This article is also available in Hindi at http://agniveer.com/who-wrote-vedas-hi/
This article is also available in Gujarati at http://agniveer.com/who-wrote-vedas-gu/
All prominent scholars and researchers agree on Vedas being the oldest texts known to humankind. Nonetheless Vedas remain the most meticulously preserved texts available today. The unique methods devised from very inception of Vedas have ensured that Vedas are available even today in same original form. One can refer to “Why Vedas cannot be changed” to have a glimpse of these methods. Many scholars have called this the greatest wonder of human civilization.
Someone like Abdullah Tariq, the mentor of Zakir Naik and celebrated Islamic scholar, also vociferously asserts that Vedas are the first divine texts. Even Zakir Naik does not refute it, even though he does not state it so clearly owing to his Wahabi foundation. However he does try to manipulate Vedic mantras to try to show Muhammad’s prediction in them. This very act of his proves that he regards Vedas as authoritative first divine texts.
This attempt of Zakir is not his original but directly copy-pasted – word to word – from works of the famous Qadiyani scholar Maulana Abdul Haque Vidyarthi. The whole Qadiyani movement is based on the assertion of Vedas being the first divine texts and Mirza Ghulam being the last Prophet. While we have refuted the wrong interpretations of Vedic mantras by likes of Zakir Naik and Maulana Vidyarthi, (refer http://agniveer.com/528/prophet-vedas/ ) one indeed must applaud their efforts to promote acceptability of Vedas as first divine texts among Muslims, with whatever little knowledge and huge constraints they had.
It has primarily been the atheist and communist circles that has refuted the idea of Vedas being divine, despite agreeing on Vedas being oldest. This is primarily driven from their founding assumption – that we all are chemical reactions and nothing more than that. The logical flaws and unexplained questions that arise from this assumption of these ‘atheist/communist chemical reactions’ is not the focus of this article.
What is interesting is that the baton of the atheists has now been taken by several Muslim apologetics who have come up with a series of articles refuting Vedas of divine status. They however forget in their enthusiasm that by doing this, they are digging their own graves. Because this would imply that claims of their own Islamic scholars are wrong and destroy the very foundation of Islam. We would request them to first issue fatwa against those Muslim scholars who use Vedas to prove Muhammad in them or admit them to be first holy texts. And next, they should demonstrate the same objectivity towards their own modern Quran.
What we would attempt in this article is to explain why Vedas cannot be considered as creation of Rishis as alleged first by atheists/ communists and now by neo-Muslim apologetics.
Now the question that would come next is – Who created or wrote the Vedas if not these Rishis? We believe this question to be on same pedestal as “Who created life? Who created the universe? Who is managing everything so immaculately? Who provided intelligence? Why humans are the only intelligent species? etc etc.”
These are serious questions for introspection and analysis. We have an opinion on these and quite a firm one. However, in spirit of Vedas, each of us has the liberty to explore and believe in whatever appears most reasonable to him or her after his or her most sincere understanding.
So even if someone refuses to agree to our viewpoints and arguments, that does not mean Vedas throw that person into some hellfire and would give us sweet grapes to eat in some Heaven. On contrary, as one proceeds ahead in pursuit of truth to best of his understanding, further path would be clearer and Ishwar would give him the best results he deserves.
This is the fundamental difference between Vedic ideology and other dogmatic ideologies. There is no blinded foundation, no compulsion – only commitment to a scientific and rational temper.
With this heavy introduction, let us start our analysis. We shall be providing various arguments and facts presented by those who claim that Vedas have been created by Rishis and then offer our explanations as well as counter-arguments.
So here we begin:
Vedas are not divine. Instead they are human creations like Ramayan, Mahabharat, Quran etc. The only difference is that Ramayan and Mahabharat were written by one author and Vedas, like Guru Granth Sahib, were written by several people over a period of time. So they are merely collection of works of a large number of people who were later called as Rishis. These Rishis were later claimed to be ‘seers’ (Drashta) to prove that Vedas are not human creation (Apaurusheya). This is clear from various references in literature where Rishis have been called “Mantra Karta” or creator of the mantras.
