The Rig Veda

A. Nature and Importance:

The Rigveda is the oldest compilation of human wisdom. This Samhita (Collection) is unique in its nature. In fact, it is not a book, but a compilation composed of several books which can be individually distinguished from each other. The present form of this Samhita clearly indicates that the collection is not a single word, but consists of older and later elements. Various indications of language, style, and ideas prove this point. Different hymns of this Samhita were composed long before they were systematically arranged. Being a compilation of different stages, there is something that stamps the Rigveda with an individuality of its own. It is much more natural in character and form than other Samhitas.

The Rigveda represents the earliest sacred book of India. It is the oldest and biggest amongst all the four Vedas. All the features of Classical Sanskrit poetry can be traced to Rigveda. In it, we find the seeds of India’s religious and philosophical development. Thus, both for its poetry and its religious and philosophical importance, the Rigveda should be studied by one who wants to understand Indian literature and spiritual culture. The value of the Rigveda today is not confined to India, for its well-preserved language and mythology have helped a better understanding of languages, literature, and cultures of a whole world.

B. Form and Division:

The whole of the Rigveda-Samhita is in form of verses, known as Rik.

‘Rik’ is the name given to those Mantras which are meant for the praise of the deities. Thus the collection (Samhita) of Riks is known as Rigveda-Samhita. Only one recession or school (Shakha) of the Rigveda is available today and it is the Shaakala. The Rigveda Samhita contains about 10552 Mantras, classified into ten books called Mandalas. Each Mandala is divided into several sections called Anuvakas. Each Anuvaka consists of a number of hymns called Suktas and each Sukta is made up of a number of verses called riks. This division of the Rigveda is most popular and systematic. There are two ways of dividing the contents of the Rigveda, but today other division is uncommon among the students of the Veda.

A Sukta is a group of Mantras. The number of Mantras in a Sukta is not fixed. Some Suktas have a small number of Mantras while others have a large number of Mantras. It is important to note that every Sukta has a seer i.e. Rishi, a deity i.e. Devata, and a meter i.e. Chandas. The Samhita of the Rigveda comprises 10 Mandalas, 85 Anuvakas, 1028 Suktas and 10552 Mantras. Usually, Anuvaka is not mentioned for the reference of a Mantra of the Rigveda. For example, RV 3.16.7 simply means the seventh Mantra of the sixteenth Sukta of the third Mandala of the Rigveda.

Through this chart, we can know the division of Mandalas, the number of Suktas in each Mandala, and the name of Rishis of some Mandalas.

MandalaSuktasMantrasName Of Rishis
011912006Maducchanda, Medhatithi, Gotama And Many Others
0243429Gritasamada And His Family
0362617Vishvamitra And His Family
0458589Vamadeva And His Family
0587727Atri And His Family
0675765Bhardvaja And His Family
07104841Vashistha And His Family
081031716Kanva, Angira And Their Family
091141108Soma Devata But Different Rishis
101911754Vimada, Indra, Shachi And Many Other

C. Some Important Hymns:

Among 1028 Suktas of the Rigveda Samhita some suktas are very popular and frequently referred to by the readers of Vedas. Some of them are:

  1. Purusha Sukta
  2. Hiranya-garbha Sukta
  3. Dhana-anna-dana Sukta
  4. Aksha Sukta
  5. Nasadiya Sukta
  6. Duhsvapna-nashna Sukta
  7. Yama-yami-samvada Sukta

Besides, there are Suktas offered to different deities, such as Indra, Maruta, Varuna, Usha, Surya, Bhumi, Soma, Agni, etc.
Thus we can briefly say about the contents of Rigveda that it has various subjects, which are narrated by Vedic seers poetically, philosophically, or religiously.

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