May the gleaming Waters who took Fire as their germ be for us blessing and joy!
AV I, 33, 1B
The Word has been spoken and has broken the original silence. The cosmic principles are there as fragments of this broken silence. All this is only the beginning. Before the human gaze is directed inward and toward the splendor of the Lord, Man meets the elements of this universe, encounters them, and is gripped at the same time by awe and by admiration. The world is the first manifestation, the primordial revelation to Man. It is not individual things that stir his imagination but the primordial elements of the world. All these elements are at one and the same time both material and spiritual. Indeed, a division between matter and spirit seems to be drawn only at a later date in an artificial way, and only for practical purposes. Nothing solely spiritual or solely material exists in the range of our common experience.
There is one Upanisad reflecting the evolution of human consciousness, while it continues at the same time the most authentic Vedic line:
He who is abiding in the earth, yet different
from the earth, . . .
He who is abiding in the water, yet different
from the water, . . .
He who is abiding in the wind, yet different
from the wind, . . . 56
The very word antara used here means both “different from” and “interior to.” This total vision of the elements is not concerned with the physical or the scientific alone, or, for that matter, with the merely allegorical or spiritual, but with the integral experience of an undivided though differentiated whole, which has its own role to play and its own constitution to maintain.
He who sees “the waters” only as a colorless material liquid with certain physical properties will surely fail to know what that word has really meant to mankind, nor will he know what water really is. He who, on the other hand, neglects or even despises the internal physical structure of water and does not bother to study its properties will equally miss the point.
Is it possible for the men and women of our times to enjoy so innocent and holistic a view of the elements of the world? The qualified answer, impossible for us to develop here, would be yes, provided we do not look at ourselves at the same time. That is to say, we can still have an ecstatic and integral view of the universe if we cease to claim a privileged and exceptional position for Man, as if he were the goal and the final product of creation. How this second condition can be fulfilled is another problem altogether. It is neither desirable nor possible to go back to a precritical stage, but perhaps there is another step open to our generation, a step that goes beyond the merely outward self-forgetting look and abandons as equally unsatisfactory the claim of Man to be a neutral spectator of this world and king of the whole earth. However that may be, this anthology may help the reader to follow the course of the human pilgrimage by reenacting the past with a present awareness. Doing so does not make us people of the past; on the contrary, it prevents us from being excommunicated from the common human-- and cosmic--adventure. Nothing is more barren than to be obsessed with modernity and pretend to forget the past. Roots do not produce flowers, but neither can there be flowers without roots.
Yet another word may be required regarding the place and the function of the elements. Any vision or concept of Man needs a horizon against which the vision emerges and the concept is meaningful. This horizon is Man’s underlying and more or less conscious picture of the world. Ultimately the intelligible pattern of all human understanding is based on an accepted cosmology. Man cannot get rid of matter, and his material conception of the world is reflected in any of his supposedly spiritual intuitions.
The Vedic cosmology is not our special concern in this anthology, but we need to be acquainted with some of its features in order to understand how the Vedic Revelation viewed the world. Many centuries ago, before the scientific world view, culminating in the splitting of the atom, led to the predominance of the quantitative, man had a more qualitative conception of the irreducible factors that underlie all manifest realities. For modern Man Matter and Energy (in spite of their different forms and interchangeability) can be said to form the fundamental elements of the universe. Against this dualistic outlook, Vedic Man was more pluralistic and believed, as was also true of many other ancient cultures, in the existence of certain basic elements of a qualitatively different nature which underlay the constitution of the universe. These elements should not be understood against the background of a rigid atomic theory; they were to a great extent interrelated and were sometimes even interchangeable, so that the Vedic intuition refers, for example, to fire being born out of the waters. The elements are not individual and separated constituents of a whole but, rather, vectors or forces pervading the entire reality. The elements are the real symbols standing for the ultimate constituents of reality; they are the primordial “stuff” of the world, but their being the cornerstones of reality is a symbolical and not scientific or merely physical being. They stand for the underlying unity behind the manifold appearances of all that they symbolize.
