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The Rigveda is the oldest of the Vedas. All the other Vedas are based upon it and consist to a large degree of various mantras from it. It consists of about thousand richas of different seers, each sukta averaging around ten mantras. That the Rig Veda is the oldest book in Sanskrit or any language is widely accepted by the followers of Sanatana Dharma. Its date of composition is not definite and the Vedic period is a topic of debate among many scholars. As such it is not in the scope of this article.
Primarily the Rigveda is a treasure trove of stuti (a praise, a prayer, invocation) offered to different devatas by various rshis. It consists of respectful thoughts, praises of deeds of various deities in the form of mantras.
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
The Rig Veda is the book of Mantras called Rks or Richa-s. It contains the oldest form of all the Sanskrit mantras. It is built around a science of sound which comprehends the meaning and power of each letter. Most aspects of Vedic science like the practice of yoga, meditation, mantra and Ayurveda can be found in the Rig Veda and still use many terms that come from it.
While originally several different versions or recensions of the Rig Veda were said to exist, only one remains. Its form has been structured in several different ways to guarantee its authenticity and proper preservation through time.
व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology of Rk
Rigveda is made up of mantras called as Rk (ऋक् also called as ऋचः - Rchas) according to Shabdakalpadhruma.
ऋच्यन्ते स्तूयन्ते देवा अनया । (ऋच् + क्विप् ।) वेदविशेषः । ऋग्वेदः । इत्यमरः ॥
The (vaidik) devatas are offered worship and are prayed to using these Rk-s (ऋक्). Rcha means prarthana (to pray) or stuti (to praise), thus it is synonymous with praising and worshipping. Devatas are invoked using these mantras. Another name for Mantra is Rcha (ऋचः), but all mantras are not Rcha-s (ऋचः). The Purusha Sukta, in the famed Sahasra-sirsha (सहस्रशीर्षा) mantra, mentions that Rcha-s (ऋचः) were the first to arise from Parameshavara.
तस्माद्याज्ञात् सर्वहुतः ऋचः सामानि जज्ञिरे । छन्दांसि जज्ञिरे तस्माद्यजुस्तस्मादजायत । (Purusha Sukta)
A collection of Rchas is called the Rigveda Samhita. The term 'Samhita' implies a collection or group of. It was first studied by Shakala (mentioned also as Shakalya) and further by Baskala and four other (rshis).
ऋचां समूह ऋग्वेदस्तमभ्यस्य प्रयत्नतः। पठितः शाकलेनादौ चतुर्मिस्तदनन्तरम्।। (Rk. Pratisakhya)
All the aspects about rigveda vargeekarana, the shakas involved and extant texts, the arrangement of the mandalas and ashtakas are given in the article Veda Vargeekarana.
ऋचां क्रमविन्यासः ॥ Arrangement of Rks (Mantras)
There are many versions about the total number of richa-s and suktas in the Rgveda. Both ancient and modern scholars have put forth explanations about the differences in shakas of Rgveda. These differences are primarily due to the variations of the same richa-s during usage (प्रयोगकाल) and study times (अध्ययन-काल). Some richa-s have 4 padas during study but only two padas (द्विपदाः) during usage of the mantra.
In some texts, the valakhilya mantras, 80 of them at the end of the eighth mandala, are not taken into account along with the Rgveda mantras. Hence, after including the dvipada mantras and valakhilya mantras the total number of richa-s are given as 10552 in Katyayana's Rik-sarvanukramani text.
Each mantra of the Rgveda is associated with a Rshi, a Chandas, and a Devata.
अथ ऋषयः ॥१॥ यस्य वाक्यं स ऋषिः ॥४॥ या तेनोच्यते सा देवता ॥५॥ यदक्षरपरिमाणं तच्छंदः ॥६॥ तिस्त्र एव देवता: क्षित्यंतरिक्षद्युस्थाना, अग्निर्वायुः सूर्य इति ॥८॥ (Rig. Ved. Katy. Sarv. 2.3)
Mantras were revealed by mantra-drstha rshis. The subject matter of a mantra is the devata. The number of aksharas (syllables) in a mantra is given by the chandas. It has a definite number of syllables. There are three types of devatas belonging to kshiti (earth), antariksha, and dyu places of Agni, Vayu and Surya respectively. The list of rshis who revealed the mantras are given below in the Mandala krama table. Apart from them twenty-four mantra-drashta rshikas are also mentioned in the Rgveda.
