What's the Rig Veda? - Hinduism - Sanskrit Text
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What's the Rig Veda?

rig veda
Rig Veda in Sanskrit (1800s AD)

The Rig Veda is a group of poems that people in India first sang and recited maybe about 1500 BC, soon after the Indo-Europeans arrived in India. People passed down these poems by reciting them out loud for hundreds of years, adding some and forgetting some. By about 1000 BC, the Rig Veda reached its final form, and then people finally wrote it down in Sanskrit in the Guptan period, about 500 BC. The Rig Veda is one of the most sacred texts of Hinduism.


This is a video of women dancing to a chant from the Rig Veda.

The Rig Veda tells the story of Prajapati, the first god who created the world. Prajapati means "Lord of Creatures". Prajapati was sacrificed to himself by the younger gods Indra, Agni, and Varuna, and out of his body the whole universe was made. The Rig Veda says that each of Prajapati's other parts turned into a different group of people, so that Indian people thought of themselves as belonging to one of four castes, or groups. This idea of caste seems to be a Vedic idea.

Learn by doing: Hinduism
More about Hinduism

Bibliography and further reading about the Rig Veda:

Bhagavad Gita
More about Hinduism
More about Indian religion
More about India
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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