How our ancient rishis preserved the Vedas flawlessly

Published on: Pragyata   

The ancient sacred scriptures of Hinduism were not found engraved on a native rock, embossed on cast metal, papyrus material, or any birch bark manuscripts. In Hinduism, we do not have any founder or any emergence dates like with the Semitic religions or even Indic offshoots like Buddhism or Jainism. We also do not know the any events. So questions comes, how far we need to go to find traces of Hinduism.

What we find in Hinduism is a huge volume of ancient sacred texts preserved by great seers for several millenniums. These rishis passed down their vast knowledge and our heritage from century to century from their deep memories. This knowledge was transferred through many ages by the teachers to their disciples, without ever writing them down and was later organised by Veda Vyasa rishi.

The word Veda (वेद) is made from the word ‘Vid’ which means “knowledge” in Sanskrit are the oldest sacred text available. This is the reason why Vedas as termed as ‘Anantha vai Vedaah’ (अनंता वै वेदा:), i.e. Vedas are infinite. All other scriptures in Hinduism are derived or inherited from the Vedas. Vedas are also called as Anaadi (अनादि), one which has no beggining or end and hence eternal. Vedas are the primary and authoritative source of knowledge and are also known as Shruti literature, one “which is heard and should be remembered” by the rishis from god.

As the bedrock of Hinduism, we all know the authoritative division of the Vedas is fourfold: Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. This sacred knowledge is passed through generations, ages, millenniums without any slightest alteration and adjustment in it. But questions come how it is possible even?

These scriptures and sacred texts are so enormous that if we take the Rigveda alone, it is mentioned it had from 5 to 21 Shakhas (शाखा) in the Vedic period. Shakhas can be said as branches or schools. Out of all the Rigveda’s branch names mentioned in the scriptures; only one is to be said is available today, known as Shakala (शाकल). Combined mantras found in the Rigveda is more than 10500 (the present-day partitioning of Rigveda is done in ten different mandalas marked from 1 to 10). Ponder the number of sacred scriptures and texts which would have been available during the ancient period if alone the Rigveda was so enormous.

How would it have been possible to memorise the enormous number of mantras, suktas with the correct sound, melody, and tone in Vedic scriptures? How did our ancient seers/rishis pass down the sacred scriptures, vast knowledge for many centuries without even the slightest alteration and modification in them? This almost seems impossible, if we consider how in the present day we fumble after practising the mantras for decades.

Even UNESCO has declared the Oral Tradition of Vedas in India as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in the year 2003.

Taking one part of mantra which we all know “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं) which appeared in the Maha Upanishad (Chapter 6, Verse 72) and “means the world is one family”. The  complete mantra of this is:

”अयं बन्धुरयं नेति गणना लघुचेतसां उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं ”

A slight change in the one accented syllable/tone will entirely change the meaning of the sentence. So the question is, how did ancient seers preserve these scriptures orally for so many centuries.

To find the solution to this, ancient seers developed unique ways to preserve these eternal mantras. They used different styles of recitation methods. Some of these techniques which are still known to us are called as padapathas (पदपाठ). These recitation methods were designed in such a way that the scriptures and sacred texts, their pronunciation including the Vedic pitch and accent were memorised perfectly while maintaining the purity of the text. Some of the most common methods of reciting are Samhita, Jata, Pada, Krama, Sikha, Rekha, Danda, Ratha, Dhwaja and Ghana.

They were designed in such a way that accuracy in recitation and transmission of Vedas from one generation to the next generation was accurately preserved. Some of these techniques are mentioned below:

Samhita (patha): In this method, syllable and complete mantras were chanted in the original form with no special pattern or changes adopted. Recitation of words leaping with its original phonetic sound, tone rules of chorus and intonation.

Jata (patha): In this, every two adjoining words/Shabd (शब्द) in the mantras were first recited in their original sequence, then repeated in reverse, and finally repeated again in the original sequence. The recitation proceeds throughout the mantra as next words are introduced. Example => word1, word2; word2, word1; word1, word2; word2, word3, word3, word2, word2, word3 and so on.

Prakrti (patha): This recitation was marked by a conscious pause after every word, and after any special grammatical codes embedded inside the text; this method suppresses and restores each word in its original intended form.

Krama (patha): In this step by step recitation was followed, where syllable combined are paired successively and sequentially. Then the mantras were recited. the first word of the mantra is added to the second, the second to the third, the third to the fourth and so on, until the whole sentence of the mantras is completed. If we try it would be as word1, word2; word2, word3; word3, word4; and so on.

