Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rig Vedic Gods

In the discussions on the double meanings in RV we've seen that the main Rig Vedic Gods, Agni, Ashwin, Indra, Mitra-Varuna are personifications of the various strengths and traits of the personality of human beings. This interpretation is more profound than the simplistic view of each of these Gods signifying different virtues.

In this section we'll see some of the hymns that talk about the simplistic virtues normally associated with the various Gods in RV.


वरुण, Varuna, is one of the oldest of the Vedic gods, and is commonly thought to correspond to the Ορανός, Uranos, of the Greeks, although with a more spiritual conception. He is often regarded as the supreme deity, styled as hating falsehood and seizing transgressors with his पाश or noose;
possessing extraordinary power and wisdom called माया, maya;
pardoning sin, the guardian of immortality. He stands for truth and law.

yac cid dhi te viśo yathā pra deva varuṇa vratam |
minīmasi dyavi-dyavi || 1.25.01

WHATEVER law of thine, O God, O Varuṇa, as we are men,
Day after day we violate. 1.25.01

mā no vadhāya hatnave jihīḷānasya rīradhaḥ |
mā hṛṇānasya manyave || 1.25.02

Give us not as a prey to death, to be destroyed by thee in wrath,
To thy fierce anger when displeased. 1.25.02

vi mṛḷīkāya te mano rathīr aśvaṃ na sanditam |
ghīrbhir varuṇa sīmahi || 1.25.03

To gain thy mercy, Varuṇa, with hymns we bind thy heart, as binds
The charioteer his tethered horse. 1.25.03

The three verses above speak of Varuna as the upholder of law, vrata. He is also shown as someone who pardons the sins of the human beings, vish, who violate the law day after day, dyavi dyavi. The third verse shows the obsession of the Aryans with horses and chariots, something that's the signature of the Indo Europeans. It's says that to gain Varuna's mercy, mridika, the offerer wants to bind Varuna's mind, manas,
with the hymns, gira, as the charioteer,rathi, binds the horse, ashva.

vedā yo vīnāṃ padam antarikṣeṇa patatām |
veda nāvaḥ samudriyaḥ || 1.25.07

He knows the path of birds that fly through heaven, and, Sovran of the sea,
He knows the ships that are thereon. 1.25.07

veda māso dhṛtavrato dvādaśa prajāvataḥ |
vedā ya upajāyate || 1.25.08

True to his holy law, he knows the twelve moons with their progeny:
He knows the moon of later birth. 1.25.08

veda vātasya vartanim uror ṛṣvasya bṛhataḥ |
vedā ye adhyāsate || 1.25.09

He knows the pathway of the wind, the spreading, high, and mighty wind:
He knows the Gods who dwell above. 1.25.09

These three verses speak of Varuna as the God with extraordinary knowledge and wisdom. He knows the paths,padam, of the birds, vi, that fly through the skies, antariksha; He knows the ships, nava, of the oceans, samudra.

The second verse is very interesting. It says that He, who is the upholder of law, dhritavrata, knows of the twelve moons and their progeny, prajavata; He also knows about the moon of the later birth, upajayate. Here the twelve moons refer to the twelve months and the progeny the cycle of new moons. The moon of the later birth is surely a reference to the intercalary month or the thirteenth month of a luni-solar calendar. This month is known as the extra month or the adhika masa.

mo ṣu varuṇa mṛnmayaṃ ghṛhaṃ rājan ahaṃ ghamam |
mṛḷā sukṣatra mṛḷaya || 7.89.01

LET me not yet, King Varuṇa, enter into the house of clay:
Have mercy, spare me, Mighty Lord. 7.89.01

This verse speaks about going to the house of clay, mrinmayam griha. This surely refers to the early Rig Vedic tradition of burial after death. In fact throughout the Aryan Trail the the Indo European peoples have left behind the marks of their graves, which are their only archaeological remnants. Cremation is a much later invention by the Indo Aryan branch of the Indo Europeans. The earliest traces of cremation have been found in the Vakhsh-Biskent Culture sometime around 1700 BC.


mainam agne vi daho mābhi śoco māsya tvacaṃ cikṣipo mā śarīram |
yadā śṛtaṃ kṛṇavo jātavedo athem enaṃ pra hiṇutāt pitṛbhyaḥ || 10.16.01

Burn him not up, nor quite consume him, Agni: let not his body or his skin be scattered.
O Jātavedas, when thou hast matured him, then send him on his way unto the Fathers. 10.16.01

śṛtaṃ yadā karasi jātavedo athem enaṃ pari dattāt pitṛbhyaḥ |
yadā gacchāti asunītim etām athā devānāṃ vaśanīr bhavāti || 10.16.02

When thou hast made him ready, Jātavedas, then do thou give him over to the Fathers.
When he reaches the world of spirits, he shall become the Deities' subject. 10.16.02

sūryaṃ cakṣur gacchatu vātam ātmā dyāṃ ca gaccha pṛthivīṃ ca dharmaṇā |
apo vā gaccha yadi tatra te hitam oṣadhīṣu prati tiṣṭhā śarīraiḥ || 10.16.03

The Sun receive thine eye, the Wind thy spirit; go, as thy merit is, to earth or heaven.
Go, if there be thy good, unto the waters; go, make thine home in plants with all thy bodies. 10.16.03

The above three verses on Agni talk about the cremation. This verse is from the tenth book of Rig Veda, one of the later books. It says, Agni, burn (daho) him not, consume (shocho) him not, don't scatter (chikshipo) his skin (tvacha) and body (sharira); when you cook/mature/purify (shruta) him, send him to to his Fathers (pitri); when he reaches the world of spirits, asuniti, he will become the subjects, vashani, of the Gods; as per his merits (dharma) he will go the earth (prithivi) or the sky (dya), to the waters and to the plants.

