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Varuna and his decline – Part Seven

Continued from Part Six

Varuna - 1

Varuna and Ahura Mazda

It is generally accepted that the Ahura Mazda of the Avesta is indeed the Varuna of Rig Veda. Before we come to that let’s talk of few other things.

X. Before parting of ways

The Old World

78.1. In the Vedic times the people on either side of the great river Sindhu were closely related. The communities that lived in what is Iran today and in what is Sind and Punjab today shared common traditions, myths and legends as also a common cultural milieu. Their faith, as also many of their religious rites were virtually the same; and were often called by same or similar names. The language spoken on either side of the great river; the words, grammar and syntax of the idioms sprung from same roots.

78.2. For, in those days what we now call the frontier between the two lands—the imaginary line dividing people of imaginary differences—did not exist; the Vedic people populated both Iran and India equally freely. They established kingdoms, formed alliances, and created common systems of: worship, living and trade; as also measurement and mathematics. They developed ongoing cultural and trade contacts with peoples of rival cultures as far away as Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and even Egypt; and carried their language so far west that the westernmost Isles of the Eurasian land mass came to be called “Eire” after Arya the term used by these people to describe themselves.

The gods and the priests

78.3. Of the gods worshipped on both the sides, Indra the Deva and Varuna the mighty Asura were prominent. The worship was commonly through the medium of the formless fire (Agni); they prayed to Agni to lead them along the good path (Agneye naya supatha rayé asman – Yajurveda 40.17). It appears that the older deity Varuna who upholds the moral order was more widely accepted in the western region (Iran) while Indra the warrior god had more followers on the east of the Sindhu. The   priests guiding the communities on the west of the great river were the Bhrigus (identified by some scholars as the tribe of the Anu or Anva), while Angirasas were the priests of the Puru people and of the dominant Bharatas on the eastern side. There was certain amount of rivalry between the Bhrigus and the Angirasas though both groups came from same stock (descendents of Prajapathi). It was not, therefore, a conflict between two diverse cultures. What separated the two clans was the conflict of ideas and rivalry rather than as enmity. That rivalry went far back into the pre-Vedic past. During the times of the early Rig Veda the Angirasas were regarded the dominant priests, while the Bhrigus or the Atharvanas synonymous with fire-priests were on the fringe.

The Bhrigus

79.1. The Bhrigus, also known as Bhargavas, are the descendents of the sage Bhrigu. The cult of the sage Bhrigu whose name derives from the root bhrk meaning ‘the blazing of the fire’ professed immense reverence towards the elements of fire on earth viz  the life and warmth-giving Sun and the Fire. Though all Rishis, in general, have associations with these two elements, the Bhrigus’ attachment to fire was a special one. They were the first to introduce the fire-ritual and the Soma-ritual; and were the first to discover the nexus between fire and water (Apam Napat).The Bhrigus were associated with water as also fire. The fire-worshipping Bhrigus were close to the life on seas, rivers. The vast stretch of the mouths of the mighty Sindhu as it branched into number of rivulets to join the occasion was the region of the Bhrigus. It is where they resided and flourished. That is the reason that the present day Baruch was known as Bhrigu-kaksha or Bhrigu kaccha the region of the Bhrigus.

79.2. The Bhrigus followed the doctrine of the ancestors (pitris) or the older gods (Asura). The Supreme Asura the Father -Varuna the Asura Mahat (the mighty Asura) was highly venerated by the Bhrigus. The Bhrigu cult which adopted monotheistic approach wholly favoured the worship of the invisible Asura the Father Varuna through the medium of the formless fire Agni that lights the path of the Fathers (the fire does not have much of a form—at least not a static one). They dis-favoured icon worship. The Bhrigus strived to abide by Rta the physical and moral laws of Varuna. And, insisted on sharp distinctions between the good and evil.

79.3. The main text of the Bhrigus was the Atharvana Veda. They were, in particular, known as Atharvans. Sri Sayana-charya described the Atharvanas as of firm resolve and steadfast mind. Elsewhere, Bhrigus were described as very proud people, hot tempered and independent. It is said; they valued free thinking more than the rules. Bhrigus were also the expert physicians, mathematicians, architects and artists. The Bhrigus compiled their almanac with reference to the star by the name of their preceptor Shukra (Venus)) [as did the ancient Egyptians, Mayas, Incas, Assyrians, and Babylonians].

The Angirasas

80.1. In contrast, the Angirasas who professed worship of younger gods (Deva) were the preceptors of the Puru Aryans the heroes of Rig Veda on the east of the Sindhu. The name Angirasa too is connected with fire as the ‘glowing coal or the shouldering ember’ (Angara).The Angirasas are described as the sons of the flame resembling the lustre of the dawn and as the drinkers of Soma. They are hailed as the warriors, the fighters for the cows or rays of sun (gosu yodhaah); and are credited with gaining back the cows, the horses, the waters and all treasures from the grasp of the sons of Darkness. Their association with the Dawn and the Sun and the Cows comes through in several ways.

80.2. Angirasas were dexterous users of words and were superb poets. They are the masters of the Rik who expressed their thought with clarity and brightness (svaadhibhir rkvabhih – RV: 6. 32.2).Their poetry is charged with high idealism, soaring human aspirations and an intense desire to grow out of the limited human confines. Angirasa are said to have composed the very first verse of the Rig Veda, the hymn to Agni.

80.3. The Angirasas were more closely associated with mountains, hills, dales, vast open spaces; and were mainly in the foothill regions of the Himalayas. They were more attuned to contemplation and pursuit of knowledge (than wealth and pleasure). They adopted the yajna and soma practices from the Bhrigus. The Angirasas compiled their almanac with reference to star bearing the name of their preceptor Brihaspathi, Guru (Jupiter) [as did the people of ancient Chinese, Japanese, Malaya, Indonesia, etc].

Bhrigu –Angirasa rift

81.1. Though both the Bhrigus and Angirasas were closely associated with fire, the Bhrigus in particular came to be known as the Atharvanas- the high priests who worship fire. Further, though both Bhrigus and Angirasas performed Yajna with great fervour, the latter tended to personify the gods and to lend them a form (murtha).This tendency to shift towards worship the formless through a personalized form or an idol (murti) seems to have displeased the Bhrigus and exacerbated the rift between the two great sages and their followers. The Bhrigus on the west of the Sindhu asserted their method of worship was pristine and their gods who were more ancient (Asura). The Angirasas on the other hand believed that the younger gods (Deva) were more dynamic, powerful and more responsive to prayers. Each group tended to look down upon the other; and to decry the gods of the rival cult.

81.2. The rise of Indra the king of Devas and the steep decline of Varuna the Asura and his eventual eclipse in the Vedic pantheon had lot to do with widening the rift between the clans of the two sages. Varuna in the early Rig Veda was a highly venerated god. He was hailed as the sole sovereign sky-god; the powerful Asura, the King of both men and gods, and of all that exists. He governed the laws of nature as also the ethical conduct of men. But with time, Varuna was steadily stripped of his powers one-by-one and relegated to a very minor rank. Further, one of the most fundamental aspects of Varuna the Rta, which signified the greatest good not merely ensured the physical order but also the moral order in the universe, was given a goby.

81.3. The shabby treatment meted out to Varuna the Asura Mahat, the watering down the laws of Varuna the Rta offended the Bhrigu clan greatly. Bhrigu was after all the son of Varuna.

The Bhrigus professed monotheism and formless worship of Varuna; and stood by Rta.   Even while the battles of minds and hearts were being waged the rival groups lived side by side.

Y. Rift formalized

Separation of Books

82.1. The rift between the two clans was more or less formalized when the composite text Atharvana Veda, also called Bhrigu – Angirasa Samhita, was split into two books along the lines of their affiliations: the Bhargava Veda (the Veda of the Bhrigus) and Angirasa Veda (the Veda of the Angirasa).It is believed that the Atharva Veda which has come down to us in India is, in fact, only one-half of the original text – the Angirasa Veda part. The other half the Bhargava Veda is lost to us.

82.2. Shri Jatindra Mohan Chatterji argues that the Bhrigus whose notions of God, of his worship and of the moral order were not well accepted in the east took with them their sacred text Bhargava Veda over to the west of the Sindhu River. Shri Chatterji says that Zend Avesta is the Bhargava Veda text that was lost to India. He asserts that the Bhargava Veda the missing Book of the Bhrigu Angirasa Samhita is indeed the Zend Avesta (The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathustra – Published by The Parsi Zoroastrian Association, Calcutta, 1967).

Please click on http://www.avesta.org/ and then go to   The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathushtra  in the page for the E-Book.

82.3 . Thus, the Indo-Iranians became divided into two groups of people on the basis of the method of worship and accent on certain principles. And it is apparently this division that led to the breakup of the original Aryan Land into two parts: Iran and India. In the process, both countries lost something. Iran, on the one hand, lost the Rig Veda, with its hymns in praise of Indra and along with it the Saman and Yajus as well. India, on the other hand, lost half of the Atharva Veda, namely the Bhragava Samhita or Bhargava Veda. Thereafter due to vicissitudes and ironies of history the two lands could never come together again. They, sadly, remain separated- forever.

82 .4 . When the Aryan community was undivided the terms Asura and Deva both denoted gods of high respect. The gods were referred to Asura as also Deva. But with the parting of their ways each tribe accorded its own chosen words of abuse to the terms Asura or Deva, depending on to which side of the Sindhu they belonged.

Z ….  And after

Language of the Avesta and Vedic Sanskrit

83.1. The Zend Avesta (chhanda = verse, meter; Avesta = apistaka = pusthaka) literally means the Book of Hymns, which indeed was the nature of the Bhragava Samhita or Bhargava Veda. Shri JM Chatterji observes that the language of the Avesta and the language of the Vedas resemble very closely since they are based in a common linguistic foundation.

It is said; their relation is so close that entire passages from the Gathas can be rendered into Vedic Sanskrit by application of the phonetic rules – that is by exchanging some sounds for others- such as S for Sh; Z for Zh; and ,C for  Ch. For instance;  the Sanskrit terms aham (‘I’), jihva (tounge), sapta (seven), hima (snow) and yajna (sacrifice ritual) would become ajem, hijvahaptazyma, and yasna, respectively, in the Iranian texts. Similarly Pita (Sk) would be Pitar (Av); Mans (Sk) – Manah (Av); Hotar (Sk) – Zotar (Av); Mitra (Sk) – Mithra (Av); Arya (Sk)-Ariyan (Av); and, Martyanam (Sk) – Masyanam (Av) and so on. Such rendering can produce verses in Sanskrit that are correct not only in form but also in poetic flow. Further, some terms – e.g. Shukra (bright), Krishna  (dark) – carry the same form and meaning in either text.

83.2. One could find a Sanskrit equivalent for almost any Avestan word. For instance: The Avesthan : aevo pantao yo ashahe, vispe anyaesham apantam (Yasna 72.11); could be rendered in Sanskrit as : abade pantha he ashae, visha anyaesham apantham (translation: The one path is that of Asha, all others are not-paths).

Another example (left) of Avestan text from Yasna 10.6 is rendered word for word in Sanskrit on the right. Translated it means: `Mithra that strong mighty angel, most beneficent to all creatures, I will worship with libations’

83.3. The Cambridge History of India observes, “The coincidence between the Avesta and the Rig-Veda is so striking that the two languages cannot have been long separated before they arrived at their present condition.” The linguist, Professor T. Burrow of Oxford University also argued for strong similarities between language of Avesta and Vedic Sanskrit.   And, HD Griswold (in his The Religion of the Rig Veda) went  so far as to point out that each can be said to be “a commentary on the other … No scholar of the Avesta worth the designation can do without a thorough grounding in Vedic Sanskrit”.

Zend Avesta and the Gathas

84.1. Zend Avesta is the oldest and the most famous religious text of Iran. As mentioned earlier, it is believed to be a version of the Vedic text Bhrigu Veda of the Atharva Veda. The Avesta comprises four books: Yasna (book of hymns), Yashta (book of prayers), visparatau (book of Rta or righteousness) and vidaevadata (book of laws). The hymns composed by the prophet Zarathustra are inserted into the original text of the Avesta in the Book of Yasna. His hymns – Gatha (Gita or songs) numbering seventeen consisting 238 verses are indeed the core and cream of the Avesta despite the fact that they form only a tiny portion of the whole textThese Gathas of inspired poetry composed in ancient form were sung by Zarathustra the poet-prophet to invoke and glorify the Great God Ahura Mazda. They are highly devotional in nature expounding the essence of Rta (Asha) the greatest good, the good mind (voshu) and righteousness. They also reveal the mind and the personality of Zarathustra the first prophet of mankind. He exhorts people to lead a life of righteousness as directed by Ahura Mazda.

The Gathas also contain biographical glimpses of Zarathustra.

Zarathustra

85.1. The traditions of Iran believe that Ratu (Rishi) Zarathustra descended from a long line of sage-kings (Raja-rishi). Zarathustra describes himself : as of the Bhrigu clan, a Bhargava ‘ I am Spitama Zarathustra’ (the Avestan term Spitatama = shukla (Snkt) = white which is the colour associated with Bhrigu); as  in the line of sage Vashishtha (Vahishta in the Avesta: Vahishtem Thwa Vahishta yem); as an Atharvan (fire priest); as a Zoatar (hotar (Snkt)= priest officiating at the yajna) ; as  a reciter of Mantras (Mantrono dutim –Ys.32.13) ; and as a Mantra teacher (Manthra-ne :Ys.50.5).

85.2. He declares that “silent meditation is the best for man” (Ys.43.15); and exhorts to worship the formless-one “in essence and in vision’ (Ys.33.71). He was not very fond of rites and rituals; and was positively against worship of icons. Zarathustra proclaimed his immense faith in the Great One; and said that the formless Supreme can be realized through intense Love alone (in the sense of deep Bhakthi) –“, O Ahura, Who Art the Greatest Good; with love would I worship Thee” (Gatha: 28.82). According to Shri JM Chatterji, Zarathustra was a Vedic sage in the line of Bhrigu and Vashista; and the Gathas resemble in tenor and spirit the devote and forceful hymns sung in praise of Varuna by sage Vashista in the Atharva Veda (AV.4.16.7-8).

85.3. Scholars believe that Zarathustra lived during the late Vedic age when Varuna was being phased out; when he was no longer the greatest god; and when Indra ruled as the king of gods. Given the fact that he lived in the regions west of the Sindhu and that he belonged to the Bhrigu-clan, Zarathustra was naturally inclined towards the worship of Varuna the formless Great Asura. There is therefore in Zarathustra’s hymns a strong streak of monotheism; great love for his God; immense faith in prayers and in God’s mercy; and a very clear and a precise moral sense of the right and the wrong.

Ahura Mazda

86.1. Zarathustra declared there is only one God and He is formless. He is the only one worthy of highest worship. Zarathustra gave that ‘formless mighty spirit’ one and only one name: Ahura Mazda. Zarathustra’s monotheism is so strict and uncompromising that never in his Gathas does he address or refer to his God by any other name. And, he declared ‘Ahura Mazda alone is worthy of worship’ (Gatha: 29.4).

86.2. The terms Ahura (Asura= the formless mighty lord) and Mazda (Mahat = Greatest; or Medha = Vedhas = wise) were already in use and well known in the eastern regions of Iran as alternate names of the ancient god Varuna. The virtues and attributes of Varuna were also well known. But, ever since Zarathustra employed the compound term -Ahura Mazda – it became widely accepted in preference to the earlier name Varuna.

86.3. Ahura Mazda was conceived as a formless invisible God. The prime attribute of the invisible God is his essence. Zarathustra visualized his God in his heart and mind; and described him in varieties of ways. Zarathustra sang the glory of his God Ahura Mazda the spirit in his being as:

the uncreated God; the mighty formless spirit; highest deity; wholly wise, benevolent and good; Most beneficent spirit; Maker of the material worldHoly One; the creator and upholder of the moral order Asha (Rta); All-Wise Lord of All He Surveys; the source of all goodness; the friend of the righteous, the destroyer of the evil and the creator of the universe which is completely good.

86.4. He bursts into a series of superlatives: the All Brilliant; the All Majestic; the All Greatest;;the Greatest Good; Most Beneficent Spirit; the Best(Vahishtem);  and the Most Beautiful (Ys: 31 .21).

86.5. Zarathustra describes Ahura Mazda in as many as one hundred-and-one epithets, of which the forty-fourth is Varuna. In the Avesta, Varuna stands for the ‘all –embracing sky’.

86.6. Ahura Mazda was invoked in a triad, with Mithra and Apam Napat (described as the spirit of the waters). Ahura Mazda was not worshiped through a murti or an idol; in fact, the idols were smitten in the congregations.

[Till the Achaemenid period (ca. 550–330 BC) it was customary for the emperors to have an empty chariot drawn by white horses to honour Ahura Mazda. However, stone carved Images of Ahura Mazda began to appear in the Parathion period (ca.129 BC-224 AD).]

86.7. Further, In the Gathas where the battle between good and evil is a distinguishing characteristic of the religion, the Daevas (Devas the Vedic gods) are the “wrong gods”, the followers of whom need to be brought back to the path of the ‘good religion’.

Ahura Mazda and Varuna

87.1. Scholars, who have studied the Gathas closely, observe the virtues, powers and attributes of Ahura Mazda and that of Varuna of the Rig Veda   are almost identical. Many strongly believe that Ahura Mazda is indeed the Varuna. For instance, Bloomfield (in his Hymns of the Atharva-Veda, Sacred Books of the East, 1897) declared: “It seems to me an almost unimaginable feat of scepticism to doubt the original identity of Varuna and Mazda”. And, similarly Nichol Manicol (Indian Theism, London, 1915) observed that “the evidence that identifies Varuna with Mazda is too strong to be rejected”.

Rta and Asha

We need to talk a bit more about Rta the very heart of Varuna-doctrine and hence the core of Zarathustra’s Gathas.

88.1.  Rta in Rig Veda is the principle that supports and upholds all creation; it governs the physical and moral order in the universe. Rta in the Avesta is termed Asha; and Asha carries the same connotation as RtaAsha the greatest good of all is the basic and the most important tenet of the Avesta. The term Asha occurs in the Avesta texts in a variety of forms such as: asha, arsh, eresh, arta and ereta.

88.2. Asha is raised to a very exalted position; to the level of Ahura Mazda himself. Ahura Mazda is described as ‘of one accord with Asha’; and as one ‘who is highest in Asha, and one who has advanced furthest in Asha.’

Asha is the changeless eternal law of Ahura .It was in accordance with that law that the universe came into being; it is by Asha that the universe is sustained; and it is by obeying which universe is progressing towards its destiny and fulfilment.

As the moral order in the Universe, Asha signifies righteousness, Truth, Justice and Divine will. Asha is also the spiritual enlightenment. As it usually happens, it is hard to find an exact term in English language to capture   an Indian concept. It is the case with Rta and Asha too.

88.3. A prayer calls out Asha as “the Love, the greatest Love and the enlightenment of he who honours Asha just for the love of it”; and yearns “Through the best Asha, through the highest Asha, may we get a vision of Thee O Ahura Mazda, may we draw near unto Thee, may we be in perfect union with Thee” (Ys.60.12).Finally “there is but one path…the path of Asha; all the rest are false” (Ys.71.11)

Great Reformer

89.1. Zarathustra was not only a great prophet but was also a great reformer. He did not overthrow the older Vedic region and its beliefs. Instead, he reformed the ancient religion and lent it a definite sense of direction. [In a way, the religion of Zarathustra is closer to the Vedic religion than is the Buddhism.]

89.2. Zarathustra re-established Varuna and his doctrine of moral order, of Love and of faith in God. He placed the formless and unseen, the one and only God at the centre of kingdom of justice. He emphasized the dichotomy of the good and bad; the value systems and the wisdom in life. He asked his people to Love God and the Truth for its own sake. He played down the role of rituals and encouraged contemplation; exhorted to worship the formless God ‘in essence and vision’ and to seek him in silent meditation.

89.3. Varuna symbolized purity in life in all its aspects. Zarathustra sought to re-establish in his land the sense of purity as also the values and the wisdom of the ancient Great and Noble God Varuna.

[ I fondly recall my dear departed friend Dorabjee   ( whose story  you read earlier; if you have not , please do read  now my tribute to an old friend ) . It was Dorabjee  who during my early years in Bombay led me to acquaintance with the Gathas of Zarathustra and to the realization how close they were to the hymns of Atharva Veda. I trust my friend, wherever he is, would not be displeased with my effort.]

 

References and Sources

1. Indra and Varuna in Indian Mythology by Dr. Usha Choudhuri; Nag Publishers, Delhi, 1981

2. The Indian Theogony by Dr.Sukumari Bhattarcharji, Cambridge University Press, 1970

3. Asura in early Vedic religion by WE Hale; Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, 1986

4. Goddesses in ancient India by PK Agrawala; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi,1984

5. The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathustra by JM Chatterji; the Parsi Zoroastrian Association, Calcutta, 1967; http://www.avesta.org/chatterj_opf_files/slideshow.htm.

6. Outlines of Indian Philosophy –Prof M Hiriyanna; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2005

7.Original Sanskrit texts on the 0rigin and history of the people of India, their region and institution By J. Muir;Trubner & co., London, 1870.

