(Note: Yes, the image below is not from the Rigveda, but from a Nepalese Devimahatmya palm leaf scroll. Just intended to demo a little Sanskrit.)
The Rigveda is the oldest extant collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns and was composed during the early Vedic period (1700 – 1100 BCE) by the Rishis (sages). It was during the earliest portion of this era that Abraham/Ibrahim was traveling through the Indus Valley region.
Accordingly, both the words, Rigveda and Rishi, have related Sanskrit/Hebrew roots. In Sanskrit, Rigveda is a compound of the roots “rc” (“praise”) and “veda” (“knowledge”). In a Semitic twist, we also see that the Hebrew root compound means very much the same thing.
The Hebrew root “reg-” means “festival”, as in the word “regalim” (“times” or “festivals” [of praise]). As a rule, a festival is always held at a specific point in the yearly calendar, hence the use of the root “reg” to also imply “time”, “measure”, “standard” or “rule”; this later carried over into both Greek and Latin. The meaning of “veda” in Sanskrit is precisely the same as for the Hebrew word “yedda” (knowledge).
The Sanskrit word “Rishi” (sage[s]/seer[s]) is equivalent to the Hebrew word “arshim” (sages). In fact, there are a number of examples of words with the Sanskrit root “rish” that translate directly with Semitic words with the root “arsh”.
The Rigveda begins with the Hymn of Creation. Below, you can see how similar it is in its ex nihilo premise to Genesis 1 (b’reshith aleph) of the Hebrew Bible.
The Creation Hymn
A time is envisioned when the world was not, only a watery chaos (the dark, “indistinguishable sea”) and a warm cosmic breath, which could give an impetus of life. Notice how thought gives rise to desire (when something is thought of it can then be desired) and desire links non-being to being (we desire what is not but then try to bring it about that it is). Yet the whole process is shrouded in mystery.
Where do the gods fit in this creation scheme?
The non-existent was not; the existent was not at that time. The atmosphere was not nor the heavens which are beyond. What was concealed? Where? In whose protection? Was it water? An unfathomable abyss?
There was neither death nor immortality then. There was not distinction of day or night. That alone breathed windless by its own power. Other than that there was not anything else.
Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning. All this was an indistinguishable sea. That which becomes, that which was enveloped by the void, that alone was born through the power of heat.
Upon that desire arose in the beginning. This was the first discharge of thought. Sages discovered this link of the existent to the nonexistent, having searched in the heart with wisdom.
Their line [of vision] was extended across; what was below, what was above? There were impregnators, there were powers: inherent power below, impulses above.
Who knows truly? Who here will declare whence it arose, whence this creation? The gods are subsequent to the creation of this. Who, then, knows whence it has come into being?
Whence this creation has come into being; whether it was made or not; he in the highest heaven is its surveyor. Surely he knows, or perhaps he knows not.
The tone and approach are different from Genesis, but a good part of the story is the same. The original story of the creation was passed down orally from Adam and later recorded by Abraham as part of the Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah — which answers many of the questions posed in the vedic hymn). Many years later, it was reconstituted by Moses at Sinai in both an Oral and Written form.
It’s now likely that you will think of Abraham/Ibrahim the next time you hear the words “brahma”, “brahmana” or “brahmin”.
If you are Hindu or Buddhist, please take no offense. It only means that we are all indeed brothers. And, if you are Daoist, you’re not getting off scott-free; turns out Lao-tse may also have been a Jew who traveled to southwestern China from the expanding Medo-Persian empire.
For further reading on this slant, you might want to check out this cached link, “Indian Abraham” (the original seems to have gone missing). Some erudite work done there. I can’t subscribe to all of it, but it is, nonetheless, an excellent read. And maybe an eye-opener for some.
And then there’s Dr. Ken Biegeleisen’s 1994 book, “Whoever You Thought You Were… You’re a Jew!” But, Dr. Ken is not just a theo-social commentator; his paper on Circular DNA is most definitely worth checking out.
2 responses to “Origin of the Rigveda”
Rigveda started its journey from Volga river and with additions through Persia and finally to Indus Valley civilisation down to present India
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