All about Vedas

R C Kotwal

Vedas mean knowledge, a large body of sacred texts originated in ancient India. Vedas are composed in Vedic Sanskrit. Vedas are oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Hindus consider Vedas to be apauruseya which means “not of a man” and “impersonal, authorless”. Vedas are also called “shruti”(what is heard) literature distinguishing them from other religious texts which are called samriti (what is remembered). The Vedas for Hindus are revelations & in the Hindu Epic, The Mahabharata, the creation of Vedas is credited to Brahma. There are four Vedas which are as
* Rigveda *Yajurveda *Atharvaveda *Samaveda
Each Veda is classified into 4 major text types
*Samhitas ( Mantras/benedictions)
*(Aryanakas (Text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices)
*Brahmanas (Commentaries on rituals/ceremonies & sacrifices)
*Upanishads (Text discussing, Meditation, philosophy & spiritual knowledge)
Vedas are oldest sacred texts. There is always a debate on the dates of the Vedas. But the Vedas are thousands of years old and vedic Sanskrit is the oldest written language of the world. Rigveda is the oldest of the four Vedas.
Oldest and divided into ten books ((Mandalas). Hymns are dedicated to Rigveda deities. It is a collection of 1028 hymns, 10,600 Verses. The books were composed by rishies (sages) over a period of several centuries ago roughly 3000 BC. Chapter No.2 to 7 are the oldest. Chapter No.1,8,9,10 were added later on. Agni comes first- Indra comes second and so on the deities. Within each collection, the hymns are arranged in the descending order.
Chapter No. 2-7         =    38% text of Rigveda
Chapter No. 8        =    15% text of Rigveda
Chapter No. 9        =    9% text of Rigveda
Chapter No. 1&10    =    38% text of Rigveda
In all, 10 families of rishies account for 95% of the Rigveda. They are as follows:
* Angiras *Kanva *Vasishtha
4.   Vishvamitra * Atri *Bhrgu *Kashyapa *Grtsamada
*Agastya *Bharata
These rishies (sages) now still remembered in terms of gotras of Hindus. Gotras are used especially performing different rituals by Hindus.
Mandala     1     Comprises 191 hymns. 1.1 is addresses to Agni and his name is the first Word of the Rigveda. The remaining hymns are  mainly addressed  gni and Indra as well as to Varuna,  Mitra, the Ashims, the Maruts,Usas Surya, Rudra, Brhaspati, Vishnu, Heaven , Earth and all the Gods
Mandala     2     Comprises 43 hymns, mainly     to Agni and Indira.
Mandala     3     Comprises 62 hymns, mainly     to Agni, Indra and Vishvedevas. The Verse 3.62.10 has great importance in Hinduism as the Gayatri Mantra is written in this mandala. This mantra is  known as  Maha-mantra in Snathan Dharma.
Mandala     4     Comprises 58 hymns mainly to Agni, Indra as well as to Brahaspati, Vayu and other devas.
Mandala     5     Comprises 87hymns, mainly to Agni and all other Gods.  Most of the hymns in this mandala belongs to Atri Clan.
Mandala     6     Comprises 75hymns, mainly to Agni ,Indra and all the  Gods, most hymns in this mandala     belongs to Angirasas.
Mandala  7     Comprises 140 hymns, dedicated to Agni, Indra, Visvadevas, Asvins, Varuna, Vayu, Saraswati and God Vishnu. Most hymns are attributed to vasistha.
Mandala      8         Comprises 103 hymns, to various Gods.
Mandala      9        Comprises 114 hymns, entirely devoted to Soma Pavamana, the cleansing of the sacred potion of vedic religion.
Mandala     10        Comprises 191 hymns, addressed to Agni ,Indra and various  other deities. It contains Nadistuti sukta in praise of rivers and  is important for the geography of the vedic civilization.
In Snathan Dharma, there are 4 Vedas, 18 Purans, 108 Upanishads, Epic Ramayana , Mahabharata, Bhagwat Gita and many other sacred texts. It’s a huge collection of Hindu Dharma which gives wisdom, knowledge to anyone who has the patience to study them. In the western world, they are called Sacred books of the East. Vedas were translated in English also. But Sanskrit gives the perfect presentation of Vedas. A famous French scholar “Voltaire” regarded Vedas to be exceptional and he remarked that:
“The Vedas was the most precious Gift for which  the West had ever been indebted to the East” Rigveda manuscripts were selected for inscription in UNESCO’S memory of the world Register in 2007.

(The author is Superintendent of Police in S.K. Police Academy, Udhampur)