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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 16

Mantra 42:  “The oceans flow from her; The four regions of space (cardinal directions) are sustained by her. The imperishable akshara becomes kshara; the cosmos is sustained.”

Akshara suggests alphabets and therefore the entire hymn may be addressed to Vac, speech. But, it is more logical to see this hymn being addressed to Divine Mother, or Brahman from whom/which all of the waters and the space came. Also, akshara means something from which nothing can be removed; something that does not diminish. That can be only Brahman, the Primordial Force. And, kshara is the material world, which can decay and diminish.

Some interpreters consider this hymn being addressed to vac, speech. But the explanations they give to explain words such as akshara and kshara and Samudra seem farfetched to me , considering that Dirghatamas lived long before such explanations were possible.

Mantra 43:  This is a puzzling hymn, difficult to understand. For one thing, the rishi uses the word “shakamayam”. The only meaning I can find is that it stands for something coming out of excretion. Therefore, two interpreters translate it to mean “cow dung”.

He uses other words which are also difficult to grasp. For example, the word Ukshana means sprinkled, consecrated. Prushni may mean spotted as an adjective; but as feminine noun this word may mean ray of light, earth, cloud, milk and the starry sky.

The hymn translates as follows, according to my non-scholarly understanding. “ I see smoke from afar, coming out of excretion. It is smoldering between (or at the center of) heaven and earth. They cook the spotted bull or they see (not apachyanta; apashyanta) the consecrated cloud (or earth or the rays of light). That was the custom in the beginning.”

 What is the poet referring to? May be, he is talking about the appearance of the sun in the sky from amidst smoke and clouds? Or, is he talking about a sacrifice in which the “divine person” comes through in the middle through smoke and fire? How do we make sense of the word “shakamayam”, if the meaning is really cow dung?  May be, the poet has used some other word and it got corrupted?

My note: I woke up one morning and realized that I should look for internal consistency and continuity of ideas to understand this puzzling hymn number 43. The preceding Hymn 42 refers to the cosmos and mentions oceans, earth, imperishable and the cosmos. The next Hymn 44 mentions(rather, implies)  components of cosmos such as agni, apah and vayu and probably Aditya or surya. Therefore, going back to hymn 43, it is possible that the poet was referring to the sun seen through the clouds and the rays (prishni) coming through the clouds(ukshana). Or, the fire in the sacrificial altar seen through the smoke in this world and the sun’s rays coming through the clouds in the sky.

Mantra 44: “Three deities with matted hair appear in ordered seasons. One of them sows (or cuts) (vapati) in these yearly cycles (samvatsare). With his powers one sees (supports) the universe. By its activity (shachibih) and its impulse or power (dhrajih), one is seen; but not His form.”

One meaning of Samvatsara is the first year in a cycle of five years, which might have been the custom in the days of Dirghatamas.

This hymn probably refers to the rta or rhythmic cycles of season and years and the three deities with matted locks may refer to agni-apah-and vayu or to Aditya. In some places agni-apah-and vayu are referred to as Aditya. Aditya also meant the Sun and his rays are often referred to as his hair. In specific seasons, which depend on the sun, people sow seeds or reap the harvest.

The hymn also implies that behind this visible universe is an unseen force which drives. We know of its presence by its activities and its powers, but we do not see his form. This must imply the Primordial Source of it all, Brahman.

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