Rig Veda

(ca. 1700–1200 BCE)

Audience

The audience of the Rig Veda was limited almost exclusively to kings and especially Brahmins; they are the people who are primarily represented in the text. Indeed, the Rig Veda can give only an incomplete picture of the ancient Indian society that produced it because it was composed by and for an elite class of men, leaving out the voices of women and people outside the Aryan class system. But since the Aryans were nomadic and built temporary dwellings out of wood, they left behind no archaeological evidence revealing anything about the society that produced the Rig Veda beyond Brahmins and kings.

The Vedas were too sacred to write down, so the Brahmins invented ingenious mnemonic devices that allowed them to transmit the texts orally for millennia with great accuracy. The archaic language of the Vedas, while closely related to classical Sanskrit, was generally only known to the Brahmin lineages who transmitted them orally and who maintained exclusive control over...

Image for: Rig Veda

Hindu cosmogony and gods (Library of Congress)

View Full Size