Student learning the Vedas
The main Hindu texts are the Vedas and their supplements (books based on the Vedas). Veda is a Sanskrit word meaning “knowledge” or “sacred knowledge”. These scriptures do not mention the word 'Hindu' but many scriptures discuss dharma, which can be rendered as 'code of conduct', 'law', or 'duty' Hindus believe that the Vedas texts were received by scholars direct from God and passed on to the next generations by word of mouth. [Source: BBC |::|]

The Vedas are Hinduism's oldest and most sacred texts, and compiled by Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana. They are considered divine revelation or sruti ("that which has been heard") as opposed to texts of human origin, smrti ("that which is remembered"). Brahmin priests methodically memorized the content of the Vedas to ensure their consistent transmission to subsequent generations. The Vedas also provide early records of astronomy and mathematics in India that came out of Vedic ritual and temple construction. [Source: PBS, The Story of India,]

The Vedas are the most ancient religious texts which define truth for Hindus. They got their present form between 1200-200 B.C. and were introduced to India by the Aryans. Hindus believe that the texts were received by scholars direct from God and passed on to the next generations by word of mouth. Vedic texts are sometimes called shruti, which means hearing. For hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, the texts were passed on orally. |::|

Websites and Resources on Hinduism: Hinduism Today ; Heart of Hinduism (Hare Krishna Movement) ; India Divine ; Religious Tolerance Hindu Page ; Hinduism Index ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Oxford center of Hindu Studies ; Hindu Website ; Hindu Gallery ; Hindusim Today Image Gallery ; Encyclopædia Britannica Online article ; International Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Shyam Ranganathan, York University ; Vedic Hinduism SW Jamison and M Witzel, Harvard University ; The Hindu Religion, Swami Vivekananda (1894), Wikisource ; Hinduism by Swami Nikhilananda, The Ramakrishna Mission ; All About Hinduism by Swami Sivananda ; Advaita Vedanta Hinduism by Sangeetha Menon, International Encyclopedia of Philosophy (one of the non-Theistic school of Hindu philosophy) ; Journal of Hindu Studies, Oxford University Press ; Hindu Texts: Sanskrit and Prakrit Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Manuscripts Vol. 1 and Volume 2 ; Clay Sanskrit Library ; Sacred-Texts: Hinduism ; Sanskrit Documents Collection: Documents in ITX format of Upanishads, Stotras etc. ; Ramayana and Mahabharata condensed verse translation by Romesh Chunder Dutt ; Ramayana as a Monomyth from UC Berkeley ; Ramayana at ; Mahabharata Online (in Sanskrit) ; Mahabharata ; Mahabharata Reading Suggestions, J. L. Fitzgerald, Das Professor of Sanskrit, Department of Classics, Brown University ; Mahabharata ; Bhagavad Gita (Arnold translation) ; Bhagavad Gita at Sacred Texts ; Bhagavad Gita

Contents of the Vedas

The Vedas are collections of hymns and ritual instructions used to perform Vedic ceremonies, and the theology and philosophy they contain form the foundation of the indigenous religious systems of India which today we call Hinduism. Textual commentaries written by priests are attached to and elaborate on each of the Vedas and are also considered part of Vedic literature. These commentaries include the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.

13th century Shatapatha Brahmana 14th Khanda Prapathaka 3-4, page 1 front, Sanskrit, Devanagari script

The Vedas are made up of four compositions, and each veda in turn has four parts which are arranged chronologically: 1) The Samhitas are the most ancient part of the Vedas, consisting of hymns of praise to God. 2) The Brahmanas are rituals and prayers to guide the priests in their duties;. 3) The Aranyakas concern worship and meditation. 4) The Upanishads consist of the mystical and philosophical teachings of Hinduism. |::|

The Samhitas: 1) Rig-Veda Samhita (c. 1200 B.C.) is the oldest of the four vedas and consists of 1028 hymns praising the ancient gods. 2) Yajur-Veda Samhita is used as a handbook by priests performing the vedic sacrifices. 3) Sama-Veda Samhita consists of chants and tunes for singing at the sacrifices. 4) Atharva-Veda Samhita (c. 900 B.C.) preserves many traditions which pre-date the Aryan influence and consists of spells, charms and magical formulae. |::|

The oldest of the four works is the Rig-Veda, a collection of over 1,000 hymns, many of which invoke the deities Indra and Agni, the gods of war and fire, respectively. The remaining books are the Atharva-Veda, a collection of myths, verses, spells, and prayers named after the priest Atharavan; the Yajur-Veda, a book detailing Vedic sacrifice; and the Sama-Veda, a collection of liturgical chants. [Source: PBS, The Story of India,]

Dating the Vedas

There is a some debate surrounding the exact history and date of the Vedas. One source above says they were composed between 1500 B.C. and 600 B.C. Another says they got their present form between 1200-200 B.C. Many say they dates back to 1900 B.C., or even 4000 B.C. They were first translated into European languages in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At this time, it was widely believed to their makers could not have made something older than classic European texts. That idea persisted for some time the West. Today, some India historians are trying push the origin of The Vedas back to the beginning of dawn of human civilization between 4000 and 3000 B.C.

