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The Rig Veda (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 27, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, and the translator of numerous Sanskrit texts including the Laws of Manu, and Kamasutra.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Edition Unstated Possible book Club edition (September 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449891
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

114 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater on October 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a re-issue, in Penguin's current format, and with new cover art, of the Penguin Classics volume previously listed by Amazon as "The Rig Veda: An Anthology of One Hundred Eight Hymns," published in 1981 (and as of October 2005, confusingly still available from Amazon), as translated and edited by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty. That was her married name, since dropped, to the accompaniment of endless bibliographic and bookselling confusion. She is now known as Wendy Doniger, and is the "Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions" at the University of Chicago. (She has reported receiving mail with interesting combinations of names and titles.)

Upon inspection, the "new edition" is revealed to be one of Penguin's cosmetic re-packagings to make the whole line uniform (and mostly quite handsome), and not one of the revised editions which have also been appearing as part of the same project. I offer here, with some modifications, my review of the 1981 edition (itself previously reissued in a larger format, with new cover art, some years ago, but also not otherwise changed).

Meanwhile, I suggest trying the Amazon page for the older edition of "The Rig Veda: An Anthology..." if you are interested in a variety of responses by over a dozen other reviewers. And, again, don't let the title and name variations suggest that they are different books, of exactly the same length, from the very same publisher! (As a matter of fact, the actual front-cover title of these editions has been just "The Rig Veda" all along.)

Under any form of her name, Wendy Doniger is a distinguished interpreter and translator of Vedic and classical Sanskrit texts, and of Indian religions in general. Her books are often witty, and at times quite dense with detail.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A reader on June 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
In fact I wanted to give negative stars for this excuse of a scholarly book as this book does a great disservice to Rig Veda. Penguin should come out with better translactions. It is a shame for this work to be counted among Penguin classics.

For anyone with some understanding and familiarity of Vedas, it becomes quickly apparent that the author has no clue of symbolism behind Vedic sanskrit and provides perverted meaning to everything.

If you were a misfortunate soul who read the book already, a good anti-dote to weed out the misconceptions portrayed by this book would be to start with The Secret of the Vedas by Sri Aurobindo (available in Amazon) to understand the symbolism behind the allegories in Vedas. Then it can be followed up by work of other scholars who actually understand Vedic Sanskrit.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Avery Morrow on October 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This text is:
(1) An accurate translation of the Vedas as far as we know.
(2) A product of Orientalism.
(3) Relatively unpolluted by ideology (as far as the translation itself goes).

This text is not:
(1) A guide to how the Vedas were used in classical India.
(2) An accurate commentary on how Hindus view the Vedas.
(3) Complete.
(4) A representative summary of the Vedas, although it does have the few very famous Vedas which Hindus would memorize even today.

It's not a bad edition and I award it 5 stars. Ignore the commentary.
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59 of 83 people found the following review helpful By S. Ferguson on October 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
Don't read this translation. It will give you a completely false idea of these marvelous ancient texts. Instead read:
Rgveda for the Layman: A Critical Survey of One Hundred Hymns of the Rgveda, With Samhita-Patha, Pada-Patha and Word-Meaning and English Translation (Hardcover) - which is available on Amazon. Shyam Ghosh is brilliant. In fact anything he wrote is well worth reading! He understands these verses in the context of something close to quantum physics. Very enlightening and fun!

October 2012 - an update based on my own studies and research into the Rig Veda:

"To this day there is no internally consistent and coherent interpretation of the Vedas."
- quoted from "The Celestial Key to the Vedas" by B.G Sidharth, Indian physicist and director general of B. M. Birla Science Centre. Sidharth has written extensively on physics and his books are available on Amazon. He proposed the "dark energy" model at the seventh Marcel Grossman Conference in Jerusalem in June 1997, and at another conference on quantum physics in Singapore a year later. His research paper titled "The Universe of Fluctuations" was published in International Journal of Modern Physics in 1998.

For years Doniger's was only translation of the Rig Veda easily available to most of us who do not read Sanskrit. Although I remain grateful for any translation, over the years as I came to understand more and more of the metaphysics of Hinduism, it occurred to me that perhaps the translator simply did not quite fully understand the subtle metaphysical depths of the text and that a great deal of the inner meaning must have been lost through a lack of spiritual knowledge.
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21 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Goldman on May 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Readers should be advised that I come to the topic of Indian culture with almost no background, having read only M. Hiriyanna, _Outlines of Indian Philosophy_, and what I can find about the Rig Veda on the Internet. Indeed, prior to my inquiry, I had thought "Agni" the name of an Indian guided missile! Readers should also know my prejudices: I hesitate with Oriental religions, for many of them in my country have been popularized by the religion of Californianity, and doubtless have been so distorted. I am also favorably prejudiced toward liturgical religions, and thus I've read about Shinto with some interest. I also hold the opinion that India will play no small role in the coming years; to inform oneself of her cultural roots is not time wasted.

For anyone who wishes a contemporary and historical-critical abridgement of the Rig Veda, it seems that Doniger's work will do. Indeed, it will have to do, for I can find nothing in English equivalent to it, and Doniger should be thanked for her efforts. I should tell devout Hindus that I am aware of the limitations of the historical-critical method with respect to what is held to be Scripture - the limitation, while providing the _Sitz im Leben_ of a text in its past, of _leaving_ that text in that past. Yet this method also has its virtues. Indeed, if this abridgement has any faults, it is that I would have liked to have read even more about the culture of the Rig Veda's authors. I would also have liked to have learned more about the period's liturgical practice, for the Rig Veda, like the Psalms, is a collection of hymns to be used in the liturgy. In particular, Was the sacrifice _do ut des_? Did the liturgy have implications beyond _do ut des_, such as (like the Catholic-Orthodox _cultus_) a _mysterion_, i.e.
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