Rig Veda on Friendship and Food for All! (Post No.3929)

Research article Written by London Swaminathan


Date: 21 May 2017


Time uploaded in London: 15-59


Post No. 3929


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There is a beautiful hymn in the Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world. It is amazing to see such a lofty thought in the remotest period of human civilization. This shows how civilized were Hindus and how much advanced in thinking. I have already written about the last hymn of Rig Veda praying for world peace. What we find in the United Nations motto of today was voiced by Vedic poets several thousand years ago. Every Hindu must feel proud of that hymn and the following one on Friendship and charity.

Several thousand years later we see such thoughts in the Bhagavad Gita and Tamil Veda Thirukkural. The proverb ‘A friend indeed is a friend in need’ came from India!


In the Tenth Mandala (10-117) of the Rig Veda we come across this hymn:


1.The Gods have not ordained hunger to be our death; even to the well-fed man comes death in varied shape.

The riches of the liberal never waste away, while he who will not give finds none to comfort him.


2.The man with food in store who, when the needy comes in miserable case begging for bread to eat,


Hardens his heart against him – even when of old he did him service – finds not one comfort him.


3.Bouteous is he who gives unto the beggar who comes to him in want of food and feeble.


Success attends him in the shout of battle. He makes a friend of him in future troubles.


4.No friend is he who to his friend and comrade who comes imploring food, will offer nothing.

Let him depart—no home is that to rest in –, and rather seek a stranger to support him.


5.Let the rich satisfy the poor implorer, and bend his eye upon a longer path way.


Riches come now to one, now to another, and like the wheels of car are ever rolling.


6.The foolish man wins food with fruitless labour; that food – I speak the truth – shall be his ruin.

He feeds no trusty friend, no man to love him. ALL GUILT IS WHO HE EATS WITH NO PARTAKER.


7.The ploughshare ploughing make the food that feeds us, and with its feet cuts through the path it follows.

Better the speaking than the silent Brahman; the liberal friend outvalues him who gives not.


8.He with one foot hath far outrun the bieped, and the two footed catches the three footed.

Four footed creatures come when biepeds call them, and stand and look where five are met together.


9.The hands are both alike; their labour differs. The yield of sister milch kine is unequal.


Twins even differ in their strength and vigour; tow, even kinsmen, differ in their bounty.

Ralph T H Griffith in his translation added a footnote for one foot etc.

One foot =Sun

biped = man

Three footed= old man with a walking stick

Four footed creature=Dogs

Five = several men.


I don’t know how correct was Griffith in his translation. But we can get the picture clearly from the lines.

A friend indeed is a friend in need.

and wealth is for distribution

Food is for a sharing.


Later Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita:

The good people who eat what is left from sacrifice are released from all sis but those WICKED PEOPLE WHO PREPARE FOR THEIR OWN SAKE – VERILY EAT SIN Bhagavad Gita 3-13.

We may interpret the sacrifice here as Pancha Yajna ( Five sacrifices) which Manu and others mention; They are the ones Hindus do every day; feeding relatives/guests, living beings (animals and birds), ancestors, devas/gods and the last Brahma Yajna i.e. studying holy books and teaching.


Tamil Veda Thirukkural has at least sixty couplets on friendship and feeding the guests. Hospitality is a typical Hindu concept, absent in Western Literature, and found only in the Vedas, Epics, Puranas and Sangam Tamil Literature.


Here are two important couplets from Thirukkural written by Thiru valluvar:-

Enjoying one’s food, sharing it with others, and sustaining other lives is held out as the highest virtue by the learned sages (322)

Genuine friendship hastens to redress distress even like the hand which picks up quickly that garment that slips (788)

Great men think alike! Rig Vedic poet/seer, Lord Krishna and valvar and several great people said it.