a collection of hymns in the Hindu tradition, hymns sung by the priests of the religion as they go through the sacred rites. Some of the hymns in this book are very beautiful, some are funny, and others are a little confusing if the reader is not familiar with the tenets of Hinduism. For instance, the Soma that is mentioned numerous times in the various hymns is a drink that was made by squeezing the juice out of what scholars believe was a type of hallucinogenic mushroom. The cows and horses that are used in the verses to imply wealth and fertility refer to the myths in Indian culture where the different gods and goddesses appeared in these forms. And the butter referred to many times is actually a substance called "ghee," a type of clarified butter that is used in cooking, as well as to fuel lamps that burn during sacrificial ceremonies. None of these things are ever explained in the book, the author apparently just assuming that the reader already knows these references. For this reason, it is probably not a good idea to use this book as an introduction to a study of Hindu mythology. However, many of the hymns are noteworthy. The "Creation Hymn" is especially beautiful. "The Gods Coax Agni Out of the Water" is paradoxical, since Agni is the god of fire. And the descriptions of the various gods and goddesses to whom the hymns are dedicated are lyrical and amazing. Even if you do not know much about Hindu beliefs or philosophy, this book can still be an immensely entertaining source of symbolic poetry.
Profile Image for Rinkan Rohit Jena.
24 reviews3 followers
August 23, 2018
Translation was not pretty good , but trust me when you start reading it you will be thing where the hell I am ? Then if you will proceed you will find an encyclopedia , as I think the writers who wrote it before 24000-75000 years ago ,was sure about any destruction so they was just leaving the earth ( I don't want to tell i believe in an alien civilization ) but they wrote all how to survive how to make treatment even they had precision based astronomy I checked it in my simulation softwares it showing exactly that time around the great flood or a volcanic erruption ,I am pretty sure they tried to give a survival guide to the next generations , they knew how to build a chariot how to use medicines even talked about injecting medicine in the vens what we learned in late 1800s , and they talked about the solar and lunar months ,they interduced one lunar year of 360 days and they wrote here they putted additional 1 month on every 6 years and even interesting thing is they had 12 months solar year , and they wrote about 7 colored Rays of sun perhaps viewing the rainbow , awesomeness of their intelligence is shown in this book , even in madal 10 they wrote about cosmic egg brust and begin stage of universe (they admitted they haven't seen it but they are sure from nothing it evolved ) and maintained about the cosmic explosion (bigbang) in creation verse , if you want more details I have wrote at least 15-30 pages about the events , cause they are just awesome , just read it and know much more than you know , here is another thing they wrote about a manmade river system and when I searched for it ,it was true . They knew about how rain cycle works even , just read it ,it will blow your mind ( don't be religious about it ,it's just the encyclopedia and a science journal) ,thanks for reading the review .
Profile Image for Warren.
19 reviews2 followers
May 16, 2016
Not as incomprehensible as The Book of the Dead, but still a difficult read. In this case, the obscurity is deliberate as a single line of a hymn can be interpreted in 3 or 4 or even 5 different ways. Thankfully the editor prefaces most hymns with an explanation which generally gave me the gist of the meaning. Other confusing patterns include different hymns praising different gods for the same acts (such as separating the heaven and earth), Gods known by different names, switching back and forth between cause and effect, etc.
All of the hymns are seeking material gain of some sort in the current life – there is no mention of the Afterlife or spiritual redemption and everlasting life. It is all about immediate gain – very materialistic for our modern idea of a sacred text. And since the caste system is already in place in Indian civilization at the time of the hymns’ writing, they are no doubt written and to be sung by the higher educated classes.
Some of the mythological hymns reflect similar tales from European stories. One I noticed that the editor didn’t comment on was the God Indra killing the dragon Vrtra and its mother Danu – shades of Beowulf!
This was book #4 in my journey to read all the classics of world literature. You can join me at my blog : www.chronolit.com

Profile Image for Adam MacRae.
30 reviews
April 3, 2017
Reading this book was by no means an easy undertaking. That being said, the reward for your dutiful and arduous perseverance is substantial. Wendy Doniger is a remarkable translator and her insight was the most enjoyable part of the Rig Veda.