Aitareya Brahman 6.1
Tandya Brahman 13.3.24
Tattiriya Aranyak 4.1.1
Katyayana Shraut Sutra 3.2.9
Grihya Sutra 2.1.13
Sarvanukramani Paribhasha Prakaran 2.4
Today, all mantras have a Rishi who is basically the person who wrote that mantra.
Thus believing Vedas to be not created by Rishis is merely a superstition.
The basic foundation of this claim of Rishis being authors of mantras is presence of word ‘Mantrakarta’ or its root in various forms. We shall analyze this later. However we shall begin with some logical as well as historical evidences that clearly imply that Rishis cannot be considered authors or creators of the Vedic mantras.
Let us start with scrutiny of the claim that “All mantras have a Rishi who is basically the person who wrote that mantra”.
(To understand this concept, please note that the original Veda Samhitas do not contain name of any Rishi etc. They simply comprise the mantras. However, traditionally each Vedic sukta (hymn) is associated with one or more Rishis who are supposed to be among the first persons to have introspected on those hymns. The book ‘Sarvaanukramanika’ or ‘Sarvanukramani’ by Katyayana is considered to be the prime basis of names of these Rishis (apart from a few other Anukramanis). Non-Vedics consider these Rishis to be authors instead of researchers of Vedic mantras.)
Counter-Argument 1: Several Rishis of same Sukta
a. There is no evidence in history of several people creating any piece of literature which is exactly same. Either the subject or language is bound to differ. However Vedas contain several Suktas (hymns) which are attributed to two or even hundred and thousand Rishis. No sane person can, thus, consider these Rishis to be authors of these mantras. For example refer the following from Sarvanukramanika (list of Vedic Rishis) which name more than one Rishis for Rigvedic mantras: 5.2, 7.101, 7.102, 8.29, 8.92, 8.94, 9.5, 5.27, 1.100, 8.67, 9.66, 9.16 (Aarshanukramani).
In fact Gayatri Mantra containing only 24 alphabets is supposed to have 100 Rishis! And Rigveda 8.34 has 1000 Rishis.
How 1000 people can together ‘create’ 3 small sentences is a mystery that only non-vedic pseudo-intellectuals can explain!
b. Some argue that Katyayana – the author of Sarvanukramanika – was unconfirmed about Rishis of some mantras because the historical tradition had broken by his times. Hence he attributed these mantras to more than one Rishi and used ‘Vaa’ or ‘Or’ to assert that one of these Rishis authored that particular mantra.
However this argument only shows escapism. If indeed Sarvanukramanika is unreliable, why to give references from this book in first place to justify that Vedas were authored by Rishis whose names are listed in book?
Let us give an additional example to counter this logic. The book Nirukta by Yaska described meanings and deeper insights of several mantras and is considered to be older than Sarvanukramanika. Acharya Shaunak who wrote Brihaddevata draws heavily from Nirukta. Now Brihaddevata was amply used by Katyayana to write his Sarvanukramanika.
Nirukta 4.6 states that Trit Rishi discovered meaning of Rigveda 1.175 Sukta. Brihaddevata 3.132 − 3.136 also states the same. However Katyayana lists several Rishis of the mantra and joins their names with ‘Vaa’ or ‘Or’. This means that use of multiple names of Rishis is not because of breakdown of historical tradition but deliberate to emphasize that several Rishis introspected on the mantra/ sukta.
Nirukta 1.4 clearly states that ‘Vaa’ can be used not only to list ‘exclusive alternatives’ but also ‘collection’. Same is also explained in Vaijayanti Kosh.
What more, ‘Vaa’ has been used in a different context by Katyayana himself in Sarvanukramanika. In Paribhasha Prakaran 12.2 he clearly writes that ‘Vaa’ implies that in addition of Rishi of previous verse, there is an additional Rishi for this new verse. To know more, refer Anukramani of Rigveda 3.23, 5.27, 8.2, 9.98. Interestingly, if we look into Aarshanukramani of Shaunak for Rigveda 9.98, he uses ‘Cha’ meaning ‘And’ for name of Rishi where Katyayana has used ‘Vaa’ in his Sarvanukramani.
Similarly if we see Sarvanukramanika 8.92 and Aarshanukramani 8.40, we see that wherever Katyayana has used ‘Vaa’, Shaunak has used ‘Cha’. Also check 1.105 of Sarvanukramanika.
