The last few months have seen a significant upsurge in interest towards Vedas in the cyberspace. The concept of universal brotherhood devoid of sectarian beliefs, rejection of blind faith in miracles as necessary to be spiritual, as well as view that religion and science are one and same – seem to be what the modern world exactly demands. Thus, Vedas seem to offer what the world needs today.
A greater awe is derived from the fact that the very first texts of the mankind which elaborate on the very lessons whose surface is barely been scratched by so-called modern subjects like human-rights, gender-rights and democracy has been so immaculately preserved and protected that not only each alphabet but even its pitch remains unchanged since its inception. Please refer http://agniveer.com/2697/why-vedas-cannot-be-changed/ for a glimpse of this.
The rise of Vedic movement has also brought to fore a series of misleading allegations being propagated by those who refuse to accept that all humans – regardless of their beliefs – can be blessed by the Supreme, or those whose blood boils at very mention of life being anything beyond a chemical reaction. This does not come as a surprise especially when we have even a ‘Flat Earth Society’ today or die-hard believers in ‘Moon being split into two by a human finger some 1400 years ago’.
One old time allegation that has emerged again after a long gap is that different versions of Rigveda have different number of mantras. Earlier, the allegation was propounded by atheists or evangelists. But this time the allegation is driven by those
– who cannot digest the fact that a book that is considered divine can actually recommend that God/ Ishwar/ Allah does not punish anyone merely because he or she does not believe in Him or even His book.
– who find it rebelling to support a book that says that men and women have equal rights and opportunities and in fact women education is even more critical for the society.
– who cannot accept that a divine book can assert that blind belief is cause of miseries and hence even that book should not be believed blindly.
– who cannot accept that a divine book recommends simply adherence to truth to best of one’s intent and enhancing knowledge through noble actions as only criteria for being spiritual EVEN IF that goes against the dictates of that book itself in short run.
– who cannot accept that a divine book can be a book of best practices rather than a book that threatens those who do not adopt it blindly.
In this article, we shall analyze this allegation of different versions of Rigveda having different number of mantras and show that it does not hold any water. However we would also like to add that even if one is able to prove that there are minor aberrations in so-called different versions of Vedas, that does not make Vedic Dharma less relevant. Because the essence of Vedic Dharma would still remain valid – to accept truth, seek truth proactively and reject falsehood/ blind belief. When Vedas don’t demand one to blindly believe in the book and stop applying one’s brains, and in fact caution against such an approach in first place, this allegation loses its steam completely. A rough analogy would be that someone claims that CBSE is not a useful Board for education right from Class 1 to Class 12 because two pages of its maths book for class 11 have printing errors!
Having said that we would like to state that our Rishis were genius enough to devise ways to protect the wisdom of Vedas in most perfect manner. And thus, in reality there is only one version of Rigveda that exists. There may be printing or proof-reading errors in some of the published versions. But there is complete unanimity on more than 10,000 mantras of Rigveda being the same ones since ages.
This is true that different scholars have enumerated different number of mantras in Rigveda. For example,
Shaunakiya Anuvakanukramani – 10580 and 1 Paada
Chhandasankya Parishishta – 10402
Riksarvanukramani Commentrator Jagannath – 10552
Charanvyuh Commentraror Mahidas – 10552
Venkatmadhav – 10402
Swami Dayanand Saraswati – 10589
Prof MacDonald – 10442
All of these calculations are largely correct (except perhaps minor errors and omissions). The difference in number appears merely because in difference in calculation approach. Let us understand how.
Note: The words Mantra or Richa are used interchangeably here and imply a verse of Vedas – Rigveda in current context. Also note that even the verses from various branches or shakhas or Vedas are called Mantras for ease of convenience. But since Shakha represents a variation from original Veda Samhita or collection of Vedic Mantras, the verses of a shakha that differ from original Vedas are not technically Mantras. So from a conventional sense, a verse in Vedas or its branches is called a Mantra or Richa.
In Rigveda there are several mantras which are considered to be comprising 2 Paadas (Dwipada or couplet) or sometimes comprising 4 Paadas (Chatushpadas or quadruplet). Paada means one portion of the verse. For a shloka, each line of shloka represents one Paada.Dwipada and Chatushpada Mantras
Now in Rigveda, there are 157 Dwipada Richas or mantras. Of these, 17 Dwipadas are Nitya Dwipada or permanent Dwipada. Other 140 Dwipadas are temporary (Naimittika). These 140 Dwipadas are actually 140/2= 70 Chatushpada Richas.
In Brahman texts, these mantras are used as Dwipadas during Yajnas by reciting Dwipadah Shansati. Yaska also mentions these mantras as Dwipadas in Nirukta 10.21 (oldest text on Vedic definitions).
The Paribhasha (Definitions) Chapter of Riksarvanukramani mentions : Dwirdwipadastvrichah Samaamananti. Shadgurushishya explains it as “Richoadhyayane”.
In simple language, during learning phase, the student should practice by making one Richa out of 2 Dwipadas or couplets. In other words, combine 2 Dwipadas to make 1 Chatushpada. By “Samaamananti” it is implied that during post-Yajna prayers, 2 Dwipadas DO NOT mean 1 Richa.
To give an example, …….
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