Symbolism of Rigveda (Social,Ethical and Spiritual Import of Veda)


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About the Author

Dr. Jayanthi Manohar, primarily a scholar in Sanskrit and Kannada languages, has been awarded PhD for her thesis, 'Rigvedic Symbolism', which reveals the esoteric and psychological concepts of Veda Mantras. She is well known for her lectures and writings about the insights of great sages who have visualized the intricate correlation between universal divine forces and life on earth.

Dr.Jayanthi Manohar is teaching Sanskrit and Kannada languages along with cultural insights for adult learners since four decades in Bengaluru. She is a specialised language teacher for Indologists and has conducted short term language courses (Sanskrit and Kannada) in England, Germany and Australia. Her travelogues and audio-visual presentations based on her extensive lecture tours in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Japan portray the glorious past of Indian culture that was spread far and wide. She has produced many documentary films along with her husband, Mr.B.S.Manohar, to protect and promote the rich cultural heritage passed on to us.

Dr. Jayanthi Manohar has presented many papers on the Veda, Upanishads, Mahabharatha, Ramayana and other related topics in many National and International Conferences, including the I International Conference on Experiential Learning" held in London (1987), the IX World Sanskrit Conference held in Melbourne, Australia in 1994, the X World Sanskrit Conference held at Bangalore, India, 1997, 2nd SSEASR Conference, Bangkok, 2007, 3rd SSEASR Conference, Bali, Indonesia 2009, 14th World Sanskrit Conference organized in Kyoto, Japan in Sep 2009.

She is a leading Columnist and her articles are published in popular newspapers and periodicals in Kannada as well as in English. She has delivered lectures in renowned organisations such as Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Indian Institute of World Culture, Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Vedabhashya Prakashana Samithi, Manthana Foundation etc., and she conducts workshops on topics like position of women in Vedic age, Religion, Indian Culture, Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bhagavadgita and so on. She has been a panelist on many TV programmes and has presented her views on these topics.

Along with her husband Sri B.S. Manohar, she has produced and directed many documentary films including an exclusive film on the Gokak Agitation, Liquor Tragedy, Circus Tragedy, Mahamastakabhisheka of Sravanabelagola, Farmers' Agitation, Model Enquiry, Dr. Clown India, Vainika Vidwan Sri R.K. Suryanarayan, Veda Nada, Cosmic Prayer for peaceful existence and Kannada Ashtavadhana - a unique documentary film for Suvarna Karnataka. As both of them have widely travelled in many countries, they present audio-visual shows mainly focusing on the spread of ancient Indian culture in those countries.



I was drawn to Vedic study to explore the treasure house of knowledge stored in the form of Mantras and this Volume is the result of my study and research of two decades. Enquiry into the origin of Veda leads us to a point in Rigveda Samhita where it says, "The Mantras - Knowledge reside eternally in the highest plane of the Universe where the divine powers (devas) are stationed.(1.164.39)." The highest plane" (akshare parame vyoman) mentioned here is the transcendental field in the Universe to which any aspirant can connect to obtain the desired knowledge.

The Veda Mantras consist of visions that the Rishis had by invoking positive cosmic powers (devas) with their ardent tapas. This appears to be very similar to a number of discoveries that are being intuitively obtained in the field of science and technology such as 'Gravitational force', 'Theory of relativity' etc., by the scientists with their ardent intention coupled with dedicated efforts.

My main intent in preparing the present Volume, "Symbolism of Rigveda - Social, Ethical and Spiritual Import of Veda" is to exemplify the relevance of Vedic study in this modern age. I have elucidated spiritual and psychological aspects that are covered under different symbols in majority of the Rigveda Mantras on the basis of my Doctoral thesis on "Rigvedic symbolism with special reference to 'Siddhanjana' (Mystic Collyrium) written by Sri T.V. Kapali Sastri". He has given spiritual interpretations to 121 suktas i.e., 1370 mantras, in the first ashtaka of Rigveda Samhita. In the present Volume, one can find an overall view of social, ethical, as well as spiritual values of Veda that can eradicate misconceptions formed over the years. What is understood now as 'Indian culture' has strayed far away from the legacy of Vedic principles. The Vedic religion is aptly referred to as the Universal Religion - manavadharma which clearly includes everyone on this planet Earth.