One passage that impacted me in particular was an introduction by her for the "Realla" section:

"The Rig Veda is a sacred book, but it is a very worldly sacred book. Nowhere can it be found the tiniest suspicion of a wish to renounce the material world in favour of some spiritual quest; religion is the handmaiden of the worldly life... This is not to say that there is anything superficial about Vedic religious concerns, but merely that these meditations stem from a life-affirming, hours celebration of human existence."
Profile Image for Ravi Warrier.
231 reviews12 followers
January 15, 2016
This summary of one of the oldest Indian scriptures was a good attempt at introducing readers to it. However, it is not a complete unabridged translation or explanation of the same and hence misses the mark.
Moreover, though Dongier might have tried to address multiple sources, it does not seem that most of those were anyone who might know the scriptures first hand, but people who were or are just good with Sanskrit translations. Hence, the veracity or the accuracy of the Rig Veda may be questionable.
Nonetheless, as mentioned at the start, it is a good piece to start with the knowledge of what is written in the veda.
Profile Image for Ravinder.
123 reviews20 followers
July 8, 2019
The rating is more for the translation and delivery of the content in easy to read English, than for the Rig Veda itself

Reading this book, I get the feeling that in the times that the book was written, there was a limited understanding of nature, which naturally lead them, as did many other cultures in other parts of the world before or after them, to worshipping the Sun, rain, fire, forests and other elements visible to them.

For a text supposedly handed down by the Gods, it remarkably doesn't even know the India beyond the five Rivers of the Indus valley. Virtually all of the land below the Vindhyas finds no mention at all. Leave alone the rest of the world.

Great text? Not for me
Profile Image for Stephen.
57 reviews3 followers
March 5, 2012
I give five stars a lot don't I? Well I usually read what I like - and if I really dislike it - I feel well - I'll leave it blank - Lin Yutang wrote about the pleasure of reading - and reading foisted upon you etc. This particular edition I read years ago - now reading an older book which is almost falling apart. I like the Veda about secular matters!
Profile Image for goldenhair.
3 reviews
May 18, 2020
Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not. (The Creation Hymn)
Profile Image for Hanuman Dass.
22 reviews9 followers
January 19, 2013
Compared to the other two books I have read by Doniger this was much more useful for me. I felt I could grasp the feeling of the Rig Veda, and there was some excellent verses I could take from it. The rv is the oldest religious scripture and is a monument of Indian Civilization.
Profile Image for William Whalen.
170 reviews2 followers
July 31, 2022
Of my recent readings of the world's religious texts, so far, "The Rigveda" has been my favorite. This is partly due to finding a superb English translation by Jamison and Brereton. I should note that I am not Hindu, nor do I read Sanskrit, so, I could be completely wrong in my assessment. My research indicated the only way to really read the Vedas was to learn Sanskrit and get a guru to help me with the interpretation. I am not up to the first task, so, I had to settle for a translation. When choosing from the lesser evils, I knew I needed advice, as I had attempted to read this holy work before and encountered a bad translation. I visited multiple Hindu and religious scholar sites which directed me to this translation if it had to be in English. In addition to being a complete (3 volume) collection of hymns given a respectable translation, Jamison and Brereton utilized a guru in deciphering the text. They start every hymn with both a scholarly and religious analysis. They point out difficulties in the translation and include different scholars' interpretations. This made for what is still an imperfect grasp of the work, but I have a far better understanding then I had prior to my reading.

I am including an appropriate hymn for my upcoming day.

Mandala X Hymn 84 Poet Manyu Tapasa

1. Let them go forth on attack on the same chariot with you, o Battle
Fury, you Marut-friend -- doing damage, bristling with excitement,
Possessing sharp arrows, having honed their weapons- - the superior men
with fire's form.
2. Flaring like fire, o Battle Fury, be victorious. Be our army-leader,
victorious one, when you are invoked.
On smiting our rivals, share out their possessions. Showing the measure
of your strength, shove aside the scorners.
3. Vanquish hostility for us, Battle Fury. Breaking, crushing, crushing out,
advance on our rivals.
Formidable is your dimension: they have never confined it. Exerting your
will, you lead at will, you who are born alone.
4. You alone are reverently invoked by many, Battle Fury. Hine every clan
for battle.
O one of unbroken brilliance, with you as yokemate we raise our
heavenly cry for victory.
5. Creating victory like Indra, without talking us down, Battle Fury,
become our overlord here.
We hymn your dear name, victorious one. We know the wellspring
whence you came to be ready to hand.
6. Born together with readiness, you mace, you missle, you bear highest
victorious might, o overwhelming one.
(Born?) together with your resolve, share the fat with us, Battle Fury, at
the pouring in of great spoils, o much-invoked one.
7. The spoils, both those that have poured in and those that have been
collected, let Battle Fury and Varuna give to us.
Let our rivals, having set fear in their own hearts, defeated, hide
themselves away.

After this morning's hymn, I am now ready to kill some zombies in "Dying Light."
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