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Monday, February 24, 2020

Addition to earlier posts on Asya Vamasya Sukta


During my continuing search for meaning of these Suktas I came across texts which may give clues to some of the numbered items in poem 3 of Asya Vamasya Sukta. I decided to post them now. The additions are in italicized letters.
The addition to Mantra 5 is just an intuition that hit me soon after my morning meditation today.

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 day. Are these same as the seven matrikas (Divine Mothers) of later texts?  Worship of Divine Mothers seems to have originated in the Indus Valley civilization, before the Vedic period. But the earliest epigraphic reference is from the 5th century CE. Rg Veda mentions seven mothers; but this idea is developed more in the Puranas and Tantric texts. The names are: Mahesvari, Vaishnavi, Brahmani, Kaumari, Indrani, Yami and Varahi. They are supposed to represent anger (krodha), covetousness (lobha), pride (mada), illusion (moha), fault-finding (matsarya), tale-bearing (paisunya) and envy(asuya) respectively. Varaha Purana adds one more named Yogesvari (representing kama, desire).

It is also likely that these are the female counterparts of Vedic deities and puranic gods, as the names suggest. For example, Indra and Indrani, Yami and Yami, Brahma and Brahmani etc.,

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 it may refer to the rays of the sun or to 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, they refer to the sapta rishis (sages) in the constellation.

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



Mantra 5: “I, who am young, simple and ignorant (paakah), with undiscerning mind ask thee (the sage, referred to in Mantra 4; please tell me) the whereabouts of those who are referred to as devas (deities). When the calf becomes grown, the sages spread seven threads to weave a web.”

I do not know what the last portion means. Does the poet say that when the student matures, the sage will show him the “threads that form the web of this universe”? But what are the seven threads? It could mean the five elements which they were aware of in those days plus two more. What were those two? Body and mind? Heaven (dyau) and earth (prithvi)?

Or, does it refer to 4 cardinal directions, up, down and Time which can easily correspond to the threads that form the Universe?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 6


Mantra 10: The hymn refers to the ONE who is supporting three fathers and three mothers without getting tired. The next line says that “they” deliberate on that divine one and discuss with Vac (goddess of speech) who “knows the cosmos” about the unknown.

“The One is standing without getting tires holding up 3 fathers and 3 mothers. Standing on the edge of Heaven they recite Speech (vacam mantrayante) about Cosmos which reaches beyond cosmos.”

Who are they? Probably the rishis. Who is the One holding up three fathers and three mothers? This One is the same as the one referred to in hymn 6, it probably refers to the Primordial One (known later as  Brahman or Prajapati) supporting the three corresponding aspects of the physical and mental world in the context of the universe.

Could this be Aditya, or the divine aspect of the earthly sun? I think this is possible because the next hymn refers to the sun and the reference to a beautiful bird also seem to imply the sun. In those days, even now, we know how critical the sun is for life on this planet.

More likely, the One is Brahman. Actually, one of the deities mentioned in Rg Veda is Aja who was later known as Aja-ekapada, an aspect of Shiva. I have seen a sculpture of a Deity with one leg and two deities coming out of the one leg.

Mantra 11: This is clearly addressed to the Sun. The text says they address agni, who is also the sun in the middle world (antariksha). “The wheel with 12 spokes revolves around in this cosmic order. O Agni, on this wheel are established 720 sons of yours joined in pairs.”

This is probably one of the earliest astronomical documentation of the sun’s yearly cycle of 360 days and 360 nights. And the spokes must refer to the months.

Mantra 12: “They call him who is the father with 5 feet and 12 faces and who is rich in water (purishinam)  in the upper half called heaven. Others call him, of deep vision, on seven wheeled, six-spoked car.”

 It is very difficult to fathom the mind of Dirghatamas. Is he referring to the cycle of time and seasons as related to the movement of the sun? Some books say that there were only 5 seasons identified in those days and twelve faces refer to the months of the year. (In the Indian calendars six seasons are recognized as opposed to the 4 seasons in the west. The six are: shishir, vasantha, grishma, Varsha, sharad and hemantha . Sometimes, according to the Aitreya Brahmana, hemantha and shishir are counted as one)

The seven wheels of the car refer to the seven days. What does six mean then? May be the same seasons with six count?