These verses have reflections of Krishna's words in Bhagavat Gita composed at least a thousand years later - Weapons cannot destroy the Self, Fire can’t burn it, nor can water wet it, wind can't dry it.


इन्द्र, Indra is the Indian Jupiter Pluvius or lord of rain. He fights against and conquers with his thunder-bolt वज्र,vajra, the demons of darkness, and is in general a symbol of generous heroism. The word Indra is derived from rootind, PIE yend meaning strong. It's akin to Old Greek hadro.

There may be a connection between the Greek Bellerophon, the slayer of Bellerus, and Indra Valahan, the slayer of Vala, the enemy who captivates the cows (light, rays) in caves. Indra smites the dragon Ahi and releases the water from the mountain. Gods or the elements of personalities bring light, increases the truth, vastness, infinite bliss and gives a feeling of freedom from all bondage all limitations. On the contrary the demons are powers of division and limitations, coverers, tearers, confiners etc. We've seen elsewhere that the physical power and strength of Indra that's praised throughout the RV is actually the power of the illumined mind. Indra signifies the illuminated mentality or the mind power and his horses are the energies of that mentality. He comes impelled by thought and driven by the illumined thinker within - dhiyeshita viprajuta.

The verses below are typical of Indra and similar things come innumerable times throughout Rig Veda. The episodes of Indra killing the Vala or Vritra or Ahi are all similar in significance and all represent the philosophy of setting everything free, breaking all obstructions and removing all confinements.

indrasya nu vīryāṇi pra vocaṃ yāni cakāra prathamāni vajrī |
ahann ahim anu apas tatarda pra vakṣaṇā abhinat parvatānām || 1.32.1

I WILL declare the manly deeds of Indra, the first that he achieved, the Thunder-wielder.
He slew the Dragon, then disclosed the waters, and cleft the channels of the mountain torrents. 1.32.1

ahannahiṃ parvate śiśriyāṇaṃ tvaṣṭāsmai vajraṃ svaryaṃ tatakṣa |
vāśrā iva dhenavaḥ syandamānā añjaḥ samudramava jaghmurāpaḥ || 1.32.2

He slew the Dragon lying on the mountain: his heavenly bolt of thunder Tvaṣṭar fashioned.
Like lowing kine in rapid flow descending the waters glided downward to the ocean. 1.32.2

aheryātāraṃ kamapaśya indra hṛdi yat te jaghnuṣo bhīraghachat |
nava ca yan navatiṃ ca sravantīḥ śyeno na bhītoataro rajāṃsi || 1.32.14

Whom sawest thou to avenge the Dragon, Indra, that fear possessed thy heart when thou hadst slain him;
That, like a hawk affrighted through the regions, thou crossedst nine-and-ninety flowing rivers? 1.32.14

indro yāto.avasitasya rājā śamasya ca śṛṅghiṇo vajrabāhuḥ |
sedu rājā kṣayati carṣaṇīnāmarān na nemiḥ pari tā babhūva || 1.32.15

Indra is King of all that moves and moves not, of creatures tame and horned, the Thunder-wielder.
Over all living men he rules as Sovran, containing all as spokes within the felly. 1.32.15


The Ashwins appear in the sky before the dawn in a golden carriage drawn by horses or birds. They are the Lords of the journey, the journey of life, the journey of fierce and violent actions and wonderful deeds that we've to accomplish everyday in our lives.
They represent the prana or the life energy that moves and acts and desires and enjoys.
They are considered as the physicians of heaven.
They bring enjoyment to men by averting misfortune and sickness.

The following verses show Ashwin as the divine physician who helps a woman with an impotent husband (
vadhrimati) by giving her a child; gives a poet (kavi) a perfect vision (vichaksha); gives Vishpala a leg of metal (ayasim jangha) when she loses her leg (charitra) in the battle of Khela. The first verse refers to the Dadhyach Myth (a man with a horse's head) that has ancient Indo European connections.

tad vāṃ narā sanaye daṃsa ugram āviṣ kṛṇomi tanyatur na vṛṣṭim |
dadhyaṃ ha yan madhu ātharvaṇo vām aśvasya śīrṣṇā pra yad īm uvāca || 1.116.12

That mighty deed of yours, for gain, O Heroes, as thunder heraldeth the rain, I publish,
When, by the horse's head, Atharvan's offspring Dadhyac made known to you the Soma's sweetness. 1.116.12

ajohavīn nāsatyā karā vāṃ mahe yāman purubhujā purandhiḥ |
śrutaṃ tat cāsur iva vadhrimatyā hiraṇyahastam aśvināv adattam || 1.116.13

In the great rite the wise dame called, Nāsatyas, you, Lords of many treasures, to assist her.
Ye heard the weakling's wife, as ’twere an order, and gave to her a son Hiraṇyahasta. 1.116.13

āsno vṛkasya vartikām abhīke yuvaṃ narā nāsatyāmumuktam |
uto kaviṃ purubhujā yuvaṃ ha kṛpamāṇam akṛṇutaṃ vicakṣe || 1.116.14

Ye from the wolf's jaws, as ye stood together, set free the quail, O Heroes, O Nāsatyas.
Ye, Lords of many treasures, gave the poet his perfect vision as he mourned his trouble. 1.116.14

caritraṃ hi ver ivāchedi parṇam ājā khelasya paritakmyāyām |
sadyo jaṅgām āyasīṃ viśpalāyai dhane hite sartave prat adhattam ||

When in the time of night, in Khela's battle, a leg was severed like a wild bird's pinion,
Straight ye gave Viśpalā a leg of iron that she might move what time the conflict opened. 1.116.15

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