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Rig Veda – Female deities in the Rig Veda (5/7)

This is the fifth in a series of seven articles on certain aspects of the Rig Veda, written in simple language and avoiding technical terms. I aim posting an instalment each day.

*****

  Rig Veda mentions many female deities but none of them is central to the text. Ushas  is the most celebrated goddess along with Aditi, Prithvi, Rathri, Sarasvathi and Vac. It does not however mean that Rig Veda is unimportant in understanding the Hindu goddesses. The female deities  in  Rig Veda form the basis for the emergence of the later Hindu goddesses such as Shakthi, Devi and other mother goddesses glorified in the puranas. In the Vedic lore the female power Shakthi was not seen as independent but as a force residing within the gods. They are treated with curiosity and love for the powerful natural phenomena and abstract forces they represent.

Ushas:

Ushas is the most important goddess in Rig Veda (sometimes viewed as representing several goddesses). She is celebrated in twenty hymns and mentioned more than three hundred times. She is delicate, shy, luminous and beautifully adorned. Ushas is compared to a graceful dancer. Daughter of sky (Dayus), consort of Sun and mother of Ashwins. She arrives each day in a chariot drawn by her sons. She leads Surya and reveals to the world his brilliance and fire.

She is identified with dawn; praised for driving away Rathri the darkness. She rouses life and sets life in motion. She bestows strength and fame; and like Prithvi is called the mother.  She is associated with bounty and gifts that are  given away at the time of sacrifices, though she has no part in sacrificial rituals.

The radiant Dawns have risen up for glory,
in their white splendor like waves of water;

She maketh paths all easy, fair to travel and rich;
hath shown herself benign and friendly.

We see that thou art good; far shines thy luster;
thy beams, thy splendor have flown up to heaven.

Decking thyself, thou makest bare thy bosom,
shining in thy majesty, thou Goddess Morning.

(RV-6.64.1-2 Griffith)

Sri Aurobindo describes her as “medium of awakening, the activity and growth of other gods; she is the first condition of the Vedic realization. By her illumination, the nature of man is clarified; through her, he arrives at the Truth and through her he enjoys beatitude”. Ushas also symbolizes each person’s awakening to truth.  Ushas is the principle operating each time we connect, realize, or gain some insight into our life.

She is referred to as one “who sees all” and is invoked to drive away and punish enemies. She is also a skilled hunter who “wastes away peoples’ lives. “Perhaps there is in Ushas a hint of a goddess both nurturing and fierce.

Despite her importance in Rig Veda, she is rather forgotten later in the epics where Aditi gains more importance as the Mother principle and mother of gods.

Aditi:

Aditi is the mother principle. In Rig Veda she is the mother of all the gods and all creation. Her name stands for “boundlessness and freedom”. As one who unbinds, her role is similar to that of her son Varuna as the guardian of rta, the cosmic moral order. She is the supporter of all creatures. She is invoked for protection and wealth. Aditi is mentioned about sixty times in the Rig Veda; yet, no hymn is exclusively addressed to her. She is usually mentioned with other gods and goddesses. It is difficult to get a clear picture of her nature. She is not a consort of any god. She is also not related to a natural phenomenon. Physically, she is rather featureless. Unlike Ushas and Prithvi her nature is undefined. She appears to be an ancient deity whose original function and nature are forgotten in later Rig Veda.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of Aditi is her Motherhood. She is Devamatri. She is the mother of Adityas. She is the mother of Indra, the mother of kings and of all the gods. She is also the mother of Vamana  an incarnation of Vishnu. She is the source of the entire manifested reality-the past, the present and the future; “all that has been and will be born”.

She bestows safety, wealth and abundance. She is sometimes compared to a cow that provides health, nourishment and holiness. Her milk is compared to redemptive, invigorating drink Soma.

Sri Aurobindo addresses as the goddess of infinity and the infinite consciousness.

Aditi guard our herd by day, Aditi, free from guile, by night,

Aditi, ever strengthening, save us from grief!

And in the day our hymn is this: May Aditi come nigh to help,

With loving-kindness bring us weal and chase our foes.

  Aditi is Heaven, Aditi is the Atmosphere,
Aditi is Mother (Mata), Father and the Son (putra) .
Aditi is the Universal Deities, Aditi is the Five Races,
Aditi is all that has been and will take birth.

Rig Veda.I.89.10

Prithvi:

Prithvi the earth principle is the mother while sky is as a father. The earth and Dyaus the sky principles are together referred to as Dyava-prithvi. She is the basis of all existence on the planet, of all beings animate or otherwise. She protects, she shelters and feeds. Without her support no existence is possible. She is the mother, warm, nurturing and protective. Prithvi is stable, fertile and benign forgiving our trespasses. She is sarvam saha. She is also Vasundhara, one who has in her womb all the riches.

O Mother, auspicious be thy woodland,
thy snow-clad mountains and thy ever-running streams.

May the Earth pour out her milk for us,
a mother unto me her son.”

-Prithvi Sukta,

Prithvi manifests herself in the scent of women and men,. She is the luck and light in men and splendid energy of maids.

Prithvi, along with Dyaus in the Rig Veda is praised for her supportive nature. She is frequently called ‘firm’, ‘she who upholds and supports all things’. She encompasses  all things, is broad and wide, and is motionless. The waters they produce together are described as ‘fat, full, nourishing and fertile’. They protect people from danger, to expiate sin and to bring happiness. Together they represent a wide, firm realm of abundance and safety, a realm pervaded by the order of Rta, which they strengthen and nourish. They are un-wasting, inexhaustible and rich in gems.

Vishnu strides over her, and Parjanya.  Prajapati and Vishwakarma  all protect her,. Agni pervades her. She is the source of all plants, crops, and nourishes all creatures that live upon her.

Prithvi is also known as Indrani in Prithvisukta of Rig Veda, and Lakshmi or Shri or Bhoodevi  etc.

In a funeral hymn the dead one is asked to go now to the lap of his mother earth, Prithvi the gracious and kind. She is requested not to press down too heavily upon the dead but to cover him gently as a mother covers her child with her garment.

Approach thou now the lap of Earth, thy mother,
The wide-extending Earth, the ever-kindly;
A maiden soft as wool to him who comes with gifts,
She shall protect thee from destruction’s bosom.

“Open thyself, O Earth, and press not heavily;
Be easy of access and of approach to him,
As mother with her robe her child,
So do thou cover him, O Earth!”

(421. 31).

Sarasvathi:

There are numerous references to the Sarasvathi in the Rig Veda. She is the mighty river. She is a haven -sent stream to bless the earth and the celestial regions. She is bountiful, fertile and brings fruitfulness to earth. She is the best of mothers; the source of vigor and strength. She personifies  purity, healing, life giving  maternal divinity.

And as the river began to decline , the virtues and attributes of Sarasvathi merged with the goddess Vac. The flow of the river Sarasvathi came to be associated with the flow of speech. In later times both Vac and Saravathi became identical to represent wisdom, learning, intellect and culture.

Vac  :

In Rig Veda, Vac is the goddess associated with speech, a concept of central importance to the Vedas. Vac, the speech gives a sensible expression to ideas by use of words and is the medium of exchange of knowledge. She gives intelligence to those who love her. She is elegant, embellished in gold. She is the mother who gave birth to things by naming them. She is the power of the rishis. “She is the mysterious presence that enables one to hear, see, grasp and then express in words the true nature of things. She is the prompter of and vehicle of expression for visionary perception, and as such she is intimately associated with the rishis and the rituals that express or capture the truths of their visions.”.

The power of speech is honoured in several hymns.

 

Where, like men cleansing corn-flour in a cribble,
the wise in spirit have created language,
Friends see and recognize the marks of friendship:
their speech retains the blessed sign imprinted

In hymn 125 of the tenth mandala Vac or speech is praised having penetrated earth and heaven, holding together all existence.

In another passage of the Rig Veda, Vac is praised as a divine being. Vac is omnipotent, moves amongst divine beings, and carries the great gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Agni, within itself. “All gods live from Vac, also all demigods, animals and people. Vac is the eternal being; it is the first-born of the eternal law, mother of the Vedas and navel of immortality.” The reason, the Vedic rishis  paid such glowing tributes to Vac was perhaps because they attached great importance to intelligent communication through speech and to its purity.

In the later parts of the Rig Veda, Brahman (one of the three distinct voices in the Soma sacrifices) is associated with word without which speech is not possible. Brahma (word) and Vac (speech) are partners working towards good communication, spread of knowledge and for the fulfillment of the devotees’ aspirations. If word is flower, speech is the garland. If Vac is the weapons, it is Brahman that sharpens them. In Rig Veda the Vac-Brahman relation is a “growing partnership” (RV 10.120.5, and 9.97.34)

http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246

In the early Rig Veda, Sarasvathi is the river vital to their life and existence. Sarasvathi is described as ‘nadinam shuci; sacred and pure among rivers. It was, however, in Krishna Yajurveda, that Vac (speech personified, the vehicle of knowledge) for the first time is called Sarasvathi. The Aitreya Aranyaka calls her mother of Vedas. From here on, the association of Vac with Sarasvathi gets thicker.

Sarasvathi is invoked with Ida and Bharathi. The three, Ida, Bharathi and Sarasvathi are manifestation of the Agni (Yajnuagni) and are tri_Sarasvathi. The goddess Sarasvathi is also the destroyer of Vrta and other demons that stand for darkness (Utasya nah Sarasvati ghora Hiranyavartanih / Vrtraghni vasti sustuition).

