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22-Devtaa in Ved

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22-Devtaa in Ved
See also    Vaidik Devtaa;   Devtaa in Rig ved;   Devtaa in Saam Ved

Vaidik Deities are those Deities or Devee and Devtaa who have been described in Ved. Yaask says in the Nirukt - "the Vaidik Devtaa are resolvable into three - Agni Dev whose place is on the earth, Vaayu Dev whose place is in the atmosphere, and Soorya Dev whose place is in the sky, and these are again resolvable into one Supreme being. It is said that the energy of the Sun passes on to Agni in the evening - hence the Agni is the substitute for Soorya in the evening.

Who is Dev? It is not interpreted like jumbled reverse of Ved is Dev. According to Ved Dev are ones who have the power to give. Ved recognizes them according to the properties assigned to them. Thus the Dev who have the power to give are enormous in number, not just 33.

And why Devtaa are 33 Crores? According to one Shlok of Brihadaaranyak Upanishad, Devtaa are 33, but it is not a constant value. A Vedaantee may see it as a seed factor which gets multiplied and may become crores, but in Karm Kaand the person wants a particular Deity for the rituals. Some say that the 33 are the Devtaa that function in all the 7 planes as said in "Saptaardh Garbhaa Bhuvanasya" in Atharv Ved, 9.10.17; and hence the number is 33 Crores - and Ved call 33 Crore Devtaa.

Vaidik Devtaa

Vaidik deities are Mitra, Varun, Sun, Moon, Vaayu, Indra etc, whichever deity the hymn praises it will say that that Devtaa is supreme - like a hymn written for the Sun god will say that Sun is supreme, another hymn written in the praise of Varun will say that Varun Dev is supreme etc, this shows that the name and form are many but a Gun of the Nir-Gun. The other set of deities are the Pauraanik deities - like Raam, Krishn, etc. There is a Sookt in the name of Brahmaa, so too in the name of Vishnu and Shiv which proves that Ved deem them as deities, and ask us to pray them for such and such a benefit. All of these have been divided in three groups -

(1) Celestial or Aakaasheeya Devtaa (gods of Heaven) are 11 -
Dyau (the Sky), the two Ashwinee Kumaar, Pooshaa, Vishnu, and six Aaditya - Soorya (the Sun), Savitra or Bhag, Mitra (protector of oaths), Aaryaman, Daksh and Ansh.

(2) Atmospheric or Vaayaveeya Devtaa (gods of Air) are 11 -
Indra, Varun (the Water), Rudra (later named as Shiv in Puraan), Marut, Ushaa (Dawn), Vaayu, Parajanya, Vivaswat, Yam, Prajaapati and Aditi (means freedom).

(3) Terrestrial or Paarthiv Devtaa (gods of the Earth) are 11 -
Agni, Som, Brihaspati, Apaam-napaat, Maatarishwan (he is said to have brought fire to mankind), Twashtra (artisan of gods or precursor of Vishwakarmaa), and the goddesses Prithvi, Aapah, Saraswatee, Ilaa, and Bhaaratee.

Bhaaratee, Ilaa and Saraswatee are three Vaidik deities, whose later counterparts are Pingalaa (Soorya Naadee), Idaa (Chandra Naadee) and Sushumnaa Naadee or Yamunaa, Gangaa and Saraswatee. The first of this trio symbolizes Manifest Shakti in the form of awakened Soul or Nation, the second one signifies oral transmission of occult knowledge from Guru, and the third one is the knowledge gained by the Shishya.

