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THE Five VEDAs
According to the Puranic Encyclopedia, the root “VID” in Sanskrit means to know. The books composed of the ancient Hindu knowledge collected and compiled were known as the Vedas. These four volumes are considered the most ancient and sacred scripture of all Hinduism.
Holy hymns and Sanskrit mantras were put together in four collections known as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda and Sama Veda. For thousands of years they were passed on orally from generation to generation. Dating of these sacred Hindu religious instructions is difficult to pin-point.
Some of these Sanskrit chants are considered secret and today in Trinidad, when pundits initiate their young devotees (chela), the standard Vedic mantra (Gayatri) for this ceremony is whispered by the pundit directly into the ear of the devotee. The mantras (hymns) contained in the Vedas are dated by Hindu historians to be over 5,000 years. Some believe that the Rig-Veda could have been written as early as 12,000 BC.
Prof MacDonnell who, no doubt writing from the perspective of the conqueror, expressed the view that the Vedas were complied between BC 1500 and 1200. But Prof Jacobi’s opinion is that “all the Vedas were made before BC 4000.” We consider the Vedas to be beginningless and endless. Westerners who conquered and colonised India for centuries will have us believe that the early Aryans entered India and introduced the Vedic message and present-day Hindu civilisation.
Evidence that is now emerging in a modern and independent India with its own intellegencia has successfully proven that there was no Aryan invasion and that European conquerors used this non-existent theory to divide India into two parts—the light-skinned north of the country and the darker-skinned people who inhabit the lower half of India. They hoped to use this way to convert inhabitants of India to Christian religious beliefs.
The Rig Veda is a collection of songs or hymns and is a main source of information on the Rig Vedic civilisation. The Sama Veda is purely a collection of melodies. The hymns in the Sama Veda are used as musical notes. Vedic scholar David Frawley writes: “If the Rig Veda is the word, Sama Veda is the song or the meaning. If Rig Veda is the knowledge, Sama Veda is its realisation, if Rig Veda is the wife, the Sama Veda is her husband.”
The Yajur Veda is a collection that was made to meet the demands of a ceremonial Hindu religion. The Yajur Veda practically serves as a guide book for the pundits who perform sacrificial acts chanting simultaneously the prayers and the sacrificial formulae. The Atharva Veda is the last of the Vedas. This is completely different from the other three Vedas and is next in importance to Rig Veda with regard to history and sociology.
In Trinidad and in many Hindu outposts across the world, the Ramayan of Tulsidas is considered to be a fifth Veda (Pancham Veda). The Ramayan was first written by the sage Valmiki who was considered to be a contemporary of Lord Ram. But the version of the Ramayan that has sustained Hindus who were transported as sugar cane workers to Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname, South Africa, Mauritius, Fuji and other destinations have been the stories contained in Tulsidas’ Ramayan.
In this version, the exile and the difficulties encountered by Lord Ram is identified closely with our ancestors who were virtually forcefully transported throughout the far-flung possessions of colonial British masters. The simple life of Lord Ram, his brother Lutchman and Mother Sita during his 14-year exile to regions of the forest areas and beyond served as support to our ancestors who had to toil endlessly in the sugar industry without proper nutrition, health facilities, medical care and barrack-type accommodations.
The success of our ancestors and their present-day descendants is a reflection of devotion to dharma, hard work and perseverance that has been displayed by Lord Ram in the Ramayan. The words and description of the Ramayan may be different from those contained in the Vedas but the messages portrayed in the Dohas, Chowpais and other sweet poetic chants of the Ramayan make it equal to the Vedas.
As she sat in captivity, a prisoner of the evil Lanka King Ravana, the universal Mother Sita called upon her assigned female attendant to prepare a pyre for her self-immolation. The message to all women was that the Mother of the Universe will prefer self-destruction rather than succumb to the physical demands of evil as personified by King Ravana.
Our grandmothers, our mothers and our sisters draw strength from that simple episode from this fifth Veda called the Ramayan. In today’s T&T, the Hindu population is still being guided by the stories of hardship and eventual triumph that our God in human form endured while on planet Earth.
The Hindu villages across our land are fortunate to listen to the musical and pulsating rhythm of the Ramayan sung to them by our pundits on a nightly basis. We value, not only the abstract and philosophical messages of the Vedas but more especially the living and human face of this fifth Veda called the Ramayan.
• Satnarayan Maharaj is the secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
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