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The Rig Veda

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,119 ratings  ·  62 reviews
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 th ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 343 pages
Published 2005 by Penguin Classics (first published -1000)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Riku Sayuj
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 p ...more
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Old Testament, without the hatred, of the Hindu faith, these are the words of human beings at the dawn of consciousness and history. The Hindu pantheon, in small and accessible form, is born, and the material world is dwelt upon at length... for instance, fire is discovered (thank you Agni), and butter is found to be delicious. Butter is also found to be, strangely, the same as semen. Therefore, semen is delicious. Well, if Indra says so, for he might smite me if I doubt, like Jehovah. So if ...more
May 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any student of the human race
Recommended to Wendy by: Found while researching
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.
David Withun
Jan 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Gavin White
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vedas
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.
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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?''
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Adrian Rose
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 h ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics, penguins
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 fort ...more
Adam MacRae
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 fa
Ravi Warrier
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it
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 question
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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!
Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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)
Hanuman Dass
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hindu-studies
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.
only took me four months :-)
I did it! I finished the Rig Veda! Well, okay, no I didn't. This is no where near the entire Rig Veda. But I finished THIS selection of verses from the Rig Veda!

Reading this was pretty difficult. Much of the true meaning remains obscure, especially to someone like me who is NOT a scholar or a religious guru. But even for the educated, much of it is esoteric. However, what I did manage to grasp was really rewarding. I obviously have no idea how this translations compares to the actual Sanskrit, b
Daniel Miess
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was once encouraged to look at the world’s religions and take the best from each of them. Even though I have since returned to Christianity, along the way I learned to have an appreciation of the World’s Sacred Texts. Wendy Doniger’s translation of the Rig Veda is both poetic and true to tradition. Its rich language carries you back in time to the ancient world.
The language is sometimes beautiful and sometimes bawdy. And, sometimes, it provokes deeper questions from you. The Creation Myth at
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
It took a bit of discipline to give this the concentration it deserved throughout, but hopefully I did it justice. It is not the most sparkling or riveting text ever, but parts of it were fascinating and well worth the effort. Doniger selected for translation 108 hymns from the Rig Veda, about 10% of the total, choosing those she found most interesting and least dull or obscure. I have to say some of the copy editing was poor and needs revisiting. I was only familiar with a few of these hymns be ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not an easy read, but Wendy does an excellent job of introducing and commenting on each hymn. This gives a fascinating insight into a world and a worldview far removed from our own.

The introduction is very helpful, particularly her discussion on translation philosophy. Nevertheless, the hymns are a challenge to read, and the proliferation of notes can make them difficult to appreciate as poetry - at times I found it helpful to read the hymn once through as one would read poetry, then read it aga
Naomi Ruth
I wanted to like this more than I did, but I don't know if that's because of the translation I read? It was divided into thematic groups and I kept feeling like I should be reading them within context of how they would be in the larger text, but I realize the larger text is ridiculously long so you have to make cuts somewhere for a book that just gives an overview... I don't know. I was left feeling unsatisfied, especially with how long it took me to get around to actually finishing this book.
Rahul Banerjee
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A collection of 108 hymns from the Rig Veda (Samahita). The hymns are grouped by theme (Creation, Sacrifie etc) and are supplemented by brief introductions explaining the symbolism, metaphors and the context. This is a scholarly work with extensive footnotes and a detailed bibliography. Doniger's work is a good first introduction to the oldest text of Sanskrit Literature.
Animesh Mitra
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ancient scripture (consisting contradictory creation myths, praise for horse, praise for fire, hymns, praise for gods and goddesses, philosophies, ideas regarding life and death) of pastoral Aryan invader race; who migrated from central Asia and invaded India and defeated the aboriginal, native and indigenous Dravidian race.
Robert Muir
Too complicated a pantheon of gods to be sorted out by this little book alone. An expert in the Hindu religion may enjoy it.
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
More poetic than other ancient religious texts, but no less repetitive.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I don't fine the poetry appealing. It's not lyrical, it doesn't evoke beautiful imagery.
John Redmon
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Historically important, obviously, and rather severely broadened the spectrum that I see as representing the nearly ridiculous human species.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very beautiful book about stories of the Hinduism religion. However, it is very complicated to understand due to the type of stories and the religion it deals with
Ragesh M.
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When it comes in the cut put language the Rig Veda is stripped off its Halo.
Mark Cooper
The Rig Veda is obscure. It was written is a very old language referred to as "Vedic Sanskrit" to differentiate is from the "Classical Sanskrit" of the Hindu Epics. It is a collection of hymns rather than a coherent narrative. The hymns were transmitted orally for centuries before being written down and translated and re-translated and re-re-translated eventually into English. They were also meant to be accompanied by rituals which provided context to their meaning. Furthermore, it's quite poss ...more
Victor Gordan
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
Not my cup of tea. If you want to learn about Indian mythology and religion, then this is not the book for you. I would say this is more of a intermediate book for Hinduism, and not an introductory one. Still, some interesting stuff in it, such as the almost constant references to Soma (a sort of ritualistic hallucinogenic drug), and different things they find important in life.
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In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
52 likes · 35 comments
“Who knows for certain?
Who shall here declare it?
Whence was it born, whence came creation?
The gods are later than
this world's formation;
Who then can know the origins of the world?
None knows whence creation arose;
And whether he has or has not made it;
He who surveys it from the lofty skies.
Only he knows-
or perhaps he knows not.”
“Truth is one, but the wise men know it as many; God is one, but we can approach Him in many ways.” 23 likes
More quotes…