The surviving form of the Rigveda is based on an early Iron Age (see dating below) collection that established the core 'family books' (mandalas 2–7, ordered by author, deity and meter ) and a later redaction, co-eval with the redaction of the other Vedas, dating several centuries after the hymns were composed. This redaction also included some additions (contradicting the strict ordering scheme) and orthoepic changes to the Vedic Sanskrit such as the regularization of sandhi (termed orthoepische Diaskeuase by Oldenberg, 1888).
As with the other Vedas, the redacted text has been handed down in several versions, most importantly the Padapatha, in which each word is isolated in pausa form and is used for just one way of memorization; and the Samhitapatha, which combines words according to the rules of sandhi (the process being described in the Pratisakhya) and is the memorized text used for recitation.
The Padapatha and the Pratisakhya anchor the text's fidelity and meaning, and the fixed text was preserved with unparalleled fidelity for more than a millennium by oral tradition alone. In order to achieve this the oral tradition prescribed very structured enunciation, involving breaking down the Sanskrit compounds into stems and inflections, as well as certain permutations. This interplay with sounds gave rise to a scholarly tradition of morphology and phonetics. The Rigveda was probably not written down until the Gupta period (4th to 6th centuries AD), by which time the Brahmi script had become widespread (the oldest surviving manuscripts are from ~1040 AD, discovered in Nepal). The oral tradition still continued into recent times.
The original text (as authored by the Rishis) is close to but not identical to the extant Samhitapatha, but metrical and other observations allow reconstruction (in part at least) of the original text from the extant one, as printed in the Harvard Oriental Series, vol. 50 (1994).
The text is organized in 10 books, known as Mandalas, of varying age and length.
The "family books", mandalas 2–7, are the oldest part of the Rigveda and the shortest books; they are arranged by length (decreasing length of hymns per book) and account for 38% of the text. Within each book, the hymns are arranged in collections each dealing with a particular deity: Agni comes first, Indra comes second, and so on. They are attributed and dedicated to a rishi (sage) and his family of students. Within each collection, the hymns are arranged in descending order of the number of stanzas per hymn. If two hymns in the same collection have equal numbers of stanzas then they are arranged so that the number of syllables in the metre are in descending order. The second to seventh mandalas have a uniform format.
The eighth and ninth mandalas, comprising hymns of mixed age, account for 15% and 9%, respectively. The first and the tenth mandalas are the youngest; they are also the longest books, of 191 suktas each, accounting for 37% of the text. However, adds Witzel, some hymns in Mandala 8, 1 and 10 may be as old as the earlier Mandalas. The first mandala has a unique arrangement not found in the other nine mandalas. The ninth mandala is arranged by both its prosody (chanda) structure and hymn length, while the first eighty four hymns of the tenth mandala have a structure different than the remaining hymns in it.
Each mandala consists of hymns called sūkta (su-ukta, literally, "well recited, eulogy") intended for various rituals. The sūktas in turn consist of individual stanzas called ṛc ("praise", pl. ṛcas), which are further analysed into units of verse called pada ("foot"). The meters most used in the ṛcas are the gayatri (3 verses of 8 syllables), anushtubh (4x8), trishtubh (4x11) and jagati (4x12). The trishtubh meter (40%) and gayatri meter (25%) dominate in the Rigveda.
For pedagogical convenience, each mandala is synthetically divided into roughly equal sections of several sūktas, called anuvāka ("recitation"), which modern publishers often omit. Another scheme divides the entire text over the 10 mandalas into aṣṭaka ("eighth"), adhyāya ("chapter") and varga ("class"). Some publishers give both classifications in a single edition.
The most common numbering scheme is by book, hymn and stanza (and pada a, b, c ..., if required). E.g., the first pada is1.1.1a agním īḷe puróhitaṃ "Agni I invoke, the housepriest"
and the final pada is10.191.4d yáthā vaḥ súsahā́sati
Several shakhas ("branches", i. e. recensions) of Rig Veda are known to have existed in the past. Of these, Śākalya is the only one to have survived in its entirety. Another shakha that may have survived is the Bāṣkala, although this is uncertain.