Hence, THE SAME HYMN/ SUKTA OF VEDAS HAS MORE THAN ONE RISHIS in several cases implying that RISHIS CANNOT BE AUTHORS OF VEDAS.
c. Some argue even further that it may have happened that different verses(mantras) of same Sukta (Hymn) have been written by different Rishis and hence several Rishis have been mentioned for many Suktas. However this is only flimsy reasoning. There is no evidence to believe that a sage like Katyayana made such a blunder.
- Sarvanukramanika 9.66 states that ‘Pavasva’ sukta has 100 Vaikhanas Rishis. However the sukta has only 30 mantras. We have already given example of 1000 Rishis of 3 mantras.
- What more, wherever different Rishis have introspected on different mantras of same sukta, Katyayana has mentioned it clearly. For example, Sarvanukramanika 9.106 states that of ‘Indramachha’ sukta comprising 14 mantras, Chakshusha introspected on 3 mantras, Manava Chakshu on 3, Apsava Chakshu on 3 and Agni on 5 mantras.
- In Sarvanukramanika 5.24, it is mentioned that 4 Rishis saw one mantra each of a Sukta that comprises 4 mantras.
- Similarly check Sarvanukramanika 10.179 and 10.181.
Hence, there is no way one can conclude that multiple Rishis manufactured different mantras of Suktas of Vedas.
The only plausible explanation is that Rishis were geniuses who introspected on different mantras of Vedas that already existed.
Counter-Argument 2: Several Rishis of a single Mantra
There are several mantras in Vedas that appear several times in several places in different contexts. If Rishis were authors or creators of mantras of Vedas, then the name of same Rishi should have come in all places. However we see that different Rishis are linked with the same mantra in different places.
Rigveda 1.23.16-18 and Atharvaveda 1.4.1-3
Rigveda 10.9.1-7 and Atharvaveda 1.5.1-4/ 1.6.1-3
Rigveda 10.152.1 and Atharvaveda 1.20.4
Rigveda 10.152.2-5 and Atharvaveda 1.21.1-4
Rigveda 10.163.1,2,4 and Atharvaveda 2.33.1,2,5
Atharvaveda 4.15.13 and Atharvaveda 7.103.1
Rigveda 1.115.1 and Yajurveda 13.46
Rigveda 1.22.19 and Yajurveda 13.33
Rigveda 1.13.19 and Rigveda 5.5.8
Rigveda 1.23.21-23 and Yajurveda 10.9.7-9
Rigveda 4.483 and Yajurveda 17.91
All these pairs have different Rishis.
This is just a very small sampler. One can find hundreds of such examples in Vedas. Apart from accepting that Rishis no way relate to authorship of Mantras, there is no other means to explain these.
Hence, RISHIS ARE NOT AUTHORS OF MANTRAS but EXPERTS OF MANTRAS.
Counter-Argument 3: Existence of mantra before birth of Rishi
If we assume that Rishis created the mantras, then there is no way that the mantra could have existed before the Rishi was born. But such examples exist amply.
a. The ‘Kasya Noonam’ verse of Rigveda 1.24 is attributed to Rishi Shunahshep as per Sarvanukramanika. It states that the Rishi of this Sukta of 15 mantras is Shunahshep who was son of Ajeergat. If we review Aitareya Brahman 33.3,4, it is mentioned that Shunahshep offered his devotion to Ishwar through ‘Kasya Noonam’ mantra. If we review Nirukta Samuchchaya of Vararuchi, it is mentioned that Ajeergat worshipped through this mantra. Thus both father and son worshipped through this mantra. Then how come only son is called Rishi of the mantra? If son was the author of the mantra, then father could not have been known this mantra!
Also, the events of the stories of Aitareya Brahman and Nirukta Samuchchaya preclude any possibility of father learning this mantra from son.
Hence the mantra existed in father’s times but son is called the Rishi of the mantra. This implies that Rishi is not author of the mantra but expert of mantra.
b. Rigveda 3.22 is attributed to Vishwamitra as per Taittriya Samhita (5.2.3) and Kathaksamhita. However Sarvanukramani 3.22 and Aarshanukramani 3.4 state that the mantra existed even during times of Gaathi – the father of Vishwamitra.
