By – Sathyakāmā Jabala
Part 1: The Origin of Vedas
How and where the Vedas originated are subjects of much debate amongst Hindu circle. The opinions are divergent. Some believe that the Vedas are millions of years old while others consider them to be not more than five thousand years old.
When we read through the many articles written on this subject by Hindus themselves, we found that almost all of them assumed the Vedas to be eternal.
Hence, the question of the origin of Vedas is never dealt with properly. Those Hindus who addressed this question trivialized it, knowing well the amount of contradictory opinions within Hindu texts.
Now will attempt to bring together whatever information get from authoritative Hindu texts regarding this issue.
Here We Go…
First let us see What Chandogya Upanishad says,
Chandogya Upanishad Adhyay 4, Khanda 17, Mantras1 and 2 says The Vedas were produced from deities Agni, Vayu, and Surya
- Prajapati brooded over the worlds, and from them thus brooded on he squeezed out the essences, Agni (fire) from the earth, Vayu (air) from the sky, Aditya (the sun) from heaven.
- He brooded over these three deities, and from them thus brooded on he squeezed out the essences, the Rik verses from Agni, the Yagus verses from Vayu, the Saman verses from Aditya.” [Chandogya Upanishad- Adhyay 4, Khanda 17, Mantras1 and 2].
The same view is expressed in Shatpath Brahman 11:5:8:1, 2. This reference clearly mentions that Agni, Vayu, and Aditya are not the names of any Rishis but are demigods.
Dear readers, here is an Important thing to note that only three Vedas are mentioned here. There is no mention of Atharvaved. However, Gopath Brahman (1:49), which is the specific Brahman of Atharvaveda, mentions its deity to be the Moon.
Secondly Let Us See What Shatapath Brahmana and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad has to say.
Shatapath Brahman (14:5:4:10) and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2:4:10) says,
The Vedas are the breathings of the Great Being.
“As clouds of smoke proceed by themselves out of a lighted fire kindled with damp fuel, thus, verily, has been breathed forth from this Great Being what we have as Rig-Veda, Yajurveda, Sama-Veda, Atharvangirasas, Itihasa (legends), Purana (cosmogonies), Vidya (knowledge), the Upanishads, Slokas (verses), Sutras (prose rules), Anuvyakhyanas (glosses), Vyakhyanas (commentaries)’. From him alone all these were breathed forth.”
Hindu Apologists has used this verse from Shatapath Brahman to prove that Vedas have emanated from God. Hindu Apologists say…
Shatpath Brahman 188.8.131.52 states that Ishwar, who is present even beyond the Akash/Sky created the Vedas. The way breath goes out of body and then comes in, during inception of creation, Ishwar creates the Vedas and illuminates the world, and in the phase of dissolution (Pralay), Vedas no more remain in world. However just as a sapling remains inside the seed, Vedas still remain in knowledge of Ishwar, unchanged.
The interpretation that Hindu Apologists tries to put on this verse is unfounded. If Hindu Apologists use this verse as proof of Vedic origin, then Hindu Apologists cannot brush aside the fact that even the Puranas, Itihasas, etc are on the same level as the Vedas.
Hindu Apologists simply gives the reference and their own meaning without quoting the exact verse for fear that their own ideology might be undermined. Anyway, let us move on with other opinions about Origin of Vedas.
Thirdly Let Us See What Atharvaveda Mandala 10 7 Mantra 20 says
The Vedas were scraped off from Skambha being his hair and his mouth.
“Declare who is that Skambha, from whom they cut off the Rik verses; from whom they scraped off the Yajush; of whom the Saman verses are the hairs, and the verses of Atharva and Angiras the mouth”
Fourthly As per Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6: 18 God who is the light of his own thoughts, he who first creates Brahma and delivers the Vedas to him”
“Seeking for freedom I go for refuge to that God who is the light of his own thoughts, he who first creates Brahma and delivers the Vedas to him”
Fifthly Let us see what Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:1,2 says,
- BRAHMA was the first of the Devas, the maker of the universe, the preserver of the world. He told the knowledge of Brahman, the foundation of all knowledge, to his eldest son Atharva.
- Whatever Brahma told Atharvan, that knowledge of Brahman Atharvan told to Angir; he told it to Satyavaha Bharadwaja, and Bharadwaja told it in succession to Angiras.
Hindu Apologists makes yet another error on this issue. Hindu Apologists claims that Brahma learned the four Vedas from the Rishis. However, according to these references from Shvetashvatara and Mundaka Upanishads, Brahma was directly taught by God and he in turn taught the other Rishis. An interesting point to be noted here is that in the same Khanda, verse 5, Angiras calls the four Vedas as ‘lower knowledge’ (Apra) and says that God cannot be known through the Vedas.
From the above given passages, it is clear that there is no clear understanding of the origin of Vedas. The texts mutually contradict. Numerous other Hindu texts have still more variant views about the origin of Vedas. We will summarily mention those views also:
- According to Taittiriya Brahman (2:39:1) ‘Vedas are the hair of Prajapati’s beard’.
- According to Bhagavat Puran (3:12:34-37) ‘Vedas issued from the four mouths of Brahma’.
- Vishnu Puran says that ‘Vedas were produced from Gayatri’.
- Vishnu Puran also says that ‘the Vedas are Vishnu’.
- According to Mahabharata, Shanti Parv, ‘Saraswati was the mother of Vedas’.
This bewildering multiplicity of answers to a simple question is a mystery. The writers who have come forward to furnish these answers are all Brahmins. They belong to the same Vedic School of thought. They alone were the guardians of the ancient religious lore.
Why should such a coherent body of scholars should have given such incoherent and chaotic answers to a very simple question?
Dear readers think for a while! Everything is in Black And White. You Decide What to Choose.
From all this, the only legitimate conclusion one can come to is that there is no justification for the view that Vedas are Sanatana which means that they are “eternally pre-existing”.
Thank you for reading! In Part 2 of “Origin of Vedas” let us look at the authorship and inspiration of Vedas.