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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 over 1,000 individual Sanskrit hymns. A work of intricate beauty, it provides a unique insight into early Indian mythology, religion and culture. This selection of 108 of the hymns, chosen for their eloquence and wisdom, focuses on the enduring themes of creation, sacrifice, death, women, the sacred plant soma and the gods. Inspirational and profound, it provides a fascinating introduction to one of the founding texts of Hindu scripture an awesome and venerable ancient work of Vedic ritual, prayer, philosophy, legend and faith.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, and the translator of numerous Sanskrit texts including the Laws of Manu, and Kamasutra.

In diesem Buch (Mehr dazu)
This short hymn, though linguistically simple (with the exception of one or two troublesome nouns), is conceptually extremely provocative and has, indeed, provoked hundreds of complex commentaries among Indian theologians and Western scholars. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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114 von 130 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Ian Myles Slater on: Penguin's New Packaging 5. Oktober 2005
Von Ian M. Slater - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
This is a re-issue, in Penguin's current format, and with new cover art, of the Penguin Classics volume previously listed by Amazon as "The Rig Veda: An Anthology of One Hundred Eight Hymns," published in 1981 (and as of October 2005, confusingly still available from Amazon), as translated and edited by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty. That was her married name, since dropped, to the accompaniment of endless bibliographic and bookselling confusion. She is now known as Wendy Doniger, and is the "Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions" at the University of Chicago. (She has reported receiving mail with interesting combinations of names and titles.)

Upon inspection, the "new edition" is revealed to be one of Penguin's cosmetic re-packagings to make the whole line uniform (and mostly quite handsome), and not one of the revised editions which have also been appearing as part of the same project. I offer here, with some modifications, my review of the 1981 edition (itself previously reissued in a larger format, with new cover art, some years ago, but also not otherwise changed).

Meanwhile, I suggest trying the Amazon page for the older edition of "The Rig Veda: An Anthology..." if you are interested in a variety of responses by over a dozen other reviewers. And, again, don't let the title and name variations suggest that they are different books, of exactly the same length, from the very same publisher! (As a matter of fact, the actual front-cover title of these editions has been just "The Rig Veda" all along.)

Under any form of her name, 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. It 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, which certainly regards The Four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva) as its basic canonical texts, but looks very different indeed to outsiders from the ancient beliefs and practices in archaic Sanskrit.

Unfortunately, like the Koran, the Vedas are traditionally memorized, recited, cited, and sometimes explained, but not translated, which makes this book religiously problematic. 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 (according to the early Sanskrit supplementary texts, the Brahmanas and Aranyakas) to accompany rituals; although some seem to have had other contexts.

This is not their meaning to present-day Hindus, over three thousand years later, which would be an interesting topic in itself; but two of the other four canonical Vedic Samhitas (collections) are verses of the Rig Veda arranged for such liturgical use, so the attempt to apply this information to the poems is not some strange leap in logic by foreigners. Nor is the rigorous use of comparative grammar and analysis of sound-changes -- this was a science which really can be said, quite fairly, to have been learned by Europeans from the Sages of India, even if they have applied it in unexpected and non-traditional ways.

Now, 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." Christians and Jews having been doing this sort of thing with their own sacred texts for a couple of hundred years (actually, although sporadically, rather longer).

Now, I haven't studied Sanskrit. But 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.

So I can't agree that she is willfully misrepresenting the originals.

No, I think that the main problem with the volume, as the translator would probably acknowledge, is that it will leave the (non-devotional) 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, and presented them in language free of late-Victorian pseudo-Biblical idioms. Although sometimes (not always) too formal to be truly colloquial -- we are, after all, looking at formal compositions, many very clearly ceremonial! -- they are hardly in what Hank Heifetz (a co-winner of the Ramanujan Book Prize for Translation of South Asian Languages) has called "Indologese," either.

