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The Rig Veda

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  904 Ratings  ·  45 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, 352 pages
Published 2005 by Penguin (first published 1981)
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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
The Rig Veda is one of the great classics of world religious thought. A collection of disparate hymns to various deities, foremost among whom are Indra, Agni, and Soma, it has come a long way from its roots in the syncretism of Aryan and pre-Aryan Indian religious systems. While the culture it reflects is a semi-nomadic warrior society that has recently conquered and subdued a settled agrarian (and ostensibly peaceful) culture of the Indus Valley, by the Upanishadic era (beginning in earnest cir ...more
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 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.
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Great first book well documented and footnoted.
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 J. 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
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
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?''
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 it was amazing
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.
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.
May 14, 2016 added it
Shelves: collej
only took me four months :-)
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it
i realised that this might not be the best translation when she referred to cookie monster to explain something in an end note
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.
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
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I still have 50 pages. But I feel that once you've read one, you've read them all. Pre-axial age and so not much wisdom I can find. Another kind of scholar might find them interesting just for the sake of history. I am looking for something applicable in my life. I think it will take me awhile to get through the rest even though it should be fast reading. The stories seemed like vignettes of the 5 klesas.
Stephen Bruce
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I got about a third of the way through Doniger's translation of selections from the Rigveda before giving up. I found it unsatisfying, even in comparison to the other ancient ritualistic books I've read, such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead (but that had pictures!). Doniger seems to have done her best with the notoriously cryptic text, but I would have appreciated more general context in the introduction. In the future I might still peek at the new complete translation by Brereton and Jamison, ...more
Alex Kartelias
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eastern-lit, religion
So surprised to find very philosophical ideas about the many gods and even to find verses that not only have multitude creation myths, but actually question the omniscience of humans! Before reading this, I was naive to think of a entire mythology based on sacrifice as being worthy of admiration, but- despite this taboo subject- I gained a deeper appreciation for these tales and for the different theological concepts behind the various parts of their sacrifice. Hinduism is defintely an eclectic, ...more
Pankaj Kumar
Mar 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I picked up the book in the sheer curiosity to have a peek into the famed RIG Veda and the topics it covers. And to that it serves the purpose. Wendy Doniger has done a decent job at translating certain portions of this huge composition to give the reader an idea about the book and also a peek into the culture and societal norms in place in one of the oldest civilizations of the world. Though i felt providing the Sankrit verses instead of only the English translations would have been more inform ...more
Jan 29, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: mythology
Bought this a while back and started getting through some of it, but need to get back to it. I should definitely read it, as one working in a branch of IndoEuropean mythology (and comparative mythology has been so important over the last century and before), but I feel like I need someone who really understands it going through it with me-- the notes just seem to underline the huge amount that is lost in translation.
Tim Weakley
Difficult read. I didn't find much beauty in this work. One of the oldest written by man, and there were a few surprises in it for me, but nothing that paid for the thickness of it. This edition was over-footnoted for my taste as well. Almost every verse had an explanatory footnote which made it very tiresome. The most enjoyable part for me was learning about the Hindu pantheon. I had a very light awareness of it before slogging through this.
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Not really a "rateable" kind of book, so the stars are for the fluidity of the translation (I can't speak for the accuracy) and the notes. This book forms one part of a body of scripture, so it doesn't stand alone -- a little background research into Vedic mythology is helpful, if not required.
Nov 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
سروده های "ریگ ودا" قدیم ترین اثر موجود آریاهای هندی ست که با مقدمه ی "دکتر تاراچند" که خود مدتی سفیر کبیر هند در ایران بوده، منتشر شده و سید محمدرضا جلالی نائینی آن را به فارسی ترجمه کرده و انتشارات کتاب های سیمرغ در 1348 آن را منتشر کرده است.
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Rating the Rig Veda -- or any religious or spiritual text for that matter -- is awkward. Having said that, this gives interesting perspective on death, death rites, sacrifice, and of course, a unique reverence to soma.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Well this was a tough one, I think I know too little of Indian mythology to be able get a grasp of this. There certainly were interesting bits for me and overall I think it is a very good translation,it was just too difficult for me.
Katie Daniels
Apr 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: india
This was the weirdest religious text I have ever read in my life. Also the most sexually explicit religious text. If you are interested in knowing more about Hinduism, this is not the place to start. I really don't know what any of it is supposed to mean.
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Books can be attributed to "Anonymous" for several reasons:

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* They are traditional stories not attributed to a specific author
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Books whose authorship is merely uncertain should be attributed to Unknown.
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“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.” 15 likes
More quotes…