The earliest, and the most important, record of the religion and the institutions of the Aryans, is the RigVeda. Vida, derived from the Samskrit root Vid to know, means the sum of knowledge. It, also, means the knowledge which contains, within itself, evidence for its truth, that is, Revelation. The Rig-vide, derived from the root rich to laud, is intended to be read on occasions when encomiastic pravers and hymns to the Elemental Deities are prescribed by the Law.
The Rig-Veda is the oldest Hindu religious book in which one finds some information about the religious life of the Aryans. The age of this venerable hymnal is unknown, and there is other internal evidence that some hymns are much older than others. Nevertheless, the antiquity of the Rig-Veda, although not to be expressed in figures, is abundantly established.Regarding its date and composition, there is no unanimity of opinion among the scholars. The opinions differ not to the extent of centuries but to the extent of thousands of years. Some lay down the year 1000 BC as the earliest limit while other fixed it between 3000 and 2500 BC. Some argue that astronomical evidence in the Rig Veda suggests a date earlier than 3000 BC for the composition of the Rigveda. The Hindus believe, without evidence, that it existed 'from before all time,' or at least from 3000 years BC, over 5000 years ago.
European scholars inferred from astronomical dates that its composition was going on about 1400 BC. From this date it would follow that, as this calendar must have been prepared after the arrangement of the Rigveda and the inclusion of the most modern hymn, the date of the earliest hymn might be carried back, perhaps, some thousand years. The correctness of this conclusion, however, has been questioned, and some later scholars considered that this calculations was of a very vague character, and did not yield any such definite date, as these dates are themselves dates given in writings of modern origin, and might have been calculated backwards. The oldest of the Vedas, the Rigveda, was probably redacted in the form it is known today by 1500 BC.
The Rig-Veda forms the great literary memorial of the early Aryan settlements in the Punjab. The earlier hymns exhibit the Aryans on the northwestern frontiers of India, just starting on their long journey. Whatever the original homeland of the Aryans may have been, the RigVeda makes no explicit mention of regions distant from the Indian subcontinent. The focus of attention of the Rig Veda was the Punjab and in the later Vedic period it shifted to the Doab of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers. The Punjab seems gradually to fade into the background and was regarded even with disapproval.
Max Muller wrote "What can be more tedious than the Veda, and yet what can be more interesting, if once we know that it is the first word spoken by the Aryan man?. The Veda has a two-fold interest: it belongs to the history of the world and to the history of India As long as man continues to take an interest in the history of his race, and as long as we collect in libraries and musenms the relics of former ages, the first place in that long row of books which contains the records of the Aryan branch of mankind, will belong for ever to the Rig-veda."
Each of the four Vedas is divided into two distinct parts, one the Mantra containing prayer and praise, the other the Brahmana containing detailed directions for the performance of the ceremonies at which the Mantras were to be used, and explanations of the legends connected with them, the whole forming a vast body of sacred literature in verse and in prose, devotional, ceremonial, expository and theosophic.
The Sanhita of the Rigveda is a collection of hymns and songs brought by the remote ancestors of the present Hindus from their ancient homes on the banks of the Indus where they had been first used in adoration of the Father of Heaven, of the Sun, of Dawn, of Agni or the God of fire, in prayers for health, wealth, long life, offspring, cattle, victory in battle, and freedom from the bonds of sin; and in celebration of the ever-renewed warfare between the beneficent thunder-wielding Indra, the special champion of the Aryans, and the malevolent powers of darkness and the demons of drought who withheld the rain of heaven.
Of these hymns there are more than a thousand, arranged in ten Mandalas, Circles, or Books, in accordance with an ancient tradition of authorship, the hymns ascribed to the same Rishi, inspired poet or seer, or to the same school or family of Rishis being placed together. Within these divisions the hymns are generally arranged more or less in the order of the deities to whom they are addressed. Agni and Indra are the gods most frequently invoked. Hymns to Agni generally come first, next come those addressed to Indra, and after them those in honour of other deities or deified objects of adoration. The ninth Book is devoted almost entirely to Soma, the deified juice used in pouring libations to the gods, and the tenth forms a sort of appendix of peculiar and miscellaneous materials.
The verses of the Veda, except in their rhythm, and in a few rare passages, appear singularly prosaic for so early an era as that of their probable composition, and at any rate their chief value lies not in their fancy but in their facts, social and religious. The poetry of the Rig-Veda is singularly deficient in that simplicity and natural pathos or sublimity which is naturally sought in the songs of an early period of civilisation. The language and style of most of the hymns is singularly artificial. The worst fault of all, in the Collection regarded as a whole, is the intolerable monotony of a great number of the hymns, a monotony which reaches its climax in the ninth Book which consists almost entirely of invocations of Soma Pavamana, or the deified Soma-juice in process of straining and purification.
Every one who has carefully studied the Indian interpretations is aware that absolutely no continuous tradition extending from the composition of the Veda to their explanation by Indian scholars, can be assumed; that, on the contrary, between the genuine poetic remains of Vedic antiquity and their interpretations a long-continued break in tradition must have intervened, out of which at most the comprehension of some particulars may have been rescued and handed down to later times by means of liturgical usages and words, formulae, and perhaps, also, poems connected therewith. Besides these remains of tradition, which must be estimated as very scanty, the interpreters of the Veda had, in the main, scarcely any other helps.
Albert Pike [1809-1892] engaged in translating the "Rig Veda," the "Zend Avesta," and other sacred works of Aryan literature. Pike classically educated himself without the aid of degrees or college. Pike was a general in the Confederate army, and commanded an Indian brigade. His chief service to the Southern Confederacy was in making treaties with the Indians skirting the Confederate territory. Gen. Pike was the head of the Scottish Rite Masons since 1859, and held the position for life, as he did also that of Grand Master of the Royal Order of Scotland. At the time of his death he ranked as the highest mason in the world. He had seventeen volumes of Manuscript, handsomely bound in the library of the Supreme Council. In these works were the proofs that the symbolisms of "the blue lodge" (Scottish Rite) were derived from Aryan mysteries, and were especially explained in the "Zend Avesta."
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