8. A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature byJohn Dowson; Turner & co, Ludgate hill. 1879.

9. Vaidika Sahitya Charitre by Dr. NS Anantharangachar; DVK Murthy, Mysore, 1968

10. Sri Brahmiya Chitra Karma sastram by Dr. G. Gnanananda

11. Zarathustra Chapters 1-6 by Ardeshir Mehta; February 1999

 http://www.indiayogi.com/content/indgods/varuna.aspx

http://www.bookrags.com/research/varua-eorl-14/

http://www.bookrags.com/wiki/Varuna

http://www.hinduweb.org/home/dharma_and_philosophy/vshirvaikar/Dnyaneshwari/Dnch10pg1.html

http://rashmun.sulekha.com/blog/post/2010/03/vedic-literature-the-degradation-of-varuna-and-indra.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Varuna

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/vedic-verses/453851-vak-suktam-aka-devi-suktam.html

http://www.svabhinava.org/HinduCivilization/AlfredCollins/RigVedaCulture_ch07-frame.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura_Mazda

http://www.iamronen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ReadingLila.pdf

 http://www.hummaa.com/player/player.php

All images are by courtesy of Internet

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Varuna

 

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Varuna and His Decline – Part Six

 Continued from Part Five

V. Varuna Iconography

70.1. The Iconography of Varuna is highly varied. The variations are generally two-fold. One, the depiction of his image depends upon the stage of his career at which he is being discussed. For instance,  in the context of the early Rig Veda Varuna is a sublime , gracious and a very handsome deity who is  the lord of all existence . But , in the Brahmanas   he is depicted as a severe looking stern judge holding the punitive noose and riding a fearsome mythical monster Makara. And again,  when he is portrayed  as a water-god the attributes symbolizing water element are stressed; and, when he is shown as Dikpala the guardian of  the west  he is shown in the air riding his mount in the sky; and so on.

And the other is that the various texts of Shilpa Shastra and the Puranas each project its own version of Varuna image; and, they differ in details.

Thus the Iconography of Varuna is not uniform; it is spread across a whole spectrum of varied notions of Varuna. In the iconographic sense there is not one but several Varunas. It might not therefore be possible to discuss the whole range of Varuna features. We may pick up just a few instances.

70.1. Before looking at few instances of his form,  let’s glance at his features in a summary fashion by putting together his descriptions scattered across several texts.

71.1. Most of the descriptions of Varuna celebrate him as the lord of the waters; and some (e.g. Aparajita pruccha)   hail him as the lord of the west. But, his original attributes, mentioned in Rig Veda, of being the lord of the sky or the governor of Rta are not stressed in the texts dealing with his Iconography. They are completely glossed over. That is understandable, because the Shilpa texts and the Puranas are far removed in time from the age of the Rig Veda; and these texts came into being centuries after the Vedic period. By then, Varuna’s decline and his demotion into a mere water-god had been complete.

: – Varuna is shown either in standing posture (sthanaka) or as seated (aasana) or as riding his vahana. But he is not shown in reclining position (shayana). He is shown either alone (kevala) or with his consort/s.

:-The Varuna – iconography sometimes describes him as having four heads (Vishnudharmottara) and four arms (in Rupamandana, Vishnudharmottara  and Aparajita pruccha) ; but, generally he is described with one head and two or four arms.

: – Varuna is usually presented as a bright looking, well built god of peaceful and benign disposition.  But he is also shown with a potbelly (a characteristic of lunar gods) . The Brahmana texts show him as an obscure (jambaka) ugly looking, white-spotted (shukla), a rather deformed bald headed fat man with protruding teeth (vikidha)   and yellow or brownish eyes (pingaksha).

:-  His complexion too varies across the texts. In most of the texts he is described as of fair complexion radiant like a conch or a sparkling crystal (spatika). But he is also described as having glossy sky-blue complexion (Rig Veda, Vishnudharmottara); or lustrous golden complexion (Kashyapa shilpa), or dark complexion (Padma samhitha).

:- Varuna usually favours white colour; his garments, ornaments, garlands and necklaces are of white. But, in some instances he is adorned in red garments (kashyapa shilpa) or yellow garments (Shilparatna).

:- He is either seated or is riding a Makara (a mythical monster of which we shall talk a little later); but he is also mentioned as riding a crocodile (Rupa mandana) or seated on a swan or seated on a dog or a Makara with a dog-head (Mathsya Purana).In some older texts (Vishnudharmottara) his chariot is drawn by a set of seven swans. And, at times he is  shown sitting by a waterfowl.

: – The Ayudhas or the objects he holds usually are: the pasa (noose), lotus, a jewel box, and a snake. At times he is depicted with water pot (kamandalu) or a mace (musala) or a conch (shankha).

: – Varuna’s abode as mentioned in the early Vedic texts is the atmosphere. In the   later texts, his abode is in the waters or a region in the ocean (pastatsu) in a multi-pillared mansion. He is also said to have palaces in hilly regions near the Meru on the Pushpagiri hills. Mahabharata mentions that Varuni (also called as Gauri), Vriddhi and Jesta (daughter of Shuklacharya) are his queens. He rides across the heavens in his glittering chariot. He has at his service thousands of spies who report to him on all that the men do or do not do.

Particulars of Varuna Iconography as in:

Rig Veda

72.1. Rig Veda describes Varuna’s appearance in glowing terms: as the most resplendent god of glowing- sky-blue complexion, with Agni in his face and Surya in his eye. He is far sighted (uru-chaksasa). He is the eye of all the worlds (jagath-chakshu- RV.1.25.5). He has soft and beautiful hands (supani) in which he holds lotuses and an auspicious noose . He is splendidly adorned in golden mantel (drapi) and a shining robe. His chariot dazzles brilliantly like sunrays (ghabasti suro nadyauth – RV.1.122.15).Varuna and Mitra ride the golden chariot like floating clouds in the blue sky, drawn by well yoked steeds. (RV.5.62.7). in the midst of vast heavens urukşhaya (RV. 1.2.9) he is seated on a splendid throne placed in his  golden palace of thousand pavilions, thousand columns (RV. 2.41.5) and thousand doors (RV. 7.88.5).  From his glittering throne, the monarch (samrajnya) watches over the deeds of all men and gods (pastyasu) – (RV .1.22.11-12).

Brahmanas

72.2. Taittereya Brahmana (3.9.15.3) and Shatapatha Brahmana (13.3.6.5) present a totally different and a fierce picture of Varuna. He is ugly and deformed. He appears here as an obscure figure (jambaka) , as a white-spotted(shukla) bald headed fat man, with protruding teeth(vikidha)  and reddish brown eyes (pingaksha).But, he is embellished in golden ornaments .

Puranas

72. 3 .1. The sixth century –text Vishnudharmottara Purana (part three, Ch.52, verses 1-21) as also Brihatsamhita carry almost identical descriptions of Varuna. In the Vishunudharmottara, sage Markandeya explains that the image of Varuna the lord of waters should be made on a chariot with seven swans.

Elsewhere it is said; His colour resembles the glossy brilliant blue (lapis-lazuli). His blue is described as the colour of clear blue sky reflected in a tranquil pool of transparent water. Varuna is depicted with four faces, a slightly prominent belly and four arms holding   in his:   upper right hand – a noose, upper left hand – a conch, lower left hand a – jewel box, and in his lower right hand a lotus.

72.3.2. As per the Varuna Dhyana sloka, Varuna is smiling, gentle colour of snow, lotus or moon. Varuna is wearing white garment; and is well adorned with ornaments and rows of pearl necklaces .He is seated on a magnificent throne along with his two queens (Ganga and Yamuna) . A white umbrella named Abhoga mounted atop the throne is spread over his head. Incidentally, that white umbrella emerged from churning of the ocean and was given to Varuna. White umbrella (sveta chattra) is a royal insignia. His emblem Makara the mythical creature is placed to his left. Varuna, in most cases is depicted as a highly respected king.

72.3.3. In the Matsya Purana (26.17.18) Varuna is depicted as a mighty (maha-balam) god of peaceful continence. He has two arms; and  he holds the Pasa; and,  gestures assurance (abhaya) or blessings.  He is   fair in complexion; and glows like a conch (shankha) or the crystal (spatika). He is adorned in white garments, ornaments of pearl, white flower garlands, rows of pearl necklaces and an ornate crown. He is riding a dog or a Makara with dog’s head (basha asana).

Again , Matsya Purana   (174.15) sketches Varuna as standing in the midst of army of gods ,  holding a noose and waiting for the fight to commence, like an ocean furious to overshoot the shores .

At another place, Matsya Purana (260.17.18) describes Varuna of white complexion like that of a conch and crystal (spatika) . His disposition is peaceful.  He is adorned with white garlands and garments.   He is seated on a Makara or crocodile wearing a crown.

Varuna2

Texts of Shilpa Shastra

Similar descriptions of Varuna are provided in the texts of the Shilpa Shastra.

72.4.1. Rupamandana (2.35) describes Varuna the regent of the west as having four arms. In three of his hands he holds a Pasa (noose), a lotus and a jewel box (lower left hand). And, his lower right hand is bestowing blessings on the devote. He is riding a crocodile (nakra –arudam).

72. 4.2. Pushkara samhitha (4.153) describes Varuna as the lord of waters who is strong and well built (bhimam). His complexion glows like a fresh pearl (muktha-phala dyuthi samam) . He is ever surrounded by thousands of Naga nymphs (naga kanya sahasradyam). He rides a Makara.

72.4.3. In contrast to that, Padma Samhita (22.60) and Haya shirsha Samhitha (Adi.25.8) present Varuna as dark complexioned (varunam shyamalam). Of his two hands he holds in the left a noose (pasa) and with his right he gestures assurance (abhaya pradam) and blessings. He is resplendent with his sparkling   earrings in the shape of Makara (makara kundala) and in his bright crown modest sized crown (karandi makuta).

72.4.4. In Kashyapa shilpa shastra (48.52.-54) Varuna the lord of waters is adorned in red garments (raktha dharo bhushitam); his body is lustrous as gold (swarna varni) .In his two hands he holds a snake (naga) and a noose (pasa) .He rides a Makara with his consort Padmini Devi.

72.4.5. Shilpa -ratna gives a slightly different version of Varuna. Here the benign (saumyam) and peaceful (shantam) looking mighty (maha balam) is resplendent and fair (swetha varnasthu). He is wearing yellow garments (pitha vastra dharam); and is richly ornamented (sarva-bharana bhushitam) and is adorned with a crown (karandi makuta). He holds a noose (pasa) in each of his two hands; and is riding a Makara. . He is placed in a yajna pavilion (yajna satra).

72.4.6. In Aparajita pruccha (213.13) Varuna the regent of the west is described with four arms. He holds in his upper right arm a pasa (noose), in his upper left a lotus, in the lower left a water pot (kamandalu) and with his lower right he bestows assurance and blessings (varam).He rides a Makara.

72.4.6. Hayastra Pancharatra depicts Varuna as a water-god; he is shown with two arms standing on back of a swan. His right hand shows gesture of removing fear (abhaya).In his left hand he holds a noose made of a snake. The water pot is to his left. He is accompanied by his consort Vriddhi on the left and his son Pushkara on the right. He is surrounded by serpents, rivers, and water animals.

In the niches of temple walls

There are of course no temples dedicated to Varuna. But, his image is at times carved in the niche of the western temple walls. Let’s see a few such instances.

73.1. In the eleventh century Brahmeshwar temple, Bhubaneswar Orissa , an image of Varuna is carved in the niche on its western wall . Varuna is depicted as standing (sthanaka) in a relaxed and graceful posture holding in his right hand a long noose by its end while his left hand is placed on his hip. In his lower left hand he holds a water vessel. He is adorned with jewelled crown,( ratna-kundala,) pearl yajnopavitha that runs down across his chest, , and  with a waist girdle. An oval halo is carved around his head. At his feet lies the Makara with its mouth open standing in the waters. His consorts carved at the base in miniature figures carry lotuses.

73.2. In the Raja-rani temple at Bhubaneswar, Varuna two armed is standing near Makara. He holds a noose in his left hand.  And his right hand shows gesture of removing fear (abhaya)a noose (pasa) by its end in the left. Makara is depicted next to him. This sculpture is remarkable for its relaxed demeanour, pleasant facial expression and rich ornamentation.

73.4. In the Kosalesvara temple (c. eighth century) at Patnagarh, Orissa, an exquisitely carved image of a youthful Varuna sitting in a relaxed pose (lalithasana) is on the temple wall on the west. He is richly ornamented with a beautiful crown bearing a kirtimukha logo at its centre,  a semi oval Prabhavali (orb ) placed behind his head, rows of necklaces (Hara, Keyura, Kankana, Katisutra) and an yajnopavitha across his chest.

73.5. Varuna is often depicted along with a waterfowl as in the following.

73.6. A seated figure of Varuna is carved on the walls of the Parasuramesvara temple, Orissa, (c.10tcentury).  Varuna is on the lower left.

73.7. The tenth-eleventh century temple of   Banteay Srei, Cambodia, displays rich and varied depictions of Varuna as riding a swan or a Makara; and surrounded by host of followers.

W. Makara

74.1. Makara is often translated as crocodile. In the context of Indian iconography that may not be quite correct. Makara as referred to here is truly a mythical creature that combines in itself the features of several sea and land animals.  Makara has no well defined form or structure. Its appearance varies depending on the features of the animals that combine into its form. Perhaps because of its indefinite form, Makara is termed a monster  in the sense that it is neither this nor that. It is a mythical beast of both land and sea with fanciful features.  Almost any weird combination of animals could be a Makara. But the two common features of all Makara forms are: a long and a probing snout; and the other, an elaborate and spread out tail.

75.1. In the Indian Iconography ,  Makara is a composite figure, generally,  with a trunk as that of an elephant, ears like that of a cow, eyes as those of a fish, body as that of a boar, and the tail elaborate and  bushy like that of a peacock ; and its legs resemble that of a lion . It could even be presented as fantastic marine monster structured with the body and tail of a fish and the forelegs, neck, and head of an antelope, an alligator, or a shark; or whatever.

75.2. It is also called kantaka, Asita-dramstra (black teeth) and jala-rupa (water form). Makara may be shown either as carrying a rider on its back (vahaka yuktam) or it may not (svatantram). It may even be shown as if it is ready to pounce and attack (yuddha sannaddham) or just being playful (kridabhi-ramakam).

75.3. A feature of Indian temple architecture is Makara –Torana    the ornamental arch way to the temple entrance; it  also adores the doorway   to the sanctum. Makara toranas are very varied with endless permutations of elaborate patterns and designs. But, invariably the toranas are artfully designed to suggest as if the doorway is held afloat, at either end, by the extended snouts of two Makars with frothy or bushy peacock tails. Even the Buddhist monuments including the gateway to the ancient Sanchi stupa are decorated by Makara toranas.

75.4. Sometimes, when it is used as a decorative motif its entire body may not be depicted; but, only its head could be detailed along  with its tail either well spread out and standing up (puchcham urdhva visrtam) or spread around (sarvato gatam) or hanging down to earth (bhu-pranta vikshiptam) .

75.5. Makara’s face alone is used in Indian temple architectural element as kirtimukha “glory face”.

75.6. Makara as a decorative and as a royal insignia is well accepted. It is a widely used decorative embellishment and a symbol in most Indian works of art and in iconography.

Makara – an Indian symbol that travelled worldwide

76.1. Makara is essentially an Indian symbol. It is very ancient too. In the Bhagavad-Gita Sri Krishna mentions “I am Makara among the aquatics (jhasanam makarah) just as the Ganga among the rivers and Rama among the warriors”- (Gita .10.31). As a sea creature, Makara may have initially been a fish or a crocodile but later on it took many fanciful forms. The Makara concept seems to have captured the imagination of rest of the ancient world too. Makara in its various forms and manifestations spread to west .And it is said, Makara‘s metamorphosis is the Babylonian water-god Ea an antelope-fish; the goat-fish Capricorn of the Zodiac; the horse-headed sea-water animal or water-serpent Nykkur of Norse legends; and, the mythical seahorse and the dragon. Even the Sphinx could be termed a Makara.  It is also explained that in old-Greek Makara means ‘the blessed ‘and is root of Greek names such as Makarios.

76.2. The combination of the features of an aquatic animal, a serpent, an elephant and the dragon; as also the mystic symbolisms associated with it inspired the legends, myths and all art forms in Burma,  China , Far East and  in Buddhism. It is also said; the ancient flag of ancient seafaring people of Sri Lanka, the Karware carried the Makara emblem with an image of a fish at its centre.  Burma’s animal of five beauties is also a Makara.

Makara Symbolism

77.1. Makara is rich in symbolism. Ananda K Coomaraswamy (in his Yaksha) writes “Makara is a great Leviathan (serpent) moving through the primeval waters, the cosmic ocean of the night sky, which contain the essence of life.” He suggests, Makara stands for Prakrti that manifests the un-manifest. He equates Makara with the abode of lotus which in turn symbolizes life.

77.2. In the Indian calendar , Makara –Sankranthi (in December/ January) marks the end of winter solstice and the entering of the Sun into the tenth house of the Zodiac heading toward the northern hemisphere. It is the dawn for the gods. It also is the birth of time; and the first day of the New Year. Makara is associated with creation-process; thus, it symbolizes time and its cyclic nature. Makara is therefore prominently placed in Sun temples.

77.3. The Makara, its forms and symbolisms have permeated Indian art and living at various levels. Apart from being a royal insignia and serving as a decorative designer as a structural bracket, Makara is the vahana, the vehicle or the ride, of Varuna, the goddesses Lakshmi, Ganga and Saraswathi; and, is the banner on Kamadeva’s flag. The earrings of Vishnu and other gods are in the shape of Makara (Makara-kundala).In astrology Makara is related to constellation of Capricorn (Makara-raasi) with Sea-Goat as its symbol.

There is even a depiction of the five-faced Hanuman riding a Makara

Five-faced Hanuman

77.4. The elephant-like trunk of the Makara and the waters bring together Lakshmi goddess of beauty and prosperity and Ganga the river goddess. Elephants are associated with clouds, rains and waters. Makara which serves Lakshmi, Ganga and other river-goddesses as their vahana, the ride, is also connected with water.

Ganga

[Note: Wherever there is discrepancy between the narration and the picture  ; please take the narration and ignore discrepancy.]

navagunjara

Continued

in the Next Part

References and Sources

1. Indra and Varuna in Indian Mythology by Dr. UshChoudhuri; Nag Publishers, Delhi, 1981

2. The Indian Theogony by Dr.Sukumari Bhattarcharji, Cambridge University Press, 1970

3. Asura in early Vedic religion by WE Hale; Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, 1986

4. Goddesses in ancient India by PK Agrawala; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi,1984

5. The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathustra by JM Chatterji; the Parsi Zoroastrian Association, Calcutta, 1967; http://www.avesta.org/chatterj_opf_files/slideshow.htm.

6. Outlines of Indian Philosophy –Prof M Hiriyanna; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2005

7.Original Sanskrit texts on the 0rigin and history of the people of India, their region and institution By J. Muir;Trubner & co., London, 1870.

8. A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature byJohn Dowson; Turner & co, Ludgate hill. 1879.

9. Vaidika Sahitya Charitre by Dr. NS Anantharangachar; DVK Murthy, Mysore, 1968

10. Sri Brahmiya Chitra Karma sastram by Dr. G. Gnanananda

11. Zarathustra Chapters 1-6 by Ardeshir Mehta; February 1999

 http://www.indiayogi.com/content/indgods/varuna.aspx

http://www.bookrags.com/research/varua-eorl-14/

http://www.bookrags.com/wiki/Varuna

http://www.hinduweb.org/home/dharma_and_philosophy/vshirvaikar/Dnyaneshwari/Dnch10pg1.html

http://rashmun.sulekha.com/blog/post/2010/03/vedic-literature-the-degradation-of-varuna-and-indra.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Varuna

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/vedic-verses/453851-vak-suktam-aka-devi-suktam.html

http://www.svabhinava.org/HinduCivilization/AlfredCollins/RigVedaCulture_ch07-frame.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura_Mazda

http://www.iamronen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ReadingLila.pdf

 http://www.hummaa.com/player/player.php

All images are by courtesy of Internet

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Iconography, Varuna

 

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Varuna and His Decline – Part Five

Continued from Part Four

Decline of a Great and a Noble god

The explanations for Varuna’s decline in stages and his eventual fall from the high pedestal are many. Let’s see some of those.

R. The Decline

Loss of sovereignty

59.1. As mentioned earlier, Varuna derived his sovereignty (kshatra) and the supreme status among the gods by virtue of his being the sole sky-god. He embodied the sky in all its aspects. He encompassed   the sky, the earth and all existence. Besides, he was the all-knowing Lord (Asura –visvavedasa; and the sole governor of the natural and moral laws that operated in heavens as on earth.

59.2. That, however, was a short-lived glory. Varuna’s suzerainty over the sky was lost. His powers were curtailed.   Varuna soon had to share his powers and control over the sky, the Rta and the Dharman (RV 3.59.1; 1.5.81) with Mitra regarded more active and more vibrant. Mitra came to symbolize the day sky with all its brilliance; while Varuna who earlier was the lord of the entire sky had his authority restricted to the night sky (RV 4.8.3 and TS. 4.8.3) with its thousand stars symbolizing his thousand eyes (sahasraksha) watching in secret the activities of men at night.

That was the beginning of a great slide.

