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Rig Veda, its worldview

02 Sep

A. Attitude

1. Rig Veda, ancient as it is, has a disarmingly fresh view of life and the world at large. There is no trace of pessimism in Rig Veda. It is optimistic and uncomplicated. It does not get into debate whether the world is an illusion, a reality, a substance, or a shadow. It accepts the world as it is. Rig Veda does not subscribe to the view that life is a misery that could be ended with the eradication of desire or vasana, the cause for the recurring cycle of births and deaths. It takes a direct approach to life.

2. There is a healthy desire to enjoy the world, in full. There is no extortion to give up desires. There are a number of prayers addressed to Devas seeking worldly happiness, the cattle, wealth, children, family, heroic sons and longevity. The worship of nature and its powers is sincere and utilitarian. They do not view family life as a hindrance to achieving spiritual excellence. The Vedic seers pray for fullness of life.    “May we see the sun rise a hundred autumns. May we live a hundred autumns, hear (through) a hundred autumns, speak (through) a hundred autumns, and be happy and contented a hundred autumns, nay, even beyond these years.”

3. There is a strong faith in God. It preaches that one should have a pure mind to realize God. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relationship with each Deva, Agni, Indra and others as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. “Instill in us a wholesome, happy mind, with goodwill and understanding. Then shall we ever delight in your friendship like cows who gladly rejoice in meadows green.” There is faith that the Devas would in turn communicate with the men and women and fulfill their desires. 

4. An ideal person in Rig Veda is Aptakama, the one whose desires have been satisfied. One should not cringe and humiliate oneself before others and one should lead an independent life. Our day-to-day activities should be pure and we should make our companions and fellow beings happy. It addresses the humans as the children of immortal bliss (Amruthasya putrah). Swami Vivekananda was very fond of this phrase. The Vedic mind is a progression from prayers for long and happy life (pashyema sharadah shatam jivema sharadah shatam) to lofty idealism .There is a harmonious blend of nivritti and pravritti margas.

5.They talk of a Amruta_loka (sadanam-rtasya).The object is to reach that loka through devotion and dedication(Rtasya_panthah),to travel from mortality (mruthah) to immortality (Amruthah)and from untruth (Anrtahah) to truth (rtahah) (Sampraptam Rtam Amrutam). Rig Veda says the righteous ones go by the Deva_marga and the others go by Pitri_marga. The Upanishads later enlarged this idea as Deva_yana and Pirti_yana.

6. Rig Veda does not condemn those who do not believe in Devas or in their existence. There is no direct reference to sin or hell; there is thus no question of thrusting the unbelievers into hell. It only says the unrighteous go to the world of andha_tamas, land where there is no light. (Incidentally, the Buddha also mentions andha_tamas as the world for sinners. He also does not use terms like hell or heaven). They pray that when the body breaks up, may its elements join their source.

7. Rig Veda speaks of satya and rta .While Satya is the principle of integration in the cosmic order; Rta is its operating rule. There is a faith that the world is sustained by a just and an eternal law decreed by God for the well-being of all. Rig Veda advocates conformity with the aim and purpose of these processes. Conformity with this law tends to material and spiritual progress and advancement paving way to higher forms of integration in life; while its violation is punished with banishment to andha_tamas.

8. Though there are many philosophical aspects in Rig Veda, they do not involve a systematic exposition of a particular school of thought unlike in the later texts. There are no references to individual soul and universal soul and their Oneness or otherwise. The word atman does not appear in Rig Veda directly, though there is a reference to a certain Chetana (a universal spirit) that is higher than the mortals are. A belief is present that the decaying body does not signify the end of atman.

B.Society

1. What we know of the Rig Vedic society is not from archaeological evidence but through oral traditions. They were primarily a pastoral society that practiced agriculture and animal husbandry. They do not appear to have been a city building society. They waged battles. They excelled in military field in which light horse chariots played a prominent part. They loved outdoor activities like racing and hunting. The warrior class and the priests were the elite of the society. They were devoted to their gods. Sang in praise of various deities. They danced in marriages, funerals, harvests, sacrifices and communal gatherings.