गोधा धोषा विश्ववाराऽपालोपनिषन्निषत् ॥ ब्रह्मजाया जुहूर्नामागस्त्यस्य स्वसादितिः ॥ इद्राणी चंद्रमाता च सरमा रोमशोर्वशी ॥ लोपामुद्रा च नद्यश्च यमी नारी च शश्वती। श्रीर्लाक्षा सार्पराज्ञी वाक् श्रद्धा मेधा च दक्षिणा ॥ रात्री सूर्या च सावित्री ब्रह्मवादिभ्य ईरिताः॥ (Rig. Ved. Shau. Anuk)
Godha (गोधा), Ghosha (धोषा), Vishvavaara (विश्ववारा), Apaala (अपाला), Juhu (जुहू), Agastyasvasaa (अगस्त्यस्वसा), Aditi (अदिति), Indrani (इद्राणी), Sarama (सरमा), Romashaa (रोमशा), Urvashi (ऊर्वशी), Lopamudra (लोपामुद्रा), Nadi (नदी), Yami (यमी), Shashvati (शश्वती), Saarparaajni (सार्पराज्ञी), Vaak (वाक्), Shraddha (श्रद्धा), Dakshina (दक्षिणा), Savitri (सावित्री) are the brahmavadinis who contributed towards the mantras of the Rigveda.
As mentioned in the previous sections, Rks are those mantras which are set in a shloka format (Padyatmaka) having a definite number of syllables in each pada of the mantra. Thus, they are said to be bound by the rules of Chandas. In the Rgveda although 20 different metres have been used, seven of them were used extensively. They are Gayatri (24 aksharas) Ushnik (28 aksharas) Anushtup (32 aksharas) Brhati (36 aksharas) Pankti (40 aksharas) Trishtup (44 aksharas) and Jagati (48 aksharas).
Of these kinds of chandas, four of them have been used in a large number of mantras. They are Gayatri, Anushtup, Trishtup and Jagati used in about 80% of the mantras. The other metres apart from these seven, include Atijagati (52 aksharas), Shakvari (56 aksharas) etc.
मण्डलक्रमः ॥ Mandala krama
The Rgveda samhita has 10552 mantras, grouped into 1017 suktas collected in ten mandalas of unequal length given by various rshis. In the Mandala krama it is arranged into 10 mandalas, 1017 suktas and 10552 or 10580 (as given in Shaunaka's Anuvakaanukramani) mantras, and 153826 words.
ऋचां दश सहस्राणि ऋचां पञ्च शतानि च । ऋचामशीतिः पादश्च पारणं संप्रकीर्तितम् ॥ (अनुवाकानुक्रमणी, 43)
Each sukta in a mandala is a collection of mantras. The number of mantras in a sukta are highly variable. Given below are the mandalas, suktas, the number of mantras and the mantra-drashta rshis therein.
|Mandalas||Number of Suktas||Number of Mantras||Mantra Drashtas|
|Mandala 1||191||2006||शतर्चिनः (Shatarchina), Madhucchanda, Medhatithi, Deerghatama, Agastya, Gautama, Parashara etc|
|Mandala 2||43||429||गृत्समदः एवं उनके वंशज (Grtsamada and his lineage)|
|Mandala 3||62||627||विश्वामित्रः एवं उनके वंशज (Vishvamitra and his lineage)|
|Mandala 4||58||589||वामदेवः एवं उनके वंशज (Vamadeva and his lineage)|
|Mandala 5||87||727||अत्रिः एवं उनके वंशज (Atri and his lineage)|
|Mandala 6||75||765||भरद्वाजः एवं उनके वंशज (Bharadvaja and his lineage)|
|Mandala 7||108||841||वसिष्ठः एवं उनके वंशज (Vasishta and his lineage)|
|Mandala 8||92||1636||कण्व अङ्गिरसः एवं उनके वंशज (Kanva Angirasa and his lineage)|
|Mandala 9||114||1108||ऋषिगण, विषय-पवमान सोम (Various rshis, topic - Pavamana Soma)|
|Mandala 10||191||1754||त्रित, विमद, इन्द्र, श्रद्धा कामायनी, इन्द्राणी, शची, उर्वशी आदि। (Trita, Vimada, Indra, Shraddha Kamayani, Indrani, Shachi, Urvashi etc)|
|Valakhilya Suktas (Mandala 8)||11||80|
- First and tenth mandalas exactly have 191 suktas. They are said to be more recent as compared to other mandalas. Analysis of the modernity of the language and chandas used, and invocations to new devatas, along with new darshanika concepts forms the basis to say that of all the mandalas the tenth mandala is the most recent having new mantras.