The surviving padapatha version of the Rigveda text is ascribed to Śākalya. The Śākala recension has 1,017 regular hymns, and an appendix of 11 vālakhilya hymns which are now customarily included in the 8th mandala (as 8.49–8.59), for a total of 1028 hymns. The Bāṣkala recension includes 8 of these vālakhilya hymns among its regular hymns, making a total of 1025 regular hymns for this śākhā. In addition, the Bāṣkala recension has its own appendix of 98 hymns, the Khilani.
In the 1877 edition of Aufrecht, the 1028 hymns of the Rigveda contain a total of 10,552 ṛcs, or 39,831 padas. The Shatapatha Brahmana gives the number of syllables to be 432,000, while the metrical text of van Nooten and Holland (1994) has a total of 395,563 syllables (or an average of 9.93 syllables per pada); counting the number of syllables is not straightforward because of issues with sandhi and the post-Rigvedic pronunciation of syllables like súvar as svàr.
Three other shakhas are mentioned in Caraṇavyuha, a pariśiṣṭa (supplement) of Yajurveda: Māṇḍukāyana, Aśvalāyana and Śaṅkhāyana. The Atharvaveda lists two more shakhas. The differences between all these shakhas are very minor, limited to varying order of content and inclusion (or non-inclusion) of a few verses. The following information is known about the shakhas other than Śākalya and Bāṣkala:Māṇḍukāyana: Perhaps the oldest of the Rigvedic shakhas.
Aśvalāyana: Includes 212 verses, all of which are newer than the other Rigvedic hymns.
Śaṅkhāyana: Very similar to Aśvalāyana
Saisiriya: Mentioned in the Rigveda Pratisakhya. Very similar to Śākala, with a few additional verses; might have derived from or merged with it.
Tradition associates a rishi (the composer) with each ṛc of the Rigveda. Most sūktas are attributed to single composers. The "family books" (2–7) are so-called because they have hymns by members of the same clan in each book; but other clans are also represented in the Rigveda. In all, 10 families of rishis account for more than 95% of the ṛcs; for each of them the Rigveda includes a lineage-specific āprī hymn (a special sūkta of rigidly formulaic structure, used for rituals.
There are, for example, 30 manuscripts of Rigveda at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, collected in the 19th century by Georg Bühler, Franz Kielhorn and others, originating from different parts of India, including Kashmir, Gujarat, the then Rajaputana, Central Provinces etc. They were transferred to Deccan College, Pune, in the late 19th century. They are in the Sharada and Devanagari scripts, written on birch bark and paper. The oldest of them is dated to 1464. The 30 manuscripts of Rigveda preserved at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune were added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2007.
Of these 30 manuscripts, 9 contain the samhita text, 5 have the padapatha in addition. 13 contain Sayana's commentary. At least 5 manuscripts (MS. no. 1/A1879-80, 1/A1881-82, 331/1883-84 and 5/Viś I) have preserved the complete text of the Rigveda. MS no. 5/1875-76, written on birch bark in bold Sharada, was only in part used by Max Müller for his edition of the Rigveda with Sayana's commentary.
Müller used 24 manuscripts then available to him in Europe, while the Pune Edition used over five dozen manuscripts, but the editors of Pune Edition could not procure many manuscripts used by Müller and by the Bombay Edition, as well as from some other sources; hence the total number of extant manuscripts known then must surpass perhaps eighty at least.
The various Rigveda manuscripts discovered so far show some differences. Broadly, the most studied Śākala recension has 1017 hymns, includes an appendix of eleven valakhīlya hymns which are often counted with the 8th mandala, for a total of 1,028 metrical hymns. The Bāṣakala version of Rigveda includes eight of these vālakhilya hymns among its regular hymns, making a total of 1025 hymns in the main text for this śākhā. The Bāṣakala text also has an appendix of 98 hymns, called the Khilani, bringing the total to 1,123 hymns. The manuscripts of Śākala recension of the Rigveda have about 10,600 verses, organized into ten Books (Mandalas). Books 2 through 7 are internally homogeneous in style, while Books 1, 8 and 10 are compilation of verses of internally different styles suggesting that these books are likely a collection of compositions by many authors.