[A brief note on Mitra: Of all the Vedic gods, Varuna is most closely related to Mitra. In the Vedic times Mitra was not an independent god; he was always mentioned in company of his friend (except in one hymn). It is said, he was given the name Mitra because he was the friend of Varuna. They were fused into the dual god   Maitra-Varuna and Deva –asura (a dvandva or compound) sharing common functions and authority (mahaanta mitravaruna samraja devasura –RV 8.25.4). They together became the guardians of the world (RV. 2.27.4). And it is said; the great sky shines by their ordinance (RV.10.65.5). They discharge the rains (RV 1.151.9). Their godhead is beyond the ken of the skies or of the rivers (RV 1.151.9). They are awful deities; haters and dispellers of falsehood (RV .1.152.1); they are the gods of the oath. Mitra together with Varuna becomes the keeper of Rta and Dharman (RV 8.25). They are described as righteous Rtavan and promoters righteous rites Rtavardha, and lords of truth and light (Rtasya jotisaapathi – RV. 1.2.8; 1.23.5; 1.136.4; 2.27.4; 5.63.1). Varuna becomes Agni in the evening, and rising in the morning he becomes Mitra (AV .2.28.2).

It is explained; though the attributes and the functions of the two are different, dissimilar and contrasting, they complement each other well. The two ever exist and work in harmony. They present a well knit unity; the oneness of two contrasting factors: Being and Non-Being; day and night; light and darkness. Mitra and Varuna are indeed the two aspects of the same reality.

Eventually both Varuna and Mitra had to give place to gods greater than both of them.]

Association with night and dark traits

60.1. Mitra symbolizing day-sky and light gained identity with god of sunlight (Tai Br. 25.10.10). With that, the virtues of clarity, brightness which reveals reality and the life-giving energy became his attributes. He was also associated with the bright-half of the month (Shukla-paksha). Varuna, on the other hand, as the night-god acquired the attributes of darkness such as: secrecy, mystery and the nature of concealing. And, he got associated with the darker-half of the month (Krishna –paksha).

60.2. His association with night and darkness is not stressed in the early Vedic texts where he merely represents the star-eyed night sky. But, in the later texts his dark and malevolent traits begins to emerge clearly. It is said, the merciful Mitra pacifies the cruel Varuna (Mitro hi kruram varunam shantham karoti –TS. 2.1.9.5).

60.3. Varuna the son of Aditi who was a solar deity (Aditya) and the chief of the Adityas; but now he is drawn nearer to lunar deities: Rudra, Soma, and Yama and to Agni another night god. He also comes close to the gruesome aspects of life symbolized by Nirtti who is the evil genius of destruction, dissolution and misfortune.

Varuna is now portrayed as a spy-master (Spasa) and a stern judge whose punitive weapons are torture, sense of guilt, disease and sudden death. Varuna’s serene form too turns ugly. He now has a potbelly, bald head, protruding teeth and reddish-brown or yellow eyes.

Inconsistent disposition

60.4. The other reason cited for Varuna’s decline is the suspected flaw in his disposition. Varuna was perhaps not wholly benevolent like Indra of the early Rig-Veda. The ambivalent character of Varuna–now favourable and now unfavourable; and his inconsistent disposition was far from admirable. Further, Varuna, for some reason, acquired the unenviable reputation of one indulging in guile and trickery. His character was shaded with a sort of ambiguity. The Vedic poets did not seem amused by a less –than- perfect Varuna; they were decidedly in favour of uncompromisingly good gods.

Further, Varuna was of passive tendencies. And, like his predecessor Dayus, he too lacked aggression and convincing positive traits.

60.5. Loosing suzerainty over the sky and being restricted to night sky marked the beginning of Varuna’s decline and emergence of his darker traits. Thereafter he went down steadily. With the passage of time, the lordship, power and glory depart from Varuna.

The other explanations

The other reasons offered to explain Varuna’s fall from kingship and power, which led to his eventual eclipse, has lot to do with the history of ancient mythology. In the Indian context, history and mythology are entwined; they can hardly be separated.

Bhrigu-Angirasa rift

61.1. One explanation is that Varuna’s decline in the Vedic pantheon has to be placed against the continuing rivalry between two ancient sages Bhrigu the priest of the Anus (in the west) and Angirasa the priest of the dominant Puru-Bharatas in the valley of seven rivers. Their rivalry spread into recurring conflicts between the two clans. The differences arose between the two sages; it is said, on issues concerning the concept of a single god and the worship practices. The tendency of the Angirasas to treat all gods as equal and to shift towards worship of the Supreme through personalized forms or murtis; to glorify the warlike Indra; and to sideline the righteous Varuna as also his governing principle Rta  , all these, greatly annoyed  the Bhrigus. The Bhrigus in turn asserted their faith (which they said was ancient) in monotheism and in the worship of the single-god through formless fire. The Bhrigus placed the ancient god Varuna in the centre of their cosmology and hailed him as the only worship worthy god. The Angirasas on the other hand glorified the younger god Indra but treated him as one among other gods and as one of the many manifestations of the Supreme Being; and they assigned forms and attribute to all gods. But, as said, the Angirasas were the dominant priests in the Vedic community and their views determined the hierarchy among the Vedic gods.

The battles that Vedic communities had to fight

61.2. According to another argument, the decline of Varuna and the ascendency of Indra have to be viewed in the context of the trials and tribulations of the Vedic communities; and in the context of the wars they had to fight. Varuna till then their mightiest god belonged to the older generation of gods; he was essentially a god of righteousness and of placid nature. He was ideal for times of peace and comfort. But in hard – times when they were besieged and had to fight back the encroaching enemy they desperately needed a leader who could stand up to the demands of the challenging times, inspire them to act resolutely and to lead them in battle against the foe. They prayed for a god of war to beat back and destroy the troublesome enemy. Varuna was just not such a leader; he hardly had the vigour to inspire the heroic qualities in men, especially as he had no exploits to his credit.

Coming of the new king

62.1. Rig-Veda describes its people ‘as averse to war; peace being their normal rule’ (RV.6.41.5). It also narrates the difficulties of its people having to fight battles without a capable war leader; and the woes it brought   upon people unprepared for war: ‘we are surrounded by mighty enemies; help us’; ’ we lost because we had no king to lead us’; ‘they conquer us because we had no warrior Rajanya’. And eventually all said ‘let’s make a king’. So, they did make a king. They heartily invited the new king to lead them in the battles: “I do hereby crown you as the king. Rule us with courage and an unwavering resolve. Let all your subjects love you. Let thy kingdom be with you forever RV 10.12.22) “. And, to the king ‘who is the dread in the battle contest’ they all ‘bowed in reverence’ (TS.3.4.4.1)

62.2. The times of crisis and war somehow always throw up a boisterous and an inspiring leader; the type that is just needed. That new leader was Indra; full of vigor, a mighty god, a tornado divinity symbolizing storm and wielding a thunderbolt. He is a hero who ‘destroys in conflict the fierce and the exceedingly strong’. He was a god of battles rather than of righteousness. Indra thus possessed the requisites of a war lord and a typical king. He came as an answer to the prayers   of fighting men thirsting for win over enemies, and for power and glory it brought.”Heroes with noble horses, well mounted and passionate for a fight invoke me; invoke me in the battle. I the mighty Indra of victorious powers , lord of spurring vigour lead you on in the combat stirring up the battle dust” (RV .4.42; 10.129). Indra’s warriors did invoke him and stormed into battles shouting his names (Indram narone maditha havanthe – RV.3.34.9).

Rise of Indra and the kingship

62.3. Indra broke the treaty and in a fierce battle defeated the dreaded enemy Vrita who had stolen  waters from the heavens .Mitra and Varuna described as the arms of the king helped the king (Rajanya) to kill Vrita (SB . 5.3.5.28). Indra also subdued and routed ten other fearsome enemies in hard fought battles. Varuna helped Indra in all the battles that he fought. Eventually, those victories as also the restoration of waters to the gods established Indra’ authority as the king of gods, divyasya janasya raja (RV. 6.22).

Indra formerly the god of rains with some relation to war now turned into the god of war with some relation to rains.

[Let me digress here for a short while:

(i). The transfer of power from Varuna to Indra marked a significant phase in the social and military history of very ancient India. It redefined the notion of a ‘king’ as in Rig Veda. The ‘king’ in its early phase largely meant a very exalted noblest person who was looked up to by all in reverence (e.g. Dayus and Varuna). The kingship was symbolic rather than  temporal; he need not have to defend a territory or fight an enemy. But, with the installation of Indra as the king, things did seem to change.

It became obvious that a person though righteous but without valour and aggressive tendencies was unfit for kingship. A king, it said, ought to be the foremost   protector of his people. He should be a leader of his people at all times – in war and peace. Because, his subjects look up to him for leadership, guidance and protection; and, they do so in faith, reverence and in fear. In dire times the king should himself lead his warriors in battles   to fight for the honour and the lives of his people. Not only that, the king had to strive to enhance his position as also that of his kingdom among their   rivals. That meant that a king would necessarily have   enemies; and hence the need for a standing army.

(ii). Kingship also meant that the diverse interests of all sections of the society were surrendered to the king   who was expected, in good faith, to harmonize conflicts and to protect interests of all equitably.   That implicit faith and submission to the king elevated kingship to the position of the god-on-earth. And, It also came to be accepted that one could not be a king without a spark of divinity in him (na vishnuh prithvi pathihi).The king therefore was accorded the most exalted and the   highest position in the social hierarchy. He came to be described as the best of men (narotthama). And, even at much later times the Buddha placed the kings (khattiya) higher than Brahmans (Angostura Nikaya, 107). In the epics too the heroes who became gods were all kshatriyas.

(iii). That distinction set the king apart from his people. Further, the king also became distinct from the others of his own class –the kshatriyas. The term Kshatriya was generally applied to all nobles of the ruling class. The king became the Rajanya; he was recognized as separate from the other kshatriyas (Rajas). Rajanya was glorified as the summit of the kshatra. With that, the kingship turned into a hereditary inheritance; and earned the right to live on people and even to oppress them.

(iv). Atharva Veda (AV.15.9.2; 18.2.60) narrates how king after king built his military might and created a class of  ‘ people of aggression ‘   distinct from ‘the patient tillers of soil singing pastoral hymns’. The priestly class became increasingly dependent on the warrior class; and came closer to the king. The two moved away from the rest.

Warfare thus led to growth of kings, states and their corollaries such as hereditary rights, despotism and standing armies. The King, his advisors and his army became separate from the society.]

Eclipse of Varuna, and shifting of allegiances

63.1. Varuna met the same fate as that befell the other passive sky-gods in all mythologies. They all yielded their position to more active and warlike solar deities. Varuna too had to give place to Indra just as Dayus the ancient god had lost to him (Varuna) earlier. It was said;”The great ones progressively lose their importance and are replaced by other divine figures nearer to man, more concrete and more dynamic- solar gods, Great Gods and Goddesses etc.

As Varuna faded out, Indra assumed:  the Kingship of gods; the main attributes of the old king Varuna; also his other powers and authority such as kshatra, the Asurya, and the Maya. Further, Varuna’s sovereignty too passed on to Indra.

63.2. The eclipse of Varuna and the triumph of Indra led to re-ordering the hierarchy of gods, and shifting of allegiances. Varuna and his associates lost their superior positions. And, all allegiances shifted towards Indra. Agni and Soma who were associated with Varuna moved over to Indra. “Agni, Soma, Varuna they fall, they all go away. Their empire is overthrown…these Asura have lost their magic power (Asura Maya) – RV 10.124.4-5.”  Varuna the passive Father god, the ex-leader left stranded receded into background.

63.3. The relation between Indra and Varuna is rather interesting. Initially, Varuna was the older god who had friendly relations with the younger god Indra. (Varuna is the friend of Indra in the heavens-RV.7.34.24). Later, Indra turns into a rival and eventually displaces Varuna and appropriates most of his powers.

Transfer of powers

ndrahl99

64.1. As Varuna begins to fall, his kingship passes on to Indra while his spiritual powers are inherited by Prajapathi. The placid god Prajapathi, in particular, begets Varuna’s Asuri Maya. But later, the Asuri Maya branches into two: the one beneficial to gods and men; and the other its darker side wielded by the Asuras: – “the Asuras consecrate Varuna, Soma’s brother because they see in him the form (rupa) of their father Prajapathi” (Jaiminiya Brah. 3.152.)

64.2. In the next phase, Vishnu and Prajapathi together inherit Varuna’s glory and majesty. The powers and attributes that were once associated with Varuna are divided into two distinct spheres; Vishnu the power of creation and encompassing all existence; and, Prajapathi the symbolic spiritual power. In the Brahmana texts both Vishnu and Prajapathi are identified with yajna.

64.3. Varuna’s various other functions are distributed among the lunar deities such as Rudra and Yama.

..And thereafter

65.1. Indra too had a brief span of life as the premier god; and he did not become a Supreme God. Instead, he had to yield place to another god. Perhaps because, by then happier times had dawned on the Vedic community; the wars and its horrors were a memory of the past. In the settled agrarian, pastoral life of peace, security and high idealism the Vedic people needed a more ethical and a loftier god.  Vishnu (until then a minor god)   emerges as the all compassing god, the god of all gods.  The virtuous attributes and powers of all other gods are transferred to the incomparable God Vishnu. Into Vishnu all the gods merge; and in him they find their identities.

65.2. Eventually, Indra too surrenders to Vishnu the newly emerging super- god; and bequeaths to him most of his powers and virtues. Similarly Prajapathi who was not endowed with any other special powers pales into insignificance just as his two predecessors – Varuna and Dayus. Prajapathi merges into Vishnu just as the other gods did.

***

The Varuna saga thus touches upon all the three phases  of the Vedic era: the stage of pastoral communities discovering the mysteries of nature, pouring out sublime and  highly idealized poetry rich in abstract symbolisms ; the next, the period of wars , distress   and strife; and ,the period of settled agricultural life of peace , quieter rituals and contemplation.

S. The Fall

66.1. As the kingship, power and glory depart Varuna, he becomes somewhat different in his nature and attributes. The cosmic functions are no longer his; he is not the king anymore; his ethical role diminishes; from a supreme sky-god who is inscrutable in his ways, omnipresent and omniscient in nature, he diminishes into one of the many minor gods. As a demigod he serves Prajapathi and later Vishnu as one of the guardians of directions and of the water. It was as if the Chief was pensioned off and assigned a minor rank.

With the fall of Varuna, the term Asura came to mean ‘chief of demons’.

66.2. Today, Varuna is reduced to the guardian of water element; and, is no longer worshiped formally but is prayed in times of draught and sometimes before setting on voyages for steering the safe course of the ships.

***

Thus, the ambivalent character of Varuna-now favourable and now un-favourable; his guile; his associations with night , darkness and gruesome aspects of life; as also  the  rift between two sages, the changes that came about in the  life- circumstances of the Vedic communities  –all these factors contributed to the eclipse of Varuna .

T. The Evolution

67.1. The decline and fall of Varuna and Indra; or the supersession of one god by another; or the modification of an older god should not be viewed in isolation. Instead, it should be viewed as a part of a scheme, a process or a phenomenon   of absorption of many into One that swept across the world of ancient Vedic gods.

67.2. That process spread over long centuries totally convulsed the sedate world of Vedic gods. It was akin to churning the ocean. It disturbed the old order; threw out the old set of gods; created and magnified a set of new gods; and restructured the entire Indian pantheon. Under this process of reorganizing the world of Indian mythology… those Vedic gods who had been ‘minor’ in the Rig Veda but who had great potential and offered rich scope for enlarged glorification were remodeled into much greater gods ( for instance Vishnu and Rudra). Later those gods came to represent larger segments of life and experiences, and to mobilize greater strength and significance. The virtues and powers of numerous other gods merged into these select gods. They are today the Super Gods among the Indian gods.

At the same time, gods whose characters, functions and achievements had been too vividly described in Rig Veda and who held out little scope for further enlargement were steadily reduced in their status and rank (for instance Agni, Indra and Varuna), And those gods whose profile was too dim and had very little potential for growth were allowed to fade out quietly.

67.3. In this scheme or the process of restructure, the gods that adopted best to the changing needs of times survived and thrived. One way that was done was by underplaying their Vedic characteristics   which were rather sketchy and unsuitable. And, another was by aligning them along with tutelary gods that were already being worshipped. …..In this period of transition, popular sectarian gods were gradually replacing the older Vedic gods. This new approach to the gods redefined the status, character and attributes of the older gods.

This was also a process of absorption of several gods into One; and, it culminated in the emergence of the triad, of which the two: Vishnu and Shiva inherited all the rich, potential and living traits of all the gods that preceded them. They were also endowed with infinite capacity to imbibe the traits of all the gods to come.

67.4. The sequence of gods changing – growing or diminishing in significance – indicates the continual influx of new ideas and a creative conflict with the existing system of thoughts. Yet, all gods – great and small, old and new, spring from One ultimate reality. That was the vision that Rig Veda provided; and it is the same vision that guides all the Indian traditions.

67.5. When viewed against that broad canvass it can be seen that the rise and fall of Vedic gods followed a certain pattern of evolution. Varuna too belonged to that chain of evolution. In that process, Varuna was obscured by the achievements of Indra who answered the demands of the changing times. Indra in turn was thrown down by the very process that had elevated him. Thus, the decline of Varuna was in the normal way of the eclipse of one god by the other, as per a pattern of evolution. This complex and dynamic interplay of light and shadow is a distinctive feature of the Indian pantheon.

Dr. Sukumari Bahttacharji   in her ’The Indian Theogony’ explains: “The Indian mythology was (is) not a static affair, neither was it a luxury.  It was linked with the vital spiritual urges and needs of the people, who projected their most haunting dreams, hopes and cravings into their myths. The changes were not wrought overnight; nor was it easily. From the earliest times, the pantheon is the product of a continual clash and friction, not only with gods of other ethnic groups, but among those of various clans of the Indian society…”

U. The ancient inverted tree

68.1. It is beyond doubt that Vedas and the related ancient texts are the roots of Indian ethos, thought and philosophy. They are of high authority, greatly revered and very often invoked. But those roots are lost in the distant antiquity. The language or the clear intent of those texts is not easily understood; its gods and its rites are almost relics of the past. They no longer form active part of our day-to-day living experiences. The worship practices followed by the common Indians of the present day differ vastly from the rites prescribed in the Vedic texts. The gods worshipped by the present generations too vary greatly from the Vedic gods out of which they grew. The present-day gods are the descendents, derivatives or transformation of the Vedic gods; but they bear few marks of resemblance to their remote ancestors.

68.2, similarly, the legends of the heroes of the Vedic era are virtually unknown to us. But, it is the wonderful tales and great poems of the epics; Ramayana and Mahabharata- that today fill our hearts and minds; and ignite our imagination. They tell the stories of men and women on earth, facing the challenges of life; rather than of the gods in heaven. The epic stories are nearer to our life-experiences; and therefore are still read and listened to with wonder and delight. They have permeated into the Indian ethos. In it we try to find echoes of our joys, sufferings, frustrations, fulfilments, betrayals, sorrows and our loves. In those epic heroes we seek the images’ of a mother, a son, a teacher, a friend, a lover etc. Every mother finds in her infant son a mischievous and most endearing little-boy Krishna; and every maiden idealizes a husband gentle and faithful as Rama, pure in thought and noble in action. Sita is the ideal of womanhood pure, loving and noble. We strive to build relationships with those heroes who grew into gods. For it is only in relationships that we adore; and it is only in adoration that we learn to live with our gods: to live in friendship with ourselves and with those around us, and, to attain a sense of balance in our lives.

[Dr. Benimadhab Barua observes ( in his Prolegomena To A History Of Buddhist Philosophy) “Whereas in ancient religions  we find efforts towards realizing robust and manly philosophy, the  modern religions seek only to realize images of Pauranic fiction and  effeminate poetry. For instance, while Buddhism in its religious aspirations tried to realize the philosophy of the Upanishads, the later Vaishnava cults aspired to realize the devotional teachings of the Bhagavata Purana. There was a marked distinction between religious order and civic society in ancient religions, whereas in the modern these do not stand apart, but are almost blended into a single system.  Widely divergent in their development as the religions of past and present may seem, their continuity has never been broken.  For, the several lines of growth have converged to a point, only to diverge again in many directions. At This point, religions is the connecting link in the chain of past.”]

Today, the epic-gods are closer to us than their distant ancestors. We try to find in the trials, tribulations and exploit of those heroes and noble women a meaning to our existence, and answers to the testing problems and the dilemmas that confront us each day.

It is the epics and mythologies with their wonderful and delightful tales; and marvellous explanations that are the immediate source of our sense of values in life. They in fact provide form to the notion and substance of the modern-day popular Hinduism. But, still one cannot stop wondering at the fact that all these legends had their simple beginnings in the Vedic hymns.

68.3. The growth and development of Indian mythology and thought resembles the imagery of the inverted tree – of which our ancients were very fond – with its roots in the sky and its branches spreading down towards the earth. Its roots are ancient but its growing shoots, leaves, buds, flowers and fruits are ever green, tender and fresh. The roots of our philosophy, religion and culture are in the very distant Vedic past. Though those roots are no longer visible to us the braches and extensions of those roots in vivid forms that have come down to us are very alive; and its fruits are within our experience.

68.4. The idioms of Indian thought are thus dynamic, living and vibrant. They are linked to the spiritual urges and the changing needs, desires and aspirations of its people. The gods, faiths and the worship practices too keep evolving, changing, without parting with the essence of its fundamentals. Therefore, growth, change and adaptation are essential aspects of the Indian thought and living. It is distinguished by continuity with change; as also by its resilience and diversity. That is the genius of the Indian traditions.

The Varuna saga, albeit a painful one, has to be appreciated in that context.

