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How and where the Vedas originated are subjects of much debate amongst Hindu circles. The opinions are divergent. Some believe that the Vedas are millions of years old while others consider them to be not more than five thousand years old. When I read through the many articles written on this subject by Hindus themselves, I found that almost all of them assumed the Vedas to be eternal. Hence, the question of the origin of Vedas is never dealt with properly. Those Hindus who addressed this question trivialized it, knowing well the amount of contradictory opinions within Hindu texts. I will attempt to bring together whatever information we get from authoritative Hindu texts regarding this issue.
1. The Vedas were produced from deities Agni, Vayu and Surya
Chandogya Upanishad says
The same view is expressed in Shatpath Brahman 11:5:8:1,2. This reference clearly mentions that Agni, Vayu and Aditya are not the names of any Rishis but are demi gods. Note that only three Vedas are mentioned here. There is no mention of Atharvaved. However, Gopath Brahman (1:49), which is the specific Brahman of Atharvaveda, mentions its deity to be the Moon.
2. The Vedas are the breathings of the Great Being
Shatapath Brahman (14:5:4:10) and Brihadaranyak Upanishad (2:4:10) says,
Mr. Agniveer has used this verse from Shatapath Brahman to prove that Vedas have emanated from God. He says,
The interpretation that he tries to put on this verse is unfounded. If he uses this verse as proof of Vedic origin, then he cannot brush aside the fact that even the Puranas, Itihasas, etc are on the same level as the Vedas. He simply gives the reference and his own meaning without quoting the exact verse for fear that his own ideology might be undermined. Anyway, let us move on with other opinions.
3. The Vedas were scraped off from Skambha as being his hair and his mouth
Atharvaveda (10:7:20) says,
4. Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6: 18 says,
5. Mundak Upanishad 1:1:1,2 says,
Mr. Agniveer makes yet another error on this issue. He claims that Brahma learned the four Vedas from the Rishis. However, according to these references from Svetashvatara and Mundak Upanishads, Brahma was directly taught by God and he in turn taught the other Rishis. An interesting point to be noted here is that in the same Khanda, verse 5, Angiras calls the four Vedas as 'lower knowledge' (Apra) and says that God cannot be known through the Vedas.
From the above given passages it is clear that there is no clear understanding of the origin of Vedas. The texts mutually contradict. Numerous other Hindu texts have still more variant views about the origin of Vedas. I will summarily mention those views also:
Rishis as the authors of Vedas
A Rishi is a poet of the Vedas. The meaning of the word Rishi (ऋषि ) as given in Nirukt is Rishidarshanat (ऋषिर्दार्शनात), which means 'seer'. The famous quote of Yask Muni states that यस्य वाक्य मस ऋषि, meaning 'Rishi is the one whose quote itself is the mantra'. This is suffient to show that Rishis were the ones who made up the mantras. This is backed up by Taittiriya Brahman (2:8:8:5) which states
The assumption that Vedas are eternal makes many Hindus to say that Rishis were given the Vedas. Of this there is not the slightest proof. This Rishis again and again claim to have composed the hymns themselves just as a carpenter makes objects. In some hymns they express no consciousness whatever of deriving assistance from any supernatural source.
How many Rishis?
A. 4 Rishis
Arya Samaj/agniveer claims that Vedas were reaveled to four Rishis, viz, Agni, Vayu, Angira and Surya. However, the reference I gave earlier from Chandogya Upanishad (4:17:1-2) disproves this assertion. This reference clearly calls these four 'persons' asDevatas or deities, and not Rishis. The imaginary Rishis of Arya Samaj are nowhere to be found in authoritative Hindu texts. If they were real Rishis we would certainly have their biographies.
B. 414 Rishis
Another view about the Vedic authorship is that Vedic mantras are the works of 414 Rishis, whose names are to be found inAnukarmani. When we read the Vedas, we find the name of a Rishi mentioned with every Sookt (hymn), who can be considered as the author of that particular Sookt. However, Arya Samaj scholars opine that these Rishis are not the ones who conjured up the mantras. Rather, they were the people who comprehended the meaning of the hymns by their meditation. This opinion is false due to the following reasons:
Also, Rishi Kanva is the Rishi of the major part of the 8th Mandal of Rigveda. His name occurs some fifty times within the Mantras of Mandal 8.