The first mandala is the largest, with 191 hymns and 2,006 hymns, and it was added to the text after Books 2 through 9. The last, or the 10th Book, also has 191 hymns but 1,754 verses, making it the second largest. The language analytics suggest the 10th Book, chronologically, was composed and added last. The content of the 10th Book also suggest that the authors knew and relied on the contents of the first nine books.
The Rigveda is the largest of the four Vedas, and many of its verses appear in the other Vedas. Almost all of the 1,875 verses found in Samaveda are taken from different parts of the Rigveda, either once or as repetition, and rewritten in a chant song form. The Books 8 and 9 of the Rigveda are by far the largest source of verses for Sama Veda. The Book 10 contributes the largest number of the 1,350 verses of Rigveda found in Atharvaveda, or about one fifth of the 5,987 verses in the Atharvaveda text. A bulk of 1,875 ritual-focussed verses of Yajurveda, in its numerous versions, also borrow and build upon the foundation of verses in Rigveda.
Altogether the Rig Veda consists of:Hymns to the deities, the oldest part of the Rig Veda
Brahmanas, commentaries on the hymns
Aranyaka or "forest books"
The Rigvedic hymns are dedicated to various deities, chief of whom are Indra, a heroic god praised for having slain his enemy Vrtra; Agni, the sacrificial fire; and Soma, the sacred potion or the plant it is made from. Equally prominent gods are the Adityas or Asura gods Mitra–Varuna and Ushas (the dawn). Also invoked are Savitr, Vishnu, Rudra, Pushan, Brihaspati or Brahmanaspati, as well as deified natural phenomena such as Dyaus Pita (the shining sky, Father Heaven), Prithivi (the earth, Mother Earth), Surya (the sun god), Vayu or Vata (the wind), Apas (the waters), Parjanya (the thunder and rain), Vac (the word), many rivers (notably the Sapta Sindhu, and the Sarasvati River). The Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Sadhyas, Ashvins, Maruts, Rbhus, and the Vishvadevas ("all-gods") as well as the "thirty-three gods" are the groups of deities mentioned.
The hymns mention various further minor gods, persons, phenomena and items, and contain fragmentary references to possible historical events, notably the struggle between the early Vedic people (known as Vedic Aryans, a subgroup of the Indo-Aryans) and their enemies, the Dasa or Dasyu and their mythical prototypes, the Paṇi (the Bactrian Parna).Mandala 1 comprises 191 hymns. Hymn 1.1 is addressed to Agni, and his name is the first word of the Rigveda. The remaining hymns are mainly addressed to Agni and Indra, as well as Varuna, Mitra, the Ashvins, the Maruts, Usas, Surya, Rbhus, Rudra, Vayu, Brhaspati, Visnu, Heaven and Earth, and all the Gods. This Mandala is dated to have been added to Rigveda after Mandala 2 through 9, and includes the philosophical Riddle Hymn 1.164, which inspires chapters in later Upanishads such as the Mundaka.
Mandala 2 comprises 43 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra. It is chiefly attributed to the Rishi gṛtsamada śaunahotra.
Mandala 3 comprises 62 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra and the Vishvedevas. The verse 3.62.10 has great importance in Hinduism as the Gayatri Mantra. Most hymns in this book are attributed to viśvāmitra gāthinaḥ.
Mandala 4 comprises 58 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra as well as the Rbhus, Ashvins, Brhaspati, Vayu, Usas, etc. Most hymns in this book are attributed to vāmadeva gautama.
Mandala 5 comprises 87 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra, the Visvedevas ("all the gods'), the Maruts, the twin-deity Mitra-Varuna and the Asvins. Two hymns each are dedicated to Ushas (the dawn) and to Savitr. Most hymns in this book are attributed to the atri clan.