As the might of the river Sarasvathi tended to decline, its importance also lessened during the latter parts of the Vedas. Its virtues of glory, purity and importance gradually shifted to the next most important thing in their life – speech, excellence in use of words and its purity. Emphasis shifted from the river to the Goddess. With the passage of time, Sarasvathi’s association with the river gradually diminished. The virtues of Vac and the Sarasvathi (the river) merged into one divinity- Sarasvathi; and she was recognized and worshipped as goddess of purity, speech, learning, wisdom, culture and intellect. The Rig Vedic goddess Vac thus emerged and shined gloriously as Vac-devi, Vedamatha, Vani, Sharada, Pusti, Vagishvari, Veenapani , Bharathi and Sarasvathi.

( http://orissagov.nic.in/emagazine/Orissareview/febmar2005/englishpdf/saraswati.pdf )

The association of the intellect and purity (Vac, Sarasvathi) with the word (Brahma) acquired a physical representation in the Puranas.

Next:

Origin of our popular gods in Rig Veda (6/7)

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

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Rig Veda- its gods (4/7)

This is the fourth in a series of seven articles on certain aspects of the Rig Veda, written in simple language and avoiding technical terms. I aim posting  an instalment each day.

*****

  1. A question commonly asked is whether Rig Veda speaks of one God or many gods. The Rig Veda does mention a number of gods such as Indra, Agni, Mitra, Varuna and others. The Vedas mention thirty-three deities; there is however a slight variation among the different traditions in naming them. According to the Shatapatha Brahmana, these thirty-three deities include eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Dyaus, and Prithvi. The Rishi Yajnavalkya at one stage says “The eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapati are the thirty-three gods”. While according to Yaska_charya, the original thirty-three gods (eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas and two Asvinis) are divided equally in three different planes of existence namely the celestial plane (dyuloka) the intermediate region (antarikshaloka) and the terrestrial region (bhurloka) each plane having eleven gods. The dyuloka (celestial plane) is presided over by Savitri or Surya; while antarikshaloka (intermediary space) is presided over by Indra or Vayu; and the bhurloka (terrestrial plane) is presided over by Agni.

2. Agni has a special position among the Vedic gods. Agni is the symbol of Paramatman  and all the other gods are different aspects or manifestations  of Agni. According to many scholars, the appropriate Vedic symbol of the Supreme is Agni. Agni is the fire principle that shines in the sun and is the energy that illumines and charges the universe. He is the one who carries our offerings to other gods. He is the enjoyer, devour (sarva baksha), digester, heat, lust and passion. He spreads, takes over and rules. Agni is the fire of life, the subtle energy in all beings and the fire of inner awakening. He is the friend of man and mediates on our behalf. He is the symbol of life, wisdom, knowledge, compassion and lordship. 

In the opening rik of the Rig Veda, Agni meele purohitam (RV. 1.1.1) Agni is not merely the principal deity, he is also the chief priest who conducts the yajna; he is the Hothru the priest who sings the riks; he is the priest who conducts the yajna and submits offering; and he is also the one who receives the offerings. He is all; he is everyone and everything. Agni is the mantra; he is the yajna; he is the offering; he is the one that receives the offerings. And, there is no mention of a human priest; and there are no descriptions of lighting the sacrificial fire. The opinion of the scholars is that Rig Veda refers to the internal churning (antar yajna) that takes place in everyone’s heart. Agni is that all-pervading universal principle. These ideas are expanded later in Upanishads and in Bhagavad gita (9.16)

Rig Veda again refers to Agni as the Rishi (RV.9.66.20); the first and the foremost among the Rishis (1.31.1; 3.21.3); he is the knower-of everything (10.91.3) and he is the one the one that pervades all life and existence.

3. It would be safer to make a distinction between The God the Supreme Principle the  substratum of all existence; and the gods who represent different aspects, powers and glory of the God. While the God is One, the gods are many. All the gods lead to One God. And, one should make a distinction between a path and the goal. The goal is consciousness of the Supreme in all its manifestations.

4. All gods mentioned in the Rig-Veda have human features such as the face, limbs etc, their forms are shadowy  but they have a distinct power and personality. For instance, Indra is endowed with strength and vigor; Pushan with ability to protect so is Vishnu, the sun stands for many forms of brilliance while Rudra represents the anger. The physical features represent a specific form of nature. For example, the seven tongues of the fire god represent the tongue of the flames. The names Visvedeva, Visvakarma, Prajapathi etc. are used to describe the indescribable form.

5. Yaska’s Nirukta (a glossary of technical terms found in the Vedas) discusses the question whether devatas have form, whether they are different gods or whether they are manifestations of the same God. Yaska_charya defines a Deva as one who gives gifts (devo daanat), who is effulgent (devo dipanaat), who illumines (devo dyotanat), and who resides in heaven or the celestial world (dyusthane bhavati  iti). After discussing the three different views (namely, they have form, they do not have form, and a combination of these two views), the Nirukta concludes that, in reality, there is only one devata who can be addressed in various ways depending upon the temperament of the aspirant. Yaska_charya confirms by saying Eka atma Bahudha Stuyate  meaning there is only One God and many praise by different names. He further says the many forms of gods are manifestation of the atman, One Reality – Ekasya atmanah anye devah pratyangani bhavanti . He emphasizes that the Sat Vastu  includes in itself different deities. Sayanacharya in his Rig_bashya_bhumika  says praise of any god  leads to the same tat (entity)- Tasmat sarvairapi parameshvara eve huyate .

5.1. The real is but One, bearing a multiplicity of names and forms. The origin of all deities is One, the nature of all deities is One and goal of all of them is One. The differences perceived in the deities are due to their functions and personalities, but they are different aspects of the same reality.

6. Rig Veda accepts the plurality of views and approach to the Supreme  knowledge. It recognizes that acquisition of knowledge by an individual is unique. No two paths are alike. It does not impose a blanket view. Rig Veda does not lay claim for discovering the ultimate truth nor does it prevent anyone from questioning opinions. On the other hand, it encourages  the seekers to think, contemplate, question and find their own solutions.

The comparison given in the Rig Veda is that of a person climbing  up a mountain range. He cannot envision all the grandeurs of the nature in one-step. When he is at an elevation, he gets a better view of the road that lies ahead than when he was at the base of the hill .He will have to go from one peak to another. The knowledge is infinite like a vast mountain, in which each peak corresponds to a level of understanding.

7. The framework that Rig Veda put forth was suggestive and flexible. The two principles of quality of life and the individual freedom were at the heart of its message. These were addressed to the society at large including its subcultures. The framework was woven around three concepts viz. rta, rna  and purusharthas. The principle of, rta  signifies natural or universal order and integrity of all forms of life and ecological systems, it recognizes our oneness with our environment and our unity with all life on earth; while rna  underlines the responsibility of man to his family, his community, his environment and to himself as a human being. An outflow from the above two is the notion that aims to set values in our normal day-to-day life. These relate to the acquisition of wealth (artha), pursuit of pleasure (Kama) guided and governed by Dharma. They form a group of three (tri-varga), as called by Gautama and Manu (2,224).This is common to all segments of the society.

Dharma in this context is characterized by human values like truth, compassion, self-restraint, non-enmity, forgiveness etc. It provides ample scope for individual conscience and liberty. 

[The fourth one, seeking liberation from phenomenal ills (moksha) is optional and is outside the set of three (apa _varga). It is not considered an ordinary human aspiration. Those who pursue this option are beyond the pale of the society and its disciplines.]

[There is a view that the term Deva s  means  ‘Those that shine’  derived from the root ‘div’ (to shine, illuminate). Adityas are called twelve sovereign principles. The twelve Adityas refer to the seasons- twelve months in a year, while the seven Adityas refer to the seven Planets or Grahas (excluding Rahu and Ketu, which are the head and tale of Vritrasura, or Svarbhanu);Thus forming the basis for naming the seven days of the week, nine planets and twelve months. The Adityas are children from Maya or Aditi (hence all representing Kala, or Time). They are represented as spokes in the wheel of time. Hence, the basis of Vedic Astrology and Astronomy.

http://varahamihira.blogspot.com/2004/07/33-devas-pt-sanjay-rath.html ]

What became of the Vedic gods

1. A word about the connection between the Vedic gods and purāņic  gods seems necessary  here. In Rig Veda a  god is neither less nor more than the other is. In the Veda, all the gods are pure and harmonious with no rivalry, jealousy and such other flaws. All of them are equal, bereft of impurities, endowed with auspicious qualities and all represent the Truth. Each Vedic god has a distinct power and personality, but he or she also carries the presence of the Supreme, “That one.” All the Vedic gods harmoniously work together in providing the divine inspiration to the individual .The Rig Vedic gods are kind and compassionate. They fulfill the desires and aspirations of the devotees.

2. At a much later period, the purāņās tried to convey the esoteric truths of the Veda in a popular form. However, in that attempt the qualities of the Vedic gods were partially humanized and endowed with human virtues/flaws. Thus in the purāņās, the various Gods work together sometimes, but also quarrel with one another. They are bitten by jealousy, envy, greed, arrogance, etc.

3.Many of the Puanic gods are transformations of the Vedic Devas .The now major puranic Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are not prominent Devas in the Vedas; at the same time the prominent Vedic Devas do get diminished in stature  in the Puranas. For instance, in the Rig-Veda, Bŗihaspathi, Brahmaņaspathi, Brahma are the three gods to whom the rişhi Vāmadeva addresses his mystic hymn of praise. Brahmaņaspati/Bŗihaspati is a God of a very high order in Rig Veda. The two deities are closely connected to each other. Their names alternate .Brahnanaspati  is the lord of all sacred prayers and lord of Satya mantra. He is the destroyer of enemies; and no sacrifice is complete without invoking him. Brahnanaspathi is a partner with Brahma  in creation . Brihaspathi is the personification of peity, purity and knowledge. He intercedes  with gods on behalf of men and protects humankind from the wicked influences.

