Discovering Pakistan

5, 000 years of Civilization & Culture

River Hymn of the Rigveda

The Rigveda is an ancient collection of Sanskrit hymns, counted among the four canonical scriptures of Hinduism, the Vedas. It is one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language, composed between 1700 – 1500 BC in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent (much of modern Pakistan), and, till, the Indus Valley Script is deciphered, the first written record of Pakistan.

Rigvedic hymns praise the gods, recount the origin of the world,  and also describe the geography of the Early Vedic homeland, concentrated in the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces of modern Pakistan. Hymn 75 of Book 10 is an ode to the region’s rivers, chief among them the Sindhu, or Indus. The other rivers mentioned have been identified as the Ravi, Beas, Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej, Kabul, Kurram, Swat  and others, while some remain unidentified.

HYMN LXXV. The Rivers.

Geographic horizon of the Rigveda, with river names. Also indicated are the extent of the contemporary Swat and Cemetery H cultures, and the location of Harappa. (Wikimedia Commons)

Geographic horizon of the Rigveda, with river names. Also indicated are the extent of the contemporary Swat and Cemetery H cultures, and the location of Harappa. (Wikimedia Commons)

1. THE singer, O ye Waters in Vivasvān’s place, shall tell your grandeur forth that is beyond compare.
The Rivers have come forward triply, seven and seven. Sindhu in might surpasses all the streams that flow.
2 Varuṇa cut the channels for thy forward course, O Sindhu, when thou rannest on to win the race.
Thou speedest o’er precipitous ridges of the earth, when thou art Lord and Leader of these moving floods.
3 His roar is lifted up to heaven above the earth: he puts forth endless vigour with a flash of light.
Like floods of rain that fall in thunder from the cloud, so Sindhu rushes on bellowing like a bull.
4 Like mothers to their calves, like milch kine with their milk, so, Sindhu, unto thee the roaring rivers run.
Thou leadest as a warrior king thine army’s wings what time thou comest in the van of these swift streams.
5 Favour ye this my laud, O Gangā, Yamunā, O Sutudri, Paruṣṇī and Sarasvatī:
With Asikni, Vitasta, O Marudvrdha, O Ārjīkīya with Susoma hear my call.
6 First with Trstama thou art eager to flow forth, with Rasā, and Susartu, and with Svetya here,
With Kubha; and with these, Sindhu and Mehatnu, thou seekest in thy course Krumu and Gomati.
7 Flashing and whitely-gleaming in her mightiness, she moves along her ample volumes through the realms,
Most active of the active, Sindhu unrestrained, like to a dappled mare, beautiful, fair to see.
8 Rich in good steeds is Sindhu, rich in cars and robes, rich in gold, nobly-fashioned, rich in ample wealth.
Blest Silamavati and young Urnavati invest themselves with raiment rich in store of sweets.
9 Sindhu hath yoked her car, light-rolling, drawn by steeds, and with that car shall she win booty in this fight.
So have I praised its power, mighty and unrestrained, of independent glory, roaring as it runs.

From “Rig Veda“, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith in 1896

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