Mandala 6 comprises 75 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra, all the gods, Pusan, Ashvin, Usas, etc. Most hymns in this book are attributed to the bārhaspatya family of Angirasas.
Mandala 7 comprises 104 hymns, to Agni, Indra, the Visvadevas, the Maruts, Mitra-Varuna, the Asvins, Ushas, Indra-Varuna, Varuna, Vayu (the wind), two each to Sarasvati (ancient river/goddess of learning) and Vishnu, and to others. Most hymns in this book are attributed to vasiṣṭha maitravaruṇi.
Mandala 8 comprises 103 hymns to various gods. Hymns 8.49 to 8.59 are the apocryphal vālakhilya. Hymns 1–48 and 60–66 are attributed to the kāṇva clan, the rest to other (Angirasa) poets.
Mandala 9 comprises 114 hymns, entirely devoted to Soma Pavamana, the cleansing of the sacred potion of the Vedic religion.
Mandala 10 comprises additional 191 hymns, frequently in later language, addressed to Agni, Indra and various other deities. It contains the Nadistuti sukta which is in praise of rivers and is important for the reconstruction of the geography of the Vedic civilization and the Purusha sukta which has been important in studies of Vedic sociology. It also contains the Nasadiya sukta (10.129), probably the most celebrated hymn in the west, which deals with creation. The marriage hymns (10.85) and the death hymns (10.10–18) still are of great importance in the performance of the corresponding Grhya rituals.
Of the Brahmanas that were handed down in the schools of the Bahvṛcas (i.e. "possessed of many verses"), as the followers of the Rigveda are called, two have come down to us, namely those of the Aitareyins and the Kaushitakins. The Aitareya-brahmana and the Kaushitaki- (or Sankhayana-) brahmana evidently have for their groundwork the same stock of traditional exegetic matter. They differ, however, considerably as regards both the arrangement of this matter and their stylistic handling of it, with the exception of the numerous legends common to both, in which the discrepancy is comparatively slight. There is also a certain amount of material peculiar to each of them.
The Kaushitaka is, upon the whole, far more concise in its style and more systematic in its arrangement features which would lead one to infer that it is probably the more modern work of the two. It consists of thirty chapters (adhyaya); while the Aitareya has forty, divided into eight books (or pentads, pancaka), of five chapters each. The last ten adhyayas of the latter work are, however, clearly a later addition though they must have already formed part of it at the time of Pāṇini (c. 5th century BC), if, as seems probable, one of his grammatical sutras, regulating the formation of the names of Brahmanas, consisting of thirty and forty adhyayas, refers to these two works. In this last portion occurs the well-known legend (also found in the Shankhayana-sutra, but not in the Kaushitaki-brahmana) of Shunahshepa, whom his father Ajigarta sells and offers to slay, the recital of which formed part of the inauguration of kings.
While the Aitareya deals almost exclusively with the Soma sacrifice, the Kaushitaka, in its first six chapters, treats of the several kinds of haviryajna, or offerings of rice, milk, ghee, etc., whereupon follows the Soma sacrifice in this way, that chapters 7–10 contain the practical ceremonial and 11–30 the recitations (shastra) of the hotar. Sayana, in the introduction to his commentary on the work, ascribes the Aitareya to the sage Mahidasa Aitareya (i.e. son of Itara), also mentioned elsewhere as a philosopher; and it seems likely enough that this person arranged the Brahmana and founded the school of the Aitareyins. Regarding the authorship of the sister work we have no information, except that the opinion of the sage Kaushitaki is frequently referred to in it as authoritative, and generally in opposition to the Paingya—the Brahmana, it would seem, of a rival school, the Paingins. Probably, therefore, it is just what one of the manuscripts calls it—the Brahmana of Sankhayana (composed) in accordance with the views of Kaushitaki.