2. Rig Veda repeatedly refers to the composite character of its society and to its pluralistic population. It mentions the presence of several religions and languages and calls upon all persons to strive to become noble parts of that pluralistic society.

3. The plasticity of the Rig Vedic mind is evident in the use of language or in literary virtuosity as well as in the way in which they adapted to changes in life. Rig Vedic intellectuals were highly dexterous users of the words. Their superb ability to grasp multiple dimensions of human life, ideals and aspirations and to express them in pristine poetry was truly remarkable. However, we sadly know nothing about their ability to write. Strangely Rig Veda (1-164-39) states, “In the letters (akshara) of the verses of the Veda…”. Further there are references to compositional chandas (metres), lines in a metre and to specific number of words in a line of a text. Such exercises could not have been possible unless some form of writing was in existence. They might perhaps have employed a script that is now totally extant (. http://www.crystalinks.com/indiawriting.html )

3.1. Similarly, we know very little about their art or architecture; though we know of their love for music, singing and dancing.

4. Rig Veda accepts that divine truths are reveled to sages. It does not make a distinction between male and female seers. There are more than thirty-five female sages in Rig Veda with specific hymns ascribed to them. Women did enjoy a right to learn and recite Vedas. The restrictions in this regard came at a later stage. The famous marriage hymn (10.85) calls upon members of the husband’s family to treat the daughter in law (invited into the family ‘as a river enters the sea’) as the queen samrajni. The idea of equality is expressed in the Rig Veda: “The home has,verily, its foundation in the wife” ,”The wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular.” (Book 5, hymn 61. verse 8)

4.1. The seclusion of women was not practiced. Young women of the time had a voice in their marriage. “The woman who is of gentle birth and of graceful form,” so runs a verse in the Rig Veda, “selects among many of her loved one as her husband.”

5. It is not as if the Rig Vedic society was free of all vices. There are a number of references to gambling (dices), drinking, prostitution, indebtedness, destitute families of heavily indebted gamblers and drunkards. There were social inequalities, poverty, slavery and destitution too.

6. Nonetheless, the worldview of the Rig Veda is refreshing; its ideals are relevant to the modern age. The social life portrayed in Rig Veda reveals certain interesting features. Sanctity of the institution of marriage, domestic purity, a patriarchal system, a just and equitable law of sacrifice, and high honor for women , pluralistic view ,as also tolerance towards unpopular views and those that err ; were some of the noteworthy features of the social life during the Vedic period.

C.Symbolism

1. Rig-Veda is not a textbook or a manual. It is a collection of hymns, in a free-flowing language that is universal and that requires no elaboration. To make a connection with that ancient culture, we have to live the same inner experience.

2. Rig Veda is often criticized as being a book of rituals. However, not a single hymn in Rig Veda out of its 1017 hymns gives a description of a ritual or a rite. For instance, Agni translated as fire in the altar, is mentioned in several hundred verses, there is however no mention of a priest lighting a fire. Agni is used symbolically to signify the subtle energy in all beings. Sometimes, the fire principle is the same as the sun, which illumines the universe; the same Reality underlies Ushas that makes everything effulgent.

3. Creation, preservation and destruction are not distinct occurrences. In reality, the process of birth, growth and decay is ever present, ongoing and twined into one another. There is no death in the universe. It is transformation from one state to another. When we loose a desire, we mistakenly think it is destroyed. No, it is now transformed into a larger vision – the aspiration. Agni ignites aspiration. The cosmic god Agni is the one who transforms little desires into great aspirations. Agni is the fire of inner awakening. It illumines and elevates our consciousness. The aspiration to attain super consciousness is the theme of the Rig Veda.