There are over one hundred riks  in praise of these two deities, giving a picture of their powers and personalities.  However, the statuses of these Gods undergo a huge change in the Puranas.

The Vedic Brihaspathi is reduced in the Puranas to become the preceptor of Devas and guardian of the planet Jupiter. Brahma becomes the Creator, one of the purāņic Trinity. He is however denied worship.

Brahmaņaspathi, the middle term that once linked the Vedic Brahma and Brihaspathi; as also the forerunner of Ganapathi has disappeared altogether.

Similar was the fate of other major gods of the Rig Veda such as Indra, Varuna, Vayu, Pushan et al.

But, more of that in another segment.

Next:

Female deities in the Rig Veda (5/7)

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

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Rig Veda -Nature of God. (3/7)

This is the third in a series of seven articles on certain aspects of the Rig Veda, written in simple language and avoiding technical terms. I aim to post an installment each day. I hope they find some readers.

*****

 1  . In its earlier stages, Rig Veda mentions various gods and goddesses. Mitra the Sun; Varuna the god of night and of the blue sky; Dyu and Prithivi the Sky and the Earth; Agni or fire god and the friend of all; Savitri the refulgent; Indra the master of the universe; Vishnu the measurer of the three worlds and Aditi the mother of all other gods (the Adityas) are some of them. The attempt is not to stack up a hierarchical pile of gods, but to discover the Great One the source of all gods. Gradually, a tendency to extol a God as the greatest and controlling all other divine entities comes into play. This marks the progress of man’s concept of God or the ultimate Reality from polytheism to monotheism, ultimately leading to monism.

2. The seeds of Advaita are found in Rig Veda. Some of the most beautiful verses that Sri Shankara  interprets  occur in the Samhita portion of the Rig Veda. For example, the mantra- dva suparna sayuja sakhaya,samanam vriksham praishasvajate – traditionally associated with the Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.1) is found in the Rig Veda as well “Two birds that are ever associated and have similar names cling to the same tree. Of these, one eats the fruits of divergent tastes and the other looks on without eating”.

3. The tenth book of the Rig-Veda regards the highest conception of God as both the Impersonal and the Personal: The Nasadiya Sukta states that the Supreme Being is the Unmanifest and the Manifest, Existence as well as Non existence. He is the Jagat_pati, the Lord of the Universe, of all beings. He is the sustainer and the protector. The Purusha-Sukta (Rig Veda 5.10.90) proclaims that this Universe is God. The Supreme Person the Purusha with an infinite number of heads, eyes, hands and feet envelops the whole of his creation in His Cosmic Body. He is the cause of the world. He encompasses the whole cosmos and transcends it to infinity. He is the supreme and the solitary divinity.

 Nasadiya Suktha – translation of Prof. Juan Mascaro.

(In the beginning…)

There was neither existence nor non-existence. There was not then what is not, what is not. There was neither sky nor any heaven beyond the sky. What power was there? What stirred ? Where? Who was that power? Was there an abyss of fathomless water?

There was neither death nor immortality then. No signs were there of night or day. The One was breathing with its own power, in deep space, windless, by its own impulse. Only the One was:  And, Other than that , there was nothing beyond.

The darkness was hidden in darkness, in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign.  And all this was water and formless. Therein, in the void, by the fire of fervour arose One.

And in the One arose Desire . Desire the first seed of the mind . The truth of this the sages found in their hearts: seeking in their hearts with wisdom, found the bond of existence in non-existence.

Their cord was extended across. Was there below? Was there above ? There was impulse beneath; there was giving-forth above. The sages found that bond of union between being and non-being ; Between the manifest and the un-manifest

Who really knows this truth? Who can tell when and how this universe arose? The gods came after its creation. Whether this universe was created or uncreated only the God who sees in the highest heaven

He only knows when this universe came – perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not – And, whether it was created or uncreated ; the one who looks down on it , in the highest heaven . Only he knows – or perhaps, He knows not?

4. Rig-Veda (10.129) uses the term Tad-Ekam (That or That One) to suggest a Reality, though an abstract one, that is the source and support of all manifest existence. Tad-Ekam is generally understood as a limitless, indescribable, absolute principle that exists independently.. Tad-Ekam exists in itself; all manifestation emanates from It and returns to It. It is the Tapas the heat, the latent energy in the Unmanifest that brings forth creation, the manifest world. The Rik thus promotes the concept of all existence being a unity.

In Rig-Veda the terms such as: ‘Tad Ekam’ (That one), Param (beyond), Ekam sat (one reality)  signify the principle of “The one without a second” , which later developed into Para Brahman  of the Upanishads.

5. The word Brahman or Brāhmaņa occurs more than a hundred times in the Rig-Veda. In only one place, the Purusha Sūkta occurring in the tenth mandala, a relatively late composition, it uses the term Brāhmaņa to signify a caste. In all other places, Brāhmaņa has nothing to do with caste. Again, Brahman of the Rig-Veda is not the Brahman, Para Brahman of the Upanishads, the highest principle of Existence

Brahman is used in the Rig Veda as term for a high divinity or as another name for Agni. “ He has come, chosen bearer, and is seated in man’s home, Brahman, Agni, the Supporter, He whom both Heaven and Earth exalt and strengthen whom, Giver of all boons, the Hotar  worships.  ( http://oaks.nvg.org/rv7.html ).

The term Brahman is also used to represent the spoken word. It is said, “The development of Brahman into a word which designates formulated speech more than it does an independent power is the most significant change from the Family Books to the later Rig Veda

( http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246 ).

Brahman acquires the meaning of unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality at a later stage in the Upanishads.

6. Rig Veda primarily follows Saguno_pasana. The Supreme Being in Rig Veda is the abode of all auspicious qualities. The Ultimate supreme Reality is described (though it is beyond description or definition) as sat-chit-ananda. He is the one who created the world and sustained it. He is the omniscient and the original cause of the world (tasyedu visva bhuvanadhi murdhani). He manifests himself as the world (Visvarupah). Rig Veda pursues a strategy later expounded by Bhakthi yoga, the path of devotion. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relation ship with each Deva as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. He is omniscient, compassionate and easily accessible to devotees (Niyanta sunrutanam). It firmly believes in grace of God and preaches that a virtuous life in this world and the progression to Amrutatva, immortality is possible only with complete surrender to God and with the grace of God. The seeds of the Bhakthi moment and the attitude of complete  surrender to the divine will , are in Rig Veda.

7. It preaches strong faith in God  and that one should have a pure mind to realize God. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relationship with each Deva, Agni, Indra and others as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. The feeling of warmth and close relation with a god  is most conspicuous in the hymns addressed to Varuna ‘ the most impressive deity among all the Vedic deities’.In these hymns Varuna , more than any other Vedic god, appears as mighty and merciful :  “Instill in us a wholesome, happy mind, with goodwill and understanding. Then shall we ever delight in your friendship like cows who gladly rejoice in meadows green.” There is faith that the Devas would in turn communicate with the men and women and fulfill their desires. 

8. Though the term Bhakthi occurs in Rig Veda it is not used in the sense with which we now familiar. The term derived from the root bhaj was understood in the sense of sharing and enjoying an object, say such as cattle, riches or even glory.

It was only later the term came to acquire the sense of emotional bonding or an intense personal relation say as between father and son, teacher and student, mother and child, lover and the beloved ; and as between a devotee and his/her god. The idea of Bhakthi germinates in Svethasvatara Upanishad was later developed in Bhagavad-Gita. In Svethasvatara Upanishad man is called upon to have Bhakthi in the divine, to resort to him who is the shelter to all. The concept of Bhakthi fully matures and is given full exposition in Srimad Bhagavatha., here Bhakthi is termed as trayi-vidya the wisdom of the three Vedas, as the highest good of man

Symbolism in Rig Veda

1. Rig-Veda is not a textbook or a manual. It is a collection of hymns, in a free-flowing language that is universal and that requires no elaboration. To make a connection with that ancient culture, we have to live the same inner experience.

2. Rig Veda is often criticized as being a book of rituals. However, not a single hymn in Rig Veda out of its 1017 hymns gives a description of a ritual or a rite. For instance, Agni translated as fire in the altar, is mentioned in several hundred verses, there is however no mention of a priest lighting a fire.

  [Rig Veda does not appears to be serious about the rituals . For instance , a hymn to the frogs compares the repetitions of the priests around the soma bowl to the croaking of the frogs around a pond after the rains come. (RigVeda VII:103)]

Agni is used symbolically to signify the subtle energy in all beings. Sometimes, the fire principle is the same as the sun, which illumines the universe; the same Reality underlies  Ushas  that makes everything  effulgent.

3. Creation, preservation and destruction are not distinct occurrences. In reality, the process of birth, growth and decay is ever present, ongoing and twined into one another. There is no death in the universe. It is transformation from one state to another. When we lose  a desire, we mistakenly think it is destroyed.  No, it is now transformed into a larger vision – the aspiration. Agni ignites aspiration. The cosmic god Agni is the one who transforms  little desires  into great aspirations. Agni is the fire of inner awakening. It illumines and elevates our consciousness. The aspiration to attain super consciousness is the theme of the Rig Veda.