Each of these two Brahmanas is supplemented by a "forest book", or Aranyaka. The Aitareyaranyaka is not a uniform production. It consists of five books (aranyaka), three of which, the first and the last two, are of a liturgical nature, treating of the ceremony called mahavrata, or great vow. The last of these books, composed in sutra form, is, however, doubtless of later origin, and is, indeed, ascribed by Hindu authorities either to Shaunaka or to Ashvalayana. The second and third books, on the other hand, are purely speculative, and are also styled the Bahvrca-brahmana-upanishad. Again, the last four chapters of the second book are usually singled out as the Aitareya Upanishad, ascribed, like its Brahmana (and the first book), to Mahidasa Aitareya; and the third book is also referred to as the Samhita-upanishad. As regards the Kaushitaki-aranyaka, this work consists of 15 adhyayas, the first two (treating of the mahavrata ceremony) and the 7th and 8th of which correspond to the 1st, 5th, and 3rd books of the Aitareyaranyaka, respectively, whilst the four adhyayas usually inserted between them constitute the highly interesting Kaushitaki (Brahmana-) Upanishad, of which we possess two different recensions. The remaining portions (9–15) of the Aranyaka treat of the vital airs, the internal Agnihotra, etc., ending with the vamsha, or succession of teachers.
The earliest text were composed in greater Punjab (northwest India and Pakistan), and the more philosophical later texts were most likely composed in or around the region that is the modern era state of Haryana.
There is a widely accepted timeframe for the initial codification of the Rigveda by compiling the hymns very late in the Rigvedic or rather in the early post-Rigvedic period, including the arrangement of the individual hymns in ten books, coeval with the composition of the younger Veda Samhitas. This time coincides with the early Kuru kingdom, shifting the center of Vedic culture east from the Punjab into what is now Uttar Pradesh. The fixing of the samhitapatha (by keeping Sandhi) intact and of the padapatha (by dissolving Sandhi out of the earlier metrical text), occurred during the later Brahmana period. The Rigveda's core is accepted to date to the late Bronze Age, making it one of the few examples with an unbroken tradition. Its composition is usually dated to roughly between c. 1500–1200 BC. Philological estimates tend to date the bulk of the text to the second half of the second millennium. Being composed in an early Indo-Aryan language, the hymns must post-date the Indo-Iranian separation, dated to roughly 2000 BC. A reasonable date close to that of the composition of the core of the Rigveda is that of the Mitanni documents of c. 1400 BC, which contain Indo-Aryan nomenclature. Other evidence also points to a composition close to 1400 BC.
The Rigveda is far more archaic than any other Indo-Aryan text. For this reason, it was in the center of attention of western scholarship from the times of Max Müller and Rudolf Roth onwards. The Rigveda records an early stage of Vedic religion. There are strong linguistic and cultural similarities with the early Iranian Avesta, deriving from the Proto-Indo-Iranian times, often associated with the early Andronovo culture (or rather, the Sintashta culture within the early Andronovo horizon) of c. 2000 BC.
Writing appears in India around the 3rd century BC in the form of the Brāhmī script, but texts of the length of the Rigveda were likely not written down until much later, and the oldest extant manuscripts date to AD ~1040, discovered in Nepal. While written manuscripts were used for teaching in medieval times, they were written on birch bark or palm leaves, which decompose and therefore were routinely copied over the generations to help preserve the text. Some Rigveda commentaries may date from the second half of the first millennium AD. The hymns were thus composed and preserved by oral tradition for several millennia from the time of their composition until the redaction of the Rigveda, and the entire Rigveda was preserved in shakhas for another 2,500 years from the time of its redaction until the editio princeps by Rosen, Aufrecht and Max Müller.
The Rigveda offers no direct evidence of social or political system in Vedic era, whether ordinary or elite. Only hints such as cattle raising and horse racing are discernible, and the text offers very general ideas about the ancient Indian society. There is no evidence, state Jamison and Brereton, of any elaborate, pervasive or structured caste system. Social stratification seems embryonic, then and later a social ideal rather than a social reality. The society was pastoral with evidence of agriculture since hymns mention plow and celebrate agricultural divinities. There was division of labor, and complementary relationship between kings and poet-priests but no discussion of relative status of social classes. Women in Rigveda appear disproportionately as speakers in dialogue hymns, both as mythical or divine Indrani, Apsaras Urvasi, or Yami, as well as Apāla Ātreyī (RV 8.91), Godhā (RV 10.134.6), Ghoṣā Kākṣīvatī (RV 10.39.40), Romaśā (RV 1.126.7), Lopāmudrā (RV 1.179.1-2), Viśvavārā Ātreyī (RV 5.28), Śacī Paulomī (RV 10.159), Śaśvatī Āṅgirasī (RV 8.1.34). The women of Rigveda are quite outspoken and appear more sexually confident than men, in the text. Elaborate and esthetic hymns on wedding suggest rites of passage had developed during the Rigvedic period. There is little evidence of dowry and no evidence of sati in it or related Vedic texts.