So even in this case, both son and father are Rishis of the mantra implying that they were not authors but experts of the mantra.
c. Nabhanedishtha is the Rishi of Rigveda 10.61 and 10.62 as per Sarvanukramani.
The western school of thought states that ‘Yadu’ and Turvashu’ whose names come in Rigveda 10.62.10 were historical kings. These two names mostly come together in Rigveda. (We believe that these do not refer to any historical persons but certain concepts)
Now Mahabharat Adiparva 95 states that Yadu and Turvashu were born in 7th generation from Manu (Manu – Ila – Pururava – Ayu – Nahush – Yayaati – Yadu, Turvasu). Also Mahabharat Adiparva 75. 15-16 states that Nabhanedishtha was son of Manu and brother of Ila.
Thus if Vedas gave history and Nabhanedishtha wrote Rigveda 10.62.10, how could he use the names of people born in 6th generation from him? So either Vedas contain no history or Nabhanedishtha is not author of the mantras!
Many argue that Nabhanedishtha lived for long and wrote the mantra during his last days. However even this cannot be true because Aitareya Brahman 5.14 states that he received these mantras’ knowledge from his father when he returned from gurukul after education.
By the way, Nirukta 2.3 provides meanings of Yadu and Tuvanshu, which do not mean any historical person(s) but humans.
d. Vishwamitra is considered Rishi of Rigveda 3.33 which contains phrase “Vipaat Shutudri”. Now if we refer to Nirukta 2.24 and Brihaddevata 4.105-106, it states the story of Vishwamitra who was priest of king Sudaas and came near the union of two rivers Vipaat and Shutudri. However Mahabharat Aadiparva 177.4-6 and Nirukta 9.26 explain that these rivers were named Vipaat and Shutudri by Vasishtha after killing of his sons by king Saudaas, the son of king Sudaas. Thus how could Vishwamitra use Vipaat and Shutudri in the mantra when these names were created by Vasishtha much later.
The fact is that the mantra existed even before Vishwamitra. And Vipaat and Shutudri in the mantra are not names of any rivers. However, later, two rivers were named so borrowing these words from the Vedic mantra. Since vedas are oldest texts, it is not surprising to find names of places and people derived from Vedas. This is akin to people naming their children and places as Ram, Sita, Krishna, Shivaji Park etc inspired by already existing words.
e. Aitareya Brahman 5.14, Tattriya Samhita 3.1.3 and Bhagvat 9.4.1-14 narrate a story that Nabhanedistha was instructed by his father Manu to propagate Rigveda 10.61-62. Thus even though Nabhanedishtha is Rishi of the mantra, he was certainly not its author and the mantra was known even to his father.
f. Vamadeva is the Rishi of Rigveda 4.19,22,23 as per Sarvanukramani. However Gopath Brahman Uttarardha 6.1 and Aitareya Brahman 6.18 state that Vishwamitra was the seer of the mantra and Vamadeva popularized the mantra. Thus both were experts of the mantras and not authors.
g. Kavash Elush is the Rishi of Rigveda 10.30-32 as per Sarvanukramani. However Kaushitaki Brahman states that Kavash ‘ALSO’ understood the mantra. Thus it implies that other Rishis have also understood the mantras and hence Rishi is not the author.
Counter-Argument 4: ‘Mantra Karta’ does not imply author of Mantra
Karta is obtained from Krit. Krit is derived from root Krinj in past tense as per Kvip Pratyaya (refer Ashtadhyayi 3.2.89)
So let us understand what Krinj means.
1. Rishi means ‘seer’ as per Nirukta 2.11. Again Nirukta 3.11 implies Rishi is Mantra Karta. Hence Karta implies ‘seer’ of mantra as per Nirukta of Yaska. In other words, Krinj root is used to mean ‘see’ also apart from ‘doer’.
The same meaning of Krinj root is vetted by Sayana in his commentary on Aitareya Brahman 6.1, Bhattabhaskar in his commentary of Taittriya Aranyak 4.1.1 and Karka in Katyayana Shrautsutra 3.2.9 explanation.