Friday, February 14, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 5


Mantra 7: The sage challenges whoever knows the original source of the “beautiful bird” (vamasya veh) to come out and declare it. Then he says: “cows drink milk from the head and draw water with the feet”. What might the beautiful bird be? And what is meant by milk and water and the cow drinking from the head and drawing from the feet?

Is it possible, the bird refers to the Sun, giver of life and light? Since the word “gow” means not only “cows” but also rays, it is possible that the poet is referring to the sun.  The sun is giver of life in the form of milk and the sun also dries up the water as it shines.  In fact, the sun sucking up water and giving it up as rain is referred to in many hymns of the Vedas.

Some interpreters think that the beautiful bird refers to humans with mind and body imagined as two wings.

Mantra 8: This mantra speaks about father and mother; about sharing or dividing; about courtship(babhaja); about conception (garbha) and about something disgusting (bibhatsam). What was the mystery being visualized by the innocent, deep-looking mind of the rishi?  What was disgusting?

The hymn reads as follows: "In Rta (Universal Natural Order), the mother separated from the father. In the beginning (agre) she wedded him in mind and spirit. She was filled with the essence of the fetus (garbharasa). The whole world came to her in adoration."

This is a remarkable statement. Not a statement as much as a speculation trying to understand how the first human came into existence. It is an expression of mystery as can be found in many ancient texts in all cultures. The first human, if male, begot a female out of his own body by dividing into a male and female (ardhanareeswara) or made a female out of a body part (Adam and Eve). If so, we cannot escape the conclusion that the first human came out of incest. The story of Prajapati elaborates on this mythology. May be, this was what Dhirgatamas called disgusting.

Whatever the interpretation, mother is adorable, and all the devas and humans come to adore her.

Mantra 9: This mantra eludes my capacity to fathom. It says: The Mother Cow of Dakshina (daughter of Prajapati) was yoked to the pole. All the daughters conceived(?). The calf mooed and looked up. It followed the mother for a distance of three yojanas and saw the One who is the form of the Universe (vishvarupyam).
Dakshina may mean south or gift during yagna or the name of Prajapati’s daughter according to the Dictionary. Given the previous hymn, the best possibility is Prajapati’s daughter. Who can be her mother other than Universal Mother? The daughters then give birth to humanity. What does the word three yojana mean? Yojana in Vedic times meant about 8 or 9 miles. Since what the calf saw was the One who is the Universal form, does it mean the Sun (or Aditya) and the three yojanas refer to the three periods of Day, Night and twilight or the morning ,afternoon and evening or the heaven, earth and intermediate worlds?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 4


Mantras  4, 5 and 6 are responsible for all my adoration of Poet Dirghatamas. The poet asks with boldness and honesty.

Mantra 4: “Who has seen the primal being at the time of (his) being born? How does a boneless substance cover the bones? (meaning what is it that sustains this body?) How did this life (asu), blood (asrik) and spirit (atma) appear on this earth? Who may approach the sage who knows to ask about it?”

Interpretation of this mantra is unnecessary and disrespectful.

Mantra 5: “I, who am young, simple and ignorant (paakah), with undiscerning mind ask thee (the sage, referred to in Mantra 4; please tell me) the whereabouts of those who are referred to as devas (deities). When the calf becomes grown, the sages spread seven threads to weave a web.”

I do not know what the last portion means. Does the poet say that when the student matures, the sage will show him the “threads that form the web of this universe”? But what are the seven threads? It could mean the five elements which they were aware of in those days plus two more. What were those two? Body and mind? Heaven (dyau) and earth (prithvi)?

Mantra 6: Dirghatamas asks; “I, the ignorant, ask the sages who know. Since I do not know I ask for the sake of acquiring knowledge. Please tell me. Who is that mysterious unborn who has established these six regions?”

Does he mean the six aspects of the manifest universe – namely, four cardinal direction, up and down? Or does the six refer to six lokas of  bhu, bhuvah, svah, mahah, janah and tapah as suggested in the Nirukta and Satapata Brahmana? In this scheme, the first three represent the physical universe and the last three represent the mental universe, according to Aurobindo. Were these ideas present at the time of Dirghatamas?