Out of the five classical elements and others that could perhaps have been chosen, we give here texts concerning only three, which we may epitomize thus: water as the reality before creation, earth as the creation par excellence, and wind as the dynamic of the cosmos after creation. 57
In almost all traditions of mankind the waters occupy a special place, being either uncreated or produced in a very peculiar. way. In the Shatapatha Brahmana it is said that they were produced out of vac, the word: 58 the first element out of the first “principle.” The waters are the primeval element; everything else rests on them. They belong to the three worlds. The ritual of the Shatapatha Brahmana states several times that vessels and other utensils must be thrown into the waters after being used in the sacrifice, precisely because these waters are the basis and foundation of the universe. It is still a common practice in everyday life to immerse idols (murtis), utensils, used things, in the sacred rivers. Moreover, deceased children and holy men are not cremated but are returned either to the earth or to the waters. 59 All this symbolizes the same thing: the return to the origins.
The waters possess an integral reality, and thus they have healing power. 60 Purification is their first anthropocosmic function. The waters possess also a certain intermediate character. They are neither air nor earth; they are on earth but come from heaven; they bring life but they can also be lethal; they purify but they can also be muddy; they flow on the surface but there are also internal rivers of water in the earth, as well as in the individual; they take all forms and have unlimited freedom, but yet they are not supreme. 61 Waters convey divine energy, just as in more modern parlance blood is the conveyor of human life, but they are not the divine principle. What is more powerful, more self-confident, larger, and deeper than the fathomless ocean? What is more mysterious, more needed, more capricious, and more overwhelming than the rains, the vehicles of fertility? 62 What is more vital than the rivers, which, like arteries, vivify the earth and all living beings? 63 What is more ambivalent than the waters, which on the one hand you cannot live without, while on the other they may unexpectedly flood the land and drown you? No wonder that the Spirit of the waters, the apam napat of the Rig Veda, 64 not only has a direct counterpart in certain other traditions (such as the Avestan being of the same name living in the depth of the waters and surrounded by divine spirits) but represents what amounts to an invariant in all ancient cultures of mankind.
He, the Son of the Waters, of color unfading,
performs his work within the body of another. 65
Agni is the “Son of the Waters”; he dwells in the water. 66 Fire and water belong together. At the sight of these waters we find prayer welling within us and in prayer become aware of the marvelous harmony of this universe. “In the Waters, O Lord, is your seat!” 67
The intermediate character of the waters could be described also from a cosmological point of view: the waters are neither solid like the earth, nor intangible and gaseous like the air or the wind; they possess many of the features of solid matter and many also of the more spiritual elements. It is difficult to conceive of the spirit being unleashed from the earth, while air and ether possess no “earthly” properties at all; the waters, however, occupy an intermediate position and contain both the movement and life of the airy elements and the gravity and consistency of the solid: they are alive. 68 Finally, it is interesting to note the fact that many cosmologies award primordial status to the waters rather than to any of the other elements.
The following is a stotra made up of short sentences belonging to longer passages.
i) The essence of plant life is Water.
SB IV, 4, 3, 15
ii) Water is the elixir of immortality.
SB VI, 8, 2, 3
iii) For from the Waters is this universe produced.
SB VI, 8, 2, 4
iv) In the Waters, O Lord, is your seat, that is, in the Waters, O Lord, is your womb.
SB VII, 4, 1, 6
v) Of this universe, it is in truth the Waters that were made first. Hence when the Waters flow, then everything here, whatsoever exists, is produced.
SB XII, 5, 2, 14
vi) The Waters are the foundation of all this universe.
SB XIV, 3, 2, 13
vii) “Glory to the Waters!” The Waters, to be sure, are a resting place for all the Gods.
TS I, 2, 1
viii) May the Waters, the mothers, purify us.
TS I, 2, 2
ix) Hail to you, divine, unfathomable, all-purifying Waters!
i) Essence: rasa, sap, i.e., the vital juice of plants. Cf. sapientia, i.e., the sapid science, knowledge through taste, personal experience.
ii) Elixir of immortality: amrta. Cf. also MaitS IV, 1, 9 (apo vamrtam).
iv) Lord: Agni.
vi) Cf. the same text in SB VI, 8, 2, 2.
Foundation: pratistha, underlying principle, basis, repository, support, standing place, receptacle.
1. Ceaselessly they flow from the depths, pure, never sleeping, the Ocean their sponsor,
following the channels ordained by the Thunderer.
Now may these great divine Waters quicken me!
2. Waters may pour from heaven or run along channels dug out by men;
or flow clear and pure having the Ocean as their goal.
Now may these great divine Waters quicken me!
3. ln the midst of the Waters is moving the Lord, surveying men’s truth and men’s lies.
How sweet are the Waters, crystal clear and cleansing!
Now may these great divine Waters quicken me!
