The oldest of the four Vedas, Rig Veda, is all about Gyana or Knowledge. Although the entire collection of the four Vedas are the most genuine archetype of knowledge imparting beacons, yet Rig Veda being the most ancient one has a great touch of spirituality and information.
About the name, “Rig” means “Praise” and as disclosed in my earlier published articles, “Veda” means “knowledge” or “to know”. The Rig Veda is associated with commentaries on religious observances, rituals, and mystical interpretations.
The composition of Rig Veda
The entire Rig Veda is organised in ten segments or “mandalas” (circles). Before Rig Veda got the written formation, it was a form of oral literature, where the rich contents of knowledge and information were propagated and circulated throughout the society and different generations by “Srutis”. “Sruti” is the method of reciting and memorising. The individual Mandalas are a standalone collection of hymns intended to be recited and memorised by students of most prominent Gurukuls of that time.
Gurukuls were the places where education and training were imparted in those ancient times. They were like universities where “Rishis” or sages of special repute and fame used to teach “Shishya” or students in various specialisations. On closely going through the contents of the Mandalas, it can be analysed that Mandala 2 – 7 is all about the lineage of a particular Rishi family or about his students and achievements. For this reason, the written version of the Vedas is often termed to be the “Family Books”.
he mandalas are the composition of hymns, which maintains a sequence. The first hymn of each mandala is associated with the praise of Agni (God of Fire) followed by Indra (King of Gods). In each mandala, the hymns are arranged in descending order or sequence of a syllable. The second to seventh mandalas are of uniform format. The eighth and ninth mandalas are dedicated to Soma or Soma rituals. Soma was a type of drink extracted from a plant of special type and was used in many rituals. It is also believed to be consumed by elite beings of that age and demigods to enjoy liberal intoxicated spirit.
The first and the tenth mandalas are the latest ones as in chronological order. The mandalas are constituted of “Suktas” or hymns. The suktas consists of various stanzas which are known as Rig, which rhythmically composes verses known to be “pada” which means foot or step. The metrics used to measure the syllables and verses in Rig Veda are Gayatri – 3 verses of 8 syllables, Anushtubh – 4 verses of 8 syllables, Trishtubh – 4 verses of 11 syllables and Jagati – 4 verses of 12 syllables. The Gayatri and Trishtubh verses are the most frequently used meters in Rig Veda.
For the convenience in teaching and learning, each mandala is divided into equal sections of suktas, which are known as Anuvaka or recitation. Another pedagogical scheme divides the entire 10 mandalas into sections of Astakas, Adhyaya or chapter and Varga or class.
The first shloka of Rig Veda is as follows –
“Om ‘Agni’meele purohitam. Yagyasya devamritwijam. Hotaram ratnadhaatmam.
In English, the shloka dedicated to Agni or Lord of Fire can be expressed as,
“I pray to you, ‘Agni’, the prime ‘tattva’ (element) of ‘Parmatma’(Supreme Being) by performing this Vedic Yagya (ritual). You, ‘Agni’, were there before there was anything. With you, ‘Agni’, the creation started. You are the giver of everything. I pray to you ‘Agni’, in all days, every season. You, ‘Agni’, sustain all creation and will consume it when the end comes. It is because of you, ‘Agni’, that we get all the beautiful things of life. You are the source of everything beautiful”.
In my upcoming articles at Epitome of the Endless, I shall disclose few more features and properties of Vedas to help readers understand that these Ancient Scriptures have great reserves of knowledge, spirituality, wisdom, and information embedded within it. Few take them to be orthodox, few avoids them on religious perspectives and the remaining lot is least interested in knowing about these scriptures.
However, on speaking at universal frontiers, knowledge, and wisdom does not have any cultural, religious or socially intrinsic attributes. They are equal for all learners, the difference lies in the level of understanding and matrices of evaluation of learners.