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Friday, June 5, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 18

            This is the final segment of Asya Vamasya Sukta of Rishi Dirghatamas. I cannot close without paying the highest respect possible to this remarkable ancestor of ours. It is a privilege to be able to say that we are his heirs.  

One other remark. In Mantra 46, I did not give the well-known Sanskrit version of the statement that "There is only one Truth; the wise call it by different names". It is "Ekam Satyam, vipra bahudha vadanti". 

Mantra 48: “The wheel is single. There are twelve fellies (segments of a wheel to which spokes are attached). There are three naves (axles). Who has understood this? Three hundred and sixty spokes are fixed together, and they cannot be loosened.”

The wheel stands for time – cyclic, rhythmic and for a year with 12 months, 3 seasons and 360 days and 360 nights. They cannot be altered; they move with no variation. The poet is struck with the mystery of time and its cyclic occurrence.

Mantra 49: “O Sarasvati, you feed us all the best things from your breast which cannot be exhausted;  giver of wealth and riches and knower of Vasus, please nourish us.”

I think, the rishi is referring to the river Sarasvati, which was an important river in the Vedic days. It must have been a rich source of food and the site of a great vedic civilization at one time. We know that it dried over a period of time and it is believed that people moved east towards Ganga after this major event.

Sarasvati comes from saras meaning water and the word saras comes from the root word sru, to flow. We are also told that in Vedic days, the river Indus was called Sindhu, which means “to flow”. An earlier name for Indus river was susoma. The land of Sindhu became Hindustan in Persian.

Mantra 50: This is an exact reproduction of  Purusha Sukta 10:90:16. Therefore, scholars will argue whether Asya vamasya Sukta was an earlier one, or Purusha Sukta.

Either way, here is the translation of the hymn. “The devas performed yagna by means of yagna. They were laid as the earliest duties or law (dharma). Those great sages attained higher abodes where Sadhya devas dwell.”

The idea of yagna performing yagna or the “egg or chicken” riddle was always part of the Vedic ideas. “Prajapati sacrificed himself in the beginning from which Devas came” say the puranas which came later. Purusha sukta says that. But the seeds of this idea were there earlier, it seems. The rishis also wondered about how the first life started. “Fire is produced from fire; life from life” says Aitreya Brahmana 1:16.

By the time devas attained higher abode or heaven, and the rishis got there, it was already the abode of the Saadhya Devas. Who were they? Sādhya (साध्य) are  devatās who  play important roles in Purāṇic stories. They  were the grand-children of Dakṣa-prajāpati. It is said that ten of the  sixty daughters of the Prajāpati  were married to Dharmadeva. Dharmadeva’s sons by his wife Visva were the Viśvadevas  and the sons by Sādhyā were the Sādhyas. In other words, these devas were already in the higher abode when the rishis were performing sacrifices.

Mantra 51: “The same water moves up and down with the passing of days. The clouds (from above) give life to earth and the fire (from earth, below) give life to heaven.”

The poet seems to emphasize the mutual relationship between humans and the devas (deities). Humans perform sacrifice (agni) and feed the devas. In turn, the devas give rain to earth so humans can grow food for themselves and to send to the devas through agni in sacrifice. This mutual relationship is mentioned in many Vedic and Puranic text.

Mantra 52:  “I pray to/invoke Sarasvan (Surya), who is celestial, golden-winged (rays) bird (Suparnam, divyam, vaayasam), who is growing (bruhantam)  and who is born of waters (apaam garbham) for protection.”

Every word in this hymn can be easily understood. In Vedic Sanskrit, ocean of this earth is arnava and the celestial ocean is sarasvan.  Sarasvan is the sun because he is one who stores water. Vedic texts mention the understanding the rishis had of the sun drying up the oceans by taking the waters up and giving  back as rain.

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