4. The elements of the outer sacrifice are symbolic of the inner sacrifice and are representations of self-surrender. Behind these rituals and hymns runs the thread of gradual evolution of the concept of spiritual life. Our sacrifice is a journey towards super consciousness  with Agni, the inner flame, as the pathfinder. The sacrifice is an act of self-surrender to God. That sacrifice is perpetual. That concept of life as a Yajna  was later enlarged in the Gita.

The high idealism of the Rig Veda poetry represents the soaring human aspirations. It is the intense desire to grow out of the limited physical confines and to reach out to the super consciousness that inspired the Vedic rishis. Sri Aurobindo believed that the human being is at the crest, on the threshold of evolving into super consciousness. He asserted that Rig Veda encases that esoteric message and attainment of that super consciousness was the vision  of the Rig Veda.

 

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Rig Veda – its gods (4/7)

 
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Rig Veda – its attitude towards the world and life (2/7)

This is the second in a series of seven articles on certain aspects of the Rig Veda, written in simple language and avoiding technical terms. I aim to post an instalment each day. I hope they find some readers.

*****

1. Rig Veda, ancient as it is, has a disarmingly fresh view of life and the world around it. There is no trace of pessimism in Rig Veda. It is optimistic and uncomplicated. It does not get into debate whether the world is an illusion, a reality, a substance, or a shadow. Its view of the world is characterized by the acceptance of the reality of life as it is; and, the plurality of things and of beings.

But there is faith in the relation between action and its appropriate good or bad result.But, It does not talk of fate that is inevitable or of Karma that one carries on from one stage of life to another.  It does not also talk about the cyclical evolution of the Universe or about transmigration of souls or even about re-birth etc.

That seed idea of  Karma – the operative power between action (cause) and result (effect) – later took root in all the Indian traditions. The concept of re-birth was one of its corollaries

Rig Veda does not subscribe to the view that life is a misery that could be ended with the eradication of desire or vasana, the cause for the recurring cycle of births and deaths. It takes a direct approach to life. Rig-Veda does not suggest anywhere that world is an illusion; and one needs to escape from its snares.

2. There is a healthy desire to enjoy the world, in full. There is no extortion to give up desires. There are a number of prayers addressed to Devas seeking worldly happiness, the cattle, wealth, children, family, heroic sons and longevity. The worship of nature and its powers is sincere and utilitarian. They do not view family life as a hindrance to achieving spiritual excellence. The Vedic seers pray for fullness of life.    May we see the sunrise a hundred Sharad Ritus. May we live a hundred Sharad Ritus, hear (through) a hundred Sharad Ritus, speak (through) a hundred Sharad Ritus and be happy and contented a hundred Sharad Ritus, nay, even beyond these years.”

3. There is a strong faith in God. It preaches that one should have a pure mind to realize God. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relationship with each Deva, Agni, Indra and others as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. “Instill in us a wholesome, happy mind, with goodwill and understanding. Then shall we ever delight in your friendship like cows who gladly rejoice in meadows green.” There is faith that the Devas would in turn communicate with the men and women and fulfill their desires.

4. An ideal person in Rig Veda is Aptakama, the one whose desires have been satisfied. One should not cringe and humiliate oneself before others; and one should lead an independent life. Our day-to-day activities should be pure and we should make our companions and fellow beings happy. It addresses the humans as the children of immortal bliss (Amruthasya putrah). Swami Vivekananda was very fond of this phrase. The Vedic mind is a progression from prayers for long and happy life (pashyema sharadah shatam jivema sharadah shatam) to lofty  idealism. There is a harmonious blend of nivritti and  pravritti  margas.

5. On the death of a person, Asu the life-breath separates from the body. Rig-Veda  talks of a Amruta_loka (sadanam-rtasya).The object is to reach that loka through devotion and dedication(Rtasya_panthah),to travel from mortality (mruthah) to immortality (Amruthah) and from untruth (Anrtahah) to truth (rtahah) (Sampraptam Rtam Amrutam). Rig Veda says the righteous ones go by the Deva_marga and the others go by Pitri_marga. The Upanishads later enlarged this idea into Deva_yana and Pirti_yana.

6. Rig Veda does not condemn those who do not believe in Devas or in their existence. There is no direct reference to sin or hell; there is thus no question of thrusting the unbelievers into hell. It only says the unrighteous go to the world of andha_tamas, land where there is no light.  They pray that when the body breaks up, may its elements join their source.

(Incidentally, the Buddha also mentions andha_tamas as the world for sinners. He also does not use terms like hell or heaven).

7. Rig Veda speaks of satya and rta .While Satya is the principle of integration in the cosmic order; Rta is its operating rule. There is a faith that the world is sustained by a just and an eternal law decreed by God for the well-being of all. Rig Veda advocates conformity with the aim and purpose of these processes. Conformity 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.

8. Though there are many philosophical aspects in Rig Veda, they do not involve a systematic exposition of a particular school of thought unlike in the later texts. There are no references to individual soul and universal soul and their Oneness or otherwise. The word atman does not appear in Rig Veda directly, though there is a reference to a certain Chetana (a universal spirit) that is higher than the mortals are. A belief is present that the decaying body does not signify the end of atman.

Next :

Rig Veda _ Nature of God

And

Symbolism in Rig Veda (3/7)

 
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Aside

This is the first in a series of seven articles on certain aspects of the Rig Veda, written in simple language and avoiding technical terms. I aim to post an instalment each day over the next seven days. I hope they find some readers.

***

1. What we know of the Rig Vedic society is not from archaeological evidence but through oral traditions. They were primarily a pastoral society that practiced agriculture and animal husbandry. They were not a city building society. They waged battles. They excelled in military field in which light horse chariots played a prominent role. They loved outdoor activities like racing and hunting. The warrior class and the priests were the elite of the society. They were devoted to their gods and sang in praise of various deities. They danced in marriages, funerals, harvests, sacrifices and communal gatherings.

2. Rig Veda repeatedly refers to the composite character of its society and to its pluralistic population. It mentions the presence of several religions and languages and calls upon all persons to strive to become noble parts of that pluralistic society.

3. The plasticity of the Rig Vedic mind is evident in the use of language or in literary virtuosity as well as in the way in which they adapted to changes in life. Rig Vedic intellectuals were highly dexterous users of the words. Their superb ability to grasp multiple dimensions of human life, ideals and aspirations and to express them in pristine poetry was truly remarkable. However, we sadly know nothing about their ability to write. Strangely Rig Veda (1-164-39) states, “In the letters (akshara) of the verses of the Veda…”. Further there are references to compositional chandas (metres), lines in a meter and to specific number of words in a line of a text. Such exercises could not have been possible unless some form of writing was in existence. They might perhaps have employed a script that is now totally extant

(. http://www.crystalinks.com/indiawriting.html )

3.1. Similarly, we know very little about their art or architecture; though we know of their love for music, singing and dancing.

4. Rig Veda accepts that divine truths were reveled to sages. It does not make a distinction between male and female seers. There are more than thirty-five female sages in Rig Veda with specific hymns ascribed to them. Women did enjoy a right to learn and recite Vedas. The restrictions in this regard came at a later stage. The famous marriage hymn (10.85) calls upon members of the husband’s family to treat the daughter in law (invited into the family ‘as a river enters the sea’) as the queen samrajni. The idea of equality is expressed in the Rig Veda: “The home has, verily, its foundation in the wife”, “The wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular.” (Book 5, hymn 61. verse 8)

4.1. The seclusion of women was not practiced. Young women of the time had a voice in their marriage. “The woman who is of gentle birth and of graceful form,” so runs a verse in the Rig Veda, “selects among many of her loved one as her husband.”

5. It is not as if the Rig Vedic society was free of all vices. There are a number of references to gambling (dices), drinking, prostitution, indebtedness, destitute families of heavily indebted gamblers and drunkards. There were social inequalities, poverty, slavery and destitution too.

6. Nonetheless, the worldview of the Rig Veda is refreshing; its ideals are relevant to the modern age. The social life portrayed in Rig Veda reveals certain interesting features. Sanctity of the institution of marriage, domestic purity, a patriarchal system, a just and equitable law of sacrifice, and high honour for women , pluralistic view ,as also tolerance towards unpopular views and those that err ; were some of the noteworthy features of the social life during the Vedic period.

***

Next: Rig Veda- attitude towards the world and life (2/7)

Rig Veda – its Society (1/7)

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

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Vedic origin of our gods

September 15, 2007 is Ganesh Chathurthi the day of joyous festivity in celebration of Ganapathi the most popular of our gods.

Most of our popular gods of today have their origin in the Rig-Veda. It would be interesting to trace the origin of a few of our popular gods.

When I say gods, I am not referring to the God the Supreme principle the substratum of all existence but to the gods who represent different aspects, powers and glory of the God.  Each Vedic god has a distinct power and personality, but he or she also carries the presence of the Supreme, “That one.”

The puranas tried to convey the esoteric truths of the Veda in a popular manner. In the process Puranas elevated some Vedic gods by endowing them  with virtues, which they loved to see; while at the same time they relegated some other Vedic gods to secondary status. I am not sure why the exercise of weeding out many and glorifying a few deties became necessary. I am clueless.

For instance, Bŗihaspathi, Brahmaņaspathi and Brahma were the three major gods of Rig-Veda; a large number of riks are in honor of these gods. In the Rig-Veda, Brahmaņaspathi/Bŗihaspathi is god of a very high order. There are over one hundred riks in praise of these two deities, giving a picture of their powers and personalities. However, the statuses of these Vedic Gods underwent a huge change in the Puranas; when new set of gods that emerged by the permutation and combination of their own (Vedic gods) powers replaced them. The new gods took over and the old gods were virtually forgotten.

