I'd like to know more about the ancient book Rigveda. However, I think I need some basic information on this book first before I start to read it - so any shortcuts on what would be some good introduction, basic facts and a summary of what the Rigveda is about?
Vedas are the most basic and primary scriptures of Hinduism and Rigveda is the most ancient among all four Vedas. So, we can say that Rigveda is the very first text of Hinduism. Rigveda is very profound and important according to the subject of it. Rigveda is the biggest/largest in all Vedas.
Rigveda book simply refers to Rigveda Samhita. Traditionally Rigveda Samhita is divided in two ways:
Ashtak Method - In which Rigveda is divided into 8 parts and each part contains 8 Adhyaya (chapter) and hence called Ashtak.
Mandal Method - According to which Rigveda consists of 10 Mandala. This method is very popular as follows:
Rigveda has 10 Mandala (part). Each Mandala has many Anuvak and Anuvak has many Sukta (hymns - group of verses) in which have been praise of deities. There are total of 1028 Sukta. Each Sukta are associated with a particular Deity, Rishi (Sage - seer of hymns) and Chhanda (meter). Rigveda contain a total of 10,552 Mantra. The mantras are called Richa/Rucha.
Overview of content:
┏━━━━━━━━━━┳━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┳━━━━━━━━┳━━━━━━━━┳━━━━━━━━┓ ┃ Mandala ┃ Drashta-Rishi ┃ No.of ┃ No.of ┃ No.of ┃ ┃ ┃ ┃ Anuvak ┃ Sukta ┃ Mantra ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Fisrt ┃ 15 Rishi ┃ 24 ┃ 191 ┃ 2006 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Second ┃ Grutsamada ┃ 4 ┃ 43 ┃ 429 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Third ┃ Vishvamitr ┃ 5 ┃ 62 ┃ 617 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Fourth ┃ Vamadeva ┃ 5 ┃ 58 ┃ 589 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Fifth ┃ Atri ┃ 6 ┃ 87 ┃ 727 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Sixth ┃ Bhardwaj ┃ 6 ┃ 75 ┃ 765 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Seventh ┃ Vashishtha ┃ 6 ┃ 104 ┃ 841 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Eighth ┃ Kanva / Angira ┃ 10 ┃ 103 ┃ 1716 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Nineth ┃ Many Rishis ┃ 7 ┃ 114 ┃ 1108 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Tenth ┃ Many Rishis ┃ 12 ┃ 191 ┃ 1754 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━┻━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Total ┃ 85 ┃ 1028 ┃ 10552 ┃ ┗━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┻━━━━━━━━┻━━━━━━━━┻━━━━━━━━┛
Mantras dedicated to deities:
┏━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┳━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┓ ┃ Deity ┃ No. of Mantra ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Agni ┃ 2013 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Indra ┃ 2862 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━╋━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Soma ┃ 1775 ┃ ┣━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┻━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┫ ┃ Remaining around 4000 mantras are ┃ ┃ dedicated to Maruta, Vishvadeva, ┃ ┃ Aditi, Aaditya, Bhaga, Pusha, ┃ ┃ Mitra, Varuna, etc. ┃ ┗━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┛
Rigveda primarily has stuti mantras (prayers) of deities. Rigveda has profound philosophical, spiritual and scientific thoughts.
There was a great significance of worshipping of deities in the life in vedic/ancient times.
Some chief/popular/important Sukta form Rigveda:
- Purush Sukta (Mandala-10, Sukta-90)
- Nasadiya Sukta (Mandal-10, Sukta-129)
- Hiranyagarbha Sukta (Mandal-10, Sukta-121)
- Saraswathi Sukta
- Vak Sukta or Devi Sukta.
- Bhoo Sukta
- Shree Sukta
- See the list of Sukta and Stuti from Rigveda - 1, 2, 3, 4.
Quoting the following topics related to knowing about Rigveda from Hindupedia:
Philosophy of the Ṛgveda
The greatness of religion lies in the fact that its value system at the core has remained intact in spite of centuries of vicissitudes wrought about by external aggression or internal upheavals. If Vedānta is the pinnacle of all the philosophical systems, the Ṛgveda is it's mother-root. Almost all the ideas found later in the Upaniṣads and allied scriptures are already there in the Ṛgveda in a seed form, though not in one place.
Ṛgveda praises several gods like Agni, Indra, Maruts and others. However, they are not, like the Greek gods, separate and independent individuals in conflict with one another. They are all different aspects or facets of one and the same Supreme Being which has been declared in several places.
There is a clear reference to God the Supreme in several places even though different appellations have been used. They are, for instance:
- Ātmā - Self
- Chāyā - light
- Deva - Being of light
- Hiraṇyagarbha - Golden Egg
- Ka - Prajāpati
- Pitā - Father
- Puruṣa - Being
- Savitā - Sun, Creator
- Tvaṣtā - one who shapes
- Vidhātā - Giver
- Viśvakarmā - Creator of the world
Indra, Agni and Varuṇa have often been praised as the Supreme Lord. God alone existed before creation and he is the creator, protector and ruler of this world is clearly mentioned in several mantras. Regarding the mode of creation, what is described in the three famous suktas is almost the same as the one found in the Upanisads. These Suktas are:
God is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. He does it as per his own free will. He is both the upādāna or the material cause and the nimitta or the efficient cause. He is not only immanent in the world because he has created it out of himself, but also transcendent. Hence, he himself is everything he has created.
Qualities of God as per Ṛgveda
The Ṛgveda also describes the several infinitely good and great qualities of God like:
God possess many attributes including:
- Extraordinary brilliance.
- Having a cosmic form.
- Being the inner controller.
Identity of Jiva as per Ṛgveda
The desire to attain the world of the immortal gods show that the sages believed in an eternal soul and an eternal world.  The aim of life is to attain God. What keeps the human beings away from him is pāpa or sin, evil ways of living. Hence one should pray to him for forgiveness, for being freed from sins and be guided on the path of righteousness. The spiritual disciplines that lead the aspirants to him are:
- Faith in him as the only support of life
- Prayer to him for being guided in the path of truth
- Prayer for spiritual wisdom before old-age comes
- Prayer for serving the Lord always
- Appeal for eternal protection
- Devotion as the best means
- Intense longing to see him
Concept of Moksa as per Ṛgveda
The concept of moksa or liberation as described in the Upaniṣads is not found here in that form. Breaking up of the physical body, after death and it's being merged in the five elements thereby freeing the jīva. It has been mentioned. The deity Agni leads the jīva by the path of the gods to the world of pitṛs ruled by Yama, wherein he lives happily.
Shakha of Rigveda:
Though Rigveda is said to have had 21 Shakhas, only five have survived. which are: Shakala, Bashkala, Aashvalayana, Shankhayana and Mandukayana.