4. The elements of the outer sacrifice are symbolic of the inner sacrifice and are representations of self-surrender. Behind these rituals and hymns runs the thread of gradual evolution of the concept of spiritual life. Our sacrifice is a journey towards super consciousness with Agni, the inner flame, as the pathfinder. The sacrifice is an act of self-surrender to God. That sacrifice is perpetual. That concept of life as a Yajna was later enlarged in the Gita.

D. Nature of God.

1. In its earlier stages, Rig Veda mentions various gods and goddesses. Mitra the Sun; Varuna the god of night and of the blue sky; Dyu and Prithivi the Sky and the Earth; Agni or fire god and the friend of all; Savitri the refulgent; Indra the master of the universe; Vishnu the measurer of the three worlds and Aditi the mother of all other gods (the Adityas) are some of them. Gradually, a tendency to extol a God as the greatest and controlling all other divine entities comes into play. This marks the progress of man’s concept of God or the ultimate Reality from polytheism to monotheism, ultimately leading to monism.

2. The seeds of Advaita are found in Rig Veda. Some of the most beautiful verses that Shankara interprets occur in the Samhita portion of the Rig Veda. For example, the following mantra traditionally associated with the Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.1) is found in the Rig Veda as well “Two birds that are ever associated and have similar names cling to the same tree. Of these, one eats the fruits of divergent tastes and the other looks on without eating”.

3. The tenth book of the Rig-Veda regards the highest conception of God as both the Impersonal and the Personal: The Nasadiya Sukta states that the Supreme Being is the Unmanifest and the Manifest, Existence as well as Non existence. He is the Jagat_pati, the Lord of the Universe, of all beings. He is the sustainer and the protector. The Purusha-Sukta (Rig Veda 5.10.90) proclaims that this Universe is God. The Supreme Person the Purusha with an infinite number of heads, eyes, hands and feet envelops the whole of his creation in His Cosmic Body. He is the cause of the world. He encompasses the whole cosmos and transcends it to infinity. He is the supreme and the solitary divinity.

Nasadiya Suktha -translation of Prof. Juan Mascaro.

(In the beginning…)

There was neither existence nor non-existence.

There was not then what is not, what is not.

There was neither sky nor any heaven beyond the sky.

What power was there? Where

Who was that power?

Was there an abyss of fathomless water?

There was neither death nor immortality then

No signs were there of night or day.

The One was breathing with its own power,

in deep space.

Only the One was:

And there was nothing beyond.

The darkness was hidden in darkness.

And all was fluid and formless.

Therein, in the void,

By the fire of fervor arose One.

And in the One arose love.

Love the first seed of the soul.

The truth of this the sages found in their hearts:

Seeking in their hearts with wisdom,

The sages found that bond of union

Between being and non-being

Between the manifest and the unmanifest

Who knows this truth?

Who can tell, when and how arose this universe?

The gods came after its creation.

Whether this universe was created or uncreated

Only the God who sees in the highest heaven:

He only knows, when came this universe

And, whether it was created or uncreated

He only knows or perhaps He knows not?

 4. The word Brahman or brāhmaņa occurs more than a hundred times in the Rig-Veda. In only one place, the purusha sūkta occurring in the tenth mandala, a relatively late composition, it uses the term brāhmaņa to signify a caste. In all other places, brāhmaņa has nothing to do with caste. Again, Brahman of the Rig-Veda is not the Brahman Para Brahman of the Upanishads, the highest principle of Existence. Rig-Veda uses the words “tad ekam”, “That one,” param (beyond), ekam sat (one reality) to signify the Para Brahman or “The one without a second” of the Upanishads.

5. Brahman is used in the Rig Veda as term for a high divinity or as another name for Agni. “ He has come, chosen bearer, and is seated in man’s home, Brahman, Agni, the Supporter, He whom both Heaven and Earth exalt and strengthen whom, Giver of all boons, the Hotar worships”.( http://oaks.nvg.org/rv7.html ). The term Brahman is also used to represent the spoken word. It is said, “The development of Brahman into a word which designates formulated speech more than it does an independent power is the most significant change from the Family Books to the later Rig Veda ( http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246 ). Brahman acquires the meaning of unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality at a later stage in the Upanishads.