- वंशमण्डल - Second to eight mandalas have complete unity in authorship. Mandalas second to sixth are have rshis Grtsamada, Vishvamitra, Vaamadeva, Atri, Bharadvaja, respectively and their families as the mantra-drashtas. The seventh mandala is given entirely by Vasishta. The eight mandala is predominantly given by rshis Kanva and Angiras.
- पवमानमण्डल - Ninth mandala is made up of suktas addressed to Soma Pavamana; its mantra drsthas belong to rshis of different families. In this mandala the rshis belonging to the Vamsha-mandala have also contributed suktas.
- Except in the eighth and ninth mandalas, everywhere the suktas to Agni are placed first, then those of Indra followed by those addressed to other deities are seen.
- Simple chandas, having three or four lines of eight, eleven and twelve syllables as well as some complicated chandas are seen in Rigveda.
The internal arrangement within a mandala places the mantras given by the father (rshi) first and followed by those given by the son. However, in a few cases the mantras given by the son are arranged earlier than the sukta of the father, because the son had given more suktas than the father.
अष्टकक्रमः ॥ Ashtaka krama
In the Ashtaka krama, eight ashtakas, each ashtaka has 8 adhyayas thus a total of 64 adhyayas, 2006 vargas are present. Here vargas are the collection of mantras compiled in this arrangement to facilitate convenience while studying. The number of mantras in a varga are not definite, but containing at least 5 mantras in a varga. In the end of the Samhita, we find the Rk Parishista in which 36 suktas are collected. Given below are the number of vargas and mantras according to the Ashtaka krama.
|Ashtakas||Number of Suktas||Number of Vargas||Mantra|
The extant and available samhita of Rgveda belongs to the Shakala shaka. It is the only available samhita of Rgveda. Bashkala, Ashvalayana, Shankhyayana, Mandukayana, shaka samhitas are not available in present times.
शाकल संहिता Shakala Samhita
Padapatha of Rgveda samhita was given by Shakalya (शाकल्यः). In the Brhdaranyaka Upanishad (Adhyaya 4) we find a debate between Shakalya and Yajnavalkya in Janaka's sabha. According to the Puranic evidences, it was this same Shakalya who composed the Rgveda Padapatha. In the Brahmanda Purana we find the following
शाकल्यः प्रथमस्तेषां तस्मादन्यो रथीतरः ।। बाष्कलिश्च भरद्वाज इति शाखाप्रवर्त्तकाः ।। ३४.३२ ।। देवमित्रस्तु शाकल्यो ज्ञानाहंकारगर्वितः ।। जनकस्य स यज्ञे वै विनाशामगमद्द्विजाः ।। ३४.३३ ।। (Brahmanda. Pura. Purv. 2.34.32-33)
Reference to Shakalya has also been found in Nirukta and Rk-Pratisakhya. It has been shown that Shakalya's padapatha has not been accepted by Yaska in his Nirukta. For example in Nirukta (5.21) "अरुणो मासकृद् वृकः" has been mentioned. Yaska interpreted मासकृत् as one word in the sense of "मासो का कर्ता" or one who makes a month. Shakalya considered it as two padas or words as मा and सकृत्. Thus we see how Yaska and Shakalya differed in their interpretations.
विषयविवेचन ॥ Contents of Rgveda
Rgveda is a vast collection of stotras, where many devatas are praised and eulogized by various rshis and their family using beautiful comparisons and emotional expressions, both to please the devatas as well as to achieve their wishes. We find numerous references to geography, descriptions about the three worlds (पृथ्वी or the earth, अन्तरिक्षम् or द्युलोकः referred to as the outer space including the atmosphere and स्वर्गः refers to the higher worlds loosely translated as heaven) the devatas, rivers and oceans, countries, asuras or dasyus, people and their society, marriage, lifestyle, construction of villages and cities, rulers of countries and wars, dialogue suktas such as that of Sarama and Pani, and the darshanika suktas to name a few.