Many questions around concepts, like the significance of invoking multitude of gods and their deeds found in Veda Mantras and efficacy of performing Outer and Internal sacrifices are answered in this book. A discerning rationalization of many myths such as Soma being an intoxicating drink and fights between gods and demons are found here. In addition, this book contains an elaborate, critical evaluation of the methodology of symbolism that is developed and demonstrated by Kapali Sastri and Prof. R.L.Kashyap in the light of yogic visions of Sri Aurobindo, with cross references from Brahmana granthas, Aranyakas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Bhagavadgita, Nighantu and Nirukta.

There is also a detailed account of the post Vedic spiritual poetry expressed in symbolic language with examples of the works of Allama Prabhu, Shishunala Shariff, Da.Ra.Bendre etc., along with an English mystic poet William Blake. This gives the reader a clear picture of the purpose and efficacy of using symbolic language by mystic poets right from the Vedic sages to the modern poets. Such spontaneous expressions containing both outer and inner meanings are found woven together like a beautiful garland. Studying spiritual import of Veda, helps to understand the intricate connection between positive cosmic forces, Vedic deities and their psychological powers which a seeker can imbibe through Internal yajna (dhyanayoga).

I hope that my sincere efforts to show the spiritual import of the entire Vedic corpus and intuitive knowledge of Mystic Seers (kranthadarshis) found hidden under the cover of symbolic language with specific illustrations of Rigveda Mantras would reach discerning readers.

I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. R.L. Kashyap Honorary Director of Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastri Institute of Vedic Culture, Bangalore, under whose tutelage I studied 'Siddhanjana'. I sincerely thank Dr.M.S.Bhavani, Prof.B.G.Srilaxmi, Prof.S.R.Leela and Prof. LalithaThirtha for their valuable guidance and support. I acknowledge the unstinting support extended by my dear friend, Smt. Madhavi Gajanana Hegde and the help rendered by Dr.Y.S.Gayathri and Smt. Padma Nagaraj in bringing out this Volume.

My heart felt thanks go to Prof. K. T. Pandurangi, Prof. R.L.Kashyap and Prof. M. S. Thimmappa for their valuable Forewords. I am grateful to the publishers, Amrutha Vahini. I also thank the National Institute of Vedic Sciences(R) for printing the book in record time.

Finally, I am indebted to my beloved husband, Sri B.S. Manohar, for his help and support during the preparation of this Volume, as at all other times.



No proper appreciation of this interesting book by Dr. Jayanti Manohar is possible without an appreciation of the state of Vedic studies and the great progress achieved in the last hundred years. So I will first focus on the nature of Veda.

Most Hindu-s regard the four collections of Veda mantra-s namely, Rig Veda Samhita, Yajur Veda Samhita, Sama Veda Samhita and the Atharva Veda Samhita as the most ancient books of wisdom. These books contain the deep experiences of over four hundred rishi-s or sages, of whom at least thirty were women; some were shudra-s. These books explicitly state that the knowledge in them should be accessible to all persons including women, shudra-s and strangers. Clearly the civilization portrayed here is of a very high order in many areas such as education, maintenance of health, governance, economics, living in harmony, ecology and environmental concerns, methods of yoga, establishment of deep peace, etc. There was no artificial barrier between the so called worldly life and spiritual life. One could explore spirituality without becoming a monk. Thus the Veda-s are relevant even today. A detailed study of all these books can indicate suggestions to meet the challenges of the modem life.

There must have been literary works much earlier in the archeological sense. But our ancient rishi-s, the sages to whom the mantra-s were revealed, developed special methods of recitation so that these books of wisdom could be orally preserved without any errors creeping in. They did not depend on manuscripts which could be destroyed easily. Only because of this unique far-sighted strategy did the Veda-s survive and are available even today inspite of the islamic invasions in the last two thousand years resulting in the destruction of numerous libraries.