6. Rig Veda primarily follows Saguno_pasana.The Supreme Being in Rig Veda is the abode of all auspicious qualities. The Ultimate supreme Reality is described (though it is beyond description or definition) as sat-chit-ananda. He is the one who created the world and sustained it. He is the omniscient and the original cause of the world (tasyedu visva bhuvanadhi murdhani). He manifests himself as the world (Visvarupah). Rig Veda pursues a strategy later expounded by Bhakthi yoga, the path of devotion. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relation ship with each Deva as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. He is omniscient, compassionate and easily accessible to devotees (Niyanta sunrutanam). It firmly believes in grace of God and preaches that a virtuous life in this world and the progression to Amrutatva, immortality is possible only with complete surrender to God and with the grace of God.

E.Gods

1. A question commonly asked is whether Rig Veda speaks of one God or many gods. The Rig Veda does mention a number of gods such as Indra, Agni, Mitra, Varuna and others. The Vedas speak of thirty-three different deities. According to the Shatapatha Brahmana, these thirty-three deities include eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Dyaus, and Prithvi. Yajnavalkya at one stage says, ‘The eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapati are the thirty-three gods”. According to Yaska, the original thirty-three gods (eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas and two Asvinis) are divided equally in three different planes of existence namely the celestial plane (dyuloka) the intermediate region (antarikshaloka) and the terrestrial plane (bhurloka) each plane having eleven gods. The dyuloka (celestial plane) is presided over by Savitri or Surya; while antarikshaloka (intermediary space) is presided over by Indra or Vayu; and the bhurloka (terrestrial plane) is presided over by Agni.

2. Agni has a special position among the Vedic gods. Agni is the symbol of Paramatman and all the other gods are different aspects or manifestations of Agni. According to many scholars, the appropriate Vedic symbol of the Supreme is Agni. Agni is the fire principle that shines in the sun and is the one who carries our offerings to other gods. Agni is the fire of inner awakening. He is the friend of man and mediates on our behalf. He is the symbol of wisdom, knowledge, compassion and lordship.

3. It would be safer to make a distinction between The God the Supreme principle the substratum of all existence; and the gods who represent different aspects, powers and glory of the God. While the God is One, the gods are many. All the gods lead to One God. And, one should make a distinction between a path and the goal .The goal is consciousness of the Supreme in all its manifestations.

4. All gods mentioned in the Rig-Veda have human features such as the face, limbs etc, their forms are shadowy but they have a distinct power and personality. For instance, Indra is endowed with strength and vigor; Pushan with ability to protect so is Vishnu, the sun stands for many forms of brilliance while Rudra represents the anger. The physical features represent a specific form of nature. For example, the tongue of the fire god represents the tongue of the flames. The names Visvedeva, Visvakarma, Prajapathi etc. are used to describe the indescribable form.

5. Yaska’s Nirukta discusses the question whether devatas have form, whether they are different gods or whether they are manifestations of the same God. Yaska_charya defines a Deva as one who gives gifts (devo danat), who is effulgent (devo dipanat), who illumines (devo dyotanat), and who resides in heaven or the celestial world (dyusthane bhavati iti). After discussing the three different views (namely, they have form, they do not have form, and a combination of these two views), the Nirukta concludes that, in reality, there is only one devata who can be addressed in various ways depending upon the temperament of the aspirant. Yaska_charya confirms by saying Eka atma Bahudha Stuyate meaning there is only One God and many praise by different names. He further says the many forms of gods are manifestation of the atman., One Reality. He emphasizes that the Sat Vastu includes in itself different deities. Sayana in his Rig_bashya_bhumika says praise of all Gods’ leads to the same tat (entity).

