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, the “Pashva na Taayum” sukta of Rigveda 1.65 is considered to have 10 Richas during post-Yajna prayers. But during education phase, one considers the sukta to have 5 Richas.
Sayanacharya writes in his commentary of Rigveda 1.65 that the 1.65-70 suktas are Dwipada but are studied as Chatushpada during education. If a sukta has odd number of Dwipadas, then the final Dwipada is studied as Dwipada itself. Even the meanings of Dwipadas are very close. However during Yajna or application, each Dwipada is considered separately during prayers.
Thus Ashwalayan Shraut 8.12 (a text on Yajna rituals) considers Rigveda 1.65 as Dwipada.
Mahidas, commentator of Charanvyuh also writes that during Havan, each Dwipada is recited separately but during study period, two Dwipadas are recited together.
Charanvyuh lists the 140 temporary Naimittika Dwipadas. The 17 permanent or Nitya Dwipada are also listed in Upalekha Sutra 6.1-2.
Riksarvanukramani enumerates 10552 Richas in Rigveda considering these 140 Dwipadas as Dwipadas themselves which is same as that enumerated by other scholars ignoring errors and omisions.
Ignoring the 80 mantras of 11 Balakhilya Sukta which are not considered by Shaishiri branch of Rigveda, we have 10472 Richas. Riksarvanukramani author Katyayana lists both these numbers in his text.
(Note: Today, only the original Rigveda is available and all the branches or shakhas have gone extinct due to centuries of misrule. We shall discuss the concept of branches in slightly more detail in a future para. However all should know that Rigveda 8.49 to 59 are called Balakhilya Suktas. They are part of the original Vedas but not considered in some of the branches aka variations in original Rigveda Samhita propagated by Rishis for better understanding. As we shall later see, when Anuvakanukramani was written, Shaishiri branch of Rigveda was very popular. It was a minor variation of original Rigveda and omitted Balakhilya Suktas. Thus based on that, Riksarvanukramani lists calculations including and excluding Balakhilya Suktas.)
The same is stated as true by Jagannath, the commentator of Riksarvanukramani as well as Mahidas, commentator of Charanvyuh.
This text is not available in complete form. But from whatever is available, the 11th Shloka states that:
“Evam Dashasahasrani Shatanam Tu Chatushtayam Richam Dwayadhikamakhyatamrishibhistatvadarshibhih” meaning:
The Seer Rishis have stated the number of Richas in Rigveda as 10402.
(The previous 10 shlokas of this text break these Richas in different Chhandas – Gayatri 2451, Ushnik 341, Anushtubh 855, Brihatee 181, Pankti 312, Trishtup 4253, Jagatee 1348, Atijagatee 17, Shakvaree 19, Atishakvaree 9, Ashti 6, Atyashti 84, Dhriti 2, Atidhriti 1, Ekapada 6, Dwipada 17, Baarhatapragaath 194, Kakubha Pragaath 55, Mahabarhat Pragath 1)
Note: If you add these up, it does not match with 10402. This is because Pragraath Chhandas are considered Dwricha. This is clearly mentioned in the 9th shloka of this text as well. Thus these 194+55+1=250 Pragaath = 500 Richas. This is also explained in Paribhasha Chapter or Definitions Chapter of Riksarvanukramani as well as Ashtadhyayi 4.2.55 (So Asyaadiritichhandansah Pragaatham). Making this adjustment, the numbers match.
Now, if we count 70 Chatushpadas to be actually 140 temporary Dwipadas, we will have to add 70 to this number which gives 10472. Adding 80 mantras from 11 Balakhilya Suktas that is not considered in Shaishiri Shakha (branch), we get 10552 mantras which is same as that provided by Riksarvanukramani.
Note: Each Veda has different Shakhas or branches which are variations of the original Mantra Samhita. These variations were devised by sages for a variety of reasons – to bring minor changes (addition, deletion and modification) in language and content to make them easily approachable by people with certain way of thinking, to focus on specific themes, to add with specific experiences and stories etc. Thus each of these traditions of variations including the original Samhita is called a Shakha or the branch. Of all these, the original Samhita is most widespread and preserved most meticulously. Thus, while most of the Shakhas have been lost or their manuscripts burnt by invaders in the long period of of misrule, the original Samhitas are still well-protected. Even UNESCO has acknowledged this wonder. Refer UNESCO PORTAL where it lists Rigveda as the first literary documents in the history of humankind.
Venkatmadhav has written two commentaries on Rigveda. In commentary of the abridged commentary of Ashtak 5 Adhyaya 5, he writes that: “I counted 10402 Richas in Vedas including Dwipadas. When I counted Dwipadas separately I found 10480 Richas.
Now 10402 Richas is in lines with other authorities (10402 + 70 (Dwipadas) + 80 (Balakhilya Mantras)) = 10552.
But 10480 does not match with calculations. The cause of this error by Venkatmadhav was that instead of adding 70 for 140 temporary Dwipadas, he added 78 for 157 temporary + permanent Dwipadas. Thus he got 10480 Richas excluding Balakhilya Suktas.
If we adjust for this error, we find that all scholars reach up to same number of Richas because they all were looking at the same Vedas.
Shaunak in his Anuvakanukramani mentions about number of Richas in Rigveda in two different places.
In shlokas 40,41,42 he details number of Richas in each of the 9 Varga categories. Here he reaches the number of 2006 vargas and 10417 Richas. He mentions that this is for Shaishareeya branch/ shakha of Shakal Samhita (the original Rigveda). (Taan Parane Shakale Shaishareeye Vadanti)
The additional 15 Richas is due to difference in shakha as mentioned by Shaunak himself.