Dr. Michael Witzel, Wales Professor of Sanskrit, Harvard University, said the Rig Veda is no older than 1400 B.C., based on the references to metals (bronze, and no iron), horses, and chariots. He maintains that there was no evidence to support earlier dates. He also said that Vedic Sanskrit was imported to the region, as shown by the similarity with many other languages, although there was a local substratum of language and customs that were retained in the Vedic times. [Source: Science Center at Harvard University, On 14 March 2010,]

Vivaha sukta, Rigveda 10,85,16-22, dated to 1500-1200 BC in Sanskrit from the 18th century Devanagari manuscript

According to the Aryan invasion theory, first proposed by the British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler around the early part of the twentieth century, the Vedas were not composed in India. They were composed by members of so-called Aryans tribes who invaded India from the Northwest, destroyed the old civilisation in the Indus Valley. Hindu nationalists promote the idea, saying the Indus Valley was inhabited by Dravidians who were driven to the south of India by the Aryans. and other parts. The Indus Valley civilization emerged around 3300 B.C. And declined around 1500 B.C. or earlier. There are Hindu nationalist overtones to the Dravidian-Aryan aspect of this theory and no archaeological evidence to back it up.

Many Indian historians argue that the Indus Valley civilisation declined by 1800 BC and the Aryans appeared in north-west India around 1500 BC. Using philological evidence, the overlap between Vedic Sanskrit, old Persian and ancient European languages, they have argued since the 19th century that the Rig Vedic Aryans came from outside. Recently scholars at the University of Delhi and elsewhere, to push back the commonly accepted date of the Vedas through astronomical calculations. [Source: Vikas Pathak, The Hindu, September 18, 2015 ^^^]

Ramesh Bhardwaj, head of the Sanskrit Department at Delhi University, said: “Many scholars have used archaeology to date the Vedas, and this does not take them before 3000 BC. But there are other dating tools that have been ignored or forgotten,” he says. “There are instances where Vedic literature offers the positions of stars and constellations at the moment it was composed. This can be calculated back mathematically to figure out the date when the positions actually corresponded to the description.” Mr. Bhardwaj says this can offer the latest possible date of the text, be it “5000 or 10,000 years back”. ^^^

Historian D.N. Jha told The Hindu: “People have come up with dates ranging from 1100 BC to 4000 BC from astronomical calculations. This shows that the evidence itself is dubious.” He added that for the Rig Veda, it was difficult to say whether what was being seen as a constellation was indeed a description of one.” ^^^

To Visvakarman: from the Rig Vedas

To Visvakarman [The "All-Maker"] from the Rig Veda reads:
The seer, our father, sacrificing all these worlds,
Sat on the high priest's throne:
Pursuing wealth by [offering] prayer, he made away
With what came first, entering into the latter things.
What was the primal matter (adhisthana)? What the beginning?
How and what manner of thing was that from which
The Maker of All, see-er of all, brought forth
The earth, and by his might the heavens unfolded?

His eyes on every side, on every side his face,
On every side his arms, his feet on every side --
With arms and wings he together forges
Heaven and earth, begetting them, God, the One!
What was the wood? What was the tree
From which heaven and earth were fashioned forth?
Ask, ask, ye wise in heart, on what did he rely
That he should [thus] support [these] worlds?

Teach us thy highest dwelling places (dhama), thy lowest too;
[Teach us] these, thy midmost, Maker of All:
Teach thy friends at the oblation, O thou, self-strong;
Offer sacrifice thyself to make thy body grow!
Maker of All, grown strong by the oblation,
Offer heaven and earth in sacrifice thyself!
Let others hither and thither, distracted, stray
But for us let there be a bounteous patron here.

Let us today invoke the Lord of Speech,
Maker of All, inspirer of the mind,
To help us at the [time of] sacrifice.
Let him take pleasure in all our invocations,
Bring us all blessing, working good to help us!
The father of the eye - for wise of mind is he -
Begat these twain [heaven and earth] like sacrificial ghee,
And they bowed to him [in worship].
Not till the ancient bounds were firmly fixed
Were heaven and earth extended.


Maker of All, exceeding wise, exceeding strong,
Creator, Ordainer, highest Exemplar (samdrs):
Their sacrifices [or wishes] exult in nourishment
There where, they say, the One is - beyond the Seven Seers.
He is our father, he begat us,
[He] the Ordainer: dwellings (dhama) knows,
All worlds [he knows]: the gods he named,
[Himself] One only: other beings go to question him.

As [now our] singers [give] of their abundance,
So did the ancient seerstogether offer him wealth:
After the sunless and the sunlit spaces
Had been set down, together they made these beings.
Beyond the heavens, beyond this earth,
Beyond the gods, beyond the Asuras,
What was the first embryo the waters bore
To which all the gods bore witness?

He [Visvakarman] was the first embryo the waters bore
In whom all gods together came,
The One implanted in the Unorn's navel
In which all the worlds abode.
You will not find him who [all] these begat:
Some other things has stepped between you.
Blinded by fog and [ritual] mutterings
Wander the hymn-reciters, robbers of life!

Sacrifice of Primal Man from The Vedas

A thousand heads had [primal] Man,
A thousand eyes, a thousand feet:
Encompassing the earth on every side,
He exceeded it by ten fingers' [breadth].

[That] Man is this whole universe, -
What was and what is yet to be,
The Lord of immortality
Which he outgrows by [eating] food.

Vishvarupa, the supreme form of Vishnu embodying the whole universe

This is the measure of his greatness,
But greater yet is [primal] Man:
All beings form a quarter of him,
Three-quarters are the immortal in heaven.
With three-quarters Man rose up on high,
A quarter of him came to be again [down] here:
From this he spread in all directions,
Into all that eats and does not eat.

