The hymns of the Rig Veda are considered the oldest and most important of the Vedas. These were composed between 1500 BC and 900 BC. There are 10,552 mantras or hymns organized into ten mandalas or circles of which the second through the seventh are the oldest and the tenth is the most recent. Rigveda means the Veda of Adoration and mostly contains verses adoring or adulating deities. The gods are seen as personifications of nature-power. These gods are supposed to have been thirty-three in numbers. Each of the Gods had a primary function, or Vrata. Usually these functions were closely connected to the forces of nature such as light, fire and heaven, which in turn followed the cosmic order (rta0 of the universe. The demons of darkness and chaos, headquartered under the earth, arrayed their power against the righteousness of the gods. In this dualistic approach, the demons sought to disrupt the system of nature, therefore practicing anrta.
About two-thirds of Rigveda is about the powerful Indra (Ruler of the gods). He is the god of war and weather. He is frequently referred to as the eka deva, or “one god”. Agni, the fire-god is considered a messenger of the gods. Agni descends from darkened clouds as lightning, shines on the world as the sun, and manifests in the flames of the sacrifice. Through the sacrificial offering, Agni served as the messenger between the gods and man, and the correct performance of this important ritual could beneficially reward the devotee. Varuna and Mitra, are the gods of the night and day sky. Surya the sun-god is referred to as the eye of Varuna and rides through the sky on his chariot led by his twin sons, the Asvins who represent his rays; Ushas the dawn is his wife. Other Rigvrdic gods include Rudra, Varuna, the Maruts and the Ribhus. There are references to a divine creeper, the Soma, whose juice was an energizer. It is said that the gods first accepted human incarnations and were mortals. But by drinking the juice from the Soma creeper, they became immortal. Some of the gods are warriors, while others are priests Indra is the leader of the warriors, and Agni is the leader of the priests.
The Rig Vedic gods live in different homes: Heaven, air and earth. Heaven is the home of Vishnu, Varuna, Surya, Mitra and a few others. The atmospheric region is for Indra, Rudra, the Maruts and others. Agni and Brhaspati are considered to be terrestrial gods.
Sri Chinmoy has said (mainly in The Dance of the Cosmic Gods, New York, 1974) that these gods are personifications of divine qualities: Vishnu, the Preserver, is the all-embracing consciousness and divine compassion. Indra is illumined, dynamic life-force. Agni is spiritual aspiration and inner will-power. Rudra is divine power and the fighter against ignorance, but at the same time compassion and peace. Surya is the light of illumination and liberation.
In Sri Chinmoy’s opinion,
“The Rig Veda embodies the earliest monument of India’s aspiration and realization. India’s poetry, India’s philosophy, India’s literature, India’s religion and India’s science all owe their very existence to Rig Veda, which was their source. The Rig Vedic seers are the teachers of mankind. The Rig Vedic gods are the saviors of mankind. The teachers are teaching the world the message of Light and Truth. The saviors are healing the unaspiring, blind and deaf world, and championing the genuine seekers. The Rig Vedic seers are the builders of Hindu culture and Hindu civilization. They represent the dawn of Hindu inspiration and the noon of Hindu aspiration. They offer to the world at large the ultimate meaning of religion. According to them, religion is the inner code of life. In each religion is a love-branch of the Truth-Tree. The Rig Vedic gods tell us to accept life with love, enjoy life with renunciation and fulfill life with surrender to the Will of the Absolute.”