Unfortunately, most of the other English versions, and all of the more-or-less complete ones, belong to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and, besides these literary faults, are a century or so out of date; although still reprinted, even (or especially) in India. The e-book "Rig Veda" offered by Amazon from digiread may be the R.T.H. Grifffith translation of 1889, revised in 1896. The Kessinger e-book is Griffith's version, and, as I have described in a separate review, has the complete hymns, with some passages relegated by the translator to an appendix, but it omits the translator's valuable running notes. There was a one-volume Book-of-the-Month Club edition of it in 1992, with both all of the hymns and notes, and some appendices but apparently without some of Griffith's other apparatus; see "Hinduism: The Rig Veda (Sacred Writings)" by Ralph T.H. Griffith for the Amazon listing. (One hopes the digireads version isn't the incomplete H.H. Wilson rendering, the first installments of which are from 1850!)

Readers without Sanskrit, like me, can neither rely upon these and other old translations, nor easily find corrections for specific passages. Many pieces that aren't included in this Penguin selection are only too likely to be missed by those of us who have seen references to particular hymns, and would like to have a better idea of what they are about. But I'm grateful to have what is here.
59 von 82 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A sad lack of depth of understanding 16. Oktober 2009
Von S. Ferguson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Don't read this translation. It will give you a completely false idea of these marvelous ancient texts. Instead read:
Rgveda for the Layman: A Critical Survey of One Hundred Hymns of the Rgveda, With Samhita-Patha, Pada-Patha and Word-Meaning and English Translation (Hardcover) - which is available on Amazon. Shyam Ghosh is brilliant. In fact anything he wrote is well worth reading! He understands these verses in the context of something close to quantum physics. Very enlightening and fun!

October 2012 - an update based on my own studies and research into the Rig Veda:

"To this day there is no internally consistent and coherent interpretation of the Vedas."
- quoted from "The Celestial Key to the Vedas" by B.G Sidharth, Indian physicist and director general of B. M. Birla Science Centre. Sidharth has written extensively on physics and his books are available on Amazon. He proposed the "dark energy" model at the seventh Marcel Grossman Conference in Jerusalem in June 1997, and at another conference on quantum physics in Singapore a year later. His research paper titled "The Universe of Fluctuations" was published in International Journal of Modern Physics in 1998.

For years Doniger's was only translation of the Rig Veda easily available to most of us who do not read Sanskrit. Although I remain grateful for any translation, over the years as I came to understand more and more of the metaphysics of Hinduism, it occurred to me that perhaps the translator simply did not quite fully understand the subtle metaphysical depths of the text and that a great deal of the inner meaning must have been lost through a lack of spiritual knowledge.

Because there is no accurate translation, most westerners have been completely bewildered by the Rig Veda - because most translations make the Rig Veda seem like a bunch of meaningless hymns propitiating deities.

I knew this could NOT be true.

For one thing, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata/Bhagavad Gita, and the Puranic texts are all based on the four Vedas. So the question remained how did such sublime enlightening metaphysical systems emerge of out of seemingly meaningless ritualistic hymns?

I decided on my own that the Vedas had to be some kind of encoded text that explained the nature of the universe, both visible and invisible. A recent book entitled, `Vedic Physics' by Dr. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, shed some light on the inscrutable Vedas by posing analogies to the principles of quantum physics.

After spending the last few years reading books on the Rig Veda, while making a humble beginning in teaching myself Sanskrit, I recommend the following:

WISDOM of the ANCIENT SEERS, Mantras of the Rig Veda, by David Frawley; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd, Delhi, 1994, 2001.

RIG VEDA Samhita, Mandalas 1-10 [Text in Devanagari, Translation in English with Notes - twelve volumes]; R.L. Kashyap; Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture, Bangalore, 2009.

RIG VEDA Mantra Samhita, Complete text with auxiliaries, [Sanskrit only], Editor R.L. Kashyap; Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture, Bangalore, 2003.