4. From whom King Varuna, Soma, and all the Deities drink exhilarating strength,
into whom the Universal Lord has entered,
now may these great divine Waters quicken me!
1. The Ocean their sponsor: cf. SB XI 1, 6, 1 (§ I 6).
The Thunderer: Indra.
Divine Waters: apo divyah, celestial waters.
Quicken: the verb of the refrain is av-, to drive forward, to animate, to lead (flowing), hence to protect, promote, favor. Av- has also the meaning of refreshing, cooling (with water). May these. . . Waters quicken me: avantu.
2. All the waters, the celestial as well as those flowing on earth, have the ocean as their goal: samudrarthah.
3. The Lord: Varuna, who is termed “King Varuna.”
Sweet: madhushcutah, lit. distilling honey. In the next verse the waters are said to be Soma, the elixir of the Gods. Cf. RV II, 35, and RV X, 9, 6 (§ I 17).
4. Universal Lord: Agni vaishvanara, cf. § III 5.
1. O Waters, source of happiness,
pray give us vigor so that we
may contemplate the great delight.
2. You like loving mothers are
who long to give to children dear.
Give us of your propitious sap.
3. On your behalf we desire, O Waters,
to assist the one to whose house you send us--
you, of our life and being the source.
4. These Waters be to us for drink;
divine are they for aid and joy.
May they impart to us health and strength!
5. You Waters who rule over precious things
and have supreme control of men,
we beg you, give us healing balm.
6. Within the Waters, Soma has told me,
remedies exist of every sort
and Agni who brings blessing to all.
7. O Waters, stored with healing balm
through which my body safe will be,
come, that I long may see the sun.
8. Whatever sin is found in me,
whatever wrong I may have done,
if I have lied or falsely sworn,
Waters, remove it far from me.
9. Now I have come to seek the Waters.
Now we merge, mingling with the sap.
Come to me, Agni, rich in milk!
Come and endow me with your splendor!
1. Vigor: urj, invigorating and animating sap, nourishment, nourishing juice, hence Inspiriting, giving spirit, life. Later commentators say that the great delight is Brahman.
2. Agni is elsewhere called urjas putra, while here the waters give propitious sap, invigorating nourishment. They are a source of happiness, like mothers giving their milk.
5. For similiar texts on the waters cf. AV VI, 23; XIX, 2.
8. Cf. RV I, 23, 22 (§ IV 8).
The Vedic attitude toward the earth springs from mankind’s primordial experience of being on the one hand a guest, and on the other an offspring, of Earth. The earth is undoubtedly mother, is close to Man, but at the same time she is also alien, other and aloof. The earth is the foundation, the basis out of which emerges all that exists and on which everything rests. The earth is the basis of life and, when considered as a divine being, she always occupies a special place among the Gods.
Man is of the earth and earthly, but the earth is not simply nature, is not merely geographical or material; it is part of Man himself, so that Man can no more live without the earth than he can live without a body. At the same time, though he stands on the earth, he also stands above her. Man is more than earth. The earth is the mother of Man, but Man is also lord over the earth. Man could be said to be like the eldest son of a widowed mother, in the traditional Indian setting.
The tension between Man and earth is conspicuously present, but there is no separation. Vedic Man would find any attempt at dominating or subjugating the earth incomprehensible. The earth is an object of worship and not of exploitation, an object of awe and not of curiosity (or research, as would be said in academic circles). Investigation of the earth is of the same nature as personal introspection. To harm the earth is a masochistic vice. Man is from the earth and part of the earth, yet he surmises more and more that he is not only of the earth, not just an earthly thing.
Worship addressed to the earth is not adoration of a creature as an absolute; that is, it is not idolatory. It is rather the veneration of the highest value in the hierarchy of existence, for “undoubtedly this earth is the firstborn of being.” 69 The earth as such is rich and the owner of treasures. 70 Man’s work is not to make a shift in ownership, despoiling, as it were, the earth of her possessions and transferring them to the toiler. Man’s work is to enjoy the blessings of the earth, because the earth is his home, his own family, his body.
There is only one hymn in the Rig Veda addressed to prthivi the earth (literally, the broad one), though she is praised in several hymns conjointly with the sky, dyu. 71 These two are called father and mother, not only of terrestrial creatures but of the Gods also. In a funeral hymn the earth is described as a gentle mother receiving her dead son into her bosom, preserving him from dissolution. 72 Another hymn sings:
Who gives us back to Aditi, the great Boundless?