5.1. The real is but One, bearing a multiplicity of names and forms. The origin of all deities is One, the nature of all deities is One and goal of all of them is One. The differences perceived in the deities are due to their functions and personalities, but they are different aspects of the same reality.

6. Rig Veda accepts the plurality of views and approach to the Supreme knowledge .The acquisition of knowledge by an individual is unique. No two paths are alike. We cannot envision all the grandeurs of the nature in one-step. When we are at an elevation, we get a better view of the road that lies ahead than when we were at the base of the hill .We have to go from one peak to another. The knowledge is infinite like a vast mountain, in which each peak corresponds to a level of knowledge

[There is a view that it may not be quite correct to translate the term Deva as God. The term ‘Deva’, according to them, means ‘Those that shine’ derived from the root ‘div’ (to shine, illuminate). The twelve Adityas refer to the seasons, while the seven Adityas refer to the seven Planets or Grahas (excluding Rahu and Ketu, which are the head and tale of Vritrasura, or Svarbhanu). Thus forming the basis for naming the seven days of the week, nine planets and twelve months. The Adityas are children from Maya or Aditi (hence all representing Kala, or Time). Hence, the basis of Vedic Astrology and Astronomy. http://varahamihira.blogspot.com/2004/07/33-devas-pt-sanjay-rath.html ]

F.The gods that faded away

 

Some of the major Rig Vedic gods have virtually disappeared today. They are no longer worshipped as “gods” in the sense that there are no temples built or services conducted for them.

 

1. Varuna was a major celestial Deva considered equal in status to Indra and was the guardian of the cosmic order (rta). Hence, the hymns addressed to Varuna are more devout and ethical in tone. Varuna also addressed as Asura has his counterpart in Ahur Mazda the supreme god in the Avstha.Today, Varuna is reduced to the guardian of water element.

 

2.Indra the most important Rig Vedic god described as ‘Yo jata eva prathamo manasvan; he who, from his very birth, is the first (of the deities)’, the lord of the universe etc. is demoted in Puranas to the level of a satrap. He is always in danger of loosing his throne and is ever busy deving schemes to survive fresh attacks from asuras. He is scared of not only the villainous but also the most virtuous as he fears they might usurp his throne. It is a steep fall.

 

3. The Rig Veda calls the presiding deity of the wind as Vata or Vayu. The god conceived as the element (vata) moves wherever he wants, at his pleasure. Describing him as the soul and indweller of other gods, a sukta in the tenth mandala says: ‘the soul of the gods, the germ of the world, this divinity moves according to his pleasure; his voices are heard, his form is not (seen); let us worship that Vata with oblations.’ The wind god, Vayu, is ‘the messenger of gods’; The Vayu later becomes a mere element in the Puranas. The Dwaita sect however elevated Vayu to a higher-level and Hanuman became mukhya_prana.

 

4.Mitra , a friend invoked very often in the Rig-Veda along with Varuna had a separate identity. He is the counter part of the Avestan Mithra. Some believe that Mitra and Varuna together represent the Indo-European duality of Fire and water; of earth and spiritual power.

 

5.Savitir a younger member of the Vedic pantheon, the most handsome of the Vedic gods with raised arms that were golden (hiranya hasta) is the embodiment of gold. Savitir is the great inspirer. He dispels darkness. The Sun just before he arises is Savitir, according to Sayana. The most celebrated Gayathri mantra belongs to him (tat Savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhi_yoyonah prachodayat).

 

6.Pushan (one who nourishes) is a solar deity who is the keeper of herds and one who brings prosperity. Yaska says that when Sun appears with his rays he is Pushan.He is the husband of Ushas. He has a charming appearance. He has immense wealth and has always at his command a chariot ready to ride. He is the greatest of the charioteers. Pushan wards off calamities that might occur on the road; so pray to him. This celebrated rik is addressed to Pushan: ‘By the lid of the golden orb is your face hidden. Please remove it, O nourisher of the world, so that I may see you, I who am devoted to Truth.’