From him was Viraj born,
From Viraj Man again:
Once born, - behind, before,
He reached beyond the earth.
When with Man as their oblation
The gods performed their sacrifice,
Spring was the melted butter,
Summer the fuel, and the autumn the oblation.

Him they besprinkled on the sacrificial strew, -
[Primeval] Man, born in the beginning:
With him [their victim], gods, Sadhyas, seers
Performed the sacrifice.
From this sacrifice completely offered
The clotted ghee was gathered up:
From this he fashioned beasts and birds,
Creatures of the woods and creatures of the village.

From this sacrifice completely offered
Were born the Rig- and Sama-Vedas;
From this were born the metres,
From this was the Yajur-Veda born.
From this were horses born, all creatures
That have teeth in either jaw;
From this were cattle born,
From this sprang goats and sheep.


When they divided [primal] Man,
Into how many parts did they divide him?
What was his mouth? What his arms?
What are his thighs called? What his feet?
The Brahman was his moth,
The arms were made the Prince,
His thighs the common people,
And from his feet the serf was born.

From his mind the moon was born,
And from his eye the sun,
And from his mouth Indra and the fire,
From his breath the wind was born.
From his navel arose the atmosphere,
From his head the sky evolved,
From his feet the eath, and from his ear
The cardinal points of the compass:
So did they fashion forth these worlds.

Seven were his enclosing sticks
Thrice seven were made his fuel sticks,
When the gods, performing sacrifice,
Bound Man, [their sacrificial] beast.
With the sacrifice the gods
Made sacrifice to sacrifice:
These were the first religious rites (Dharma),
To the firmament these powers went up
Where dwelt the ancient Sadhya gods.

Rig Veda: “What God Shall We Adore with Our Oblation?”

“What God Shall We Adore with Our Oblation?' from the Rig Veda goes:
1) In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha,1 born only lord of all created beings.
He fixed and holdeth up this earth and heaven.
What god shall we adore with out oblation?
2) Giver of vital breath, of power and vigor, he whose commandments all the gods acknowledge;
Whose shade is death, whose lustre makes immortal.
What god shall we adore with our oblation? [Source: Translation by Ralph T.. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda iv (Benares, 1892), pp. 355-6,, Eliade Page website]

Rig Veda

3) Who by his grandeur hath become sole ruler of all the moving world that breathes and slumbers;
He who is lord of men and lord of cattle.
What god shall we adore with our oblation?
4) His, through his might, are these snow-covered mountains, and men call sea and Rasa 2 his possession;
His arms are these, his are these heavenly regions.
What god shall we adore with our oblation?

5) By him the heavens are strong and earth is steadfast, by him light's realm and sky-vault are supported;3 By him the regions in mid-air were measured. What god shall we adore with our oblation?
6) To him, supported by his help, two armies embattled look while trembling in their spirit,
When over them the risen sun is shining.
What god shall we adore with our oblation?

7) What time the mighty waters 4 came. containing the universal germ, producing Agni,
Thence sprang the gods' one spirit 5 into being.
What god shall we adore with our oblation?
8) He in his might surveyed the floods containing productive force and generating worship.6
He is the god of gods, and none beside him.
What god shall we adore with our oblation?

9) Ne'er may he harm us who is earth's begetter, nor he whose laws are sure, the heavens' creator, He who brought forth the great and lucid waters. What god shall we adore with our oblation?
10) Prajapatil 7 thou only comprehendest all these created things, and none beside thee.
Grant us our hearts' desire when we invoke thee;
may we have store in riches in possession.

Notes: 1) The refrain concluding each stanza asks, 'Who is the god whom I should worship?' The poet in this creation hymn seeks to name That One who is the true source of being. Later reciters, confused by the recurrent interrogative, posited a deity named 'Ka' (Who?') to whom this hymn was thenceforth addressed.
2) The mythological river which encompasses the earth and the atmosphere.
3) As Varuna, in his work of creation (see vii, 86, I) propped apart heaven and earth, so here does Hiranyagarbha perform the same divisive operation, creating a mid-space (antariksha) in the process.
4) Again, as in x, 129, it is the primordial waters which bear creation's germ. Here the solar germ and the fire forms of Agni are generated from the waters. Hiranyagarbha and Agni are both golden sons of the waters; they portray that unique coincidence of creation-in-chaos where the bright fire glows in the lap of dark chaotic waters,
5) The living spirit (asu) of all the gods is manifest uniquely when Hiranygarbha comes with the flooding waters.
6) Or,.generating sacrifice.
7) Lord of creatures, the answer to the interrogative refrain. This is an important text for the later bramanas, where Prajapati is identical with the sacrifice and 'creates the all out of himself.'

Vedas on Varuna, the All-Knowing God

On Varuna, the All-Knowing God, the 'Rig Veda,' I, 25, 1-3, 7-14 reads:
1) Whatever law of thine O god, O Varuna as we are men, Day after day we violoate,
2) Give us not as a prey to death, to be destroyed by thee in wrath, To thy fierce anger when displeased.
3) To gain thy mercy, Varuna, with hymns we bind thy heart, as binds the Charioteer his tethered horse. . .
7) He knows the path of birds that fly through heaven, and, sovereign of the sea, He knows the ships that are thereon.
8) True to his holy law, he knows the twelve moons with their progeny: He knows the moon of later birth 1
9) He knows the pathway of the wind, the spreading, high and mighty wind: He knows the gods who dwell above.
10) Varuna, true to holy law, sits down among his people; he, Most wise, sits there to govern all.
11) From thence percieving he beholds all wondrous things, both what hath been, And what hereafter will be done.
12) May that Adyita very wise, make fair paths for us all our days; May he prolong our lives for us.
13) Varuna, wearing golden mail, hath clad him in shining robe; His spies 2 are seated round about.
17) The god whom enemies threaten not, nor those who tyrannize o'er men, Nor those whose minds are bent on wrong. [Source: Translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda, 1 (Benares, 1889) pp.42-43,Eliade Page website]