I wish to see my father and my mother! 73
The second hymn of this section is the famous Prayer to the Earth, one of the most beautiful hymns of the Veda. The earth is here called not prthivi but bhumi. This hymn depicts the universal mother, dispenser of every sort of good. It presents a striking cosmogonic and theanthropological sequence.
The origins of the earth come first. When she was as yet hidden in a fluid state in the bosom of the primeval waters, the seers were already seeking to discern her by means of sacrifice.
A geographical description, or, as we could equally aptly call it, a highly poetical vision of nature, follows. The earth is composed of hills and plains, of snow-clad peaks, of deserts, oceans, and rivers, of lakes and streams, trees and plants, rocks and stones. The seasons appear with unfailing regularity and bring to her their own gradations of climate. Even included is an account of her fragrance which is described distinctively according to whether it emanates from plants or from water, from the lotus, from animals, from human beings, or even from the Gods. We are also told of her underground treasures of jewels and gold.
Third, earth is the dwelling place of people. It is upon her that in the beginning the first humans were scattered abroad. It is upon her that they sing and dance and find their happiness. It is she who diversifies Men’s speech into different languages. It is upon her many paths that men and women pass to and fro and it is her highways that men use for their wagons and chariots.
Further, the earth is protected by the Gods; she is the conveyer of Agni, Universal Fire, and the place where men offer ritual sacrifice. It is upon her breast that men build their altars and construct their tabernacles and shelters and ritual posts. It is she in whose praise priests chant their hymns. The earth points beyond herself by means of the cultic acts of Gods and Men.
She is, furthermore, the dwelling place of all living creatures, mention of whom is not omitted. She is the home of cattle and horses, of the beasts of the forest, of deer and birds, reptiles and two-legged creatures.
She is, finally, a cosmic giant, a cosmic power, the receiver of prayers and the bestower of blessings, the protector and the inscrutable judge. Ecology was a sacred science for Vedic Man.
1. The mighty burden of the mountains bulk
rests, Earth, upon your shoulders; rich in torrents,
you germinate the seed with quickening power.
2. Our hymns of praise resounding now invoke you,
O far-flung Earth, the bright one.
Like a neighing steed you drive abroad your storm clouds.
3. You in your sturdy strength hold fast the forests,
clamping the trees all firmly to the ground,
when rains and lightning issue from your clouds.
1. Earth: prthivi.
2. Bright one or lit. “silver-white.”
1. High Truth, unyielding Order, Consecration,
Ardor and Prayer and Holy Ritual
uphold the Earth; may she, the ruling Mistress
of what has been and what will come to be,
for us spread wide a limitless domain.
2. Untrammeled in the midst of men, the Earth,
adorned with heights and gentle slopes and plains,
bears plants and herbs of various healing powers.
May she spread wide for us, afford us joy!
3. On whom are ocean, river, and all waters,
on whom have sprung up food and ploughman’s crops,
on whom moves all that breathes and stirs abroad--
Earth, may she grant to us the long first draught!
4. To Earth belong the four directions of space.
On her grows food; on her the ploughman toils.
She carries likewise all that breathes and stirs.
Earth, may she grant us cattle and food in plenty!
5. On whom the men of olden days roamed far,
on whom the conquering Gods smote the demons,
the home of cattle, horses, and of birds,
may Earth vouchsafe to us good fortune and glory!
6. Bearer of all things, hoard of treasures rare,
sustaining mother, Earth the golden-breasted
who bears the Sacred Universal Fire,
whose spouse is Indra--may she grant us wealth!
7. Limitless Earth, whom the Gods, never sleeping,
protect forever with unflagging care,
may she exude for us the well-loved honey,
shed upon us her splendor copiously!
8. Earth, who of yore was Water in the oceans,
discerned by the Sages’ secret powers,
whose immortal heart, enwrapped in Truth,
abides aloft in the highest firmament,
may she procure for us splendor and power,
according to her highest royal state!
9. On whom the flowing Waters, ever the same,
course without cease or failure night and day,
may she yield milk, this Earth of many streams,
and shed on us her splendor copiously!
10. May Earth, whose measurements the Ashvins marked,
over whose breadth the foot of Visnu strode,
whom Indra, Lord of power, freed from foes,
stream milk for me, as a mother for her son!
11. Your hills, O Earth, your snow-clad mountain peaks,
your forests, may they show us kindliness!
Brown, black, red, multifarious in hue
and solid is this vast Earth, guarded by Indra.
