November 29, 2023

Rigveda ( ऋग्वेद ) : A Historical Analysis – 4

The Chronology of the Rigveda – 3


The MaNDalas of the Rigveda, as we have seen, can be arranged in a definite chronological order on the basis of the interrelationships among the composers of the hymns. This chronological order is confirmed by a consideration of

A. The Family Structure of the MaNDalas. 
B. The System of Ascriptions.

II.  A. The Family Structure of the MaNDalas

If the MaNDalas of the Rigveda are arranged in order of gradation in family structure (i.e. from the purest family structure to the least pure one), the arrangement tallies perfectly with our chronological order:

Firstly, the Family MaNDalas:

1. The BharadvAja MaNDala (VI) has BharadvAjas as composers in every single hymn and verse.  Non-BharadvAjas are totally absent in this MaNDala. 

2. The ViSvAmitra MaNDala (III) has ViSvAmitras as composers in every single hymn; but non-ViSvAmitras are present as junior partnerswith the ViSvAmitras in two hymns (1 out of 11 verses in hymn 36; and 3 out of 18 verses in hymn 62). 

3. The VasiSTha MaNDala (VII) has VasiSThas as composers in every single hymn; but non-VasiSThas are present as equal partnerswith the VasiSThas in two hymns (101-102)

4. The VAmadeva MaNDala (IV) has non-VAmadevas as sole composers in two hymns (43-44). 

These non-VAmadevas, however, belong to the same ANgiras family as the VAmadevas, and share the same AprI-sUkta. 

5. The GRtsamada MaNDala (II) has non-GRtsamadas as sole composers in four hymns (4-7).

These non-GRtsamadas belong to a family related to the GRtsamadas (being BhRgus while the GRtsamadas are Kevala-BhRgus) but having different AprI-sUktas.

6. The Atri MaNDala (V) has non-Atris as sole composers in seven hymns (15, 24, 29, 33-36).

These non-Atris belong to four different families not related to the Atris, and having different AprI-sUktas.

Then, the non-family MaNDalas:

1. MaNDala I is a collection of small family upa-maNDalas. 

2. MaNDala VIII is not a Family MaNDala; but one family, the KaNvas, still dominate the MaNDala by a slight edge, with 55 hymns out of 103. 

There is, for the first time, a hymn (47) by a RSi of unknown family identity. 

3. MaNDala IX is definitely not a family MaNDala, having hymns or verses composed by every single one of the ten families.  The dominant family, the KaSyapas, are the composers of only 36 hymns out of 114. 

There are now eight full hymns (33-34, 66, 102-103, 106, 109-110) and parts of two others (86.1-40; 101.4-12) by RSis of unknown family identity.

4. MaNDala X, the latest MaNDala by any standard, is not associated with any particular family. 

There are 44 hymns by RSis of unknown family identity. 

Clearly, the older the MaNDala, the purer its family structure.

II.B The System of Ascriptions

There are basically two systems of ascription of compositions of the hymns, followed in the ten MaNDalas of the Rigveda: 

1. In the older system, the hymns composed by an eponymous RSi as well as those composed by his descendants, are ascribed solely to the eponymous RSi himself 

It is only when a particular descendant is important enough, or independent enough, that hymns composed by him (and, consequently, by his descendants) are ascribed to him. 

This system is followed in the first five Family MaNDalas (VI, III, VII, IV, II) and also in MaNDala I. 

2. In the newer system, the ascription of hymns is more individualistic, and hymns are generally ascribed to the names of individual composers, except in cases where the composer himself chooses to have hymns composed by him ascribed to an ancestor.

This system is followed in MaNDalas V, VIII, IX and X.

The dichotomy between the two systems will be clear from the following table:

What is significant is that MaNDala V alone, among the Family MaNDalas, falls in the same class as the non-family MaNDalas, thereby confirming that it is a late MaNDala and the last of the Family MaNDalas.

Likewise, MaNDala I falls in the same class as the other (than MaNDala V) Family MaNDalas, thereby confirming that it is, for the most part, earlier than MaNDala V.

Courtesy:- Rigveda: A historical analysis by Shrikant G. Talageri 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!