(4) Others in Ved
--Apsaraa (celestial nymphs) are also mentioned in Ved, and Urvashee has been explicitly referred to by her name.
--Gandharv are also mentioned, but are associated with guarding the nectar and with water.
--Various categories of demons are mentioned, and they are usually referred to as Raakshas.
--The demons are rarely called Asur in the Rig Ved, and this name is frequently applied to the Gods, specifically to Varun.
--The Daanav, who are the sons of Danu are mentioned. The most often referred Daanav is Vritra, who is visualized as a drought demon, who locked up all the clouds in a mountain. Indra freed the clouds by slaying Vritra.
--Other demons mentioned in the Rig Ved are Bal, Arbud and Vishwaroop and Swarbhaanu. There is also a frequent reference to a class of demons who are called Daas (or dark colored). This fact has been used to support the Aaryan invasion theory. (The assumption is that the original inhabitants of India were dark skinned, who were defeated by the fair-skinned, invading Aaryans).

Devtaa in Rig Ved
Rig Ved accepts - Dyaush Pitaa (the Sky Father), Prithvi Maataa (the Earth Mother), Vaayu (the Wind god), Parjanya (the Rain god), Soorya (the Sun god), Varun (the god of Oceans), Agni (the Fire god), Indra (the War god), Som (the god of speech, Deity of Som creeper), Ushaa (the god of Dawn), Yam (the god of Death), Aaditya (a group of Deities, 6 in Rig Ved, 8 in Braahman, and 12 in Shatapath Braahman), Ashwinee Kumaar (the twin Deities), Rudra (8 in number), Vasu (8 in number) and Vishwedev (10 in number) as gods.

Kaam Dev is also mentioned in Rig Ved in the reference that the world came into being because of Kaam Dev...
कामस्तदग्रे समवर्तताधि मनसो रेतः परथमं यदासीत |
सतो बन्धुमसति निरविन्दन हर्दि परतीष्याकवयो मनीषा || RV-10.129.4||

Indraanee is the wife of Indra and the mother of Jayant and Jayantee. She is also called Shachee and Aindree. She is mentioned a few times in the Rig Ved, and is said to be the most fortunate of females, "for her husband shall never die of old age." The Taittireeya Braahman states that Indra chose her for his wife from a number of competing goddesses, because she surpassed them all in voluptuous attractions. According to the Mahaabhaarat, King Nahush became enamored of her, and she escaped from him with great difficulty with the help of Dev Guru Brihaspati. Although her name appears in Rig Ved, she has never been held in very high esteem as a goddess.

Ushaa - Ushaa is the Vaidik goddess of Dawn. She is said to be the daughter of Sky. She is radiant and immortal. The twins Ashwinee Kumaar are her companions and follow her in their glorious chariot. She is one of the few goddesses mentioned in Rig Ved. (RV 1.4br)

Dyaavaa or Prithvi Maataa (the Earth Mother)





Maatrikaa in Ved
Rig Ved (9.102.4) speaks of a group of seven Mothers who control the preparation of Som,

Agni has been the chief Devtaa mentioned in Ved. Agni in Yagya took three-fold (Tretaagni) or five-fold (Panchaagni) form. All oblations in Agni are according to Vaidik injunctions accompanied by Mantra from all the Ved. (from Atri Sanhitaa Preface)
Ashwinee Kumaar
The two Ashwinee Kumaar

There are two Mantra, one in Rig Ved and the other in Yajur Ved where Brihaspati is invoked with only by his name as Ganapati. These two Mantra are still very commonly chanted as prayers. In the Yajur Ved Sanhitaa verse, the term "Gan" is used for the worshipper and "Pati" means "the Lord"; hence "Ganapati" means "our Lord".
Dadhi Kraavan
Often mentioned in Rig Ved, Mandal 4, Sookt 38, 39, 40; and Mandal 7, Sookt 44. He seems to be described at these places as a kind of Divine horse. Sometimes he is considered as a Creation of Heaven and Earth, sometimes of Mitra and Varun, and is invoked in the morning with Agni, Ushaa and Ashwin. Dadhi means yogurt, Kri means to scatter. Saayan regards Dadhi Kraavan as a form of Agni. He says in his commentary on the Rig Ved (Mandal 4, Sookt 39, Rik 2) - "Agni in the form of a horse is called Dadhikra, the equal form of Agni has been declared in the Braahman thus - Agni becoming a horse, pursued them."