Invincible, unconquered, and unharmed,
I have on her established my abode.
12. Impart to us those vitalizing forces that come,
O Earth, from deep within your body,
your central point, your navel; purify us wholly.
The Earth is mother; I am son of Earth.
The Rain-giver is my father; may he shower on us blessings!
13. The Earth on which they circumscribe the altar,
on which a band of workmen prepare the oblation,
on which the tall bright sacrificial posts
are fixed before the start of the oblation--
may Earth, herself increasing, grant us increase!
14. That man, O Earth, who wills us harm, who fights us,
who by his thoughts or deadly arms opposes,
deliver him to us, forestalling action.
15. All creatures, born from you, move round upon you.
You carry all that has two legs, three, or four.
To you, O Earth, belong the five human races,
those mortals upon whom the rising sun
sheds the immortal splendor of his rays.
16. May the creatures of earth, united together,
let flow for me the honey of speech!
Grant to me this boon, O Earth.
17. Mother of plants and begetter of all things,
firm far-flung Earth, sushined by Heavenly Law,
kindly and pleasant is she. May we ever
dwell on her bosom, passing to and fro!
18. As a vast abode, Earth, you have become great.
Great is your movement, great your trembling, your quaking.
The Lord all-powerful ceaselessly protects you.
O Earth, grant us to shine like burnished gold,
and let no enemy ever wish us ill!
19. Agni resides on earth, within the plants.
The Waters contain Agni; in the stones is he.
Agni abides deep in the hearts of Men.
In cattle and in horses there are Agnis.
20. Agni blazes and flashes from the height of heaven.
To the God Agni belong all airy spaces,
Agni it is whom mortal men enkindle,
conveyer of offerings, lover of the clarified butter.
21. May she who is clothed with Fire, whose knees
are blackened, grant me sharpness of wit
and furnish me with splendor!
22. May Earth on which men offer to the Gods
the sacrifice and decorous oblations,
where dwells the human race on nourishment
proper to the requirements of its nature--
may this great Earth assure us life and breath,
permitting us to come to ripe old age.
23. Instill in me abundantly that fragrance,
O Mother Earth, which emanates from you
and from your plants and waters, that sweet perfume
that all celestial beings are wont to emit,
and let no enemy ever wish us ill!
24. Your fragrance which has entered into the lotus,
wherewith the immortal Gods at the Sun-daughter’s wedding
were redolent, O Earth, in times primeval--
instill in me abundantly that fragrance,
and let no enemy ever wish us ill!
25. Your fragrance which adheres to human beings,
the good cheer and the charm of women and men,
that which is found in horses and in warriors,
that which is in wild beasts and in the elephant,
the radiance that shines about a maiden--
O Earth, steep us, too, deeply in that fragrance,
and let no enemy ever wish us ill!
26. Earth is composed of rock, of stone, of dust;
Earth is compactly held, consolidated.
I venerate this mighty Earth, the golden-breasted!
27. Her upon whom the trees, lords of the forest,
stand firm, unshakable, in every place,
this long-enduring Earth we now invoke,
the giver of all manner of delights.
28. Whether we stand upright or sit,
whether we stay quite still or walk,
whether we walk with right foot or left,
never may we stumble upon Earth!
29. O purifying Earth, I you invoke!
O patient Earth, by Sacred Word enhanced,
bearer of nourishment and strength, of food and ghee--
O Earth, we would approach you with due praise!
30. Pure may the Waters flow over our bodies!
That which defiles--I fling it upon our foes!
I cleanse myself, O Earth, as with a filter.
31. Your regions, Earth, to eastward and to northward,
southward and westward, may they receive me kindly,
whenever on their paths I travel. Never,
when standing on your surface, may I totter!
32. Do not thrust us aside from in front or behind,
from above or below! Be gracious, O Earth.
Let us not encounter robbers on our path.
Restrain the deadly weapon!
33. As wide a vista of you as my eye
may scan, O Earth, with the kindly help of Sun,
so widely may my sight be never dimmed
in all the long parade of years to come!
34. Whether, when I repose on you, O Earth,
I turn upon my right side or my left,
or whether, extended flat upon my back,
I meet your pressure from head to foot,
be gentle, Earth! You are the couch of all!
35. Whatever I dig up of you, O Earth,
may you of that have quick replenishment!
O purifying One, may my thrust never
reach right unto your vital points, your heart!
36. Your circling seasons, nights succeeding days,
your summer, O Earth, your splashing rains, our autumn,
your winter and frosty season yielding to spring--
may each and all produce for us their milk!