Ghana (paṭha): In this method, each syllable is repeated up-to 13 times in a format such as:

word1; word2; word2; word1; word1, word2, word3; word3, word2, word1; word1, word2, word3;

word2, word3; word3, word2; word2, word3, word4; word4, word3, word2; word2, word3, word4;

word3, word4; word4, word3; word3, word4, word5; word5, word4, word3; word3, word4, word5;

word4, word5; word5, word4; word4, word5, word6; word6, word5, word4; word4, word5, word6;

What is really depressing now is that despite so much effort put in by the ancient seers to preserve these Vedas, for many millennia for the benefit of mankind, presently even with all our modern technology and preservation technique only a very limited number of people know or have the inclination to greasp these great scriptures.

Published Date : 29 Apr 2020                                                       

 

Forgotten scriptures – The Vedas

Published on:  Opindia

There is no culture or civilization in the world history which has not practiced any religion. When we study the ancient history of the oldest and the earliest civilizations or culture of the world, we do not find exact dates or the traces of the events with accuracy. But with the help of preserved manuscripts, stone inscriptions, artifacts, objects, and archaeological findings, we can find high-level traces of the civilization and its religion. Few of such examples of the very oldest religions of the world are like Taoism in Chinese, Sumerian religion, Zoroastrianism of Iran, etc. Similarly for most of the religions, we find a lot of information about the founders of religion, beginning period, whereabouts, background, etc. And all this has a major role in the religious beliefs, prophecies, transcendental or spiritual elements,  practice, its core values, etc.

Taking all this into consideration, if we check the oldest records of Hinduism, it is very different to equate it with all other religions.  

In the Indian subcontinent the oldest scriptures, sacred texts of Hinduism were not found in any written form or carved on stones. The scriptures of Hinduism was not recorded in any papyrus material. In Hinduism, we do not find any founder or any beginning dates unlike Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. We do not find any whereabouts of beginning of Hinduism.

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What we find about Hinduism is a vast amount of scriptures and texts that were preserved by great seers for many-many centuries and millenniums. These seers/Rishis safeguarded the sacred heritage and vast amount of knowledge from century to century in their memory and heart. It was passed through many generations by the Gurus (teachers) to their pupils without even writing them. Which is almost impossible if we think in the present day, keeping in a notice about the amount of text and the complexity of the language. And it was passed from generation to generation without any slightest alteration and modification in it. This knowledge was later organized by the great seers and scholars and known as Vedas (वेद).

The Vedas are the oldest sacred text available not only in Hinduism but to mankind, as far as known till date. That can be a reason, it is said

‘Anantha vai Vedaah’ (अनंता वै वेदा:)

Means, Vedas are infinite. Vedas are endless and Infinite. The knowledge in Vedas has neither the beginning nor the ending. As this sacred knowledge was deep-rooted thousands of years back. There are no great scriptures than Vedas. There could more interpretations varying on the degree of the scholarly person who must be translating or interpreting it but it is the text of divine knowledge. All other scriptures are derived from the Vedas. Vedas are also called as Anādi (अनादि). Anadi means the thing which always existed even before the time started and will remain forever. Which means it is having no beginning or end. It is eternal.

‘Veda apaurusheya’  (वेद अपौरुषेय)

The Vedas are ultimate truths and not created or composed by a person. They are created by Brahman (Supreme Being). So the origin of Vedas cannot be traced. Since there are some Mantras that are associated with the names of sages, we may inference that they may have been composed of them. But it is not so as a matter of fact. “apaurusheya” means not the work of any man.

 

Vedas are the most authoritative of all the text in Hinduism. In all other Hinduism texts like Puranas, Bhagwat Gita and epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana also talks about the greatness and essence of Vedas. Bhagwat Gita is one of the most popular texts in Hinduism and also most translated, published scripture in Hinduism. Bhagwat Gita is composed in Sanskrit and it means Song of God. In Bhagwat Geta, Lord Krishna himself says

that:

वेदानां सामवेदोऽस्मि देवानामस्मि वासव: |

इन्द्रियाणां मनश्चास्मि भूतानामस्मि चेतना ||

Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 10, Verse 22                                  

I am the Sāma Veda amongst all the Vedas available, I am Indra amongst all the celestial gods.