The Rigvedic hymns mention rice and porridge, in hymns such as 8.83, 8.70, 8.77 and 1.61 in some versions of the text, however there is no discussion of rice cultivation. The term "ayas" (metal) occurs in the Rigveda, but it is unclear which metal it was. Iron is not mentioned in Rigveda, something scholars have used to help date Rigveda to have been composed before 1000 BC. Hymn 5.63 mentions "metal cloaked in gold", suggesting metal working had progressed in the Vedic culture.
Some of the names of gods and goddesses found in the Rigveda are found amongst other belief systems based on Proto-Indo-European religion, while words used share common roots with words from other Indo-European languages.
The horse (ashva), cattle, sheep and goat play an important role in the Rigveda. There are also references to the elephant (Hastin, Varana), camel (Ustra, especially in Mandala 8), ass (khara, rasabha), buffalo (Mahisa), wolf, hyena, lion (Simha), mountain goat (sarabha) and to the gaur in the Rigveda. The peafowl (mayura), the goose (hamsa) and the chakravaka (Tadorna ferruginea) are some birds mentioned in the Rigveda.
The Rigveda along with other Vedic texts, states Michael Ruse, contains a "strong traditional streak that (by Western standards) would undoubtedly be thought atheistic". He states that hymn 10.130 of Rigveda can be read to be in "an atheistic spirit".
Rigveda, however, contains numerous hymns with a diversity of ideas. The initial impression one gets, states Jeaneane Fowler, is that the text is polytheistic because it praises many gods. Yet, adds Fowler, the text does not fit the "neat classifications of western thought or linear thinking". The deities are praised depending on the context, and the hymns include an expression of monotheism. For example, hymn 1.164.46 of Rigveda states,
Max Muller and Stephen Phillips states that this "monotheism" is henotheism (one god, accept many manifest deities). Thomas Urumpackal and other scholars state that monistic tendencies (Brahman is everywhere, God inside everybody) are found in hymns of chapters 1.164, 8.36 and 10.31. Other scholars state that Rigveda includes an emerging diversity of thought, including monotheism, polytheism, henotheism and pantheism, the choice left to the preference of the worshipper.
Although the text of the redacted version of the Rig Veda was transmitted unchanged, by 500 BC Sanskrit had changed so much that commentaries were necessary to make sense of the Rig Vedic hymns. The Brahmanas contain numerous misinterpretations, due to this linguistic change, some of which were characterised by Sri Aurobindo as "grotesque nonsense."
According to Hindu tradition, the Rigvedic hymns were collected by Paila under the guidance of Vyāsa, who formed the Rigveda Samhita as we know it. According to the Śatapatha Brāhmana, the number of syllables in the Rigveda is 432,000, equalling the number of muhurtas (1 day = 30 muhurtas) in forty years. This statement stresses the underlying philosophy of the Vedic books that there is a connection (bandhu) between the astronomical, the physiological, and the spiritual.
The authors of the Brāhmana literature discussed and interpreted the Vedic ritual. Yaska was an early commentator of the Rigveda by discussing the meanings of difficult words. In the 14th century, Sāyana wrote an exhaustive commentary on it.
A number of other commentaries bhāṣyas were written during the medieval period, including the commentaries by Skandasvamin (pre-Sayana, roughly of the Gupta period), Udgitha (pre-Sayana), Venkata-Madhava (pre-Sayana, c. 10th to 12th centuries) and Mudgala Purana (after Sayana, an abbreviated version of Sayana's commentary).