37. This cleansing Earth, who trembles before the Serpent,
who guards the fires that dwell within the waters,
who castigates the god-insulting demons,
has chosen for her mate Indra, not Vrtra,
surrendering herself to the powerful one, the potent.
38. On her are erected the platform and the sheds of oblation;
on her is reared the sacrificial post.
On her the brahmins, knowers of the rites,
recite their hymns, intone their melodies.
On her the priests set forth the sacrifice,
that Indra may drink Soma.
39. On her those sages of old, the Seven Seers
who fashioned these worlds, performing the sacrifice
by dint of holy rite and creative Fervor,
sang hymns and lo! the cows came to birth!
40. May Earth afford us all that copious wealth
for which we long! May Bhaga play his part
and Indra go before to show the way!
41. May Earth, the stage where mortals sing and play
with varied shouts and noises, which resounds
with cries of war or beatings of the drum,
drive far my foemen and rid me of all rivals!
42. Earth is the source of food, of rice and barley;
from her derive the five tribes of men.
To rain-steeped Earth, the Rain-giver’s wife, be homage!
43. Her castles are built by the Gods, her plains
the arena in which men wage war. The matrix
of all things is Earth. May the Lord of life
dispose for our enjoyment all her regions!
44. May the Goddess Earth, bearer of many a treasure
and of wealth stored up in diverse hidden places,
the generous sharer of riches, impart to us,
in addition to gold and gems, a special portion of her favor!
45. May Earth who bears mankind, each different grouping
maintaining its own customs and its speech,
yield up for me a thousand streams of treasure,
like a placid cow that never resists the hand.
46. The snake and the scorpion which viciously bite,
which, chilled by winter, lie slothfully hidden,
the wriggling worm, all that stirs in the rains--
may it, creeping, not creep on us! Instead,
may you grant us the blessing of all that is wholesome!
47. From your numberless tracks by which mankind may travel,
your roads on which move both chariots and wagons
your paths which are used by the good and the bad,
may we choose a way free from foes and robbers!
May you grant us the blessing of all that is wholesome!
48. She carries in her lap the foolish and also the wise.
She bears the death of the wicked as well as the good.
She lives in friendly collaboration with the boar,
offering herself as sanctuary to the wild pig.
49. The creatures of your forests, dwellers in woods,
lions, tigers, man-eaters that prowl about,
hyena and wolf, misfortune stalking around,
demons both male and female, chase them far!
50. All evil spirits, male and female alike,
drive far from us, O Earth, the ones that grab
and the ones that devour, all vampires and all demons!
Drive each and every one to distant realms!
51. Over the earth the winged bipeds fly,
swans and falcons, eagles, birds of all kinds.
On her the wind comes rushing, Matarishvan,
raising the dust, causing the trees to tremble
and dragging in his victory train the Fire.
52. May she in whom the bright and also the dark,
the day and the night, associate, though separate,
the far-flung Earth, ofttimes by rain made fertile,
graciously settle each one in his well-loved abode!
53. Heaven and Earth and the space in between
have set me in a wide expanse!
Fire, the Sun, the Waters, the Gods,
have joined to give me inspiration.
54. Behold me now, victorious!
My name is the highest in all the earth.
Ruling in all regions, I subdue all! I conquer!
55. When at the Gods’ command, O Goddess,
you unfurled yourself, revealing your grandeur,
then you were imbued with beauty and charm.
You shaped and fashioned the world’s four regions.
56. In village or forest, in all the places
where man meets man, in market or forum,
may we always say that which is pleasing to you!
57. Just as a horse scatters dust, so Earth,
when she came into being, scattered the peoples--
Earth, gracious leader and protectress of the world,
who holds in firm grasp both trees and plants.
58. The words that I speak are sweet as honey!
My glances meet with fair glances in return.
Vehement am I, swift and impetuous!
Those who gnash their teeth I utterly vanquish!
59. Peaceful and fragrant, gracious to the touch,
may Earth, swollen with milk, her breasts overflowing,
grant me her blessing together with her milk!
60. The Maker of the world sought her with oblations
when she was shrouded in the depth of the ocean.
A vessel of gladness, long cherished in secret,
the earth was revealed to mankind for their joy.
61. Primeval Mother, disperser of Men,
you, far-flung Earth, fulfill all our desires.
Whatever you lack, may the Lord of creatures,
the First-born of Right, supply to you fully!
