Tag Archives: Rigveda

a bit about sanskrit (संस्कृतम्)

Sanskrit is the classical language of Indian and the liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is also one of the 22 official languages of India. The name Sanskrit means “refined”, “consecrated” and “sanctified”. It has always been regarded as the ‘high’ language and used mainly for religious and scientific discourse.

Vedic Sanskrit, the pre-Classical form of the language and the liturgical language of the Vedic religion, is one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family. The oldest known text in Sanskrit, the Rigveda, a collection of over a thousand Hindu hymns, composed during the 2nd millenium BC.

Today Sanskrit is used mainly in Hindu religious rituals as a ceremonial language for hymns and mantras. Efforts are also being made to revive Sanskrit as an everyday spoken language in the village of Mattur near Shimoga in Karnataka. A modern form of Sanskrit is one of the 17 official home languages in India.

Since the late 19th century, Sanskrit has been written mostly with the Devanāgarī alphabet. However it has also been written with all the other alphabets of India, except Gurmukhi and Tamil, and with other alphabets such as Thai and Tibetan. The Grantha, Sharda and Siddham alphabets are used only for Sanskrit.

Since the late 18th century, Sanskrit has also been written with the Latin alphabet. The most commonly used system is the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST), which was been the standard for academic work since 1912.

Popular culture in other languages

Recital of Sanskrit shlokas as background chorus in films, television advertisements and as slogans for corporate organisations has become a trend. The opera Satyagraha by Philip Glass uses texts from the Bhagavad Gita, sung in the original Sanskrit.

Recently, Sanskrit also made an appearance in Western pop music in two recordings by Madonna. One, “Shanti/Ashtangi”, from the 1998 album Ray of Light, is the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga chant referenced above set to music. The second, “Cyber-raga”, released in 2000 as a B-side to Madonna’s album Music, is a Sanskrit-language ode of devotion to a higher power and a wish for peace on earth. The climactic battle theme of The Matrix Revolutions features a choir singing a Sanskrit prayer from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in the closing titles of the movie. Composer John Williams featured choirs singing in Sanskrit for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The lyrics of The Child In Us by Enigma also contains Sanskrit, latin and English verses.

The Sky1 version of the title sequence in season one of Battlestar Galactica 2004 features the Gayatri Mantra, taken from the Rig Veda (3.62.10). The composition was written by miniseries composer Richard Gibbs.
Sanskrit has also seen a significant revival in Mainland China. Musicians such as Sa Dingding have written pop songs in Sanskrit.

Computational linguistics

There have been suggestions to use Sanskrit as a metalanguage for knowledge representation in e.g. machine translation, and other areas of natural language processing because of its relatively high regular structure. This is due to Classical Sanskrit being a regularised, prescriptivist form abstracted from the much more complex and richer Vedic Sanskrit.

Excerpts from Omniglot and Wikipedia

vedic chant

Vedic chant dates back at least 3,000 years and is probably the world’s oldest continuous vocal tradition. The earliest collection, or Saṃhitā, of Vedic texts is the Rigveda, containing about 1,000 hymns. These are chanted in syllabic style—a type of heightened speech with one syllable to a tone. Three levels of pitch are employed: a basic reciting tone is embellished by neighbouring tones above and below, which are used to emphasize grammatical accents in the texts. The pitch accent of Vedic Sanskrit, or Vedic accent for brevity, is traditionally divided by Sanskrit grammarians into three qualities, udātta “raised” (acute accent, middle tone), anudātta “not raised” (grave accent, lower tone) and svarita “sounded” (circumflex, higher tone). These Rigveda hymns are the basis for a later collection, the Sāmaveda (“Veda of the Chants”), the hymns of which are sung in a style that is more florid, melodic, and melismatic (one word to two or more notes) rather than syllabic, and the range of tones is extended to six or more.

A simple, numerical system of notation—together with an oral tradition that stresses absolute precision in text, intonation, and bodily gestures—has served to perpetuate this stable tradition and to ensure its uniformity throughout all parts of India. The Vedas are chanted today exactly as they were centuries ago.