 

G.Gods in Rig Veda and Puranas

 

1. A word about the connection between the Vedic gods and purāņic gods is appropriate here. In Rig Veda a god is neither less nor more than the other is. In the Veda, all the Gods are pure and harmonious with no rivalry, jealousy and such other flaws. All of them are equal, bereft of impurities, endowed with auspicious qualities and all represent Truth. Each Vedic god has a distinct power and personality, but he or she also carries the presence of the Supreme, “That one.” All the Vedic gods harmoniously work together in providing the divine inspiration to the individual .The Rig Vedic gods are kind and compassionate. They fulfill the desires and aspirations of the devotees.

 

2. At a much later period, the purāņās tried to convey the esoteric truths of the Veda in a popular form. However, in that attempt the qualities of the Vedic gods were partially humanized and endowed with human virtues/flaws. Thus in the purāņās, the various Gods work together sometimes, but also quarrel with one another. They are bitten by jealousy, envy, greed, arrogance, etc.

 

3.Many of the Puanic gods are transformations of the Vedic Devas The now major puranic Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are not prominent Devas in the Vedas; at the same time the prominent Vedic Devas do get diminished in stature  in the Puranas..

 

4. For instance, Bŗhaspati, Brahmaņaspati, Brahma are the three gods to whom the rişhi Vāmadeva addresses his mystic hymn of praise. However, the statuses of these Gods undergo a huge change in the Puranas.

 

The concept of Brahma as the creator in the purāņa is derived from the Brahmaņaspati/Bŗhaspati of the Vedas where they are the creators through the power of the Word. The elephant-faced tāntrik God Gaņapathi captures some aspects of the Vedic god Brahmaņaspati. Gaņapati is invoked by a Vedic rik associated with the Brahmaņaspati. The word Gaņapati means the lord of gaņas or hosts. In the purāņa, the hosts (gaņas) are the beings of the vital world. However, in the Rig-Veda, the gaņās or hosts of Bŗhaspati/Brahmaņaspati are the chants, the riks and the stomas, the words of praise (RV. 4.50). In the Rig-Veda, Brahmaņaspati/Bŗhaspati is a God of a very high plane and has little to do with the lower vital levels. The two deities are closely connected to each other. There are over one hundred riks in praise of these two deities, giving a picture of their powers and personalities.

 

4.1. The puranic Brahma and Ganapathi are derived from Vedic Brahmanaspathi. However, the Vedic Brihaspathi is reduced in the Puranas to become the preceptor of Devas and guardian of the planet Jupiter. Brahma becomes the Creator, one of the purāņic Trinity. He is however denied worship. Brahmaņaspati, the middle term that once linked the Vedic Brahma and Brihaspathi has disappeared altogether.

 

5. Indra is one of the important Rig Vedic gods and is described as ‘Yo jata eva prathamo manasvan‘; He who, from his very birth, is the first (of the deities). Indra is the lord of the universe. The idea of an omniscient and omnipresent Godhead is also applied to Indra when he is addressed as ‘ashrutkarna; whose ears hear all things. Indra in one verse is “Svayambhuva” meaning ‘Self-existent’ or ‘Self manifested’ The Vedic Indra is transformed into Puranic Vishnu; while the Puranic Indra is a demigod much reduced in status and flawed by envy, greed and other human failings.

5.1. The Bhagavata Purana states that Yajna (Indra) took incarnation as Svayambhuva Manu. Indra thus becomes Vishnu (as Svayambhuva). Vishnu in turn becomes Dhanvantri the divine healer, Prithu the King and the Rishis such as Kapila. His later Avatars are celebrated in various Puranas. He is the preserver in the Trinity. He is the Narayana the supreme deity.