62. May your dwellings, O Earth, free from sickness and wasting,
flourish for us! Through a long life, watchful,
may we always offer to you our tribute!
63. O Earth, O Mother, dispose my lot
in gracious fashion that I be at ease.
In harmony with all the powers of Heaven
set me, O Poet, in grace and good fortune!
1. Prayer: brahman as the sacred liturgical word.
Holy Ritual: yajna, sacrifice, the sacramental rite. So we have satya, rita, diksa, tapas, brahman, and yajna as the pillars of the earth as they are of any sacred, i.e., any real activity.
Earth: bhumi throughout.
3. River sindhu, though some have read Indus, the particular river of India. The “stream” here is probably not any specific river but the mythical rasa which flows at the ends of the earth. Cf. RV X, 121, 4 (§ I 4).
Ploughman’s crops: lit. ploughing furrows.
The long first draught: purvapeya. The first privilege of Indra, after drinking Soma, was to perform the mighty work of organizing the earth.
5. Gods and demons: devas and asuras.
Good fortune: bhaga, happy lot, luck, what falls to a person by lot, i.e., a person’s destiny.
Glory: varcas, brilliance, luster, i.e., success owing to good fortune, power of transmitting one’s own enlightenment, of fulfilling one’s own destiny.
6. Sustaining (mother): pratistha support, foundation, basis.
Universal Fire: Agni as vaishvanara (§ III 5). Vaishvanara abides in each purusa, both on the cosmic plane and in the individual being (SB X, 6, 1). On the human plane Agni vaishvanara is the metabolic fire that eats food and stands for life itself.
Whose spouse is Indra: lit. who mates with the bull Indra or whose bull is Indra. Cf. RV VI, 44, 21.
7. Honey symbolizes both material and spiritual wealth and is often described as “sweet milk” (with which it is often mixed). It stands for urj, rasa, i.e., soma.
Cf. the “vitalizing forces,” urjah, from deep within the body (of the earth) of v. 12; cf. RV, X, 9, 1-2 (§ I 17 and notes).
8. Cf. §§ I 15; 16 on the primordial waters. The “heart” of the earth is transcendent to the earth itself; this is a transcendent immanence.
10. The foot of Visnu: cf. § I 27.
Indra: cf. §§ I 24; II 4.
11. Forests: aranya, woods, and also wildemess.
12. The Rain-giver: Parjanya, the Rain-God. Cf. § II 24.
13. The earth is not only an ecological dwelling place but has also an eschatological and liturgical dimension. Workmen: vishvkarmanah, a guild of workmen attending the sacrifice, probably the so-called adhvaryu.
15. The five human races: may refer to the five tribes. Cf. BU IV, 4, 17 (§ VI 11) Cf. Nirukta III, 8 about pancajanah
17. Heavenly Law: dharma.
18. Lord: Indra.
19. The different forms of fire are mentioned, from the sun (v. 20) down to fire in wood and the “fire” of digestion in living beings.
21. Knees: referring to dark-colored rocks.
22. Human race: manusya.
23. Celestial beings: Gandharvas and Apsarases. Cf. AV X, 9, 9; etc. Fragrance is their special attribute. They received it as bhaga, a special gift, together with invulnerability. Cf. vv. 24-25. Fragrance (gandha) is also, in later philosophical systems, the characteristic of the element earth.
24. Reference to the wedding of Surya the Sun-maiden with the God Soma. Cf. RV X, 85 (§ II 15).
29. By Sacred Word enhanced: brahmana vavrdhanam. Brahman, fullness, swelling, enthusiasm of soul in prayer, pious utterance. Cf. the root brh-, increase, strengthen, and the root vrdh-, increase, grow strong, extend, gladden.
Approach you with due praise: ni sidema, may we sit down before you with reverence for instruction, approach in homage.
34. Be gentle: lit. do not harm us.
36. On the seasons cf. § VII Introduction.
37. Trembles before the Serpent: obscure expression. Serpent, however, refers to the demon Vrtra; i.e., in the fight between good and evil the Earth, who is afraid of the dragon, stands at Indra’s side.
38. Earth as the stage and support of sacrifice.
39. The Seven Seers: the mythical rishis, first sacrificers, mentioned in the RV and to whom names are given in the B. Cf. also BU II, 2, 4.
Holy rite: yajna.
Sacrifice: satra, the Soma “session.”
Creative Fervor: tapas.
Sang hymn. . . : ga udanrcuh, lit. sang forth the cows. Cows are also a symbol of words or songs.