Ganapathi:  The elephant-faced god Gaņapathi emerged out of some aspects of the Vedic god Brahmaņaspati. Ganapathi is therefore evoked by the Vedic rik associated with Brahmaņaspati (Jestha rajam brahmanaam Brahmanaspathi…). The word Gaņapathi means the lord of gaņas or hosts. In the Rig-Veda, the gaņās or hosts of Bŗihaspathi/Brahmaņaspathi are the chants, the riks and the stomas, the words of praise (RV. 4.50). They have little to do with the lower vital levels. However, in the purāņas, the hosts (gaņas) are the beings of the vital world and Gaņapathi is their lord. Ganapathi thus initially appeared on the scene as a tāntrik god of a lower order.

Ganesha emerged as a distinct deity in clearly recognizable form in the fourth and the fifth centuries during the Gupta period. His popularity rose quickly. The son of Shiva and Parvati; Ganesha with an elephantine countenance, a curved trunk, pair of big ears and a pot-bellied body of a human is now the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. Ganesha also became one of the five prime Hindu deities (Surya, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga being the other four) worshipped in the panchayatana puja. A new tradition called Ganapathya thereafter came into existence. With the spread Indian trade to the Far- East, by around the tenth century, Ganesha a favorite with the traders and merchants reached the shores of Bali, Java, Cambodia, Malaya, Thailand and other island.

Ganesha appears in Jainism too. A fifteenth century Jain text provides procedures for the installation of Ganapati images. Images of Ganesha appear in the Jain temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat; the earliest of which is dated around eighth century.

In Buddhism, Ganesha appears not only in the form of the Buddhist god Vināyaka, but also as a Hindu demon form with the same name (Vināyaka). As the Buddhist god Vināyaka, he is the dancing Nṛtta Ganapati. Ganesha traveled to other countries along with Buddhism. In northern China, the earliest known stone statue of Ganesha carries an inscription dated 531 CE. In Japan, the Ganesha cult was first mentioned in 806 CE.

Brahma:  The concept of Brahma as the creator in the purāņa is derived from the Brahmaņaspati/Bŗhaspati of the Rig Veda where they are the creators through the power of the Word. Puranas however denied  Brahma proper worship.

Between these two stages, Brahma is associated with the power to give a verbal identity to a thought. He is the creator and gives form to the formless. He represents Word. That word reaches sublime heights and becomes an intelligent tool for communication when it is associated with intellectual purity and excellence of Vac– the speech.

Vac (Sarasvathi). How the Vedic goddess Vac (speech) transformed into Sarasvathi the Puranic goddess of learning, wisdom, culture and intellect; is very interesting.

In Rig Veda, Vac is the goddess associated with speech, a concept of central importance to the Vedas. Vac, the speech gives a sensible expression to ideas by use of words and is the medium of exchange of knowledge. She gives intelligence to those who love her. She is the power of the rishis. “She is the mysterious presence that enables one to hear, see, grasp and then express in words the true nature of things. She is the prompter of and vehicle of expression for visionary perception, and as such she is intimately associated with the rishis and the rituals that express or capture the truths of their visions.” (Rig Veda).

In a passage of the Rig Veda, Vac is praised as a divine being. Vac is omnipotent, moves amongst divine beings, and carries the great gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Agni, within itself. “All gods live from Vac, also all demigods, animals and people. Vac is the eternal being; it is the first-born of the eternal law, mother of the Vedas and navel of immortality.” The reason, the Vedic rishis paid such glowing tributes to Vac was perhaps because they attached great importance to intelligent communication through speech and to its purity.

In the later parts of the Rig Veda, Brahman (one of the three distinct voices in the Soma sacrifices) is associated with word without which speech is not possible. Brahma (word) and Vac (speech) are partners working towards good communication, spread of knowledge and for the fulfillment of the devotees’ aspirations. If word is flower, speech is the garland. If Vac is the weapons, it is Brahman that sharpens them. In Rig Veda the Vac-Brahman relation is a “growing partnership” (RV 10.120.5, and 9.97.34)

http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246

In the early Rig Veda, Sarasvathi is the river vital to their life and existence. Sarasvathi is described as ‘nadinam shuci; sacred and pure among rivers. It was, however, in Krishna Yajurveda, that Vac (speech personified, the vehicle of knowledge) for the first time is called Sarasvathi. The Aitreya Aranyaka calls her mother of Vedas. From here on, the association of Vac with Sarasvathi gets thicker.

Sarasvathi is invoked with Ida and Bharathi. The three, Ida, Bharathi and Sarasvathi are manifestation of the Agni (Yajnuagni) and are tri_Sarasvathi. The goddess Sarasvathi is also the destroyer of Vrta and other demons that stand for darkness (Utasya nah Sarasvati ghora Hiranyavartanih / Vrtraghni vasti sustuition).

As the might of the river Sarasvathi tended to decline, its importance also lessened during the latter parts of the Vedas. Its virtues of glory, purity and importance gradually shifted to the next most important thing in their life – speech, excellence in use of words and its purity. Emphasis shifted from the river to the Goddess With the passage of time, Sarasvathi’s association with the river gradually diminished. The virtues of Vac and the Sarasvathi (the river) merged into one divinity-  Sarasvathi; and she was recognized and worshipped as goddess of purity, speech, learning, wisdom, culture and intellect. The Rig Vedic goddess Vac thus emerged and shined gloriously as Vac-devi, Vedamatha, Vani, Sharada, Pusti, Vagishvari, Veenapani , Bharathi and Sarasvathi.

( http://orissagov.nic.in/emagazine/Orissareview/febmar2005/englishpdf/saraswati.pdf )

The association of the intellect and purity (Vac, Sarasvathi) with the word (Brahma) acquired a physical representation in the Puranas.

Vishnu:  (the pervader) Vishnu initially had a lower position to that of Indra. He is the younger brother of Indra. In the Rig-Veda Vishnu is described as living and wandering on the mountains. He is one of the celestial gods and one of the Adithyas. He resembles Surya and has rays in his appearance.

He later evolved into the most signifificant God and Godhead. The ‘Vishnu Sukta’ of the Rig Veda (1.154) mentions the famous three strides of Vishnu. It said that the first and second of Vishnu’s strides (those encompassing the earth and air) were visible and the third was in the heights of heaven (sky). The second mantra of the ‘Vishnu Sukta’ says that within the three vast strides of Vishnu all the various regions of the universe live in peace.

Yaskacharya, in his Nirukta, defines Vishnu as ‘Vishnu vishateh; one who enters everywhere’, and ‘yad vishito bhavati tad vishnurbhavati; that which is free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu.’ Vishnu is also characterized, as ‘veveshti vyapnoti vishvam yah; the one who covers the whole universe, or is omnipresent. In other words, Vishnu became the omnipresent dimension of the supreme Lord.

With the advent of the golden age of the puranas in the Gupta period, the transformation of Vishnu into a supreme Godhead was complete. The virtues and glory of the Vedic Indra and Surya were transferred to puranic Vishnu. At the same time, the Indra was demoted to a demigod, stripped of his power and glory. Indra’s status in puranas is pathetic and he is flawed by envy, greed and other human failings. How sad!

In this process, Vishnu, in place of Indra, became the lord of the universe. The attributes and titles that once applied to Indra were now employed to describe Vishnu. Now, Vishnu (not Indra) is the omniscient and omnipresent Godhead; he is ‘ashrutkarna; whose ears hear all things; and “Svayambhuva” meaning ‘Self-existent’ or ‘Self manifested’

The Bhagavata Purana states that Yajna (Indra) took incarnation as Svayambhuva Manu. That Indra was Vishnu (as Svayambhuva). Vishnu in turn becomes Dhanvantri the divine healer, Prithu the King and the Rishis such as Kapila. His later Avatars are celebrated in various Puranas. On his association with Narayana, he is The Supreme Lord of the universe.

Rudra:  In Rig Veda, Rudra is one of the intermediate level gods (antariksha devata) and is celebrated in three or four hymns and described as a fierce, armed with bow and arrows. He is endowed with strong arms, lustrous body and flowing golden hair. He is not purely benefic like other Rig Vedic gods, but he is not malevolent either. He punishes and at the same time rescues his devotees from trouble. He is the Shiva the auspicious one.

Rudra appears to he been a non-traditional god. But, one who stormrd into the world of orthodox gods and established his eminence among them

In Puranas, he becomes one of the Trinity and is the destroyer. He is the Lord of the universe, the cosmic dancer, the Supreme yogi and master of all yogis.

Vedic Rishi Vamadeva merges into to become one of five faces of Lord Shiva and the aspect of Vama or “preserver” associated with the element of water.

He is at his benevolent best when his consort Uma accompanies him. He is Sowmya (sa uma)

****

 
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Rig Veda, its worldview

A. Attitude

1. Rig Veda, ancient as it is, has a disarmingly fresh view of life and the world at large. There is no trace of pessimism in Rig Veda. It is optimistic and uncomplicated. It does not get into debate whether the world is an illusion, a reality, a substance, or a shadow. It accepts the world as it is. Rig Veda does not subscribe to the view that life is a misery that could be ended with the eradication of desire or vasana, the cause for the recurring cycle of births and deaths. It takes a direct approach to life.

2. There is a healthy desire to enjoy the world, in full. There is no extortion to give up desires. There are a number of prayers addressed to Devas seeking worldly happiness, the cattle, wealth, children, family, heroic sons and longevity. The worship of nature and its powers is sincere and utilitarian. They do not view family life as a hindrance to achieving spiritual excellence. The Vedic seers pray for fullness of life.    “May we see the sun rise a hundred autumns. May we live a hundred autumns, hear (through) a hundred autumns, speak (through) a hundred autumns, and be happy and contented a hundred autumns, nay, even beyond these years.”