Excerpts from Encyclopaedia Britannica Article Vedic Chants and Wikipedia Article Vedic Accent

mandukya upanishad


The theme of the Mandukya Upanishad is an exposition of the Mystic Syllable, Om, with a view to training the mind in meditation, for the purpose of achieving freedom, gradually, so that the individual soul is attuned to the Ultimate Reality.

The basis of this meditation is explained in the Vidya (meditation), known as the Vaisvanara Vidya. This is the secret of the knowledge of the Universal Being, designated as Vaisvanara. Its simple form of understanding is a transference of human attributes to the Divine Existence, and vice versa. In this meditation, one contemplates the Cosmos as one’s Body. Instead of one contemplating oneself as the individual body, one contemplates oneself as the Universal Body. Instead of the right eye, there is the sun. Instead of the left eye, there is the moon. Instead of the feet, there is the earth. Instead of the head, there is the heaven, and so on. The limbs of the Cosmic Person are identified with cosmic elements, and vice versa, so that there is nothing in the cosmos which does not form an organic part of the Body of the Virat, or Vaisvanara. When you see the vast world before you, you behold a part of your own Body. When you look at the sun, you behold your own eye. When you look above into the heavens, you are seeing your own head. When you see all people moving about, you behold the various parts of your own personality. The vast wind is your breath. All your actions are cosmic movements. Anything that moves, does so on account of your movement. Your breath is the Cosmic Vital Force. Your intelligence is the Cosmic Intelligence. Your existence is Cosmic Existence. Your happiness is Cosmic Bliss.

Though the Mandukya Upanishad gives certain symbolic instances of identification of limbs with the Cosmic Body, the meditator, in fact, can choose any symbol or symbols for such form of identification.

The Vidya has its origin, actually, in the Rig-Veda, in a famous Sukta, or hymn, called the Purusha-Sukta. The Purusha-Sukta of the Rig-Veda commences by saying that all the heads, all the eyes, and all the feet that we see in this world are the heads, eyes, and feet of the Virat-Purusha, or the Cosmic Being. With one head, the Virat nods in silence; with another face He smiles; with a third one, He frowns; in one form, He sits; in another form, He moves; in one form, He is near; in another form, He is distant. So, all the forms, whatever they be, and all the movements and actions, processes and relations, become parts of the Cosmic Body, with which the Consciousness should be identified simultaneously. When you think, you think all things at the same time in all the ten directions; nay, in every way.

Excerpt from the Introduction to the Mandukya Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda


The Vedas (Sanskrit वेदाः véda, “knowledge”) are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. The Vedas are apauruṣeya (“not of human agency”). They are supposed to have been directly revealed, and thus are called śruti (“what is heard”), distinguishing them from other religious texts, which are called smṛti (“what is remembered”). In Hindu tradition, the creation of Vedas is credited to Brahma. The Vedic texts or śruti are organized around four canonical collections of metrical material known as Saṃhitās, of which the first three are related to the performance of yajna (sacrifice) in historical Vedic religion:

  1. The Rigveda, containing hymns to be recited by the hotar, or presiding priest;
  2. The Yajurveda, containing formulas to be recited by the adhvaryu or officiating priest;
  3. The Samaveda, containing formulas to be sung by the udgatar or priest that chants;
  4. The Atharvaveda, a collection of spells and incantations, apotropaic charms and speculative hymns.

The individual verses contained in these compilations are known as mantras. Some selected Vedic mantras are still recited at prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions in contemporary Hinduism.

The various Indian philosophies and sects have taken differing positions on the Vedas. Schools of Indian philosophy which cite the Vedas as their scriptural authority are classified as “orthodox” (āstika). Other traditions, notably Buddhism and Jainism, which did not regard the Vedas as authorities are referred to by traditional Hindu texts as “heterodox” or “non-orthodox” (nāstika) schools. In addition to Buddhism and Jainism, Sikhism and Brahmoism, many non-Brahmin Hindus in South India do not accept the authority of the Vedas. Certain South Indian Brahmin communities such as Iyengars consider the Tamil Divya Prabandham or writing of the Alvar saints as equivalent to the Vedas.

Excerpt from Wikipedia Article: Vedas