Thus, we have many topics discussed in the Rgveda, however, some are debated over many years. One such topic is the geographical point concerning Bharatavarsha that is surrounded by four oceans or very large water bodies. This has been clearly mentioned only in the Bharatiya vaidika sahitya and rarely discussed in other ancient world literatures. While many scholars, both western and the traditional scholars have given their perspectives interpreting those Rgvedic mantras relating them to the "Aryan settlements" along the banks of the rivers in the northwestern region of India.
चतुःसमुद्राः ॥ Four seas
It is known that the present peninsular Indian subcontinent is surrounded by three seas (Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Arabian sea in the present terms). In many mantras of Rgveda there is a mention about "two seas (उभी समुद्रौ)" namely the 'पूर्व (purva)' which refers to the Bay of Bengal and 'पर (para)' samudra refers to Arabian sea (Rigveda 10.136.5). It is important to note that Rgvedic texts mention about the presence of a fourth sea in the northern region of India below the Himalayas.
रायः समुद्राँश्चतुरोऽस्मभ्यं सोम विश्वत: । आ पवस्व सहस्रिण: ॥६॥ (Rg. Veda 9.33.6) स्वायुधं स्ववसं सुनीथं । चतुःसमुद्रं धरुणं रयीणाम् ॥ (Rg. Veda. 10.47.2)
Of these four seas, two of them the Rgveda (10.136.5) mentions about 'पूर्व (purva)' and 'अपर (apara)' samudras. The Purva (or अवर-Avara) samudra also called as Arvavat (अर्वावत्) is where the sunrises and the Apara (or पर - Para) samudra also called as Paraavat (परावत्) is where the sun sets. The Arabian sea is the Paraavat sea where the Sindhu and its tributaries drain into. However, scholars opine that the Purva (Apara or Arvaavat) sea is not the same as the Bay of Bengal as this bay is very far from where the Saptasindhu rivers were flowing. It has been proposed that land areas that are now known to be Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, i.e., the gangetic plains were we find the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, were once areas of a sea (in the Pleistocene era) which got filled with the sands brought down by the rivers and became plains. The third sea, is discussed separately under the Sarasvati river given in the rivers in rigveda.
In the Aitareya Brahmana (3.44) we find the concept that Sun (Surya) never raises or sets but it only flips at the end of daylight and returns with the bright side up on the next day. On reaching the end of the day, the sun flips such that the dark night side faces us. This concept was agreeable in the Rgveda suktas also (1.115.4 and 5.81.4). And that the earth was circular like a discus was known to the people in those times.
According to Dr. Kapil Dev Dwivedi many geological aspects are revealed in the study of Rgveda. It was long known to ancient people that the earth has 7 strata (Rgveda 1.22.16), and that the movements within both the earth and in the paramanus (atoma) are regulated by Vishnu.
Rgveda (10.1.6) states that the core of the earth is filled with Agni covered by a brilliant cloak.
स तु वस्राण्यध पेशनानि वसानो अग्निर्नाभा पृथिव्याः ॥ (Rg. Veda. 10.1.6)
The concept of fire and its tejas (तेजोमय वस्त्र) the brilliant cloak or garment is expressed in many mantras. Yajurveda also states that prthvi or earth is the center (yoni) of agni and it is due to this central Agni that causes the movement of the earth. Atharvaveda states that Agni is present in the Earth, अग्निवासाः पृथ्विवी (Atha. Veda. 12.1.21) and hence prthvi is called Agnivaasas (अग्निवासस्). That the rivers and ocean waters contain Agni is also expressed in the Rgveda. Agni is present in all living beings and the same is said to spread into the waters of rivers and oceans.
यो अग्निः सप्तमानुषाः श्रितो विश्वेषु सिन्धुषु ॥ (Rg. Veda. 8.39.8)
In the above mantra Sindu (सिन्धु) indicates both the rivers and oceans. It is said that Agni exists in the waters and it is well known that by the churning of the river water electricity is generated. Rgveda clearly mentions the presence of Ratnas (gems) and treasures of gold etc which are the cause of prosperity, in the earth.