To Sum up

CIS:IM.367-1923

CIS:IM.367-1923

69.1. Varuna’s great career ended rather disappointingly; but, it did leave behind a rich legacy of wonderful concepts and norms of behaviour in personal and social life (Rta) that have endured even to this day. Those laws are universal; applicable at all times and therefore eternal. The concept of Rta asserts that the order in nature is self regulated and operates by its own laws (svabhava). Ensuring the perpetuation of the order and harmony in nature is as sacred as it is in conduct of one’s life. That is because; Rta emphasizes the integrity of all forms of life and ecological systems. The principle of Rta recognizes our oneness with our environment and our unity with all life on earth. It is the framework that binds together man, nature and god. Rta is thus the Dharma that pervades and protects all life.

69.2. When that order and harmony is ruptured, the disruptive elements of disorder, chaos and falsehood (an-rta) step in, bringing in their wake ugliness, dishonesty and, decay into life. It is explained; a sin is any inharmonious action done with avarice to gain some immediate and temporary gain. Thus, injuring the harmony that exists in nature and among men is in fact a sin; and attracts punishment. The sin arises because of frailties and human weaknesses; and not because of demons. The evil in the hearts and minds of men are the real demons.

69.3. Sin is compared to unpaid debt (rna); it is a burden and an act of bad faith. The best way to cleanse the sin is to come face to face with it; own it; confess to it; and seek forgiveness with a promise not to err again. Cleansing is in the heart, mind and deed; not in the rituals. That is the Varuna’s way.

69.4. Paschatapa –‘after the burning heat’- signifies the purifying fire of repentance. The life-giving waters over which Varuna presides also signifies purity. Varuna is intimately associated with the both. Thus the Varuna-principle stands for purity in life, in all its aspects. Salutations to Varuna the icon of purity.

 

 

Continued in Part Six – Varuna Iconography

 

 

References and Sources

1. Indra and Varuna in Indian Mythology by Dr. UshChoudhuri; Nag Publishers, Delhi, 1981

2. The Indian Theogony by Dr.Sukumari Bhattarcharji, Cambridge University Press, 1970

3. Asura in early Vedic religion by WE Hale; Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, 1986

4. Goddesses in ancient India by PK Agrawala; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi,1984

5. The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathustra by JM Chatterji; the Parsi Zoroastrian Association, Calcutta, 1967; http://www.avesta.org/chatterj_opf_files/slideshow.htm.

6. Outlines of Indian Philosophy –Prof M Hiriyanna; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2005

7.Original Sanskrit texts on the 0rigin and history of the people of India, their region and institution By J. Muir;Trubner & co., London, 1870.

8. A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature byJohn Dowson; Turner & co, Ludgate hill. 1879.

9. Vaidika Sahitya Charitre by Dr. NS Anantharangachar; DVK Murthy, Mysore, 1968

10. Sri Brahmiya Chitra Karma sastram by Dr. G. Gnanananda

11. Zarathustra Chapters 1-6 by Ardeshir Mehta; February 1999

 http://www.indiayogi.com/content/indgods/varuna.aspx

http://www.bookrags.com/research/varua-eorl-14/

http://www.bookrags.com/wiki/Varuna

http://www.hinduweb.org/home/dharma_and_philosophy/vshirvaikar/Dnyaneshwari/Dnch10pg1.html

http://rashmun.sulekha.com/blog/post/2010/03/vedic-literature-the-degradation-of-varuna-and-indra.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Varuna

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/vedic-verses/453851-vak-suktam-aka-devi-suktam.html

http://www.svabhinava.org/HinduCivilization/AlfredCollins/RigVedaCulture_ch07-frame.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura_Mazda

http://www.iamronen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ReadingLila.pdf

 http://www.hummaa.com/player/player.php

All images are by courtesy of Internet

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Varuna

 

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Varuna and his decline – Part Four

 

Continued from Part Three

Varuna’s association with waters

Varuna’s associations with waters are explained at two levels. The two are extremes; so extreme that one is far removed from the other like the rarified deep space from the dark underground. The one is pure metaphysics and high symbolism, while the other is mundane and vulgar. The differences between the two levels cannot be bridged. There is no common ground for reconciliation. The two sets of associations cannot also be rationalized and bound into one. It is best that each is viewed separately, each in its own context–for whatever.

The philosophical explanations and suggestions on the nature of  Varuna’s association with waters have bred numerous debates, theories and speculations. Scholars have come up with varied interesting and intricate explanations which at times sound too abstract; hard to grasp. It is not easy to present them either. We shall briefly see a couple of such explanations and theories.

N. Creation- the process

water-and-drop-of-water

Apah – Dark, deep and unfathomable waters

47.1. The terms Salilam and Apah which denote waters in the Rig Veda are said to be highly significant. Dr. Usha Choudhuri (in her scholarly thesis Indra and Varuna) explains these terms as implying more than just the water-element.   In the most celebrated hymn of creation – Nasadiya Sutktha which occurs in the Tenth Book of Rig Veda, as also in the Vak Suktha (RV.10.8.125) and  in the Hiranya-garbha Suktha  (RV. 10.121 ) the terms Salila and Apah represent Great Waters  or the primeval waters or the primeval matter of creation. They stand for the manifest as also for the un-manifest primeval matter: Prakrti or Vak or Aditi or Viraj.

47.2. Apah or Salilam is conceived as the threshold prior to which there was no distinction between existence and non-existence; between form and formlessness. Whatever that was there prior to it was neither sat nor a-sat; neither being nor non-being. That is; Apah or Salilam represents the crosses-over stage at which the unformed primordial universe transforms into existence. It could be regarded as the first stage of creation. Thus, Apah is Prakrti   as in Samkhya; and it is the primary source of all possibilities of manifestation in the world.

47.3. Apah is twofold: as the undifferentiated, un-manifest and formless (a-vyakta or apraketa or a-murta); and as the manifest with forms (vyakta or praketa or murta). It is said; Apah and Salilam denote Prakrti or the creative power (Shakthi) of the Purusha the Absolute principle. It also suggests movement (gati) and action (karma). Thus, Apah or Salilam signifies the state of Becoming; while Purusha signifies the state of Being.

47.4. To explain it in another way; these dark, deep and unfathomable waters (gahanam ghabhiram – RV. 10.129.1) hold in their womb the un-manifest universe. And, it is from these dark waters the manifest world springs forth. Nasadiya Suktha mentions “the un-manifest conceals within itself the formless manifestation. The universe was then undifferentiated in the primeval waters” (RV 10.129.3). That is; these Great waters (mahat-salilam)   represent the immense potential of Prakrti in its un-manifest (a-vyakta) state. It has that potential to give expression to infinite possibilities as forms (vyakta).

Varuna symbolizes Prakrti

48.1. The essential character of these primeval waters is Avarana – to cover or to encompass (var). Varuna is the encompasser; he pervades (var) everything; he presides over the visible and the invisible worlds. Varuna is the mythical symbol of primeval matter. And, he is the presiding deity of Apah and salilam. Varuna the lord of these waters, the primeval matter, thus symbolizes Prakrti.

48.2. It is by the will or the desire of Varuna, and through his wisdom-extraordinary (Maya) the forms of the visible world (Murtha) emerge from out of the formless (a-Murtha). Varuna in this sense is the creator; the world is born out of his mind (manas); and thus, he symbolizes kaarana –Brahman, the Brahman with a desire to create.

48.3. Shri Ananda Coomaraswamy too (in his Yakshas) explains Varuna as denoting Prakrti. He states that the term Samudra originally meant the sky; and the sky did not merely signify the physical sky but the all encompassing desire of the Purusha. Varuna is that will of Purusha. Varuna who is described as Rta-Samudra or Rta-sadana   is indeed the Prakrti.

Aditi is Apah and Prakrti

49.1. Aditi, the Mother – principle, Deva matri  the mother of all gods and of all existence is described as the mighty mother,’ lofty like a mountain, swelling with sweet milk’, the celestial light (jyothihmati RV .1.115.5), the queen or the guardian of Rta (rtavari), ever expanding and never decaying, gracious guide and great protector (YV. 21.5). She denotes freedom from bondage. She gives birth to manifest world. She is the Mother of all creation. Because the nourishing Mother Aditi is the source of all manifested reality – the past, the present and the future; of “all that has been and will be born” she is   regarded as Prakrti the creative principle, the desire of the Supreme to create (YV.10.7).

49.2. As mentioned earlier, Apah or Maha-salilam the great waters denote primeval matter or the primal cause of creation from which the manifest is born. Thus, Apah, the waters too are mothers (apah asmin matarah) – ‘The waters are our mother (ambayah), womb of the universe’ (RV.1.23.10). Aditi the great mother (mahi mata) who gives give birth to the manifest world is thus equated with Apah, among other things.

49.3. As Apah, Aditi is the creative energy which is active and moving (gati). Since Apah suggested movement (gati), it is said, the life-giving(jiva-nadi) , flowing rivers and streams are deemed feminine (Prakrti) ; while the stagnant Samudra the ocean into which all beings go and from which all beings emerge acquired a masculine identity (Purusha).

49.4. Aditi (Apah and Prakrti) is the forerunner of the Mother –Goddesses of the later texts and lore who symbolize the power (shakthi) of Prakrti in all its aspects.

Vak is Apah and Prakrti

50.1. In the Vak Suktha or Devi Suktha    of Rig Veda (RV.10. 10.125), Apah is conceived as the birth place of Vak or Vac   who is the creator, sustainer and destroyer. In an intense and highly charged superb piece of inspired poetry She declares “I sprang from waters there from I permeate the infinite expanse. It is I who blows like the wind creating all the worlds “.

Vak the primal energy the Great Goddess Mother is described in various ways : Vak is the eternal being; the first-born of the eternal waters.   Vak is the Mother who gives form to the formless; gives birth to existence and lends identity to things by naming them. Vak is the faculty which gives expression to ideas. She is the mysterious presence that enables one to hear, see, grasp and express in words or otherwise the true nature of things. She is the navel of energy

50.2. Vak who springs forth from waters, touches all the worlds with her flowering body and gives birth to all existence is indeed the Prakrti. Vac is also Apah and an attribute of Varuna.

I sprang from the waters,
And from there I spread throughout the universe,
I touch that heaven with a flowering body.

I move with Rudras and Vasus,
I walk with the Sun and other Gods,
I esteem Mitra, Varuna
And Indra, Agni and the Asvins.

[Please click here for the rendering of Devi Sukta]

50.3. Eventually; Apah, Aditi, Vak and Varuna all represent the same principle: Prakrti the creative principle.

O. Lotus and the inverted tree

Lotus symbolizes waters and life

51.1. The Lotus symbolizes waters; and earth is a leaf thereof. The lotus-leaf is called the back of the waters (Tai.sam.5.1.4.2). The earth lies spread on water just as the lotus-leaf does. The noted scholar Ananada K Coomaraswamy (in his Yakshas) too relates lotus to waters. He explains the concept of earth resting on waters in the context of the full-blown lotus flower that supports a divinity in the Indian iconography: ”where it seems to be implied that the figure is supported by a widely extended lotus flower rising out of the waters; and in the last analysis the deity is supported by the waters”.

51.2. He also mentions that lotus symbolizes life. The imagery of creation springing forth from the all-encompassing creator was initially related to Varuna. That is because Varuna in the early phases of Rig Veda was the Creator who brought forth all existence. But, since the virtues and powers of Varuna merged into Vishnu, in the later mythologies lotus came to be depicted as rising from the navel of Narayana resting on celestial waters bearing Brahma the abjaja –born of water or born of lotuses.

51.3. In any case, that imagery pictures the principle that all life and existence is born out of the waters.

Inverted tree of life – Varuna

tree with roots

52.1. Ananada K Coomaraswamy says “The roots of the inverted tree are in the sky and its branches are spread downwards (RV. 1.24.7). Varuna called the unborn in Rig Veda symbolizes the root of that tree of life; the source of all creation. That cosmic tree is originally said to have sprung from the navel of Varuna the sky- god blue like the waters reflecting the sky.”

52.2. Tracing the myth of the world tree from Varuna to Narayana, Ananada K Coomaraswamy refers to the remarkable resemblances in the ethical character of Varuna and Vishnu. According to him, ’the cosmic-tree myths of various forms and their relation to the lotus symbol verily owe their origin to Varuna. He says the concept of the cosmic functioning originally represented Varuna.   That concept did not undergo any change; but it only acquired new names and new symbols.

Thus, Varuna is Kaarana Brahman by whose desire the manifest world materializes.

Varuna the king of pure intelligence / Sits atop the tree with its roots/ in his un-supported and absolute realm; Its branches spread downwards. (RV. 1.24.7)

Varuņa of hallowed understanding,/ Holds aloft a mass of life-giving radiance, which streams down; May these rays sink deep and set within us. (RV. 1.24.7)
 
***

P. Some other explanations for Varuna’s association with waters

Waters, Darkness and Varuna -Prakrti

53.1. Varuna’s association with darkness (tama) metaphorically called night (rathri), as also with waters (Apah) has given rise to number of other highly interesting philosophical speculations.

Nasadiya Suktha says, “In the beginning, darkness was hidden by darkness. All this was unmarked formless waters. ..”. That image of primordial waters was perhaps meant to convey the absence or the sense of absence of all sorts of distinctions in the pre-creation universe. And, similarly, darkness implied a state where day or night was not marked. Here, darkness and waters both seem to mean the same principle -– the all enveloping unformed state before the world of things (sat) arose out of its matrix.

“All this was produced from the dark waters (Tai Aranyaka 1.23)”.

53.2 As said earlier, Varuna symbolizes un-manifest (a-vyakta or a-praketa or a-sat) as well as manifest (vyakta or praketa or sat) state of existence.

53.3. It is also explained; Rathri the darkness is Varuna (Ait Brh. 4.10); Rathri the starlit night belongs to Varuna (Tai .B 1.7.10); and, Varuna is waters (Apah) as it pervades (var) everything. Thus, both – darkness and waters- become associated with Varuna.

53.4. For these reasons, it is said that Varuna, Rathri and Apah all represent Prakrti.

Water- purifier – joy of life

water-9

54.1. Water is glorified as the nectar or honey (madhu) and the joy of life; and it is also the elixir of immortality. Water is the symbol of creation, life (jeevanam), strength and energy. Water is thus the nourishing mother of all life and existence. Water is as essential to life as is the vital-air (prana– aphomaya pranah. Water is the source of all existence; it   sustains, heals and purifies life.

Water is regarded as an extraordinary and omnipresent element in Rig Veda. It is the support of all lives; and, the savior of everything living or dead on earth. The world moves along  with the pure and simple movement of the water. It washes away the impurities and also cleans the inconsistencies of human behavior. Water is a great medicine. It does away with the diseases and is the benefactor of health, strength, long-life, wealth and immortality.

Yasam Raja Varuno Yati Madhyai Satyanrite Avapashyanje yajnanam| Madhushchutah Shuchaye yah pavakah ta Apao devirih mamvantu|| VII.49.3

The water dwells where gods dwell. The water in which the king of waters Varuna dwells, the water in which Soma lives, in whom all gods drink exhilarating strength, the waters in which the leader of all–Agni enters, who are full of divine values, help me in the world.

He, whose destination is the ocean, who purifies the world, is always flowing, such water lives in the middle of the Universe. Indra, who possesses ‘Vajra‘ and rains the desires, broke opened a path for these divine waters. May these waters help me and be received by me.

Samudrajyestha Salilasya Madhyapunana Yantyanivishmanah | Indrah ya vajri vrishabho rarad TaApoa devirih mamvantu ||

54.2. Shatapatha Brahmana (SB.2.3.2.10) makes an interesting remark: when Agni burns brightly, he then indeed becomes Varuna the purifier (paavaka). There is therefore a belief that the purifying waters cleanses sins, betrayals (abhidudroha) and falsehood (anŗtam duritam) – (RV. 1.23.22). The one that has been purified shouts in ecstasy: “I have become one with the essence of the celestial energy, rasena”. Water represents that faith (shraddha) in life.

54.3. Though the waters are celebrated by various metaphors, the physical aspect of water is not lost sight. The Chandogya Upanishad describes Waters as the source of all plants and herbs Oshadhis; the giver of good health and destroyer of   diseases. It is the source of joy of healthy living. The mountains, the earth, the atmosphere and the heavenly bodies too derive their form through water (Chandogya Upanishad – 7.10.10) .It is said; even the gods are waters – as they are the foundation and source of the universe and everything is contained in them.(SB. 10.5) .

And again , it is said; the water which is created in the universe; which is pure and full of light; which is full of divine characteristics; the water which flows in the form of river; the water which comes from the digging of the wells, canals; the water which is self-created in the form of waterfalls; and, that which enters into the ocean, help me in this world and thereafter.

Ya Apaodivya Ut Va Sravanti Khanitrima ut va yah swayamjah | Samudrartha Yah Shuchayah pavakasta Apao Devirih Mamvantu || VII.49.2

Varuna too is water.

“Verily all this is water. All the created beings are water. The vital breaths (prana) in the body are water. Quadrupeds are water. Herbs and crops are water. Madhu the nectar is water. Samrat[perpetually shining] is water. Virat [shining] is water. Svarat [self-luminous] is water. The metres (pankti) are water. The Devas are water. Vedic formulas are water. Truth is water. All deities are water. The three worlds denoted by BhuhBhuvah and Suvah are water. The source of all these is the Supreme denoted by the syllable ‘Om”. (Mahanarayana Upanishad- 29.1)

54.4. Since Varuna is waters, Apah, all its virtues and attributes are imbibed in him.

Apah and Sathya

55.1. Varuna who is the lord of waters (Apah) is also related with the order in world and to the laws in nature (Rta), and the Truth (satya). It is said ‘waters are the Truth…where waters flow there the Truth resides …. It is the waters indeed that were made first of this universe, hence when waters flow then everything whatever that exists in the universe is brought forth’ (Sathapatha Brahmana).Water is thus the universal mother –principle in the Rig Veda. Waters are Prakrti.

55.2. Thus Waters, Truth and Varuna symbolize Prakrti.

The child of waters

56.1. Varuna the son of Aditi resides among primal waters. He is described also as Apam-shishuh ‘the child of waters, in the best of the mothers – Aditi’

56.2. It is also said; since Varuna dwells in waters he is Apam Napat, “Son of the Waters’ (RV.1.2.35). Apam Napat is also referred to as the embryo (garbha) of the waters (RV.7.9.3). It is said; the sun when he sinks into waters – to quench his thirst- becomes Varuna the fire in the waters (Apam Napat).

[But, Varuna soon lost this ancient title; and it came to be applied more and more to Agni born of a spark from water and to other solar deities such as Savitr.]

Varuna and the moon

56.7. Another explanation offered to reason Varuna’s association with waters seems to me rather flat. It is said; as the god of the night sky Varuna is related with the celestial bodies that shine in the night sky: the stars and the moon. And, the moon  who  is related to Varuna influences the tides of the ocean and movement of terrestrial waters. Therefore, Varuna is connected with water and the aquatic realm.

Q. Varuna the water-god

This is the other-side of Varuna’s association with waters.

57.1. The status and the attributes of Varuna changed drastically, for worse, in the Puranas and the epics. Varuna lost the authority of kingship and the moral superiority that he once enjoyed in the Rig Veda and in the other Samhitas.   He is relegated as the regent of the west and demigod of waters; and practically nothing more.  It was as if the once mighty Varuna had been pensioned off and assigned a minor rank.

57.2. The waters that Varuna is now made in – charge are just waters on earth – plain and simple; they have no symbolic interpretations or philosophical connotations. Varuna is Salilesvara the king of terrestrial waters like lakes, rivers and oceans. Samudra the vast urukşhaya (1.2.9) is his abode. There he resides in his magnificent underwater palace (saagaro varunalayah) a den of sensual delights, surrounded by nymphs, snakes and all types of aquatic creatures.

57.3. His underworld too has gone radical reimaging; it is no longer the sedate and welcoming abode of the Pitris, but it is now tainted by the fearful pollution of death. Varuna has now turned sensuous and cruel; and developed dark and sinister associations.  He has also lost his good looks. Varuna in this phase does not command much respect. He is often chastened by other gods. Stories are told of his misadventures and humiliations. It appears he abducted and seduced Urvasi a nymph of Indra’s court and fathered a son from her. On another occasion, it is said, Varuna kidnapped Bhadra, daughter of Soma and wife of Uthahya.

57.4. Varuna who once was: the nearest approximation to the Supreme Being, the sovereign of all earth and heavens, the creator and sustainer of life in all three regions, the lord who presided over order in the physical and moral realms, the judge who dispensed justice and handed down punishments, is now turned into the regent of the west and god of seas; and eventually a demigod of local water- bodies; a god of not much consequence… a god of small things….what a fall….!!

In the next section let’s look at the explanations offered for Varuna’s decline and fall.

Epithets

58.1. His association with waters  however earned Varuna number of descriptive epithets, such as: Prachetas, apam-pathi , ambu-raja, jaleshwara, jalaadhipa, vaaripa, udakapathi, salileshwara, Jala-pati, Kesa  ( lord of water) ; Sindhu pathi , Nadi-pathi ( lord of the seas or rivers ); sarit-pathi (lord of all that flows);  VIloma, Vari-loma ( watery hair) ; Yudh pathi ( king of aquatic animals) ; Uddama ( the surrounder) ; bharti  (the nourisher); and, Pashi ,  Pasha bhrit, (bearer of the noose) .

daprc3a8s-varuna-sur-son-makara-c3a0-aihole-karnataka-en-inde-du-sud-invitc3a9-par-le-dieu-indra-varuna-rejoint-le-royaume-des-devas-illustration-marsailly-blogostelle

Continued in Part Five

References and Sources

1. Indra and Varuna in Indian Mythology by Dr. UshChoudhuri; Nag Publishers, Delhi, 1981

2. The Indian Theogony by Dr.Sukumari Bhattarcharji, Cambridge University Press, 1970

3. Asura in early Vedic religion by WE Hale; Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, 1986

4. Goddesses in ancient India by PK Agrawala; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi,1984

5. The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathustra by JM Chatterji; the Parsi Zoroastrian Association, Calcutta, 1967; http://www.avesta.org/chatterj_opf_files/slideshow.htm.