8th century Varuna and Varunanu from Karnataka

On King Varuna is there, “Atharva Veda,” IV, 16, 1-6 reads:
1) The great guardian among these (gods) sees as if from anear. He that thinketh he is moving stealthily- all this the gods know.
2) If a man stands, walks, or sneaks about, if he goes slinking away, if he goes into his hiding-place; if two persons sit together and scheme, King Varuna is there as a third, and knows it.
3) Both this earth here belongs to King Varuna, and also yonder broad sky whose bounderies are far away. Moreover these two oceans are the loins of Varuna; yea, he is hidden in this small (drop of) water.
4) He that should flee beyond the heaven far away would not be free from King Varuna. His spies come hither (to the earth) from heaven, with a thousand eyes do they watch over the earth.
5) King Varuna sees through all that is between heaven and earth, and all that is beyond. He has counted the winking of men's eyes. As a (winning) gamester puts down his dice, thus does he establish these (laws).
6) May all thy faithful toils which seven by seven, threefold, lie spread out, ensnare him that speaks falsehood; him that speaks the truth they shall let go! [Source: Translation by Maurice Bloomfield, Hymns of the Atharva-Veda, in Sacred Books of the East, XLII (Oxford, 1897) pp.88-9, Eliade Page website]

A section Varuna and Indra in the Rig Veda goes: 1) I am the royal ruler, mine is empire, as mine who sway all life are all the immortals.
Varuna's will the gods obey and follow. I am the king o'er folk of sphere sublimest.
2) I am King Varuna. To me was given these first existing high celestial powers. 1
Varuna's will the gods obey and follow. I am the king o'er the folk of the sphere sublimest.
3) I Varuna am Indra: in their greatness, these the two wide deep fairly-fashioned regions,
These the two world-halves have I, even as Tvashtar 2 knowing all beings, joined and held together.
4) I made to flow the moisture-shedding waters, and set the heaven firm in the seat of Order3
By Law, the son of Aditi,4 Law-observer, hath spread abroad the world in three fold measure.
5) Heroes with noble horses, fain for battle, selected warriors,call on me in combat.
I, Indra Maghavan,5 excite the conflict; I stir the dust, lord of surpassing vigor.
6) All this I did. The gods' own conquering power never impedeth me to whom none opposeth.
When lauds and Soma-juice have made me joyful, both the unbounded regions are affrighted.
7) All beings know these deeds of thine: thou tellest this unto Varuna, thou great disposer!
Thou art renowned as having slain the Vritras. Thou madest flow the floods that were obstructed. . . .
10) May we, possessing much, delight in riches, gods in oblations and the kine in pasture;
And that milch-cow6 who shrinks away not from the milking O Indra Varuna, give to us daily. [Source: Translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda, II (Benares, 1890) pp.163-5, Eliade Page website]

Notes: 1 Varuna speaks in stanzas 1 to 4, stressing that celestial sovereignty which is rightfully his as creator of the universe and maintainer of the cosmic order (rita).
2 Varuna, master of maya, here identifies himself with the divine artificer, Tvashtar, who is significantly, the father of Indra and of Vritrain the later Samhitas.
3 Rita
4 Varuna, son of Aditi
5 Indra, the 'Bountiful One,' now replies in stanzas 5 and 6. His boasts of physical power, of his exploits in battle and of the 'surpassing vigor' of his generative strength, illustrate how 'might makes right' for this warrior god. He is king by force and in the following stanza (7) the poet is dully impressed with the fact that Indra has successfully challenged the sovereign lordship of Varuna.
6) i.e. Wealth.

How May I and Varuna be United?

'Rig Veda,' VII, 86 reads:
1) The tribes of men have wisdom through his greatness who stayed even spacious heaven and earth asunder,1
Who urged the high and mighty sky to motion, and stars of old, and spread the earth before him.
2) With my own heart I commune on the question how Varuna and I may be united.
What gift of mine will he accept unangered? When may I calmly look and find him gracious?

Varuna makara

3) Fain to know this my sin I question others: I seek the wise, 0 Varuna, and ask them.
This one same answer even the sages gave me, surely this Varuna is angry with thee.2
4) What, Varuna, hath been my chief transgression, that thou wouldst slay the friend who sings thy praises?
Tell me, unconquerable Lord, and quickly sinless will I approach thee with my homage.
5) Loose us from sins committed by our fathers, from those wherein we have ourselves offended.
O king, loose, like a thief who feeds the cattle,3 as from the cord a calf, set free Vasishtha .4

6) Not our own will betrayed its, but seduction, thoughtlessness, Varuna! wine, dice, or anger.
The old is near to lead astray the younger. even slumber leadeth men to evil-doing.
7) Slavelike may I do service to the bounteous, serve, free from sin, the god inclined to anger.
This gentle lord gives wisdom to the simple: the wiser god leads on the wise to riches.
8) 0 lord, 0 Varuna, may this laudation come close to thee and lie within thy spirit.
May it be well with us in rest and labour. Preserve us evermore, ye gods, with Blessings.