रियं त इन्द्र पृथिवी बिभर्ति ॥ (Rg. Veda. 3.55.22) पुरू वसूनि पृथिवी बिभर्ति ॥ (Rg. Veda. 3.51.5)
The geographical information in the Rigveda, to put it in a nutshell, more or less pertains to the area in the northern belt from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the east to Afghanistan in the west, the easternmost river mentioned in the text being the Ganga, and the westernmost being the western tributaries of the Indus rivers.
Rgvedic mantras give us a detailed account of how the earth was once full of mountains that could "move" around and how Indra made them firm and immovable (2.12.1). Kanva samhita and Maitrayani samhita both support the puranic version that in the very remote past mountains had 'wings' and they could travel to any place they chose. Indra cut those wings off and protected the people on earth from loss of life and property. The factual basis may be debatable yet the legend has a significant place in many texts.
In these texts there is a mention about 'Himavanta' (Himalayas) however, their dimensions are not given. Rgveda (10.34.1) refers to a specific mountain called Moojavat on which grows the Somalata. In the Nirukta, it has been referred to as a mountain, while its location is known from the Atharva samhita. Atharva samhita (5.22) mentions that Moojavat is a mountain located in the far North-western region of Gandhaar or Balhik country. This mountain is verily the native habitat of Somalata, from where it was brought for use in yajnas. As the people of those times moved to and settled in the eastern plains, bringing soma became difficult and commercial trade began.
In the Taittriya Aranyaka (1.31) we find a mention of Krauncha, Mainaka, and Sudarshana parvatas. In the same Aranyaka (1.7) there is a clear mention of Mahameru. That these mountains are also rich in treasures (minerals and natural ores) is clearly mentioned in the Rigveda
वसुमन्तं वि पर्रवतम् ॥ (Rg. Veda. 2.24.2)
Oceans and Rivers
Rgveda offers good information about oceans and seas. People were well aware about the vast waterbodies and trade via the seas was prevalent. The terms Samudra and Arnava (अर्णव) have been used for ocean or a sea. We also find references to sea travel using boats or ships (Rgveda 1.25.7) for whom the direction is given by Varuna (by his winds). Some important findings include the following
- Thar Desert was once a sea (Rgveda 7.95.2): In the present day Rajasthan where a desert stands now, the ancient texts have indicated the presence of a sea in the same area.
- It is in these seas that treasure is said to be available, namely gems and precious stones (Rgveda 1.47.6, 7.6.7, 9.92.44 etc).
- That the huge waves in the seas are caused by the air circulation was mentioned in Rgveda (1.19.7 and 8, 1.119.4 etc). Other mantras describe that a hurricane can destroy the ships in the sea.
- Presence of Natural Gases in oceans is discussed in Rigveda (Rgveda 8.102.4) It is termed as पुरीष्य अग्निः। This is so called because it has the ability to light up and spreads across in various places of the ocean bed.
- Medicinal substances and food items from the oceans, rivers and mountains is well explained in this Veda (Rgveda 8.20.25).
- There are at least nineteen rivers mentioned in the Rg veda, with the Sarasvati and Indus rivers (along with it's tributaries) gaining a lot of attention. Rivers in Rigveda (ऋग्वेदे नदीनां विवेचनम्) drew a great attention in the past few centuries with the Sarasvati (सरस्वती), though long lost, has occupied the media but generally for the wrong reasons. Dr. Michel Danino diligently summed up the issues and debates associated with Sarasvati backed with the latest research and archeological evidences.
Nature in Rgveda
The main part of Rigveda belongs to suktas related to nature and natural forces. The Vedic deities are explained in different ways by the scholars of India and West, but speaking generally, the suktas addressed to deities (Devata) are under the influence of the most impressive phenomenon of nature and its aspects. The word Devata means divine, divinity which is bright, strong, donor, and powerful. In these suktas we find prayers for certain natural elements such as air, water, earth, sun, rain, dawn etc. The glorious brightness of the sun, the blaze of the sacrificial fire, the sweep of the rain-storm across the skies, the recurrence of the dawn, the steady currents of the winds, the violence of the tropical storm and other such natural energies, fundamental activities or aspects are glorified and personified as divinities (Devata).