In the 19th- and early 20th-centuries, some reformers like Swami Dayananda Saraswati – founder of the Arya Samaj, Sri Aurobindo – founder of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, discussed the Vedas, including the Rig veda, for their philosophies. Dayananda, stated Reverend John Robson, was an iconoclast and willing to join with Christians to destroy all idols in India. According to Robson, Dayanand believed "there was no errors in the Vedas (including the Rigveda), and if anyone showed him an error, he would maintain that it was a corruption added later".
Dayananda and Aurobindo interpret the Vedic scholars had a monotheistic conception. Aurobindo attempted to interpret hymns to Agni in the Rigveda as mystical. Aurobindo states that the Vedic hymns were a quest after a higher truth, define the Rta (basis of Dharma), conceive life in terms of a struggle between the forces of light and darkness, and sought the ultimate reality.
Rigveda, in contemporary Hinduism, has been a reminder of the ancient cultural heritage and point of pride for Hindus, with some hymns still in use in major rites of passage ceremonies, but the literal acceptance of most of the textual essence is long gone. Louis Renou wrote that the text is a distant object, and "even in the most orthodox domains, the reverence to the Vedas has come to be a simple raising of the hat". Musicians and dance groups celebrate the text as a mark of Hindu heritage, through incorporating Rigvedic hymns in their compositions, such as in Hamsadhvani and Subhapantuvarali of Carnatic music, and these have remained popular among the Hindus for decades. However, the contemporary Hindu beliefs are distant from the precepts in the ancient layer of Rigveda samhitas:
The social history and context of the Vedic texts are extremely distant from contemporary Hindu religious beliefs and practice, a reverence for the Vedas as an exemplar of Hindu heritage continues to inform a contemporary understanding of Hinduism. Popular reverence for Vedic scripture is similarly focused on the abiding authority and prestige of the Vedas rather than on any particular exegesis or engagement with the subject matter of the text.
Alternative theory for a much earlier composition date for the Rigveda, as well as the Indigenous Aryans theory have been suggested. These theories are controversial.
The Rig Veda is hard to translate accurately, because it is the oldest Indo-Aryan text, composed in the archaic Vedic Sanskrit. There are no closely contemporary extant texts, which makes it difficult to interpret.
Early missionaries and colonial administrators in India, used Western concepts and words in their attempts to translate and interpret the ancient texts of Indian religions. This, state postmodern scholars such as Frits Staal, led to mistranslations. Thus, Rigveda's Mandala are often translated to mean 'Book', when the word actually means 'Cycle', according to Staal. The Vedas were called 'sacred books', an appellation borrowed by orientalists used for Bible, but there is no evidence of this. Staal states, "it is nowhere stated that the Veda was revealed", and Sruti simply means "that what is heard, in the sense that it is transmitted from father to son or from teacher to pupil". The Rigveda, or other Vedas, do not anywhere assert that they are Apauruṣeyā, and this reverential term appears centuries later in the texts of the Mimamsa school of Hindu philosophy. The text of Rigveda suggests it was "composed by poets, human individuals whose names were household words" in the Vedic age, states Staal.
The Rigveda is the earliest, the most venerable, obscure, distant and difficult for moderns to understand – hence is often misinterpreted or worse: used as a peg on which to hang an idea or a theory.
The first published translation of any portion of the Rigveda in any European language was into Latin, by Friedrich August Rosen (Rigvedae specimen, London 1830). Predating Müller's editio princeps of the text by 19 years, Rosen was working from manuscripts brought back from India by Colebrooke. H. H. Wilson was the first to make a complete translation of the Rig Veda into English, published in six volumes during the period 1850–88. Wilson's version was based on the commentary of Sāyaṇa. Müller's Rig Veda Sanhita in 6 volumes Muller, Max, ed. (W. H. Allen and Co., London, 1849) has an English preface The birch bark from which Müller produced his translation is held at The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, India.
Some notable translations of the Rig Veda include: