Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Mon Sep 07, 2020 8:33 am

by Theosophy Wiki
Accessed: 9/7/20

Mahatma (devanāgarī: महात्मन् mahātma) is a Sanskrit term meaning "Great Soul". This epithet is commonly applied to saints, spiritual teachers, and even prominent people.

In Theosophical literature the term is used to refer to the Masters of the Wisdom.

General description

In The Theosophical Glossary H. P. Blavatsky defines the term as follows:

Mahâtma. Lit., “great soul”. An adept of the highest order. Exalted beings who, having attained to the mastery over their lower principles are thus living unimpeded by the “man of flesh”, and are in possession of knowledge and power commensurate with the stage they have reached in their spiritual evolution. Called in Pali Rahats and Arhats.[1]

The Mahatmas are occultists who have developed the psychic and spiritual powers that are still latent in most human beings:

A Mahatma is a personage who, by special training and education, has evolved those higher faculties and has attained that spiritual knowledge which ordinary humanity will acquire after passing through numberless series of incarnations during the process of cosmic evolution, provided, of course, that they do not go, in the meanwhile, against the purposes of Nature. . .

The occultist, when he has identified himself thoroughly with his Atma [True Self], acts upon the Buddhi [Mind that knows], for, according to the laws of Cosmic Evolution, the Purusha [Spirit]— the universal seventh principle –– is perpetually acting upon and manifesting itself through Prakriti [Nature] — the universal sixth principle. Thus the MAHATMA, who has become one with his seventh principle [Atman]— which is identical with Purusha, since there is no isolation in the spiritual monad [The One]— is practically a creator, for he has identified himself with the evoluting and the manifesting energy of nature.[2]

However, since the Mahatmas are incarnated, they are subject to limitations when acting through the body. As Master K.H. wrote in one of his letters to A. P. Sinnett:

For you know — or think you know, of one K.H. — and can know but of one, whereas there are two distinct personages answering to that name in him you know. The riddle is only apparent and easy to solve, were you only to know what a real Mahatma is. You have seen by the Kiddle incident — perchance allowed to develop to its bitter end for a purpose — that even an "adept" when acting in his body is not beyond mistakes due to human carelessness.[3]

See also

• Adepts
• Masters of Wisdom
• A list of Wiki articles on individual Mahatmas and Adepts

Online resources


• Mahātma at Theosopedia
• Mahatmas and Chelas by H. P. Blavatsky
• Theosophical Mahatmas by H. P. Blavatsky


1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 201.
2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1989), 261-262.
3. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 130 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 433.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Mon Sep 07, 2020 8:33 am

Henry Kiddle
by Theosophy Wiki
Accessed: 9/7/20

Henry Kiddle was an American educator with an interest in spiritualism, best known for accusing Mahatma Koot Hoomi of plagiarism. He was born on January 15, 1824 in Bath, England. During the years 1846-1856, he was principal of a grammar school. He became deputy superintendent, and later superintendent, of schools in New York City. However, in 1879, he was forced to resign due to adverse public reaction to his belief in spiritualism. That year, New York Authors' Publishing Company published a book called Spirit Communications - Presenting a Review of the Future Life, with Kiddle as editor. He died in 1891.[1]

The Kiddle Incident

On August 15, 1880, Mr. Kiddle gave a lecture at Mount Pleasant, New York convention, entitled "The Present Outlook of Spiritualism". This speech was published in the same month in Boston in the The Banner of Light magazine.

In December 1880 certain passages from this talk appeared in one of the Mahatma Letters received by Mr. Sinnett. In 1881, the latter published his book The Occult World, in which much of this letter was reproduced verbatim.

Mr. Kiddle read the book and, he claimed, wrote to Sinnett through his publisher, although it is possible that this letter was not received. On September 1, 1883, he wrote to Stainton Moses (M.A. Oxon), then editor of Light (Vol. III, No. 139, Sept. 1, 1883, p. 392), accusing Mahatma K. H. of plagiarism. Sinnett responded to this letter at once, from which resulted a great deal of correspondence.[2]

For some time the Mahatma did not bother to answer the charges of plagiarism, apparently attaching little importance to it. But seeing how distressed Sinnett was over the whole matter, he undertook to explain. Eventually, the Master allowed to refute the charges publicly without giving much explanation, only based on the fact that he had used Mr. Kiddle's sentences modifying them to express his own ideas, and therefore he was not plagiarizing concepts but only using well-constructed sentences in English to suit his own purposes:

Having distorted the ideas "appropriated", and, as now published — diverted them from their original intention to suit my own "very different purpose", on such grounds my literary larceny does not appear very formidable after all?[3]

Mme. Blavatsky published in The Theosophist an editorial entitled "Have we to Lower the Flag of Truce?" arguing on these lines.[4]

But in one of his letters the Master explained to Mr. Sinnett how this came to happen, although he asked the Englishman to keep the explanation to himself and a few other Theosophists. He wrote:

I had directed my attention some two months previous to the great annual camping movement of the latter [the American Spiritualists], in various directions, among others to Lake or Mount Pleasant. Some of the curious ideas and sentences representing the general hopes and aspirations of the American Spiritualists remained impressed on my memory, and I remembered only these ideas and detached sentences quite apart from the personalities of those who harboured or pronounced them. Hence, my entire ignorance of the lecturer whom I have innocently defrauded as it would appear, and who now raises the hue and cry.[5]

The case got more confused because the letter precipitated by a young and inexperienced chela omitted some passages where the Master made more explicit his reference to ideas of the American Spiritualists. He explained:

Well, as soon as I heard of the charge — the commotion among my defenders having reached me across the eternal snows — I ordered an investigation into the original scraps of the impression. At the first glance I saw that it was I, the only and most guilty party, — the poor little boy having done but that which he was told.[6]

The letter in question was framed by me while on a journey and on horse-back. It was dictated mentally, in the direction of, and "precipitated" by, a young chela not yet expert at this branch of Psychic chemistry, and who had to transcribe it from the hardly visible imprint. Half of it, therefore, was omitted and the other half more or less distorted by the "artist." When asked by him at the time, whether I would look it over and correct I answered, imprudently, I confess — "anyhow will do, my boy — it is of no great importance if you skip a few words." I was physically very tired by a ride of 48 hours consecutively, and (physically again) — half asleep. Besides this I had very important business to attend to psychically and therefore little remained of me to devote to that letter. When I woke I found it had already been sent on, and, as I was not then anticipating its publication, I never gave it from that time a thought.[7]

I, in this instance, having at the moment more vividly in my mind the psychic diagnosis of current Spiritualistic thought, of which the Lake Pleasant speech was one marked symptom, unwittingly transferred that reminiscence more vividly than my own remarks upon it and deductions therefrom. So to say, (the "despoiled victim's" — Mr. Kiddle's — utterances) came out as a "high light" and were more sharply photographed (first in the chela's brain and thence on the paper before him, a double process and one far more difficult than "thought reading" simply) while the rest, — my remarks thereupon and arguments — as I now find, are hardly visible and quite blurred on the original scraps before me.

In letter 117 the Master offers the text as originally intended ...

My good and faithful friend — the explanation herein contained would have never been made but that I have of late perceived how troubled you were during your conversations upon the subject of "plagiarism" with some friends — C.C.M. particularly. Now especially that I have received your last in which you mention so delicately "this wretched little Kiddle incident," to withhold truth from you — would be cruelty; nevertheless, to give it out to the world of prejudiced and malignantly disposed Spiritualists, would be sheer folly. Therefore, we must compromise: I must lay both yourself and Mr. Ward, who shares my confidence, under a pledge never to explain without special permission from me the facts hereinafter stated by me to anyone — not even to M. A. Oxon and C. C. Massey included for reasons I will mention presently and that you will readily understand. If pressed by any of them you may simply answer that the "psychological mystery" was cleared up to yourself and some others; and — IF satisfied — you may add, that "the parallel passages" cannot be called plagiarism or words to this effect. I give to you carte blanche to say anything you like — even the reason why I rather have the real facts withheld from the general public and most of the London Fellows — all except the details you alone with a few others will know. As you will perceive, I do not even bind you to defend my reputation — unless you feel yourself satisfied beyond any doubt, and have well understood the explanation yourself. And now I may tell you why I prefer being regarded by your friends an "ugly plagiarist."

Having been called repeatedly a "sophist," a "myth," a "Mrs. Harris" and a "lower intelligence" by the enemies, I rather not be regarded as a deliberate artificer and a liar by bogus friends — I mean those who would accept me reluctantly even were I to rise to their own ideal in their estimation instead of the reverse — as at present. Personally, I am indifferent, of course, to the issue. But for your sake and that of the Society I may make one more effort to clear the horizon of one of its "blackest" clouds. Let us then recapitulate the situation and see what your Western sages say of it. "K.H." — it is settled — is a plagiarist — if it be, after all a question of K.H. and not of the "two Occidental Humourists." In the former case, an alleged "adept" unable to evolve out of his "small oriental brain" any idea or words worthy of Plato turned to that deep tank of profound philosophy, the Banner of Light, and drew therefrom the sentences best fitted to express his rather entangled ideas, which had fallen from the inspired lips of Mr. Henry Kiddle! In the other alternative, the case becomes still more difficult to comprehend — save on the theory of the irresponsible mediumship of the pair of Western jokers. However startling and impracticable the theory, that two persons who have been clever enough to carry on undetected the fraud of personating for five years several adepts — not one of whom resembles the other; — two persons, of whom one, at any rate, is a fair master of English and can hardly be suspected of paucity of original ideas, should turn for a bit of plagiarism to a journal as the Banner, widely known and read by most English knowing Spiritualists; and above all, pilfer their borrowed sentences from the discourse of a conspicuous new convert, whose public utterances were at the very time being read and welcomed by every medium and Spiritualist; however improbable all this and much more, yet any alternative seems more welcome than simple truth. The decree is pronounced; "K.H.", whoever he is, has stolen passages from Mr. Kiddle. Not only this, but as shown by "a Perplexed Reader" — he has omitted inconvenient words and has so distorted the ideas he has borrowed as to divert them from their original intention to suit his own very different purpose."

Well, to this, if I had any desire to argue out the question I might answer that of what constitutes plagiarism, being a borrowing of ideas rather than of words and sentences, there was none in point of fact, and I stand acquitted by my own accusers. As Milton says — "such kind of borrowing as this, if it be not bettered by the borrower is accounted plagiary." Having distorted the ideas "appropriated", and, as now published — diverted them from their original intention to suit my own "very different purpose", on such grounds my literary larceny does not appear very formidable after all? And even, were there no other explanation offered, the most that could be said is, that owing to the poverty of words at the command of Mr. Sinnett's correspondent, and his ignorance of the art of English composition, he has adapted a few of innocent Mr. Kiddle's effusions, some of his excellently constructed sentences — to express his own contrary ideas. The above is the only line of argument I have given to, and permitted to be used in, an editorial by the "gifted editor" of the Theosophist, who has been off her head since the accusation. Verily woman — is a dreadful calamity in this fifth race! However, to you and some few, whom you have permission to select among your most trusted theosophists, taking first care to pledge them by word of honour to keep the little revelation to themselves, I will now explain the real facts of this "very puzzling" psychological mystery. The solution is so simple, and the circumstances so amusing, that I confess I laughed when my attention was drawn to it, some time since. Nay, it is calculated to make me smile even now, were it not the knowledge of the pain it gives to some true friends.

The letter in question was framed by me while on a journey and on horse-back. It was dictated mentally, in the direction of, and "precipitated" by, a young chela not yet expert at this branch of Psychic chemistry, and who had to transcribe it from the hardly visible imprint. Half of it, therefore, was omitted and the other half more or less distorted by the "artist." When asked by him at the time, whether I would look it over and correct I answered, imprudently, I confess — "anyhow will do, my boy — it is of no great importance if you skip a few words." I was physically very tired by a ride of 48 hours consecutively, and (physically again) — half asleep. Besides this I had very important business to attend to psychically and therefore little remained of me to devote to that letter. It was doomed, I suppose. When I woke I found it had already been sent on, and, as I was not then anticipating its publication, I never gave it from that time a thought. — Now, I had never evoked spiritual Mr. Kiddle's physiognomy, never had heard of his existence, was not aware of his name.

Having — owing to our correspondence and your Simla surroundings and friends — felt interested in the intellectual progress of the Phenomenalists which progress by the bye, I found rather moving backward in the case of American Spiritualists — I had directed my attention some two months previous to the great annual camping movement of the latter, in various directions, among others to Lake or Mount Pleasant. Some of the curious ideas and sentences representing the general hopes and aspirations of the American Spiritualists remained impressed on my memory, and I remembered only these ideas and detached sentences quite apart from the personalities of those who harboured or pronounced them. Hence, my entire ignorance of the lecturer whom I have innocently defrauded as it would appear, and who now raises the hue and cry. Yet, had I dictated my letter in the form it now appears in print, it would certainly look suspicious, and, however far from what is generally called plagiarism, yet in the absence of any inverted commas, it would lay a foundation for censure. But I did nothing of the kind, as the original impression now before me clearly shows. And before I proceed any further, I must give you some explanation of this mode of precipitation. The recent experiments of the Psychic Research Society will help you greatly to comprehend the rationale of this "mental telegraphy". You have observed in the Journal of that body how thought transference is cumulatively affected. The image of the geometrical or other figure which the active brain has had impressed upon it, is gradually imprinted upon the recipient brain of the passive subject — as the series of reproductions illustrated in the cuts show. Two factors are needed to produce a perfect and instantaneous mental telegraphy — close concentration in the operator, and complete receptive passivity in the "reader" — subject. Given a disturbance of either condition, and the result is proportionately imperfect. The "reader" does not see the image as in the "telegrapher's" brain, but as arising in his own. When the latter's thought wanders, the psychic current becomes broken, the communication disjointed and incoherent. In a case such as mine, the chela had, as it were, to pick up what he could from the current I was sending him and, as above remarked, patch the broken bits together as best he might. Do not you see the same thing in ordinary mesmerism — the maya impressed upon the subject's imagination by the operator becoming, now stronger, now feebler, as the latter keeps the intended illusive image more or less steadily before his own fancy? And how often the clairvoyants reproach the magnetiser for taking their thoughts off the subject under consideration? And the mesmeric healer will always bear you witness that if he permits himself to think of anything but the vital current he is pouring into his patient, he is at once compelled to either establish the current afresh or stop the treatment. So I, in this instance, having at the moment more vividly in my mind the psychic diagnosis of current Spiritualistic thought, of which the Lake Pleasant speech was one marked symptom, unwittingly transferred that reminiscence more vividly than my own remarks upon it and deductions therefrom. So to say, (the "despoiled victim's" — Mr. Kiddle's — utterances) came out as a "high light" and were more sharply photographed (first in the chela's brain and thence on the paper before him, a double process and one far more difficult than "thought reading" simply) while the rest, — my remarks thereupon and arguments — as I now find, are hardly visible and quite blurred on the original scraps before me. Put into a mesmeric subject's hand a sheet of blank paper, tell him it contains a certain chapter of some book that you have read, concentrate your thoughts upon the words, and see how — provided that he has himself not read the chapter, but only takes it from your memory — his reading will reflect your own more or less vivid successive recollections of your author's language. The same as to the precipitation by the chela of the transferred thought upon (or rather, into) paper: if the mental picture received be feeble his visible reproduction of it must correspond. And the more so in proportion to the closeness of attention he gives. He might — were he but merely a person of the true mediumistic temperament — be employed by his "Master" as a sort of psychic printing machine producing lithographed or psychographed impressions of what the operator had in mind; his nerve-system, the machine, his nerve-aura the printing fluid, the colours drawn from that exhaustless storehouse of pigments (as of everything else) the Akasa. But the medium and the chela are diametrically dissimilar and the latter acts consciously, except under exceptional circumstances during development not necessary to dwell upon here.

Well, as soon as I heard of the charge — the commotion among my defenders having reached me across the eternal snows — I ordered an investigation into the original scraps of the impression. At the first glance I saw that it was I, the only and most guilty party, — the poor little boy having done but that which he was told. Having now restored the characters and the lines — omitted and blurred beyond hope of recognition by anyone but their original evolver — to their primitive colour and places, I now find my letter reading quite differently as you will observe. Turning to the Occult World — the copy sent by you — to the page cited, (namely p. 149 in the first edition) I was struck, upon carefully reading it, by the great discrepancy between the sentences. A gap, so to say, of ideas between part 1 (from line 1 to line 25) and part 2 — the plagiarized portion so-called. There seems no connection at all between the two; for what has, indeed, the determination of our chiefs (to prove to a skeptical world that physical phenomena are as reducible to law as anything else) to do with Plato's ideas which "rule the world" or "practical Brotherhood of Humanity?" I fear that it is your personal friendship alone for the writer that has blinded you to the discrepancy and disconnection of ideas in this abortive "precipitation", even until now. Otherwise you could not have failed to perceive that something was wrong on that page; that there was a glaring defect in the connection. Moreover, I have to plead guilty to another sin: I have never so much as looked at my letters in print — until the day of the forced investigation. I had read only your own original matter, feeling it a loss of time to go over my hurried bits and scraps of thought. But now, I have to ask you to read the passages as they were originally dictated by me, and make the comparison with the Occult World before you.

I transcribe them with my own hand this once, whereas the letter in your possession was written by the chela. I ask you also to compare this hand-writing with that of some of the earlier letters you received from me. Bear in mind, also the "O.L.'s" emphatic denial at Simla that my first letter had ever been written by myself. I felt annoyed at her gossip and remarks then; it may serve a good purpose now. Alas! by no means are we all "gods"; especially when you remember that since the palmy days of the "impressions" and "precipitations" — "K.H." has been born into a new and higher light, and even that one, in no wise the most dazzling to be acquired on this earth. Verily the Light of Omniscience and infallible Prevision on this earth — that shines only for the highest CHOHAN alone is yet far away from me!

I enclose the copy verbatim from the restored fragments underlining in red the omitted sentences for easier comparison.

. . . Phenomenal elements previously unthought of, . . . will disclose at last the secrets of their mysterious workings. Plato was right to readmit every element of speculation which Socrates had discarded. The problems of universal being are not unattainable or worthless if attained. But the latter can be solved only by mastering those elements that are now looming on the horizons of the profane. Even the Spirit[ualis]ts. with their mistaken, grotesquely perverted views and notions are hazily realizing the new situation. They prophesy and their prophecies are not always without a point of truth in them, of intuitional pre-vision, so to say. Hear some of them reasserting the old, old axiom that "Ideas rule the world"; and as men's minds receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete the world (will) advance; mighty revolutions (will) spring from them; institutions (aye, and even creeds and powers, they may add) — WILL crumble before their onward march crushed by their own inherent force not the irresistible force of the "new ideas" offered by the Spiritualists! Yes; they are both right and wrong. It will be just as impossible to resist their influence when the time comes as to stay the progress of the tide, — to be sure. But what the Spiritualists fail to perceive, I see, and their "Spirits" to explain (the latter knowing no more than what they can find in the brains of the former) is, that all this will come gradually on; and that before it comes they as well as ourselves, have all a duty to perform, a task set before us: that of sweeping away as much as possible the dross left to us by our pious forefathers. New ideas have to be planted on clean places, for these ideas touch upon the most momentous subjects. It is not physical phenomena or the agency called Spiritualism but these universal ideas that we have precisely to study: the noumenon not the phenomenon, for, to comprehend the LATTER we have first to understand the FORMER. They do touch man's true position in the Universe, to be sure, — but only in relation to his FUTURE not PREVIOUS births. It is not physical phenomena however wonderful that can ever explain to man his origin let alone his ultimate destiny, or as one of them expresses it — the relation of the mortal to the immortal, of the temporary to the eternal, of the finite to the Infinite, etc., etc. They talk very glibly of what they regard as new ideas "larger, more general, grander, more comprehensive, and at the same time, they recognise instead of the eternal reign of immutable law, the universal reign of law as the expression of a divine will (!). Forgetful of their earlier beliefs, and that "it repented the Lord that he had made Man" these would-be philosophers and reformers would impress upon their hearers that the expression of the said divine Will "is unchanging and unchangeable — in regard to which there is only an ETERNAL NOW, while to mortals (uninitiated?) time is past or future as related to their finite existence on this material plane" — of which they know as little as of their spiritual spheres — a speck of dirt they have made the latter like our own earth, a future life that the true philosopher would rather avoid than court. But I dream with my eyes open. . . . At all events this is not any privileged teachings of their own. Most of these ideas are taken piece-meal from Plato and the Alexandrian Philosophers. It is what we all study and what many have solved. . . . . etc., etc.

This is the true copy of the original document as now restored — the "Rosetta stone" of the Kiddle incident. And, now, if you have understood my explanations about the process, as given in a few words further back, — you need not ask me how it came to pass that though somewhat disconnected, the sentences transcribed by the chela are mostly those that are now considered as plagiarized while the "missing links" are precisely those phrases that would have shown the passages were simply reminiscences if not quotations — the key-note around which came grouping my own reflections on that morning. In those days you were yet hesitating to see in Occultism, or the "O.L.'s" phenomena anything beyond a variety of Spiritualism and mediumship. For the first time in my life I had paid a serious attention to the utterances of the poetical "media", of the so-called "inspirational" oratory of the English and American lecturers, its quality and limitations. I was struck with all this brilliant but empty verbiage, and recognised for the first time fully its pernicious intellectual tendency. M. knew all about them — but since I had never had anything to do with any of them they interested me very little. It was their gross and unsavoury materialism hiding clumsily under its shadowy spiritual veil that attracted my thoughts at the time. While dictating the sentences quoted — a small portion of the many I had been pondering over for some days — it was those ideas that were thrown out en relief the most, leaving out my own parenthetical remarks to disappear in the precipitation. Had I looked over the impressed negative (?) there would have been one more weapon broken in the enemy's hand. Having neglected this duty my Karma evolved, what the mediums of the future and the Banner may call the "Kiddle triumph." The coming ages will divide Society after the manner of your modern Baconians and Shakesperians into two quarrelling camps of partisans, called respectively the "Kiddlites" and the "Koot-humites" who will fight over the important literary problem — "which one of the two plagiarized from the other"? I may be told that meanwhile the American and English spiritualists are gloating over the "Sinnett — K.H." Sedan? May their great orator and champion and they enjoy their triumph in peace and happiness, for no "adept" will ever cast his Himalayan shadow to obscure their innocent felicity. To you and a few other true friends I feel it my duty to give an explanation. To all others I leave the right to regard Mr. Kiddle — whoever he may be — as the inspirer of your humble servant. I have done, and you may now, in your turn, do what you please with these facts, except the making use of them in print or even speaking of them to the opponents, save in general terms. You must understand my reasons for this. One does not cease entirely, my dear friend to be a man nor lose one's dignity for being an adept. In the latter capacity, one, no doubt, remains in every case quite indifferent to the opinion of the outside world. The former always draws the line between ignorant surmise and — deliberate, personal insult. I cannot really be expected to take advantage of the first to be ever hiding the problematic "adept" behind the skirts of the two supposed "humourists"; and as man, I had too much experience lately in such above said insults with Messrs. S. Moses and C. C. Massey to give them any more opportunities to doubt the word of "K.H.", or see in him a vulgar defendant, a kind of guilty, tricky Babu before a panel of stern European jurymen and Judge.

I have no time to answer fully now your last, long business letter, but will shortly. Nor do I answer Mr. Ward — since it is useless. I highly approve of his coming to India, but disapprove as highly his fancy of bringing Mr. C. C. Massey here. The result of the latter would be to injure the cause among Englishmen. Distrust and prejudice are contagious. His presence in Calcutta would be as disastrous as Mr. Ward's presence and services to the cause I live for would be beneficent and fruitful of good effects. But I would insist upon his passing some time at the Headquarters before his taking up his proposed labour of love among the officials.

It is certainly most flattering to hear from him that Mrs. K. "had essayed her best to meet me in one or more of her trances;" and most sad to learn that "thou' she had invoked you (me) with all her spiritual intensity — she could get no response." It is too bad, really, that this "ladie fair" should have been put to the trouble of a fruitless ramble thro' space to find insignificant me. Evidently we move in different astral "circles," and hers is not the first instance of persons becoming skeptical as to the existence of things outside their own milieu. There are, you know, "Alps upon Alps" and from no two peaks does one get the same view! Nevertheless, it is, as I say flattering to find her evoking me by name, while preparing for myself and colleagues a disastrous Waterloo. To tell the truth, I was not aware of the former, tho' painfully conscious of the latter. Yet, had not even the dismal plot ever entered her spiritual mind, to be honest, I do not think I could have ever responded to her call. As an American Spiritualist would put it — there seems to be very little affinity between our two natures. She is too haughty and imperious, too self-complacent for me; besides which she is too young and "fascinating" for a poor mortal like myself. To speak seriously, Mme. Gebhard is quite another sort of person. Her's is a genuine, sterling nature; she is a born Occultist in her intuitions and I have made a few experiments with her — though it is rather M.'s duty than my own, and that, as you would say, it was not "originally contemplated" that I should be made to visit all the sibyls and sirens of the Theosophical establishment. My own preferences make me keep to the safer side of the two sexes in my occult dealings with them, though for certain reasons, even such visits — in my own natural skin — have to be extremely restricted and limited. I enclose a telegram from Mr. Brown to the "O.L." This day week I will be at Madras en route to Singapore and Ceylon, and Burmah. I will answer you through one of the chelas at the Headquarters.

The poor "O.L." in disgrace? Oh dear, no! We have nothing against the old woman with the exception that she is one. To save us from being insulted as she calls it, she is ready to give our real addresses and thus lead to a catastrophe. The real reason is that the hapless creature was too much compromised, too bitterly insulted owing to our existence. It all falls upon her and, therefore, it is but right that she should be screened in some things.

Yes; I would see you, President, if possible. Unless permitted by the Chohan (who forwards you His Blessing) to act on other lines of business — i.e. psychologically I renounce to trust for the rebirth of Phoenix to the good-will of my countrymen. The feeling between the two races is now intensely bitter and anything undertaken by the natives now, is sure to be opposed to the bitter end by the Europeans in India. Let us drop it for a while. I'll answer your questions in my next. If you find time to write for the Theosophist and can induce someone else, as Mr. Myers, for instance — you will oblige me personally. You are wrong in distrusting Subba Row's writings. He does not write willingly, to be sure, but he will never make a false statement. See his last in the November number. His statement concerning the errors of General Cunningham ought to be regarded as a whole revelation leading to a revolution in Indian archaeology. Ten to one — it will never receive the attention it deserves. Why? Simply because his statements contain sober facts, and that what you Europeans prefer generally is fiction so long the latter dovetails with, and answers preconceived theories.

K. H.

The more I think of it, the more reasonable appears to me your plan of a Society within the London Society. Try, for something may come out of it.

-- Mahatma Letter No. 117, by Theosophy Wiki

for comparison with the final precipitation (letter 12).

No — you do not "write too much." I am only sorry to have so little time at my disposal; hence — to find myself unable to answer you as speedily as I otherwise would. Of course I have to read every word you write: otherwise I would make a fine mess of it. And whether it be through my physical or spiritual eyes the time required for it is practically the same. As much may be said of my replies. For, whether I "precipitate" or dictate them or write my answers myself, the difference in time saved is very minute. I have to think it over, to photograph every word and sentence carefully in my brain before it can be repeated by "precipitation." As the fixing on chemically prepared surfaces of the images formed by the camera requires a previous arrangement within the focus of the object to be represented, for otherwise — as often found in bad photographs — the legs of the sitter might appear out of all proportion with the head, and so on, so we have to first arrange our sentences and impress every letter to appear on paper in our minds before it becomes fit to be read. For the present, it is all I can tell you. When science will have learned more about the mystery of the lithophyl (or lithobiblion) and how the impress of leaves comes originally to take place on stones, then will I be able to make you better understand the process. But you must know and remember one thing: we but follow and servilely copy nature in her works.

No; we need argue no longer upon the unfortunate question of a "Day with Mad. B." It is the more useless, since you say, you have no right to crush and grind your uncivil and often blackguardly opponents in the "Pioneer" — even in your own defence — your proprietors objecting to the mention of occultism altogether. As they are Christians it is no matter of great wonder. Let us be charitable and hope they will get their own reward: die and become angels of light and Truth — winged paupers of the Christians heaven.

Unless you join several, and organize somehow or other, I am afraid I will prove but of little help for you practically. My dear friend, I have my "proprietors" also.

For reasons best known to themselves they have set their foot upon the idea of teaching isolated individuals. I will correspond with you and give you proofs from time to time of my existence and presence. To teach or instruct you — is altogether another question. Hence to sit with your lady is more than useless. Your magnetisms are too similar and — you will get nothing.

I will translate my Essay and send it to you as soon as I can. Your idea of corresponding with your friends and fellows is the next best thing to do. But do not fail to write to Lord Lindsay.

I am a little "too hard" upon Hume, you say. Am I? His is a highly intellectual and, I confess, a spiritual nature too. Yet, he is every bit of him "Sir Oracle." It may be that it is the very exuberance of that great intellect which seeks issue through every chink, and never loses an opportunity to relieve the fulness of the brain, which overflows with thought. Finding in his quiet daily life too meagre a field with but "Moggy" and Davison to sow upon — his intellect bursts the dam and pounces upon every imagined event, every possible though improbable fact his imagination can suggest, to interpret it in his own conjectural way. Nor do I wonder that such a skilled workman in intellectual mosaic as he, finding suddenly, the most fertile of quarries, the most precious of colour-stores in this idea of our Fraternity and the T.S. — should pick out ingredients from it to daub our faces with. Placing us before a mirror which reflects us as he finds us in his own fertile imagination he says: "Now, you mouldy relics of a mouldy Past, look at yourselves how you really are!" A very, very excellent man our friend Mr. Hume, but utterly unfit for moulding into an adept.

As little, and far less than yourself does he seem to realize our real object in the formation of an A.I. Branch. The truths and mysteries of occultism constitute, indeed, a body of the highest spiritual importance, at once profound and practical for the world at large. Yet, it is not as a mere addition to the tangled mass of theory or speculation in the world of science that they are being given to you, but for their practical bearing on the interests of mankind. The terms "unscientific," "impossible," "hallucination," "impostor," have hitherto been used in a very loose, careless way, as implying in the occult phenomena something either mysterious and abnormal, or a premeditated imposture. And this is why our chiefs have determined to shed upon a few recipient minds more light upon the subject, and to prove to them that such manifestations are as reducible to law as the simplest phenomena of the physical universe. The wiseacres say: "The age of miracles is past," but we answer, "it never existed!" While not unparalleled, or without their counterpart in universal history, these phenomena must and WILL come with an overpowering influence upon the world of sceptics and bigots. They have to prove both destructive and constructive — destructive in the pernicious errors of the past, in the old creeds and superstitions which suffocate in their poisonous embrace like the Mexican weed nigh all mankind; but constructive of new institutions of a genuine, practical Brotherhood of Humanity where all will become co-workers of nature, will work for the good of mankind with and through the higher planetary Spirits — the only "Spirits" we believe in. Phenomenal elements, previously unthought of — undreamt of — will soon begin manifesting themselves day by day with constantly augmented force, and disclose at last the secrets of their mysterious workings. Plato was right: ideas rule the world; and, as men's minds will receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world will advance: mighty revolutions will spring from them; creeds and even powers will crumble before their onward march crushed by the irresistible force. It will be just as impossible to resist their influx, when the time comes, as to stay the progress of the tide. But all this will come gradually on, and before it comes we have a duty set before us; that of sweeping away as much as possible the dross left to us by our pious forefathers. New ideas have to be planted on clean places, for these ideas touch upon the most momentous subjects. It is not physical phenomena but these universal ideas that we study, as to comprehend the former, we have to first understand the latter.

They touch man's true position in the universe, in relation to his previous and future births; his origin and ultimate destiny; the relation of the mortal to the immortal; of the temporary to the eternal; of the finite to the infinite; ideas larger, grander, more comprehensive, recognising the universal reign of Immutable Law, unchanging and unchangeable in regard to which there is only an ETERNAL Now, while to uninitiated mortals time is past or future as related to their finite existence on this material speck of dirt. This is what we study and what many have solved.

And now it is your province to decide which will you have: the highest philosophy or simple exhibitions of occult powers. Of course this is by far not the last word between us and — you will have time to think it over. The Chiefs want a "Brotherhood of Humanity," a real Universal Fraternity started; an institution which would make itself known throughout the world and arrest the attention of the highest minds. I will send you my Essay. Will you be my co-worker and patiently wait for minor phenomena? I think I foresee the answer. At all events the holy lamp of spiritual light burning in you (however dimly) there is hope for you, and — for me, also. Yes; put yourself in search after natives if there are no English people to be had. But think you, the spirit and power of persecution gone from this enlightened age? Time will prove. Meanwhile, being human I have to rest. I took no sleep for over 60 hours.

Ever yours truly,


-- Mahatma Letter No. 12, by Theosophy Wiki

Online resources


• Kiddle Incident at Theosopedia
• Have we to Lower the Flag of Truce? by H. P. Blavatsky
• "Himalayan and Other Mahatmas" by Rama Sourindro Gargya Deva
• Letter to the Editor: Esoteric Buddhism by Henry Kiddle
• Explanation of the "Kiddle Incident" in the Fourth Edition of The "Occult World" by C.C. Massey

Additional resources

• "The Kiddle Incident". Original articles and letters published by Blavatsky Study Center
Other resources
• Neff, Mary K. The "Brothers" of Madame Blavatsky. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1932. See Chapter X, pages 97-116.


1. Henry Kiddle at Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography.
2. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 236.
3. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 117 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 397.
4. The Theosophist, V:3(51), December, 1883, pp. 69-70.
5. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 117 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 398.
6. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 117 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 400.
7. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 117 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 398.
8. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 117 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 399.
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Accessed: 9/7/20

A yajna being performed.

Yajna or Yagya (Sanskrit: यज्ञ) (IAST: yajñá) literally means "sacrifice, devotion, worship, offering", and refers in Hinduism to any ritual done in front of a sacred fire, often with mantras.[1] Yajna has been a Vedic tradition, described in a layer of Vedic literature called Brahmanas, as well as Yajurveda.[2] The tradition has evolved from offering oblations and libations into sacred fire to symbolic offerings in the presence of sacred fire (Agni).[1]

Yajna rituals-related texts have been called the Karma-kanda (ritual works) portion of the Vedic literature, in contrast to Jnana-kanda (knowledge) portion contained in the Vedic Upanishads. The proper completion of Yajna-like rituals was the focus of Mimansa school of Hindu philosophy.[3] Yajna have continued to play a central role in a Hindu's rites of passage, such as weddings.[4] Modern major Hindu temple ceremonies, Hindu community celebrations, or monastic initiations may also include Vedic Yajna rites, or alternatively be based on Agamic rituals.


The word yajna (Sanskrit: यज्ञ; yajña) has its root in the Sanskrit yaj meaning "to worship, adore, honor, revere" and appears in the early Vedic literature, composed in 2nd millennium BCE.[5][6] In Rigveda, Yajurveda (itself a derivative of this root) and others, it means "worship, devotion to anything, prayer and praise, an act of worship or devotion, a form of offering or oblation, and sacrifice".[5] In post-Vedic literature, the term meant any form of rite, ceremony or devotion with an actual or symbolic offering or effort.[5]

A yajna included major ceremonial devotions, with or without a sacred fire, sometimes with feasts and community events. It has, states Nigal, a threefold meaning of worship of the deities (devapujana), unity (sangatikarana) and charity (dána).[7]

The Sanskrit word is related to the Avestan term yasna of Zoroastrianism. Unlike the Vedic yajna, however, the Yasna is the name of a specific religious service, not a class of rituals, and they have "to do with water rather than fire".[8][9] The Sanskrit word is further related to Ancient Greek ἅζομαι (házomai), "to revere", deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root *Hyeh₂ǵ- ("to worship").


Yajna has been a part of an individual or social ritual since the Vedic times. When the ritual fire – the divine Agni, the god of fire and the messenger of gods – was deployed in a Yajna, mantras were chanted.[6] The hymns and songs sung and oblations offered into the fire were a form of hospitality towards the Vedic gods. The offerings were believed to be carried by Agni to the gods, the gods in return were expected to grant boons and benedictions, and thus the ritual served as a means of spiritual exchange between gods and human beings.[6][10] The Vedangas, or auxiliary sciences attached to the Vedic literature, define Yajna as follows,

Definition of a Vedic sacrifice

Yajña, sacrifice, is an act by which we surrender something for the sake of the gods. Such an act must rest on a sacred authority (āgama), and serve for man's salvation (śreyortha). The nature of the gift is of less importance. It may be cake (puroḍāśa), pulse (karu), mixed milk (sāṃnāyya), an animal (paśu), the juice of soma-plant (soma), etc; nay, the smallest offerings of butter, flour, and milk may serve for the purpose of a sacrifice.

— Apastamba Yajna Paribhasa-sutras 1.1, Translator: M Dhavamony[11][12]

In the Upanishadic times, or after 500 BCE, states Sikora, the meaning of the term Yajna evolved from "ritual sacrifice" performed around fires by priests, to any "personal attitude and action or knowledge" that required devotion and dedication.[6] The oldest Vedic Upanishads, such as the Chandogya Upanishad (~700 BCE) in Chapter 8, for example state,[13]

अथ यद्यज्ञ इत्याचक्षते ब्रह्मचर्यमेव
तद्ब्रह्मचर्येण ह्येव यो ज्ञाता तं
विन्दतेऽथ यदिष्टमित्याचक्षते ब्रह्मचर्यमेव
तद्ब्रह्मचर्येण ह्येवेष्ट्वात्मानमनुविन्दते ॥ १ ॥

What is commonly called Yajna is really the chaste life of the student of sacred knowledge,
for only through the chaste life of a student does he who is a knower find that,
What is commonly called Istam (sacrificial offering) is really the chaste life of the student of sacred knowledge,
for only having searched with chaste life of a student does one find Atman (Soul, Self) || 1 ||

— Chandogya Upanishad 8.5.1 [13][14]

The later Vedic Upanishads expand the idea further by suggesting that Yoga is a form of Yajna (devotion, sacrifice).[14] The Shvetashvatara Upanishad in verse 1.5.14, for example, uses the analogy of Yajna materials to explain the means to see one's soul and God, with inner rituals and without external rituals.[14][15] It states, "by making one's own body as the lower friction sticks, the syllable Om as the upper friction sticks, then practicing the friction of meditation, one may see the Deva who is hidden, as it were".[15]


Vedic (Shrauta) yajnas are typically performed by four priests of the Vedic priesthood: the hota, the adhvaryu, the udgata and the Brahma.[16] The functions associated with the priests were:[17]

• The Hota recites invocations and litanies drawn from the Rigveda. He use three Rig verses, the introductory verse, the accompanying verse and benediction as the third.[18]
• The Adhvaryu is the priest's assistant and is in charge of the physical details of the ritual like measuring the ground, building the altar explained in the Yajurveda. The adhvaryu offers oblations.[18]
• The Udgata is the chanter of hymns set to melodies and music (sāman) drawn from the Samaveda. The udgatar, like the hota, chants the introductory, accompanying and benediction hymns.[18]
• The Brahma is the superintendent of the entire performance, and is responsible for correcting mistakes by means of supplementary verses taken from the Atharva Veda

Offerings and style

There were usually one, or three, fires lit in the center of the offering ground. Oblations are offered into the fire. Among the ingredients offered as oblations in the yajna are ghee, milk, grains, cakes and soma.[19] The duration of a yajna depends on its type, some last only a few minutes whereas, others are performed over a period of hours, days or even months. Some yajnas were performed privately, while others were community events.[19][20] In other cases, yajnas were symbolic, such as in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad hymn 3.1.6, where "the mind is the Brahmin of sacrifice" and the goal of sacrifice was complete release and liberation (moksha).[18]

The benedictions proffered ranged from long life, gaining friends, health and heaven, more prosperity, to better crops.[21][22] For example,

May my rice plants and my barley, and my beans and my sesame,
and my kidney-beans and my vetches, and my pearl millet and my proso millet,
and my sorghum and my wild rice, and my wheat and my lentils,
prosper by sacrifice (Yajna).

— White Yajurveda 18.12, [23]

Yajnas, where milk products, fruits, flowers, cloth and money are offered, are called homa or havan.[24] A typical Hindu marriage involves a Yajna, where Agni is taken to be the witness of the marriage.[25]


A Yajna Vedi (square altar) with Samagri (offerings)

a Yajna in progress

The Vedic yajna ritual is performed in modern era in a square altar called Vedi (Bedi in Nepal), set in a mandapa or mandala or kundam, wherein wood is placed along with oily seeds and other combustion aids.[26] However, in ancient times, the square principle was incorporated into grids to build large complex shapes for community events.[27] Thus a rectangle, trapezia, rhomboids or "large falcon bird" altars would be built from joining squares.[27][28] The geometric ratios of these Vedi altar, with mathematical precision and geometric theorems, are described in Shulba Sutras, one of the precursors to the development of mathematics in ancient India.[27] The offerings are called Samagri (or Yajāka, Istam). The proper methods for the rites are part of Yajurveda, but also found in Riddle Hymns (hymns of questions, followed by answers) in various Brahmanas.[26] When multiple priests are involved, they take turns as in a dramatic play, where not only are praises to gods recited or sung, but the dialogues are part of a dramatic representation and discussion of spiritual themes.[26]

The Vedic sacrifice (yajna) is presented as a kind of drama, with its actors, its dialogues, its portion to be set to music, its interludes, and its climaxes.

— Louis Renou, Vedic India[26]

A miniature illustration of a falcon bird Athirathram yajna altar built using the square principle.

The Brahmodya Riddle hymns, for example, in Shatapatha Brahmana's chapter 13.2.6, is a yajna dialogue between a Hotri priest and a Brahmin priest, which would be played out during the yajna ritual before the attending audience.

Who is that is born again?
It is the moon that is born again.
And what is the great vessel?
The great vessel, doubtless, is this world.
Who was the smooth one?
The smooth one, doubtless, was the beauty (Sri, Lakshmi).
What is the remedy for cold?
The remedy for cold, doubtless, is fire.

— Shatapatha Brahmana,[29]
During weddings

A Vedic Yajna plays a central role in Hindu weddings.

Agni and yajna play a central role in Hindu weddings. Various mutual promises between the bride and groom are made in front of the fire, and the marriage is completed by actual or symbolic walk around the fire. The wedding ritual of Panigrahana, for example, is the 'holding the hand' ritual[30] as a symbol of their impending marital union, and the groom announcing his acceptance of responsibility to four deities: Bhaga signifying wealth, Aryama signifying heavens/milky way, Savita signifying radiance/new beginning, and Purandhi signifying wisdom. The groom faces west, while the bride sits in front of him with her face to the east, he holds her hand while the Rig vedic mantra is recited in the presence of fire.[4][31]

The Saptapadi (Sanskrit for seven steps/feet), is the most important ritual in Hindu weddings, and represents the legal part of Hindu marriage.[32] The couple getting married walk around the Holy Fire (Agni), and the yajna fire is considered a witness to the vows they make to each other.[33] In some regions, a piece of clothing or sashes worn by the bride and groom are tied together for this ceremony. Each circuit around the fire is led by either the bride or the groom, varying by community and region. Usually, the bride leads the groom in the first circuit. The first six circuits are led by the bride, and the final one by the groom.[34] With each circuit, the couple makes a specific vow to establish some aspect of a happy relationship and household for each other. The fire altar or the Yajna Kunda is square.


Different types of yajna.

Kalpa Sutras lists the following yajna types:[35]

• The Pakayajnas — They are the aṣtaka, sthālipāka, parvana, srāvaṇi, āgrahayani, caitri and āsvīyuji. These yajnas involve consecrating cooked items.
• Soma Yajnas — Agnistoma, atyagnistoma, uktya, shodasi, vājapeya, atirātra and aptoryama are the Soma Yajnas.
• Havir Yajnas — They are the agniyādhāna, agni hotra, Darśa-Pūrṇamāsa, āgrayana, cāturmāsya, niruudha paśu bandha,[36] sautrāmaṇi. These involve offering havis or oblations.
• The five panca mahā Yajñās, which are mentioned below.
• Vedavratas, which are four in number, done during Vedic education.
• The remaining sixteen Yajnas, which are one-time samskāras or "rituals with mantras", are Sanskara (rite of passage): garbhādhānā, pumsavana, sīmanta, jātakarma, nāmakaraṇa, annaprāśana, chudākarma/caula, niskramana, karnavedha, vidyaarambha, upanayana, keshanta, snātaka and vivāha, nisheka, antyeshti. These are specified by the Gṛhya Sūtrās.

The changing nature of Vedic offerings

(clockwise from left top corner) Rishi, Pitri, Bhuta,[37] Manushya and (centre) Deva yajnas.

The nature of Vedic sacrifice and rituals evolved over time, with major changes during the 1st millennium BCE, changes that influenced concepts later adopted by other traditions such as Buddhism.[38] Early Vedic period sacrifices involved animal sacrifice, but the rituals were progressively reinterpreted over time, substituting the offerings and making it non-violent or symbolic, with the superiority of knowledge and celebration of sound of mantra replacing the physical offerings. Ultimately, the external rituals were reformulated and replaced with "internal oblations performed within the human body".[38] These ideas of substitution, evolution from external actions (karma-kanda) to internal knowledge (jñana-kanda), were highlighted in many rituals-related sutras, as well as specialized texts such as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (~800 BCE), Chandogya Upanishad, Kaushitaki Upanishad and Pranagnihotra Upanishad.[39][40]

The Vedic text Satapatha Brahmana defines a sacrifice as an act of abandonment of something one holds of value, such as oblations offered to god and dakshina (fees, gifts) offered during the yajna.[38] For gifts and fees, the text recommends giving cows, clothing, horses or gold.[38] The oblations recommended are cow milk, ghee (clarified butter), seeds, grains, flowers, water and food cakes (rice cake, for example). Similar recommendations are repeated in other texts, such as in the Taittiriya Shakha 2.10 of the Krishna Yajurveda).[37]

Tadeusz Skorupski states that these sacrifices were a part of ritual way of life, and considered to have inherent efficacy, where doing these sacrifices yielded repayment and results without the priests or gods getting involved.[38] These Vedic ideas, adds Skorupski, influenced "the formulation of Buddhist theory of generosity".[38] Buddhist ideas went further, criticizing "the Brahmins for their decadence and failure to live in conformity with the Brahmanic legacy of the ancient Brahmins", who claimed the Vedic ancients "lived in self restraint, were ascetics, had no cattle, no gold, and no wealth".[41] The Buddha sought return to more ancient values, states Tadeusz Skorupski, where the Vedic sages "had study as their grain and wealth, guarded the holy life as their treasure, praised morality, austerity and nonviolence; they performed sacrifices consisting of rice, barley and oil, but they did not kill the cows".[41]

The five great Vedic sacrifices (Mahasattra)

Name of sacrifice / What is sacrificed?[38] / To whom?[38] / Frequency

Bhuta-yajna / Food cakes / Sacrifice to living beings
(animals, birds, etc.) / Daily[38][42]
Manushya-yajna / Alms and water
(service, charity) / Sacrifice to fellow human beings / Daily[38][42]
Pitr-yajna / Libations and water / Sacrifice to fathers / Daily[38][42]
Deva-yajna / Firewood / Sacrifice to gods / Daily[38][42]
Brahma-yajna / Words, read the Vedas / Sacrifice to Brahman
(ultimate reality) / When possible[38][42]

See also

• Ashvamedha
• Historical Vedic religion
• Homa (ritual)
• Śrauta
• Yajurveda
• Vedi (altar)
• Yajamana


1. SG Nigal (1986), Axiological Approach to the Vedas, Northern Book, ISBN 978-8185119182, pages 80-81
2. Laurie Patton (2005), The Hindu World (Editors: Sushil Mittal, Gene Thursby), Routledge, ISBN 978-0415772273, pages 38-39
3. Randall Collins (1998), The Sociology of Philosophies, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0674001879, page 248
4. Hindu Saṁskāras: Socio-religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments, Rajbali Pandey (1969), see Chapter VIII, ISBN 978-8120803961, pages 153-233
5. Monier Monier-Williams, Sanskrit English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-8120831056 (Reprinted in 2011), pages 839-840
6. Jack Sikora (2002), Religions of India, iUniverse, ISBN 978-0595247127, page 86
7. Nigal, p. 81.
8. Drower, 1944:78
9. Boyce, 1975:147-191
10. "Give and take spirit". The Hindu. 2019-05-31. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2019-06-01.
11. M Dhavamony (1974). Hindu Worship: Sacrifices and Sacraments. Studia Missionalia. 23. Gregorian Press, Universita Gregoriana, Roma. pp. 107–108.
12. Jan Gonda (1980). Handbuch Der Orientalistik: Indien. Zweite Abteilung. BRILL Academic. pp. 345–346. ISBN 978-90-04-06210-8.
13. Robert Hume, Chandogya Upanishad 8.5.1, Oxford University Press, page 266
14. Jack Sikora (2002), Religions of India, iUniverse, ISBN 978-0595247127, page 87
15. Robert Hume, Shvetashvatara Upanishad 1.5.14, Oxford University Press, page 396
16. Mahendra Kulasrestha (2007), The Golden Book of Upanishads, Lotus, ISBN 978-8183820127, page 21
17. Nigal, p. 79.
18. Robert Hume, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.1, Oxford University Press, pages 107- 109
19. Ralph Griffith, The texts of the white Yajurveda EJ Lazarus, page i-xvi, 87-171, 205-234
20. Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, page 124
21. Michael Witzel (2003), "Vedas and Upaniṣads", in The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Editor: Gavin Flood), Blackwell, ISBN 0-631215352, pages 76-77
22. Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, pages 127-128
23. Ralph Griffith, The texts of the white Yajurveda EJ Lazarus, page 163
24. "What is Havan? - Definition from Yogapedia". Retrieved 2020-08-22.
25. Hazen, Walter. Inside Hinduism. Lorenz Educational Press. ISBN 9780787705862. P. 34.
26. ML Varadpande, History of Indian Theatre, Volume 1, Abhinav, ISBN , pages 45-47
27. Kim Plofker (2009), Mathematics in India, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691120676, pages 16-27
28. Ralph Griffith, The texts of the white Yajurveda EJ Lazarus, pages 87-171
29. ML Varadpande, History of Indian Theatre, Volume 1, Abhinav, ISBN , page 48
30. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M, James G. Lochtefeld (2001), ISBN 978-0823931798, Page 427
31. P.H. Prabhu (2011), Hindu Social Organization, ISBN 978-8171542062, see pages 164-165
32. BBC News article on Hinduism & Weddings, Nawal Prinja (August 24, 2009)
33. Shivendra Kumar Sinha (2008), Basics of Hinduism, Unicorn Books, ISBN 978-81-7806-155-9, The two rake the holy vow in the presence of Agni ... In the first four rounds, the bride leads and the groom follows, and in the final three, the groom leads and the bride follows. While walking around the fire, the bride places her right palm on the groom's right palm and the bride's brother pours some unhusked rice or barley into their hands and they offer it to the fire ...
34. Office of the Registrar General, Government of India (1962), Census of India, 1961, v. 20, pt. 6, no. 2, Manager of Publications, Government of India, The bride leads in all the first six pheras but follows the bridegroom on the seventh
35. Prasoon, Ch.2, Vedang, Kalp.
36. "Is Sacrificial Killing Justified? from the Chapter "The Vedas", in Hindu Dharma". Retrieved 2019-03-09.
37. Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 79.
38. Tadeusz Skorupski (2015). Michael Witzel (ed.). Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change Across the Longue Durée. Oxford University Press. pp. 78–81. ISBN 978-0-19-935158-9.
39. Deussen, Paul (1997). Sixty Upanishads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 645–651. ISBN 978-81-208-1467-7.
40. Tadeusz Skorupski (2015). Michael Witzel (ed.). Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change Across the Longue Durée. Oxford University Press. pp. 79–84. ISBN 978-0-19-935158-9.
41. Tadeusz Skorupski (2015). Michael Witzel (ed.). Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change Across the Longue Durée. Oxford University Press. pp. 86–87. ISBN 978-0-19-935158-9.
42. Klaus K. Klostermaier (2007). A Survey of Hinduism: Third Edition. State University of New York Press. pp. 125–127. ISBN 978-0-7914-7082-4.


• Agrawala, Vasudeva Sharana. India as known to Pāṇini: a study of the cultural material in the Ashṭādhyāyī. Prithvi Prakashan, 1963.
• Dallapiccola Anna. Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend.......ISBN 0-500-51088-1.
• Gyanshruti; Srividyananda. Yajna A Comprehensive Survey. Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India; 1st edition (December 1, 2006). ISBN 8186336478.
• Krishnananda (Swami). A Short History of Religious and Philosophic Thought in India. Divine Life Society, Rishikesh.
• Nigal, S.G. Axiological Approach to the Vedas. Northern Book Centre, 1986. ISBN 81-85119-18-X.
• Prasoon, (Prof.) Shrikant. Indian Scriptures. Pustak Mahal (August 11, 2010). ISBN 978-81-223-1007-8.
• Vedananda (Swami). Aum Hindutvam: (daily Religious Rites of the Hindus). Motilal Banarsidass, 1993. ISBN 81-20810-81-3.
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Indra, King of the Gods, God of Lightning, Thunder, Rains and River flows, Ruler of Heaven
Indra, Parjanya
Painting of Indra on his elephant mount, Airavata.
Devanagari इन्द्र or इंद्र
Sanskrit transliteration Īndra
Affiliation: Deva (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism)
Abode: Amarāvati, the capital of Indraloka (Indra's world) in Svarga,[1] Trāyastriṃśa (Heaven of the 33), Mount Meru
Weapon: Vajra (Thunderbolt), Astras, Vasavi Shakthi
Symbols: Vajra, Indra's net
Mount: Airavata (White elephant), Uchchaihshravas (White horse)
Texts: Vedas, Puranas, Jātakas, Epics
Personal information
Parents: Kashyapa and Aditi
Consort: Shachi
Children: Jayanta, Jayanti, Devasena, Vali and Arjuna
Greek equivalent: Zeus
Roman equivalent: Jupiter
Norse equivalent: Thor
Slavic equivalent: Perun

Indra (/ˈɪndrə/; Sanskrit: इन्द्र) is an ancient Vedic deity in Hinduism,[2] a guardian deity (Indā[3] in Pali) in Buddhism,[4] and the king of the highest heaven called Saudharmakalpa in Jainism.[5] He is also an important deity worshipped in Kalasha religion, indicating his prominence in ancient Hinduism.[6][7][8][9][10] [11] [12] Indra's mythology and powers are similar to other Indo-European deities such as Jupiter, Perun, Perkūnas, Zalmoxis, Taranis, Zeus, and Thor, suggesting a common orgin in Proto-Indo-European mythology.[2][13][14]

In the Vedas, Indra is the king of Svarga (Heaven) along with his capital city Amaravati and the Devas. He is the deity of the heavens, lightning, thunder, storms, rains, river flows, and war.[15][16][17] Indra is the most referred to deity in the Rigveda.[18] He is celebrated for his powers, and the one who kills the great symbolic evil (malevolent type of Asura) named Vritra who obstructs human prosperity and happiness. Indra destroys Vritra and his "deceiving forces", and thereby brings rains and the sunshine as the friend of mankind.[2][19] His importance diminishes in the post-Vedic Indian literature where he is depicted as a powerful hero but one who constantly gets into trouble with his drunken, hedonistic and adulterous ways, and the god who disturbs Hindu monks as they meditate because he fears self-realized human beings may become more powerful than him.[2][20]

Indra rules over the much-sought Devas realm of rebirth within the Samsara doctrine of Buddhist traditions.[21] However, like the Hindu texts, Indra also is a subject of ridicule and reduced to a figurehead status in Buddhist texts,[22] shown as a god that suffers rebirth and redeath.[21] In the Jainism traditions, unlike Buddhism and Hinduism, Indra is not the king of Gods- the enlightened leaders (called Tirthankaras or Jinas), but King of superhumans residing in Swarga-Loka, and very much a part of Jain rebirth cosmology.[23] He is also the one who appears with his wife Indrani to celebrate the auspicious moments in the life of a Jain Tirthankara, an iconography that suggests the king and queen of superhumans residing in Swarga (heaven) reverentially marking the spiritual journey of a Jina.[24][25]

Indra's iconography shows him wielding a lightning thunderbolt weapon known as Vajra, riding on a white elephant known as Airavata.[20][26] In Buddhist iconography the elephant sometimes features three heads, while Jaina icons sometimes show the elephant with five heads. Sometimes a single elephant is shown with four symbolic tusks.[20] Indra's heavenly home is on or near Mount Meru (also called Sumeru).[21][27]

Etymology and nomenclature

Indra on his elephant, guarding the entrance of the 1st century BCE Buddhist Cave 19 at Bhaja Caves (Maharashtra).[28]

Buddhist relief from Loriyan Tangai, showing Indra paying homage to the Buddha at the Indrasala Cave, 2nd century CE, Gandhara

The etymological roots of Indra are unclear, and it has been a contested topic among scholars since the 19th-century, one with many proposals.[29][30] The significant proposals have been:

• root ind-u, or "rain drop", based on the Vedic mythology that he conquered rain and brought it down to earth.[20][29]
• root ind, or "equipped with great power". This was proposed by Vopadeva.[20]
• root idh or "kindle", and ina or "strong".[31][32]
• root indha, or "igniter", for his ability to bring light and power (indriya) that ignites the vital forces of life (prana). This is based on Shatapatha Brahmana.[33]
• root idam-dra, or "It seeing" which is a reference to the one who first perceived the self-sufficient metaphysical Brahman. This is based on Aitareya Upanishad.[20]
• roots in ancient Indo-European, Indo-Aryan deities.[34] For example, states John Colarusso, as a reflex of proto-Indo-European *h₂nḗr-, Greek anēr, Sabine nerō, Avestan nar-, Umbrian nerus, Old Irish nert, Ossetic nart, and others which all refer to "most manly" or "hero".[34]

Colonial era scholarship proposed that Indra shares etymological roots with Zend Andra, Old High German Antra, or Jedru of Old Slavonic, but Max Muller critiqued these proposals as untenable.[29][35] Later scholarship has linked Vedic Indra to Aynar (the Great One) of Circassian, Abaza and Ubykh mythology, and Innara of Hittite mythology.[34][36] Colarusso suggests a Pontic[note 1] origin and that both the phonology and the context of Indra in Indian religions is best explained from Indo-Aryan roots and a Circassian etymology (i.e. *inra).[34]

Other languages

For other languages, he is also known as

• Bengali: ইন্দ্র (Indro)
• Burmese: သိကြားမင်း (pronounced [ðadʑá mɪ́ɰ̃])
• Chinese: 帝释天 (Dìshìtiān)
• Indonesian/Malay: (Indera)
• Japanese: 帝釈天 (Taishakuten).[37]
• Javanese: ꦧꦛꦫꦲꦶꦤ꧀ꦢꦿ (Bathara Indra)
• Kannada: ಇಂದ್ರ (Indra)
• Khmer: ព្រះឥន្ទ្រ (ព្រះឥន្ទ) (pronounced [preah ʔən])
• Lao: ພະອິນ (Pha In) or ພະຍາອິນ (Pha Nya In)
• Malayalam: ഇന്ദ്രൻ (Indran)
• Mon: ဣန် (In)
• Odia:ଇନ୍ଦ୍ର(Indraw)
• Tai Lue: ᦀᦲᧃ (In) or ᦘᦍᦱᦀᦲᧃ (Pha Ya In)
• Tamil: இந்திரன் (Inthiran)
• Telugu: ఇంద్రుడు (Indrudu or Indra)
• Thai: พระอินทร์ (Phra In)

Indra has many epithets in the Indian religions, notably Śakra (शक्र, powerful one), Vṛṣan (वृषन्, mighty), Vṛtrahan (वृत्रहन्, slayer of Vṛtra), Meghavāhana (मेघवाहन, he whose vehicle is cloud), Devarāja (देवराज, king of deities), Devendra (देवेन्द्र, the lord of deities),[38] Surendra (सुरेन्द्र, chief of deities), Svargapati (स्वर्गपति, the lord of heaven), Vajrapāṇī (वज्रपाणि, he who has thunderbolt (Vajra) in his hand) and Vāsava (वासव, lord of Vasus).


Banteay Srei temple's pediment carvings depict Indra mounts on Airavata, Cambodia.

Indra is of ancient but unclear origin. Aspects of Indra as a deity are cognate to other Indo-European gods; they are thunder gods such as Thor, Perun, and Zeus who share parts of his heroic mythologies, act as king of gods, and all are linked to "rain and thunder".[39] The similarities between Indra of Vedic mythologies and of Thor of Nordic and Germanic mythologies are significant, states Max Muller. Both Indra and Thor are storm gods, with powers over lightning and thunder, both carry a hammer or an equivalent, for both the weapon returns to their hand after they hurl it, both are associated with bulls in the earliest layer of respective texts, both use thunder as a battle-cry, both are protectors of mankind, both are described with legends about "milking the cloud-cows", both are benevolent giants, gods of strength, of life, of marriage and the healing gods.[40]

Michael Janda suggests that Indra has origins in the Indo-European *trigw-welumos [or rather *trigw-t-welumos] "smasher of the enclosure" (of Vritra, Vala) and diye-snūtyos "impeller of streams" (the liberated rivers, corresponding to Vedic apam ajas "agitator of the waters").[41] Brave and heroic Innara or Inra, which sounds like Indra, is mentioned among the gods of the Mitanni, a Hurrian-speaking people of Hittite region.[42]

Indra as a deity had a presence in northeastern Asia minor, as evidenced by the inscriptions on the Boghaz-köi clay tablets dated to about 1400 BCE. This tablet mentions a treaty, but its significance is in four names it includes reverentially as Mi-it-ra, U-ru-w-na, In-da-ra and Na-sa-at-ti-ia. These are respectively, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatya-Asvin of the Vedic pantheon as revered deities, and these are also found in Avestan pantheon but with Indra and Naonhaitya as demons. This at least suggests that Indra and his fellow deities were in vogue in South Asia and Asia minor by about mid 2nd-millennium BCE.[31][43]

Indra is praised as the highest god in 250 hymns of the Rigveda – a Hindu scripture dated to have been composed sometime between 1700 and 1100 BCE. He is co-praised as the supreme in another 50 hymns, thus making him one of the most celebrated Vedic deities.[31] He is also mentioned in ancient Indo-Iranian literature, but with a major inconsistency when contrasted with the Vedas. In the Vedic literature, Indra is a heroic god. In the Avestan (ancient, pre-Islamic Iranian) texts such as Vd. 10.9, Dk. 9.3 and Gbd 27.6-34.27, Indra – or accurately Andra[44] – is a gigantic demon who opposes truth.[34][note 2] In the Vedic texts, Indra kills the archenemy and demon Vritra who threatens mankind. In the Avestan texts, Vritra is not found.[44]

Indra is called vr̥tragʰná- (literally, "slayer of obstacles") in the Vedas, which corresponds to Verethragna of the Zoroastrian noun verethragna-. According to David Anthony, the Old Indic religion probably emerged among Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran.[45] It was "a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new Indo-European elements",[45] which borrowed "distinctive religious beliefs and practices"[46] from the Bactria–Margiana Culture.[46] At least 383 non-Indo-European words were found in this culture, including the god Indra and the ritual drink Soma.[47] According to Anthony,

Many of the qualities of Indo-Iranian god of might/victory, Verethraghna, were transferred to the god Indra, who became the central deity of the developing Old Indic culture. Indra was the subject of 250 hymns, a quarter of the Rig Veda. He was associated more than any other deity with Soma, a stimulant drug (perhaps derived from Ephedra) probably borrowed from the BMAC religion. His rise to prominence was a peculiar trait of the Old Indic speakers.[48]


Indra is typically featured as a guardian deity on the east side of a Hindu temple.

Indra was a prominent deity in the Vedic era of Hinduism.[31]

Vedic texts

Over a quarter of the 1,028 hymns of the Rigveda mention Indra, making him the most referred to deity than any other.[31][49] These hymns present a complex picture of Indra, but some aspects of Indra are oft repeated. Of these, the most common theme is where he as the god with thunderbolt kills the evil serpent Vritra that held back rains, and thus released rains and land nourishing rivers.[29] For example, the Rigvedic hymn 1.32 dedicated to Indra reads:

इन्द्रस्य नु वीर्याणि प्र वोचं यानि चकार प्रथमानि वज्री ।
अहन्नहिमन्वपस्ततर्द प्र वक्षणा अभिनत्पर्वतानाम् ॥१।।
अहन्नहिं पर्वते शिश्रियाणं त्वष्टास्मै वज्रं स्वर्यं ततक्ष ।
वाश्रा इव धेनवः स्यन्दमाना अञ्जः समुद्रमव जग्मुरापः ॥२।।

1. Now I shall proclaim the heroic deeds of Indra, those foremost deeds that the mace-wielder performed:
He smashed the serpent. He bored out the waters. He split the bellies of the mountains.
2. He smashed the serpent resting on the mountain—for him Tvaṣṭar had fashioned the resounding [sunlike] mace.
Like bellowing milk-cows, streaming out, the waters went straight down to the sea. [50]

—Rigveda, 1.32.1–2[51]

The hymns of Rigveda declare him to be the "king that moves and moves not", the friend of mankind who holds the different tribes on earth together.[52] In one interpretation by Oldenberg, the hymns are referring to the snaking thunderstorm clouds that gather with bellowing winds (Vritra), Indra is then seen as the storm god who intervenes in these clouds with his thunderbolts, which then release the rains nourishing the parched land, crops and thus humanity.[53] In another interpretation by Hillebrandt, Indra is a symbolic sun god (Surya) and Vritra is a symbolic winter-giant (historic mini cycles of ice age, cold) in the earliest, not the later, hymns of Rigveda. The Vritra is an ice-demon of colder central Asia and northern latitudes, who holds back the water. Indra is the one who releases the water from the winter demon, an idea that later metamorphosed into his role as storm god.[53] According to Griswold, this is not a completely convincing interpretation, because Indra is simultaneously a lightning god, a rain god and a river-helping god in the Vedas. Further, the Vritra demon that Indra slew is best understood as any obstruction, whether it be clouds that refuse to release rain or mountains or snow that hold back the water.[53]

Even though Indra is declared as the king of gods in some verses, there is no consistent subordination of other gods to Indra. In Vedic thought, all gods and goddesses are equivalent and aspects of the same eternal abstract Brahman, none consistently superior, none consistently inferior. All gods obey Indra, but all gods also obey Varuna, Vishnu, Rudra and others when the situation arises. Further, Indra also accepts and follows the instructions of Savitr (solar deity).[54] Indra, like all Vedic deities, is a part of henotheistic theology of ancient India.[55]

Indra is not a visible object of nature in the Vedic texts, nor is he a personification of any object, but that agent which causes the lightning, the rains and the rivers to flow.[56] His myths and adventures in the Vedic literature are numerous, ranging from harnessing the rains, cutting through mountains to help rivers flow, helping land becoming fertile, unleashing sun by defeating the clouds, warming the land by overcoming the winter forces, winning the light and dawn for mankind, putting milk in the cows, rejuvenating the immobile into something mobile and prosperous, and in general, he is depicted as removing any and all sorts of obstacles to human progress.[57] The Vedic prayers to Indra, states Jan Gonda, generally ask "produce success of this rite, throw down those who hate the materialized Brahman".[58]

Indra is often presented as the twin brother of Agni (fire) – another major Vedic deity.[59] Yet, he is also presented to be the same, states Max Muller, as in Rigvedic hymn 2.1.3, which states, "Thou Agni, art Indra, a bull among all beings; thou art the wide-ruling Vishnu, worthy of adoration. Thou art the Brahman, (...)."[60] He is also part of one of many Vedic trinities as "Agni, Indra and Surya", representing the "creator-maintainer-destroyer" aspects of existence in Hindu thought.[49][note 3]

Rigveda 2.1.3 Jamison 2014 [64]

You, Agni, as bull of beings, are Indra; you, wide-going, worthy of homage, are Viṣṇu. You, o lord of the sacred formulation, finder of wealth, are the Brahman [Formulator]; you, o Apportioner, are accompanied by Plenitude.


The ancient Aitareya Upanishad equates Indra, along with other deities, with Atman (soul, self) in the Vedanta's spirit of internalization of rituals and gods. It begins with its cosmological theory in verse 1.1.1 by stating that, "in the beginning, Atman, verily one only, was here - no other blinking thing whatever; he bethought himself: let me now create worlds".[65][66] This soul, which the text refers to as Brahman as well, then proceeds to create the worlds and beings in those worlds wherein all Vedic gods and goddesses such as sun-god, moon-god, Agni and other divinities become active cooperative organs of the body.[66][67][68] The Atman thereafter creates food, and thus emerges a sustainable non-sentient universe, according to the Upanishad. The eternal Atman then enters each living being making the universe full of sentient beings, but these living beings fail to perceive their Atman. The first one to see the Atman as Brahman, asserts the Upanishad, said, "idam adarsha or "I have seen It".[66] Others then called this first seer as Idam-dra or "It-seeing", which over time came to be cryptically known as "Indra", because, claims Aitareya Upanishad, everyone including the gods like short nicknames.[69] The passing mention of Indra in this Upanishad, states Alain Daniélou, is a symbolic folk etymology.[20]

The section 3.9 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad connects Indra to thunder, thunderbolt and release of waters.[70] In section 5.1 of the Avyakta Upanishad, Indra is praised as he who embodies the qualities of all gods.[49]

Post-Vedic texts

Krishna holding Govardhan hill from Smithsonian Institution’s collections

In post-Vedic texts, Indra is depicted as an intoxicated hedonistic god, his importance declines, and he evolves into a minor deity in comparison to others in the Hindu pantheon, such as Shiva, Vishnu, or Devi. In Hindu texts, Indra is some times known as an aspect (avatar) of Shiva.[49]

He is depicted as the father of Vali in the Ramayana and Arjuna in the Mahabharata.[22]Since he is known for mastering over all weapons in warfare, his spiritual sons Vali and Arjuna are also very good in warfare. He becomes a source of nuisance rains in the Puranas, out of anger and with an intent to hurt mankind. But, Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu, comes to the rescue by lifting Mount Govardhana on his fingertip, and letting mankind shelter under the mountain till Indra exhausts his anger and relents.[22] Also, according to Mahabharata Indra, disguised himself as a Brahmin approached Karna and asked for his kavach (body armor) and kundal (earrings) as charity. Although being aware of his true identity, Karna peeled off his kavach and kundal and fulfilled the wish of Indra. Pleased by this act Indra, gifted Karna a dart called Vasavi Shakthi.

Sangam literature (300 BCE–300 AD)

Sangam literature of the Tamil language contains more stories about Indra by various authors. In Silapathikaram Indra is described as Maalai venkudai mannavan (மாலைவெண் குடை மன்னவன்), literally meaning Indra with the pearl-garland and white umbrella.[71]

The Sangam literature also describes Indhira Vizha (festival for Indra), the festival for want of rain, celebrated for one full month starting from the full moon in Ootrai (later name – Cittirai) and completed on the full moon in Puyaazhi (Vaikaasi) (which coincides with Buddhapurnima). It is described in the epic Cilapatikaram in detail.[72]

Relations with other gods

In the Hindu religion, he is married to Shachi, also known as Indrani or Pulomaja.[73]

Indra and Shachi have two sons: Chitragupta and Jayanta; and two daughters: Jayanti and Devasena. Goddess Jayanti is the spouse of Shukra, while Goddess Devasena marries the war-god Kartikeya.[74]


In the Brahmavaivarta Purana,[75] Indra defeats Vritra and releases the waters. Indra asks Vishvakarma to build him a palace, but ultimately decides to leave his life of luxury to become a hermit and seek wisdom. Horrified, Indra's wife Shachi asks the priest Brihaspati to change her husband's mind. He teaches Indra to see the virtues of both the spiritual life and the worldly life. Thus, at the end of the story, Indra learns how to pursue wisdom while still fulfilling his kingly duties.[citation needed]


Indra's iconography shows him holding a thunderbolt or Vajra and a sword. In addition he is shown on top of his elephant Airavata, which reinforces his characteristic of King of the Gods.

In Rigveda, Indra is described as strong willed, armed with a thunderbolt, riding a chariot:

5. Let bullish heaven strengthen you, the bull; as bull you travel with your two bullish fallow bays. As bull with a bullish chariot, well-lipped one, as bull with bullish will, you of the mace, set us up in loot.

— Rigveda, Book 5, Hymn 37: Jamison[76]

Indra's weapon, which he used to kill evil Vritra, is the Vajra or thunderbolt. Other alternate iconographic symbolism for him includes a bow (sometimes as a colorful rainbow), a sword, a net, a noose, a hook, or a conch.[77] The thunderbolt of Indra is called Bhaudhara.[78]

In the post-Vedic period, he rides a large, four-tusked white elephant called Airavata.[20] In sculpture and relief artworks in temples, he typically sits on an elephant or is near one. When he is shown to have two, he holds the Vajra and a bow.[79]

In the Shatapatha Brahmana and in Shaktism traditions, Indra is stated to be same as goddess Shodashi (Tripura Sundari), and her iconography is described similar to those of Indra.[80]

The rainbow is called Indra's Bow (Sanskrit: indradhanus इन्द्रधनुस्).[77]


The Buddhist cosmology places Indra above Mount Sumeru, in Trayastrimsha heaven.[4] He resides and rules over one of the six realms of rebirth, the Devas realm of Saṃsāra, that is widely sought in the Buddhist tradition.[81][note 4] Rebirth in the realm of Indra is a consequence of very good Karma (Pali: kamma) and accumulated merit during a human life.[84]

In Buddhism, Indra is commonly called by his other name, Śakra or Sakka, ruler of the Trāyastriṃśa heaven.[85] Śakra is sometimes referred to as Devānām Indra or "Lord of the Devas". Buddhist texts also refer to Indra by numerous names and epithets, as is the case with Hindu and Jain texts. For example, Asvaghosha's Buddhacarita in different sections refers to Indra with terms such as "the thousand eyed",[86] Puramdara,[87] Lekharshabha,[88] Mahendra, Marutvat, Valabhid and Maghavat.[89] Elsewhere, he is known as Devarajan (literally, "the king of gods"). These names reflect a large overlap between Hinduism and Buddhism, and the adoption of many Vedic terminology and concepts into Buddhist thought.[90] Even the term Śakra, which means "mighty", appears in the Vedic texts such as in hymn 5.34 of the Rigveda.[20][91]

In Theravada Buddhism Indra is referred to as Indā in Evening Chanting such as the Udissanādiṭṭhānagāthā (Iminā).[92]

The Buddha (middle) is flanked by Brahma (left) and Indra, possibly the oldest surviving Buddhist artwork.[93]

The Bimaran Casket made of gold inset with garnet, dated to be around 60 CE, but some proposals dating it to the 1st century BCE, is among the earliest archaeological evidences available that establish the importance of Indra in Buddhist mythology. The artwork shows the Buddha flanked by gods Brahma and Indra.[93][94]

In China, Korea, and Japan, he is known by the characters 帝釋天 (Chinese: 釋提桓因, pinyin: shì dī huán yīn, Korean: "Je-seok-cheon" or 桓因 Hwan-in, Japanese: "Tai-shaku-ten", kanji: 帝釈天). In Japan, Indra always appears opposite Brahma (梵天, Japanese: "Bonten") in Buddhist art. Brahma and Indra are revered together as protectors of the historical Buddha (Chinese: 釋迦, kanji: 釈迦, also known as Shakyamuni), and are frequently shown giving the infant Buddha his first bath. Although Indra is often depicted like a bodhisattva in the Far East, typically in Tang dynasty costume, his iconography also includes a martial aspect, wielding a thunderbolt from atop his elephant mount.[citation needed]

Many official seals in southeast Asia feature Indra.[95] Above: seal of Bangkok, Thailand.

In some schools of Buddhism and in Hinduism, the image of Indra's net is a metaphor for the emptiness of all things, and at the same time a metaphor for the understanding of the universe as a web of connections and interdependences[96][circular reference].

In Japan, Indra is one of the twelve Devas, as guardian deities, who are found in or around Buddhist temples (Jūni-ten, 十二天).[97] In Japan, Indra has been called "Taishaku-ten".[98] He joins these other eleven Devas of Buddhism, found in Japan and other parts of southeast Asia: Agni (Ka-ten), Yama (Enma-ten), Nirrti (Rasetsu-ten), Vayu (Fu-ten), Ishana (Ishana-ten), Kubera (Tamon-ten), Varuna (Sui-ten), Brahma (Bon-ten), Prithvi (Chi-ten), Surya (Nit-ten), and Chandra (Gat-ten).[98][99][100]

The ceremonial name of Bangkok claims that the city was "given by Indra and built by Vishvakarman."[101]


Indra as a guardian deity sitting on elephant in Jain cave temple at Ellora

Indra, Indrani with elephant at the 9th-century Mirpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan (rebuilt 15th-century).

Indra in Jain mythology always serves the Tirthankara teachers. Indra most commonly appears in stories related to Tirthankaras, in which Indra himself manages and celebrates the five auspicious events in that Tirthankara's life, such as Chavan kalyanak, Janma kalyanak, Diksha kalyanak, Kevala Jnana kalyanak, and moksha kalyanak.[102]

There are sixty-four Indras in Jaina literature, each ruling over different heavenly realms where heavenly souls who have not yet gained Kaivalya (moksha) are reborn according to Jainism.[24][103] Among these many Indras, the ruler of the first Kalpa heaven is the Indra who is known as Saudharma in Digambara, and Sakra in Śvētāmbara tradition. He is most preferred, discussed and often depicted in Jaina caves and marble temples, often with his wife Indrani.[103][104] They greet the devotee as he or she walks in, flank the entrance to an idol of Jina (conqueror), and lead the gods as they are shown celebrating the five auspicious moments in a Jina's life, including his birth.[24] These Indra-related stories are enacted by laypeople in Jainism tradition during special Puja (worship) or festive remembrances.[24][105]

In south Indian Digambara Jaina community, Indra is also the title of hereditary priests who preside over Jain temple functions.[24]

See also

• Rigvedic deities
• Indreshwar
• Deva
• Nahusha
• Aditya
• Lokapala
• Dikpala
• Indraloka
• Astra
• Astra of Indrajit
• Indra Dhwaja
• Indrajāla
• Vajra, also Bhaudhara
• Vijaya Dhanush
• Trāyastriṃśa
• Nat
• Ten-bu
• Dharmapala
• Sakra or Sakka
• Indranama
• Saman
• Taishakuten
• Thagyamin
• Vajrapani
• Yuanshi Tianzun
• Jade Emperor
• Hwanin
• Tengri


1. near Black Sea.
2. In deities that are similar to Indra in the Hittite and European mythologies, he is also heroic.[34]
3. The Trimurti idea of Hinduism, states Jan Gonda, "seems to have developed from ancient cosmological and ritualistic speculations about the triple character of an individual god, in the first place of Agni, whose births are three or threefold, and who is threefold light, has three bodies and three stations".[61] Other trinities, beyond the more common "Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva", mentioned in ancient and medieval Hindu texts include: "Indra, Vishnu, Brahmanaspati", "Agni, Indra, Surya", "Agni, Vayu, Aditya", "Mahalakshmi, Mahasarasvati, and Mahakali", and others.[62][63]
4. Scholars[82][83] note that better rebirth, not nirvana, has been the primary focus of a vast majority of lay Buddhists. This is sought in the Buddhist traditions through merit accumulation and good kamma.


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6. Bezhan, Frud (19 April 2017). "Pakistan's Forgotten Pagans Get Their Due". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 11 July 2017. About half of the Kalash practice a form of ancient Hinduism infused with old pagan and animist beliefs.
7. Barrington, Nicholas; Kendrick, Joseph T.; Schlagintweit, Reinhard (18 April 2006). A Passage to Nuristan: Exploring the Mysterious Afghan Hinterland. I.B. Tauris. p. 111. ISBN 9781845111755. Prominent sites include Hadda, near Jalalabad, but Buddhism never seems to have penetrated the remote valleys of Nuristan, where the people continued to practise an early form of polytheistic Hinduism.
8. Weiss, Mitch; Maurer, Kevin (31 December 2012). No Way Out: A Story of Valor in the Mountains of Afghanistan. Berkley Caliber. p. 299. ISBN 9780425253403. Up until the late nineteenth century, many Nuristanis practised a primitive form of Hinduism. It was the last area in Afghanistan to convert to Islam—and the conversion was accomplished by the sword.
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43. Edward James Rapson (1955). The Cambridge History of India. Cambridge University Press. pp. 320–321. GGKEY:FP2CEFT2WJH.
44. Friedrich Max Müller (1897). Contributions to the Science of Mythology. Longmans Green. pp. 756–759.
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46. Beckwith 2009, p. 32.
47. Anthony 2007, p. 454-455.
48. Anthony 2007, p. 454.
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50. Stephanie Jamison (2015). The Rigveda –– Earliest Religious Poetry of India. Oxford University Press. p. 135. ISBN 0190633395.
51. ऋग्वेद: सूक्तं १.३२, Wikisource Rigveda Sanskrit text
52. Hervey De Witt Griswold (1971). The Religion of the Ṛigveda. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 180, verse 1.32.15. ISBN 978-81-208-0745-7.
53. Hervey De Witt Griswold (1971). The Religion of the Ṛigveda. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 180–183 with footnotes. ISBN 978-81-208-0745-7.
54. Arthur Berriedale Keith (1925). The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-81-208-0645-0.
55. Friedrich Max Müller (1897). Contributions to the Science of Mythology. Longmans Green. p. 758.
56. Friedrich Max Müller (1897). Contributions to the Science of Mythology. Longmans Green. p. 757.
57. Jan Gonda (1989). The Indra Hymns of the Ṛgveda. Brill Archive. pp. 4–5. ISBN 90-04-09139-4.
58. Jan Gonda (1989). The Indra Hymns of the Ṛgveda. Brill Archive. p. 12. ISBN 90-04-09139-4.
59. Friedrich Max Müller (1897). Contributions to the Science of Mythology. Longmans Green. p. 827.
60. Friedrich Max Müller (1897). Contributions to the Science of Mythology. Longmans Green. p. 828.
61. Jan Gonda (1969), The Hindu Trinity, Anthropos, Bd 63/64, H 1/2, pages 218-219
62. Jan Gonda (1969), The Hindu Trinity, Anthropos, Bd 63/64, H 1/2, pages 212-226
63. David White (2006), Kiss of the Yogini, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0226894843, pages 4, 29
64. Jamison, Stephanie (2014). The Rigveda–– the earliest religious poetry of India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0190633395.
65. Robert Hume, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, page 294 with verses 1.1.1 and footnotes
66. Paul Deussen (1997). A Sixty Upanishads Of The Veda, Volume 1. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 15–18. ISBN 978-81-208-0430-2.
67. Robert Hume, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, pages 295-297 with footnotes
68. Johannes Bronkhorst (2007). Greater Magadha: Studies in the Culture of Early India. BRILL. p. 128. ISBN 90-04-15719-0.
69. Robert Hume, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, pages 297-298 with verses 1.3.13-14 and footnotes
70. Patrick Olivelle (1998). The Early Upanishads: Annotated Text and Translation. Oxford University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-19-535242-9.
71. S Krishnamoorthy (2011). Silappadikaram. Bharathi Puthakalayam.
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73. Wilkings 1882.
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85. John Clifford Holt; Jacob N. Kinnard; Jonathan S. Walters (2012). Constituting Communities: Theravada Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia. State University of New York Press. pp. 45–46, 57–64, 108. ISBN 978-0-7914-8705-1.
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88. E. B. Cowell & Francis A. Davis 1969, p. 71 footnote 1.
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• Goswamy, B.N. (2014), The Spirit of Indian Painting: Close Encounters with 100 Great Works 1100-1900, Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0-670-08657-3
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• Beckwith, Christopher I. (2009), Empires of the Silk Road, Princeton University Press
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• Chakravarty, Uma. "On the etymology of the word 'ÍNDRA'." Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 76, no. 1/4 (1995): 27-33.

External links

• Indra and Skanda deities in Korean Buddhism, Phil Lee, Chicago Divinity School
• Indra, Lord of Storms and King of the Gods' Realm, Philadelphia Museum of Art
• Indra wood idol – 13th century, Kamakura period, Japan
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Agni, God of Fire, Member of the Pancha Bhoota [5 great elements]
Agni with an aura of flames, seated on ram
Affiliation: Deva, Aditya
Abode: Agniloka
Weapon: Staff
Mount: Ram[1]
Personal information
Parents: Kashyapa and Aditi
Siblings: Indra, Brihaspati, Varuna, Vayu, Dyaus, Samudra
Consort: Svaha
Children: Agneya

Agni (English: /ˈæɡni/ AG-nee,[4] Sanskrit: अग्नि, Agní) is a Sanskrit word meaning fire and connotes the Vedic fire god of Hinduism.[5][6][7] He is also the guardian deity of the southeast direction and is typically found in southeast corners of Hindu temples.[8] In the classical cosmology of the Indian religions, Agni as fire is one of the five inert impermanent elements (pañcabhūtá) along with space (ākāśa), water (ap), air (vāyu) and earth (pṛthvī), the five combining to form the empirically perceived material existence (Prakriti).[6][9][10]

In Vedic literature, Agni is a major and oft-invoked god along with Indra and Soma.[6][11] Agni is considered the mouth of the gods and goddesses and the medium that conveys offerings to them in a homa (votive ritual).[5][12][13] He is conceptualized in ancient Hindu texts to exist at three levels, on earth as fire, in the atmosphere as lightning, and in the sky as the sun. This triple presence connects him as the messenger between gods and human beings in the Vedic thought.[6] The relative importance of Agni declined in the post-Vedic era,[14] as he was internalized[15] and his identity evolved to metaphorically represent all transformative energy and knowledge in the Upanishads and later Hindu literature.[16][17][18] Agni remains an integral part of Hindu traditions, such as being the central witness of the rite-of-passage ritual in traditional Hindu weddings called Saptapadi or Agnipradakshinam (seven steps and mutual vows) as well being part of Diya (lamp) in festivals such as Divali and Aarti in Puja.[6]

Agni (Pali: Aggi) is a term that appears extensively in Buddhist texts[19] and in the literature related to the Senika heresy debate within the Buddhist traditions.[20][21] In the ancient Jainism thought, Agni (fire) contains soul and fire-bodied beings,[22] additionally appears as Agni-kumara or "fire princes" in its theory of rebirth and a class of reincarnated beings[23] and is discussed in its texts with the equivalent term Tejas.[24]

Mundaka Upanishad (2.4) mentioned the seven tongues of Agni as 'kālī, karālī, manojavā, sulohita, sudhāmravarṇā, sphuliṅginī and visvarucī.[25]

Etymology and meaning

Sanskrit Agni continues one of two core terms for fire reconstructed to Proto-Indo-European, *h₁n̥gʷnís, other reflexes of which include Latin ignis (the root of English ignite), Sclavonian ogni;[26] Russian огонь (ogon), Polish "ogień", Slovenian "ogenj", Serbian oganj, and Lithuanian ugnis, all meaning "fire".;[27] synchronically, the ancient Indian grammarians variously derived it:

• from root aj, which in Sanskrit means "to drive" and mirrors in Indo-European languages (Latin ago, Greek ἄγω) in the sense of "nimble, agile".[28][29]
• from agri, the root of which means "first", referring to "that first in the universe to arise" or "fire" according to Shatapatha Brahmana section 6.1.1; the Brahmana claims this is cryptically called as Agni because everyone including the gods are known to love short nicknames.[30]
• according to the 5th-century BCE Sanskrit text Nirukta-Nighantu in section 7.14, sage Śakapūṇi states the word Agni is derived from three verbs – from 'going', from 'shining or burning', and from 'leading'; the letter "a" (अ) is from root "i" which he claims implies 'to go', the letter "g" (ग्) is from the root "añj" meaning 'to shine' or "dah" meaning 'to burn', and the last letter is by itself the root "nī" (नी) which means 'to lead'.[31]

In the early Vedic literature, Agni primarily connotes the fire as a god, one reflecting the primordial powers to consume, transform and convey.[32][33] Yet the term is also used with the meaning of a Mahabhuta (constitutive substance), one of five that the earliest Vedic thinkers believed to constitute material existence, and that later Vedic thinkers such as Kanada and Kapila expanded widely, namely Akasha (ether, space), Vayu (air), Ap (water), Prithvi (earth) and Agni (fire).[34][35]

The word Agni is used in many contexts, ranging from fire in the stomach, the cooking fire in a home, the sacrificial fire in an altar, the fire of cremation, the fire of rebirth, the fire in the energetic saps concealed within plants, the atmospheric fire in lightning and the celestial fire in the sun.[7][32][36] In the Brahmanas layer of the Vedas, such as in section 5.2.3 of Shatapatha Brahmana, Agni represents all the gods, all concepts of spiritual energy that permeates everything in the universe.[16][37] In the Upanishads and post-Vedic literature, Agni additionally became a metaphor for immortal principle in man, and any energy or knowledge that consumes and dispels a state of darkness, transforms and procreates an enlightened state of existence.[17][18][34]


"Agnipani" ("Fire-holder"), 100 BCE. Behind its turban, the statue has a flame-shaped aureole incised with flame tongues. Mathura Museum, GMM 87.146

There are many theories about the origins of the god Agni, some tracing it to Indo-European mythologies, others tracing to mythologies within the Indian tradition.[38][39]

The origin myth found in many Indo-European cultures is one of a bird, or bird like being, that carries or brings fire from the gods to mankind. Alternatively, this messenger brings an elixir of immortality from heaven to earth. In either case, the bird returns everyday with sacrificial offerings for the gods, but sometimes the bird hides or disappears without trace. Agni is molded in similar mythical themes, in some hymns with the phrase the "heavenly bird that flies".[39][40]

The earliest layers of the Vedic texts of Hinduism, such as section 6.1 of Kathaka Samhita and section 1.8.1 of Maitrayani Samhita state that the universe began with nothing, neither night nor day existed, what existed was just Prajapati (also referred to as Brahman).[38] Agni originated from the forehead of Prajapati, assert these texts. With the creation of Agni came light, and with that were created day and night. Agni, state these Samhitas, is the same as the Brahman, the truth, the eye of the manifested universe.[38] These mythologies develop into more complex stories about Agni's origins in the later layers of Vedic texts, such as in section 2.1.2 of the Taittiriya Brahmana and sections 2.2.3–4 of Shatapatha Brahmana.[38]

Agni is originally conceptualized as the ultimate source of the "creator-maintainer-destroyer" triad, then one of the trinities, as the one who ruled the earth. His twin brother Indra ruled the atmosphere as the god of storm, rain and war, while Surya ruled the sky and heavens.[14][a] His position and importance evolves over time, in the "creator-maintainer-destroyer" aspects of existence in Hindu thought.[42][ b]

The Shatapatha Brahmana mentions there have been three previous Agnis and current one is the fourth in the series.[45]

Fourfold, namely, was Agni (fire) at first. Now that Agni whom they at first chose for the office of Hotri priest passed away. He also whom they chose the second time passed away. He also whom they chose the third time passed away. Thereupon the one who still constitutes the fire in our own time, concealed himself from fear. He entered into the waters. Him the gods discovered and brought forcibly away from the waters. – 1:2:3:1


Agni seated on a ram, 14th–15th century Indonesia.


In the Vedic pantheon, Agni occupies, after Indra, the most important position.[7] Agni is prominent in the hymns of the Vedas and particularly the Brahmanas. In the Rig Veda there are over 200 hymns that praise Agni. His name or synonyms appear in nearly a third of 1,028 hymns in the Rigveda.[46] The Rigveda opens with a hymn inviting Agni, who is then addressed later in the hymn as the guardian of Ṛta (Dharma).[47][48][c]

The Vedas describe the parents of Agni as two kindling fire sticks, whose loving action creates him. Just born, he is poetically presented as a tender baby, who needs loving attention lest he vanishes. With care, he sparks and smokes, then flames and grows stronger than his parents, finally so strong that he devours what created him.[50]

The hymns in these ancient texts refer to Agni with numerous epithets and synonyms, such as Jaatavedas (one with knowledge of all births and successions), Vaishvaanara (one who treats all equally), Tanunapat (son of himself, self-made), Narasansa (praised by all men), Tripatsya (with three dwellings), and many others.[50][51] In Vedic mythologies, Agni is also presented as one who is mysterious with a tendency to play hide and seek, not just with humans but with the gods. He hides in strange places such as waters where in one myth he imbues life force into living beings that dwell therein, and in another where the fishes report his presence to the gods.[52]

Agni is in hymn 10.124 of the Rigveda, a Rishi (sage-poet-composer) and along with Indra and Surya makes up the Vedic triad of deities.[53]

Agni is considered equivalent to and henotheistically identified with all the gods in the Vedic thought, which formed the foundation for the various non-dualistic and monistic theologies of Hinduism.[46] These theme of equivalence is repeatedly presented in the Vedas, such as with the following words in the Mandala 1 of the Rigveda:

They call it Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni,
and he is heavenly-winged Garutman.
To what is One, sages give many a title,
they call it Agni, Yama, Matarisvan.

— Rigveda 1.164.46, Translator: Klaus Klostermaier[54][55][56]


Agni with an aura of flames, seated on ram.

Agni features prominently in the major and minor Upanishads of Hinduism. Among the earliest mention is the legend of a boy named Satyakama, of uncertain parentage from an unwed mother, in chapter 4 of the Chandogya Upanishad (~700 BCE). He honestly admits his poverty and that his mother does not know who his father was, an honesty that earns him a spot in a Vedic school (gurukul).[57][58] During his studies, the boy meets Agni, who then becomes the metaphor for him as a cardinal direction, world body, eye and knowledge, and the abstract principle of Brahman which the Upanishad states is in everything and is everywhere.[57][59][60] Agni appears in section 1.13 of Chandogya Upanishad as well.[61]

In verse 18 of the Isha Upanishad, Agni is invoked with, "O Agni, you know all the paths, lead me on to success by the good path, keep me away from the wrong path of sin".[62][63][d] In sections 4.5–6 of the Maitri Upanishad, students ask their Vedic Guru (teacher) about which god is best among gods they name, a list that includes Agni.[65][66] The Guru replies that they are all supreme, all merely forms of the Brahman, the whole world is Brahman. So pick anyone, suggests the Upanishad, meditate and adore that one, then meditate over them all, then deny and discard the individuality of every one of these gods including of Agni, thus journey unto the universal, for a communion with the Purusha, the Atman.[67][68]

Sections 3 and 4 of Kena Upanishad, another major ancient Upanishad, present an allegorical story which includes gods Agni, Vayu, Indra and goddess Uma.[69] After a battle between good gods and evil demons, where Brahman helps the good gain victory, the gods wonder, "what is this Brahman, a wonderful being?" Agni goes first to find out, but fails. Vayu too fails.[69] Then Indra tries, but meets the goddess who already understands Brahman, explains what Brahman is and how the good reached victory through the nature of Brahman.[70][71] Indra shares this knowledge with Agni and Vayu. The Kena Upanishad closes these sections by stating that "Agni, Vayu and Indra" are revered first because they were the first among gods to realize Brahman.[69][70] The allegorical legend, states Paul Deussen, aims to teach that all the Vedic gods and natural phenomenon have their basis in the timeless, universal monistic principle called Brahman.[69]

Another ancient major Hindu scripture named Prashna Upanishad mentions Agni in its second Prashna (question section).[72] The section states that Agni and other deities manifest as five gross constituents that combine to make the entire universe, and that all the deities are internalized in the temple of a living body with Agni as the eyes.[73][74]

Agni is mentioned in many minor Upanishads, such as the Pranagnihotra Upanishad, the Yogatattva Upanishad, the Yogashikha Upanishad, the Trishikhibrahmana Upanishad and others.[75] The syncretic and monistic Shaivism text, namely Rudrahridaya Upanishad states that Rudra is same as Agni, and Uma is same as Svaha.[76][77]


Vedic rituals involve Agni. He is a part of many Hindu rites-of-passage ceremonies such as celebrating a birth (lighting a lamp), prayers (aarti lamp), at weddings (the yajna where the bride and groom circle the fire seven times) and at death (cremation). According to Atharvaveda, it is Agni that conveys the soul of the dead from the pyre to be reborn in the next world or life.[14] However, this role was in post-Vedic texts subsumed in the role of god Yama.[14] Agni has been important in temple architecture, is typically present in the southeast corner of a Hindu temple.

Rites of passage: Hindu wedding

Main article: Hindu wedding

The most important ritual of Hindu weddings is performed around Agni. It is called the Saptapadi (Sanskrit for "seven steps/feet") or Sat Phere, and it represents the legal part of Hindu marriage.[78][79] The ritual involves a couple completing seven actual or symbolic circuits around the Agni, which is considered a witness to the vows they make to each other.[e] Each circuit of the consecrated fire is led by either the bride or the groom, varying by community and region. With each circuit, the couple makes a specific vow to establish some aspect of a happy relationship and household for each other, with Agni as the divine witness to those mutual vows.[81] In Central India and Suriname, the bride leads the first three or four circuits.[80]

Rituals: Agnihotra

Main articles: Agnihotra, Yajna, and Śrauta

The Agnihotra involves fire, and the term refers to the ritual of keeping fire at home, and in some cases making "sacrificial offerings" such as milk and seeds to this fire.[82] The Srauta texts state that it is the duty of man to perform Agnihotra. A wide range of Agnihotra procedures are found in the Brahmana layer of the Vedas, ranging from the most common simple keeping of sacred fire and its symbolism, to more complicated procedures for the expiation of guilt, to rituals claimed to grant immortality to the performer.[83] According to the Jaiminiya Brahmana, for example, an Agnihotra sacrifice frees the performer from evil and death.[84] In contrast, states the Shatapatha Brahmana, Agnihotra is a symbolic reminder and equivalent to the Sun, where the fire keeper is reminded of the heat that creates life, the fire in beings, the heat in the womb behind the cycle of life.[85]

Festivals: Holi and Diwali

Main articles: Holi and Diwali

Agni is a part of the ritual grammar in many Hindu festivals. Above Holika for Holi, includes Agni.[86]

Two major festivals in Hinduism, namely Holi (festival of colors) and Diwali (festival of lights) incorporate Agni in their ritual grammar, as a symbol of divine energy.[87][88] During the autumn celebrations of Diwali, traditional small fire lamps called Diya are included to mark the festivities. For Holi, Hindus burn bonfires as Holika, on the night before the spring festival. The bonfire marks god Agni, and in rural India mothers carry their babies around the fire clockwise on Holika in Agni's remembrance.[86]


Agni has two forms: Jataveda and Kravyada:

• Jātaveda is the fire that carries the quid-pro-quo offerings to the gods, in which case Agni is light identified with knowledge and with Brahman. In the Jātaveda form, "He who knows all creatures", Agni acts as the divine model for the priest. He is the messenger who carries the oblation from humans to the gods, bringing the Gods to sacrifice, and intercedes between gods and humans (Rig Veda I.26.3). Together with Indra, Soma, Agni is invoked in the Rig Veda more than any other gods.[89]
• Kravyād (क्रव्याद) is the form of Agni which cremates corpses, the fire of the funeral pyre that triggers the recycling of matter and spirit.[90] In this way, states Shatapatha Brahmana in verse, after one's death and at the time of cremation, Agni heats up and burns only the body, yet by its heat, one is reborn.[91]


One of Agni's epithets is Abhimāni (from Sanskrit: abhi (towards) + man (the verbal root man 'to think', 'reflect upon') meaning dignified, proud; longing for, thinking. Agni is a symbol of piety and purity. As expression of two kinds of energy i.e. light and heat, he is the symbol of life and activity.[citation needed]

Agni is symbolism for psychological and physiological aspects of life, states Maha Purana section LXVII.202–203. There are three kinds of Agni inside every human being, states this text, the krodha-agni or "fire of anger", the kama-agni or "fire of passion and desire", and the udara-agni or "fire of digestion". These respectively need introspective and voluntary offerings of forgiveness, detachment and fasting, if one desires spiritual freedom and liberation.[41]

Agni variously denotes the natural element fire, the supernatural deity symbolized by fire and the inner natural will aspiring for the highest knowledge.[92][93][94]

Heat, combustion and energy is the realm of Agni which symbolizes the transformation of the gross to the subtle; Agni is the life-giving energy.[95] Agnibija is the consciousness of tapas (proto-cosmic energy); agni (the energizing principle); the sun, representing the Reality (Brahman) and the Truth (Satya), is Rta, the order, the organizing principle of everything that is.[96]

Agni, who is addressed as Atithi ('guest'), is also called Jatavedasam (जातवेदसम्), meaning "the one who knows all things that are born, created or produced."[97] He symbolizes will-power united with wisdom.[98]

Agni is the essence of the knowledge of Existence. Agni destroys ignorance and all delusions, removes nrescience. The Kanvasatpathabrahmanam (SB.IV.i.iv.11) calls Agni "wisdom" (मेधायैमनसेऽग्नये स्वाहेति).[99] Agni is symbolism for "the mind swiftest among (all) those that fly."[100] It also symbolises the soul; it is the power of change that cannot be limited or overcome. Light, heat, colour and energy are merely its outer attributes; inwardly, agni impels consciousness, perception and discernment.[101]


The icons for Agni show wide regional variations. Agni on ram

Agni with goddess Svaha

The iconography of Agni varies by region.[102] The design guidelines and specifications of his iconography are described in the Hindu Agama texts. He is shown with one to three heads, two to four armed, is typically red-complexioned or smoky-grey complexioned standing next to or riding a ram, with a characteristic dramatic halo of flames leaping upwards from his crown.[103][104] He is shown as a strong looking man, sometimes bearded, with a large belly because he eats everything offered into his flames, with golden brown hair, eyes and mustache to match the color of fire.[105]

Agni holds a rosary in one hand to symbolize his prayer-related role, and a sphere in another hand in eastern states of India. In other regions, his four arms hold an ax, torch, spoon (or fan) and a flaming spear (or rosary).[105]

Seven rays of light or flames emit from his body. One of his names is Saptajihva, "the one having seven tongues", to symbolize how rapidly he consumes sacrificial butter.[106] Occasionally, Agni iconography is shown in Rohitasva form, which has no ram as his vahana, but where he is pulled in a chariot with seven red horses, and the symbolic wind that makes fire move as the wheels of the chariot.[105] In Khmer art, Agni has been depicted with a rhinoceros as his vahana.[107][108] The number seven symbolizes his reach in all seven mythical continents in ancient Hindu cosmology or colors of a rainbow in his form as the sun.[109]

Agni has three forms, namely fire, lightning, and the Sun, forms sometimes symbolized by giving his icon three heads or three legs. He sometimes is shown wearing a garland of fruits or flowers, symbolic of the offerings made into the fire.[109]


Agni god in southeast corner of the 11th-century Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneshwar Odisha. The ram is carved below him.

The earliest surviving artwork of Agni have been found at archaeological sites near Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), and these date from 1st-century BCE.[110](pp215, 366–367, xix, with caption for Figure 86) In the collection at Bharat Kalā Bhavan, there is a red sandstone sculpture from around the start of the common era but no later than 1st-century CE, identifiable as Agni shown in the garb of a Brahmin, very much like sage Kashyapa. In the Panchala coins of Agnimitra, a deity is always present with a halo of flames. In Gupta sculptures, Agni is found with a halo of flames round the body, the sacred thread across his chest, a beard, pot-bellied and holding in his right hand a amrtaghata (nectar-pot).[110](pp215–216) Many of these early carvings and early statues show just one head, but elaborate details such as ear-rings made of three fruits, a detailed necklace, a slightly smiling face wearing a crown, and flames engraved into the hairs at the back of Agni's statue.[110](pp215)

The iconographic statues and reliefs of god Agni are typically present in the southeast corners of a Hindu temple. However, in rare temples where Agni is envisioned as a presiding astrological divinity, according to texts such as the Samarangana Sutradhara, he is assigned the northeast corner.[111]

Agni is historically considered to be present in every grihastha (home), and therein presented in one of three forms – gārhapatya (for general domestic usage), āhavaniya (for inviting and welcoming a personage or deity) and dakshinagni (for fighting against all evil).[112] Yāska states that his predecessor Sākapuṇi regarded the threefold existence of Agni as being in earth, air and heaven as stated by the Rig Veda, but a Brāhmana considered the third manifestation to be the Sun.


Agni (right) with his son Skanda (Karttikeya), about 1st-century CE.

Wife and children

Goddess Svaha is Agni's wife. Her name is pronounced with offerings such as butter and seeds poured into the fire during ceremonies. However, like many names in Hindu traditions, the name Svaha embeds symbolic meanings, through its relationship with the Vedic word Svadha found in the hymns of the Rigveda. Thomas Coburn states that the term Svadha refers to "one's own particular nature or inclination", and the secondary sense of "a customary pleasure or enjoyment, a refreshment that nourishes".[113] Svaha is also found in the hymns of the Vedic literature, in the sense of "welcome, praise to you". This salutation is a remembrance of Agni, as an aspect of that which is "the source of all beings".[113] As a goddess and wife of Agni, Svaha represents this Shakti.[114]

In the text Devi Mahatmya of the goddess tradition of Hinduism (Shaktism), and in the Hindu mythologies, Svaha is the daughter of goddess Daksha, Svaha has a crush for Agni. She seduces him by successively impersonating six of seven women at a gurukul (school) that Agni desired for, and thus with him has a baby who grows to become god Skanda – the god of war.[114]

Other gods

Agni is identified with same characteristics, equivalent personality or stated to be identical as many major and minor gods in different layers of the Vedic literature, including Vayu, Soma, Rudra (Shiva), Varuna and Mitra.[115][116] In hymn 2.1 of the Rigveda, in successive verses, Agni is identified to be the same as twelve gods and five goddesses.[116]

Some of the gods that Agni is identified with:

• Prajapati: The vedic text Shatapatha Brahmana, in section 6.1.2 describes how and why Prajapati is the father of Agni, and also the son of Agni, because they both are the image of the one Atman (Soul, Self) that was, is and will be the true, eternal identity of the universe.[117] The Prajapati, cosmic Purusha and Agni are stated to be the same in sections 6.1.1 and 6.2.1 of Shatapatha Brahmana.[118]
• Varuna and Mitra: when Agni is born, he is Varuna; when he is kindled, he is Mitra.[116] He is also stated to become Varuna in the evening, and he is Mitra when he rises in the morning.[116]
• Indra: Agni is generally presented as Indra's twin, they both go and appear together.[119] In chapter 13.3 of the Atharvaveda, Agni is said to become Indra when he illumines the sky.[116] Agni is also called Vishva-Vedāh,[f] "dawn," which refers both to Indra, the Protector, and to the all-knowing Agni.[120]
• Rudra: in the Rig Veda Agni is addressed as having the same fierce nature as Rudra.[121][g] The Shiva-linga represents that pillar of fire which is Agni,[122][123] a Skambha symbolism borrowed in some Buddhist artworks.[124] The verses 8 through 18 in section 6.1.3 of the Shatapatha Brahmana state Rudra is same as Agni, who is known by many other names.[125] Later, in section 9.1.1, the Shatapatha Brahmana states, "this entire Agni (fire altar) has now been completed, he is now this god Rudra".[125]
• Savitr (Sun): Agni is same as Savitr during the day, as he traverses the space delivering light and energy to all living beings.[116]
• Vayu and Soma: in the Vedas, Agni or 'fire' (light and heat), Vayu or 'air' (energy and action), and Soma or 'water', are major deities who cooperate to empower all life. In some passages, they are stated to be aspects of the same energy and principle that transforms.[115][126]
• Gayatri: is identified with Agni in Aitareya Brahmana section 1.1, Jaiminiya Brahmana section 3.184 and Taittiriya Brahmana section 7.8, and the most revered Gayatri meter in the Sanskrit prosody and Hindu traditions is associated with Agni.[118]
• Vāc (goddess of speech) and Prana (life force): are identified with Agni in Jaiminiya Brahmana sections 1.1 and 2.54, Shatapatha Brahmana sections 2.2.2 and 3.2.2.[118]
• Sarama: in a hymn in praise of Agni,[h] Rishi Parāśara Śāktya speaks of Saramā, the goddess of Intuition, the forerunner of the dawn of Truth in the Human mind, who finds the Truth which is lost. It is Saramā who is a power of the Truth, whose cows are the rays of the dawn of illumination and who awakens man who finds Agni standing in the supreme seat and goal.[127]


[i]A pre-3rd century CE, Kushan Empire era red colored Agni statue.

A sage of the Rig Veda (Sukta IV.iii.11) states that the Sun became visible when Agni was born.[128]
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Offended by Agni, Bhrigu had cursed Agni to become the devourer of all things on this earth, but Brahma modified that curse and made Agni the purifier of all things he touched.[129]

In the "Khandava-daha Parva" (Mahabharata CCXXV), Agni in disguise approaches Krishna and Arjuna seeking sufficient food for gratification of his hunger; and on being asked about the kind of food which would gratify, Agni expressed the desire to consume the forest of Khandava protected by Indra for the sake of Takshaka, the chief of the Nagas. Aided by Krishna and Arjuna, Agni consumes the Khandava Forest, which burnt for fifteen days, sparing only Aswasena, Maya, and the four birds called sarangakas; later, as a boon Arjuna got all his weapons from Indra and also the bow, Gandiva, from Varuna.[130]

There is the story about King Shibi who was tested by Agni assuming the form of a pigeon and by Indra assuming the form of a hawk; Shibi offered his own flesh to the hawk in exchange of pigeon's life. The pigeon which had sought Shibi's shelter was thus saved by the king's sacrifice.[131]

Agniparikshā or 'the Fire test' has Agni as the witness. In the Ramayana, Sita voluntarily goes through this ordeal to prove her virtue.


Agni is the eldest son of Brahma. In the Visnu Purana, Agni, called Abhimāni is said to have sprung from the mouth of the Virat purusha, the Cosmic Man. In another version, Agni emerged from the ritual fire produced by the wife of Dharma (eternal law) named Vasubhāryā (literally, "daughter of Light").[132]

According to the Puranic mythology, Agni married Svāhā (invocation offering) and fathered three sons – Pāvaka (purifier), Pāvamāna (purifying) and Śuchi (purity). From these sons, he has forty-five grandchildren which are symbolic names of different aspects of a fire.[132][133] In some texts, Medhā (intelligence) is Agni's sister.[132]


Agni sitting on a red goat, as medicine Buddha in 15th-century Tibetan Buddhist art

Four-armed Katen in 17th-century Japan

Agni (Sanskrit; Pali; Aggi) appears in many Buddhist canonical texts, as both a god as well as a metaphor for the element of heart or fire. In Pali literature, he is also called Aggi-Bhagavā, Jātaveda, and Vessānara.[134]

The Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta, presents a philosophical exchange between Buddha and a wandering ascetic named Śreṇika Vatsagotra (Sanskrit; Pali: Senika Vacchagotta).[20][135] The conversation between Buddha and Śreṇika have remained a part of a debate that continues in modern Buddhism.[20][136] It is called the Śreṇika heresy (Japanese: Sennigedō 先尼外道).[20][137]

Śreṇika suggested that there is an eternal Self (Atman) that lives in a temporary physical body and is involved in rebirth. In the Buddhist traditions, the Buddha taught there is rebirth and Anātman, or that there is no eternal Self. The Pali texts state that Śreṇika disagreed and asked the Buddha many questions, which the Buddha refused to answer, calling his questions as indeterminate. The Buddha clarified that were he to answer Śreṇika's questions, it would "entangle" him.[20] The Buddha explains the Dharma with Agni as a metaphor, stating that just like fire is extinguished and no longer exists after it is extinguished, in the same way all skandha that constitute a human being are extinguished after death. Different versions of this debate appear throughout scripture across traditions, such as the Mahāparinibbāṇa Sutta, and the Mahāprajñāpāramitōpadeśa. In some versions, Śreṇika offers his own simile of Agni to further his views.[20] Scholars such as Nagarjuna have extensively commented on the Śreṇika heresy.[135]

In a manner similar to the Hindu texts, the Buddhist texts also treat Agni (referred to as the fire element Tejas) as a fundamental material and building block of nature. For example, in section 11.31 of the Visuddhimagga as well as the Rūpakaṇḍa section of the Dhammasangani, Agni and Tejas are credited as that which warms, ages, burns and digests food and life processes.[41]


Agni is featured prominently in the art of the Mahayana tradition.

In Tibet, he is one of the fifty-one Buddhist deities found in the mandala of medicine Buddha.[138][139] He appears in Tibetan Manjushri's mandalas as well, where he is depicted with Brahma and Indra.[140] The Tibetan iconography for Agni strongly resembles that found in the Hindu tradition, with elements such as red colored skin, a goat vehicle, conical hair and crown, a beard, and wielding a pot of water or fire in one hand, and rosary beads in the other. Such art will often include Buddhist themes such as the dharma wheel, white conch, golden fish, elephant, the endless knot.[138]

In Theravada traditions, such as that found in Thailand, Agni is a minor deity. Agni is called Phra Phloeng (also spelled Phra Plerng, literally, "holy flames").[141][142] He is commonly depicted with two faces, eight arms, red in color, wearing a headdress in the shape of a gourd, and emitting flames. Medieval era Thai literature describes him as a deity with seven tongues, a purple crown of smoke, and fiery complexion. He rides a horse chariot, a rhinoceros or a ram.[141] Phra Phloeng's wife in these texts is stated to be Subanee, Garudee, or Swaha.[141] Some Thai texts state Nilanon to be their son.[143]

In East Asian Buddhism, Agni is a dharmapāla and often classed as one of a group of twelve deities (Japanese: Jūniten, 十二天) grouped together as directional guardians.[144]

In Japan, he is called "Katen". He is included with the other eleven devas, which include Taishakuten (Śakra/Indra), Fūten(Vāyu), Emmaten (Yama), Rasetsuten (Nirṛti/Rākṣasa), Ishanaten (Īśāna), Bishamonten (Vaiśravaṇa/Kubera), Suiten (Varuṇa) Bonten (Brahmā), Jiten (Pṛthivī), Nitten (Sūrya/Āditya), and Gatten (Candra).[145] While iconography varies, he is often depicted as an elderly mountain ascetic with two or three legs, and two or four arms.


The word Agni in Jainism refers to fire, but not in the sense of Vedic ideas. Agni appears in Jain thought, as a guardian deity and in its cosmology. He is one of the eight dikpalas, or directional guardian deities in Jain temples, along with these seven: Indra, Yama, Nirrti, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera and Isana. They are typically standing, with their iconography is similar to those found in Hindu and Buddhist temple pantheon.[146][147][148]

In ancient Jain thought, living beings have souls and exist in myriad of realms, and within the earth realm shared by human beings, there are two kinds of beings: mobile and immobile.[149][150] The mobile beings – which includes tiny insects, birds, aquatic life, animals and human beings – have two or more senses, while the immobile beings have only a single sense (ekenderiya).[41][151] Among the single sense beings are plant beings, air beings (whirlwind[j]), earth beings (clay), water beings (dew drop) and fire beings (burning coal, meteor, lightning). The last class of beings are Agni-bodies, and these are believed to contain soul and fire-bodied beings.[22][149] Ahimsa, or non-violence, is the highest precept in Jainism. In their spiritual pursuits, Jain monks go to great lengths to practice Ahimsa; they neither start Agni nor extinguish Agni because doing so is considered violent to "fire beings" and an act that creates harmful Karma.[41][153]

Agni-kumara or "fire princes" are a part of Jain theory of rebirth and a class of reincarnated beings.[23] Agni or Tejas are terms used to describe substances and concepts that create beings, and in which transmigrating soul gets bound according to Jainism theology.[154]

Ancient medicine and food

Agni, as constitutive principle of fire or heat, was incorporated in Hindu texts of ancient medicine such as the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. It is, along with Soma, the two classification premises in the pre-4th century CE medical texts found in Hinduism and Buddhism. Agni-related category, states Dominik Wujastyk, included that of "hot, fiery, dry or parched" types, while Soma-related category included "moist, nourishing, soothing and cooling" types. This classification system was a basis of grouping medicinal herbs, seasons of the year, tastes and foods, empirical diagnosis of human illnesses, veterinary medicine, and many other aspects of health and lifestyle.[155][156][157]

Agni was viewed as the life force in a healthy body, the power to digest foods, and innate in food.[158][159] In Ayurveda, states Fleischman, "the amount of Agni determines the state of health".[160]

Agni is an important entity in Ayurveda. Agni is the fiery metabolic energy of digestion, allows assimilation of food while ridding the body of waste and toxins, and transforms dense physical matter into subtle forms of energy the body needs. Jathar-agni determines the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, Bhuta-agni determines the production of bile in the liver, Kloma-agni determines the production of sugar-digesting pancreatic enzymes and so forth. The nature and quality of these agnis depend on one's dosha which can be – vata, pitta or kapha.[161]

Agni is also known as Vaisvanara. Just as the illuminating power in the fire is a part of Agni's own effulgence, even so the heating power in the foods digestive and appetizing power is also a part of Agni's energy or potency.[162]

See also

• Agneya, Agni's daughter
• Atar, Zoroastrian yazata of fire
• Eternal flame
• Hestia, Greek goddess of the hearth
• Kamui Fuchi, Ainu fire goddess
• Mātariśvan
• Vahagn, Armenian god of fire and war
• Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth


1. The Vedic idea that the sun, lightning, and fire were different manifestation of the same element and principle is summarized in many Hindu texts, such as the ancient Bṛhaddevatā.[41]
2. The Trimurti idea of Hinduism, states Jan Gonda, "seems to have developed from ancient cosmological and ritualistic speculations about the triple character of an individual god, in the first place of Agni, whose births are three or threefold, and who is threefold light, has three bodies and three stations".[43](pp218–219) Other trinities, beyond the more common "Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva", mentioned in ancient and medieval Hindu texts include: "Indra, Vishnu, Brahmanaspati"; "Agni, Indra, Surya"; "Agni, Vayu, Aditya"; "Mahalakshmi, Mahasarasvati, and Mahakali"; and others.[43](pp212–226)[44]
3. Other hymns of the Rigveda link Ṛta (cosmic harmony) to other Vedic deities, such as verse 10.133.6 calls on Indra for guidance on Ṛta.[49]
4. This prayer to Agni appears in Rigveda verse 1.89.1, composed before 1200 BCE.[64]
5. The two rake the holy vow in the presence of Agni ... In the first four rounds, the bride leads and the groom follows, and in the final three, the groom leads and the bride follows. While walking around the fire, the bride places her right palm on the groom's right palm and the bride's brother pours some unhusked rice or barley into their hands and they offer it to the fire ...[80]
6. विश्ववेदा, appearing in the Taittiriya Samhita (IV.iii.2.10) – अभून्मम सुमतौ विश्ववेदा आष्ट प्रतिष्ठामविदद्धि गाधम्, and in the Rig Veda:
* ये पायवो मामतेयं ते अग्ने पश्यन्तो अन्धं दुरितादरक्षन्
7. In a prayer (R.V.I.27.10) addressed to Agni, the sage prays ": जराबोध तद्विविड्ढि विशेविशे यज्ञियाय
8. स्वाध्यो दिव आ सप्त यह्वी रायो (Rig Veda I.72.8)
9. He says – विदद् गव्यं सरमा दृहमूर्वमं येना नु कं मानुषी भोजते विट् – "Saramā discovered the strong and wide places of the hidden knowledge; this discovery brings happiness to all human beings".
10. For other examples from Uttaradhyayana Sutra text of Jainism, see Chapple.[152]
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159. Guha, Amala (2006). "Ayurvedic Concept of Food and Nutrition". Ayurveda Health and Nutrition. 4 (1). Retrieved 12 October 2016.
160. Fleischman, P. R. (1976). "Ayurveda". International Journal of Social Psychiatry. 22(4): 282–287. doi:10.1177/002076407602200406. PMID 799625. S2CID 220642164.
161. Yoga Journal Sep–Oct 2003. Active Interest Media. September–October 2003. p. 38.
162. Goyandka, Jayadayal. Srimadbhagavadagita Tattvavivecani. Gita Press. page 613, verses BG 15.14.

External links

• "Agni: Indian god". Encyclopædia Britannica.
• "Agni Suktam" (PDF). Rigveda, Rāmakṛṣṇa Janasvāmi. University of Massachusetts.
• "Agni, the fire altar". The Pluralism Project. Harvard University.
• Tull, Herman. "Vedic Agni". Oxford Bibliographies.
• "Agni".
• "Apāṁ Napāt, Dīrghatamas and Construction of the Brick Altar. Analysis of RV 1.143". 4277610.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Tue Sep 08, 2020 12:26 am

Chandra [Chandran] [Soma]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/7/20

Chandra, God of the Moon, Lord of Night, Plants and Vegetation
Member of Navagraha
Other names: Soma, Chandran, திங்கள் (Thinghal - Tamil)
Devanagari: चंद्र
Affiliation: Deva, graha, Navagraha
Abode: Chandraloka
Planet: Moon
Mantra: Om Chandramasē Namaha
Weapon: Rope
Day: Monday,
Hindi: Somvaar
Sanskrit: Induvaasaram
Tamil: "Thinghatkizhamai"
Color: Pale white[1]
Number: 2
Mount: Chariot pulled by an antelope
Gender: Male
Personal information
Parents: Atri (father); Anusuya (mother)
Siblings: Durvasa and Dattatreya
Consort: Rohini, Revathi and other 25 daughters of Daksha; Tara (illegitimate)
Children: Varchas with Rohini, Budha with Tara (illegitimate)
Greek equivalent: Selene, Phoebe
Roman equivalent: Luna
Norse equivalent: Máni

Chandra (Sanskrit: चन्द्र, IAST: Candra, lit. "shining" or "moon")[2] is a lunar deity and is also one of the nine planets (Navagraha) in Hinduism. His chief consort is Rohini. Chandra is synonymous to Soma. Other names include Indu ("bright drop"), Atrisuta ("son of Atri"), Sachihna ("marked by hare"), Tārādhipa ("lord of stars") and Nishakara ("the night maker").[3]

Chandra is described as a young and beautiful man, two-armed and carrying a club and a lotus.[4] In Hindu mythology, he is the father of Budha (planet Mercury).

Chandra, who is also known as Soma and Indu, is the basis of Somvaar, which is Hindi, and Induvaasaram, which is Sanskrit, for Monday in the Hindu calendar.


Chandra, British Museum - 13th century, Konark

In Hindu mythology, there are multiple legends surrounding Chandra.

In one, Chandra met Tara, the wife of Brihaspati (planet Jupiter) and was captivated by her beauty. Tara was also attracted to him. One day Chandra abducted her and made her his queen. From their union, Tara became pregnant, giving birth to Budha (planet Mercury). Brihaspati, being upset, declared a war but the Devas intervened and Tara was returned to Brihaspati. Budha's son was Pururavas who established the Chandravanshi Dynasty.[5]

After Tara returned to her husband Brihaspati, Chandra had an emotional breakdown because he couldn't satisfy his feelings by having infinite children with Tara and so He (Mind) was overcome with lust (emotions). He married Daksha's 27 daughters to sate his ever-growing desires for sexual union. Among all of his 27 wives, Rohini is the most favoured. The 26 other wives became upset (after knowing that Chandra spent more time with Rohini alone) and complained to Daksha who placed a curse on Chandra. The curse was overcome only after Chandra devoted himself to Shiva, who partially released him from the curse.[5]

According to another legend, Ganesha was returning home on his mount Krauncha (a shrew) late on a full moon night after a mighty feast given by Kubera. On the journey back, a snake crossed their path and frightened by it, his mount ran away dislodging Ganesha in the process. An overstuffed Ganesha fell to the ground on his stomach, vomiting out all the Modaks he had eaten. On observing this, Chandra laughed at Ganesha. Ganesha lost his temper and broke off one of his tusks and flung it straight at the Moon, hurting him, and cursed him so that he would never be whole again. Therefore, It is forbidden to behold Chandra on Ganesh Chaturthi. This legend accounts for the Moon's waxing and waning including a big crater on the Moon, a dark spot, visible even from Earth.[6]

Other aspects

Chandra literally means the "Moon" in Sanskrit, Hindi and other Indian languages. The word "Chandra" is also a common Indian name and surname. Both male and female name variations exists in many South East Asian languages that originate from Sanskrit.

Indu, one of the other names for Chandra, is also the name of the first chakra of Melakarta ragas in Carnatic music. The names of chakras are based on the numbers associated with each name. In this case, there is one, the Moon and hence the first chakra is Indu.[7][8]


Soma, Moon, God of Plants and Vegetables[9][10]
Soma, the moon deity
Devanagari: सोम
Affiliation: Graha
Abode: Moon
Day: Somvara (Monday)[11]
Mount: Three-wheeled chariot pulled by white horses

Soma (Sanskrit: सोम) connotes the Moon as well as a medicinal deity in post-Vedic Hindu mythology.[12][13][14] In Puranic mythology, Soma is a moon deity, but the name is sometimes also used to refer to Vishnu, Shiva (as Somanatha), Yama and Kubera.[15] In some Indian texts, Soma is the name of an Apsara; alternatively it is the name of any medicinal concoction, or rice-water gruel, or heaven and sky, as well as the name of certain places of pilgrimage.[15]

The Soma Mandala in the Rigveda mentions Soma as a ritual drink as being of importance among the early Indo-Iranians.

Soma is synonymous with Chandra, Indu (bright drop), Atrisuta (son of Atri), Shashin (marked by hare), Taradhipa (lord of stars) and Nishakara (the night maker).[3]

In Buddhist sources, Soma and Chandra (Pali: Candimā) appear to be separate entities.[16][17]

In Sambhava Parva section of Mahabharata's Adi Parva, Soma is identified as the father-deity of Abhimanyu.


The earliest use of Soma to refer to the Moon is a subject of scholarly debate, with some scholars suggesting that the reference to Moon as Soma is to be found in the Vedas, while other scholars suggest that such usage emerged only in the post-Vedic literature.[12] The Hindu texts state that the Moon is lit and nourished by the Sun, and that it is Moon where the divine nectar of immortality resides.[3]


Soma's iconography varies in Hindu texts. The most common is one where he is a white colored deity, holding a mace in his hand, riding a chariot with three wheels and three or more white horses (up to ten).[18]

Soma as the Moon-deity is also found in Buddhism,[19] and Jainism.[20]

Zodiac and calendar

Soma is the root of the word Somavara or Monday in the Hindu calendar.[11] The word "Monday" in the Greco-Roman and other Indo-European calendars is also dedicated to the Moon.[21] Soma is part of the Navagraha in Hindu zodiac system. The role and importance of the Navagraha developed over time with various influences. Deifying the moon and its astrological significance occurred as early as the Vedic period and was recorded in the Vedas. The earliest work of astrology recorded in India is the Vedanga Jyotisha which began to be compiled in the 14th century BCE. It was possibly based on works from the Indus Valley Civilization as well as various foreign influences. Babylonian astrology which was the first to develop astrology and the calendar, and was adopted by multiple civilizations including India. The moon and various classical planets were referenced in the Atharvaveda around 1000 BCE.

The Navagraha was furthered by additional contributions from Western Asia, including Zoroastrian and Hellenistic influences. The Yavanajataka, or 'Science of the Yavanas', was written by the Indo-Greek named "Yavanesvara" ("Lord of the Greeks") under the rule of the Western Kshatrapa king Rudrakarman I. The Yavanajataka written in 120 CE is often attributed to standardizing Indian astrology. The Navagraha would further develop and culminate in the Shaka era with the Saka, or Scythian, people. Additionally the contributions by the Saka people would be the basis of the Indian national calendar, which is also called the Saka calendar.

The Hindu calendar is a Lunisolar calendar which records both lunar and solar cycles. Like the Navagraha, it was developed with the successive contributions of various works.


Soma was presumed to be a planet in Hindu astronomical texts.[22] It is often discussed in various Sanskrit astronomical texts, such as the 5th century Aryabhatiya by Aryabhatta, the 6th century Romaka by Latadeva and Panca Siddhantika by Varahamihira, the 7th century Khandakhadyaka by Brahmagupta and the 8th century Sisyadhivrddida by Lalla.[23] Other texts such as Surya Siddhanta dated to have been complete sometime between the 5th century and 10th century present their chapters on various planets with deity mythologies.[23] However, they show that the Hindu scholars were aware of elliptical orbits, and the texts include sophisticated formulae to calculate its past and future positions:[24]

The longitude of Moon = {\displaystyle \left(m-{\frac {P*Rsin(m-a)}{360}}\right)}{\displaystyle \left(m-{\frac {P*Rsin(m-a)}{360}}\right)}
– Surya Siddhanta II.39.43[24]
where m is the Moon's mean longitude, a is the longitude at apogee, P is epicycle of apsis, R=3438'.

In popular culture

Chandra plays an important role in one of the first novel-length mystery stories in English, The Moonstone (1868). The Sanskrit word Chandrayāna (Sanskrit: चन्द्रयान, Moon Vehicle) is used to refer to India's lunar orbiters.

Chandra is the first name of a popular character, Chandra Nalaar, in the collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering.[25]

Raj Singh played chandradev in Serial Karmaphal Daata Shani on colors'tv.

See also

• Ardha chandrasana, half-moon pose in yoga
• Navagraha
• Soma
• List of lunar deities


2. Graha Sutras by Ernst Wilhelm, published by Kala Occult Publishers ISBN 0-9709636-4-5 p. 51
3. Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. p. 394. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
4. Mythology of the Hindus by Charles Coleman p. 131
5. Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. pp. 393–394. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
6. Usha, K R. "Why Ganesha has a Broken Tusk or Why the Moon has a Crater". The University of Iowa. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
7. South Indian Music Book III, by Prof. P Sambamoorthy, Published 1973, The Indian Music Publishing House
8. Ragas in Carnatic music by Dr. S. Bhagyalekshmy, Pub. 1990, CBH Publications
9. Vinod ChandraaSrivastava (2008). History of Agriculture in India, Up to C. 1200 A.D. Concept Publishing. p. 557. ISBN 978-81-8069-521-6.
10. Edward Washburn Hopkins (1968). Epic Mythology. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-8196-0228-2.
11. Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
12. Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. p. 393. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
13. Nirukta, Chapter 11, Part 3. The oldest available book for Vedic Etymology
14. RgVeda 9.1.1, Samaveda 1
15. Monier Monier-Williams (1872). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press (Reprint: 2001). p. 1137.
16. "Jayadissa Jātaka (No. 513)". Internet Sacred Text Archive.
17. "Bhūridatta Jātaka (No. 543)". Sacred Text Internet Archive.
18. Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. pp. 393–394. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
19. John C. Huntington; Dina Bangdel (2003). The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art. Serindia. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-932476-01-9.
20. R. T. Vyas; Umakant Premanand Shah (1995). Studies in Jaina Art and Iconography. Abhinav Publications. p. 23. ISBN 978-81-7017-316-8.
21. Lionel D. Barnett (1994). Antiquities of India: An Account of the History and Culture of Ancient Hindustan. Asian Educational Services. pp. 188–192 with footnotes. ISBN 978-81-206-0530-5.
22. Aryabhatta; H. Kern (Editor, Commentary) (1973). The Aryabhatiya (in Sanskrit and English). Brill Archive. p. xx.
23. Ebenezer Burgess (1989). P Ganguly, P Sengupta (ed.). Sûrya-Siddhânta: A Text-book of Hindu Astronomy. Motilal Banarsidass (Reprint), Original: Yale University Press, American Oriental Society. pp. vii–xi. ISBN 978-81-208-0612-2.
24. Ebenezer Burgess (1989). P Ganguly, P Sengupta (ed.). Sûrya-Siddhânta: A Text-book of Hindu Astronomy. Motilal Banarsidass (Reprint), Original: Yale University Press, American Oriental Society. pp. xx. ISBN 978-81-208-0612-2.
25. "CHANDRA NALAAR". MAGIC: THE GATHERING. Retrieved 15 October 2018.

External links

• Media related to Chandra at Wikimedia Commons
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Tue Sep 08, 2020 3:31 am

Part 1 of 2

by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/7/20

The Manusmṛiti (Sanskrit: मनुस्मृति), also spelled as Manusmruti,[1] is an ancient legal text among the many Dharmaśāstras of Hinduism.[2] It was one of the first Sanskrit texts to have been translated into English in 1776, by Sir William Jones,[2] and was used to formulate the Hindu law by the British colonial government.[3][4]It can be considered as the world's first constitution as it contains laws regarding society, taxes, warfare,etc.

To possess ourselves of a clear idea of what government is, or ought to be, we must trace it to its origin. In doing this we shall easily discover that governments must have arisen either out of the people or over the people. Mr. Burke has made no distinction. He investigates nothing to its source, and therefore he confounds everything; but he has signified his intention of undertaking, at some future opportunity, a comparison between the constitution of England and France. As he thus renders it a subject of controversy by throwing the gauntlet, I take him upon his own ground. It is in high challenges that high truths have the right of appearing; and I accept it with the more readiness because it affords me, at the same time, an opportunity of pursuing the subject with respect to governments arising out of society.

But it will be first necessary to define what is meant by a Constitution. It is not sufficient that we adopt the word; we must fix also a standard signification to it.

A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal, but a real existence; and wherever it cannot be produced in a visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the creature of a constitution. The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting its government. It is the body of elements, to which you can refer, and quote article by article; and which contains the principles on which the government shall be established, the manner in which it shall be organised, the powers it shall have, the mode of elections, the duration of Parliaments, or by what other name such bodies may be called; the powers which the executive part of the government shall have; and in fine, everything that relates to the complete organisation of a civil government, and the principles on which it shall act, and by which it shall be bound. A constitution, therefore, is to a government what the laws made afterwards by that government are to a court of judicature. The court of judicature does not make the laws, neither can it alter them; it only acts in conformity to the laws made: and the government is in like manner governed by the constitution.

Can, then, Mr. Burke produce the English Constitution? If he cannot, we may fairly conclude that though it has been so much talked about, no such thing as a constitution exists, or ever did exist, and consequently that the people have yet a constitution to form.

Mr. Burke will not, I presume, deny the position I have already advanced- namely, that governments arise either out of the people or over the people. The English Government is one of those which arose out of a conquest, and not out of society, and consequently it arose over the people; and though it has been much modified from the opportunity of circumstances since the time of William the Conqueror, the country has never yet regenerated itself, and is therefore without a constitution.

I readily perceive the reason why Mr. Burke declined going into the comparison between the English and French constitutions, because he could not but perceive, when he sat down to the task, that no such a thing as a constitution existed on his side the question. His book is certainly bulky enough to have contained all he could say on this subject, and it would have been the best manner in which people could have judged of their separate merits. Why then has he declined the only thing that was worth while to write upon? It was the strongest ground he could take, if the advantages were on his side, but the weakest if they were not; and his declining to take it is either a sign that he could not possess it or could not maintain it.

Mr. Burke said, in a speech last winter in Parliament, "that when the National Assembly first met in three Orders (the Tiers Etat, the Clergy, and the Noblesse), France had then a good constitution." This shows, among numerous other instances, that Mr. Burke does not understand what a constitution is. The persons so met were not a constitution, but a convention, to make a constitution.

The present National Assembly of France is, strictly speaking, the personal social compact. The members of it are the delegates of the nation in its original character; future assemblies will be the delegates of the nation in its organised character. The authority of the present Assembly is different from what the authority of future Assemblies will be. The authority of the present one is to form a constitution; the authority of future assemblies will be to legislate according to the principles and forms prescribed in that constitution; and if experience should hereafter show that alterations, amendments, or additions are necessary, the constitution will point out the mode by which such things shall be done, and not leave it to the discretionary power of the future government.

A government on the principles on which constitutional governments arising out of society are established, cannot have the right of altering itself. If it had, it would be arbitrary. It might make itself what it pleased; and wherever such a right is set up, it shows there is no constitution. The act by which the English Parliament empowered itself to sit seven years, shows there is no constitution in England. It might, by the same self-authority, have sat any great number of years, or for life. The bill which the present Mr. Pitt brought into Parliament some years ago, to reform Parliament, was on the same erroneous principle. The right of reform is in the nation in its original character, and the constitutional method would be by a general convention elected for the purpose. There is, moreover, a paradox in the idea of vitiated bodies reforming themselves.

From these preliminaries I proceed to draw some comparisons....

-- Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine

Over fifty manuscripts of the Manusmriti are now known, but the earliest discovered, most translated and presumed authentic version since the 18th century has been the "Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) manuscript with Kulluka Bhatta commentary".[5] Modern scholarship states this presumed authenticity is false, and the various manuscripts of Manusmriti discovered in India are inconsistent with each other, and within themselves, raising concerns of its authenticity, insertions and interpolations made into the text in later times.[5][6]

The metrical text is in Sanskrit, is variously dated to be from the 2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE, and it presents itself as a discourse given by Manu (Svayambhuva) and Bhrigu on dharma topics such as duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and others. The text's fame spread outside Bharat (India), long before the colonial era. The medieval era Buddhistic law of Myanmar and Thailand are also ascribed to Manu,[7][8] and the text influenced past Hindu kingdoms in Cambodia and Indonesia.[9]

Manusmriti is also called the Mānava-Dharmaśāstra or Laws of Manu.[10]


The title Manusmriti is a relatively modern term and a late innovation, probably coined because the text is in a verse form.[10] The over fifty manuscripts discovered of the text, never use this title, but state the title as Manava Dharmasastra (Sanskrit: मानवधर्मशास्त्र) in their colophons at the end of each chapter. In modern scholarship, these two titles refer to the same text.[10]


Eighteenth-century philologists Sir William Jones and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel assigned Manusmriti to the period of around 1250 BCE and 1000 BCE respectively, which from later linguistic developments is untenable due to the language of the text which must be dated later than the late Vedic texts such as the Upanishads which are themselves dated a few centuries later, around 500 BCE.[11] Later scholars, shifted the chronology of the text to between 200 BCE and 200 CE.[12][13] Olivelle adds that numismatics evidence, and the mention of gold coins as a fine, suggest that text may date to the 2nd or 3rd century CE.[14]

Most scholars consider the text a composite produced by many authors put together over a long period. Olivelle states that the various ancient and medieval Indian texts claim revisions and editions were derived from the original text with 100,000 verses and 1,080 chapters. However, the text version in modern use, according to Olivelle, is likely the work of a single author or a chairman with research assistants.[15]

Manusmriti, Olivelle states, was not a new document, it drew on other texts, and it reflects "a crystallization of an accumulated knowledge" in ancient India.[16] The root of theoretical models within Manusmriti rely on at least two shastras that pre-date it: artha (statecraft and legal process), and dharma (an ancient Indian concept that includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and others discussed in various Dharmasutras older than Manusmriti).[16] Its contents can be traced to Kalpasutras of the Vedic era, which led to the development of Smartasutras consisting of Grihyasutras and Dharmasutras.[17] The foundational texts of Manusmriti include many of these sutras, all from an era preceding the common era. Most of these ancient texts are now lost, and only four of have survived: the law codes of Apastamba, Gautama, Baudhayana and Vasishtha.[18]


The modern version of the text has been subdivided into twelve Adhyayas (chapters), but the original text had no such division.[19] The text covers different topics, and is unique among ancient Indian texts in using “transitional verses” to mark the end of one subject and the start of the next.[19] The text can be broadly divided into four, each of different length. and each further divided into subsections:[19]

1. Creation of the world
2. Source of dharma
3. The dharma of the four social classes
4. Law of karma, rebirth and final liberation

The text is composed in metric Shlokas (verses), in the form of a dialogue between an exalted teacher and disciples who are eager to learn about the various aspects of dharma.[20] The first 58 verses are attributed by the text to Manu, while the remaining more than two thousand verses are attributed to his student Bhrigu.[20] Olivelle lists the subsections as follows:[21]

Sources of the law

The Dharmasya Yonih (Sources of the Law) has twenty-four verses, and one transition verse.[21] These verses state what the text considers as the proper and just sources of law:

वेदोऽखिलो धर्ममूलं स्मृतिशीले च तद्विदाम् । आचारश्चैव साधूनामात्मनस्तुष्टिरेव च ॥

Translation 1: The whole Veda is the (first) source of the sacred law, next the tradition and the virtuous conduct of those who know the (Veda further), also the customs of holy men, and (finally) self-satisfaction (Atmana santushti).[22]
Translation 2: The root of the religion is the entire Veda, and (then) the tradition and customs of those who know (the Veda), and the conduct of virtuous people, and what is satisfactory to oneself.[23]

— Manusmriti 2.6
वेदः स्मृतिः सदाचारः स्वस्य च प्रियमात्मनः । एतच्चतुर्विधं प्राहुः साक्षाद् धर्मस्य लक्षणम् ॥

Translation 1: The Veda, the sacred tradition, the customs of virtuous men, and one's own pleasure, they declare to be the fourfold means of defining the sacred law.[22]
Translation 2: The Veda, tradition, the conduct of good people, and what is pleasing to oneself – they say that is four fold mark of religion.[23]

— Manusmriti 2.12

This section of Manusmriti, like other Hindu law texts, includes fourfold sources of Dharma, states Levinson, which include Atmana santushti (satisfaction of one's conscience), Sadachara (local norms of virtuous individuals), Smriti and Sruti.[24][25][26]

Dharma of the four Varnas

Further information: Varna (Hinduism)

• 3.1 Rules Relating to Law (2.25 – 10.131)
• 3.1.1 Rules of Action in Normal Times (2.26 – 9.336)
• Fourfold Dharma of a Brahmin (2.26 – 6.96) (contains the longest section of Manusmriti, 3.1, called dharmavidhi)[19]
• Rules of Action for a King (7.1 – 9.324) (contains 960 verses, includes description of institutions and officials of state, how officials are to be appointed, tax laws, rules of war, the role and limits on the power of the king, and long sections on eighteen grounds for litigation, including those related to non-delivery under contract, breach of contract, non-payment of wages, property disputes, inheritance disputes, humiliation and defamation, physical assault, theft, violence of any form, injury, sexual crimes against women, public safety, and others; the section also includes rules of evidence, rules on interrogation of witnesses, and the organisation of court system)[27]
• Rules of Action for Vaiśyas and Śūdras (9.326 – 9.335) (shortest section, eight rules for Vaishyas, two for Shudras, but some applicable laws to these two classes are discussed generically in verses 2.26 – 9.324)[28]
• 3.1.2 Rules of Action in Times of Adversity (10.1 – 11.129) (contains revised rules on the state machinery and four varnas in the times of war, famine or other emergencies)[29]
• 3.2 Rules Relating to Penance (11.1 – 11.265) (includes rules of proportionate punishment; instead of fines, incarceration or death, discusses penance or social isolation as a form of punishment for certain crimes)[29]

The verses 6.97, 9.325, 9.336 and 10.131 are transitional verses.[21] Olivelle notes instances of likely interpolation and insertions in the notes to this section, in both the presumed vulgate version and the critical edition.[30]

Determination of Karmayoga

The verses 12.1, 12.2 and 12.82 are transitional verses.[21] This section is in a different style than the rest of the text, raising questions whether this entire chapter was added later. While there is evidence that this chapter was extensively redacted over time, however it is unclear whether the entire chapter is of a later era.[31]

• 4.1 Fruits of Action (12.3-81) (section on actions and consequences, personal responsibility, action as a means of moksha – the highest personal bliss)[31]
• 4.2 Rules of Action for Supreme Good (12.83-115) (section on karma, duties and responsibilities as a means of supreme good)[31]

The closing verses of Manusmriti declares,

एवं यः सर्वभूतेषु पश्यत्यात्मानमात्मना । स सर्वसमतामेत्य ब्रह्माभ्येति परं पदम् ॥
He who thus recognizes in his individual soul (Self, Atman), the universal soul that exists in all beings,
becomes equal-minded towards all, and enters the highest state, Brahman.

— Manusmriti 12.125, Calcutta manuscript with Kulluka Bhatta commentary[32][33]


The structure and contents of the Manusmriti suggest it to be a document predominantly targeted at the Brahmins (priestly class) and the Kshatriyas (king, administration and warrior class).[34] The text dedicates 1,034 verses, the largest portion, on laws for and expected virtues of Brahmins, and 971 verses for Kshatriyas.[35] The statement of rules for the Vaishyas (merchant class) and the Shudras (artisans and working class) in the text is extraordinarily brief. Olivelle suggests that this may be because the text was composed to address the balance "between the political power and the priestly interests", and because of the rise in foreign invasions of India in the period it was composed.[34]

On virtues and outcast

Manusmriti lists and recommends virtues in many verses. For example, verse 6.75 recommends non-violence towards everyone and temperance as key virtues,[36][37] while verse 10.63 preaches that all four varnas must abstain from injuring any creature, abstain from falsehood and abstain from appropriating property of others.[38][39]

Similarly, in verse 4.204, states Olivelle, some manuscripts of Manusmriti list the recommended virtues to be, "compassion, forbearance, truthfulness, non-injury, self-control, not desiring, meditation, serenity, sweetness and honesty" as primary, and "purification, sacrifices, ascetic toil, gift giving, vedic recitation, restraining the sexual organs, observances, fasts, silence and bathing" as secondary.[40] A few manuscripts of the text contain a different verse 4.204, according to Olivelle, and list the recommended virtues to be, "not injuring anyone, speaking the truth, chastity, honesty and not stealing" as central and primary, while "not being angry, obedience to the teacher, purification, eating moderately and vigilance" to desirable and secondary.[40]

In other discovered manuscripts of Manusmriti, including the most translated Calcutta manuscript, the text declares in verse 4.204 that the ethical precepts under Yamas such as Ahimsa (non-violence) are paramount while Niyamas such as Ishvarapranidhana (contemplation of personal god) are minor, and those who do not practice the Yamas but obey the Niyamas alone become outcasts.[41][42]

On personal choices, behaviours and morals

Manusmriti has numerous verses on duties a person has towards himself and to others, thus including moral codes as well as legal codes.[43] This is similar to, states Olivelle, the modern contrast between informal moral concerns to birth out of wedlock in the developed nations, along with simultaneous legal protection for children who are born out of wedlock.[43]

Personal behaviours covered by the text are extensive. For example, verses 2.51-2.56, recommend that a monk must go on his begging round, collect alms food and present it to his teacher first, then eat. One should revere whatever food one gets and eat it without disdain, states Manusmriti, but never overeat, as eating too much harms health.[44] In verse 5.47, the text states that work becomes without effort when a man contemplates, undertakes and does what he loves to do and when he does so without harming any creature.[45]

Numerous verses relate to the practice of meat eating, how it causes injury to living beings, why it is evil, and the morality of vegetarianism.[43] Yet, the text balances its moral tone as an appeal to one's conscience, states Olivelle. For example, verse 5.56 as translated by Olivelle states, "there is no fault in eating meat, in drinking liquor, or in having sex; that is the natural activity of creatures. Abstaining from such activity, however, brings greatest rewards."[46]

On rights of women

Manusmriti offers an inconsistent and internally conflicting perspective on women's rights.[47] The text, for example, declares that a marriage cannot be dissolved by a woman or a man, in verse 8.101-8.102.[48] Yet, the text, in other sections, allows either to dissolve the marriage. For example, verses 9.72-9.81 allow the man or the woman to get out of a fraudulent marriage or an abusive marriage, and remarry; the text also provides legal means for a woman to remarry when her husband has been missing or has abandoned her.[49]

It preaches chastity to widows such as in verses 5.158-5.160, opposes a woman marrying someone outside her own social class as in verses 3.13-3.14.[50] In other verses, such as 2.67-2.69 and 5.148-5.155, Manusmriti preaches that as a girl, she should obey and seek protection of her father, as a young woman her husband, and as a widow her son; and that a woman should always worship her husband as a god.[51] In verses 3.55-3.56, Manusmriti also declares that "women must be honored and adorned", and "where women are revered, there the gods rejoice; but where they are not, no sacred rite bears any fruit".[52][53] Elsewhere, in verses 5.147-5.148, states Olivelle, the text declares, "a woman must never seek to live independently".[54]

Simultaneously, states Olivelle, the text presupposes numerous practices such as marriages outside one's varna (see anuloma and pratiloma), such as between a Brahmin man and a Shudra woman in verses 9.149-9.157, a widow getting pregnant with a child of a man she is not married to in verses 9.57-9.62, marriage where a woman in love elopes with her man, and then grants legal rights in these cases such as property inheritance rights in verses 9.143-9.157, and the legal rights of the children so born.[55] The text also presumes that a married woman may get pregnant by a man other than her husband, and dedicates verses 8.31-8.56 to conclude that the child's custody belongs to the woman and her legal husband, and not to the man she got pregnant with.[56][57]

Manusmriti provides a woman with property rights to six types of property in verses 9.192-9.200. These include those she received at her marriage, or as gift when she eloped or when she was taken away, or as token of love before marriage, or as gifts from her biological family, or as received from her husband subsequent to marriage, and also from inheritance from deceased relatives.[58]

Flavia Agnes states that Manusmriti is a complex commentary from women's rights perspective, and the British colonial era codification of women's rights based on it for Hindus, and from Islamic texts for Muslims, picked and emphasised certain aspects while it ignored other sections.[47] This construction of personal law during the colonial era created a legal fiction around Manusmriti's historic role as a scripture in matters relating to women in South Asia.[47][59]

On statecraft and rules of war

Chapter 7 of the Manusmriti discusses the duties of a king, what virtues he must have, what vices he must avoid.[60] In verses 7.54 - 7.76, the text identifies precepts to be followed in selecting ministers, ambassadors and officials, as well as the characteristics of well fortified capital. Manusmriti then lays out the laws of just war, stating that first and foremost, war should be avoided by negotiations and reconciliations.[60][61] If war becomes necessary, states Manusmriti, a soldier must never harm civilians, non-combatants or someone who has surrendered, that use of force should be proportionate, and other rules.[60] Fair taxation guidelines are described in verses 7.127 to 7.137.[60][61]

Authenticity and inconsistencies in various manuscripts

Patrick Olivelle, credited with a 2005 translation of Manusmriti published by the Oxford University Press, states the concerns in postmodern scholarship about the presumed authenticity and reliability of Manusmriti manuscripts.[5] He writes (abridged),

The MDh [Manusmriti] was the first Indian legal text introduced to the western world through the translation of Sir William Jones in 1794. (...) All the editions of the MDh, except for Jolly's, reproduce the text as found in the [Calcutta] manuscript containing the commentary of Kulluka. I have called this as the "vulgate version". It was Kulluka's version that has been translated repeatedly: Jones (1794), Burnell (1884), Buhler (1886) and Doniger (1991). (...)

The belief in the authenticity of Kulluka's text was openly articulated by Burnell (1884, xxix): "There is then no doubt that the textus receptus, viz., that of Kulluka Bhatta, as adopted in India and by European scholars, is very near on the whole to the original text." This is far from the truth. Indeed, one of the great surprises of my editorial work has been to discover how few of the over fifty manuscripts that I collated actually follow the vulgate in key readings.

— Patrick Olivelle, Manu's Code of Law (2005)[5]

Other scholars point to the inconsistencies and have questioned the authenticity of verses, and the extent to which verses were changed, inserted or interpolated into the original, at a later date. Sinha, for example, states that less than half, or only 1,214 of the 2,685 verses in Manusmriti, may be authentic.[62] Further, the verses are internally inconsistent.[63] Verses such as 3.55-3.62 of Manusmriti, for example, glorify the position of women, while verse such as 9.3 and 9.17 do the opposite.[62] Other passages found in Manusmriti, such as those relating to Ganesha, are modern era insertions and forgeries.[64] Robert E. Van Voorst states that the verses from 3.55-60 may be about respect given to a woman in her home, but within a strong patriarchal system.[65]

Nelson in 1887, in a legal brief before the Madras High Court of British India, had stated, "there are various contradictions and inconsistencies in the Manu Smriti itself, and that these contradictions would lead one to conclude that such a commentary did not lay down legal principles to be followed but were merely recommendatory in nature."[6] Mahatma Gandhi remarked on the observed inconsistencies within Manusmriti as follows,

I hold Manusmriti as part of Shastras. But that does not mean that I swear by every verse that is printed in the book described as Manusmriti. There are so many contradictions in the printed volume that, if you accept one part, you are bound to reject those parts that are wholly inconsistent with it. (...) Nobody is in possession of the original text.

— Mahatma Gandhi, An Adi-Dravida's Difficulties[66]


There are numerous classical commentaries on the Manusmṛti written in the medieval period.

Bhāruci is the oldest known commentator on the Manu Smṛti. Kane places him in the late 10th or early 11th century,[67] Olivelle places him in the 8th century,[68] and Derrett places him between 600-800 CE.[68][69] From these three opinions we can place Bhāruci anywhere from the early 7th century CE to the early 11th century CE. Bhāruci's commentary, titled Manu-sastra-vivarana, has far fewer number of verses than the Kullūka-Calcutta vulgate version in circulation since the British colonial era, and it refers to more ancient texts that are believed to be lost. It is also called Raja-Vimala, and J Duncan M Derrett states Bharuci was "occasionally more faithful to his source's historical intention" than other commentators.[70]

Medhātithi commentary on Manu Smṛti has been widely studied. Scholars such as Buhler, Kane, and Lingat believe he was from north India, likely the Kashmir region. His commentary on Manusmriti is estimated to be from 9th to 11th century.[71]

Govindarāja's commentary, titled Manutika, is an 11th-century commentary on Manusmriti, referred to by Jimutavahana and Laksmidhara, and was plagiarised by Kullūka, states Olivelle.[72]

Kullūka's commentary, titled Manvarthamuktavali, along with his version of the Manusmrti manuscript has been "vulgate" or default standard, most studied version, since it was discovered in 18th-century Calcutta by the British colonial officials.[72] It is the most reproduced and famous, not because, according to Olivelle, it is the oldest or because of its excellence, but because it was the lucky version found first.[72] The Kullūka commentary dated to be sometime between the 13th to 15th century, adds Olivelle, is mostly a plagiary of Govindaraja commentary from about the 11th century, but with Kullūka's criticism of Govindaraja.[72]

Nārāyana's commentary, titled Manvarthavivrtti, is probably from the 14th century and little is known about the author.[72] This commentary includes many variant readings, and Olivelle found it useful in preparing a critical edition of the Manusmriti text in 2005.[72]

Nandana was from south India, and his commentary, titled Nandini, provides a useful benchmark on Manusmriti version and its interpretation in the south.[72]

Other known medieval era commentaries on Manusmriti include those by Sarvajnanarayana, Raghavananda and Ramacandra.[72][73]

Significance and role in history

In ancient and medieval India

Scholars doubt Manusmriti was ever administered as law text in ancient or medieval Hindu society. David Buxbaum states, "in the opinion of the best contemporary orientalists, it [Manusmriti] does not, as a whole, represent a set of rules ever actually administered in Hindustan. It is in great part an ideal picture of that which, in the view of a Brahmin, ought to be law".[74]

Donald Davis writes, "there is no historical evidence for either an active propagation or implementation of Dharmasastra [Manusmriti] by a ruler or any state – as distinct from other forms of recognizing, respecting and using the text. Thinking of Dharmasastra as a legal code and of its authors as lawgivers is thus a serious misunderstanding of its history".[75] Other scholars have expressed the same view, based on epigraphical, archaeological and textual evidence from medieval Hindu kingdoms in Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, while acknowledging that Manusmriti was influential to the South Asian history of law and was a theoretical resource.[76][77]
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In British India

Main article: Hindu law

Prior to the British colonial rule, Sharia (Islamic law) for Muslims in South Asia had been codified as Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, but laws for non-Muslims – such as Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis – were not codified during the 600 years of Islamic rule.[78] With the arrival of the British colonial officials, Manusmriti played a historic role in constructing a legal system for non-Muslims in South Asia and early Western perceptions about the ancient and medieval Indian society.[4]

In the 18th century, the earliest British of the East India Company acted as agents of the Mughal emperor. As the British colonial rule took over the political and administrative powers in India, it was faced with various state responsibilities such as legislative and judiciary functions.[79] The East India Company, and later the British Crown, sought profits for its British shareholders through trade as well as sought to maintain effective political control with minimal military engagement.[80] The administration pursued a path of least resistance, relying upon co-opted local intermediaries that were mostly Muslims and some Hindus in various princely states.[80] The British exercised power by avoiding interference and adapting to law practices as explained by the local intermediaries.[81] The existing legal texts for Muslims, and resurrected Manusmriti manuscript thus helped the colonial state sustain the pre-colonial religious and political law and conflicts, well into the late nineteenth century.[79][80][82] The colonial policy on the system of personal laws for India, for example, was expressed by Governor-General Hastings in 1772 as follows,

That in all suits regarding inheritance, marriage, caste and other religious usages or institutions, the law of the Koran with respect to Mahometans [Muslims], and those of the Shaster with respect to Gentoos [Hindus] shall be invariably be adhered to.

— Warren Hastings, August 15, 1772[83]

For Muslims of India, the British accepted sharia as the legal code for Muslims, based on texts such the al-Sirjjiyah and Fatawa-i Alamgiri written under sponsorship of Aurangzeb.[84][85][86] For Hindus and other non-Muslims such as Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Tribal people, this information was unavailable.[79] The substance of Hindu law, was derived by the British colonial officials from Manusmriti, and it became the first Dharmasastra that was translated in 1794.[2][4] The British colonial officials, for practice, attempted to extract from the Dharmaśāstra, the English categories of law and religion for the purposes of colonial administration.[87][88]

The British colonial officials, however, mistook the Manusmriti as codes of law, failed to recognise that it was a commentary on morals and law and not a statement of positive law.[82][84] The colonial officials of the early 19th century also failed to recognise that Manusmriti was one of many competing Dharmasastra texts, it was not in use for centuries during the Islamic rule period of India.[82][84] The officials resurrected Manusmriti, constructed statements of positive law from the text for non-Muslims, in order to remain faithful to its policy of using sharia for the South Asian Muslim population.[4][82][84] Manusmriti, thus played a role in constructing the Anglo-Hindu law, as well as Western perceptions about ancient and medieval era Hindu culture from the colonial times.[89] Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im states the significance and role of Manusmriti in governing India during the colonial era as follows (abridged),[85]

The [British] colonial administration began the codification of Hindu and Muslim laws in 1772 and continued through the next century, with emphasis on certain texts as the authentic "sources" of the law and custom of Hindus and Muslims, which in fact devalued and retarded those dynamic social systems. The codification of complex and interdependent traditional systems froze certain aspects of the status of women, for instance, outside the context of constantly evolving social and economic relations, which in effect limited or restricted women's rights. The selectivity of the process, whereby colonial authorities sought the assistance of Hindu and Muslim religious elites in understanding the law, resulted in the Brahminization and Islamization of customary laws [in British India]. For example, the British orientalist scholar William Jones translated the key texts Al Sirjjiyah in 1792 as the Mohammedan Law of Inheritance, and Manusmriti in 1794 as the Institutes of Hindu Law or the Ordinances of Manu. In short, British colonial administrators reduced centuries of vigorous development of total ethical, religious and social systems to fit their own preconceived European notions of what Muslim and Hindu "law" should be.

— Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia[85]

Outside India

The Dharma-sastras, particularly Manusmriti, states Anthony Reid,[90] were "greatly honored in Burma (Myanmar), Siam (Thailand), Cambodia and Java-Bali (Indonesia) as the defining documents of the natural order, which kings were obliged to uphold. They were copied, translated and incorporated into local law code, with strict adherence to the original text in Burma and Siam, and a stronger tendency to adapt to local needs in Java (Indonesia)".[90][91][92] The medieval era derived texts and Manusmriti manuscripts in Southeast Asia are, however, quite different than the "vulgate" version that has been in use since its first use in British India. The role of then extant Manusmriti as a historic foundation of law texts for the people of Southeast Asia has been very important, states Hooker.[93]

Comparison with other dharmasastras

Further information: Dharma and Dharmashastra

Along with Manusmriti (Manava Dharmasastra), ancient India had between eighteen and thirty six competing Dharma-sastras, states John Bowker.[17] Many of these texts have been lost completely or in parts, but they are referred to in other ancient Indian texts suggesting that they were influential in some regions or time. Of the numerous jurisprudence-related commentaries and Smriti texts, after Manu Smriti and other than the older Dharma Sutras, Yajnavalkya Smriti has attracted the attention of many scholars, followed by Narada Smriti and Parashara Smriti (the oldest Dharma-smriti).[94] Evidence suggests that Yajnavalkya Smriti, state Ghose and other scholars, was the more referred to text than Manu Smriti, in matters of governance and practice. This text, of unclear date of composition, but likely to be a few centuries after Manusmriti, is more "concise, methodical, distilled and liberal".[95] According to Jois,

Regarding the 18 titles of law, Yajnavalkya follows the same pattern as in Manu with slight modifications. On matters such as women's rights of inheritance and right to hold property, status of Sudras, and criminal penalty, Yajnavalkya is more liberal than Manu. (...) He deals exhaustively on subjects like creation of valid documents, law of mortgages, hypothecation, partnership and joint ventures.

— M Rama Jois, Legal and Constitutional History of India[96]

Jois suggests that the Yajnavalkya Smriti text liberal evolution may have been influenced by Buddhism in ancient India.[95] The Yajnavalkya text is also different from Manu text in adding chapters to the organisation of monasteries, land grants, deeds execution and other matters. The Yajnavalkya text was more referred to by many Hindu kingdoms of the medieval era, as evidenced by the commentary of 12th-century Vijñāneśvara, titled Mitakshara.[97]

Modern reception

Views on Manusmriti have varied among Indian leaders. Ambedkar burnt it in 1927...

while Gandhi found it a mix of lofty as well as contradictory teachings. Gandhi suggested a critical reading, and rejection of parts that were contrary to ahimsa.[98][99]

The Manusmrti has been subject to appraisal and criticism.[100] Among the notable Indian critics of the text in the early 20th century was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, who held Manusmriti as responsible for caste system in India. In protest, Ambedkar burnt Manusmrti in a bonfire on December 25, 1927.[99] While Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar condemned Manusmriti, Mahatma Gandhi opposed the book burning. The latter stated that while caste discrimination was harmful to spiritual and national growth, it had nothing to do with Hinduism and its texts such as Manusmriti. Gandhi argued that the text recognises different callings and professions, defines not one's rights but one's duties, that all work from that of a teacher to a janitor are equally necessary, and of equal status.[99] Gandhi considered Manusmriti to include lofty teachings but a text with inconsistency and contradictions, whose original text is in no one's possession.[98] He recommended that one must read the entire text, accept those parts of Manusmriti which are consistent with "truth and ahimsa (non-injury or non-violence to others)" and the rejection of other parts.[98]

The Manu Smriti was one of the first Sanskrit texts studied by the European philologists. It was first translated into English by Sir William Jones. His version was published in 1794.[101] This interest in its translation was encouraged by British administrative requirements, which they believed to be legal codes. In fact, states Romila Thapar, these were not codes of law but social and ritual texts.[102]

A Louis Jacolliot translation of the Calcutta version of "Law of Manu" was reviewed by Friedrich Nietzsche. He commented on it both favourably and unfavorably:

He deemed it "an incomparably spiritual and superior work" to the Christian Bible, observed that "the sun shines on the whole book" and attributed its ethical perspective to "the noble classes, the philosophers and warriors, [who] stand above the mass."[103] Nietzsche does not advocate a caste system, states David Conway, but endorses the political exclusion conveyed in the Manu text.[104] Nietzsche considered Manu's social order as far from perfect, but considers the general idea of a caste system to be natural and right, and stated that "caste-order, order of rank is just a formula for the supreme law of life itself", a "natural order, lawfulness par excellence".[105][106] According to Nietzsche, states Julian Young, "Nature, not Manu, separates from each other: predominantly spiritual people, people characterized by muscular and temperamental strength, and a third group of people who are not distinguished in either way, the average".[105] He wrote that 'To prepare a book of law in the style of Manu means to give a people the right to become master one day, to become perfect, - to aspire to the highest art of life.'[106]

The Law of Manu was also criticised by Nietzsche. He, states Walter Kaufmann, "denounces the way in which the 'Law of Manu' dealt with the outcastes, saying that there is nothing that outrages our feelings more ... ."[107] Nietzsche wrote, "these regulations teach us enough, in them we find for once Aryan humanity, quite pure, quite primordial, we learn that the concept of pure blood is the opposite of a harmless concept."[108]

In his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution in India, leader B. R. Ambedkar asserted that Manu Smriti was written by a sage named Brigu during the times of Pushyamitra of Sangha in connection with social pressures caused by the rise of Buddhism.[109] However, historian Romila Thapar considers these claims to be exaggerations. Thapar writes that archaeological evidence casts doubt on the claims of Buddhist persecution by Pushyamitra.[110] Support of the Buddhist faith by the Shungas at some point is suggested by an epigraph on the gateway of Bharhut, which mentions its erection "during the supremacy of the Shungas"[111] Hinduism does not evangelise.[112]

Pollard et al. state that the code of Manu was derived to answer questions on how men could rebuild their societies following a series of floods.[113][verification needed] Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj, held the text to be authentic and authoritative.[114] Other admirers of the text have included Annie Besant.[115]

Friedrich Nietzsche is noted to have said "Close the Bible and open the Manu Smriti. It has an affirmation of life, a triumphing agreeable sensation in life and that to draw up a lawbook such as Manu means to permit oneself to get the upper hand, to become perfection, to be ambitious of the highest art of living."[116]

Editions and translations

• The Institutes of Hindu Law: Or, The Ordinances of Manu, Calcutta: Sewell & Debrett, 1796.
• Translation by G. Bühler (1886). Sacred Books of the East: The Laws of Manus (Vol. XXV). Oxford.
• Pranjivan Harihar Pandya (ed.), Manusmriti; With a commentary called Manvarth Muktavali by Kullooka Bhatt, Bombay, 1913.
• Ganganath Jha, Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, 1920, ISBN 8120811550
• J.I. Shastri (ed.), Manusmriti with Kullukabhatta Commentary (1972-1974), reprinted by Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 9788120807662.
• Ramacandra Varma Shastri, Manusmr̥ti: Bhāratīya ācāra-saṃhitā kā viśvakośa, Śāśvata Sāhitya Prakāśana, 1997.
• Olivelle, Patrick (2004). The Law Code of Manu. New York: OUP. ISBN 0192802712.
• Olivelle, Patrick (2005). Manu's Code of Law: A Critical Edition and Translation of the Mānava-Dharmaśāstra. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-195-17146-2.