42. Rain-giver: Parjanya, cf. RV V, 83 (§ II 24).
43. Lord of life: Prajapati.
44. Wealth stored up: i.e., the mines, which hold the hidden treasures of Earth.
45. Placid: lit. permanent, steady.
48. The wise: guru, or the heavy.
Death: nidhana, or dwelling (?).
Boar: early reference to the myth of the Boar as an avatara of Visnu.
50. Evil spirits, male and female: Gandharvas and Apsarases; here their negative, demonic aspect is intended, as they are mentioned together with other demons.
53. Gods: lit. All-Gods: vishvedevah; cf. RV X, 72 (§ VII 2).
54. The king is speaking.
60. The Maker of the world: vishvakarman, cf. RV X, 81; 82 (§§ VII 7; 12).
Mankind: lit. all beings with a mother.
61. Primeval Mother: Aditi, Infinity, begetter and origin of the Gods, a mythical figure of light. Cf. RV I, 136, 3; X, 72, 4-5 (§ VII 2).
Wish-fulfiiler kamadugha reminds us of kamadhenu, the mythical and miraculous “wish-cow,” later colorfully described in the Ramayana. In point of fact, in RV I, 153, 3, Aditi is referred to as a cow. In RV I, 72, 9, she is compared to the Earth. She represents the maternal aspect of Earth.
The Lord of creatures: Prajapati.
63. Dispose my lot, etc.: set me down graciously (that I may be) well established.
Poet: kavi from the root ku-, to see, hence sage or seer.
In the Rig Veda the wind is named vata or vayu, the former being used chiefly for the element and the latter chiefly for the God. There is no need to elaborate any particular theory regarding the meaning of the Vedic divinities, for the hymns speak for themselves. They make clear reference to the benefits bestowed by the wind and they pray that such blessings be continued. Particularly striking are the religious tone of the hymns and their invitation to plunge into the cosmogonic origins and to discover the transcendent meaning of natural phenomena. An ambivalent meaning is suggested by some of the sentences in these two hymns. What is said of the Wind could equally be said of the Spirit. The Wind collects, enraptures, and takes away in his chariot toward the celestial heights those who are caught in his blowing, bringing them together with the same devotion and enthusiasm as that of women congregating for a holy feast or gathering for a marriage. This same Wind is connected with the primordial waters, is called the first-bom, and yet is said to be of unknown origin; for nobody knows where it goes and where it comes from: it wanders free, is heard but not seen, is invisible, can only be felt, experienced, sensed, without being comprehended or understood. The second hymn, oices a deep prayer to the Spirit that he may breathe or impart life. There is another, similar text which affirms:
Breathe, O Wind, your healing breezes.
Blow away evil. You are the medicine
of this whole world, the Messenger of the Gods! 74
The Wind holds the gift of eternal life; it is the bestower of the lifeprinciple, the seed of life. 75
1. Oh, the Wind’s chariot, its power and its glory!
It passes by crashing.
Out streak the lightnings, dust rises on earth.
The Wind passes.
2. The hosts of the Wind speed onward after him,
like women assembling.
This king of the world lifts them up in his chariot
through lofty regions.
3. He speeds on air’s pathways, he rests not nor slumbers for even a day.
First-born, the Waters’ friend, the righteous, whence came he?
How was he born?
4. Breath of the Gods and life germ of the universe,
freely he wanders.
We bring him our homage, whose voice may be heard
but whose form is not seen.
1. Wind: vata, breath of the Gods. Cf. AV XI, 4 to prana (§ II 5). Its roar is thunder; it reaches the blue sky producing red flashes.
2. The hosts: winds of various kinds or the rains following the wind.
King of the world: lit. the God, king of the whole universe.
3. The righteous: rtavan, the holy, the upright, the just, one who goes the right way.
4. Hearing pierces deeper than seeing into the realm of being, though seeing may be clearer than hearing.
1. May the Wind breathe healing upon us,
prolong our life-span,
and fill our hearts with comfort!
2. You are our father, O Wind,
our friend and our brother,
Give us life that we may live.
3. From that immortal treasure,
O Lord, which is hidden in your abode,
impart to us that we may live.
1. May the wind breathe: vata a vatu, both from the same root va, to blow (cf. Latin ventus), with the special meaning here, to inspire, infuse.
Comfort: mayas which could be equated with bliss, ananda.
3. Immortal treasure: amrtasya nidhih.