The interaction with nature resulted in appreciation and prayer but, indeed, after a good deal of observation. Attributes assigned to deities fit in their natural forms and activities, as Soma is green, fire is bright, air is fast moving and sun is dispenser of darkness. The characteristics of these forces described in the mantras prove that Vedic seers were masters of natural science. All powers, aspects or activities of nature are generally regarded as deities because they are helpful, beneficial and essential for our life. Rivers, mountains, earth, air, water, plants, trees, forest, fire, rain, cloud, Sun, Moon etc, all are deities in Vedic mythology. In Rigveda the names of major deities are, such as Agni, Indra, Vayu, Earth, Soma, Varuna, Vishnu, Aditya, Usha, Aditi, Parjanya, etc. They are indeed the natural instruments of wealth - the inner earth crust, Surya and the other grahas, medicinal plants, oceans and rivers, water bodies such as waterfalls and forests.
इन्द्राय द्याव ओषधीरुतापो रियं रक्षन्ति जीरयो वनानि ॥ (Rg. Veda. 3.51.5)
In the 10th mandala of Rgveda we find many suktas portraying darshanika aspects of Indian tattvajnana. In fact they are seen as the precursor to the siddhantas laid out in the Shad Darshanas. The darshanika aspect, according to some scholars, also supports the fact that the 10th mandala is a more recent addition to the Rgveda as it is very contrary to the stuti-presentation given in the rest of the mandalas. The two most important references are the Nasadiya Sukta and Purusha Sukta. Purusha sukta propounds Sarveshvara-vada (the all-pervading characteristic) which is considered as a modern thought process, a concept which discusses an all-permeating image or form (Saakara, aakruti) of the Supreme Self in the universe. According to some western scholars, spiritual development has the following course - Bahudevata-vada, Ekadevata-vada and Sarveshvara-vada. The oldest times witness worship of many deities, which later led to worship of one deity (Prajapati or Hiranyagarbha). This further led to development of faith in all-pervading deity, a more recent concept.
अयँ लोक ऋग्वेदः। (Shad. Brah. 1.5)
According to Shadvimsha Brahmana, Rgveda is said to be the bhuloka and Agni is the important devata. In the same Brahmana, Yajurveda is said to have Vayu as the important devata (of the Antariksha loka) while Surya is the important deity of Samaveda (of Dyuloka). Manusmrti reinforces that
अग्निवायुरविभ्यस्तु त्र्यं ब्रह्म सनातनम। दुदोह यज्ञसिध्यर्थमृग्यजुः सामलक्षणम्॥ (Manu. Smrt. 1.13)
From Agni, Vayu and Surya, was milked the eternal Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda respectively for the performance of yajnas. Rgveda involves the Vaktattva or speech aspects (including knowledge and contemplation), Yajurveda involves Manastattva or psychological aspects (personality, action, nature), and Samaveda includes Pranatattava or energy balance aspects (strength, cooperation). A coordination of the three tattavatas leads a person to attain Brahman.
ब्रह्म वा ऋक् । अमृतं वा ऋक् । (Kous. Brah. 7.10) प्राणो वा ऋक्। (Jaim. Brah. 1.112)
Above such references in various brahmanas portray the darshanik aspects (philosophical) of Rgveda. We find information about Brahman, Vak (Speech), Prana (energy), Amruta (eternity), Veerya (propagation) etc. Thus, we find the description about attaining Brahman, the shabda Brahman (vaktattva), Prana or the energy, means to attain Amaratva (eternity), and magnificence by practicing Brahmacharya.