See also

• Classical Hindu law
• Classical Hindu law in practice
• Hindu law
• Dharmaśāstra
• Apastamba Dharmasutra
• Kalpa (Vedanga)
• Kalpa Sūtra
• Gentoo Code
• Vajrasuchi Upanishad
• Arthashastra


1. Manusmriti, The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (2009), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195134056, See entry for Manusmriti
2. "Flood (1996), page 56".
3. P Bilimoria (2011), The Idea of Hindu Law, Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia, Volume 43, pages 103-130
4. Donald Davis (2010), The Spirit of Hindu Law, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521877046, page 13-16, 166-179
5. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 353-354, 356-382
6. G Srikantan (2014), Entanglements in Legal History (Editor: Thomas Duve), Max Planck Institute: Germany, ISBN 978-3944773001, page 123
7. Steven Collins (1993), The discourse of what is primary, Journal of Indian philosophy, Volume 21, pages 301-393
8. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 3-4
9. Robert Lingat (1973), The Classical Law of India, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520018983, page 77
10. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 18-19, 41
11. William Wilson Hunter. The Indian Empire: Its People, History and Products. Routledge. p. 114.
12. For composition between 200 BCE and 200 CE see: Avari, p. 142. For dating of composition "between the second century BCE and third century CE" see: Flood (1996), p. 56. For dating of Manu Smriti in "final form" to the 2nd century CE, see: Keay, p. 103. For dating as completed some time between 200 BCE and 100 CE see: Hopkins, p. 74. For probable origination during the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD, see: Kulke and Rothermund, p. 85. For the text as preserved dated to around the 1st century BCE. see: "Manu-smriti". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
13. Glimpses of Indian Culture, Dinkar Joshi, p.51 ISBN 9788176501903
14. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 24-25
15. Patrick Olivelle (2005). Manu's Code of Law. Oxford University Press. p. 19. ISBN 0195171462.
16. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 41-49
17. John Bowker (2012), The Message and the Book: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300179293, pages 179-180
18. Patrick Olivelle (1999), Dharmasutras - the law codes of ancient India, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-192838822, pages xxiv-xxv, 280-314
19. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 7-8
20. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 25-27
21. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 9-10
22. The Laws of Manu 2.6 with footnotes George Bühler (Translator), The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 25, Oxford University Press
23. Brian Smith and Wendy Doniger (1992), The Laws of Manu, Penguin, ISBN 978-0140445404, pages 17-18
24. David Levinson (2002), Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, Volume 1, SAGE Publications, ISBN 978-0761922582, page 829
25. Davis Jr, Donald R. (2007). "On Ātmastuṣṭi as a Source of Dharma". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 127 (3): 279–96.
26. Werner Menski, Hindu Law: Beyond Tradition and Modernity (Delhi: Oxford UP, 2003), p.126 and Domenico Francavilla, The Roots of Hindu Jurisprudence: Sources of Dharma and Interpretation in Mīmāṃsā and Dharmaśāstra. Corpus Iuris Sanscriticum. Vol. 7 (Torino: CESMEO, 2006), pp.165–76.
27. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 10-15, 154-205
28. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 16, 8-14, 206-207
29. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 16-17, 208-229
30. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 237-350, 914-982
31. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 10, 17-19, 230-236, 290-292
32. Robert Lingat (1973), The Classical Law of India, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520018983, page 86
33. The Laws of Manu 12.125 George Bühler (Translator), The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 25, Oxford University Press, page 513
34. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 16, 62-65
35. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, page 41
36. The Laws of Manu 6.75 George Bühler (Translator), The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 25, Oxford University Press, page 212
37. J Duncan M Derrett (1975), Bharuci's commentary on the Manusmrti, Schriftenreihe des Sudasien-Instituts der Universitat Heidelberg, ISBN 978-3515018586, page 23
38. The Laws of Manu 10.63 George Bühler (Translator), The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 25, Oxford University Press, page 416
39. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 208-214, 337
40. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, page 275
41. The Laws of Manu 4.204 George Bühler (translator), The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 25, Oxford University Press, page 160-161
42. J Duncan M Derrett (1975), Bharuci's commentary on the Manusmrti, Schriftenreihe des Sudasien-Instituts der Universitat Heidelberg, ISBN 978-3515018586, pages 30, 439-440
43. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 31-32
44. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, page 97
45. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, page 140
46. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 31-32, 138-147, 558-593
47. Flavia Agnes (2001), Law and Gender Inequality: The Politics of Women's Rights in India, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195655247, pages 41-45
48. Robert Lingat (1973), The Classical Law of India, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520018983, page 84
49. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 190-207, 746-809
50. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 31-32, 108-123, 138-147
51. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 98, 146-147
52. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, page 111
53. Sanskrit: यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः । यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः
The Laws of Manu 3.55-3.56 George Bühler (Translator), The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 25, Oxford University Press, page 85
54. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, page 146
55. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 31-32, 194-207, 755-809
56. Robert Lingat (1973), The Classical Law of India, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520018983, pages 83-84
57. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 182-193, 659-706
58. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 200-201, 746-809
59. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im (2010), Islam and the Secular State, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0674034563, pages 149, 289
60. Robert Lingat (1973), The Classical Law of India, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520018983, pages 81-82
61. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 154-166, 613-658
62. J Sinha (2014), Psycho-Social Analysis of the Indian Mindset, Springer Academic, ISBN 978-8132218036, page 5
63. Arun Kumbhare (2009), Women of India: Their Status Since the Vedic Times, ISBN 978-1440156007, page 56
64. A Narain (1991). Robert Brown (ed.). Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God. State University of New York Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7914-0656-4.
65. Robert E. Van Voorst. Anthology of World Scriptures. Cengage. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-305-88800-5.
66. Mahatma Gandhi, Hinduism According to Gandhi, Orient Paperbacks (2013 Reprint Edition), ISBN 978-8122205589, page 129
67. Kane, P. V., History of Dharmaśāstra, (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1975), Volume I, Part I, 566.
68. Olivelle, Patrick, "Dharmaśāstra: A Literary History", page 29.
69. J Duncan M Derrett (1975), Bharuci's commentary on the Manusmrti, Schriftenreihe des Sudasien-Instituts der Universitat Heidelberg, ISBN 978-3515018586
70. J Duncan J Derrett (1977), Essays in Classical and Modern Hindu Law, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004048089, pages 10-17, 36-37 with footnote 75a
71. Kane, P. V., History of Dharmaśāstra, (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1975), Volume I, Part II, 583.
72. Patrick Olivelle (2005), Manu's Code of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195171464, pages 367-369
73. Visvanath Narayan Mandlik (1886), Manavadharmaśastram, 5 volumes, OCLC 83427487
74. David Buxbaum (1998), Family Law and Customary Law in Asia: A Contemporary Legal Perspective, Springer Academic, ISBN 978-9401757942, page 204
75. Donald Davis (2010), The Spirit of Hindu Law, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521877046, page 14
76. Werner Menski (2009), Hindu Law: Beyond Tradition and Modernity, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195699210, Chapters 2 & 4
77. Donald R Davis Jr (2005), Intermediate Realms of Law: Corporate Groups and Rulers in Medieval India, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Volume 48, Issue 1, pages 92–117
78. Lariviere, Richard W. (November 1989). "Justices and Paṇḍitas: Some Ironies in Contemporary Readings of the Hindu Legal Past". Journal of Asian Studies. Association for Asian Studies. 48 (4): 757–769. doi:10.2307/2058113. JSTOR 2058113.
79. Tomothy Lubin et al (2010), Hinduism and Law: An Introduction (Editors: Lubin and Davis), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521716260, Chapter 1
80. Washbrook, D. A. (1981). "Law, State and Agrarian Society in Colonial India". Modern Asian Studies. 15 (3): 649–721. doi:10.1017/s0026749x00008714. JSTOR 312295.
81. Kugle, Scott Alan (May 2001). "Framed, Blamed and Renamed: The Recasting of Islamic Jurisprudence in Colonial South Asia". Modern Asian Studies. Cambridge University Press. 35 (2): 257–313. doi:10.1017/s0026749x01002013. JSTOR 313119.
82. Ludo Rocher (1978), Hindu Conceptions of Law, Hastings Law Journal, Volume 29, pages 1283-1297
83. Rocher, Ludo (1972). "Indian Response to Anglo-Hindu Law". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 92 (3): 419–424. JSTOR 600567.
84. Michael Anderson (1995), Institutions and Ideologies: A SOAS South Asia Reader (Studies in Asian Topics, Editors: David Arnold, Peter Robb), Routledge, ISBN 978-0700702848, Chapter 10;
K Ewing (1988), Sharia and ambiguity in South Asian Islam, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520055759
85. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im (2010), Islam and the Secular State, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0674034563, pages 149-150
86. A digest of Moohummudan law on the subjects to which it is usually applied by British courts of justice in India Neil Baillie, Smith, Elder & Co. London
87. Ludo Rocher, "Hindu Law and Religion: Where to draw the line?" in Malik Ram Felicitation Volume. ed. S.A.J. Zaidi (New Delhi, 1972), 190–1.
88. J.D.M. Derrett, Religion, Law, and the State in India (London: Faber, 1968), 96; For a related distinction between religious and secular law in Dharmaśāstra, see Lubin, Timothy (2007). "Punishment and Expiation: Overlapping Domains in Brahmanical Law". Indologica Taurinensia. 33: 93–122. SSRN 1084716.
89. For reviews of the British misappropriations of Dharmaśāstra, see: Lariviere, Richard W. (November 1989). "Justices and Paṇḍitas: Some Ironies in Contemporary Readings of the Hindu Legal Past". Journal of Asian Studies. Association for Asian Studies. 48 (4): 757–769. doi:10.2307/2058113. JSTOR 2058113. and Rocher, Ludo (June 1993). "Law Books in an Oral Culture: The Indian Dharmaśāstras". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 137 (2): 254–267. JSTOR 986732.
90. Anthony Reid (1988), Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1680: The lands below the winds, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300047509, pages 137-138
91. Victor Lieberman (2014), Burmese Administrative Cycles, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691612812, pages 66-68; Also see discussion of 13th-century Wagaru Dhamma-sattha / 11th century Manu Dhammathat manuscripts discussion
92. On Laws of Manu in 14th-century Thailand's Ayuthia kingdom named after Ayodhya, see David Wyatt (2003), Thailand: A Short History, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300084757, page 61;
Robert Lingat (1973), The Classical Law of India, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520018983, pages 269-272
93. Hooker, M. B. (February 1978). "The Indian-Derived Law Texts of Southeast Asia". The Journal of Asian Studies. 37 (2): 201–219. doi:10.2307/2054162. JSTOR 2054162.
94. M Rama Jois (2004), Legal and Constitutional History of India, Universal Law Publishing, ISBN 978-8175342064, pages 19-34
95. M Rama Jois (2004), Legal and Constitutional History of India, Universal Law Publishing, ISBN 978-8175342064, page 31
96. M Rama Jois (2004), Legal and Constitutional History of India, Universal Law Publishing, ISBN 978-8175342064, pages 31-32
97. M Rama Jois (2004), Legal and Constitutional History of India, Universal Law Publishing, ISBN 978-8175342064, page 32
98. Mahatma Gandhi, Hinduism according to Gandhi, Orient Paperbacks (2013 Reprint Edition), ISBN 978-8122205589, page 129
99. Nicholas Dirks (2001), Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691088952, pages 266-269
100. For objections to the work by feminists, see: Avari, pp. 142-143.
101. For Manu Smriti as one of the first Sanskrit texts noted by the British and translation by Sir William Jones in 1794, see: Flood (1996), p. 56.
102. For British interest in Dharmashastras due to administrative needs, and their misinterpretation of them as legal codes rather than as social and ritual texts, see: Thapar (2002), pp. 2-3.
103. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist (1888), 56-57.
104. Daniel Conway (1997), "Nietzsche and the Political", Routledge, ISBN 978-0415100694, page 36
105. Julian Young (2010), "Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography", Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521871174, page 515
106. Nietzsche: The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols: And Other Writings, Aaron Ridley, Cambridge University Press, P.58
107. Walter Kaufmann (2013), Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691160269, pages 225-226
108. Walter Kaufmann (1980), From Shakespeare to Existentialism, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691013671, page 215
109. "19A.Revolution and Counter Ancient India PART I".
110. Romila Thapar, Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, Oxford University Press (1960) p. 200.
111. John Marshall, "An Historical and Artistic Description of Sanchi", from A Guide to Sanchi, citing p. 11. Calcutta: Superintendent, Government Printing (1918). Pp. 7-29 on line, Project South Asia.
112. K. V. Rao, Socialism, Secularism, and Democracy in India, pp. 28-30. Nagendra K. Singh, Enforcement of Human Rights in Peace and War and the Future of Humanity,p. 35. Martinus Nijhoff (1986) ISBN 9024733022
113. Pollard;Rosenberg;Tignor, Elizabeth;Clifford;Robert (2011). Worlds Together Worlds Apart. New York, New York: Norton. p. 285. ISBN 9780393918472.
114. The Light of Truth, Chapter 4
115. The Pedigree of Man: Four Lectures Delivered at the Twenty-eighth Anniversary Meetings of the Theosophical Society, at Adyar, December, 1903. Theosophical Publishing Society. 1904.
116. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, vol. 1.


• Jha, Ganganath (1920). Manusmṛti with the Manubhāṣya of Medhātithi. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 81-208-1155-0.
• Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
• Hopkins, Thomas J. (1971). The Hindu Religious Tradition. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
• Koenraad Elst: Manu as a Weapon against Egalitarianism. Nietzsche and Hindu Political Philosophy, in: Siemens, Herman W. / Roodt, Vasti (Hg.): Nietzsche, Power and Politics. Rethinking Nietzsche's Legacy for Political Thought, Berlin / New York 2008, 543–582.
• Keay, John (2000). India: A History. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3797-0.
• Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (1986). A History of India. New York: Barnes & Noble. ISBN 0-88029-577-5.
• Thapar, Romila (2002). Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24225-4.
• Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "The Laws of Manu" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
• Olivelle, Patrick (2010). "Dharmasastra: A Literary History". In Lubin, Timothy; Krishnan, Jayanth; Davis, Jr. Donald R. (eds.). Law and Hinduism: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521716260.
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According to [Auguste] Barth, the Vedic literature was already marked by a complicated theology. Far from being the work of a pastoral Aryan people, who collated their beliefs into the Rig Vedic hymns, Barth held that the Rig Vedic literature was,

pre-eminently sacerdotal, and in no sense a popular one…Neither in the language nor in the thought of the Rig-Veda have I been able to discover that quality of primitive natural simplicity which many are fain to see in it. The poetry it contains appears to me, on the contrary, to be of a singularly refined character and artificially elaborated, full of allusion and reticences, or pretensions to mysticism and theosophic insight; and in the manner if its expression is such as reminds one more frequently of the phraseology in use among certain small groups of initiated than the poetic language of a large community... In all these respects the spirit of the Rig-Veda appears to me to be more allied than is usually supposed to that which prevails in the other Vedic collections, and in the Brahmanas.

-- Claiming India: French Scholars and the Preoccupation with India During the Nineteenth Century, by Jyoti Mohan, Doctor of Philosophy, 2010

Rigveda (padapatha) manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century. After a scribal benediction (śrīgaṇéśāyanamaḥ Au3m), the first line has the first pada, RV 1.1.1a (agniṃ iḷe puraḥ-hitaṃ yajñasya devaṃ ṛtvijaṃ). The pitch-accent is marked by underscores and vertical overscores in red.

The Rigveda (Sanskrit: ऋग्वेदः ṛgvedaḥ, from ṛc "praise"[2] and veda "knowledge") is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It is one of the four sacred canonical texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas.[3][4]

The Rigveda is the oldest known Vedic Sanskrit text.[5] Its early layers are one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language.[6][note 2] The sounds and texts of Rigveda have been orally transmitted since the 2nd millennium BCE.[8][9][10] The philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the bulk of the Rigveda Samhita was composed in the northwestern region (Punjab) of the Indian subcontinent, most likely between c. 1500 and 1200 BCE,[11][12][13] although a wider approximation of c. 1700–1100 BCE has also been given.[14][15][note 1]

The text is layered consisting of the Samhita, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.[note 3] The Rigveda Samhita is the core text, and is a collection of 10 books (maṇḍalas) with 1,028 hymns (sūktas) in about 10,600 verses (called ṛc, eponymous of the name Rigveda). In the eight books – Books 2 through 9 – that were composed the earliest, the hymns predominantly discuss cosmology and praise deities.[16][17] The younger books (Books 1 and 10) in part also deal with philosophical or speculative questions,[17] virtues such as dāna (charity) in society,[18] questions about the origin of the universe and the nature of the divine,[19][20] and other metaphysical issues in their hymns.[21]

Some of its verses continue to be recited during Hindu rites of passage celebrations (such as weddings) and prayers, making it probably the world's oldest religious text in continued use.[22][23]

Dating and historical context

Further information: Historical Vedic religion, Vedic period, and Proto-Indo-Aryan

A map of tribes and rivers mentioned in the Rigveda.

Geographical distribution of the Late Vedic era texts. Each of major regions had their own recension of Rig Veda (Sakhas), and the versions varied.[3]


According to Jamison and Brereton, in their 2014 translation of the Rigveda, the dating of this text "has been and is likely to remain a matter of contention and reconsideration". The dating proposals so far are all inferred from the style and the content within the hymns themselves.[24] Philological estimates tend to date the bulk of the text to the second half of the second millennium.[note 1] Being composed in an early Indo-Aryan language, the hymns must post-date the Indo-Iranian separation, dated to roughly 2000 BCE.[25] A reasonable date close to that of the composition of the core of the Rigveda is that of the Mitanni documents of northern Syria and Iraq (c. 1450–1350 BCE), which also mention the Vedic gods such as Varuna, Mitra and Indra.[26][27] Other evidence also points to a composition close to 1400 BCE.[28][29]

The Rigveda's core is accepted to date to the late Bronze Age, making it one of the few examples with an unbroken tradition. Its composition is usually dated to roughly between c. 1500–1200 BCE.[note 1] According to Michael Witzel, the initial codification of the Rigveda took place at the end of the Rigvedic period at ca. 1200 BCE, in the early Kuru kingdom.[30] According to Asko Parpola, the Rigveda was systematized around 1000 BCE, at the time of the Kuru kingdom.[31]

Historical and societal context

The Rigveda is far more archaic than any other Indo-Aryan text. For this reason, it was in the center of attention of western scholarship from the times of Max Müller and Rudolf Roth onwards. The Rigveda records an early stage of Vedic religion. There are strong linguistic and cultural similarities with the early Iranian Avesta,[32][33] deriving from the Proto-Indo-Iranian times,[34] often associated with the early Andronovo culture (or rather, the Sintashta culture within the early Andronovo horizon) of c. 2000 BCE.[35]

The Rigveda offers no direct evidence of social or political system in Vedic era, whether ordinary or elite.[36] Only hints such as cattle raising and horse racing are discernible, and the text offers very general ideas about the ancient Indian society. There is no evidence, state Jamison and Brereton, of any elaborate, pervasive or structured caste system.[36] Social stratification seems embryonic, then and later a social ideal rather than a social reality.[36] The society was semi-nomadic and pastoral with evidence of agriculture since hymns mention plow and celebrate agricultural divinities.[37] There was division of labor, and complementary relationship between kings and poet-priests but no discussion of relative status of social classes.[36] Women in Rigveda appear disproportionately as speakers in dialogue hymns, both as mythical or divine Indrani, Apsaras Urvasi, or Yami, as well as Apāla Ātreyī (RV 8.91), Godhā (RV 10.134.6), Ghoṣā Kākṣīvatī (RV 10.39.40), Romaśā (RV 1.126.7), Lopāmudrā (RV 1.179.1–2), Viśvavārā Ātreyī (RV 5.28), Śacī Paulomī (RV 10.159), Śaśvatī Āṅgirasī (RV 8.1.34). The women of Rigveda are quite outspoken and appear more sexually confident than men, in the text.[36] Elaborate and esthetic hymns on wedding suggest rites of passage had developed during the Rigvedic period.[36] There is little evidence of dowry and no evidence of sati in it or related Vedic texts.[38]

The Rigvedic hymns mention rice and porridge, in hymns such as 8.83, 8.70, 8.77 and 1.61 in some versions of the text,[39] however there is no discussion of rice cultivation.[37] The term "ayas" (metal) occurs in the Rigveda, but it is unclear which metal it was.[40] Iron is not mentioned in Rigveda, something scholars have used to help date Rigveda to have been composed before 1000 BCE.[41] Hymn 5.63 mentions "metal cloaked in gold", suggesting metal working had progressed in the Vedic culture.[42]

Some of the names of gods and goddesses found in the Rigveda are found amongst other belief systems based on Proto-Indo-European religion, while most of the words used share common roots with words from other Indo-European languages.[43] However, about 300 words in the Rigveda are neither Indo-Aryan nor Indo-European, states the Sanskrit and Vedic literature scholar Frits Staal.[44] Of these 300, many – such as kapardin, kumara, kumari, kikata – come from Munda or proto-Munda languages found in the eastern and northeastern (Assamese) region of India, with roots in Austro-Asiatic languages. The others in the list of 300 – such as mleccha and nir – have Dravidian roots found in the southern region of India, or are of Tibeto-Burman origins. A few non-Indo-European words in the Rigveda – such as for camel, mustard and donkey – belong to a possibly lost Central Asian language.[44][45][note 4] The linguistic sharing provide clear indications, states Michael Witzel, that the people who spoke Rigvedic Sanskrit already knew and interacted with Munda and Dravidian speakers.[47]

The earliest text were composed in northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent, and the more philosophical later texts were most likely composed in or around the region that is the modern era state of Haryana.[41]



The "family books" (2–7) are associated with various clans and chieftains, containing hymns by members of the same clan in each book; but other clans are also represented in the Rigveda. The family books are associated with specific regions, and mention prominent Bharata and Pūru kings.[48]

Tradition associates a rishi (the composer) with each ṛc (verse) of the Rigveda.[49] Most sūktas are attributed to single composers; for each of them the Rigveda includes a lineage-specific āprī hymn (a special sūkta of rigidly formulaic structure, used for rituals). In all, 10 families of rishis account for more than 95 per cent of the ṛcs

Book Sage Region[48] Āprī Ṛcas[50]

Collection and organisation

The codification of the Rigveda took place late in the Rigvedic or rather in the early post-Rigvedic period at ca. 1200 BCE, by members of the early Kuru tribe, when the center of Vedic culture east from the Punjab into what is now Uttar Pradesh.[30] The Rigveda was codified by compiling the hymns, including the arrangement of the individual hymns in ten books, coeval with the composition of the younger Veda Samhitas.[51] According to Witzel, the initial collection took place after the Bharata victory in the Battle of the Ten Kings, under king Sudās, over other Puru kings. This collection was an effort to reconcile various factions in the clans which were united in the Kuru kingdom under a Bharata king.[52][note 5] This collection was re-arranged and expanded in the Kuru Kingdom, reflecting the establishment of a new Bharata-Puru lineage and new srauta rituals.[53][note 6]

The fixing of the samhitapatha (by enforcing regular application of sandhi) and of the padapatha (by dissolving Sandhi out of the earlier metrical text), occurred during the later Brahmana period, in roughly the 6th century BCE.[55]

The surviving form of the Rigveda is based on an early Iron Age collection that established the core 'family books' (mandalas 2–7, ordered by author, deity and meter[56]) and a later redaction, coeval with the redaction of the other Vedas, dating several centuries after the hymns were composed. This redaction also included some additions (contradicting the strict ordering scheme) and orthoepic changes to the Vedic Sanskrit such as the regularization of sandhi (termed orthoepische Diaskeuase by Oldenberg, 1888).



The text is organized in ten "books", or maṇḍalas ("circles"), of varying age and length.[57] The "family books", mandalas 2–7, are the oldest part of the Rigveda and the shortest books; they are arranged by length (decreasing length of hymns per book) and account for 38% of the text.[58][59]

The hymns are arranged in collections each dealing with a particular deity: Agni comes first, Indra comes second, and so on. They are attributed and dedicated to a rishi (sage) and his family of students.[60] Within each collection, the hymns are arranged in descending order of the number of stanzas per hymn. If two hymns in the same collection have equal numbers of stanzas then they are arranged so that the number of syllables in the metre are in descending order.[61][62] The second to seventh mandalas have a uniform format.[58]

The eighth and ninth mandalas, comprising hymns of mixed age, account for 15% and 9%, respectively. The ninth mandala is entirely dedicated to Soma and the Soma ritual. The hymns in the ninth mandala are arranged by both their prosody structure (chanda) and by their length.[58]

The first and the tenth mandalas are the youngest; they are also the longest books, of 191 suktas each, accounting for 37% of the text. Nevertheless, some of the hymns in mandalas 8, 1 and 10 may still belong to an earlier period and may be as old as the material in the family books.[63] The first mandala has a unique arrangement not found in the other nine mandalas. The first 84 hymns of the tenth mandala have a structure different than the remaining hymns in it.[58]

Hymns and prosody

Each mandala consists of hymns or sūktas (su- + ukta, literally, "well recited, eulogy") intended for various rituals. The sūktas in turn consist of individual stanzas called ṛc ("praise", pl. ṛcas), which are further analysed into units of verse called pada ("foot" or step).

The hymns of the Rigveda are in different poetic metres in Vedic Sanskrit. The meters most used in the ṛcas are the gayatri (3 verses of 8 syllables), anushtubh (4×8), trishtubh (4×11) and jagati (4×12). The trishtubh meter (40%) and gayatri meter (25%) dominate in the Rigveda.[64][65][66]

Meter[note 7] Rigvedic verses[67]


As with the other Vedas, the redacted text has been handed down in several versions, including the Padapatha, in which each word is isolated in pausa form and is used for just one way of memorization; and the Samhitapatha, which combines words according to the rules of sandhi (the process being described in the Pratisakhya) and is the memorized text used for recitation.

The Padapatha and the Pratisakhya anchor the text's true meaning,[68] and the fixed text was preserved with unparalleled fidelity for more than a millennium by oral tradition alone.[26] In order to achieve this the oral tradition prescribed very structured enunciation, involving breaking down the Sanskrit compounds into stems and inflections, as well as certain permutations. This interplay with sounds gave rise to a scholarly tradition of morphology and phonetics.

Learning by memory is sometimes supposed to be a more faithful method of recording than writing, but it is open to greater dangers of corruption. In the case of the Vedas, where there was no doctrinal motive for change, and where extraordinary means were taken to preserve a pure text, there are remarkable differences in hymns found in the recensions of the various schools. We find the same feature in passages preserved both in Pali and Sanskrit works. Another fruitful source of corruption due to memorizing is the difficulty of determining the source or authorship of particular documents. The Buddhists themselves, when the ascription of some of the canonical works to Buddha himself has appeared too incongruous, have attributed them to one or other of the more famous disciples.

-- The Life of Buddha as Legend and History, by Edward Joseph Thomas

It is unclear as to when the Rigveda was first written down. The oldest surviving manuscripts have been discovered in Nepal and date to c. 1040 CE.[3][69] According to Witzel, the Paippalada Samhita tradition points to written manuscripts c. 800-1000 CE.[70] The Upanishads were likely in the written form earlier, about mid-1st millennium CE (Gupta Empire period).[26][71] Attempts to write the Vedas may have been made "towards the end of the 1st millennium BCE". The early attempts may have been unsuccessful given the Smriti rules that forbade the writing down the Vedas, states Witzel.[26] The oral tradition continued as a means of transmission until modern times.[72]


Recension: a revised edition of a text; an act of making a revised edition of a text.

