Rgveda is the oldest available document of the human race. It is also one of the important scriptures of the Hindus. This text has been studied in the past from divergent stand- points. Some discovered here clues regarding the homeland of the Aryans. A few found historical facts. Others sought a basis for their theories of comparative mythology. Still others examined it philologically. Ye( others discovered the origins or systems of metaphysics, psychology, or ethics. Traditionalism have found the sources of the rituals. Almost all these have taken pains to praise the poetry of the hymns addressed to the Dawn.
So far no one scholar has taken pains to study the Rig veda as a literary text, as a work of art. When we study a work of art we have two approaches open to us. The first is to examine the text in the light of the principles accepted by the sensitive students of poetry. Since there are divergent approaches on this question, it is not possible to accept this approach without seriously qualifying it. The second approach involves a study of the theories accepted by the poets themselves, and then we have to apply those theories to the hymns and evaluate them. The present study takes up this approach. Such a study may be able to offer us a better understanding of the text of the Rgveda.
The validity of this approach depends on three Considerations. First, a survey of the different interpretations of Rg- veda is needed to point out their inadequacy. Next, it must be shown that the text as we have it is only a flagment. The present study establishes these two contentions. Then it proceeds to explicate the theories of inspiration, art, beauty, drama, ballad, lyric and criticism. The poetic theory of the Rgvedic seers was fully developed and it had an important place for the concepts of rasa and dhvani. In a sense, the later theories in poetics were not innovations of the critics, but reformulations of the Vedic doctrines.
There has been a break in the tradition of the Vedic religion. By the time of the sutrakaras and the critics of art, the old culture survived only in a highly diluted form. This explains the great gulf that divides the imagery of the Vedic poets from that of the classical poets. Hence a separate chapter is developed here to the study of imagery. Similarly the Vedic seers were conscious of being inspired while the classical poets and critics have ignored the concept of inspiration. Yet this doctrine appears in later times in the concept of apaurus- eyatva.
The present study is the first of its kind. It does not deny the validity of the other approaches and methods. It only asserts that the Rgveda must be studied primarily as literature. After evaluating the poetic nature and value of the Rg- vedic hymns one is at liberty to examine the text from other standpoints. The prime value of the text lies in its poetry because the Vedic seers considered themselves first and foremost as poets. And poets employ symbols and images which provide enough scope for other interpretations.
All great literature is shruti. It is revealed and Rgveda is the greatest of the revealed texts. The present study accepts this standpoint and examines the hymns in this light. It is for the diligent readers to examine the validity of this approach in the light of the arguments and illustrations advanced in the present work.
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