Rigveda is the oldest compilation of human wisdom. It is an amalgamation of four major components viz. the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aryankas and the Upanishads. The Samhitas are the texts involving the hymns to the deities and constitute the oldest section of the Rig Veda. The Brahmanas are the section pertaining to the commentaries for the hymns. The Aryankas are also known as the forest books and the Upanishads include other verses of religious text.
The main part of Rigveda belongs to Natural hymns, the hymns related with natural forces. In the hymns we find prayers for certain natural elements such as air, water, earth, sun, rain, dawn etc. The glorious brightness of the sun, the blaze of the sacrificial fire, the sweep of the rain-storm across the skies, the recurrence of the dawn, the steady currents of the winds, the violence of the tropical storm and other such natural energies, fundamental activities or aspects are glorified and personified as divinities (Devata). In Rigveda the names of major deities are, such as Agni, Indra, Vayu, Earth, Soma, Varuna, Vishnu, Aditya, Usha, Aditi, Parjanya, etc. Through Vedic symbolism we can understand the formation of Vedic deities.
Aim of Rigvedic Mantras:
Rigvedic Sanskrit mantras are built around a science of sound which comprehends the meaning and power of each letter. The ultimate aim of the mantras in Rigveda is to purify the human mind through knowledge. Darkness is symbol of lack of knowledge or illusionary living, which makes us devoid of justness and sagacity.
In the Rigveda-Samhita we find a unique prayer for social unity. It is called Samjnana sukta. The term 'Samjnana' gives the sense of unity in thoughts. The unanimity and harmony on mental and intellectual level among the people gathered is its purpose. Most aspects of Vedic science like the practice of yoga, meditation, mantra and Ayurveda can be found in the Rig Veda.
The devotee invokes the Lord of creation to inspire mankind with the feeling of love, and the Lord commands that all should be bound together with a common aim, common thought and common will.
Composition of Rigveda:
Symbolism in Rigveda:
Sri Aurobindo and Sri Kapali Shastry suggest that Vedas have at least two interpretations, the surface or the external interpretation and the internal or esoteric or symbolic interpretation.
The Vedic gods are described as children of Light, sons of Aditi, of infinity. Demons are opposite. They represent the struggle between the powers of the higher good and the lower desire. All the gods are conquerors and givers of Cow, the Horse and divine riches.
Internally, the Cow (go, gomati) is the symbol of consciousness in the form of knowledge, Light. Horse (asva, asvavati) is the symbol of consciousness in the form of force; usually asva signifies a horse which is a figure of the Prana, the nervous energy, the vital breath, the half-mental, half material dynamism. This links mind and matter. The prana moves in the vital or dynamic plane. He purifies the nervous life in man and lift upward its impulsions and desires. Light of dawn is the symbol of inner illumination. The night is the image of inner darkness, obscure consciousness, and full of ignorance. Dasyus are identified with the Darkness. Heaven in Veda was a symbol of the mind. All their details symbolised man’s effort and his means towards a greater end, the acquisition of immortality.
The Rig Veda itself asserts (1164.46 & 170.1) that the gods are only different names and expressions of one universal Being who transcends the universe; but from the language of the hymns, we are compelled to perceive in the gods not only different names, but also different forms, powers and personalities of the one Deva. For the external sense of the Veda the Gods are universal powers of physical Nature personified; in any inner sense they must be universal powers of Nature in her subjective activities, Will, Mind, etc.
The same deities were at once internal and external Powers of universal Nature, and they managed its expression through a system of double values by which the same language (Vedic Mantras) served for their worship in both aspects. But the psychological sense predominates and is more pervading and coherent than the physical.
External Rituals for Material Prosperity:
Externally, offerings are done in Vedic sacrifice (also called Yajna) to please the Vedic gods. The sacrifices of food, possessions etc., prayers and chants of Rig Vedic hymns in the ritual worship bring material prosperity and fulfilment of worldly desires.
According to the ritualist interpretation, food, fame or gold are the constituents of wealth desired by the Vedic sages. But even the prosperity, fullness of cows, horses, gold, men, chariots, offspring, is not a final end in itself, all this a means towards the opening up of the other worlds, the winning Swar, the ascent to the solar heavens, the attainment by the path of the truth to the Light and to the heavenly Bliss where the mortal arrives at immortality.
The Upanishadic seers cautioned people against over indulgence in ritual practices, suggesting that ritual knowledge constituted inferior knowledge or ignorance (avidya), and was an obstacle to liberation. They cautioned them against overdependence upon rituals or ritual knowledge to resolve human suffering, and urged them to focus upon both ritual and spiritual practices by internalizing the rituals for liberation.
Internal for Spiritual Upliftment & Immortality:
Sri Aurobindo in his book “The Secrets of the Rig Veda” mentioned that the Vedas has disclosed the cosmic body is similar to human body. Rituals are the starting-point for a spiritual thought and experience. The central conception of the Rig Veda is the conquest of the Truth and Immortality. For the Vedic Ritam is a spiritual as well as psychological conception.
Gods are clearly the symbols of sense functions in the human being. Soma, the plant which yielded the mystic wine for Vedic sacrifice, has not only the God of the moon, but manifests himself as mind in the human being.
Adi Shankara explained that Hindu deities live or rule over the cosmic body as well in the temple of human body. They remark that the Sun deity is the eyes, the Vayu the nose, the Prajapati the sexual organs, the Lokapalas the ears, moon the mind, Mitra the inward breath, Varuna the outward breath, Indra the arms, Bṛhaspati the speech, Vishnu, whose stride is great, is the feet, and Maya is the smile.
The whole Rig Veda is a triumph-chant of the powers of Light, and their ascent by the force and vision of the Truth to its possession in its source and seat where it is free from the attack of the falsehood. “By Truth the cows (illumined thoughts) enter into Truth; labouring towards the Truth, the Truth one conquers; the aggressive force of the Truth seeks the cows of Light and goes breaking through (the enemy); for Truth the two wide ones (Heaven & Earth) become multitudinous and deep, for Truth the two supreme Mothers give their yield.