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Rig Veda
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Rig Veda

The Rig Veda: An Anthology of One Hundred Eight Hymns (Penguin Classics)


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ISBN: 0140444025
Release Date: January, 1982
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Description: The earliest of the four Hindu religious scriptures known as the Vedas, and the first extensive composition to survive in any Indo-European language, The Rig Veda (c. 1200–900 bc) is a collection of more than 1,000 individual Sanskrit hymns. A work of intricate beauty, it provides unique insight into early Indian mythology and culture. Fraught with paradox, the hymns are meant “to puzzle, to surprise, to trouble the mind,” writes translator Wendy Doniger, who has selected 108 hymns for this volume. Chosen for their eloquence and wisdom, they focus on the enduring themes of creation, sacrifice, death, women, and the gods. Doniger’s The Rig Veda provides a fascinating introduction to a timeless masterpiece of Hindu ritual and spirituality. Wendy Doniger's translation conveys all the vitality and force of the original Includes an introduction, appendices, updated bibliography, detailed index, and comprehensive notes on each hymn
Book Details
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0140444025
ISBN-13: 9780140444025
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Release Date:
Length: 352 Pages
Weight: 0.62 lbs.
Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.0 x 7.6 in.
Language: English
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Customer Reviews

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsA compelling echo of the primordial voice of man
Posted by Anonymous on 3/4/2001
Wendy Doniger's translation of the Rig Veda is nothing less than spectacular. She manages to take this most ancient of texts and render it in a way that at once retains its voice from the very distant past, while still speaking with lively language that sounds completely fresh and startling. Contained herein are the elemental questions of mankind, contemplating the meaning of existence. Highly recommended for anyone who ponders these same questions! I first bought this book 17 years ago, and it changed my life. It continues to do so as I reread it today.

I am very concerned by certain reviewers who revile these books as untrue to some kind of fundamentalist doctrine. There is nothing in these translations to offend, but as other reviewers said, Ms. Doniger herself has no fundamental agenda in her translations. Rather, she lets the texts talk for themselves.

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsUnusual but representative selection of hymns
Posted by Anonymous on 11/19/1999
Compared to other selections of Rig Vedic Hymns, this book is quite different. Most Indologists, esp. the Indian Vedic scholars, only select more "philosophically sophisticated" hymns. But this selection is more representative of the actual content of the Rig Veda.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsIan Myles Slater on A Notable Translation
Posted by Ian M. Slater on 9/21/2003
Amazon listing for this book has at times contained a possibly confusing abundance of Wendys. Keeping it simple; Wendy Doniger used Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty on her earlier books, and uses Wendy Doniger for books published after her divorce; a few older printings of some of them have "Wendy O'Flaherty" on them somewhere. Hence the variants, which can leave some works (like this one) in bibliographic purgatory. (To add to the possible confusion, she is now the "Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions" at the University of Chicago, and has reported receiving mail with interesting combinations of names.)

A re-issue by Penguin, listed by Amazon with the simpler title of "The Rig Veda," and a new cover design and art, but no other changes, has appeared (September 2005) as by Wendy Doniger; I have offered a new version of this review with it, with some different emphases, and have also reviewed a Kessinger e-book of the old R.T.H. Griffiths "complete" translation. (Well, really complete, IF you can read Latin, and if you find an unlisted appendix -- Griffiths took some care not to offend Victorian sensibilities, and Kessinger was a little careless.)

Secondly, under any form of the names, Wendy Doniger is a distinguished interpreter and translator of Vedic and classical Sanskrit texts, and of Indian religions in general. Her books are often witty, and at times quite dense with detail. She fully appreciates the playfulness of many versions of Hindu stories of the gods. ("Play" being in fact an explicit theme in some of them.)

In this volume she presents a selection of very ancient poems, in quite readable translations, and backs them up with detailed interpretive and bibliographic notes. It is a first-rate introduction to a very difficult body of literature, which, like the Bible and the Koran, is held sacred by a very large number of people.