1 Heaven and earth, originally united, are 'propped apart' and established by Varuna, the upholder of the cosmic order (rita).
2 Varuna 'binds' with fetters those who transgress; ritually or morally, his universal law. The poet, perhaps suffering from illness, seeks to confess the sin for which he is being punished, so that Varuna may forgive and 'release.' His guilt is an uneasy burden while his sin goes unnamed, and the praiser of Varuna seeks only to restore a right relationship with the god.
3 Or, 'like a cattle-stealing thief' (A. A. Macdonell, A Vedic Reader for Students [London: Oxford University, 19171, P. 138.)
4 A well-known 'seer' (rishi).

Translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda, III (Benares, 1891), pp. 106-7m Eliade Page website]

Riga Veda on Indra, Who Soon Surpassed the Gods in Power'

'Rig Veda,' II, 12, 1-5 13 reads: 1) The chief wise god who as soon as born
surpassed the gods in power;
Before whose vehemence the two worlds trembled by reason
of the greatness of valour: he, O men, is, Indra1
2) Who made firm the quaking earth,
who set at rest the agitated mountains;
Who measures out the air more widely,
who supported the heaven: he, O men, is Indra. [Source: Translated by A.A. Macdonell, in his A Vedic Reader for Students (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), pp45-54,Eliade Page website]

Indra in the Sabha rock-cut Jain Temple at Ellor

3) Who having slain the serpent released the seven streams,
who drove out the cows by the unclosing of Vala,
Who between two rocks has produced fire,
victor in battles: he, O men, is Indra.2
4) By whom all things here have been made unstable,3
who has made subject the Dasa color4 and has made it
Who, like a sinning gambler the stake,
has taken the possessions of the foe: he, O men, is Indra.

5) The terrible one of whom they ask 'where is he,'
of whom they also say 'he is not':
He diminishes the possessions of the foe like the stakes of
gamblers. Believe in him: he, O men, is Indra. . . .
13) Even heaven and Earth bow down before him;5
before his vehemence even the mountains are afraid.
Who is known as the Soma-drinker, holding the bolt in his arm,
who holds the bold in his hand: he, O men, is Indra.6

Notes: 1) In contrast with Varuna and the asuras, another group of gods, the devas, is led by Indra, the warrior god, who is king (svaraj) not like Varuna through the evolving cosmic order, but rather by virtue of his own dynamic being.
2) Here the famous exploits of Indra are recalled: the slaying of the serpent Vritra, who encompassed the cosmic waters, released for men the seven rivers; Vala, another demon and the brother of Vritra, was also slain by Indra: and Agni as lightning was generated by Indra from the clouds, as fire is struck from flint. All of Indra's effusive deeds are the result of his generative bull-like nature.
3) Cyavana, 'shaking': the advent of Indra's power has calmed earthquakes (stanza 2) but has agitated and made transient all worldly phenomena.
4) The non-Aryan population.
5) Gradually in the Rig Veda Indra takes over those roles which formerly has been Varuna's, until eventually Indra too achieves soveriegnty. (cf. Rig Veda IV, 42 and X, 124)
6) Indra is the greatest drinker of intoxicating soma. The vajra, his thunderbolt, is in constant use against his foes.

Vedic Hymn to the Goddess Earth

A Vedic Hymn to the Goddess Earth ('Atharva-Veda,' XII, I) reads: 1) Truth, greatness, universal order (rita), strength, consecration, creative fervour (tapas) spiritual exaltation (Brahman), the sacrifice, support the earth. May this earth, the mistress of that which was and shall be, prepare for us a broad domain!
2) The earth that has heights, and slopes, and great plains, that supports the plants of manifold virtue, free from the pressure that comes from the midst of men, she shall spread out for us, and fit herself for us!
. The earth upon which the sea, and the rivers and the waters, upon which food and the tribes of men have arisen, upon which this breathing, moving life exists, shall afford us precedence in drinking
4) The earth whose are the four regions of space upon which food and the tribes of men have arisen, which supports the manifold breathing, moving things, shall afford us cattle and other possessions also! [Source: Translation by Maurice Bloomfield, Hymns of theAtharva-Veda, in The Sacred Books of the he East, XLII(Oxford, 1891), PP. 199-207, Eliade Page website]

5) The earth upon which of old the first men 1 unfolded themselves, upon which the gods overcame the Asuras 2 shall procure for us (all) kinds of cattle, horses, and fowls, good fortune, and glory !
6) The earth that supports all, furnishes wealth, the foundation, the golden breasted resting- place of all living creatures, she that supports Agni Vaishvanara 3, and mates with Indra, the bull 4 shall furnish-us with property!
7) The broad earth, which the sleepless gods ever attentively guard, shall milk for us precious honey, and, moreover, besprinkle us with glory!
8) That earth which formerly was water upon the ocean (of space), which the wise (seers) found out by their skillful devices 5, whose heart is in the highest heaven, immortal, surrounded by truth, shall bestow upon us brilliancy and strength, (and place us) in supreme sovereignty !

