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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 11

Mantra 26:  This hymn refers to a cow, one who milks, to savitr who produces some distilled, (or is it purified or clarified), liquid and a reference to boiling something.

“ I invoke the cow (or is it Cow with a capital C?) so that the one who milks with blessed hands can milk her. May Savitr give us excellent sava; it is (made) warm (hot).” (or is it warm and shining milk, because the word abhidh means shining or inflamed and gharma is warm or hot)

The rishi is now clearly using the metaphor of cow and the Sun to point to something. The cow may refer to Aditi, the Universal Mother, from whom all the Adityas came and all the Universe. She is Mother Nature. She is the wish-fulfilling cow, kamadhenu. Rishis, Devas, humans and asuras obtain their needs (milk) from her. Therefore, savitr probably refers to a father figure, the Sun.

There are references in the Brahmana portion of the Veda which consider the cosmos and the individual body as vessels to warm or as receptacles of heat (gharma or gharam).

Mantra 27: She (the cow), the guardian of riches, has come here making hinkara sound yearning for her calf. May we get her milk to feed the Asvins. May she prosper for our benefits.

This is obviously a prayer to Aditi, the mother of all the riches. Asvins , the twin sons of the Sun by a nymph named Saranyu. They are celebrated as physicians to the devas since they restored youth to the old and decrepit sage by name Chyavana. According to Nirukta, the Asvins may represent day and night, or heaven and earth. In one Vedic commentary they are supposed to represent transition from darkness to light and thus related to Ushas, or dawn.

Mantra 28: "The cow calls (bellows, hinkrnoti) her calf standing there with blinking eyes and licks his forehead. She calls him to her warm udder and feeds him while mooing gently."

To me, this is  just a beautiful description of a mother feeding her baby. Dirghatamas is a poet and describes a scene. I remember such scenes from my childhood in India because we had a cow in our house. I also saw it recently in Galapagos Island when a sea-lion came out of the water, made noises and located her baby from among dozens running around and when her baby came, she just lied down and let her baby feed. It is just beautiful because life is mysterious, it is natural, it is universal, it is nurturing. One never gets tired of admiring although this scene has been repeated billions of times.

I find it inappropriate  when one of the interpreters hoists his ideas based on later developments in philosophy onto this simple hymn. Here is a sample: “ Why should the mother kiss on the forehead with himkara? Because it is a Bijamantra, with the syllable hym standing for both mind and matter in which “ha” as the consonant stands for Matter and “I” stands for the Mind and the nasal sound for the prana. Why kiss on the head? Because the head is the symbol of heaven, the immortal devas" etc.,

This is  a problem I see all the time when I read interpreters.  Why put words in the author’s mouth and use them as support for our own personal bias?

Why not just enjoy this simple hymn as is? At the most, we can say that the Cow symbolizes Universal Mother and we are all her children. She is a loving mother and will take care of us. I may add that the poet could have called the calf a female but did not. This may mean  something; may be, not.

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