What really sad is, we are not much aware of our Vedas. How many among us know Vedas? Most of us do not know anything more than- names of the four Vedas; what else…. it is the oldest scriptures known to mankind; it is written around 1500 BC by Aryans; it is written in Vedic Sanskrit. We know about Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata thanks to all the available sources like- our daily soap televisions, mythology books, stories from our grandparents.

There are some Myths around why people not studying Vedas, few common answers are:

1.) Vedas and Upanishads are difficult to understand and the only great guru, teacher, Sanskrit scholars can only understand it.

2.) Vedas and Upanishads are boring. Mostly it talks about how to praise God, nature or answer of questions like who am I, what is the purpose of my life, etc.

But the question comes, have we ever tried to understand the essence of Vedas/Upanishads, the most important fundamental and the authoritative scriptures/element of Hinduism?

Published Date : 9 April 2020                                                         

     

Dasarajna War (Battle of Ten Kings)

Published on: Scribd

Dasarajna War” also known as “Battle of Ten Kings” is one of the oldest epic battles of the ancient period. This battle was fought in the Vedic era, the early Bronze age period in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. This historical battle was an epic war. It was fought between the emperors of Bharatas (Aryans Tribe) on one side and the consortium of ten Kings on the other side. After this war, the political and geographical structure of Bharatavarsha  (Indian subcontinent) was substantially changed.

Till many centuries, it was believed as no such war ever happened. It was mentioned in scriptures as a mythological story of the battles between humans, together with Gods and ancient legends. It was always considered as fictitious, with no link to any real event. Only In the last few decades with the help of some historians, scholars enough facts were provided.  And now it is considered an important event in the ancient Indian subcontinent by many historians.

We can find the reference of this war in Rigveda, the first and the oldest of Vedas. Vedas are one of the oldest sacred scriptures available in Hinduism. Vedas are the most authoritative of all the scriptures in Hinduism. Many of the Rigveda manuscripts are also included in UNESCO Memory of the World Register. It is added as being among the first literary documents in the history of humankind, they transcend far beyond their identity as scriptures. In Rigveda Samhitas 7th Mandal, we find references about this Battle of Ten Kings. This battle took place between King Sudas who were descendants of Bharatas and a group of ten or more kings. This is why the battle is called Dasarajana (Dasha meaning ten and Rajanya meaning kingdoms in Sanskrit).

This Battle is expected by historians to have been fought around c. 3000 BCE. These kingdoms were mostly around seven rivers including river Sarasvati, In the present day, it would be in eastern Pakistan and northern India. Sudas was a Bharata king of the Tristus family who was settled in the region for a long period. They later came to be known as Bharatvarta. Sudas was also considered as the ancestor of the Ikshvaku dynasty, the ancestor of Lord Rama of Ayodhya. It is mentioned that the war of ten kings happened on the bank of river Parushni (a present-day known as river Ravi).

(Image: Public Domain)

The ten kings who fought against Sudas were: Purus, Bhalanas, Alinas, Turvasha, Bhruigus, Druhyu, Anus, Parshus, Simyu.  The main leaders from the ten kings’ side were Pururs. This war is mentioned as it was fought for a long time. In this war, Sudas defeated all ten kings and their army. It is mentioned in Rigveda that rivers played an important role in Sudas in winning the war. Sage Vasistha helped Sudas in defeating the ten kings with the help of God Indra who drowned the enemy army. 

As to their goal they sped to their destruction: they sought Paruṣṇī; e’en the swift returned not.

Indra abandoned, to Sudās the manly, the swiftly flying foes, unmanly babblers.

                                                                                                              Rigveda, Mandala 7.18..9

There are references in Mandala 7 of Rigveda that more than 6666 people were killed in this war. It is also mentioned that soon after this war Sudas fought another war on the bank of the Yamuna river and defeated the other three kings as well.

Sudas were mentioned in Rigveda as the firm believers of Aryan values. After this war, Sudas expanded its region, collected heavy war prices in the form of tax from enemies. Sudas also gave a handsome gift to Sage Vashishtha which is again mentioned in Rigveda :

Priest-like, with praise, I move around the altar, earning Paijavana's reward,

O Agni, Two hundred cows from Devavan's descendant, two chariots from Sudās with mares to draw them.

Gift of Paijavana, four horses bear me in foremost place, trained steeds with pearl to deck them.

Sudās's brown steeds, firmly-stepping, carry me and my son for progeny and glory.

Rigveda, Mandala 7.18.22

Despite being one of the oldest wars even before great Indian epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, it is almost forgotten.  Not a lot of people know about this great battle!!

Published Date: 10-April

Images : Public Domain