3. There is a strong faith in God. It preaches that one should have a pure mind to realize God. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relationship with each Deva, Agni, Indra and others as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. “Instill in us a wholesome, happy mind, with goodwill and understanding. Then shall we ever delight in your friendship like cows who gladly rejoice in meadows green.” There is faith that the Devas would in turn communicate with the men and women and fulfill their desires. 

4. An ideal person in Rig Veda is Aptakama, the one whose desires have been satisfied. One should not cringe and humiliate oneself before others and one should lead an independent life. Our day-to-day activities should be pure and we should make our companions and fellow beings happy. It addresses the humans as the children of immortal bliss (Amruthasya putrah). Swami Vivekananda was very fond of this phrase. The Vedic mind is a progression from prayers for long and happy life (pashyema sharadah shatam jivema sharadah shatam) to lofty idealism .There is a harmonious blend of nivritti and pravritti margas.

5.They talk of a Amruta_loka (sadanam-rtasya).The object is to reach that loka through devotion and dedication(Rtasya_panthah),to travel from mortality (mruthah) to immortality (Amruthah)and from untruth (Anrtahah) to truth (rtahah) (Sampraptam Rtam Amrutam). Rig Veda says the righteous ones go by the Deva_marga and the others go by Pitri_marga. The Upanishads later enlarged this idea as Deva_yana and Pirti_yana.

6. Rig Veda does not condemn those who do not believe in Devas or in their existence. There is no direct reference to sin or hell; there is thus no question of thrusting the unbelievers into hell. It only says the unrighteous go to the world of andha_tamas, land where there is no light. (Incidentally, the Buddha also mentions andha_tamas as the world for sinners. He also does not use terms like hell or heaven). They pray that when the body breaks up, may its elements join their source.

7. Rig Veda speaks of satya and rta .While Satya is the principle of integration in the cosmic order; Rta is its operating rule. There is a faith that the world is sustained by a just and an eternal law decreed by God for the well-being of all. Rig Veda advocates conformity with the aim and purpose of these processes. Conformity 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.

8. Though there are many philosophical aspects in Rig Veda, they do not involve a systematic exposition of a particular school of thought unlike in the later texts. There are no references to individual soul and universal soul and their Oneness or otherwise. The word atman does not appear in Rig Veda directly, though there is a reference to a certain Chetana (a universal spirit) that is higher than the mortals are. A belief is present that the decaying body does not signify the end of atman.

B.Society

1. What we know of the Rig Vedic society is not from archaeological evidence but through oral traditions. They were primarily a pastoral society that practiced agriculture and animal husbandry. They do not appear to have been a city building society. They waged battles. They excelled in military field in which light horse chariots played a prominent part. They loved outdoor activities like racing and hunting. The warrior class and the priests were the elite of the society. They were devoted to their gods. Sang in praise of various deities. They danced in marriages, funerals, harvests, sacrifices and communal gatherings.

2. Rig Veda repeatedly refers to the composite character of its society and to its pluralistic population. It mentions the presence of several religions and languages and calls upon all persons to strive to become noble parts of that pluralistic society.

3. The plasticity of the Rig Vedic mind is evident in the use of language or in literary virtuosity as well as in the way in which they adapted to changes in life. Rig Vedic intellectuals were highly dexterous users of the words. Their superb ability to grasp multiple dimensions of human life, ideals and aspirations and to express them in pristine poetry was truly remarkable. However, we sadly know nothing about their ability to write. Strangely Rig Veda (1-164-39) states, “In the letters (akshara) of the verses of the Veda…”. Further there are references to compositional chandas (metres), lines in a metre and to specific number of words in a line of a text. Such exercises could not have been possible unless some form of writing was in existence. They might perhaps have employed a script that is now totally extant (. http://www.crystalinks.com/indiawriting.html )

3.1. Similarly, we know very little about their art or architecture; though we know of their love for music, singing and dancing.

4. Rig Veda accepts that divine truths are reveled to sages. It does not make a distinction between male and female seers. There are more than thirty-five female sages in Rig Veda with specific hymns ascribed to them. Women did enjoy a right to learn and recite Vedas. The restrictions in this regard came at a later stage. The famous marriage hymn (10.85) calls upon members of the husband’s family to treat the daughter in law (invited into the family ‘as a river enters the sea’) as the queen samrajni. The idea of equality is expressed in the Rig Veda: “The home has,verily, its foundation in the wife” ,”The wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular.” (Book 5, hymn 61. verse 8)

4.1. The seclusion of women was not practiced. Young women of the time had a voice in their marriage. “The woman who is of gentle birth and of graceful form,” so runs a verse in the Rig Veda, “selects among many of her loved one as her husband.”

5. It is not as if the Rig Vedic society was free of all vices. There are a number of references to gambling (dices), drinking, prostitution, indebtedness, destitute families of heavily indebted gamblers and drunkards. There were social inequalities, poverty, slavery and destitution too.

6. Nonetheless, the worldview of the Rig Veda is refreshing; its ideals are relevant to the modern age. The social life portrayed in Rig Veda reveals certain interesting features. Sanctity of the institution of marriage, domestic purity, a patriarchal system, a just and equitable law of sacrifice, and high honor for women , pluralistic view ,as also tolerance towards unpopular views and those that err ; were some of the noteworthy features of the social life during the Vedic period.

C.Symbolism

1. Rig-Veda is not a textbook or a manual. It is a collection of hymns, in a free-flowing language that is universal and that requires no elaboration. To make a connection with that ancient culture, we have to live the same inner experience.

2. Rig Veda is often criticized as being a book of rituals. However, not a single hymn in Rig Veda out of its 1017 hymns gives a description of a ritual or a rite. For instance, Agni translated as fire in the altar, is mentioned in several hundred verses, there is however no mention of a priest lighting a fire. Agni is used symbolically to signify the subtle energy in all beings. Sometimes, the fire principle is the same as the sun, which illumines the universe; the same Reality underlies Ushas that makes everything effulgent.

3. Creation, preservation and destruction are not distinct occurrences. In reality, the process of birth, growth and decay is ever present, ongoing and twined into one another. There is no death in the universe. It is transformation from one state to another. When we loose a desire, we mistakenly think it is destroyed. No, it is now transformed into a larger vision – the aspiration. Agni ignites aspiration. The cosmic god Agni is the one who transforms little desires into great aspirations. Agni is the fire of inner awakening. It illumines and elevates our consciousness. The aspiration to attain super consciousness is the theme of the Rig Veda.

4. The elements of the outer sacrifice are symbolic of the inner sacrifice and are representations of self-surrender. Behind these rituals and hymns runs the thread of gradual evolution of the concept of spiritual life. Our sacrifice is a journey towards super consciousness with Agni, the inner flame, as the pathfinder. The sacrifice is an act of self-surrender to God. That sacrifice is perpetual. That concept of life as a Yajna was later enlarged in the Gita.

D. Nature of God.

1. In its earlier stages, Rig Veda mentions various gods and goddesses. Mitra the Sun; Varuna the god of night and of the blue sky; Dyu and Prithivi the Sky and the Earth; Agni or fire god and the friend of all; Savitri the refulgent; Indra the master of the universe; Vishnu the measurer of the three worlds and Aditi the mother of all other gods (the Adityas) are some of them. Gradually, a tendency to extol a God as the greatest and controlling all other divine entities comes into play. This marks the progress of man’s concept of God or the ultimate Reality from polytheism to monotheism, ultimately leading to monism.

2. The seeds of Advaita are found in Rig Veda. Some of the most beautiful verses that Shankara interprets occur in the Samhita portion of the Rig Veda. For example, the following mantra traditionally associated with the Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.1) is found in the Rig Veda as well “Two birds that are ever associated and have similar names cling to the same tree. Of these, one eats the fruits of divergent tastes and the other looks on without eating”.

3. The tenth book of the Rig-Veda regards the highest conception of God as both the Impersonal and the Personal: The Nasadiya Sukta states that the Supreme Being is the Unmanifest and the Manifest, Existence as well as Non existence. He is the Jagat_pati, the Lord of the Universe, of all beings. He is the sustainer and the protector. The Purusha-Sukta (Rig Veda 5.10.90) proclaims that this Universe is God. The Supreme Person the Purusha with an infinite number of heads, eyes, hands and feet envelops the whole of his creation in His Cosmic Body. He is the cause of the world. He encompasses the whole cosmos and transcends it to infinity. He is the supreme and the solitary divinity.

Nasadiya Suktha -translation of Prof. Juan Mascaro.

(In the beginning…)

There was neither existence nor non-existence.

There was not then what is not, what is not.

There was neither sky nor any heaven beyond the sky.

What power was there? Where

Who was that power?

Was there an abyss of fathomless water?

There was neither death nor immortality then

No signs were there of night or day.

The One was breathing with its own power,

in deep space.

Only the One was:

And there was nothing beyond.

The darkness was hidden in darkness.

And all was fluid and formless.

Therein, in the void,

By the fire of fervor arose One.

And in the One arose love.

Love the first seed of the soul.

The truth of this the sages found in their hearts:

Seeking in their hearts with wisdom,

The sages found that bond of union

Between being and non-being

Between the manifest and the unmanifest

Who knows this truth?

Who can tell, when and how arose this universe?

The gods came after its creation.

Whether this universe was created or uncreated

Only the God who sees in the highest heaven:

He only knows, when came this universe

And, whether it was created or uncreated

He only knows or perhaps He knows not?

