“Vidanti Dharmadikam Anena Iti Vedah”
“Dharma and other such things can only be known from Veda.”
Veda in Sanskrit is an extension of the word Vid which means ‘to know’. The four Vedas in Hinduism – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda, forms the four pillars of the civilisation as we know it. Maharishi Vedavyasa is known to hand down the knowledge of these religious Vedas to his disciples, who in-turn further cascaded it to their pupils orally over centuries. It is only later, between 1500 to 1100 BCE, these texts were documented into transcripts and compiled into a collection.
Of all, Rig Veda is known to be the oldest written record of the Aryan Civilization, documented in an Indo-European language. It is a compilation of various verses which are known as ‘Rik’ in Sanskrit. A vivid collection of sacred hymns for praising gods, it also contains various mythic and poetic versions of the beginning of the world. While the original text was much smaller, over a period of time Rigveda had undergone metamorphosis with new additions and changes that lasted till 1100 BCE.
The entire collection is in 10 different books, known as Mandala. Each mandala is divided into subsections known as Anuvakas, Each Anuvaka consists the hymns, i.e., Sukta, which is nothing but a collection of verses or Mantras. The number of mantras varies across Suktas. Together it forms the largest text of all four Vedas with 10 Mandalas, 85 Anuvakas, 1028 Sukta, and 10552 mantras. These mantras are arranged according to the deities for whom the praises are sung. Hence the referral mechanism is quite handy with the convenient classification system adopted on the basis of the age-old practice.
Although ancient, Rigveda is a foundation of Hindu philosophy and religious practices, as it documents various puja rituals and other sacrificial procedures followed during Iron Age, much of which is prevalent even today. Many of the texts consists the hymns of praises dedicated to many Gods – whether it is praising their valour in a battle, or asking their blessings for wealth, good fortune, long life, guarding against evil. A large number of hymns are pre-dominantly dedicated to Lord Indra – the supreme sky lord, Lord Agni – the fire god, Lord Surya – the sun god and Lord Rudra, which is the earliest known reference of Lord Shiva. Most of the mantras in Rig Veda are used even today during puja and yagna ceremony.
Rig Veda also documents the way of life adopted by many during the Iron Age including the religious belief or caste system along with the practice of Vedic science like yoga, meditation and ayurveda. The rituals followed during Hindu marriage or the cremation or burial ceremony also found its mention in the old sacred texts.
The religious records were often seen as an interaction between man and god, a practice which is alive even today after centuries. These rituals were then considered sacred and essential to build an order in a nomadic way of life prevalent back then.
Rigveda represents a pool of knowledge along with a philosophy, which beats like a pulsating vein through generations, breathing more than just life in them.