2. The story of Tandya Brahman 13.3.24 is explained by Manusmriti. Here Manu explains Mantra Karta to mean ‘teacher of mantra’. Thus ‘krinj’ root also implies ‘teaching’. Even Sayana considers Mantra Karta to mean Mantra-Seer in explanation of this verse from Tandya Brahman.
3. Patanjali Bhashya of Ashtadhyayi elaborates that Krinj also means ‘to establish’ or ‘to implement’. (refer 1.3.1)
4. Jaimini 4.2.6 implies Krinj to mean ‘acceptor’.
5. There is NOT EVEN ONE SINGLE EVIDENCE of ‘Mantra Karta’ or ‘Mantra Kaar’ or a related phrase being used to mean ‘Author of Mantra’ in any Vedic or post-Vedic literature.
6. Thus Sarvanukramani is clear that whosoever ‘saw’ or ‘realized’ meaning of the mantra is its Rishi. (Paribhasha 2.4)
Thus, ALL the references provided by non-Vedics to imply Rishi as Mantra-Karta actually mean Mantra-Seer.
Now some double counters.
We provide a list of references from ancient literature that refer Rishis as Mantra Drashta or Seer of Mantras:
Taittriya Samhita 1.5.4, 2.6.8, 5.2.1, Aitareya Brahman 3.19, Shatpath Brahman 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, Kaushitaki Brahman 12.1, Tandya Brahman 4.7.3, Nirukta 2.11, 3.11
Sarvanukramani 2.1, 3.1, 3.36, 4.1, 6.1, 7.1, 7.102, 8.1, 8.10, 8.42, Brihaddevata 1.1, Arshanukramani 1.1, Anuvakanukramani 2, 39, 1.1
What is most startling is that the very texts from whom excerpts are provided by non-vedics to allege that Rishis were authors of the mantras are the very texts which clearly state that Rishis were the ‘seers’ or ‘experts’ of the mantras.
What about the names of historical people like Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja etc that appear in Vedas as well as Rishis of Vedic mantras?
These words denote some special attributes and not any historical person. For example,
Shatpath Brahman states that Prana mean Vasishtha, Mind means Bharadwaja, Auditory sense implies Vishwamitra etc. Same is asserted in Aitareya Brahman 2.2.1. Kanva in Rigveda 8.2.16 refers to any person with sublime wisdom as per Nighantu (Vedic vocabulary).
Why do many mantras have Rishis of same name that appear in the mantras?
Let us understand how one gets a name. One gets a name either by birth or choice or popularity or by deeds. In fact legendary persons are known more by deeds or choice than birth name. Thus Subhash Chandra Bose got the name ‘Netaji’. Moolshankar is known as Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Mohandas is more popular has Mahatma Gandhi. Hardly anyone would know what are the real names of people known as Agniveer. Thus Vedic Rishis came to be known by the names exemplifying their researches. Hence we see that Narayana is Rishi of Purusha Sukta, Bhishaq (meaning doctor) is Rishi of Rigveda 10.97 focusing on medicines, Rigveda 10.101 has Rishi Budha Saumya (intellectual and sober person) because the sukta deals with related themes. There are countless such examples.
The point is the Vedic Rishis were not working with agenda of marketing their birth names. They were Yogis who were devoted to discovering the nectar of Vedas and rise beyond the cycles of death and birth. Thus name is just a matter of social convenience for them. So, no wonder, names of most Vedic rishis are related to subject of their specializations regardless of their birth name and even gender.
I conclude with the words of legendary Swami Dayanand Saraswati: “Whosoever Rishi first introspected on a mantra and propagated its meaning is remembered along with that mantra. Whosoever claims that Rishis created the mantras is a fraud. Rishis were the propagator of the meaning of the mantras.”
The creator of the mantras is the very same Purusha who created this universe, this life, this intelligence, this curiosity and the ability to seek answers to the curiosity of “Who wrote the Vedas?” Even if someone disagrees with this, there exists no other plausible explanation to attribute authorship of Vedas till date.
References: Works of Pt Yudhishthir Meemansak, Pt Dharmadeva Vidyamartanda, Pt Bhagvadutta, Acharya Vaidyanath Shastri, Pt Shivshankar Sharma and many other Vedic luminaries.