Apart from the darshanik aspects, we find a lot of information on social and economic topics, many of which are relevant and followed in the present day society. They include details about Varna vyavastha, Ashrama vyavastha, women in the society, marriage including right to choose a husband (svayamvar), widow remarriage, teaching methods, food and drinks, garment industry, furniture and utensils, construction of houses and buildings, planning cities and villages, travel, warfare, agriculture, animal husbandry and prosperity in terms of owning cattle, various occupations such as that of weavers, carpenters specifically making chariots, gold and precious stone artisans, sculptors, leather artisans
Varna vyavastha - the very first reference to the existence of Varna vyavastha in the Indian society has been documented in the Rgveda. The famous Purusha Sukta mantra describes the origin of the four varnas as follows
ब्रा॒ह्म॒णो॑ऽस्य॒ मुख॑मासीद्बा॒हू रा॑ज॒न्य॑: कृ॒तः । ऊ॒रू तद॑स्य॒ यद्वैश्य॑: प॒द्भ्यां शू॒द्रो अ॑जायत ॥१२॥ (Rig. Veda. 10.90.12)
In Atharvaveda and Yajurveda we find extensive details about the four varnas, specifically in the Yajurveda the activities to be performed by the people belonging to the four varnas are clearly outlined. It may be noted that in vedic literature varnavyavastha was based on "karma", dependent on guna and karma and not on "janma" or by birth. It referred to occupation or activities; anyone choosing the teaching profession was a brahmana and those associated to the army were kshatriyas. By his tapas Vishvamitra came to be called a Brahmarshi and he is one of the vaidik rshis who gave the Rgveda mantras. There was no inferiority or superiority among the people of different varnas and all lived understanding their duties in harmony. There are references to विप्रराज्य (Viprarajya) or Brahmana rajya and समर्य राज्य (Samarya Rajya) or Vaishya rajyas. Brahmanas were referred to using the terms Brahman, Vipra, and Devas. Vaishyas were referred to as Vish, Arya, Samarya. Rgveda mentions that Viprarajyas spread in vast areas just like the oceans, where yajnas and other dharmik rituals were paid special attention to. It is also said that the great Samaryarajyas flourished with bountifulness of food and armed-forces. However due to some shortcomings both the administrative models were not popular among the people and were lost in time.
अयं .... समुद्र इव पप्रथे। .... शवो यज्ञेषु विप्रराज्ये। (Rig. Veda. 7.3.4) अनु .... मदामसि, महे समर्यराज्ये । (Rig. Veda. 9.110.2)
Shudras were not treated with disrespect or looked down up in Vedic times. They were allowed to read Vedas as mentioned in the Yajurveda. They were given the position of Rajakrt (one who works for the Rajas) and included the Rathakaaras (chariot makers), Karmars (artisans), Suta (chariot riders) were all Shudras. They are also given such positions for effective administration.
Ashrama-vyavastha - Similar to Varna vyavastha, the existence of an organized society through the Ashrama vyavastha has been first mentioned in the Rgveda. Of the four ashramas, Brahmacharya and Grhastha ashrama are discussed widely, where as Vanaprastha and Sanyasa ashramas find very little mention.
Brahmacharya ashrama starts with the Upanayana samskara and ends with the Samavartana samskara in these texts. The Upanayana samskara represented the start of education, where students of both genders studied Vedas and shastras. Grhastha ashrama started with marriage. There is a mention that a bride can choose the groom of her liking (svayamvara) as described in the case of Rshi Vimada whom the daughter of Raja Purumitra chose as her husband in a svayamvara. Rgveda (3.53.4) जा॒येदस्तं॑, specially emphasizes the role of the lady as a homemaker and states that wife (जाया) is verily the home (अस्तम्). After marriage she gets the responsibility of a 'गृहपत्नी or गृहस्वामिनी' (the mistress of the house). She serves and cares for the in-laws, and husband and on the other hand oversees the activities of the family including the in-laws. Many such points related to marriage, husband, and wife are given in the Vivaha Sukta (10.85.1-47) of the Rgveda.
गृ॒हान्ग॑च्छ गृ॒हप॑त्नी॒ यथासो॑.... (Rg.Veda. 10.85.26)
The aspects that both the husband and wife are to be educated, able to conduct their activities in the society, that a wife may a scholar, bright and a good orator have been mentioned in Rgveda (10.159.2). There is also a caution that they should not be caught in the materialistic enjoyments of the world (Rgveda 7.21.5). In the families of the Rajas, presence of polygamy was mentioned (Rg. Veda. 7.26.3). Widow remarriage was not unknown; it says - O lady! leave the dead husband and accept another who desires to marry (you).
ह॒स्त॒ग्रा॒भस्य॑ दिधि॒षोस्तवे॒दं पत्यु॑र्जनि॒त्वम॒भि सं ब॑भूथ ॥८॥ (Rg.Veda. 10.18.8)
The words such as Parivrajaka or Bhikshuka representing the Sanyasa ashrama are not found in the Vedas. Terms such as "muni" (8.17.14), "mumukshu" (1.180.4) are very rarely found in the Rgveda.