6. Outlines of Indian Philosophy –Prof M Hiriyanna; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2005

7.Original Sanskrit texts on the 0rigin and history of the people of India, their region and institution By J. Muir;Trubner & co., London, 1870.

8. A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature byJohn Dowson; Turner & co, Ludgate hill. 1879.

9. Vaidika Sahitya Charitre by Dr. NS Anantharangachar; DVK Murthy, Mysore, 1968

10. Sri Brahmiya Chitra Karma sastram by Dr. G. Gnanananda

11. Zarathustra Chapters 1-6 by Ardeshir Mehta; February 1999

 http://www.indiayogi.com/content/indgods/varuna.aspx

http://www.bookrags.com/research/varua-eorl-14/

http://www.bookrags.com/wiki/Varuna

http://www.hinduweb.org/home/dharma_and_philosophy/vshirvaikar/Dnyaneshwari/Dnch10pg1.html

http://rashmun.sulekha.com/blog/post/2010/03/vedic-literature-the-degradation-of-varuna-and-indra.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Varuna

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/vedic-verses/453851-vak-suktam-aka-devi-suktam.html

http://www.svabhinava.org/HinduCivilization/AlfredCollins/RigVedaCulture_ch07-frame.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura_Mazda

http://www.iamronen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ReadingLila.pdf

 http://www.hummaa.com/player/player.php

All images are by courtesy of Internet

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Varuna

 

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Varuna and his decline – Part Three

Continued from Part Two

 

Varuna in other Vedic texts, Mahabharata and Puranas

 

We have seen in the earlier parts that Varuna of the Rig Veda was a highly venerated god. He was hailed as the sole sovereign sky-god; the powerful Asura, the King of both men and gods, and of all that exists. He governed the laws of nature as also the ethical conduct of men. He is very often described as the saviour in times of peril and distress; one who liberates from sin; the merciful god as well as the punisher of the sinners. He is connected with the symbolic waters of creation from which the manifest world emerges.

Let’s see how Varuna fares in the other Vedic texts, and in the epics- Mahabharata and Ramayana – as also in the Puranas.

F. Varuna in Yajur Veda

36.1. Varuna continues to occupy an exalted position even in the Yajur Veda. There are however no references to his sovereignty as the sky-god.  Varuna in Yajur Veda, essentially, is the governor of Rta the order in nature and in the moral conduct among men. He judges, punishes as also pardons the wrongdoers. He is also related to the primeval   waters (mahat salilam) which have mystical connotations.

The lord of physicians

36.2. In the Yajur Veda, Varuna is related to the beneficial life-giving and lifesaving herbs (oushadha) which depend on water for their existence and growth.  Varuna appears not merely as the god of waters but also as the physician (maha- bheshaja) and the lord of physicians (varunam bheshajam patimYV. 21.40). The herbs Osadhayah come from waters, and Varuna protects the waters as also the herbs. As the lord of waters and of the herbs Varuna the physician becomes a revered deity in Ayurveda the science of life.

The child of the waters

36.3. Yajur Veda mentions that the waters with which Varuna is connected are the waters of the atmosphere. These waters are described as Apah, Maha-salilam the great waters which denote primeval matter from which the manifest world emerges. Aditi the great mother of all gods is also said to give birth to the manifest world. Aditi is thus equated with Apah. As Apah, Aditi is the creative energy which is active (YV.10.7).That is, Aditi the mother of all gods is Prakrti and Shakthi the manifesting or the creative power. The notion of her divinity rests upon her power as a woman, a womb or a mother to give birth to and to bring forth life and existence.

Varuna (son of Aditi) who resides among these waters (Apah) is therefore called the child of the waters (Apam shishu) in the best of mothers. It is explained; the expression ‘best of mothers’ refers to the protective and nourishing nature of the waters as mothers. They are the gracious guides and protective mothers; and, Varuna is their child.

[It is also said; since Varuna dwells in waters he was also called Apam Napat (Apam = water; Napat = fire), ‘Son of the Waters’ (RV.1.2.35). Apam Napat is also referred to as the embryo (garbha) of the waters (RV.7.9.3). It is said; the sun when he sinks into waters – to quench his thirst – becomes Varuna the fire in the waters (Apam Napat).

It is believed; the clan of the Bhrigus were the first to introduce the fire-ritual and the Soma-ritual; and were also the first to discover the nexus between fire and water (Apam Napat).The Bhrigus were associated with water as also fire. And, Varuna was the supreme deity of the Bhrigus.

Apam Napat, both in Sanskrit and Avestan, also means ‘grandson of waters’. Pra-napat in the Rig-Veda (viii. 17, 13) denotes ‘great-grandson.’(R V. 2. 35.13).

 It might also mean the fire that is produced when lightning strikes the earth. Let’s say; Clouds (water) –Here, it perhaps, specifically refers to the lightening: The grandson of the waters has descended to this earth in the form of a different fire. > lightening -> fire; then lightening is the son of water and fire (Agni) is the grandson of water.

Otherwise, the term Apama Napat normally refers to Agni who dwells in the water (RV: 10.45.1). It is said; Agni riding on a horse rose from the depths of waters where he resides. He is thus Apam Napat, the son of the waters.

 Agni as Apam Napat is celebrated in one entire hymn (RV: 2.35.6). He is described as: “Brilliant and youthful; he shines without fuel in the waters which surround and nourish him. Clothed in lightning, he is golden in form, appearance, and color. Standing in the highest place, he always shines with undimmed splendor. Steeds, swift as thought, carry the Son of Waters”. ]

In the Yajna

36.4. Yajur Veda is the book of Yajnas. During an Yajna,   Varuna along with Mitra is invoked and invited to take seat on the North side of the altar Yajna-vedi and requested to protect Rta the law of nature ; and also to bring good rains (YV. 2.3; 2.16). The invitation to Varuna to occupy the seat on the North is interesting. North is the direction of the gods; it is the direction of Soma initially (as per Brih. Upanishad) and then of Kubera the sub-divine who is friendly with gods. Thus, in Yajur Veda, Varuna was still the major god of the Yajna. In the later texts Varuna was, however, assigned a seat on the West where the sun sinks into sea and into the night.

Rta in everyday life

36.5. Rta in the Rig Veda generally meant the order in the universe. Yajur Veda gives that principle a practical form, the one that could be applied in the everyday world of men. It says, in heavens Rta could very well be the cosmic order, but on earth   Rta means the social, ethical, religious and such other laws that govern him. Yajur Veda warns, the violation of these laws would bring the wrath of Varuna and his noose. Varuna the abstract god of sky and Rta thus takes a practical shape, especially when misery befalls unseen. He is therefore invoked constantly to save erring men from his noose. “Keep us away from nirriti (the fall from the Rta); deliver us from the sin that we have committed”

His three-fold noose

36.6. Varuna is said to hold a three-fold noose to bind those who sin (enah). The three bonds of that noose are commonly understood as the three-fold misery (taapa –traya) or the bonds that restrict a man in three planes: physical, vital and mental.

But, Yajur Veda, in fact, employs the metaphors of the heavens, the waters and the ocean. It says Varuna has three bonds in heaven (trini ta ahurdivi); three in waters (trinyapsu) and three within the ocean (trinyantah samudre) – (YV.29.15). Many scholars right from Sri Sayanacharya have provided explanations to these mystical metaphors. [I am not quite clear about these interpretations. Let me leave it at that, for now. Sorry.]

G. Varuna in Atharva Veda

37.1. Atharva Veda, the main text of the Bhrigus, has a special relation with Varuna.  Here he is venerated as an aspect of the Supreme: ”He is Varuna, He is Agni, and He is Mitra” (AV.13.3.13). In its philosophical discussions, Varuna is treated as a manifestation of Brahman.

The Atharva Veda does not seem to dwell much on Varna’s sovereignty over the sky or his control over Rta the order in the universe. Yet, the position of Varuna in Atharva Veda continues be exalted

The king who judges and pardons

37.2. Varuna of Atharva Veda is also the king who watches over the world, punishes the guilty; and forgives the sins of those who implore his pardon.

The king Varuna (Varunasya Rajnah) is greeted with respect (Namaste Raajan) – (AV.1.10.1-2). He is Asura the powerful Lord; and is highly celebrated. The king possessed of mystic powers (Maya) is a strict ruler who employs spies to watch over his subjects. He chastises the wrongdoers; and he also pardons those who repent and seek his merciful forgiveness.

Hymns to Varuna

37.3. The hymns in Atharva Veda in praise of Varuna ‘the most impressive deity among all the Vedic gods’ are lofty, more devout and ethical in tone. They pray for purity, forgiveness, and release from sins, and for moral strength against sinning further.   The hymns rise to a pitch of exaltation as they sing the splendour of Varuna. In these hymns Varuna, more than any other Vedic god, appears as a mighty and merciful.

Of the many soulful hymns submitted to Varuna,  the sixteenth hymn in the fourth book of the Atharva Veda  sung by sage Vashista celebrating Varuna’s power and omniscience is often quoted and hailed by scholars as being among the most devote and forceful hymns in the Vedic literature

The gods know all men do, though men would fain their deeds disguise:
Whoever stands, whoever moves, or steals from place to place,
Or hides him in his secret cell, the gods his movements trace.

 Wherever two together plot, and deem they are alone,
King Varuna is there, a third, and all their schemes are known.

His spies descending from the skies glide this entire world around;
Their thousand eyes, all scanning, sweep to earth’s remotest bound.
Whatever exists in heaven and earth, whatever beyond the skies,
Before the eye of Varuna the king unfolded lies.

 The secret winking all he counts of every mortal’s eyes;
He wields this universal frame as gamester throws his dice.
Those knotted nooses which thou flingst, O god! the bad to snare,
All liars let them overtake, but all the truthful spare.”

(AV.4.16.7-8)

(Translated by J Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, 1870)

Apam-adhipathi

37.4. While mentioning his connection with waters Varuna is referred to as– Apam-adhipathi the Lord who resides in the primeval waters. These waters are described as of golden hue, pure and purifying; and, they are the material cause for creation (AV.1.33.1-3)

H. Varuna in the Brahmanas

38.1. Brahmanas are the books of rites and rituals. Varuna continues to occupy an elevated position even in the Brahmanas. Varuna is the deity who presides over the rule or the order in the proper performance of a Yajna. Varuna removes the bad elements of the Yajna   and protects the auspicious ones (varunah yajnasya   svistam patiAit. Brh.38.7.5). Varuna is vigilant safeguarding Sathya (truth); and is opposed to an-rta (falsehood). Varuna punishes the wrong doers with his knots (granthyah- SB.1.3.1.16).

Offerings to Varuna

38.3. Varuna is a very revered god in the Brahmanas. Oblations are offered to Varuna respectfully along with other deities. He is offered the seat on the North which, according to Taittereya Brahmana, is the direction of Varuna (esa – uttara- varunasya dikTai.Br. 33.8.20.4). This is significant; and is a proof of Varuna’s esteemed position in the Brahmanas and among the Devas. (In the later texts Varuna is sent west)

Varuna is also invoked through an oblation procedure called Varuna-praghasa performed at the commencement of the rainy season in the month of Ashada, seeking deliverance from his noose; and for his grace to lead a healthy and faultless life (SB.2.5.3.1). ”Whatever sins we have committed in the village, forest…in the society and in our own self… from all that we rid ourselves.” This was an occasion devoted mainly to confessions and to seeking varuna’s mercy and forgiveness. Whatever be the practices associated with it, the Varuna-praghasa is essentially a purity-ritual.

In philosophical dialogues

39.1. In the Brahmanas Varuna is celebrated as lord of truth (Gopatha Brh: 1. 1.7); and as one who envelops all existence. The Brahmanas ascribe to Varuna every type of law that relates man with God.

39.2. The Brahmanas talk of   the mystical or the philosophical nature of Varuna through allegories and speculative dialogues.

(i) They mention: the night belongs to Varuna (Varuna Rahtri) Varuna is Rathri (Raathri Varunah) and the black colour belongs to Varuna. Varuna is also identified with waters (Apah) the primal cause of creation; as also with the vital airs: Apana, Prana and Vyana. And, Varuna is Agni too. When Agni burns brightly he then indeed is the purifying Varuna (SB 2.3.2.10).That is because, Varuna symbolizes the notion of essential purity in life and in nature.

(ii).  The Brahmanas, especially the Shatapatha Brahmana (SB) carry elaborate discussions about the relationship that exists between truth (Sathya) and waters. It said; truth is the same as waters for waters are the truth. Hence: ’whereby waters flow that is the form of truth. It is the waters indeed that were first made in the universe. When waters flow everything whatever that exists is produced.”(SB.10.5.4.1). Waters also symbolize the law. Water causes everything to exist and to grow in order. The waters are the reality (SB.7.6.1.4) and represent immortality (Amrtatavam va ApahSB.1.9.3.7). They are the faith (Shraddaha) in life (Tai.Br.3.2.4.1). All gods and all beings are water; as they are the foundation and the ultimate source of the universe; and everything is contained in them (SB 10.5.4.4.15).

[Let’s talk about these issues as also Varuna’s association with waters, separately, in the next section.]

Other identities

40.1. The Kausatakai Brahmana (18.9) says Sri the symbol of prosperity and beauty belongs to Varuna (Sri vai Varunah).

40.2. Varuna is also identified with time. All the movements in time and space belong to him; he is time samvathsara (samvathsaro Varunah- SB. 4.4.5.18).

40.3. Jaiminiyopanishad Brahmana   identifies Varuna with Savita the solar deity. It asks: ’what is Savita?’ what is Savithri?’ Varuna is Savita; waters are Savithri.

Varuna’s identity with Savitar a solar deity perhaps dates back to the early phase of Rig Veda; and it is interesting. To start with, Varuna was one of the solar gods (Adityas) and represented the setting sun; he was also a friend of Aryaman and Mitra another solar god. Varuna and Mitra were invoked together .But, later Varuna’s association with lunar gods (Soma, Yama, Rudra etc.) gets stronger as Varuna slides away from brightness towards darkness.

40.4. The Horse (asva) the epitome of vigour, speed and majesty symbolizes the king and the kingship. Horse is also an emblem of the sun; and, Varuna was one of the solar gods. The horse is thus identified with Varuna and with the power of Asura the king (Varuno vai asvah– Tai.Br.2.2.5.).The much talked about Rajasuya Yaga which establishes the unchallenged supremacy of a king is also about establishing the rule of law in the kingdoms. Since Varuna is associated with the kingship, the horse and upholding the law, it is said, any Rajasuya performed by any king is, in fact, a dedication to Varuna –   the first monarch in the Vedic tradition and the lord of the law Dharmapati (SB.5.3.3.9).

In the legends

41.1. Some Brahmanas carry legends concerning Varuna. The Aitareya Brahmana narrates the legend of the boy Sunahsepa and the king Harischandra who is punished by the god Varuna. This story is also narrated in Puranas and other texts with slight modifications.

41.2. Shatapatha Brahmana and Jaiminiya Brahmana narrate stories of great philosophical merit which depict Varuna as a very wise sage (not as a god or as a king) who has gained the true understanding of the ultimate reality. In these legends, Varuna teaches his son Bhrigu That (tat) by knowing which everything becomes known.

I. Varuna in Aranyakas

42.1. Varuna is briefly discussed in the Aitareya Aranyaka at two places; and both refer to Varuna’s mystical association with waters. There are no allusions to his Vedic glory as the sky-god, or as the king or as the governor of the laws.

42.2. The waters referred to in these passages are philosophical suggestions as they denote the primeval waters or the primeval matter. Here, the creation of waters and of Varuna comes about as an expression of the Supreme Being’s will or desire. It is metaphorically said that they were born out of the manas the mind of the Supreme Being. Varuna is the mythical symbol of primeval matter. Thus, philosophically, waters and Varuna stand for Prakrti or the Becoming. It is the first stage of manifest world.

Aitareya Aranyaka (2.1.7)   says:  “In the beginning One Being was This.  There was nothing else blinking. He desired ‘shall I create the worlds ? He created the worlds, water, light and waters”

Taittareya Aranyaka (1.23) speaks about the dependence of Prakrti on Purusha. “All this That was produced from waters (Prakrti). It needed the support of Purusha. The Atman (Brahman) having manifested itself as the world entered into it”.

J. Varuna in Upanishads

43.1. Upanishads are the fountainhead of philosophical speculations presenting highly idealized metaphysics. It is the idealism of Absolute unity and absence of duality that pervades the Upanishads. In it, the concept of atman outshines all the rest.   It questions:” How could there be a creator, a sustainer or a destroyer? How could there be a king when there is no kingdom to be ordained? How could there be a law or an ordainer of law?

The discussions of individual gods are rather a secondary matter in the Upanishads. All deities are absorbed into the One Absolute. Varuna does not appear in the Upanishads either as a sky-god, or as the governor of Rta or even as the lord of waters.  Varuna appears by name in the discussions that take place in the Upanishads at two levels:  One, in the philosophical symbolisms as an aspect of the Supreme; and the other in elaborate dialogues as a wise teacher imparting knowledge of Truth.

As an aspect of the Supreme

43.2. Varuna in the Upanishads is mentioned along with other gods; and is identified as an aspect of the Supreme reality, as one “whose abode is water, whose world is the heart, whose light is the mind, and  who is the ultimate resort of every being” (Brihad. Upanishad – Sakalya section – 3.9.16).

At the same time, Varuna’s Vedic characteristics and his Vedic associations are also retained.  When Brahman is addressed as Varuna, it is said: “You are Agni, Varuna and Vayu…but this manifold existence is for sake of Prakrti (Chan. Up.5.1). It is also said : ” Mitra , Varuna along with the meters (pankti) , chants (mantra) , seasons (ritu),the breaths (udana) , the Rishis (Angirasa), the moon and celestial gods all issue forth and enter again into That” ( Maitreyi  Up.7.4).

Similarly, Maha-narayano-panishad prays to Varuna the remover of sins.  Varuna is prayed to remove whatever wrong is done by way of thought, speech and deed. And, it also refers to his noose (Mha N Up. 4.12).  Similar prayers addressed to Varuna appear in some other Upanishads too.

The wise teacher

43.3. Just as the Brahmanas, the Upanishads too contain dialogues of Varuna with his son Bhrigu. These are narrated in detail. For instance, in the most celebrated passages of the Taittereya Upanishad, Bhrigu approaches his father Varuna the wise sage to teach him about Brahman (Brighurvai varuni varunam pitara mupasasara). Varuna teaches him about That “from which the food (anna), the vital breath (prana), the eye, the ear, the mind, the speech are born; and, by which, when born they live; and into which they enter and merge” (Tai.Up.2.11).Varuna here is a seer of the highest order.

K. Varuna in Mahabharata

Khandava forest fire

Khandava forest fire

44.1. Varuna in Mahabharata is no longer the sky god; he is neither a powerful king nor even a judge. His association with the most important aspect Rta the order in the natural world, as also his overseeing ethical aspects of men’s life are glossed over.

Varuna in Mahabharata is presented as the son of Aditi the great mother. He   is one of the Adityas and he is also one among the guardians of the directions (Lokapala). He is the regent of the west the direction of the setting sun perhaps because of his association with darkness and night. He is also a water-god.

Water-god

44.2. Varuna is associated with waters in Mahabharata too. But, these waters are just plain and simple waters; nothing more. The philosophical connotations of the waters (Apah) and the metaphysical quality of darkness etc, associated with it, as in the Brahmanas, are not even mentioned in the Mahabharata. Here, Varuna is Salilesvara the king of all rivers, lakes, local water bodies and ocean.

Varuna is described as a water-god who is handsome; and is endowed with the splendour of lapis lazuli (vaidurya bhasayansarvato). He fills all the quarters of the horizon with his brilliance. His home is under the waters (anthah-saliam) in the Nagaloka which is in the heart of the ocean the Samudra (saagaro varunalayah). There he has a magnificent underwater-palace. Mahabharata (Udyoga Parva- 98) provides an elaborate description of Nagaloka and of Varuna’s most splendid underwater dwelling with its myriad palaces, pavilions and assembly halls. Varuna attired in shining robes and adorned with sparkling jewels sits on a great throne with his wife Varuni. He is surrounded by all kinds of aquatic creatures and demons, rivers, nagas, daityas and sadhyas etc” (Mhb. Vanaparva. 41.5-6)

Pasa the noose

44.3. Brief references are made to Varuna’s Pasa the noose (in Vanaparva 40.2-29; and in the Kandava – vana episode in Adiparva – 227.31-32) – as Pasabhrt, Ugrapasa, Pasin, Pasavan etc. Pasa, the noose is mentioned merely as one of his ayudhas or adorations; it does not carry the significance it had in the Vedas. There are also no references to his authority as a judge or as a king who punishes.

Other references

44.4. Varuna also figures in the episodes of burning down the Kandava forest, presenting Arjuna with deadly weapons and Krishna with the mace Kaumudaki capable of slaying the demons. Earlier in the epic, Varuna granted a boon to the king Nala by which Nala could assume any form he wished. Varuna also presented him a garland of fragrant flowers.