6. Vishnu (the pervader) initially had a lower position to that of Indra. He is the younger brother of Indra. In the Rig-Veda Vishnu is described as living and wandering on the mountains. He is one of the celestial gods and one of the Adithyas. He resembles Surya and has rays in his appearance. He later evolves into the most signifificant God and Godhead. The ‘Vishnu Sukta’ of the Rig Veda (1.154) mentions the famous three strides of Vishnu. It said that the first and second of Vishnu’s strides (those encompassing the earth and air) were visible and the third was in the heights of heaven (sky). The second mantra of the ‘Vishnu Sukta’ says that within the three vast strides of Vishnu all the various regions of the universe live in peace.

6.1. Yaskacharya, in his Nirukta, defines Vishnu as ‘Vishnu vishateh; one who enters everywhere’, and ‘yad vishito bhavati tad vishnurbhavati; that which is free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu.’ Vishnu is also characterized, as ‘veveshti vyapnoti vishvam yah; the one who covers the whole universe, or is omnipresent. In other words, Vishnu became the omnipresent dimension of the supreme Lord. 

7. Rudra one of the intermediate gods (antariksha devata) is celebrated in three or four hymns and is described as a fierce, armed with bow and arrows. He is endowed with strong arms, lustrous body and flowing golden hair. He is not purely benefic like other Rig Vedic gods, but he is not malevolent either. He punishes and at the same time rescues his devotees from trouble. He is the Shiva the auspicious one. In Puranas, he becomes one of the Trinity and is the destroyer. He is the Lord of the universe, the cosmic dancer, the Supreme yogi and master of all yogis.

Vedic Rishi Vamadeva merges into to become one of five faces of Lord Shiva and the aspect of Vama or “preserver” associated with the element of water.

H.Female deities in Rig Veda

The Rig Veda mentions many goddesses but none of them is central to the text. Although Ushas is celebrated in the Vedas, she is not offered Soma in the sacrifices. In addition to Ushas, Aditi, Prithvi and Vac are the other female deities mentioned in the Vedas.

1. Ushas is identified with the dawn in the Rig Veda, praised for driving away the darkness. She rouses life and sets things in motion. Ushas is compared to a graceful dancer. She also gives strength and fame; and like Prthivi is called mother. She is referred to as ‘she who sees all’ and invoked to drive away or punish enemies .She is a skilled hunter who “wastes away people’s lives”. Perhaps in Ushas there is a hint of the goddess, as both nurturing and fierce.

2. Aditi is the mother principle. Her name means the unbound one. In the Rig Veda, she is the mother of all the gods, the mother of all creation. She is invoked for protection and wealth. She is mentioned nearly eighty times in the Rig-Veda yet at no time she appears as a consort to any of the gods. Sri Aurobindo addresses Aditi as the Goddess of infinity and the infinite consciousness.

3. Prthivi the earth principle is the mother while sky is as a father. The earth and sky principles are together referred as Dyava_prithivi. She is the basis for all beings animate or otherwise. She protects, she feeds and without her we have no existence. She is addressed as mother and regarded as warm, nurturing and a provider of sustenance. Prithvi is seen as stable, fertile and benign, forgiving all our tressspasses.She is sarvam_saha and Vasundhara.

4. Vac is the goddess associated with speech, which is a concept of central importance to the Vedas. Vac, the word or the exchange of knowledge, is the mother of all communications that give intelligence to those who love her. She is associated with the power of the rishis. ‘She is the mysterious presence that enables one to hear, see, grasp and then express in words the true nature of things. She is the prompter of and vehicle of expression for visionary perception, and as such she is intimately associated with the rishis and the rituals that express or capture the truths of their visions.’

4.1. In a passage of the Rig Veda, Vac is praised as a divine being. Vac is omnipotent, moves amongst divine beings, and carries the great gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Agni, within itself. “All gods live from Vac, also all demigods, animals and people. Vac is the eternal being; it is the first-born of the eternal law, mother of the Vedas and navel of immortality.” The reason, the Vedic rishis paid such glowing tributes to Vac was perhaps that they attached great importance to the word and to its purity.

