Rig Veda Summary


Rig Veda

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us contact us.

Rig Veda Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Rig Veda by Anonymous.

The Rig Veda is an ancient piece of Hindu literature that comprises over one thousand poems and songs describing the origins and theology of the Hindu religion; it is the first of four Vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda. The author of the works comprising the Rig Veda is unknown. Scholars estimate that it was produced sometime between 900 BCE and 1200 BCE. Originally written in Sanskrit, the Rig Veda is available now in a number of languages, which make it accessible to readers worldwide today. These poems and songs are referred to scholastically as hymns, or religious lyrics. Broken up into ten Mandalas, or books, the Rig Veda seeks to connect people through religion, culture, and most of all, knowledge.

Understanding a general overview of this text is not like understanding a novel. While there are many stories contained in the Rig Veda, a better understanding can come from learning about the various aspects of the hymns contained in the text.

The hymns in these ten Mandalas serve a number of purposes. One such purpose is to praise Hindu deities. Among those are: Indra, Varun, Agni, Savita, Surya, Vayu, Poosha, Usha, Ashwin, Aap, Rudra, Bhag, Marut, Vishnu, Sawaswat, Vak, Vishwedeva, and Dyava Prithvi. There are also Katha Sukta, or stories from ancient times that influence Hindu belief. Samvada Sukta were stories that incorporated both poetry and likely prose, though the latter is not retained in the existing Rig Veda. These stories are known for their use of metaphor.

Continuing with the different types of stories, or Suktas, one finds Tattvadnyan Suktas, which present Hindu philosophy. Many of the Suktas were used in ritual, such as marriage ceremonies, for example, Samskar Suktas. To repel negativity such as illness or nightmares, the Mantriki Suktas might have been spoken or performed.

The Suktas that inform daily life are the Laukik Suktas. These offer guidance from everything such as gambling to how a king should rule and treat his people. Aapri Suktas were used for animal sacrifice, and Kook Suktas were used in main sacrifices.

In addition to those broader categories, there are some elements in certain Mandalas that are of note. In the second Mandala, readers will find hymns to the seasons. In the third, there are hymns to the rivers. The fifth Mandala includes a hymn to induce one to sleep. The sixth Mandala contains hymns that praise cows, a sacred animal in the Hindu religion, and speaks of weapons such as drums, armor, and bows and arrows. Frogs—revered for their ability to bring rain in the view of the composers of these hymns—are praised in the seventh Mandala.

Some of the Mandalas, such as the second through the seventh, share various qualities in meter and style. For example, all of them begin with praise to Agni, the god of fire, the sun, lightning and the hearth.

Though authorship of the Rig Veda is anonymous, stylistic similarities suggest that the hymns were created in batches by the same family of rishis, or poets. In Hinduism, the rishis are considered to be seers or sages who weave wisdom, timeless knowledge, and truth into their hymns. To the Vedic civilization, these poets were considered to be divine, though they were neither deities nor mortals.

The Rig Vega has impacted history in numerous ways. Along with the other Vedas, it brought together those who worshipped—and continue to worship—the Hindu pantheon, or deities. It instructed how life should be lived for members of each class, and how religion ought to be practiced, from worshipping the gods to making sacrifices and performing rituals.

Beyond that, the hymns contained in the Rig Vega spread Hindu culture, language, and poetic form. The ancestors of the Indians were known as the Indo-Aryans, who settled northern India during the Vedic age, a one-thousand-year period ending in 500 BCE. This period of time spanned the Bronze and Iron Ages, which brought about many innovations that changed the fabric of society, some of which are still in use today. Examples include soap, rope, the umbrella, door locks, tools and weapons. These advances made the day-to-day job of growing and harvesting food more efficient, which allowed people to begin exploring pastimes, which led to further innovation.

The impact of Bronze and Iron Age civilizations like the Vedic civilization can be felt thousands of years after they flourished. Texts such as the Rig Veda preserve important aspects of life in those civilizations. Vedic beliefs themselves informed the creation of the Hindu religion, which has not only survived to the present day, but thrives. Related texts include the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and older Upanishads.

Unfortunately, translations of the Rig Veda do not convey the rhyme schemes or meter found in the original text. However, the cultural and religious import can still be derived from translations into any available language.