L. Varuna in Ramayana

45.1. As in Mahabharata even in Ramayana, Varuna is just a Dikpala (guardian of a direction) and a water-god Salilaraja. He is said to live in stagnant lakes as also under the sea; and is surrounded by aquatic beings. Earlier in the epic, Varuna presents Dasharatha the old king with a set of two mighty bows.

45.2. However later, the hapless Varuna invites the wrath of the annoyed and furious Rama who is impatient to cross the sea and march into the Lanka Island to rescue his beloved queen .On his way to Lanka Rama spends three nights on the shores of the ocean waiting for it to calm down and to provide a safe passage to his monkey-army. When the sea does not subside Rama gets furious, draws his most lethal weapon Brahmastra threatening to burn down the sea with all its creatures and other inmates.  The frightened sea-god Varuna comes out of the waters with folded hands and begs Rama to calm down. The sea subsides and eventually allows Rama’s army to build a stone bridge across the channel to lead up to the Lanka Island.

M. Varuna in Puranas

46.1. The portrait of Varuna in Puranas is similar to that of his in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Here also he is the regent of the west and the guardian of the water element. He is worshipped for sending down good and timely rains. He is depicted as riding a mythical water-monster (Makara) that resembles a crocodile. Varuna furnished with a white umbrella moves on the waters holding a noose.

Varuna appears in number of episodes in many Puranas; too many to be recounted here. In the Bhagavata Purana, Varuna is depicted as abiding by the will of Sri Krishna. He participated in all the battles that Indra fought

46.2. In the Puranas the gods such as Indra and Varuna had lost much of their esteem. They are reduced to insignificance; are ill-treated and often humiliated by the powerful and belligerent Asuras. The major gods too chastise them and treat them as minor vassals. Indra in particular has fallen prey to faults and failures such as greed, envy and lust. He is ever anxious; and always in fear of losing his throne. He is scared of not only the villainous but also of the most virtuous as he fears they might displace him as the king of the Devas.   He is therefore busy constantly plotting devious schemes to survive and to keep away the possible- contenders to his throne.

46.3. When Indra and Varuna are offered worship in the Puranas, it is not because they are the gods in heaven but because they are viewed as the reflections of some aspects of Vishnu. That notion was guided by the faith that all gods are verily the manifestations of the One Supreme.

Epithets

46.4. In the Puranas Varuna is called by many names such as : Prachetas; Amburaja; Jalapathi; Kesa (all signifying his lordship over water); Uddama (surrounder); Pasabhrta (one who wields the noose); Viloma, Variloma (of watery hair); and Yadahpathi (king of aquatic animals).

*****

In the next part we shall see a bit more closely of Varuna’s association with waters as also the explanations for his decline and eventual fall.

Continued in Part Four

 

References and Sources

1. Indra and Varuna in Indian Mythology by Dr. UshChoudhuri; Nag Publishers, Delhi, 1981

2. The Indian Theogony by Dr.Sukumari Bhattarcharji, Cambridge University Press, 1970

3. Asura in early Vedic religion by WE Hale; Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, 1986

4. Goddesses in ancient India by PK Agrawala; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi,1984

5. The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathustra by JM Chatterji; the Parsi Zoroastrian Association, Calcutta, 1967; http://www.avesta.org/chatterj_opf_files/slideshow.htm.

6. Outlines of Indian Philosophy –Prof M Hiriyanna; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2005

7.Original Sanskrit texts on the 0rigin and history of the people of India, their region and institution By J. Muir;Trubner & co., London, 1870.

8. A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature byJohn Dowson; Turner & co, Ludgate hill. 1879.

9. Vaidika Sahitya Charitre by Dr. NS Anantharangachar; DVK Murthy, Mysore, 1968

10. Sri Brahmiya Chitra Karma sastram by Dr. G. Gnanananda

11. Zarathustra Chapters 1-6 by Ardeshir Mehta; February 1999

 http://www.indiayogi.com/content/indgods/varuna.aspx

http://www.bookrags.com/research/varua-eorl-14/

http://www.bookrags.com/wiki/Varuna

http://www.hinduweb.org/home/dharma_and_philosophy/vshirvaikar/Dnyaneshwari/Dnch10pg1.html

http://rashmun.sulekha.com/blog/post/2010/03/vedic-literature-the-degradation-of-varuna-and-indra.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Varuna

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/vedic-verses/453851-vak-suktam-aka-devi-suktam.html

http://www.svabhinava.org/HinduCivilization/AlfredCollins/RigVedaCulture_ch07-frame.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura_Mazda

http://www.iamronen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ReadingLila.pdf

 http://www.hummaa.com/player/player.php

All images are by courtesy of Internet

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Varuna

 

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Varuna and his decline – Part Two

Continued from Part One

(In this section we shall look at Varuna’s aspects: Sovereignty, Rta, judgmental god and  his  association  with waters )

The Main attributes of Varuna in the Rig Veda

As mentioned earlier, The Varuna- hymns are remarkably varied in their content and scope. They portray range of Varuna’s attributes; but, project, mainly, four of his functions: as the universal monarch and lord of the sky; as the upholder of the cosmic order Rta; as related to water element (apah); and, as omniscient deity with unique magical knowledge (Maya)   who oversees men’s’ actions.

We shall briefly discuss each of his functions in this article.

B. The sovereign and the Lord of the sky

Sky-god

9.1. Varuna derived his sovereignty (kshatra) and the supreme status among the gods by virtue of his being the sole sky-god. In most mythologies the concept of a god begins with sky-god. And, the sky-gods are regarded the greatest, for the sky encompasses the earth and all existence. Accordingly, Varuna as the all-compassing sky-god was the supreme among the gods of the early Rig Veda. As the embodiment of the very sky, the whole universe is spread beneath his vision. In Rig Veda,   he is the creator and sustainer of the world. He established and maintained the natural as also the moral laws, and he gave expression to the cosmic order. He is the all-seeing (uruchaksasa) and all-knowing Lord (Asura –visvavedasa). His laws are unassailable; resting like a mountain.

Dayus the Old god of the sky

10.1. Varuna inherited his sovereignty over the sky from his predecessor the pre-historic (pre Vedic) deity Dayus. The ancient Dayus representing the bright blue sky and the starry dark night sky was the oldest among the Vedic gods. By the time of the Rig Veda he was already ‘a faded and vanishing deity’. In the dim and distant past, Dayus was the supreme sky-god, sometimes described as Asura or the first Asura. He is portrayed as the powerful king, mighty as a ruddy bull and bellowing like thunder. And at night he glowed like a black steed studded with pearls. The ancient King sat in his lofty abode like a grand- old bull, holding a thunderbolt and smiling through the clouds.

10.2. He was the first sky-god; and was regarded as the Great Father (Dayus-pitar), while Prithvi the Earth was the Mother principle (Prithvi-matar). The imagery of the Father- sky fertilizing the Mother-earth through rains abounds in most traditions. The association of Dayus and Prithvi encompassed   the entire visible world as if by two great bowls (dhishane) facing each other (uttana) – (RV. 1.164.33). Dayus and Prithvi together symbolized heaven – earth – couple,  the universal parents, Dyava-Prithvi. Dyau and Pritihvi are said to provide for all creatures in the worlds, they are a mighty pair, who never fail and keep everyone safe (RV. 1.159, 1.160)

pra dyāvā yajñai pthivī tāvdhā mahī stue vidatheu pracetasā |
devebhirye devaputre suda
sasetthā dhiyā vāryāi prabhūata ||

Even today, young couples take their marriage-vows in the name of Dayus and Prithvi   “I am Dayus the sky and you are Prithvi the earth” (Dyaur aham Prithvi tvam – BAU 4.4.20); and promise one another to live as harmoniously as Dayus and Prithvi do.

Dher aham prithvi tvam, Retoham retabhru tvam, Manoham asmi vak-tvam, Samaham asmi rikri-tvam, Sa maam anuvruta bhava

 I am the sky and you are the earth; I am the  energy , you are  its form; If I am the thought , you are the word that expresses it ; If I am Saman ( music) , then you are the Rik ( verse)  that portrays it ; You and I, in essence complete and complement  each other, and follow each other forever.

10.3. The Rig Vedic mythology speaks very little about the exploits or the grandeur of the older deity Dayus. There is very little of a tangible god in Dayus. The reason is not far to seek. Much of his pre-Rig Veda life events perhaps went unnoticed. Further, Dayus had always been an abstract deity. With the passage of time he was associated more and more with the physical sky; and, less and less with kingship. He was a rather passive god; and he also lacked omniscience, authority and creativity. His image of fatherhood too faded into a myth. In contrast, Prithvi the kind and gracious Mother -Earth grew increasingly resplendent; and came to be revered in all cultures as the embodiment of life-giving and life supporting loftiest Mother- Principle (matushpade parame) —  (differentiated from Bhumi the physical earth).Because of her dual nature the manifold beauty Prithvi is celebrated as ‘dvi-rupa prithvi’.

The new Sky-god King

11.1. Varuna of Rig Veda replaced the older god Dayus and became the new sky-god in the Vedic pantheon. Unlike Dayus, Varuna was not a mere sky-god. He was much more than that. He was the king of gods. He symbolized the sky in all its aspects. As compared to Dayus, Varuna was more tangible and vivid in his personality, with positive characteristics, definite relationships with gods and men; and with concrete achievements to show. He was also charged with specific cosmic functions.

11.2. Varuna the Asura-Arya (RV 7.65.2)the noble lord among the gods is the king of all (Asura Mahat); ruler of gods and men (RV 2.27.16); king of the whole world (RV 5.85.3); and, of all that exists (RV 7.87.6). As an ethical governor he stands above other gods. He is the independent ruler –svaraj (RV 2.28.1); and the universal monarch (samrat).Varuna declares “I, Varuna, am king…I, Varuna, am Indra   too (RV 1.4.42)

11.3. He declares, “I am king Varuna; these powers (Asurya) were first given to me “(RV 4.22.2). Varuna’s sovereignty (kshatra) over all visible existence is characterized by his omnipresence and omniscience.  His eye is in the sky svadrsa (RV 5.63.2); the golden sun roaming throughout the firmament from dawn to dusk is his eye; and just as the sun that observes everything upon earth he sees all without any hindrance. He is far sighted-uruchaksasa (RV 1.25.16); he is thousand eyed sahasraksha (RV 7.34.10) as the stars in the night sky; he sees all; and he watches all through his ever vigilant spies (spasa). And, he knows all (visvadrastara) through his superior knowledge (asura-maya). He is everywhere in the universe and around it; pervading all things as the inner law and order of creation.

Raja Varunah is the fountainhead of discrimination, and omnipotent wisdom (RV. 1.24. 6). Varuna is the king who ensures order and harmony in all his realms.

11.4. Varuna was also armed with the royal authority to judge men, to dispense justice and to impose punishments. Those powers and authority elevated Varuna to the lofty position of a true sovereign lord (samraaj) of the sky, of the earth and of all visible existence. And, he became the uncontested ruler (Kshatriya, Raja) of the sky, of the Adityas the solar deities and of all the realms (raja rastraanam). Dayus the old-god was not endowed with any such power or authority.

Rajasuya

12.1. In the early verses of the Rig Veda, the horse (asva) a symbol of kingship and solar associations is the emblem of King Varuna the sun eyed sky-god. Varuna is Asva the horse. Varuno va asvaha (TB. 2.2.5.3). Rajasuya is the Yaga (dedication) that establishes a king’s unquestioned authority over all lands; and, it is associated with Varuna. He is the presiding deity of Rajasuya. Whenever an unconquered king performs Rajasuya, Varuna is invoked in that king. He becomes Varuna.  That is because the Rajasuya is conceived as the re-enactment of the Yaga performed by Varuna the first monarch in the Vedic tradition.

Epithets

13.1. As the emperor (samraj), Varuna is mighty and awe-inspiring, he is Risadas the destroyer of enemies (RV 1.2.7), tuvijata and uruksaya mighty (RV 1.17.1). His might and speed are unequalled (RV 1.24.8). He is at once terrible and merciful.

Raja Varunah the king is a fountainhead of discrimination and wisdom. He is the discriminating (pracetas) wise lord; the clever (grtsa); the adept (sukratu); the skilful in discriminating between  the good and the evil, true and untrue ; and deciding upon the truth of things (daksham or putadaksham) -(RV. (1.2.7-.9; and   1.24.7). Varuna is the knower (vidvas); the wise (medha); the intelligent (dhira). He is the seer (kavi); the inspired (vipra) great-poet (kavitara); the greatest of poets (kavitama).

Varuna is the Great One (Mahat); the vast (brahat); the mighty (bhuri); and the immense (prabhuti).Varuna is rtvan upholding the eternal law – Rta. Varuna is the abode of life (visvayu).

The setback

14.1. Although Varuna remains supreme and the symbol of kingship in Rig Veda, his status declines with time. As a successor to Dayus, Varuna flourished as the sole and undisputed king of the celestial arch only for a short time. It was rather a short-lived glory .Varuna soon had to share his power and authority with Mitra. That marked the beginning of his decline. Just as Varuna succeeded where Dayus had failed; the other gods stepped in and took over from Varuna as he fell short of the demands that new challenges made.”The gods progressively lose their importance and are replaced by other divine figures nearer to man, more concrete and more dynamic- solar gods, Great Gods and Goddesses”.

We shall talk of Varuna’s decline, separately, later in part four of the article.

 C. The Upholder of Rta

It is said; Varuna the Mayin through his power of Maya ordained Rta, Vrata and Dharma.

Maya

15.1. The term Maaya in the context of Rig Veda and Varuna, signifies a sort of peculiar power or wisdom. It does not mean Maya the delusion that Vedanta speaks about; it is also not the magic conjured by a magician or a demon; nor does it connote fraud, illusion, unreality, deception, sorcery, magical skill or exhibition of tricks. It is not even one of Indra’s transforming skills – of changing forms and appearances. Maya of Varuna does not have negative connotations. Varuna’s Maya is not avidya; but it is prajna the revealing vidya.  It suggests his all-comprising knowledge, the wisdom extraordinary. It is through the power of that wisdom (mayaya), the mighty Asura Varuna (asurasya) encompasses all existence, binds together, brings order and harmony into the physical and moral realms; and it is through that power he presides over the relationship between man and man, man and nature , and man and  god (RV. 6. 48, 14; 7. 28. 4; 10. 99. 10; 10. 147. 5). By virtue of that special faculty Varuna comes to represent the inner reality of all things; he is the abode of all life (visvayu).

Rta

16.1.  Rta by far is a most wonderful concept envisioned by the seers of the Rig Veda. Scholars have described it variously in different contexts. I prefer to view Rta as a concept that asserts: world is an order, not chaos, the events and phenomena in nature occur nether by chance nor by random; each being or substance exists in certain established relationship according to its own laws (svabhava) in harmony within itself and with the world around it. Rta for me signifies the natural order and integrity of all forms of life and ecological systems. The principle of Rta recognizes our oneness with our environment and our unity with all life on earth.

16.2. Rta (derived from the root ri – to move) signifies the dynamic principle which is inherent in the Universe. Thus, Rta is the reality that defines the framework of natural order as it moves and changes.

When the order in the relationship between man and nature, between man and god and  between man and man,  is disturbed or ruptured, the disruptive elements of  disorder, chaos and falsehood (an-rta) step in,  bringing in their wake ugliness , dishonesty , decay and ruin into life. Rta therefore has protective as also moral dimensions to it.

16.3. Looking at it in another manner, Rta reduces chaos, secures order and integration to matter. It also ensures symmetry and harmony in the environment; and a sense of balance in mans’ life. Hence the conception of Rta has an aesthetic attribute too; it implies not merely order but also beauty in nature and in life.

17.1.  Rta is viewed in the Rig Veda as the most potent force or as a system that has already been in place. It was not created by gods. In that sense Rta is deemed unborn, eternal or natural. It is even said that gods owe their existence to Rta as they are born of Rta. The gods are described as governors who uphold (gopa rtasya), practice (rtayu) and oversee the physical order and also the moral order of the universe – Rta. The gods reward the virtuous and punish those who infringe Rta. Even the gods are subject to its laws; and they have to abide by it. It seems, the notion of Rta is akin to a constitution or a set of laws of a nation. Even the executive and legislative wings of its government that are charged with the responsibility of   safeguarding, interpreting and implementing the laws have to abide by it ; they are not above the law.(This is a brittle analogy ; not to be pressed too hard.)

17.2. That sounds wonderful and rational. But, an interesting fallout of that concept is: the order that exists on the earth or in the universe is not by the will of gods; but it is due to the larger principle of Rta- the laws of nature which have physical and moral dimensions. That in a way sidelines the importance or even the need for a god. But, men sinking in the mire of the world desperately need a peg to hang on. They yearn for a god they can trust implicitly, to place their faith, to look for guidance and hope, to love, to pray, to submit, and above all to fear. Therefore any religion in the world is based on two basic assumptions: the ways of nature are governed by the will of god; and that god can be won over by faith, rituals and prayers. That critical human need for a god, I reckon, was the undoing of the Rta principle. It’s rational and impersonal aspect was soon given up; and its laws were personalized as gods of nature such as the sun, moon, the winds, the earth etc; and they were given forms and attributes.  Varuna the governor was portrayed as a stern judge who instilled fear in the hearts and minds of men. Yama the first mortal was later assigned some of those functions.

[According to some scholars, the attempt to give a form (murti) to the formless (a-murta) marked the point of departure between the clans of two great sages Bhrigu and Angirasa. And it gave rise to a cult which retained the worship of the formless through Agni (fire); discarded idols and rejected the personalized gods; and it laid enormous emphasis on monotheism as also on the sharp distinction between the good and the evil. We shall talk a bit more on these issues in the last part of the article.]

Rta in nature

18.1. In the world of natural phenomena, Rta is described as the firm, fundamental and inherent law of nature (RV. 4.24.8-9). It is the controlling and the sustaining power in nature. Rta ordains the laws of the physical world; regulates the laws of birth, growth and decay in nature (RV 2.28.4); controls and balances all natural forces in environment. Through Rta the nature moves in an orderly manner. In short, whole of the manifested world is working by the laws of Rta.   For instance, it is said;” By the law of Varuna heaven and earth are held apart; the planets rotate in their fixed orbits (RV 5.62.1). By Rta the sun shines in heaven; the paths are set out for the sun; the seasons (Ritu) change (RV 1.25.8); the hours are bound together; day and night alternate regularly. By the laws of Rta the moon shining brightly moves at night, and the stars placed up on high are seen at night but disappear by day. Rta causes the rivers to flow into the ocean without over-filling it. Varuna the lord of Rta is the binder. He binds together the deep- space, the space between the earth and yonder, the winds, the clouds and the rays of light.”

Rta in social context

19.1. But its domain is not restricted to the world of phenomena; Rta extends beyond to the sphere of moral order; and into the hearts of men. It is said; ensuring order and harmony in nature is as sacred as it is in the conduct of one’s life. Rta has relevance in all spheres of life and existence.

19.2. Theoretically, Rta might mean the order in the universe and in nature. But the common person on earth views Rta as a set of social, ethical, moral and religious laws and vows. He strives to abide by these laws. Rta thus represents the moral consciousness in the world of men; and provides a framework for all duties and obligations among men as also for the relationship between man and god (RV 7.63.3).

Thus Rta which also means the established path is the order that governs not only the conduct of man, but also the totality of nature.

Sathya, Vrata and Rta

20.1. Prof PV Kane in his monumental “History of Dharmashatras ‘(vol.5, part 1) explains ‘speaking generally, Rta is the order in nature that has been there; and Vrata is the set of laws laid down by gods; and Dharman is the duties and obligations of an individual’.

20.2. It is also explained by others that Sathya, the Truth, is paramount, it is eternal and changeless; and it is beyond all contradictions. It alone exists – in the beginning and forever. It is the subtle essence of all existence. Sathya is the Supreme principle; while Rta is the operational aspect or the projection of that principle in the manifest world. Rta manifests as phenomena of that principle; and, it is shifting and changing. Fresh phenomena are continually reproduced. But, the principle regulating the orderly recurrence of such phenomena is eternal and stays unchanged .Rta is described as the boundary of creation within the limitless universe (RV. 2.28.4). For instance, the notions of changing seasons (Ritu), the notions of sun set or rise, the movement of stars and planets, the flow of winds; and the notion of directions are all relative; while the Absolute governing principle is beyond all limitations.

In other words, Sathya is the principle of integration in the cosmic order; Rta is its operating rule. And, Sathya is the Absolute Truth, while Rta is the relative truth. Rta is subject to limitations of space, time and circumstances (context). It could vary with times; and at times could even be violated, though its violation (an-rta)   leads to chaos and falsehood. To put it in another manner, Sathya is the Truth of Being; and Rta is the truth of Becoming.

20.3. The term Vrata has several meanings, such as: religious or moral practices; religious worship or observances; sacred or solemn vow of undertaking; any vow or pattern of conduct; ordinance or duty. It also means the will or the command of the lord, which has to be obeyed. And, all of that imposes a sense of duty. Thus the term Vrata has extensive scope.

Rta and Dharma

21.1. The term Dharman seems to mean almost the same as Vrata; and it is the code of right conduct in personal, social and religious life of human beings.

Atharva Veda prefers to call Rta as Dharma (AV 4.132); and, says ‘thou art Varuna the guardian of Dharma Dharmanaam pathi

21.2. Varuna the upholder of the dynamic Rta, is also connected with Vrata and Dharman (RV: 3.59.1; 5.81.4; 8.52.3; 10.8.4).  In context of Varuna, Vrata and Dharma signify the code of conduct governing the ethical order, the dignity in life and in nature.