11th century Hindu goddess at Khajuraho Temple

10) The earth which the Ashvins 6 have measured, upon which Vishnu 7 has stepped out, which Indra, the lord of might, has made friendly to himself; she, the mother, shall pour forth milk for me, the son !
11) Thy snowy mountain heights, and thy forests, 0 earth, shall be kind to us! The brown, the black, the red, the multi-colored, the firm earth, that is protected by Indra, I have settled upon, not suppressed, not slain, not wounded.
12) Into thy middle set us, 0 earth, and into thy navel, into the nourishing strength that has grown up from thy body; purify thyself for us ! The earth is the mother, and I the son of the earth: Parjanya 8 is the father; he, too, shall save us!
13) The earth upon which they (the priests) inclose the altar (vedi), upon which they, devoted to all (holy) works, unfold the sacrifice, upon which are set up, in front of the sacrifice, the sacrificial posts, erect and brilliant, that earth shall prosper us, herself prospering!

14) Him that hates us, 0 earth, him that battles against us, him that is hostile towards us with his mind and his weapons, do thou subject to us, anticipating (our wish) by deed !
15) The mortals born of thee live on thee, thou supportest both bipeds and quadrupeds. Thine, 0 earth, are these five races of men, the mortals, upon whom the rising sun sheds undying light with his rays. . . .
22) Upon the earth men give to the gods the sacrifice, the prepared oblation: upon the earth mortal men live pleasantly by food. May this earth give us breath and life, may she cause me to reach old age!
23) The fragrance, 0 earth, that has arisen upon thee, which the plants and the waters hold, which the Gandharvas and the Apsaras 9 have partaken of, with that make me fragrant: not any one shall hate us! . . .

40) May this earth point out to us the wealth that we crave: may Bhaga (fortune) add his help, may Indra come here as (our) champion!
41) The earth upon whom the noisy mortals sing and dance, upon whom they fight, upon whom resounds the roaring drum, shall drive forth our enemies, shall make us free from rivals!
42) To the earth upon whom are food, and rice and barley, upon whom live these five races of men, to the earth, the wife of Parjanya, that is fattened by rain, be reverence !
43) The earth upon whose ground the citadels constructed by the gods unfold themselves, every region of her that is the womb of all, Prajapati 10 shall make pleasant for us ! .

45) The earth that holds people of manifold varied speech, of different customs, according to their habitations, as a reliable milchcow that does not kick, shall she milk for me a thousand streams of wealth!
46) The serpent, the scorpion with' thirsty fangs, that hibernating torpidly lies upon thee; the worm, and whatever living thing, 0 earth, moves in the rainy season, shall, when it creeps not creep upon us; with what is auspicious (on thee) be gracious to us! . . .
48) The earth holds the fool and holds the wise, endures that good and bad dwell (upon her), she keeps company with the boar, gives herself up to the wild hog. . . .
52) The earth upon whom day and night jointly, black and bright, have been decreed, the broad earth covered and enveloped with rain, shall kindly place us into every pleasant abode!
53) Heaven, and earth, and air have here given me expanse: Agni, Surya 11 I the waters, and all the gods together have given me wisdom. . . .
63) 0 mother earth, kindly set me down upon a well-founded place! With (father) heaven cooperating, 0 thou wise one, do thou place me into happiness and prosperity !

Hymn to Varuna

A Hymn to Varuna ('Rig Veda,' II, 28) goes:
1) This laud of the self-radiant wise Aditya 1 shall be supreme o'er all that is in greatness.
I beg renown of Varuna the mighty, the god exceeding kind to him who worships.
2) Having extolled thee, Varuna, with thoughtful care may we have high fortune in thy service,
Singing thy praises like the fires at coming, day after day, of mornings rich in cattle. [Source: Translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rig Veda, I (Benares, 1889), pp. 379-80, Eliade Page website]

9th century carving of Varuna from central India

3) May we be in thy keeping, 0 thou leader, wide-ruling Varuna, lord of many heroes.
0 sons of Aditi,2 for ever faithful, pardon us, gods, admit us to your friendship.
4) He made them flow, the Aditya, the sustainer. the rivers run by Varuna's commandments 3
These feel no weariness, nor cease from flowing: swift have they flown like birds in air around us.
5) Loose me from sin as from a bond that binds me 4 may we swell, Varuna, thy spring of Order.5
Let not my thread, while I weave song, be severed, nor my work's sum before the time be shattered.
6) Far from me, Varuna, remove all danger. accept me graciously, thou holy sovereign.
Cast off, like cords that hold a calf, my troubles: I am not even my eyelid's lord without thee.
7) Strike us not, Varuna, with those dread weapons which, Asura, at thy bidding wound the sinner.
Let us not pass away from light to exile. Scatter that we may live, the men who hate us.
8) 0 mighty Varuna, now and hereafter, even as of old, will we speak forth our worship.
For in thyself, infallible god, thy statutes ne'er to be moved are fixed as on a mountain.
9) Wipe out what debts I have myself contracted: let me not profit, king, by gain of others.
Full many a morn remains to dawn upon us: in these, 0 Varuna, while we live direct us.
10) 0 king, whoever, be he friend or kinsman hath threatened me affrighted in my slumber-
If any wolf or robber fain would harm us, therefrom, 0 Varuna, give thou us protection.
11) May I not live, 0 Varuna, to witness my wealthy, liberal, dear friend's destitution.
King, may I never lack well-ordered riches. Loud may we speak, with heroes, in assembly.

Notes: 1) The Adityas, sovereign beings, are led by the god Varuna, who is universal ruler (samraj), guardian Of the cosmic law (rita), and asura par excellence. As maintainer of truth and the moral order Varuna must also be the punisher of sin, and with 'this laud supreme' the poet seeks not only to gain the material favours of Varuna, but also to escape his dreadful recompense for ill.
2) The mother of the Adityas and a goddess also frequently invoked for release from sin.
3) Varuna as a celestial being merely orders the waters to flow; Indra, on the other hand (Rig Veda, II, 12, 3; see no.) must break resisting forces to release the cosmic waters.
4) just as important as the fact that Varuna is the god who 'binds' sinners is the knowledge that he forgives and releases from the fetters (pasha) those who are penitent.
5 Rita.