स॒म्राज्ञी॒ श्वशु॑रे भव स॒म्राज्ञी॑ श्व॒श्र्वां भ॑व । नना॑न्दरि स॒म्राज्ञी॑ भव स॒म्राज्ञी॒ अधि॑ दे॒वृषु॑ ॥४६॥ (Rg.Veda. 10.85.46)
Pravachanakaras of Rgveda
One may classify the Samskrit commentators of the Rgveda into the following five main categories : 
- those commentators whose commentaries are now available in full in published form; Sayanacharya (1316-1388) alone can be cited as an example in this category. His commentary on Rgveda is called Vedarthaprakasa.
- those commentators who can be reasonably presumed to have written commentaries on the entire Rgveda but only some portions of whose commentaries have become available so far; Skandaswamin (around 600 AD). He named his commentary as Rgarthaagamasamhrti. Venkatamadhava (1100 AD) composed Rgarthadipika. According to Venkatamadhava Skandaswamin, Narayana and Udgitha together composed the Rgbhashya respectively, i.e., the first part was by Skandaswamin, the middle part by Narayana and the ending was given by Udgitha.
- स्कन्दस्वामी नारायण उद्गीथ इति ते क्रमात् । चक्रुः सहैकमृग्भाष्यं पदवाक्यार्थगोचरम् ।।
- those persons who are known to have written commentaries only on certain specific mantras of the Rgveda; commentators. Haradatta (9th century A.D.) wrote the commentary called Asvalayana-mantra-patha-bhashya. Anandatirtha (Madhavaacharya) has written a commentary on Rgveda1.1-40 (except 1.34.7-12). Atmananda (around 13th Century) has commented on only one sukta namely 1.164. Dinakara Bhatta in his Rgarthasara has given his commentary on 207 mantras of the Rgveda.
- those persons who are directly or indirectly referred to in literature as commentators of the Rgveda but no portions of whose commentaries have become available so far; Narayana and Udgitha
- the Rgveda-commentators of the modern times.
Most commentators have interpreted Rgveda mainly in the light of the Vedic rituals.
- Shabdakapadhruma (See under Rik)
- Pt. Upadhyaya, Baldev. (2012 Second Edition) Samskrit Vangmay ke Brihad Itihas, Vol 1, Veda. Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Sansthan. (Pages 94 to 127)
- Upadhyaya, Baldev (1958) Vaidik Sahitya
- Rgveda Samhita, Katyayana Sarvanukramanika (2011 Reprint edition) Varanasi: Choukhambha Samskrit Pratisthan (Page 809)
- Rgveda Samhita, Shaunaka Anukramanika (2011 Reprint edition) Varanasi: Choukhambha Samskrit Pratisthan (Page 828)
- Rgveda Samhita (2011 Reprint edition) Varanasi: Choukhambha Samskrit Pratisthan (Page 767)
- Dvivedi, Kapil Dev. (2000) Vaidika Sahitya evam Samskrti (Vedic Literature and Culture). Varanasi: Vishvavidyalaya Prakashan. (Pages 44-47)
- Brahmanda Purana (Purvabhaga, Pada 2, Adhyaya 34)
- Pt. Baldev Upadhyaya (1958) Vaidik Sahitya for M.A. Students. Kashi: Sharada Mandir. (Pages 41-42)
- Pt. Upadhyaya, Baldev. (2012 Second Edition) Samskrit Vangmay ke Brihad Itihas, Vol 1, Veda. Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Sansthan. (Pages 515-531)
- S. K. Acharya, Kunal Gosh, and Amal Kar (2020) Saraswati: The River par Excellence. Kolkata: The Asiatic Society (Pages 217-234)
- Dwivedi, Kapil Dev. (2004 Second Edition) Vedon mein Vijnana (Positive Sciences in the Vedas). Jnanpur (Bhadohi): Vishvabharati Anusandhan Parishad. (Pages 283-294)
- Talageri. Shrikant. G, (2000) The Rigveda - A Historical Analysis (Pages
- Shadvimsha Brahmana (Adhyaya 1)
- Manu Smriti (Adhyaya 1)
- Purusha Sukta of Rig Veda (Mandala 10 Sukta 90)
- Dvivedi, Kapil Dev. (2000) Vaidika Sahitya evam Samskrti (Vedic Literature and Culture). Varanasi: Vishvavidyalaya Prakashan. (Pages 256-270)
- Rig Veda (Mandala 10 Sukta 85)
- Rig Veda (Mandala 10 Sukta 18)
- R. N. Dandekar, Commentators of the Rgveda, A Recapitulation.