21.3. Robert Pirsig in his ‘Lila: an inquiry into morals’ explains: Rta, which etymologically stands for “course”, originally meant cosmic order, the maintenance of which was the purpose of all the gods, and later it also came to mean right so that the gods were conceived as preserving the world not merely from physical disorder but also from moral chaos . The one idea is implicit in the other and there is order in the universe because its control is in righteous hands…

The physical order of the universe is also the moral order of the universe; Rta is both .This was exactly what the Metaphysics of Quality was claiming. It was not a new idea. It was the oldest idea known to man. (Lila, 444)

Dharma, like Rta, means ‘what holds together.’ It is the basis of all order. It equals righteousness. It is the ethical code. It is the stable condition which gives man perfect satisfaction.

Dharma is Quality itself, the principle of ‘rightness’ which gives structure and purpose to the evolution of life and to the evolving understanding of the universe which life has created. (Lila, 446)’

Prayers to Rtvan

22.1. Varuna who governs Rta is closer to men than any other god (RV 5.63.1). Varuna evokes awe and reverence in the hearts of men because of his Asura-Maya and his control over Rta. It inspires a faith that the world is sustained by a just and an eternal law decreed by Rta for the well-being of all. Rig Veda advocates conformity with the aim and purpose of these processes. It is the greatest good. The devote firmly believe that compliance with this law tends to material and spiritual progress and advancement paving way to higher forms of integration in life; while its violation is punished with banishment to andha-tamas and to the house of clay (mrn-maya –graha).

22.2. There is also a haunting fear that violation of ordained laws would bring punishment from the noose wielding severe judge Varuna. Prayers are submitted to Varuna seeking his mercy, forgiveness and release from bonds of sin.

22.3. The devote aspire for the abode of truth (sadanam-rtasya) that is not haunted by fear of death (Amruta-loka). They pray to Varuna to guide them along the path of truth (Rtasya-panthah), to lead them from mortality (mruthah) to immortality (Amruthah); and from untruth (Anrtahah) to truth (rtahah) — (Sampraptam Rtam Amrutam).

Epithets

23.1. Varuna of pure will (putadakasha) along with Mitra is described as Rtvan the governor and the promoter (tayu, tavat) of Rta. The law of Varuna (Rta) extended in heavens as on earth. He is also called dhta-vrata (one who supports Vrata), niti-dhara (one who supports moral laws) and putadakasha (of pure will). He is Dharmanaam pathi, the Lord of Dharma. Varuna safeguards Rta (gopa rtasya) and separates Rta from an-Rta; the true from the false (RV 10.124.5).Rta thus symbolically represents triumph of good over evil.

Varuna is ritasya-didivim– the illuminators of truth. As a moral governor (gopa-rtasya) Varuna stands far above any other deity. It is said; it was by the law of Varuna that Indra was ordained as Prajapathi, the progenitor.

The fall

24.1. In the later texts, with the rise of Indra and Prajapathi, Varuna loses his superior position. Prajapathi in turn loses his power and authority over creation, sustenance and ordered existence to Vishnu.

Even in the Rig Veda there appears a fear that Rta is losing its importance and it needs to be re-born. The poet Kutsa makes a plea “We ask of Varuna, the knower of the path –I utter this from my heart; let the rta be born anew (navyah jayatam rtam). Know this of me, Oh Heaven and Earth (RV 1.105.15)” .Varuna’s fall eventually brings about the decline in the importance of the Rta principle. The term Asura with which Varuna was specially associated also acquires negative connotations. The later Vedic texts too lament the demise of Rta and the fall of Varuna; as for instance in the legend of the boy Sunahsepa in the Aitareya Brahmana.

[We shall talk about Varuna’s decline separately later in these articles.]

D. Varuna the judge

The all-seeing and all-knowing

25.1. Varuna’s superiority was derived not through his physical power or prowess but through his authority as the ethical overlord; and through his wonderful all-compassing vision and knowledge – Maya. As mentioned earlier, in the context of Rig Veda, Maya signifies wisdom and power. Varuna is described as the celestial god who sees everything and therefore knows everything. He is the seer Kavi and the best among the Kavis (RV 1.2.9).He sees with many eyes uruchaksasa (RV 1.25.5), with as many as thousand eyes (sahasraksha); and nothing escapes his attention. He is vishva – darsata, all seeing (RV 1.25.18); and therefore he is the all-knowing (visva-vedasa).

He controls the destinies of men. Everything is subject to Varuna’s authority and control; nothing happens without his knowledge; and he takes everything.

“Varuna’s power is so great that neither the birds as they fly nor the rivers as they flow, can reach the limit of his dominion, his might, and his wrath(RV 1.24.9)…He embraces the All and the abodes of all beings (RV 8.41.1-2). He is found even in the smallest drop of water. Varuna is omniscient. He knows the flight of all birds in the sky, the path of ships in the ocean, the course of the far travelling wind, and beholds all the secret things that have been or shall be done(RV 1.25.7-11)… None can escape from the sight of Varuna, for his spies ever at work have thousand eyes and look all over the three regions…..He witnesses men’s’ truth and falsehood (RV 7.49.3). He knows all the secret movements of men…If a man walks, sits, sleeps, dreams; if two persons counsel together Varuna is always present there as the third person ….No creature can even wink without him (RV 2.28.6) . The winking of men’s eyes are all numbered by Varuna, and whatever man does, thinks, or devises, Varuna knows.(AV 4.16.4-5) . His snares extend threefold (body, mind and vital energy –prana) seven times.”

The judgmental god

26.1. Of all the Vedic gods, Varuna is the judgmental god. As the King, Varuna judges the morality of men; and dispenses justice. He is the seer of men (nrchaksa – RV 7.60.2); and the seer of their truth and falsehood (RV 7.49.3).  He watches over men’s thoughts, speech and actions; judges them accordingly. Varuna protects the good; he is most compassionate to the virtuous; and extends the lives of the good. He punishes the wrongdoer severely (RV 7.86.3-4) and shortens the lives of the sinners.

He is feared as a severe judge. His wrath is roused by sin which, in fact, is the infringement of his ordinance. He terrifies the guilty; but when gratified with heartfelt repentance and sincere prayers he forgives the penitent wrongdoer and frees him from the bonds of sins.

[In the later texts, some of these functions of Varuna were assigned to Yama the Dharma – raja.]

The roots of Sin

27 .1. Sin is viewed as an external accretion; it is not man’s essential nature; and, it can be removed. It meant that man by nature is divine and is not always a sinner. He strays  into sin either through lack of self-control or of ignorance or greed.”It was not our own will, Varuna,” says the seer, “but some seduction which led us astray, wine, anger, dice or thoughtlessness. The stronger perverts the weaker even sleep occasions sin.” (RV. 7. 86. 6)

27.2. There is a belief that a person does not commit sins wantonly or of his own will ‘svadaksa’. He strays into the zone of sin because of human frailties, driven by selfishness, by ignorance; by lack of right understanding; by infirmity of will; or by uncontrolled anger, lust or greed; or by wicked company; or by following bad-examples; or because of being frightened by evil dreams (suggesting that even a dream could be provocative); or under influence of liquor.

27.3. The weaknesses in human nature and malevolent influences cause a person to commit sins against his/her fellow beings.   Such sins could include, for instance, murder; extreme indulgence in gambling, liquor; rage; cheating in game of dice; adultery, sexual misconduct etc. It also includes deception, not repaying ones debts; cursing, telling the untruth (an-rta) and to actively carry it out (druh). Such sins are infringement of Varuna’s commands, whether it was deliberate or otherwise.

A person is responsible not merely for his own wrongdoing but also for those of his ancestors. He carries the burden of their sins too.

Sins against nature

28.1. As said earlier, disturbing the harmony in nature or violating the laws of nature is a departure from the established path (Rta) and a departure from what is true and real. it leads to falsehood and chaos. Since such infringement negates Rta the established moral order, it is called an-rta; it also is anti –nature or unnatural. It amounts to disobedience of Varuna’s commands. Varuna is vigilant against an- rta. It   is said; the gods are friendly to the good and are inimical to the evil-minded.

28.2. It is explained, injuring the harmony that exists in nature and among men is in fact a Sin. A sin (paapa) against nature, the truth and the gods attracts punishment from king Varuna rtvan the custodian of Rta.

Varuna’s commands

29.1. Varuna the ethical ruler sets the norms for right thinking, right speech and right conduct. In the hymns of Varuna Suktha (in the seventh mandala of Rig Veda) we have a fairly well developed scheme of right conduct, wrongdoing (the sin), admission of guilt and plea for forgiveness. Varuna asks men not to kill, not to deceive, not to gamble, not to cheat in gambling; not to curse; not to utter lies; not to be overtaken by wine, anger and lust. None can afford to fool him since he   knows the thoughts of all; as also all deeds done and not done (RV 1.25.11); he sees all and hears all; he sees the truth and falsehood of men. (RV 7.49.3) . He notices all malice (AV 1.10.2); and when two people sit and converse there Varuna is present as the third (RV 4.16.2).Varuna confronts the evil-doers and binds them with his noose (pasa),which is almost exclusively a weapon of Varuna.

[Please click here for an audio rendering of Varuna Suktha]

The punishment

30.1. The punishment that Varuna hands down to sinners are twofold: One is the fall from Lord Varuna’s grace; and, the other is physical punishment by way of disease or untimely death. The fall from Varuna’s favour was more dreaded than the latter; all believers (bhakthas) were desperate to keep their fellowship with Varuna un-impaired. Among the diseases brought by wrath of Varuna the ‘arpayit‘ (one who inflicts diseases) the more commonly mentioned are harimana (jaundice) and jalodara (dropsy) – a condition of abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body tissues or cavities. The sinners pray Varuna to lessen the severity of punishment; and to save from banishment, after death, to mrn-maya –graha the house of clay which perhaps referred to the gloomy underworld in contrast to the bright and cheerful world of pitris (fathers) heaven.

Sin as an unpaid debt –Rna

31.1. Rig Veda has an interesting concept of sin. The sin was the most terrifying aspect of their lives. The Vedic people were therefore vigilant and attentive to the core. Sin, in the Vedic context is that which disturbs the order in nature placed in position by the gods. It is said; Sin is any inharmonious action done with avarice to gain some immediate and temporary gain.  It includes the infringement of the ethical and social laws.

Man’s transgression or sin is considered rna or a debt that he has to repay in full. Sin is akin to an unpaid debt; it is a burden and an act of bad faith.   He has to repay that debt in order to re-establish the order, restore the balance he disturbed. It is like repairing the rupture one caused in the fabric of Rta.

The release

32.1. How does one repay such a terrible debt? Just as a pecuniary debt (rna) is paid-up to get release from bonds of indebtedness, similarly, the burden of sin (papa) could be got rid by realizing and owning one’s weaknesses and wrongdoings; by regretting ones sins;  by repenting sincerely with heartfelt prayers and humble submissions to Varuna seeking his forgiveness; and, by  promising never to commit such sins again.

“O virtuous Lord, it is not our own choice, but our hard environments that betray us”…. “Whatever offence we men commit against divine beings, and whichever your laws we violate through ignorance, may you not, O Lord, be harsh to us on account of that iniquity.”.. ”Opulent and pure Varuna, if through ignorance and infirmity I acted contrary to your laws, yet grant me forgiveness, happiness and peace” (RV 7.89.3)… “We have broken your laws through thoughtlessness; for those transgressions do not injure us; forgive us O God” (RV 7.89.5)…” Free us from sins committed by our fathers, and from those we have ourselves offended. (7: 86.5)”.

32.2. Varuna, usually a stern and a severe judge would become merciful; dispel fear and falsehood; grant protection and forgiveness when one truly repents and submits to his will   absolutely (RV 2.28.3; 7.88.6; 7.42.2).

Varuna who inflicts diseases can also relieve the sick. Varuna the great physician maha- bheshaja (RV 1.24.9) has hundreds of remedies (shtam te rajan bheshajam sahasram). Varuna drives away death and disease, cleanses sins and restores good-health, in every sense, of those who repent sincerely and submit to him in faith and devotion.

He is also merciful to those who transgressed his laws in ignorance or thoughtlessness. Varuna is gracious to the penitent who swears he would not again yield to malevolent forces and he would not sin again.

He loosens and unties the rope (pasa) (just as releasing a calf); and frees men from bonds of sins when they plead for forgiveness and mercy. He also sets them free from the sins committed by their forefathers.

The purification is through Paschastapa, ‘after the burning heat’, which signifies the purifying fire of repentance. Thus, purification or release from sins is not through rituals but by getting rid of mental and moral impurities or ill-health in ones heart and mind. The best way to cleanse the sin is to come face to face with it; own it; confess to it; and seek forgiveness with a promise not to err again. Cleansing is in the heart, mind and deed; not in the rituals. That is the way of Varuna the purifier. That is how one repays the debts of sin.

Hymns of Varuna

33.1. Varuna inspired awe and reverence. While the hymns addressed to other gods seek long life, wealth, power and happiness; the hymns submitted to Varuna pray for purity, forgiveness, and release from sins, and for moral strength against sinning further.  The hymns in praise of Varuna ‘the most impressive deity among all the Vedic gods’ are lofty, more devout and ethical in tone. The hymns rise to a pitch of exaltation when they sing the splendour of Varuna. In these hymns Varuna, more than any other Vedic god, appears as a mighty and merciful.

Such attributes and functions ascribed to Varuna impart to his character a moral elevation. “Indra protects from external foe; Varuna protects through upholding moral order (RV. 7. 83.9) “. Varuna symbolizes   the notion of purity. As a moral governor he stands above other gods.

33.2. It is also said; the notions of surrender, prapatti or sharanagati (absolute submission to the will of god) which form the essential element of the Vaishnava and other Bhakthi traditions have their origins in the hymns dedicated to Varuna in the Varuna –Suktha of Rig Veda.

To sum up

34.1. The concept of Rta asserts that the order in nature is self regulated and operates by its own laws (svabhava)   ;    and not necessarily by the will of gods or of a supernatural being. Ensuring order and harmony in nature is as sacred as it is in conduct of one’s life. That is because; Rta emphasizes the integrity of all forms of life and ecological systems. The principle of Rta recognizes our oneness with our environment and our unity with all life on earth. It is the framework that binds together man, nature and god. Rta is thus the Dharma that pervades and protects all life.

Injuring the harmony that exists in nature and among men is in fact the Sin; and it attracts punishment.

34.2. A sin is an infringement of the natural order (Rta);  it is a burden on the individual and on the society. It is like a debt that one has failed to repay; it is essentially an act of bad faith against fellow beings and nature. It is not the demons that drive a man into arms of sin. But it is ignorance, greed and other human weaknesses that are at  the root of sins. The evil is in the hearts and minds of men; and these are metaphorically described demons. The best way to cleanse the sins or to drive away the demons is to come face to face with them; to own your mistakes; to   confess to it; to sincerely repent your bad acts and to seek forgiveness with a promise not to err again. Cleansing is in the heart, mind and deed; not in the rituals. That is the Varuna’s way.

34.3. The notions of acknowledging ones sins, confessing to ones sins, praying for forgiveness with a pledge never to sin again were prevalent in the Vedic times much before they became popular in other religions.

E. Varuna – waters

35.1. In the Rig Veda, Varuna is essentially connected with ‘celestial’ waters; the waters in the atmosphere, the seed of life in the universe. These waters symbolize   the manifest as well as the un-manifest primeval matter- Prakrti or Vak or Aditi or Viraj.   It is the primary source of all possibilities of manifestation in the universe. Varuna is described as the ’hidden ocean’ (samudro apicyah) –RV.8.41.8; he is also said to dwell in waters as Soma does in the wood.

35.2. However, there are also passages that suggest Varuna’s control over waters on earth. In these passages Varuna is neither regarded as the god of the ocean, nor is he mentioned as the god of water-element. The references that connect him to waters are mainly in the context of Varuna’s supremacy over all realms and bringing order (Rta) into the physical world. As the creator and as the sustainer of all existence he is said to have conjured up , among other things,    rains in the atmosphere (RV 5.63.3); sent down rains to the earth (RV.10.125.7); determined the course of the rivers (RV. 7.89.1); and   ensured that the ocean into which the rivers empty themselves does not over flow..’I made to flow the moisture-shedding waters, and set the heaven firm in the seat of Order (Rta)’ – (RV 7.49.4)

There are also prayers submitted to Varuna seeking his protection “”May the waters which are celestial, and those which flow; those for which channels are dug, and those which are self-produced; those which are proceeding to the ocean, and are bright and purifying, preserve me! May those (waters) in the midst of which King Varuna goes . . . preserve me!”(RV. 7.49.2-4)

35.3. In the later Vedic texts Varuna’s nature and attributes undergo a major shift. Varuna who once was the god of the blue-sky later becomes the god of the sea and eventually of the water element on earth. He is reduced to a mere chief of terrestrial waters, rivers, streams, and lakes, but primarily of the ocean. He then is promptly dispatched undersea.

We shall talk about some other interesting aspects of Varuna’s association with waters, separately and in fair detail, in the fourth part of this article.

Varuna2

Continued in part Three

 – Varuna in Samhitas , Brahmanas and other texts

References and Sources

1. Indra and Varuna in Indian Mythology by Dr. UshChoudhuri; Nag Publishers, Delhi, 1981

2. The Indian Theogony by Dr.Sukumari Bhattarcharji, Cambridge University Press, 1970

3. Asura in early Vedic religion by WE Hale; Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, 1986

4. Goddesses in ancient India by PK Agrawala,; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi,1984

5. The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathustra by JM Chatterji; the Parsi Zoroastrian Association, Calcutta, 1967; http://www.avesta.org/chatterj_opf_files/slideshow.htm.

6. Outlines of Indian Philosophy –Prof M Hiriyanna; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2005

7.Original Sanskrit texts on the 0rigin and history of the people of India, their region and institution By J. Muir;Trubner & co., London, 1870.

8. A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature byJohn Dowson; Turner & co, Ludgate hill. 1879.

9. Vaidika Sahitya Charitre by Dr. NS Anantharangachar; DVK Murthy, Mysore, 1968

10. Sri Brahmiya Chitra Karma sastram by Dr. G. Gnanananda

11. Zarathustra Chapters 1-6 by Ardeshir Mehta; February 1999

 http://www.indiayogi.com/content/indgods/varuna.aspx

http://www.bookrags.com/research/varua-eorl-14/

http://www.bookrags.com/wiki/Varuna

http://www.hinduweb.org/home/dharma_and_philosophy/vshirvaikar/Dnyaneshwari/Dnch10pg1.html

http://rashmun.sulekha.com/blog/post/2010/03/vedic-literature-the-degradation-of-varuna-and-indra.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Varuna

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/vedic-verses/453851-vak-suktam-aka-devi-suktam.html

http://www.svabhinava.org/HinduCivilization/AlfredCollins/RigVedaCulture_ch07-frame.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura_Mazda

http://www.iamronen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ReadingLila.pdf

 http://www.hummaa.com/player/player.php

All images are by courtesy of Internet

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Varuna

 

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Varuna and his decline – Part One

Varuna

Abstract and Intro

(1) The saga of Varuna is truly spectacular. Though his story started with a bang, it sadly ends in a whimper. Perhaps very few other gods– Vedic or otherwise – witnessed such vicissitudes in the turn of their fortunes.

The Varuna story covers a very large canvass – in content, space and time. The story of his pre-eminence has its roots in the pre-Vedic era; it flourishes in the early Rig Veda inspiring awe and reverence; and as it flows into other Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads, Varuna’s associations with the sky, the water and the order in the universe as also in the ethical conduct of men,  all these, acquire new dimensions with mystical connotations. Till then, he is the highest lord in the Vedic pantheon, the most virtuous and the most powerful all-pervading god.

Varuna, up to a point, is the nearest equivalent to the Supreme, as he is projected as the creator and sustainer of all existence; the lord of Space, the maker of Heaven and Earth. His glory spreads far and wide into the Gathas and into the Bhrigu lore. The treaties entered  by the Mitanni kings of the distant Sumerian region (in about 1500 BCE) are sworn in the name of Varuna and his peer-Vedic –gods.

However, with the parting of ways of the ancient sages Bhrigu and Angirasa, Varuna becomes exclusively the Great God of the Aryans to the west of the Sindhu River, while Indra takes over as the King of the Devas. Varuna is eclipsed in the Vedic pantheon.

(2) With the Taittiriya Samhita (4.8.3.1) identifying Varuna mainly with night and darkness, his career takes a steep nosedive. Initially, he loses his sole kingship over the sky and then has to share his authority with another god who is younger and more energetic- Mitra.  Varuna gets  disassociated with the day sky which symbolizes clarity, brightness and brilliance; and made the god of night sky. His ethical role diminishes. With that, Varuna draws nearer to night, darkness and death. Varuṇa’s dark associations bring him close to gods of negative traits such as Yama, Nirṛti, Soma, and Rudra. His character and disposition too undergo a marked change for the worse. From a benevolent and graceful god, he turns into a spiteful, malevolent and stern judge cum punisher. His physical appearance too turns ugly: he is now pictured as a fat, bald ugly looking cruel man with yellow or brownish red eyes, protruding teeth and wielding a noose. One after another, his powers and authority steadily depart from him. Varuna eventually ends up in the Puranas as a demigod in charge of local water bodies, and as the guardian of the west where the sun sinks into darkness and from where the night takes over.