-- Recension, by Google Dictionary

Several shakhas ("branches", i. e. recensions) of Rig Veda are known to have existed in the past. Of these, Śākala Shākha is the only one to have survived in its entirety. Another shakha that may have survived is the Bāṣkala, although this is uncertain.[73][74][75]

The surviving padapatha version of the Rigveda text is ascribed to Śākala.[76] The Śākala recension has 1,017 regular hymns, and an appendix of 11 vālakhilya hymns[77] which are now customarily included in the 8th mandala (as 8.49–8.59), for a total of 1028 hymns.[78] The Bāṣkala recension includes eight of these vālakhilya hymns among its regular hymns, making a total of 1025 regular hymns for this śākhā.[79] In addition, the Bāṣkala recension has its own appendix of 98 hymns, the Khilani.[80]

In the 1877 edition of Aufrecht, the 1028 hymns of the Rigveda contain a total of 10,552 ṛcs, or 39,831 padas. The Shatapatha Brahmana gives the number of syllables to be 432,000,[81] while the metrical text of van Nooten and Holland (1994) has a total of 395,563 syllables (or an average of 9.93 syllables per pada); counting the number of syllables is not straightforward because of issues with sandhi and the post-Rigvedic pronunciation of syllables like súvar as svàr.

Three other shakhas are mentioned in Caraṇavyuha, a pariśiṣṭa (supplement) of Yajurveda: Māṇḍukāyana, Aśvalāyana and Śaṅkhāyana. The Atharvaveda lists two more shakhas. The differences between all these shakhas are very minor, limited to varying order of content and inclusion (or non-inclusion) of a few verses. The following information is known about the shakhas other than Śākala and Bāṣkala:[82]

• Māṇḍukāyana: Perhaps the oldest of the Rigvedic shakhas.
• Aśvalāyana: Includes 212 verses, all of which are newer than the other Rigvedic hymns.
• Śaṅkhāyana: Very similar to Aśvalāyana
• Saisiriya: Mentioned in the Rigveda Pratisakhya. Very similar to Śākala, with a few additional verses; might have derived from or merged with it.


Rigveda manuscript page, Mandala 1, Hymn 1 (Sukta 1), lines 1.1.1 to 1.1.9 (Sanskrit, Devanagari script)

The Rigveda hymns were composed and preserved by oral tradition. They were memorized and verbally transmitted with "unparalleled fidelity" across generations for many centuries.[26][83] According to Barbara West, it was probably first written down about the 3rd-century BCE.[84][85] The manuscripts were made from birch bark or palm leaves, which decompose and therefore were routinely copied over the generations to help preserve the text.


There are, for example, 30 manuscripts of Rigveda at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, collected in the 19th century by Georg Bühler, Franz Kielhorn and others, originating from different parts of India, including Kashmir, Gujarat, the then Rajaputana, Central Provinces etc. They were transferred to Deccan College, Pune, in the late 19th century. They are in the Sharada and Devanagari scripts, written on birch bark and paper. The oldest of the Pune collection is dated to 1464. The 30 manuscripts of Rigveda preserved at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune were added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2007.[86]

Due to the ephemeral nature of the manuscript material (birch bark or palm leaves), surviving manuscripts rarely surpass an age of a few hundred years.

-- Vedas, by Wikipedia

Of these thirty manuscripts, nine contain the samhita text, five have the padapatha in addition. Thirteen contain Sayana's commentary. At least five manuscripts (MS. no. 1/A1879-80, 1/A1881-82, 331/1883-84 and 5/Viś I) have preserved the complete text of the Rigveda. MS no. 5/1875-76, written on birch bark in bold Sharada, was only in part used by Max Müller for his edition of the Rigveda with Sayana's commentary.

Müller used 24 manuscripts then available to him in Europe, while the Pune Edition used over five dozen manuscripts, but the editors of Pune Edition could not procure many manuscripts used by Müller and by the Bombay Edition, as well as from some other sources; hence the total number of extant manuscripts known then must surpass perhaps eighty at least.[87]


Rigveda manuscripts in paper, palm leaves and birch bark form, either in full or in portions, have been discovered in the following Indic scripts:

• Devanagari (Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal)[88][89][90]
• Grantha (Tamil Nadu)[91][92]
• Malayalam (Kerala)[93]
• Nandinagari (South India)[94]
• Sharada (Kashmir)[95][96]


The various Rigveda manuscripts discovered so far show some differences. Broadly, the most studied Śākala recension has 1017 hymns, includes an appendix of eleven valakhīlya hymns which are often counted with the eighth mandala, for a total of 1028 metrical hymns. The Bāṣakala version of Rigveda includes eight of these vālakhilya hymns among its regular hymns, making a total of 1025 hymns in the main text for this śākhā. The Bāṣakala text also has an appendix of 98 hymns, called the Khilani, bringing the total to 1,123 hymns. The manuscripts of Śākala recension of the Rigveda have about 10,600 verses, organized into ten Books (Mandalas).[97][98] Books 2 through 7 are internally homogeneous in style, while Books 1, 8 and 10 are compilation of verses of internally different styles suggesting that these books are likely a collection of compositions by many authors.[98]

The first mandala is the largest, with 191 hymns and 2006 verses, and it was added to the text after Books 2 through 9. The last, or the 10th Book, also has 191 hymns but 1754 verses, making it the second largest. The language analytics suggest the 10th Book, chronologically, was composed and added last.[98] The content of the 10th Book also suggest that the authors knew and relied on the contents of the first nine books.[98]

The Rigveda is the largest of the four Vedas, and many of its verses appear in the other Vedas.[99] Almost all of the 1875 verses found in Samaveda are taken from different parts of the Rigveda, either once or as repetition, and rewritten in a chant song form. Books 8 and 9 of the Rigveda are by far the largest source of verses for Sama Veda. Book 10 contributes the largest number of the 1350 verses of Rigveda found in Atharvaveda, or about one fifth of the 5987 verses in the Atharvaveda text.[98] A bulk of 1875 ritual-focussed verses of Yajurveda, in its numerous versions, also borrow and build upon the foundation of verses in Rigveda.[99][100]


Altogether the Rigveda consists of:

• the Samhita (hymns to the deities, the oldest part of the Rigveda)
• the Brahmanas, commentaries on the hymns
• the Aranyakas or "forest books"
• the Upanishads

In western usage, "Rigveda" usually refers to the Rigveda Samhita, while the Brahmanas are referred to as the "Rigveda Brahmanas" (etc.). Technically speaking, however, "the Rigveda" refers to the entire body of texts transmitted along with the Samhita portion. Different bodies of commentary were transmitted in the different shakhas or "schools". Only a small portion of these texts has been preserved: The texts of only two out of five shakhas mentioned by the Rigveda Pratishakhya have survived. The late (15th or 16th century) Shri Guru Charitra even claims the existence of twelve Rigvedic shakhas. The two surviving Rigvedic corpora are those of the Śākala and the Bāṣkala shakhas.


See also: Anukramani

See also: Rigvedic deities

The Rigvedic hymns are dedicated to various deities, chief of whom are Indra, a heroic god praised for having slain his enemy Vrtra; Agni, the sacrificial fire; and Soma, the sacred potion or the plant it is made from. Equally prominent gods are the Adityas or Asura gods Mitra–Varuna and Ushas (the dawn). Also invoked are Savitr, Vishnu, Rudra, Pushan, Brihaspati or Brahmanaspati, as well as deified natural phenomena such as Dyaus Pita (the shining sky, Father Heaven), Prithivi (the earth, Mother Earth), Surya (the sun god), Vayu or Vata (the wind), Apas (the waters), Parjanya (the thunder and rain), Vac (the word), many rivers (notably the Sapta Sindhu, and the Sarasvati River). The Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Sadhyas, Ashvins, Maruts, Rbhus, and the Vishvadevas ("all-gods") as well as the "thirty-three gods" are the groups of deities mentioned.[citation needed]

• Mandala 1 comprises 191 hymns. Hymn 1.1 is addressed to Agni, and his name is the first word of the Rigveda. The remaining hymns are mainly addressed to Agni and Indra, as well as Varuna, Mitra, the Ashvins, the Maruts, Usas, Surya, Rbhus, Rudra, Vayu, Brhaspati, Visnu, Heaven and Earth, and all the Gods. This Mandala is dated to have been added to Rigveda after Mandala 2 through 9, and includes the philosophical Riddle Hymn 1.164, which inspires chapters in later Upanishads such as the Mundaka.[17][101][102]
• Mandala 2 comprises 43 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra. It is chiefly attributed to the Rishi gṛtsamada śaunahotra.[citation needed]
• Mandala 3 comprises 62 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra and the Vishvedevas. The verse 3.62.10 has great importance in Hinduism as the Gayatri Mantra. Most hymns in this book are attributed to viśvāmitra gāthinaḥ.[citation needed]
• Mandala 4 comprises 58 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra as well as the Rbhus, Ashvins, Brhaspati, Vayu, Usas, etc. Most hymns in this book are attributed to vāmadeva gautama.[citation needed]
• Mandala 5 comprises 87 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra, the Visvedevas ("all the gods'), the Maruts, the twin-deity Mitra-Varuna and the Asvins. Two hymns each are dedicated to Ushas (the dawn) and to Savitr. Most hymns in this book are attributed to the atri clan.[citation needed]
• Mandala 6 comprises 75 hymns, mainly to Agni and Indra, all the gods, Pusan, Ashvin, Usas, etc. Most hymns in this book are attributed to the bārhaspatya family of Angirasas.[citation needed]
• Mandala 7 comprises 104 hymns, to Agni, Indra, the Visvadevas, the Maruts, Mitra-Varuna, the Asvins, Ushas, Indra-Varuna, Varuna, Vayu (the wind), two each to Sarasvati (ancient river/goddess of learning) and Vishnu, and to others. Most hymns in this book are attributed to vasiṣṭha maitravaruṇi.[citation needed]
• Mandala 8 comprises 103 hymns to various gods. Hymns 8.49 to 8.59 are the apocryphal vālakhilya. Hymns 1–48 and 60–66 are attributed to the kāṇva clan, the rest to other (Angirasa) poets.[citation needed]
• Mandala 9 comprises 114 hymns, entirely devoted to Soma Pavamana, the cleansing of the sacred potion of the Vedic religion.[citation needed]
• Mandala 10 comprises additional 191 hymns, frequently in later language, addressed to Agni, Indra and various other deities. It contains the Nadistuti sukta which is in praise of rivers and is important for the reconstruction of the geography of the Vedic civilization and the Purusha sukta which has been important in studies of Vedic sociology.[36] It also contains the Nasadiya sukta (10.129) which deals with multiple speculations about the creation of universe, and whether anyone can know the right answer.[19] The marriage hymns (10.85) and the death hymns (10.10–18) still are of great importance in the performance of the corresponding Grhya rituals.

Rigveda Brahmanas

See also: Brahmana

Of the Brahmanas that were handed down in the schools of the Bahvṛcas (i.e. "possessed of many verses"), as the followers of the Rigveda are called, two have come down to us, namely those of the Aitareyins and the Kaushitakins. The Aitareya-brahmana[103] and the Kaushitaki- (or Sankhayana-) brahmana evidently have for their groundwork the same stock of traditional exegetic matter. They differ, however, considerably as regards both the arrangement of this matter and their stylistic handling of it, with the exception of the numerous legends common to both, in which the discrepancy is comparatively slight. There is also a certain amount of material peculiar to each of them.

Devi sukta, which highlights the goddess tradition of Hinduism is found in Rigveda hymns 10.125. It is cited in Devi Mahatmya and is recited every year during the Durga Puja festival.

The Kaushitaka is, upon the whole, far more concise in its style and more systematic in its arrangement features which would lead one to infer that it is probably the more modern work of the two. It consists of 30 chapters (adhyaya); while the Aitareya has 40, divided into eight books (or pentads, pancaka), of five chapters each. The last 10 adhyayas of the latter work are, however, clearly a later addition though they must have already formed part of it at the time of Pāṇini (c. 5th century BCE), if, as seems probable, one of his grammatical sutras, regulating the formation of the names of Brahmanas, consisting of 30 and 40 adhyayas, refers to these two works. In this last portion occurs the well-known legend (also found in the Shankhayana-sutra, but not in the Kaushitaki-brahmana) of Shunahshepa, whom his father Ajigarta sells and offers to slay, the recital of which formed part of the inauguration of kings.

While the Aitareya deals almost exclusively with the Soma sacrifice, the Kaushitaka, in its first six chapters, treats of the several kinds of haviryajna, or offerings of rice, milk, ghee, etc., whereupon follows the Soma sacrifice in this way, that chapters 7–10 contain the practical ceremonial and 11–30 the recitations (shastra) of the hotar. Sayana, in the introduction to his commentary on the work, ascribes the Aitareya to the sage Mahidasa Aitareya (i.e. son of Itara), also mentioned elsewhere as a philosopher; and it seems likely enough that this person arranged the Brahmana and founded the school of the Aitareyins. Regarding the authorship of the sister work we have no information, except that the opinion of the sage Kaushitaki is frequently referred to in it as authoritative, and generally in opposition to the Paingya—the Brahmana, it would seem, of a rival school, the Paingins. Probably, therefore, it is just what one of the manuscripts calls it—the Brahmana of Sankhayana (composed) in accordance with the views of Kaushitaki.

Rigveda Aranyakas and Upanishads

See also: Aranyaka and Upanishads

Each of these two Brahmanas is supplemented by a "forest book", or Aranyaka. The Aitareyaranyaka is not a uniform production. It consists of five books (aranyaka), three of which, the first and the last two, are of a liturgical nature, treating of the ceremony called mahavrata, or great vow. The last of these books, composed in sutra form, is, however, doubtless of later origin, and is, indeed, ascribed by Hindu authorities either to Shaunaka or to Ashvalayana. The second and third books, on the other hand, are purely speculative, and are also styled the Bahvrca-brahmana-upanishad. Again, the last four chapters of the second book are usually singled out as the Aitareya Upanishad,[104] ascribed, like its Brahmana (and the first book), to Mahidasa Aitareya; and the third book is also referred to as the Samhita-upanishad. As regards the Kaushitaki-aranyaka, this work consists of 15 adhyayas, the first two (treating of the mahavrata ceremony) and the 7th and 8th of which correspond to the first, fifth, and third books of the Aitareyaranyaka, respectively, whilst the four adhyayas usually inserted between them constitute the highly interesting Kaushitaki (Brahmana-) Upanishad,[105] of which we possess two different recensions. The remaining portions (9–15) of the Aranyaka treat of the vital airs, the internal Agnihotra, etc., ending with the vamsha, or succession of teachers.


The text is a highly stylized poetical Vedic Sanskrit with praise addressed to the Vedic gods and chieftains. Most hymns, according to Witzel, were intended to be recited at the annual New Year Soma ritual.[106] The text also includes some nonritual poetry,[106] fragments of mythology, archaic formulas, and a number of hymns with early philosophical speculations.[107] Composed by the poets of different clans, including famed Vedic rishis (sages) such as Vishvamitra and Vasishtha, these signify the power of prestige therewith to vac (speech, sound), a tradition set in place.[106] The text introduced the prized concepts such as Rta (active realization of truth, cosmic harmony) which inspired the later Hindu concept of Dharma. The Rigvedic verses formulate this Rta as effected by Brahman, a significant and non-self-evident truth.[106] The text also contains hymns of "highly poetical value" – some in dialogue form, along with love stories that likely inspired later Epic and classical poets of Hinduism, states Witzel.[107]

According to Nadkarni, several hymns of the Rigveda embed cherished virtues and ethical statements. For example, verses 5.82.7, 6.44.8, 9.113.4, 10.133.6 and 10.190.1 mention truthful speech, truthful action, self-discipline and righteousness.[108][109] Hymn 10.117 presents the significance of charity and of generosity between human beings, how helping someone in need is ultimately in the self-interest of the helper, its importance to an individual and the society.[18][110] According to Jamison and Brereton, hymns 9.112 and 9.113 poetically state, "what everyone [humans and all living beings] really want is gain or an easy life", even a water drop has a goal – namely, "simply to seek Indra". These hymns present the imagery of being in heaven as "freedom, joy and satisfaction", a theme that appears in the Hindu Upanishads to characterize their teachings of self-realization.[111][112]

Monism debate

While the older hymns of the Rigveda reflect sacrificial ritual typical of polytheism,[113] its younger parts, specifically mandalas 1 and 10, have been noted as containing monistic or henotheistic [worship of a single god while not denying the existence or possible existence of other deities] speculations.[113]

Nasadiya Sukta (10.129):
There was neither non-existence nor existence then;
Neither the realm of space, nor the sky which is beyond;
What stirred? Where? In whose protection?

There was neither death nor immortality then;
No distinguishing sign of night nor of day;
That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse;
Other than that there was nothing beyond.

Darkness there was at first, by darkness hidden;
Without distinctive marks, this all was water;
That which, becoming, by the void was covered;
That One by force of heat came into being;

Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
Gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Whether God's will created it, or whether He was mute;
Perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not;
Only He who is its overseer in highest heaven knows,
Only He knows, or perhaps He does not know.
—Rigveda 10.129 (Abridged, Tr: Kramer / Christian)[19] This hymn is one of the roots of Hindu philosophy.[114]

A widely cited example of such speculations is hymn 1.164.46:

They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutman.
To what is One, sages give many a title they call it Agni, Yama, Matarisvan.

— Rigveda 1.164.46, Translated by Ralph Griffith[115][116]

Max Müller notably introduced the term "henotheism" for the philosophy expressed here, avoiding the connotations of "monotheism" in Judeo-Christian tradition.[116][117] Other widely cited examples of monistic tendencies include hymns 1.164, 8.36 and 10.31,[118][119] Other scholars state that Rigveda includes an emerging diversity of thought, including monotheism, polytheism, henotheism and pantheism, the choice left to the preference of the worshipper.[120] and the Nasadiya Sukta (10.129), one of the most widely cited Rigvedic hymns in popular western presentations.

Ruse (2015) commented on the old discussion of "monotheism" vs. "henotheism" vs. "monism" by noting an "atheistic streak" in hymns such as 10.130.[121]

Examples from Mandala 1 adduced to illustrate the "metaphysical" nature of the contents of the younger hymns include: 1.164.34: "What is the ultimate limit of the earth?", "What is the center of the universe?", "What is the semen of the cosmic horse?", "What is the ultimate source of human speech?"; 1.164.34: "Who gave blood, soul, spirit to the earth?", "How could the unstructured universe give origin to this structured world?"; 1.164.5: "Where does the sun hide in the night?", "Where do gods live?"; 1.164.6: "What, where is the unborn support for the born universe?"; 1.164.20 (a hymn that is widely cited in the Upanishads as the parable of the Body and the Soul): "Two birds with fair wings, inseparable companions; Have found refuge in the same sheltering tree. One incessantly eats from the fig tree; the other, not eating, just looks on.".[21]

Reception in Hinduism


The Vedas as a whole are classed as "shruti" in Hindu tradition. This has been compared to the concept of divine revelation in Western religious tradition, but Staal argues that "it is nowhere stated that the Veda was revealed", and that shruti simply means "that what is heard, in the sense that it is transmitted from father to son or from teacher to pupil".[122] The Rigveda, or other Vedas, do not anywhere assert that they are apauruṣeyā, and this reverential term appears only centuries after the end of the Vedic period in the texts of the Mimamsa school of Hindu philosophy.[122][123][124] The text of Rigveda suggests it was "composed by poets, human individuals whose names were household words" in the Vedic age, states Staal.[122]

The authors of the Brāhmana literature discussed and interpreted the Vedic ritual.

Sanskrit grammatarians

Main article: Vyākaraṇa

Yaska (4th c. BCE), a lexicographer, was an early commentator of the Rigveda by discussing the meanings of difficult words. In his book titled Nirukta Yaska, asserts that Rigveda in the ancient tradition, can be interpreted in three ways - from the perspective of religious rites (adhiyajna), from the perspective of the deities (adhidevata), and from the perspective of the soul (adhyatman).[125] The fourth way to interpret the Rigveda also emerged in the ancient times, wherein the gods mentioned were viewed as symbolism for legendary individuals or narratives.[125] It was generally accepted that creative poets often embed and express double meanings, ellipses and novel ideas to inspire the reader.[125]

Medieval Hindu scholarship

By the period of Puranic Hinduism [(c. 650 – c. 1100 CE)], in the medieval period, the language of the hymns had become "almost entirely unintelligible", and their interpretation mostly hinged on mystical ideas and sound symbolism.[126]

According to the Puranic tradition, Ved Vyasa compiled all the four Vedas, along with the Mahabharata and the Puranas. Vyasa then taught the Rigveda samhita to Paila, who started the oral tradition.[127] An alternate version states that Shakala compiled the Rigveda from the teachings of Vedic rishis,
and one of the manuscript recensions mentions Shakala.[127]

Madhvacharya a Hindu philosopher of the 13th century provided a commentary of the first 40 hymns of Rigveda in his book Rig Bhashyam.[note 8] In the 14th century, Sāyana wrote an exhaustive commentary on the complete text of Rigveda in his book Rigveda Samhita.[note 9] This book was translated from Sanskrit to English by Max Muller in the year 1856. H.H. Wilson also translated this book into English as Rigveda Sanhita in the year 1856. Both Madvacharya and Sayanacharya studied at the Sringeri monastery.

A number of other commentaries (bhāṣyas) were written during the medieval period, including the commentaries by Skandasvamin (pre-Sayana, roughly of the Gupta period), Udgitha (pre-Sayana), Venkata-Madhava (pre-Sayana, c. 10th to 12th centuries) and Mudgala (after Sayana, an abbreviated version of Sayana's commentary).[128]

Some notable commentaries from Medieval period include:

Title / Commentary / Year / Language / Notes

Rig Bhashyam / Madhvacharya / 1285 / Sanskrit / Commentary on the first 40 hymns of the Rigveda. The original book has been translated to English by Prof.K.T. Pandurangi accessible here
Rigveda Samhita / Sāyaṇācārya / 1360 / Sanskrit / Sāyaṇācārya a Sanskrit scholar wrote a treatise on the Vedas in the book Vedartha Prakasha (Meaning of Vedas made as a manifest). The Rigveda Samhita is available here. This book was translated from Sanskrit to English by Max Muller in the year 1856. H.H.Wilson also translated this book into English as Rigveda Sanhita in the year 1856.

Arya Samaj and Aurobindo movements

In the 19th- and early 20th-centuries, reformers like Swami Dayananda Saraswati (founder of the Arya Samaj) and Sri Aurobindo (founder of Sri Aurobindo Ashram) discussed the philosophies of the Vedas. According to Robson, Dayananda believed "there were no errors in the Vedas (including the Rigveda), and if anyone showed him an error, he would maintain that it was a corruption added later".[129]

According to Dayananda and Aurobindo the Vedic scholars had a monotheistic conception.[130]

The period during which the many texts included within the Veda (literally “The Knowledge”) were composed, collected and arranged into a canon lasted approximately 1200 years (c. 1600-400 BCE). The Vedic texts were orally composed and were transmitted from teacher to pupil, as they are to this day in some parts of South Asia, without the aid of script...

Monotheistic traditions first referred to in the later portions of the Sanskrit Mahābhārata (c. 3rd-4th Century CE), attributed authorship of the Veda to God, as did, from around the 6th century CE, the influential philosophical school of Nyāya...

c. 400 BCE–400 CE. This period saw myriad changes in the religious and political culture of northern and central India, many of them brought about by the rise to prominence of Buddhism and, to a lesser extent, Jainism. These changes and their far-reaching consequences are too numerous to list here, though mention should be made of the transformation of the Vedic priesthood (the Brahmins) into proponents of a tremendously successful religious and socio-political ideology based on Brahminical superiority (see Dharmaśāstra), and of the emergence of monotheistic traditions which, without wholly repudiating the authority of the Veda and its sacrificial cult, established new forms of worship centred upon the veneration of images of god in temples and at shrines. The foundations laid by these innovations gave support to a religious culture which is retrospectively identified as “Hindu” as distinct from “Vedic”.

Although the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa include, though by no means confine themselves to, much of the same sort of religious, ethical and metaphysical doctrine as can be found in earlier Sanskrit literature, they do so within a framework derived from more popular (as opposed to priestly) storytelling traditions. Both were recited and performed by bards at the courts of rulers and, unlike the Veda, they were not memorised word for word but could incorporate new themes, subplots and characters in each retelling... the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa claim to address themselves to women as well as men, and to members of all social classes. As with the Vedas, regional and cultural differences among the Brahmins responsible for transmitting the Sanskrit epics led to there being numerous versions of both texts, and both have been handed down in two principal recensions, one from the north and one from the south of India...

The central story of the Mahābhārata tells of a bitter succession conflict, culminating in an 18-day war, between two sets of cousins for the ancestral realm of the Bhārata clan, the kingdom of Kurukṣetra in northern India. The most celebrated (and studied and translated) section of the Mahābhārata is the Bhagavadgītā (“The Song of the Lord”), which has often been treated, both by medieval commentators and modern scholars, as an independent text...The Gītā, as it is affectionately known, takes place about midway through the story as the two sides are lining up for battle, and it consists mostly of Kṛṣṇa’s exhortation to Arjuna, one of the major heroes of the Mahābhārata, to go forth and fight. Arjuna’s unwillingness to do so derives from the fact that many of his family members and former teachers are among the enemy. Kṛṣṇa, who is ostensibly Arjuna’s charioteer, reveals himself to be the supreme god, manifest on earth in order to restore dharma. His exhortation primarily involves a discussion of traditional concepts (e.g. sacrifice, dharma and karma) set within a new monotheistic framework...Scholars generally agree that the identification of Kṛṣṇa with Viṣṇu belongs to the latest layers of the Mahābhārata (it is not found in the Gītā itself)...

The Rāmāyaṇa (“The Career of Rāma”), which tells the story of the exemplary warrior-prince Rāma and his retrieval of his devoted wife Sītā from her evil abductor King Rāvaṇa, also claims in one of the apparently later layers of the text that it is equal in authority to the Veda...Rāma is worshipped by millions of Hindus, either as the supreme god or as an incarnation (avatāra) of Viṣṇu...For many millions of the Hindus who worship in these, the Rāmāyaṇa is the exemplary narrative of god’s life as a man engaged in the destruction of evil and the restoration of dharma...

Like the Sanskrit epics, the Purāṇas align themselves with the Veda, the rituals and myths of which they appropriate, adapt and expand to fit with their own monotheistic (or, better, henotheistic) theology...their contents are a miscellaneous collection of complex cosmologies, elaborate genealogies, stories of the exploits of deities and kings, and descriptions of law codes, rituals and pilgrimages to holy places...the Purāṇas also offer some of the earliest examples, within a Hindu context, of the idea of the holiness of manuscripts...

Especially important in this regard is the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, composed in South India in the 9th- 10th century CE....The main focus of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is the adoration of Kṛṣṇa as the supreme god, and it tells numerous stories of Kṛṣṇa’s exploits, including his romantic adventures with the cowherd girls.

-- A religion of the book? On sacred texts in Hinduism, by Robert Leach

Sri Aurobindo gave commentaries, general interpretation guidelines, and a partial translation in The secret of Veda (1946).[note 10] Sri Aurobindo finds Sayana's interpretation to be ritualistic in nature, and too often having inconsistent interpretations of Vedic terms, trying to fit the meaning to a narrow mold. According to Aurobindo, if Sayana's interpretation were to be accepted, it would seem as if the Rig Veda belongs to an unquestioning tradition of faith, starting from an original error.[131] Aurobindo attempted to interpret hymns to Agni in the Rigveda as mystical.[130] Aurobindo states that the Vedic hymns were a quest after a higher truth, define the Rta (basis of Dharma), conceive life in terms of a struggle between the forces of light and darkness, and sought the ultimate reality.[130]
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