''What can be more tedious than the Veda, and yet what can be moreinteresting, if once we know that it is the first word spoken by the Aryanman ?''
''The Veda has a two-fold interest: it belongs to the history of theworld and to the history of India............As long as man continues to take aninterest in the history of his race, and as long as we collect in libraries andmuseums the relics of former ages, the first place in that long row of bookswhich contains the records of _the Aryan branch of mankind, will belong forever to the Rig-veda.'''' F. MAX MULLER.
THIS work is an attempt to bring within easy reach of allreaders of English a translation of the Hymns of the Regvedawhich, while aiming especially at close fidelity to the letter andthe spirit of the original, shall be as readable and intelligible asthe nature of the subject and other circumstances permit.
Veda, meaning literally knowledge, is the name given tocertain ancient works which formed the foundation of the earlyreligious belief of the Hindus. These are the Reveda, the SAmaveda, the Yajurveda, and the Atharvaveda; and of these theReveda—so called because its Samhita or collection of mantrasor hymns consists of Rchas or verses intended for loud recitationis the oldest, the most important, and the most generally interesting, some of its hymns being rather Indo-European thanHindu, and representing the condition of the Aryans before theirfinal settlement in India. These four Vedas are considered to be of divine origin and to have existed from all eternity, the Rishisor sacred poets to whom the hymns are ascribed being merely inspired seers who saw or received them by sight directly from the Supreme Creator, In accordance with this belief these sacredbooks have been preserved and handed down with the most reverential car¢ from generation to generation, and have accompanied the great army of Aryan immigrants in their onwardmarch from the Land of the Seven Rivers to the Indian Oceanand the Bay of Bengal. Each of these four Vedas is divided into.two distinct parts, one the Mantra containing prayer and praise,the other the Brahmana containing detailed directions for theperformance of the ceremonies at which the Mantras were to beused, and explanations of the legends connected with them, thewhole forming avast body of sacred literature in verse and inprose, devotional, ceremonial, expository and theosophic.
The Samhita of the Rgveda is a collection of hymns andsongs brought by the remote ancestors of the present Hindusfrom their ancient homes onthe banks of the Indus where theyhad been first used in adoration of the Father of Heaven, of theSun, of Dawn, of Agni or the God of fire, in prayers for health,wealth, long life, offspring, cattle, victory in battle, and freedomfrom the bonds of sin; and celebration of the ever-renewed warfare between the beneficent thunder-wielding Indra, the specialchampion of the Aryans, and the malevolent powers of darknessand the demons of drought who withheld the rain of heaven.
Of these hymns there are more than a thousand, arranged inten Mandalas, Circles, or Books, in accordance with an ancienttradition of what we should call authorship, the hymns ascribedto the same Rishi inspired poet or seer, or to the same school orfamily of Rishi being placed together. Within these divisionsthe hymns are generally arranged more or less in the order of thedeities to whom they are addressed. Agniand Indra are the Godsmost frequently invoked. Hymns to Agni generally come first,next come those addressed to Indra, and after them those inhonour of other deities or deified objects of adoration. The ninthBook is devoted almost entirely to Soma, the deified juice used inpouring libations to the Gods, and the tenth forms a sort of appendix of peculiar and miscellaneous materials. Independentlyof the evidence afforded by Indian tradition, there can be no reasonable doubt of the great antiquity of the Rgveda Samhitawhich, with the exception of the Egyptian monumental recordsand papyrus rolls, and the recently discovered Assyrian literature,is probably the oldest literary document in existence. But itseems impossible to fix, with anything approaching to certainty,any date for the composition of the hymns. In the first Hymnof Book I, ancient and recent or modern Rishis or seers arespoken of, and there is other internal evidence that some hymnsare much older than others. Colebrooke came to the conclusion,from astronomical calculations, that a certain Vedic calendar wascomposed in the fourteenth century before the Christian era;from which it would follow, that as this calendar must have beenprepared after the arrangement of the Rgveda and the inclusionof the most modern hymn, the date of the earliest hymn mightbe carried back, perhaps, some thousand years. The correctnessof Colebrooke’s conclusions, however, has been questioned, andsome recent scholars consider that his calculations are of a veryvague character, and do not yield any such definite date. In theabsence of any direct evidence, the opinions of scholars vary andmust continue to vary with regard to the age of ‘the Hymns ofthe Rgveda. ‘The reasons, however,'' (to quote ProfessorWeber* ) ''by which we are fully justified in regarding the literature of India as the most ancient literature of which writtenrecords on an extensive scale have been handed down to us arethese :—In the more ancient parts of the Rgveda Samhita, wefind the Indian race settled on the north-western borders of India,inthe Punjab, and even beyond the Punjab, on the Kubha, orKa@¢yv, in Kabul. The gradual spread of the race from theseseats towards the east, beyond the Sarasvati and over Hindustanas far as the Ganges, can be traced in the later portions of theVedic writings almost step by step. The writings of the followingperiod, that of the epic, consist of accounts of the internalconflicts among the conquerors of Hindustan themselves, as, forinstance, the Mahabharata; or of the farther spread of Brahemanism towards the South, as, for instance, the Ramayana. Ifwe connect with this the first fairly accurate information aboutIndia which we have from a Greek source, viz., from Megasthenes,*it becomes clear that at the time of this writer the Brahmanisingof Hindustan was already completed, while at the time of thePeriplus (see Lassen, J. AK., ii. 150, ns 1, St,, ii. 192) the verySouthern-most point of the Dekhan had already become the seatof the worship of the wife of Siva. Whata series of years, ofcenturies, must necessarily have elapsed before this boundlesstract of country, inhabited by wild and vigorous tribes, couldhave been ‘brought over to Brahmanism !''
**Contents and Sample Pages**