In the Vedas: Rig Veda
We shall now turn to the Vedas which are regarded as of paramount importance and supreme
authority among our ancient classics. Of the four Vedas, the Rig-Veda is considered to be
the oldest. In it, we find a set of sukthas, which enjoin upon us the duty of charity, and
of giving food and shelter to the poor and the distressed. These sukthas occur in the
tenth Mandala of the Rig-Veda. They are often referred to briefly as the Anna Sukthas. The
first of these sukthas may be translated as follows:
"Providence has not surely ordained death only for the hungry and the ill-fed. For
death in various forms comes even to those that have enough to eat. Certainly the wealth
of one who helps the needy does not get exhausted. He who does not extend succour to the
poor, has none to console him in times of trouble."
The third verse runs as follows "That man really enjoys his food who feeds also the
poor and the emaciated beggar that goes about oppressed by hunger. He will have plenty of
wealth as a result of such philanthropic deeds and his charity will secure for him friends
in times of need." The sixth verse is condemnatory in Its tone.