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The Greeks were not the only ancient civilization in which a tradition of texts addressing praise to deities developed. Nearly 800 years before the examples mentioned above were written, followers of Hinduism had begun writing down hymns. Vedas is a collection of Hindu sacred texts dating from around 1500 BC. The oldest section of this text is known as the Rigveda Samhita and contains a collection of more than 1,000 hymns, totalling nearly 10,600 verses, which are in praise of the Rigvedic deities. The composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) learnt Sanskrit so that he could make his own translation into English of the original texts. He composed four groups of settings for choir and orchestra. The fourth group, published in 1912, contains ‘Hymn to Indra’:

Who is he of lofty pow’r, Guardian of the Gods?
Who supports the heavens’alone?
He O men is Indra!
When the mountains shake with fear,
When the earth is quaking,
Who is he that holds all fast?
He O men is Indra!
When the dragon of drought had seized the clouds and rain
Like to kine he gather’d them to his cave.
Who was the hero that heard our pray’rs?
Who was the warrior thunder armed?
He O men is Indra!
Who rush’d to the battle field, wrathfully?
Who with fierce resistless might charged the foe?
Who was he who smote the fiend down to earth who with one blow slew him?
He O men is Indra!
Who released the captive clouds,
Gave the dry land showers,
Made the rivers freely flow?
He O men is Idnra!
Who is he, the gen’rous one who to those that worship giveth strength and victory?
He O men is Indra!
Who is he whose name we call in the fight?
Who doth make his worshippers conquerors?
He the Bull, the Mighty One, fierce and true, the Thunder arm’d,
Lord of heav’n and Chief of Gods,
He O men is Indra!

‘ Hymn to Indra’, Hymns from the Rigveda, Translated by Gustav Holst.

  2014  /  timeline  /  Last Updated October 3, 2014 by timeline2014  /