He further writes that Rigveda has 10580 Richas and 1 Pada. But he uses words “Paaranam Samprakeertitam” in the shloka implying that this is the total number of Richa if we consider all different ways of recitation or in other words this is the union of total Richas in all Shakhas (branches) together and not of the original Samhita.
Almost similar shloka appears in Laugakshi Smriti that uses exactly the same words for entire shloka except ending it with “Paarayanavidhau Khalu” meaning ways of recitation. To further clarify, the next shloka clearly states that “Purvoktasankhyashchetu Sarvashakhoktasootragaah” or the number in previous shloka is for all the Shakhas together.
Yet another similar version of the shloka appears in Charanvyuha Parishishta.
Maxmuller edition of Rigveda and Dwipada Richas error
Maxmuller published the first printed version of Rigveda in 1873. This was a commendable task considering the efforts required to collate the mantras together from different Paatha Vidhis and proof-reading them. However certain serious errors, especially with regards to temporary Dwipada Richas remained in this edition. Most of the future scholars took Maxmuller version as a starting point and hence the errors continued to creep in their calculations.
In Maxmuller edition,
– the 60 temporary Dwipada Richas of 1.65-70 have been published as 30 Chatushpadas. Each Chatushpada has been counted as 1 mantra.
– In 5th Mandal, 24th Sukta, the 4 Dwipada Richas have been published as 2 Chatushpadas. However each Mantra has counted as 2. Thus after after Chatushpada, 1-2 is published as mantra numbers. After second Chatushpada, 3-4 is published as mantra numbers.
– The rest of the 76 temporary Dwipadas have been published as Dwipadas.
Maxmuller edited the original Rigveda and hence obviously included the Balakhilya Suktas. Thus the total number of Richas in his edition adds up to 10552 if we adjust for above three factors.
Today, almost all scholars refer to Maxmuller edition for their analysis. Apart from the above obvious discrepancies and a few minor typographical errors, this edition of Vedas is unanimously accepted as undisputed published form of the original Rigveda.
Swami Dayanand never got into exact calculation of number of Rigvedic verses because he had more important priorities. His introduction to translation of Rigveda lists 10589 as number of Richas in Rigveda.
However when we add up the number of mantras in each Mandal provided in the same text, we get 10521 (1976+429+617+589+727+765+841+1726+1097+1754).
However there are several typographical errors in this calculation:
(The texts of Swami Dayanand have several errors and omissions arising because of two primary reasons – one, he had to rely on several other less competent people for writing of his works. Second, the publication technology was still primitive and Swami Dayanand had to publish his works under financially extreme situations. He was involved in a huge number of tasks in his life and hence such omissions do creep in his works. However, well aware of these possibilities, he on several occasions categorically summarized his overall stand and mentioned that even if what he has written is found to be against evidences, that should also be rejected.)
1. The number of mantras in 8.20 has been typed as 36 instead of 26. Thus the total number of mantras in this Mandala should be 1716 instead of 1726.
2. The number of Richas in 9th mandal is 11 less than the total of the suktas in that Mandal. Thus the right number of Richas in 9th Mandal is 1108 as per his own tables.
Adjusting for these two typographical errors, we get 10522 Richas. Now Swami Dayanand based his calculations on the Maxmuller edition that lists 60 Dwipada Richas as 30 Chatushpada Mantras.
So when we add 30 to this, we get 10552 Richas which exactly matches the calculations by other scholars.
The number 10589 mentioned in the text is a simple typographical error happening due to unclear handwriting in manuscript confusing 1 for 9 and 2 for 8 in Devanagari.
Thus, Swami Dayanand’s Rigveda also has 10522 Richas.
Prof Macdonald has made some severe blunders in his analysis of Vedas. We shall not discuss those here. However with regards to number of Richas in Rigveda, he gives the number as 10442.
If we add 30 to this due to Maxmuller error mentioned above, we get 10472 Richas. Adding 80 Balakhilya Suktas we get 10552 Richas which match the actual calculations.
Pandit Satyavrat Samashrami
Pandit Satyavrat Samashrami states in his text ‘Aitareyalochan’ that Rigveda has 10522 Richas including Balakhilya Suktas. If we add 30 from Maxmuller error, we get 10552 which again matches the original calculations.
Many scholars – Maxmuller, Macdonald, Satyavrat Samashrami, Venkatmadhav have erred in listing the total number of verses in Rigveda due to the differential treatment accorded to Dwipada and Chatushpada Richas. However, if we adjust for these differences in our calculations, we find that Rigveda has one and only version that contains 10552 mantras or Richas. If we consider Dwipadas as Chatushpadas, then Rigveda has 10482 mantras.
In its longest history for any text available today, there has been alteration of not even a single syllable, alphabet or even pitch of pronunciation. Thus all the apparent differences in number of Richas is merely due to typographical errors, difference in Shakha or Dwipada/Chatushpada issue.
In reality, there is no difference right from A of Agnimeeley Purohitam of Rigveda 1.1.1 upto Susahasati (last word of Rigveda) and there is one and only one version of Rigveda.
This is a matter of great pride not only for Hindus or Indians, but every human being. Because Vedas belong to entire humanity and teach a religion of universal humanism that engulfs all thinking creatures (Manushya) regardless of their birth, caste, sect, rituals, color, gender in a fragrance of compassion, justice, rationality and honesty.
We conclude with the final mantra of Rigveda that summarizes the essence of all the 10552 mantras:
May our motivation and inspiration be same – welfare of all. May our hearts be same – with affection for all. May our mind be same – full of pure thoughts of selflessness and may we all continue to increase each others’ happiness together!
Om Shantih Shantih Shantih!
Peace for everyone and everything!
Reference: Research works of Pandit Yudhishthir Meemansak
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