Opinions of Rishis concerning the origin of Vedic Hymns
As I have already said that the names of the Rishis of each hymn are found in the Anukarmani. It is a record of the number of verses, name and family of Rishis, names of deities, etc.
In later times when the Vedas were claimed to be eternal, it was pretended that these Rishis were only the ones by whom hymns "were seen" or to whom they were communicated. However, there is no proof for this.
Now what is the opinion of the Rishis themselves regarding the origin of Vedas. Following points make it clear:
[a] In the very second mantra of Rigveda is it mentioned
[b] Rigveda 10:54:6 ascribes the making of hymns to a Rishi
"An acceptable and honorific hymn has been uttered to Indra by Brihaduktha, maker of hymns"
[c] Again it is mentioned in Rigveda 7:22:9
[d] Who prepares the hymns? Rigveda 5:2:11 says,
[e] Rigveda 4:16:21 says,
[f] Rigveda 7:35:14
From this we come to know that instead of the hymns being eternal, or of an infinite age, they are composed by the Rishis themselves. The Rishis explicitly speak of ancient and new hymns. The Rishis entertained the idea that the gods would be more highly gratified if their praises were celebrated in new, and perhaps more elaborate and beautiful compositions, than if older prayers had been repeated.
Panini openly states the fact that there are old and new Brahmanas; whereas according to the doctrine of later times, the brahmanas are neither old nor new, but eternal and of divine origin. He rests his opinoin as to the difference of dates on the evidence of language. One argument of the eternity of Vedas is that sound is eternal. To any person of common sense the simple statement of this proof, is its refutation. The same argument would prove every book to be eternal.
Some Hindus might respond that by the new Rishis and Hymns are meant the Rishis and Hymns of the present life, while the old Rishis and Hymns are of the previous life. This view is far from logical. According to the belief of Arya Samaj, if these are the same Vedas that have always been. then classifying the Hymns into old and new is meaningless. This is because the Hymns that would be new would also be old.
Internal evidence of the authorship of Vedas
When a deed is produced in court, which is affirmed to have been written many hundred years ago, there are often means of judging from the document itself as to its age. Suppose, for example, it contained the names of Einstein, Gandhi or Hitler, it could at once be known that it could not be older than last century. If it were asserted that these referred to other persons of the same name who lived long before or that they were prophecies, the conclusion would be that it was an attempt to support one falsehood by another. If the Vedas are eternal, why are the names of so many persons mentioned in them who lived in comparatively recent times?
The hymns of the Rigveda themselves supply us with numerous data by which we can judge of the circumstances to which they owed their origin, and of the manner in which they were created. They afford us very distinct indications of the locality in which they were composed. The Indus is the great river; the Ganges is only twice mentioned; the Sarasvati was the eastern boundary.
The hymns show us Aryan tribes living in a state of warfare with surrounding enemies (some of them, probably, alien in race and language), and gradually, as we may infer, forcing their way onward to the east and south. They supply us with numerous specimen of the particular sorts of prayers, viz., for protection and victory, which men circumstanced would naturally address to the gods whom they worshipped as well as of the more common applications which men in general offer up for the various blessings that constitute the sum of human welfare.
The following hymn to Indra, asking him to destroy the Dasyus, the aborigines, and give food and a camp with running water, bears internal evidence that it was composed at a time when the Aryans were invading India:
Conclusion as to the authorship of the Vedas
Quotations have been given from Hindu sacred books containing many different opinions as to the origin of Vedas. In opposition to these, the authorship of many of the hymns is distinctly claimed by persons whose names are given. The hymns themselves demonstrate that they were composed when the Aryans were entering India, when they had not advanced much beyond the border, and were engaged in constant wars with the natives.
Victory in battle was often ascribed to the virtue of a hymn. Thus in Rigveda 7:33:3,
Such hymns were considered unfailing spells, and became the sacred war-songs of the whole tribe. They were handed down from the father to son as the most valuable heirloom.
The legitimate conclusion is that the Vedic hymns were written by the authors whose names they bear, and they are not eternal.
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