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Friday, January 31, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 3


Mantra 1 (also called hymn or rk) starts with the words “asya vamasya palithasya” and is the reason for scholars designating this 164th subsection of Book 1 as Asya Vamasya Sukta. The meaning is “of this young and grey-haired….”. The rest of the hymn suggests that there are three brothers, one young and one old and there seems to be a middle one who is referred to as ghruthaprishta meaning well-oiled (ghee on the back is the literal translation). The word brhata meaning “brother” is used.

“Of the benevolent deity who is the object of invocation” there is the young one, the grey-haired one and a well-fed one. So, who are these three brothers?

Given my bias that we should place ourselves in the poet’s context, in his time and place, my guess is that he is referring to the three worlds – dyau, prithvi and antariksha. Dyau is the grey-haired old brother. The young one is the earth. The one well-oiled middle brother is antariksha with the clouds since pouring of grutha or ghee on agni in sacrifice is referred to in the Vedas as akin to rain pouring from the cloud. 

The hymn also refers to seven sons (sapta putram). It says: “I behold the Chief with seven sons”. Who are the seven sons?

The poet may be referring to the seven stars in the Milky Way or to the Sun with its rays and seven days of the week as suggested in the next hymn.

Mantra 2: This hymn refers to a chariot drawn by one horse with seven names. The chariot is said to have one wheel with three navels.

 The hymn also refers to vishva (universe) and bhuvana (earth). Therefore, the poet is thinking about heaven (dyau) and earth (prithvi). Connecting them are the cyclic days and nights due to the movement of the Sun. The chariot is the Sun. The single wheel represents the rotation in one year (?) and the horse with seven names represents the days of the week. Or, since folks in those days had seen and admired rainbow, may be the rish is referring to the seven colors (?). What are the three navels? Did the poet mean three seasons or day-night-twilight? Or, may even be the past, the present and the future!

I can see how difficult it is to put myself in the poet’s place centuries ago and try to figure out what he might have been thinking. It is best to be humble and not hoist our theories,dogmas and biases on the sages.

Manta 3: In this mantra, poet Dirghatamas imagines a chariot which he says has seven wheels and drawn by seven horses on which are seated seven sisters praising with words in which seven names are hidden.

Who are the seven sisters? Whom are they praising? It is possible that the seven sisters refer to some constellation or to the seven rivers on whose banks these ancestors lived in those days? What is the chariot with seven wheels (earlier it was one wheel) and seven horses? Rg Veda refers to sun’s rays in 7:66:15 and therefore the rishi may mean the rays of the sun or seven days of the week. It may refer to seven colors of the rainbow. Indeed, there are references to the colors as kaala (violet), neela (indigo), dhumla (blue), harita (green), peeta (yellow) and soma(red). May be, the reference is to the sapta rishis (sages) in the constellation.

Why seven wheels? Does the chariot refer to the human body with seven orifices?

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