 4. The word Brahman or brāhmaņa occurs more than a hundred times in the Rig-Veda. In only one place, the purusha sūkta occurring in the tenth mandala, a relatively late composition, it uses the term brāhmaņa to signify a caste. In all other places, brāhmaņa has nothing to do with caste. Again, Brahman of the Rig-Veda is not the Brahman Para Brahman of the Upanishads, the highest principle of Existence. Rig-Veda uses the words “tad ekam”, “That one,” param (beyond), ekam sat (one reality) to signify the Para Brahman or “The one without a second” of the Upanishads.

5. Brahman is used in the Rig Veda as term for a high divinity or as another name for Agni. “ He has come, chosen bearer, and is seated in man’s home, Brahman, Agni, the Supporter, He whom both Heaven and Earth exalt and strengthen whom, Giver of all boons, the Hotar worships”.( http://oaks.nvg.org/rv7.html ). The term Brahman is also used to represent the spoken word. It is said, “The development of Brahman into a word which designates formulated speech more than it does an independent power is the most significant change from the Family Books to the later Rig Veda ( http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246 ). Brahman acquires the meaning of unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality at a later stage in the Upanishads.

6. Rig Veda primarily follows Saguno_pasana.The Supreme Being in Rig Veda is the abode of all auspicious qualities. The Ultimate supreme Reality is described (though it is beyond description or definition) as sat-chit-ananda. He is the one who created the world and sustained it. He is the omniscient and the original cause of the world (tasyedu visva bhuvanadhi murdhani). He manifests himself as the world (Visvarupah). Rig Veda pursues a strategy later expounded by Bhakthi yoga, the path of devotion. It calls upon the devotee to establish a relation ship with each Deva as one would do with a son, a friend, a father, a mother etc. He is omniscient, compassionate and easily accessible to devotees (Niyanta sunrutanam). It firmly believes in grace of God and preaches that a virtuous life in this world and the progression to Amrutatva, immortality is possible only with complete surrender to God and with the grace of God.

E.Gods

1. A question commonly asked is whether Rig Veda speaks of one God or many gods. The Rig Veda does mention a number of gods such as Indra, Agni, Mitra, Varuna and others. The Vedas speak of thirty-three different deities. According to the Shatapatha Brahmana, these thirty-three deities include eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Dyaus, and Prithvi. Yajnavalkya at one stage says, ‘The eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapati are the thirty-three gods”. According to Yaska, the original thirty-three gods (eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas and two Asvinis) are divided equally in three different planes of existence namely the celestial plane (dyuloka) the intermediate region (antarikshaloka) and the terrestrial plane (bhurloka) each plane having eleven gods. The dyuloka (celestial plane) is presided over by Savitri or Surya; while antarikshaloka (intermediary space) is presided over by Indra or Vayu; and the bhurloka (terrestrial plane) is presided over by Agni.

2. Agni has a special position among the Vedic gods. Agni is the symbol of Paramatman and all the other gods are different aspects or manifestations of Agni. According to many scholars, the appropriate Vedic symbol of the Supreme is Agni. Agni is the fire principle that shines in the sun and is the one who carries our offerings to other gods. Agni is the fire of inner awakening. He is the friend of man and mediates on our behalf. He is the symbol of wisdom, knowledge, compassion and lordship.

3. It would be safer to make a distinction between The God the Supreme principle the substratum of all existence; and the gods who represent different aspects, powers and glory of the God. While the God is One, the gods are many. All the gods lead to One God. And, one should make a distinction between a path and the goal .The goal is consciousness of the Supreme in all its manifestations.

4. All gods mentioned in the Rig-Veda have human features such as the face, limbs etc, their forms are shadowy but they have a distinct power and personality. For instance, Indra is endowed with strength and vigor; Pushan with ability to protect so is Vishnu, the sun stands for many forms of brilliance while Rudra represents the anger. The physical features represent a specific form of nature. For example, the tongue of the fire god represents the tongue of the flames. The names Visvedeva, Visvakarma, Prajapathi etc. are used to describe the indescribable form.

5. Yaska’s Nirukta discusses the question whether devatas have form, whether they are different gods or whether they are manifestations of the same God. Yaska_charya defines a Deva as one who gives gifts (devo danat), who is effulgent (devo dipanat), who illumines (devo dyotanat), and who resides in heaven or the celestial world (dyusthane bhavati iti). After discussing the three different views (namely, they have form, they do not have form, and a combination of these two views), the Nirukta concludes that, in reality, there is only one devata who can be addressed in various ways depending upon the temperament of the aspirant. Yaska_charya confirms by saying Eka atma Bahudha Stuyate meaning there is only One God and many praise by different names. He further says the many forms of gods are manifestation of the atman., One Reality. He emphasizes that the Sat Vastu includes in itself different deities. Sayana in his Rig_bashya_bhumika says praise of all Gods’ leads to the same tat (entity).

5.1. The real is but One, bearing a multiplicity of names and forms. The origin of all deities is One, the nature of all deities is One and goal of all of them is One. The differences perceived in the deities are due to their functions and personalities, but they are different aspects of the same reality.

6. Rig Veda accepts the plurality of views and approach to the Supreme knowledge .The acquisition of knowledge by an individual is unique. No two paths are alike. We cannot envision all the grandeurs of the nature in one-step. When we are at an elevation, we get a better view of the road that lies ahead than when we were at the base of the hill .We have to go from one peak to another. The knowledge is infinite like a vast mountain, in which each peak corresponds to a level of knowledge

[There is a view that it may not be quite correct to translate the term Deva as God. The term ‘Deva’, according to them, means ‘Those that shine’ derived from the root ‘div’ (to shine, illuminate). The twelve Adityas refer to the seasons, while the seven Adityas refer to the seven Planets or Grahas (excluding Rahu and Ketu, which are the head and tale of Vritrasura, or Svarbhanu). Thus forming the basis for naming the seven days of the week, nine planets and twelve months. The Adityas are children from Maya or Aditi (hence all representing Kala, or Time). Hence, the basis of Vedic Astrology and Astronomy. http://varahamihira.blogspot.com/2004/07/33-devas-pt-sanjay-rath.html ]

F.The gods that faded away

 

Some of the major Rig Vedic gods have virtually disappeared today. They are no longer worshipped as “gods” in the sense that there are no temples built or services conducted for them.

 

1. Varuna was a major celestial Deva considered equal in status to Indra and was the guardian of the cosmic order (rta). Hence, the hymns addressed to Varuna are more devout and ethical in tone. Varuna also addressed as Asura has his counterpart in Ahur Mazda the supreme god in the Avstha.Today, Varuna is reduced to the guardian of water element.

 

2.Indra the most important Rig Vedic god described as ‘Yo jata eva prathamo manasvan; he who, from his very birth, is the first (of the deities)’, the lord of the universe etc. is demoted in Puranas to the level of a satrap. He is always in danger of loosing his throne and is ever busy deving schemes to survive fresh attacks from asuras. He is scared of not only the villainous but also the most virtuous as he fears they might usurp his throne. It is a steep fall.

 

3. The Rig Veda calls the presiding deity of the wind as Vata or Vayu. The god conceived as the element (vata) moves wherever he wants, at his pleasure. Describing him as the soul and indweller of other gods, a sukta in the tenth mandala says: ‘the soul of the gods, the germ of the world, this divinity moves according to his pleasure; his voices are heard, his form is not (seen); let us worship that Vata with oblations.’ The wind god, Vayu, is ‘the messenger of gods’; The Vayu later becomes a mere element in the Puranas. The Dwaita sect however elevated Vayu to a higher-level and Hanuman became mukhya_prana.

 

4.Mitra , a friend invoked very often in the Rig-Veda along with Varuna had a separate identity. He is the counter part of the Avestan Mithra. Some believe that Mitra and Varuna together represent the Indo-European duality of Fire and water; of earth and spiritual power.

 

5.Savitir a younger member of the Vedic pantheon, the most handsome of the Vedic gods with raised arms that were golden (hiranya hasta) is the embodiment of gold. Savitir is the great inspirer. He dispels darkness. The Sun just before he arises is Savitir, according to Sayana. The most celebrated Gayathri mantra belongs to him (tat Savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhi_yoyonah prachodayat).

 

6.Pushan (one who nourishes) is a solar deity who is the keeper of herds and one who brings prosperity. Yaska says that when Sun appears with his rays he is Pushan.He is the husband of Ushas. He has a charming appearance. He has immense wealth and has always at his command a chariot ready to ride. He is the greatest of the charioteers. Pushan wards off calamities that might occur on the road; so pray to him. This celebrated rik is addressed to Pushan: ‘By the lid of the golden orb is your face hidden. Please remove it, O nourisher of the world, so that I may see you, I who am devoted to Truth.’

 

G.Gods in Rig Veda and Puranas

 

1. A word about the connection between the Vedic gods and purāņic gods is appropriate here. In Rig Veda a god is neither less nor more than the other is. In the Veda, all the Gods are pure and harmonious with no rivalry, jealousy and such other flaws. All of them are equal, bereft of impurities, endowed with auspicious qualities and all represent Truth. Each Vedic god has a distinct power and personality, but he or she also carries the presence of the Supreme, “That one.” All the Vedic gods harmoniously work together in providing the divine inspiration to the individual .The Rig Vedic gods are kind and compassionate. They fulfill the desires and aspirations of the devotees.

 

2. At a much later period, the purāņās tried to convey the esoteric truths of the Veda in a popular form. However, in that attempt the qualities of the Vedic gods were partially humanized and endowed with human virtues/flaws. Thus in the purāņās, the various Gods work together sometimes, but also quarrel with one another. They are bitten by jealousy, envy, greed, arrogance, etc.