RGVEDA for the Layman, Satasuktaparidarsanam, Translated with Commentary by Shyam Ghosh, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; 2002, New Delhi

SECRET of the VEDA, by Sri Aurobindo (written between 1914-20); Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry India, 1995.

The Celestial Key to the Vedas by B.G. Sidhartha; Inner Traditions, 1999.

VEDIC STRING THEORY, by M. Anant Bhakta; 2006, BookSurge, LLC; [...]
VEDIC PHYSICS, Towards Unification of Quantum Mechanics & General Relativity, by Keshav Dev Verma; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1991, 2008.
MAYA in PHYSICS, by N.C. Panda; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1991, 2005.
THE VIBRATING UNIVERSE, by N.C. Panda; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1995, 2000.
Vedic Physics, Scientific Origin of Hinduism, by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ph.D., foreword by Professor Subhash Kak; Golden Egg Publishing, Toronto, 1999.
The Astronomical Code of the Rgveda, by Subhash Kak; Munishiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2000.


Scholars disagree about the meaning of the Sanskrit words in the Rig Veda. The Sanskrit of this ancient text is very different than other later texts such as the Upanishads or the even later Puranas.

"The language of the Rig Veda is archaic and contains such grammatical devices and linguistic forms which are beyond the reach of the common mind...Among the devices are mystic illusions, configurations of similar sounds and words, metaphors, incongruous grammatical formations, un-sequential syntactical relations and Word-Economy; and these create a sort of sacred quiz, which taxes the ingenuity of even the most learned one...There is considerable disagreement among the interpreters of the Rig Veda, particularly in the interpretation of individual words." (The Rigveda, Mandala III, Shukla & Shukla).

The Rig Veda in not a bedside table book. There really is no comparison to other metaphysical texts. The Rig Veda requires serious study and contemplation. I believe that the Rig Veda will one day be understood as our most accurate window into ancient times. It can be seen as history, science, philosophy, metaphysics. In my opinion, the Rig Veda reflects the knowledge and wisdom of civilizations far superior to ours and gives us glimpses into the previous cycles of time.
10 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
What this edition is and is not 30. Oktober 2013
Von Avery Morrow - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
This text is:
(1) An accurate translation of the Vedas as far as we know.
(2) A product of Orientalism.
(3) Relatively unpolluted by ideology (as far as the translation itself goes).

This text is not:
(1) A guide to how the Vedas were used in classical India.
(2) An accurate commentary on how Hindus view the Vedas.
(3) Complete.
(4) A representative summary of the Vedas, although it does have the few very famous Vedas which Hindus would memorize even today.

It's not a bad edition and I award it 5 stars. Ignore the commentary.
7 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Not possible to give zero or negative stars 16. Juni 2014
Von A reader - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
In fact I wanted to give negative stars for this excuse of a scholarly book as this book does a great disservice to Rig Veda. Penguin should come out with better translactions. It is a shame for this work to be counted among Penguin classics.

For anyone with some understanding and familiarity of Vedas, it becomes quickly apparent that the author has no clue of symbolism behind Vedic sanskrit and provides perverted meaning to everything.

If you were a misfortunate soul who read the book already, a good anti-dote to weed out the misconceptions portrayed by this book would be to start with The Secret of the Vedas by Sri Aurobindo (available in Amazon) to understand the symbolism behind the allegories in Vedas. Then it can be followed up by work of other scholars who actually understand Vedic Sanskrit.
10 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Better title: A Tiny Slice of the Rig Veda 30. Dezember 2012
Von Dan - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Not knowing anything about the work, I foolishly assumed the 108 selected hymns represented a major part of the work. In fact, this book contains about 10% of the Rig Veda.

Admittedly, it took her 341 pages to do 108 hymns so a full rendition might run 3,410 pages. But I wish the book description had been honest enough to say what a small selection the editor made, alerting the neophyte to the immensity of the actual work.
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