Note that each of the samhita-s mentioned above is not a single book, but a collection of books, each known as a Shakha. The great grammarian Patanjali states in his Mahabhashya that the Yajur Veda had more than one hundred shakha-s or recensions. Even oral preservation needs patrons such as kings who can sustain all these persons who chant, which is really a full time occupation.With the end of the Hindu kings and of the rich merchants caused by invasions, there was very little support available for maintaining the chanters. Because of the expensive Jeziya tax (equal to the value of food eaten by a person in a year) levied on the Hindu-s by the muslim conquerors, these brahmins went to the forests barely managing to live. Hence many persons discontinued their chanting and thus many samhita-s were effectively lost.

For instance, among the hundred and odd Yajur Veda Shakha-s, now six are available with their mantra-s, some completely and others partially. We have only the names of the remaining 94 shakha-s and some related information in several manuscripts and books.

Many English speaking persons may not know that several Veda mantra-s are recited by many persons, even every day, without perhaps knowing their source using the books in which mantra-s are printed in bharatiya scripts such as Kannada, Tamil etc. Some of the commonly recited mantra-s are the Gayatri mantra of Vishvamitra, in Rig Veda, the fifty or more mantra-s from Rig Veda and Yajur Veda chanted as a part of sandhya prayers done in the morning and evening, the chanting of the litanies of namaka and chamaka to Shiva (part of Yajur Veda), the mantra-s recited as part of the initiation (Upanayanam ritual) etc. Even in the tantrik rituals, Veda mantra-s are used. For instance, the Durga Saptashati recitation ends with the recital of the devi sukta from Rig Veda (Mandala 10, sukta 125). The Navagraha puja or Ganapati puja also use Veda mantra-s.

However for many of the chanters the sound of mantra is important. They may be aware only of the surface meaning such as Agni being the divine fire. Obviously Veda mantra-s have an inner meaning, this fact was known even in the Mahabharata times, as documented by Sri T. V. Kapali Sastry. The inner meanings too were preserved only by oral methods. Clearly those who memorize these deep meanings in the form of aphorisms were very small in number and their chanting records suffered the same destruction like the Veda shakha-s.

Only in the thirteenth Century CE the great Madhvacharya or Anandatirtha wrote a commentary on the first 400 mantra-s or 40 sukta-s of the Rig Veda stressing their spiritual meaning and symbolism. The great Raghavendra Swami continued the work asking the question, how the meanings of words, should be obtained.

In the modem times four great persons worked on recovering the secrets of Rig Veda, namely Swami Dayananda, Sri Vasishtha Ganapati Muni, Sri Aurobindo and Sri TY. Kapali Sastry.Vasishtha Ganapati Muni's work on Veda is available in his Collected Works of ten volumes published in 2001-2009. Among them, the most important works are that of Sri Kapali Sastry and Sri Aurobindo. Their interpretation should be termed spiritual- psychological since they focus on developing the psychological powers needed for the spiritual progress and on the achievement of the vedic ideal of all-sided perfection while still living, without becoming a monk.

The book by TVK entitled 'Siddhanjana' is a detailed commentary on the first 1400 mantra-s of Rig Veda, displaying the secret in each mantra. I myself have been challenged by many saying "that the spiritual interpretation may be there in some mantra-s, but to state that it is there in all mantra-s is unrealistic?"To satisfy these unbelievers, T.V.K. has given an appendix giving the rahasya-s (secrets) m the individual mantra-s or groups of mantra-s for all the 1400 mantra-so His long introduction of 100 pages gives detailed references to our earlier books like Mahabharata which specifically mention the deeper meaning of the Rig Veda.




