Unusual Nature of Rig Vedic Poetry

The riks are the mantra-perceptions of the rişhis cast in metrical mould. The object or meaning on which the rişhis meditated, the purpose for which they led the bodily life, the goal they fixed and established as the aim for the well-being of their followers and posterity, that object or aim the text of the Rig Vedic hymns. They may be what are called poetical compositions but they are certainly not the kind of literary compositions we are familiar with as described in the section 6 of this chapter. Nor is it Right to look upon these poets as composers such as are quite common everywhere in all ages and countries, even in our own day. This is no mere tradition. The riks themselves proclaim that the hymns are packed with truths perceivable only by the subtle intellect, related to subtler worlds, not visible to the outer eye, the presiding Gods or devāĥ and their subtle laws. It is a mystic tradition that if one acquires competence for entry into the occult path, he could have direct access, even while living in the body, to these subtler worlds organized in a hierarchic order and their Gods. These mantrās  are renowned as the seeings – mantra-dŗşhţi, and the rişhi is the seer of the mantra. The rişhi not merely sees; he also hears. He finds too the Right word to express the truth he has perceived. Therefore the rişhi in the Veda is known as the kavi, the seer of what transcends the senses or understanding. This seer of the Beyond is also the hearer of the truth; therefore that the poet-seers are truth-hearers, kavayaĥsatya-shrutaĥ is famous in the VedaRV (5.57.8, 5.58.8, 6.49.6 etc).

This seeing and hearing of the rişhis is not of the ordinary kind. The eye and ear of the rişhi are of an uncommon kind and so is the poetry manifested through them. The hymnal poetry is unusual, different from other poetry – even from the most superb specimen full of power, of delectable sense and delightful phrase and aesthetic appeal. It is not permissible, for this reason, to class Vedic hymns with poetry of a literary and aesthetic kind. There is reason for the special excellence of the hymnal poetry which lies in its mantra character. The power of the mantra is special. The meaning of the mantra may not be very high to our ordinary view, the language of the mantra may not be of a very high splendour, the idea suggested may not be very deep and its metrical diction may not be strikingly rhythmic. Still the power of the mantra does not suffer. That this faith in the power of the mantra has taken deep roots in the Indian peoples, God-believing and orthodox, from the Vedic times to our own days, is a fact that of no doubt whatever. This tradition of the mantrās  was guarded by later teachers and their followers. Such is the established faith in the greatness of the mantra-power that some even consider that there is no necessity of enquiring into the meaning of the mantra since the manifestation of its potency is not dependent on the understanding of its import. It is an ancient belief that the mantra is an extraordinary meaning of achieving all the ends of life. It is said that the ‘Veda is an uncommon means of realizing what is desired and warding off what is undesirable’. Here the word Veda signifies primarily the mantra. Why is the greatness of the mantra described thus? The Vedic rişhis, though mainly devoted to spiritual discipline, were also well versed in the practice of occult knowledge and secret sciences. They believed that outer results could be produced by inner means and that thought and word could be so used as to bring about the realizations of every kind. That is why while most of the mantrās are used for sacrificial purposes, there are many that are used, for the attainment of results not connected with yajňa. Thus it is that the mantrās  are sacred not because of their mere antiquity but of their intrinsic power and also of their being the seeings of the rişhi. Again some hold that the sacredness and power of the mantrās is due to their sound-substance being the body of Gods. This too is possible.

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