'Make Me Immortal': A Hymn to Soma Pavamâna

'Rig Veda,' IX, 113, 7-11 reads:
7) 0 Pavamana,1 place me in that deathless, undecaying world Wherein the light of heaven
is set, and everlasting lustre shines.
Flow, Indu,2 flow for Indra's sake. Translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda, XV (Benares, 1892), pp. 105-106Eliade Page website]

12th-century Samaveda samhita and brahmanam, Aranyaganam Prapathaka 1-6, page 1 and 2 front, Raghunath temple archives, Jammu

8) Make me immortal in that realm where dwells the king,3 vivasvan's son,
Where is the secret shrine of heaven, where are those waters, young and fresh.
Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.

9) Make me immortal in that realm where they move even as they list,
In the third sphere of inmost heaven,4 where lucid worlds are full of light.
Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.

10) Make me immortal in that realm of eager wish and strong desire,
The region of the golden Sun, where food 5 and full delight are found.
Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.

11). Make me immortal in that realm where happiness and transports, where
joys and felicities combine, and longing wishes are fulfilled.
Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake.

1 'flowing dear,' an epithet of soma, the elixir of life, derived from the root pit, 'to make clean, purify.' The juice is poured from the pressing through a woolen filter and into jars or vats.
2 The 'bright drop,' soma, intoxicates the warrior Indra for his cosmic struggle with the demon Vritra.
3 Yama, ruler of departed spirits, son of Vivasvan.
4 In the highest heaven, which Vishnu's third stride encompassed, dwell Yama and the Fathers. Soma itself is found in the three worlds, just as in the ritual soma, pressed thrice daily, is held in three tubs.

Hymns to Agni from the Rig Veda

The Rig Veda reads:
1) I praise Agni, domestic priest, divine minister of sacrifice, Invoker, greatest bestower of wealth.1
). Worthy is Agni to be praised by living as by ancient seers: He shall bring hitherward the gods. 2
7) To thee, dispeller of the night, 0 Agni, day by day with prayer, Bringing thee reverence, we come;
8) Ruler of sacrifices, guard of Law 3 eternal, radiant one, Increasing in thine own abode.
9) Be to us easy of approach, even as a father to his son: Agni, be with us for our weal. [Source: Ralph T. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda, I-III (Benares, 1889- 91);adapted by M. Eliade,, Eliade Page website]

1) Thou, Agni, shining in thy glory through the days, art brought
to life from out the waters, from the stone;
From out the forest trees and herbs that grow on ground, thou,
sovereign lord of men, art generated pure .4
2) Thine is the Herald's task and Cleanser's duly timed:
Leader art thou, and Kindler for the pious man.
Thou art Director, thou the ministering priest: thou
art the Brahman, lord and master in our home 5

9) Agni, men seek thee as a father with their prayers, win thee,
bright-formed, to brotherhood with holy act.
Thou art a son to him who duly worships thee, and as a trusty
friend thou guardest from attack.
14) By thee, 0 Agni, all the immortal guileless gods eat with thy
mouth the oblation that is offered them.
By thee do mortal men give sweetness to their drink.
Pure art thou born, the embryo 6 of the plants of earth. (II,I,1-2, 9, 14-)


2) That light Of thine in heaven and earth,
0 Agni, in plants,
0 holy one, and in the waters,
Wherewith thou hast spread wide
the air's mid-region
-bright that slendour, wavy, man-beholding. (III, 22, 2.)

4) 1 have begotten this new hymn for Agni, falcon of the Sky:7
will he not give us of his wealth?
8) Shine forth at night and morn: through thee
with fires are we provided well.
Thou, rich in heroes, art our friend.
10) Bright, purifier, meet for praise,
immortal with refulgent glow,
Agni drives Rakshasas 8 away.

13) Agni, preserve us from distress:
consume our enemies, 0 God,
Eternal, with thy hottest flames.
14) And, irresistible, be thou a mighty iron fort to us,
with hundred walls for man's defence.
15) Do thou preserve us, eve and morn, from sorrow,
from the wicked man,
Infallible! by day and night. (VII, 15, 4, 8, 10, 13-15-)

