Rig Veda

(ca. 1700–1200 BCE)

The earliest stratum of Indian literature, called the Vedas, consists of four books: the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, and the Atharva Veda. Of these, the Rig Veda is the oldest and longest. As the word rig means “verse” and the word veda means “knowledge,” the Rig Veda, composed in poetic verse, is considered the source of all sacred knowledge.

Consisting of 1,028 metrical hymns, the Rig Veda was composed in roughly two stages. Books 2–9, the core of the text, were composed between 1700 and 1500 BCE, while books 1 and 10 were composed around 1200 BCE. The hymns of the Rig Veda cover a wide range of topics. Some of them praise the virtues of the Vedic gods, the most important of which were Indra, king of the gods; Mitra-Varuna, the pair of gods who enforced oaths and maintained cosmic order; and Agni, the deified sacrificial fire and the priest of the gods. Other hymns contain instructions on how to perform the rituals that were at the center of the Vedic...

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Hindu cosmogony and gods (Library of Congress)

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