4.2. In the later parts of the Rig Veda, Brahman (one of the three distinct voices in the Soma sacrifices) is associated with speech and comes to be recognized as the verbal forms of Vac.They are seen as partners working for the fulfillment of the devotees aspirations. If Vac is regarded the weapons, it is Brahman that sharpens them. In Rig Veda the Vac-Brahman relation is a “growing partnership” (RV 10.120.5, and 9.97.34) http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246

4.3. In the Rig Veda, Sarasvathi is the river vital to their life and existence. Sarasvathi is described as ‘nadinam shuci; sacred and pure among rivers. It was, however, in Krishna Yajurveda, that Vac (speech personified, the vehicle of knowledge) for the first time comes to be known as Sarasvathi. The Aitreya Aranyaka calls her mother of Vedas. From here on the association of vac with sarasvathi gets thicker.

4.4. In the Rig Veda, Sarasvati is often invoked with Ida and Bharati. The three, Ida, Bharathi and Sarasvathi are manifestation of the Agni (Yajnuagni) and are tri_Sarasvathi. The goddess Sarasvathi is also the destroyer of Vrta and other demons that stand for darkness (Utasya nah Sarasvati ghora Hiranyavartanih / Vrtraghni vasti sustuition). With the passage of time Sarasvathi’s association with the river gradually diminishes. The virtues of Vac and Sarasvathi (the river) merge into one divinity the Sarasvathi; and get recognized and worshipped as goddess of purity, speech, learning, wisdom, culture and intellect. The Rig Vedic goddess Vac thus emerges and shines gloriously as Vac-devi, Vedamatha, Vani, Sharada, Pusti, Vagishvari, Veenapani , Bharathi and Sarasvathi.

(http://orissagov.nic.in/emagazine/Orissareview/febmar2005/englishpdf/saraswati.pdf )

The association of the intellect and purity (Vac, Sarasvathi) with the spoken word (Brahma) acquires a physical representation in the Puranas.

  ****

The high idealism of the Rig Veda poetry represents the soaring human aspirations. It is the intense desire to grow out of the limited physical confines and to reach out to the super consciousness that inspired the Vedic rishis. Sri Aurobindo believed that the human being is at the crest, on the threshold of evolving into super consciousness. He asserted that Rig Veda encases that esoteric message and attainment of that super consciousness was the vision  of the Rig Veda.

References:

The Human Aspiration:

http://www.mountainman.com.au/auro_0.html

The concept of gods in Vedas:

http://www.eng.vedanta.ru/library/prabuddha_bharata/May2005_the_concept_of_God_in_the_Vedas.php

http://www.eng.vedanta.ru/library/prabuddha_bharata/June2005_the_concept_of_god_in_the_vedas.php

 
3 Comments

Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

Tags: ,

3 responses to “Rig Veda, its worldview

  1. scribeinthehouse

    April 26, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Dear Sir,

    My questions are regarding the Sanskrit language:

    1. What are the main points of difference between Vedic and Laukik Sanskrit? Were there any other types of Sanskrit in between? How did the transition take place?

    2. Are the Samhitas of all four Vedas written in Vedic Sanskrit? Or is only Rig Ved’s samhita written in Vedic Sanskrit and the language of the rest three have some shades of differences?

    (I understand that a large portion of Sam Veda and Yajur Veda is merely taken from the Rig Veda itself, so they would obviously be the same. But my query is regarding the portions which are not taken from Rig Veda.)

    3. Further, I understand that the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads were composed/written after a considerable gap since the Samhitas. To what extent is the language in these texts different from that of the Samhitas? Can we say that these texts use Laukik Sanskrit?

    Regards,
    Udhav

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      April 28, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      Dear4 Udhav ,thanks for asking.
      I am travelling ( on tour).
      Will respond to your very good question , shortly.
      Pardon me for the delay.
      Regards

       
      • scribeinthehouse

        April 29, 2014 at 6:48 am

        No problem. Please take your time.

         

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