Preface ix
Blessings - Prof. K. T. Pandurangi xii
Foreword - Prof. R. L. Kashyap xiii
Foreword - Dr.M.S. Thimmappa xx
Transliteration Scheme xxii
Abbrevitions xxiv
Prelude 1
Salient features of the present Volume 5
Date of the Veda Samhitas 8
Language of the Veda 11
Preservation in oral tradition 12
Social and Ethical Values in Vedic Culture 13
Harmony and Unity in Society 15
Education system in Vedic period 16
Position of Women in Vedic age 17
Reasons for straying away from Veda Dharma 20
Pre-requisites for Vedic Studies 21
Chapter I  
Overview of Vedic Corpus 23
Veda Samhitas 23
Distinct features of Veda Samhitas and Brahmana granthas 24
The Aranyakas 26
The Upanisads 27
Purpose and Application of Veda mantras 28
Vedangas - the auxiliary texts of Vedic literature 29
Siksa Sastra 29
Vyakarana - Grammar 31
Chandas Sastra 32
Nirukta 33
Jyotisa and Kalpa 34
Anukramanis 35
Concept of Yajfia - Internal and External Yajfia 35
Social aspect of the performance of yajna 37
Efficacy of Agnihotra ritual 37
The ancient science of Agnihotra-the Cleansing Ceremony 38
Mimamsa Sastra 40
Chapter II  
Interpretations of Rgveda Samhita 43
Rgveda Samhita - Contents 44
Sayanabhasya 45
The tradition of spiritual interpretation of Veda Mantras 49
An overview of Ritualistic and Symbolic Interpretations 52
The Views of Indologists of early 19th CE. 52
Translation of Griffith 57
Translation of Mr. Wilson 57
Sayanabhasya 58
Spiritual interpretation - Siddhanjana 58
The Different Perspectives 64
Swamy Dayananda Saraswati and Sri Aurobindo 64
Swamy Dayananda Saraswati 64
Sri Aurobindo 67
Chapter III  
Symbolism 72
Symbolic language of Vedas: Sanketabhasa 73
Methodology of Symbolism 73
Assigning consistent meaning to the Vedic words 75
A study of mantras which have the Key word 'gauh' 79
Yoga - Internal Sacrifice (antaryajna) 87
Symbolism of Yajnas 91
Symbolism of Asvamedha and Aptoryama Sacrifices 101
Asvamedha yajna as pranayama 104
Aptoryama Somayaga 104
Symbolism of Mantra 105
Symbolism of Devatas - Psychological aspect 108
The God Agni 115
The God Indra 118
The God Visnu 122
The God Rudra - Siva 123
The God Soma 125
The Gods Maruts 127
The Gods - Asvins 128
Symbolism of Battle between the Gods and the demons 129
Blocking the Light 129
Blocking the flow of Seven Rivers 130
Loss of cows 131
Reference found in Brahrnanas and Aranyakas 133
Reference found in Aranyaka texts 140
Reference found in Upanisads 141
Mahabharata - Srimad Bhagavadgita and Tantra Sastra 151
Sri mad Bhagavadgita 152
Tantra Sastra 157
Visual Symbols in Puranas, Words and concepts 162
Spiritual perspective of Rgbhasya of Sri Madvacarya and Mantrathamanjari of Sri Guru Raghavendra Tirtha 168
Chapter IV  
Vedic Concepts found in later Vedic period 177
Mystic Poetry of Kannada literature in symbolic language 177
Riddle - 'ogatu' in Folklore in Kannada language 178
Bedagina Vacanas of Allama Prabhu of 12th C.E. 180
Symbols used in Bhakti literature: Haridasa sahitya of 15th C.E. 186
Mystic poetry of Santa Sisunala Sarif 1819 -1898 188
Mystic poetry in English literature 191
Esoteric expression found in symbolic language  
Mystic Poetry of 20th C.E. 192
The Spiritual Interpretation in Modern Times 196
Western and European scholars - Dr. David Frawley 201
Chapter V  
Relevance of studying Veda and its symbolism in modern World 202
A study of Vedic rituals from scientific perspective 204
Idea of 'Mechanical Birds' in Rgveda 204
Tracing the significant factor for decline in the practice of Veda Dharma 206
Dharma and Religion 207
Conclusion 209
Benefit of the study of Veda and Vedic Symbolism  
Bibliography 213
Brief introduction of Author 217
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