Unfortunately, like the Koran, the Vedas are traditionally memorized, recited, cited, and sometimes explained, but not translated. Turning the mystical sounds of Sanskrit into readily intelligible words seems to strike some as sacrilege. At best, devotional readings are the only acceptable renderings. To the apparent distress of some true believers, Wendy Doniger tries to reconstruct what the poems meant when they were first recited (mainly, but not exclusively, to accompany rituals). This is not their meaning to present-day Hindus, over three thousand years later. (Which would be an interesting topic in itself.) This is exactly what critical scholarship is supposed to be about. Anyone who finds in it a specific bias against Hinduism might take a close look at an issue of, say, "The Journal of Biblical Literature" before complaining. This is what Christians and Jews having been doing with their own sacred texts for a couple of hundred years (actually, although sporadically, rather longer).

The main problem with the volume, as the translator would probably acknowledge, is that it will leave the reader hungry for more. There are only 108 (a sacred number) out of a canon of 1,028. She chose some of the most attractive poems, including most of the famous ones, presented them in language free of late-Victorian pseudo-Biblical idiom. Unfortunately, most of the other English versions, and all of the complete ones, belong to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and readers without Sanskrit, like me, can neither rely upon them nor easily find corrections for specific passages, so anything that isn't included is likely to be missed by someone.

I *have* compared her versions of a number of famous hymns to earlier English translations, to relatively recent treatments of passages in academic journals, and to transliterated Sanskrit texts (and also citations and variants outside the Rig Veda, traced in the digital version of Bloomfield's "Vedic Concordance"), and even to the highly regarded German translation by Geldner (not a lot of help for me there...). I found that her renderings tend to be a bit sparse, or at least concise, compared to most, but she uses headnotes and end notes to fill up gaps by explaining implications, instead of interpolating extra words or phrases to make clear her understandings of passages.

This is an intriguing and attractive look at the hymns and songs of ancient India, although this volume is at best an adjunct to an appreciation of the living religion.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsThe Vedas as a Revelation of Our Shared Humanity
Posted by tepi on 3/14/2001
This is quite a good book, as far as it goes. Readers who would like to find a far fuller selection taken from the entire corpus of the Vedas, one that carries us beyond the merely scholarly into an approach which sees the Vedas as a revelation of our shared humanity, as "a disclosure of something that enriches the human experience," might care to take a look at Raimundo Panikkar's magisterial 'THE VEDIC EXPERIENCE - MANTRAMANJARI - AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE VEDAS FOR MODERN MAN AND CONTEMPORARY CELEBRATION' (ISBN 8120812808).

Pannikar's edition, at almost 1000 pages, with full introductions to each beautifully translated text, and with detailed annotations for those who are interested in precise sources and in the original Sanskrit terminology, must be one of the best bargains going. Even the most hard-boiled could open his edition at any page and immediately become enthralled. There is a freshness and purity to these songs and chants that is irresistible. It's like coming across a blossom-filled meadow in spring.

These vigorous and life-affirmative songs give us what men and women once were, and what we may yet become once again, for it is what deep down we still are though we have forgotten. Life, despite its hardships, is supposed to be joyous, something to be celebrated. And one is intensely grateful to anyone who undertakes the hard labor of devoting a book, of no matter what size, to a literature which can enrich us all.

Readers may also be interested to note that an abridgement of Pannikar's THE VEDIC EXPERIENCE has recently appeared as:

INITIATION TO THE VEDAS : AN ABRIDGED EDITION OF THE VEDIC EXPERIENCE - MANTRAMANJARI by Raimon Pannikar. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2006. 102 pp. Color Plates. ISBN: 8120829549.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsClassic Sanskrit hymns tell of earthly and divine concerns.
Posted by Anonymous on 1/24/1998
Comprises 108 out of the 1,000 hymns of the Rig Veda, selected by the author. At about 300 pages no more are required. The book is presented in a way that allows you to read any hymn independenly, so the introduction does not attempt to summarize deities or their relations to each other except within the footnotes (which I saw as a problem). Since the footnotes appear at the end of each hymn, some page flipping is required (another problem). The hymns praise the gods of the Aryans who invaded Inda in 2,000 BC (Agni, Indra and their favorite alchoholic drink, Soma) along with others. A classic that brings the thoughts of ancient people to light, whose meanings may not always be clear, but are often candid. People wide-read in mythology may see similarities to other mythological traditions.