 

3.Many of the Puanic gods are transformations of the Vedic Devas The now major puranic Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are not prominent Devas in the Vedas; at the same time the prominent Vedic Devas do get diminished in stature  in the Puranas..

 

4. For instance, Bŗhaspati, Brahmaņaspati, Brahma are the three gods to whom the rişhi Vāmadeva addresses his mystic hymn of praise. However, the statuses of these Gods undergo a huge change in the Puranas.

 

The concept of Brahma as the creator in the purāņa is derived from the Brahmaņaspati/Bŗhaspati of the Vedas where they are the creators through the power of the Word. The elephant-faced tāntrik God Gaņapathi captures some aspects of the Vedic god Brahmaņaspati. Gaņapati is invoked by a Vedic rik associated with the Brahmaņaspati. The word Gaņapati means the lord of gaņas or hosts. In the purāņa, the hosts (gaņas) are the beings of the vital world. However, in the Rig-Veda, the gaņās or hosts of Bŗhaspati/Brahmaņaspati are the chants, the riks and the stomas, the words of praise (RV. 4.50). In the Rig-Veda, Brahmaņaspati/Bŗhaspati is a God of a very high plane and has little to do with the lower vital levels. The two deities are closely connected to each other. There are over one hundred riks in praise of these two deities, giving a picture of their powers and personalities.

 

4.1. The puranic Brahma and Ganapathi are derived from Vedic Brahmanaspathi. However, the Vedic Brihaspathi is reduced in the Puranas to become the preceptor of Devas and guardian of the planet Jupiter. Brahma becomes the Creator, one of the purāņic Trinity. He is however denied worship. Brahmaņaspati, the middle term that once linked the Vedic Brahma and Brihaspathi has disappeared altogether.

 

5. Indra is one of the important Rig Vedic gods and is described as ‘Yo jata eva prathamo manasvan‘; He who, from his very birth, is the first (of the deities). Indra is the lord of the universe. The idea of an omniscient and omnipresent Godhead is also applied to Indra when he is addressed as ‘ashrutkarna; whose ears hear all things. Indra in one verse is “Svayambhuva” meaning ‘Self-existent’ or ‘Self manifested’ The Vedic Indra is transformed into Puranic Vishnu; while the Puranic Indra is a demigod much reduced in status and flawed by envy, greed and other human failings.

5.1. The Bhagavata Purana states that Yajna (Indra) took incarnation as Svayambhuva Manu. Indra thus becomes Vishnu (as Svayambhuva). Vishnu in turn becomes Dhanvantri the divine healer, Prithu the King and the Rishis such as Kapila. His later Avatars are celebrated in various Puranas. He is the preserver in the Trinity. He is the Narayana the supreme deity.

6. Vishnu (the pervader) initially had a lower position to that of Indra. He is the younger brother of Indra. In the Rig-Veda Vishnu is described as living and wandering on the mountains. He is one of the celestial gods and one of the Adithyas. He resembles Surya and has rays in his appearance. He later evolves into the most signifificant God and Godhead. The ‘Vishnu Sukta’ of the Rig Veda (1.154) mentions the famous three strides of Vishnu. It said that the first and second of Vishnu’s strides (those encompassing the earth and air) were visible and the third was in the heights of heaven (sky). The second mantra of the ‘Vishnu Sukta’ says that within the three vast strides of Vishnu all the various regions of the universe live in peace.

6.1. Yaskacharya, in his Nirukta, defines Vishnu as ‘Vishnu vishateh; one who enters everywhere’, and ‘yad vishito bhavati tad vishnurbhavati; that which is free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu.’ Vishnu is also characterized, as ‘veveshti vyapnoti vishvam yah; the one who covers the whole universe, or is omnipresent. In other words, Vishnu became the omnipresent dimension of the supreme Lord. 

7. Rudra one of the intermediate gods (antariksha devata) is celebrated in three or four hymns and is described as a fierce, armed with bow and arrows. He is endowed with strong arms, lustrous body and flowing golden hair. He is not purely benefic like other Rig Vedic gods, but he is not malevolent either. He punishes and at the same time rescues his devotees from trouble. He is the Shiva the auspicious one. In Puranas, he becomes one of the Trinity and is the destroyer. He is the Lord of the universe, the cosmic dancer, the Supreme yogi and master of all yogis.

Vedic Rishi Vamadeva merges into to become one of five faces of Lord Shiva and the aspect of Vama or “preserver” associated with the element of water.

H.Female deities in Rig Veda

The Rig Veda mentions many goddesses but none of them is central to the text. Although Ushas is celebrated in the Vedas, she is not offered Soma in the sacrifices. In addition to Ushas, Aditi, Prithvi and Vac are the other female deities mentioned in the Vedas.

1. Ushas is identified with the dawn in the Rig Veda, praised for driving away the darkness. She rouses life and sets things in motion. Ushas is compared to a graceful dancer. She also gives strength and fame; and like Prthivi is called mother. She is referred to as ‘she who sees all’ and invoked to drive away or punish enemies .She is a skilled hunter who “wastes away people’s lives”. Perhaps in Ushas there is a hint of the goddess, as both nurturing and fierce.

2. Aditi is the mother principle. Her name means the unbound one. In the Rig Veda, she is the mother of all the gods, the mother of all creation. She is invoked for protection and wealth. She is mentioned nearly eighty times in the Rig-Veda yet at no time she appears as a consort to any of the gods. Sri Aurobindo addresses Aditi as the Goddess of infinity and the infinite consciousness.

3. Prthivi the earth principle is the mother while sky is as a father. The earth and sky principles are together referred as Dyava_prithivi. She is the basis for all beings animate or otherwise. She protects, she feeds and without her we have no existence. She is addressed as mother and regarded as warm, nurturing and a provider of sustenance. Prithvi is seen as stable, fertile and benign, forgiving all our tressspasses.She is sarvam_saha and Vasundhara.

4. Vac is the goddess associated with speech, which is a concept of central importance to the Vedas. Vac, the word or the exchange of knowledge, is the mother of all communications that give intelligence to those who love her. She is associated with the power of the rishis. ‘She is the mysterious presence that enables one to hear, see, grasp and then express in words the true nature of things. She is the prompter of and vehicle of expression for visionary perception, and as such she is intimately associated with the rishis and the rituals that express or capture the truths of their visions.’

4.1. In a passage of the Rig Veda, Vac is praised as a divine being. Vac is omnipotent, moves amongst divine beings, and carries the great gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Agni, within itself. “All gods live from Vac, also all demigods, animals and people. Vac is the eternal being; it is the first-born of the eternal law, mother of the Vedas and navel of immortality.” The reason, the Vedic rishis paid such glowing tributes to Vac was perhaps that they attached great importance to the word and to its purity.

4.2. In the later parts of the Rig Veda, Brahman (one of the three distinct voices in the Soma sacrifices) is associated with speech and comes to be recognized as the verbal forms of Vac.They are seen as partners working for the fulfillment of the devotees aspirations. If Vac is regarded the weapons, it is Brahman that sharpens them. In Rig Veda the Vac-Brahman relation is a “growing partnership” (RV 10.120.5, and 9.97.34) http://www.vedavid.org/diss/dissnew5.html#246

4.3. In the Rig Veda, Sarasvathi is the river vital to their life and existence. Sarasvathi is described as ‘nadinam shuci; sacred and pure among rivers. It was, however, in Krishna Yajurveda, that Vac (speech personified, the vehicle of knowledge) for the first time comes to be known as Sarasvathi. The Aitreya Aranyaka calls her mother of Vedas. From here on the association of vac with sarasvathi gets thicker.

4.4. In the Rig Veda, Sarasvati is often invoked with Ida and Bharati. The three, Ida, Bharathi and Sarasvathi are manifestation of the Agni (Yajnuagni) and are tri_Sarasvathi. The goddess Sarasvathi is also the destroyer of Vrta and other demons that stand for darkness (Utasya nah Sarasvati ghora Hiranyavartanih / Vrtraghni vasti sustuition). With the passage of time Sarasvathi’s association with the river gradually diminishes. The virtues of Vac and Sarasvathi (the river) merge into one divinity the Sarasvathi; and get recognized and worshipped as goddess of purity, speech, learning, wisdom, culture and intellect. The Rig Vedic goddess Vac thus emerges and shines gloriously as Vac-devi, Vedamatha, Vani, Sharada, Pusti, Vagishvari, Veenapani , Bharathi and Sarasvathi.

(http://orissagov.nic.in/emagazine/Orissareview/febmar2005/englishpdf/saraswati.pdf )

The association of the intellect and purity (Vac, Sarasvathi) with the spoken word (Brahma) acquires a physical representation in the Puranas.

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The high idealism of the Rig Veda poetry represents the soaring human aspirations. It is the intense desire to grow out of the limited physical confines and to reach out to the super consciousness that inspired the Vedic rishis. Sri Aurobindo believed that the human being is at the crest, on the threshold of evolving into super consciousness. He asserted that Rig Veda encases that esoteric message and attainment of that super consciousness was the vision  of the Rig Veda.

References:

The Human Aspiration:

http://www.mountainman.com.au/auro_0.html

The concept of gods in Vedas:

http://www.eng.vedanta.ru/library/prabuddha_bharata/May2005_the_concept_of_God_in_the_Vedas.php

http://www.eng.vedanta.ru/library/prabuddha_bharata/June2005_the_concept_of_god_in_the_vedas.php

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda

 

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