1 Agni, addressed here in the first of 1028 hymns, is second only to Indra in Rig Vedic popularity. As 'Fire' cosmic or ritual-his production, or rather his perpetual regeneration, becomes the subject of some 200 hymns. Typically, in this first brief stanza he is praised as domestic priest (purohita), performer (ritvij) of the sacrifice (yajna), the invoking and reciting priest (hotar), and bestower of wealth upon his worshippers.
2 Agni not only conveys the ablations to the gods, but brings the gods to the sacrifice as well.
3 Rita.
4 Agni is at home in the three worlds. In fact, his characteristics constantly fall into three-fold patterns. Here he is acknowledged as the vital heat in the waters, earth and plants of the terrestrial world. Similarly, he is child of the celestial waters, and as such is the separate deity Apam Napat; he is generated as a spark in the air from between two stones, as Indra generates him in lightning from the' clouds' (cf. Rig Veda II, 12, 3); and thirdly he is on earth the fire kindled in wood.
5 With more detail than in I, 1,1, Agni's priestly roles are enumerated, illustrating not only the complexity of early Vedic ritual, but also the manner in which Agni is seen to pervade the entire sacrificial action. He is hotar, potar (the 'Purifier), neshtar (who leads' forward the wife of the sacrificer), agnidh (the assistant to the adhvaryu who lights the fire by friction), prashastar (the first assistant to the hotar), adhvaryu (who performs the manual aspects of sacrifice such as constructing the altar and preparing the soma), brahman (who in the later ritual is overseer of the sacrifice, but who is here perhaps and assistant), and, finally, Agni is the householder himself.
6 Garbha. Agni is the vital heat, the germ of life.
7 As mediator between the realms of men and of the gods, the characteristics of flight are often Agni's. As divine eagle or falcon (shyena) he is depicted in the Agnicayana (Yajur Veda), the ritual construction of a 10,800 brick fire-altar in the form of a flying bird. The iron fort with a hundred walls in stanza 14 below perhaps recalls the eagle's soma-theft in Rig Veda, IV, 26 and 27.
8 Terrestrial demons who attack and eat humans.

Vedic Funerary Hymn

'Rig Veda,' X, I 8 reads: 1) Go hence, 0 Death, 1 pursue thy special pathway
apart from that which gods are wont to travel. To thee I say it who hast eyes and hearest: touch not our offspring, injure not our heroes. 2) As ye have come effacing Mrityu's footstep,2 to
farther times prolonging your existence,
May ye be rich in children and possessions, cleansed, purified, and meet for sacrificing. [Source: Translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda, IV (Benares, 1892), PP. 137-9; adapted by M. Eliade, Eliade Page website]

1863 CE palm leaf manuscript, Jaiminiya Aranyaka Gana, Samaveda (unidentified layer of texts), Sanskrit, Southern Grantha script

3) Divided from the dead are- these, the living: now
is our calling on the gods successful
We have come forth for dancing and for laughter,
to farther times prolonging our existence.
4) Here I erect this rampart for the living, let none
of these, none other reach this limit.
May they survive a hundred lengthened autumns,
and may they bury Death beneath this mountain. 3

5) As the days follow days in close succession, as with
the seasons duly come the seasons,
As each successor fails not his foregoer, so form the lives of these,
0 great Ordainer 4
6) Live your full lives and find old age delightful, all of
you striving one behind the other. 5
May Tvashtar, 6 maker of fair things, be gracious,
and lengthen out the days of your existence.

7) Let these unwidowed dames with noble husbands
adorn themselves with fragrant faint and unguent.
Decked with fair jewels, tearless, free from sorrow,
first let the wives ascend unto the place .7
8) Rise, come unto the world of life, 0 woman: come
he is lifeless by whose side thou liest.
Wifehood with this thy husband was thy portion,
who took thy hand and wooed thee as a lover. 8

9) From his dead hand I take the bow he carried, that
it may be our power and might and glory
There art thou, there; and here with noble heroes
may we o'ercome all hosts that fight against us.
10) Betake thee 9 to the lap of the earth the mother,
of earth far-spreading, very kind and gracious.
Young dame, wool-soft unto the guerdon-giver,
may she preserve thee from Destruction's bosom.

16th century Vedas palm leaf manuscript, Malayalam Script, Sanskrit, Kerala

11) Heave thyself, Earth, nor press thee downward
heavily: afford him easy access, gently tending him.
Earth, as a mother wraps her shirt about her child,
so cover him.
12) Now let the heaving earth be free from motion: yea,
let a thousand clods remain above him.
Be they to him a home distilling fatness, here let
them ever be his place of refuge.

13) 1 stay the earth from thee, while over thee I place
this piece of earth. May I be free from injury.
Here let the Fathers keep this pillar firm for thee,
and there let Yama make thee an abiding place 10
14) Even as an arrow's feathers, they have laid me down
at day's decline.
My parting speech have I drawn back as 'twere a
courser with the rein.

1) Mrityu, a personification of death, while Yama (see stanza 13 below) is the god who rules the spirits of the departed.
2) i.e., losing' Death by erasing his tracks and frustrating his approach. The stanza is addressed to those assembled for the funeral rites.
3) Having absolved the living from impurity (stanza 2), the adhvaryu priest now raises a stone or earth mound, likened to a 'mountain,' to further bar the Path of Death and to limit his domain.
4 Dhitar, a divine being who is creator, arranger and maintainer of all things, and who is particularly associated with matrimony and fertility.

5) Human lives should succeed one another, with their ideal 'hundred autumns' each, in as orderly a fashion as the seasons.
6) The divine artisan, shaper of forms; a god celebrated for his generative powers.
7) At this point the women now go up to the raised 'place' (yoni, a word which also means 'womb,' 'Place of origin'), where the corpse lies with his widow beside him.
8) This stanza is addressed to the widow, either by the priest or by the husbands brother, as she is summoned to return to the realm of the living. (The levirate marriage is mentioned elsewhere in Rig Veda, X, e.g. 40-2).
9) The deceased.
10) After the committal of the body to the earth the priest has perhaps placed a beam or lid across the grave to 'stay the earth' and make the bodily resting place as secure as that which Yama provides for the spirit in the other world. This priestly act is cautious, nonetheless, as 'injury' may accrue from contact with the impurity of death. Stanza 14 is obviously a later addition.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Indian History Sourcebook “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “The Creators” by Daniel Boorstin; “A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples” by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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