(3) The story of his pre-eminence in the pre-Vedic and in the early Rig Veda era; the modifications that came about   in his profile during the later ages; his fall from elevated position; and his eventual eclipse, is truly astounding. In a manner of speaking, the course of Varuna’s career epitomizes the dynamic character of the Indian mythological lore. And , it also traces graphically the evolution, the development and the vicissitudes that came about in the corkscrew course of Indian theological history in response to the needs , changes and challenges it encountered at each stage of its unfolding over the millennia.

(4) Varuna saga should not be viewed in isolation. It is better appreciated when it is placed against the background of the scheme, process or the phenomenon that swept across the world of Vedic mythology in the distant past. That process spread over long centuries totally convulsed the sedate world of Vedic gods. It was akin to churning the ocean. It disturbed the old order; threw out the old set of gods; created and magnified a set of new gods; and restructured the entire Indian pantheon. Under this process of reorganizing the world of Indian mythology… those Vedic gods who had been ‘minor’ in the Rig Veda but who held great potential and offered rich scope for enlargement and glorification were re-modelled into much greater gods. Later, those gods came to represent larger segments of life and experiences; and to mobilize greater strength and significance. The virtues and powers of numerous other gods merged into those select gods. They are today the Super Gods in the Indian pantheon.

At the same time, gods whose characters, functions and achievements had been too vividly described in Rig Veda and who held out little scope for further enlargement were steadily reduced in their status and rank And those  gods whose profile was too dim and had very little potential for growth were allowed to fade out quietly.

In this scheme or the process of restructure, the gods that adopted best to the changing needs of times survived and thrived. One way that was done was by underplaying their Vedic characteristics   which were rather sketchy and unsuitable. And, another was by aligning them along with tutelary gods that were already being worshipped. …..In this period of transition, popular sectarian gods were gradually replacing the older Vedic gods. This new approach to the gods redefined the status, character and attributes of the older gods.

This was also a process of absorption of several gods into One; and, it culminated in the emergence of the triad, of which the two: Vishnu and Shiva inherited all the rich, adorable and living traits of all the gods that preceded them. They were also endowed with infinite potential and capacity to imbibe the traits of all the gods to come.

(5) The sequence of gods changing – growing or diminishing in significance – indicates the continual influx of new ideas and a creative conflict with the existing system of thoughts. This complex and dynamic interplay of light and shadow is a distinctive feature of the Indian pantheon.

The growth and development of Indian mythology and thought resembles the imagery of the inverted tree – of which our ancients were very fond – with its roots in the sky and its branches spreading down towards the earth. Its roots are ancient but its growing shoots, leaves, buds, flowers and fruits are ever green, tender and fresh. The roots of our philosophy, religion and culture are in the very distant Vedic past.  Though those roots are no longer visible to us the braches and extensions of those roots in vivid forms that have come down to us are very alive; and its fruits are within our experience.

The idioms of Indian thought are thus dynamic, living and vibrant. They are linked to the spiritual urges and the changing needs, desires and aspirations of its people. The gods, faiths and the worship practices too keep evolving, changing, without parting with the essence of its fundamentals. Therefore, growth, change and adaptation are essential aspects of the Indian thought and living. It is distinguished by continuity with change; as also by its resilience and diversity. That is the genius of the Indian traditions.

The Varuna saga, albeit a painful one, has to be appreciated in that context.

 **

(6) Varuna of Rig Veda had a rather disappointing end; but, he did leave behind a rich legacy of wonderful concepts and norms of behaviour in personal and social life (Rta) that have endured even to this day. Those laws are universal; applicable at all times and therefore eternal. The concept of Rta asserts that the order in nature is self regulated and operates by its own laws (svabhava)      and not necessarily by the will of gods. Ensuring the perpetuation of the order and harmony in nature is as sacred  and as important as  it is in conduct of one’s life. That is because; Rta emphasizes the integrity of all forms of life and ecological systems. The principle of Rta recognizes our oneness with our environment and our unity with all life on earth. It is the framework that binds together man, nature and god.  Rta is thus the Dharma – the order – that pervades and protects all life. It asserts the principle that the physical order of the universe is also the moral order of the universe; Rta is both.

When that order and harmony is ruptured, the disruptive elements of disorder, chaos and falsehood (an-rta) step in, bringing in their wake ugliness, dishonesty and, decay into life. It is explained; a sin is any inharmonious action done with avarice to gain some immediate and temporary gain. Thus, injuring the harmony that exists in nature and among men is indeed the sin; and it attracts punishment. The sin arises because of frailties and human weaknesses; and not because of demons. The evil in the hearts and minds of men are the real demons.

Sin is compared to unpaid debt (rna); it is a burden and an act of bad faith. The best way to cleanse the sin is to come face to face with it; own it; confess to it; and seek forgiveness with a promise not to err again. Cleansing is in the heart, mind and deed; not in the rituals. That is the Varuna’s way.

Paschatapa – ‘after the burning heat’ – signifies the purifying fire of repentance. The life-giving waters over which Varuna presides also signifies purity. Varuna is intimately associated with the both. Thus the Varuna-principle stands for purity in life.

white_lotus_2

(7) Let’s in the following five articles trace the journey of Varuna from the Rig Veda through the other Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads as also Mahabharata and the Puranas. Let’s also later see his connection with Ahur Mazda of the Gathas.

***

A. Varuna in the Rig Veda

The encompasser

1.1. Varuna of Rig Veda, the one who encompasses (var) the whole world, is one of the oldest Vedic deities. He belongs to the older generation of gods than Indra; and, his origins go back to the pre-Vedic era. It is said, Varuna was uncreated or unborn; he existed before the very dawn of creation and he manifested himself along with the wake of the world. That perhaps is a poetic way of suggesting that Varuna had been recognized as a sovereign ruler even before the dawn of Rig Vedic age.

1.2. He is the mightiest of the early Rig Vedic gods. He is celebrated in the Rig Veda variously as: the universal monarch; the king of all gods, the sovereign who dwells in all the realms ; the best among the Adityas the solar deities ; the lord of the sky; the god of heavenly light; the overlord who established and governed the cosmic order Rta; the guardian and upholder of righteousness – Dharma , Dharmanaam pathi; the stern but merciful judge who judges all men and punishes the wrongdoers; the healer with thousand remedies;  the omnipresent and  omniscient, possessing limitless knowledge; kavi, the seer par excellence ;  there is none wiser than he; the wielder of divine power and wisdom Maya; the controller of the destinies of mankind; one who forges the magical and speculative relationship between god and man; the lord of water element , clouds, seas and rivers Sindhu-pathi; and as the king of waters Ambu -raja.

Everything is subject to Varuna’s authority and control; nothing happens without his knowledge; and he takes everything.

1.3. No other Vedic deity is invested with such grand attributes and authority. Together with Mitra, Varuna more than any other god is in charge of the established order of the universe, the fixed rules of conduct – both physical and moral- ‘dhtavrata’.  Varuna inspired awe and reverence.

Lord of Ethics

2.1. The attributes and functions ascribed to Varuna impart to his character a moral elevation and sanctity far surpassing that attributed to any other Vedic deity. His extreme concern is the morality of human beings.

2.2. While the hymns addressed to other gods seek long life, wealth, and power; the prayers submitted to Varuna pray for purity of heart, forgiveness, and release from sins and for moral strength not to err again. They are replete with humble confessions of guilt and repentance. The hymns in praise of Varuna ‘the most impressive deity among all the Vedic gods’ are lofty, devout and ethical in tone. The hymns rise to a pitch of exaltation when they sing the splendour of Varuna. In these hymns Varuna, more than any other Vedic god, appears mighty and merciful. He is feared as a severe judge. He terrifies the guilty; but is most compassionate to the virtuous.

The resplendent god

3.1. Rig Veda describes Varuna’s appearance in glowing terms: as the most resplendent god of radiant- sky-blue complexion, with Agni in his face and Surya in his eye. He is far sighted (uru-chaksasa). He is the eye of all the worlds (jagath-chakshu- RV.1.25.5). He has soft and beautiful hands (supani) in which he holds lotuses and   an auspicious noose. He is splendidly adorned in golden mantel (drapi) and a shining robe. His chariot dazzles brilliantly like sunrays (ghabasti suro nadyauth – RV.1.122.15).Varuna and Mitra ride the golden chariot like floating clouds in the blue sky, drawn by well yoked steeds. (Rv.5.62.7). in the midst of vast heavens urukşhaya (RV 1.2.9) he is seated on a splendid throne placed in his  golden palace of thousand pavilions, thousand columns (RV 2.41.5) and thousand doors (RV 7.88.5).  From his glittering throne, the monarch (samrajnya) watches over the deeds of all men and gods (pastyasu)- (RV 1.22.11-12).

Verily all of you are very great

4.1. The Mandalas of Rig Veda do not attempt stacking up its gods in a graded order; but strive to discover the Great One (Mahat) that is the source of all. There are no inferiors or superiors among the Vedic gods.”There is no one among you Oh Devas..! who is an infant or a boy .Verily all of you are very great” (na hi vo astyarbhako devaa so na kumaraha, visve sato mahanta iti – RV 8.30.1).

No one god in particular was regarded as the superior deity guiding and controlling the rest. But, all gods of Rig Veda were of co-ordinate power; and no one among them was recognized as supreme God per se, even though some gods were more imposing than others. Such gods included, particularly, Indra, Agni and Varuna, the gods of the warriors, of the yajna and of the pious devotees, respectively.

4.2. You come across in the Vedas hymns where a particular deity is lauded in glowing terms and   celebrated as the highest among the gods. There is also a tendency to elevate now this god and later another to the highest pedestal and to look upon him as the greatest power. It is explained; in all such instances the high praise and tributes paid are truly addressed to the Absolute, the Supreme principle; and, not to the god in question who merely is a manifestation of That One. Thus, all gods of Rig Veda are of equal status.

The Mighty King

5.1. The equitable status accorded to all gods, as explained above, was generally in the context of the younger gods, the Devas. But, Varuna belonged to the older generation wherein he was honoured with a very special status and hailed as the greatest god, Asura Mahat. Varuna continued to occupy that elevated pedestal until his demise or until the rise of Indra. Therefore in the early hymns of the Rig Veda, Varuna occupies a special and an exalted position. He alone is hailed as the king (Raja) (RV 7.87.6), kshatra (secular power, sovereignty and kingship) and Kshatriya; the king of gods (MS 2.21); the king of the territories (raja-raastranam) (RV 7.34.11); an independent ruler (svaraja) (RV 1.28.1); the self-dependant ruler (svaraat), and samraja the universal monarch (RV 1.36.1; 8.42.1).

5.2. As the emperor, Varuna is mighty and awe-inspiring. He is Risadas the destroyer of enemies (RV 1.2.7), tuvijata and uruksaya mighty (RV 1.17.1). His might and speed are unequalled (RV 1.24.8) . He rules over both men and gods; and presides over the relationship between man and the gods. His sovereignty pervades both the physical and moral domains, where his laws are equally eternal and inviolable.”Indra protects from external foe; Varuna protects and upholds the moral order rta – RV 7.83.9”. Even a god does not dare transgress his immutable ordinances (vrataani).He restricts and fetters the wrong doers with his bonds that he has at his command.

5.3. He is not only the supreme kshatra, supreme Asura, the wise king, the best of the Adityas but he is also the abode of life (visvayu). The term Asura (one who controls asu = breath or life) meaning the Lord of Life is particularly applied to Varuna (RV 2.8.27). He is celebrated as the all knowing Asura (asuro visvavedaha –RV 8.42.1), and as the wise and attentive king (asurah prachetah –RV 1.124.14). In some passages the scope of the term is extended by adding the title ‘the king’ (RV 1.24.14; 10.132.4) or even stronger ‘the universal king ‘(RV 8.42.1). His dominant position is explained by stating Varuna is the Asura and the king of all gods (RV 2.27.10). ). “I am king Varuna; these powers (Asurya) were first given to me “(RV 4.22.2). Mitra and Varuna are described as the two noble Asuras (or lords) of the Devas –Devanaam asurah (RV 7.65.2)

5.4. In the Rig Veda, the totality of godly powers is called asuratvam; and it is called Mahat the great one. Varuna is Asura- mahat (Mahat devaanaam asuratvam ekam – RV 3.55.1-2). He is also regarded as the sovereign who created the Universe: The All-Wise Varuna – asuro visvavedaha –   Rig Veda 8.42.1”. He also put in place the cosmic order and governed the physical as also the moral aspects of existence. He is also the punisher and a fearsome destroyer.

5.5. Thus, Varuna of Rig Veda, heralded as the most exalted god (though only for a brief period) is endowed with these powers and authority. And, with his omniscience and omnipotence he is the nearest approximation to the structure of a Supreme Being, the Almighty God – the creator, preserver and destroyer. But, the text stops short of declaring him or any other deity as the Supreme God. The powers and virtues attributed to Varuna were later crystallized and appropriated among the Trinity of the mythologies which came up later.

Epithets

6.1. Rig Veda celebrates the glory of Varuna in myriad ways ; and describes him as : the Great One (Mahat); the vast (brahat); the mighty (bhuri);the immense (prabhuti); the abode of life (visvayu); the knower (vidvas); the wise (medha);the intelligent (dhira); the discriminating (pracetas); the clever (grtsa); the adept , dexterous (sukratu); the inspired (vipra); the seer (kavi); the great-poet (kavitara);the greatest of poets (kavitama ).

Besides these, Varuna has other sets of titles as being the lord of waters, the lord of Rta;   and as the king and judge. We shall see more of those in the next sections.  He has too many epithets. I admit, it is rather confusing.

Asura

[Before going further, a short explanation of the term Asura in the early Rig Veda:

7.1. The term Asura was used in the Rig Veda to indicate the powerful or the mighty one. Its application was more as an adjective than as a noun. This term was applied not only to gods but also to other powerful individuals. In the early Books of Rig Veda, Asura as a designation appears only in the singular or in dual form (as in Mitra-Varuna). Asura in that context did not refer to a cult or to a group or  to a class of gods, just in the manner it referred to group of Devas , as  in the case of visve devah. In other words, Asura was a title of highest lordship or honor assigned to certain gods who were regarded mighty, powerful and worship- worthy. These gods in general were also addressed as Devas. The older deities celebrated as Devas were often addressed as Asura, just to emphasize their power and might.

For instance; in Rig Veda, Indra the king of Devas is addressed in about sixteen hymns as Asura, possessing Asurya or Asuratya. His deeds are described as Asurani– the powerful, as those of Asuras . Similarly, the three other mighty deities of Rig Veda: Agni, Varuna and Mitra (in company of Varuna) are called Asura. Rudra is described in accusative form as devam asuram (RV. 42.11), the Asura possessing Asurya or bestowing it. Dayus the ancient sky-god too was called Asura. Some other Vedic deities too were at times called Asura, as in the case of : Savitar, Surya, Vayu, Maruts, the Adityas and Apam Napat. Ushas the goddess of dawn was said to possess Asuratva.

7.2. There are no cases in Rig Veda where a god is called Asura in respectful sense in one instance and then called an Asura in the demonic sense in another instance. Hence the change that came about was truly in the usage of the term and the meaning assigned to it at different times; and, it did not signify a change in the nature or the character of the god to whom the term was applied.

As said earlier, Asura meant highest lordship. Dayus the old sky-god was the earliest Asura. But, since Dayus , more and more , came to mean the physical sky and not the Great God, the epithet then was applied to Varuna the new sky-god; and later to Indra and other gods. But, the term Asura was applied particularly to Varuna to signify his supreme lordship over men and gods (RV 2. 27.10). Aditi, the mother of gods, it is said, produced Mitra and Varuna for Asurya- Might or mightiness.  “This Asura rules over the gods”: devanam asurah.

No other Vedic god is described in this manner. It is explained; the Asurya and the dignity connected with being Asura in the case of Varuna is his original characteristic. That suggests; Varuna was a sovereign ruler even at the dawn of Rig Vedic age. However, in the case of Indra, it is said, his Asurya   was inherited from Varuna; it was not Indra’s own. When Indra is called Asura or invested with Asurya , it is done merely because Indra happened to succeed Varuna as the king of gods.

7.3. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.1), Mahabharata (shanthi parva: 33.25) and Amarakosha all describe Asuras , the sons of Diti, as the elder brothers or the older gods, while the Devas are the younger ones.

7.4. The sea-change that came about in the meaning assigned to the term Asura can also be explained in the context of the religious history of the Vedic people.

When the Aryan community was undivided, the terms Asura and Deva both denoted gods of high respect. The gods were referred to Asura as also Deva. But at a certain phase of their history, the Vedic people became divided along the lines of affiliation to two great and ancient sages Apam Napat and Angirasa. These sages belonged to the pre –Vedic period. The parting of their ways came about mainly because of the stand each took on issues such as: monotheism; worship of God through formless medium; use of icons in worship; and above all, on the question of the status to be accorded to the old god Varuna.

The Bhrigu clan who generally were to the west of the mighty Sindhu River continued: to regard Varuna as the Greatest and the only God – Asura Mahat; to favor worship through the formless medium of fire and honor the principle of Rta the moral order governed by Varuna as the highest good of all .

The Angirasas who were the preceptors of the dominant Aryans on the east of the Sindhu, on the other hand, elevated the more energetic and vibrant younger gods the Devas (Indra and others) to exalted positions and treated all Devas as equally great .These Devas were personified and described as having forms. Besides, the Angirasas relegated the passive old gods such as Varuna to very low positions in the Vedic pantheon, and also soft peddled Rta principle the moral order governed  by Varuna.

( We shall talk a bit more on these issues in the last part of this article.)

7.5. The parting of their ways was hardly a sweet-sorrow; it was laced with rancor and hate. The Bhrigu and the Angirasa clans each ascribed its own chosen words of abuse to the terms Asura or Deva, depending on to which side of the Sindhu they belonged. In the later Vedic texts Asuras came to mean demons.

Towards the later books of the Rig Veda (6, 7, 8 and 10) the term Asura underwent extraordinary semantic change. It not only became a noun from an adjective; but also acquired a totally different meaning of demon or demonic. And in the sixth Book of Rig Veda (RV 6.22), Indra for the first time came to known as divyasya janasya raja, the king of gods. And the idea, of course, became more popular and crystallized later in the Puranas.

In the Brahmanas of Krishna Yajur Veda , the term Asura was used in the sense of anti-god. It then was usually expressed in plural to suggest a group of beings opposed to gods. And, when it was used in singular (in the same sense) it was expressed as aasura. In the Shatapatha Brahmana the terms Asura and Rakshasa came close to each other.]

The Varuna – hymns

8.1. Varuna is indeed one of the mighty gods of Rig-Veda, though he is celebrated exclusively in just about ten hymns (RV 1.24. 25; 2.28; 5.85; 7.86 to 89 and 8.41 to 42).Besides, he is praised along with Mitra (Maitra –varuna) in twenty-three hymns; and with Indra (Indra-Varuna) in nine hymns. These numbers are rather small as compared to the numbers of hymns addressed to Indra and Agni, which are about six-fold greater. For instance, in Book Three  no hymn is addressed to Varuna while twenty-two are devoted to Indra. Similarly, in Book eleven there is only one hymn to Varuna while twenty-three are addressed to Varuna. For some reason, Varuna is less frequently mentioned in the last book than in the earlier books of Rig Veda.

That does not in any manner diminish the importance, might, glory and power of Varuna as depicted in Rig Veda.

8.2. If Varuna is so great and important why is it that only a handful of hymns are dedicated to him in the Samhitas?

That might be because of the dark traits associated with him. Varuna was not wholly benevolent like Indra in the early Rig-Veda. Varuna is rather an ambivalent character – now favourable; and now unfavourable. He was a judgmental god who inspired awe and fear. Yet, Varuna was essentially a god of placid nature. And the Vedic poets were decidedly in favor of uncompromisingly good gods who protected people from enemies, diseases and draught. That process perhaps eventually led to Indra replacing the old god Varuna and taking charge as the chief of the Devas.

8.3. The Varuna – hymns are remarkably varied in their content and scope. They portray range of Varuna’s attributes; but, they project, mainly, four of his functions: as the universal monarch and lord of the sky; as the upholder of the cosmic order Rta; as related to water element (apah); and, as omniscient deity with unique magical knowledge (Maya)   who oversees men’s’ actions.

We shall discuss each of his main attributes and functions in the next part of in this article.

Continued in Part Two

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References and Sources

1. Indra and Varuna in Indian Mythology by Dr. Usha Choudhuri; Nag Publishers, Delhi, 1981

2. The Indian Theogony by Dr.Sukumari Bhattarcharji, Cambridge University Press, 1970

3. Asura in early Vedic religion by WE Hale; Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, 1986

4. Goddesses in ancient India by PK Agrawala,; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi,1984

5. The Hymns of Atharvan Zarathustra by JM Chatterji; the Parsi Zoroastrian Association, Calcutta, 1967; http://www.avesta.org/chatterj_opf_files/slideshow.htm.

6. Outlines of Indian Philosophy –Prof M Hiriyanna; Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2005

7.Original Sanskrit texts on the 0rigin and history of the people of India, their region and institution By J. Muir;Trubner & co., London, 1870.

8. A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature byJohn Dowson; Turner & co, Ludgate hill. 1879.

9. Vaidika Sahitya Charitre by Dr. NS Anantharangachar; DVK Murthy, Mysore, 1968

10. Sri Brahmiya Chitra Karma sastram by Dr. G. Gnanananda

11. Zarathustra Chapters 1-6 by Ardeshir Mehta; February 1999

 http://www.indiayogi.com/content/indgods/varuna.aspx

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http://rashmun.sulekha.com/blog/post/2010/03/vedic-literature-the-degradation-of-varuna-and-indra.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Varuna

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All images are by courtesy of Internet

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Varuna

 

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