Hirayagarbh is perhaps the highest in conception with a concrete name. [Rig Ved, 121.1-2.)
Indra is the Lord of Heaven and God of War, Storms and Rain. He is the god who looks after mankind. A symbol of power and courage, Indra leads the way in the timeless battle between good and evil and has more than 250 hymns dedicated to him in the "Rig Ved", more than any other god. Vishnu, in comparison, has only 93 hymns. But not being part of the Holy Trinity, Indra is seen to exhibit more human qualities. He slain Vritra to release life-giving waters back to mankind and also rescued the sacred cows of the gods from the Asur or demons.
Mitraa Varun
Ribhu Gan
Three brothers mentioned in Rig Ved, who through their continuous performance of virtuous works reached perfection and hence were elevated to Divine status in the eyes of men. (see also Ribhu)
Saraswatee Devee
Has been invoked 78 times
Savitaa. Name of an independent deity in Rig Ved. He is also called Bhag. Savitra later became the synonym of Soorya (the Sun). He is considered one of the sons of Aditi, hence an Aaditya. 11 full hymns have been devoted to Savitra in Rig Ved. The most important Mantra devoted to him is Gaayatree Mantra. He was also considered Prajaapati, the creator of men.
Varun is raised to the level of God [Atharv Ved, IV.16.1-5]

Prayers in Ved

Gaayatree Mantra
Gaayatree Mantra is most popular and most used Mantra of the Ved. It appears in all the four Ved with a little variation.
Purush Sookt
Hymn 10-90 of Rig Ved Sanhitaa, 16 Mantra of Rig Ved (or Yajur Ved, 31/1-16), are known as Purush Sookt. This is the only hymn in the entire Rig Ved which uses all the four words - Braahman, Raajanya (Kshatriya), Vaishya, and Shoodra. It states that God produced Braahman from His mouth, Kshatriya from His arms, Vaishya from His thighs, and Shoodra from His feet.

Rudra Prashn
A long prayer to Rudra consisting of two parts - Namak and Chamak. The text as appearing in the Taittireeya Sanhitaa of Krishn Yajur Ved is followed throughout India.
Shaanti Paath
The famous Shaanti Paath has two versions - one of Yajur Ved (36-17), and the other one of Atharv Ved (19-9-14). This prayer is to establish peace in different parts of the Universe and to human beings and nature.
Shanno Devee
Name of a Mantra of Rig Ved (10-9-4). This Mantra starts as "Om Shanno Devee Rabhishtraye Aapo Bhavantu Peetaye...."
Shatpath Braahman
This is a part of Shukla Yajur Ved and is perhaps the most important Braahman, but most of it, like other Braahman, has lost its importance in the present-day world.
There are various Sookt in Ved which are well known and very popular - Purush Sookt, Prithvi Sookt or Bhoo Sookt, Shree Sookt, Rudra Sookt

Devtaa in Ved
In previous articles the present writer has spoken about the line of continuity from the Rig Ved (and Saam, Yajur and Atharv Ved too) through to the Upanishad and the Brahm Sootra. Conventional scholarship, especially that of Western scholars, has posited a break with the Upanishadik focus on Self and Brahm as a departure from the worship of the many Devee and Devtaa (male and female divinities) of the four Ved, and as well the rituals associated with the Vaidik sacrifices. This break has been described as the difference between Karm Kaand (ritual) and Gyaan Kaand (speculative knowledge of Self and Brahman).

The polytheism of the four Ved and the rituals offered up to the deities is not downgraded or rejected in the Upanishad, and the elaboration of speculative knowledge concerning Self and Brahm ending with the statement by Shankar in his commentary on the Brahm Sootra that Brahm is the Infinite, is Intelligence and is Blissful, does not contradict the worship of the Vaidik deities. Indeed, one could argue that both the Upanishad and Shankar build on the former.

The Rig Ved worships 33 different Devtaa of which Agni and Indra are the most worshipped. The Vaidik ritual itself is always conducted through the worship of Agni (Fire). This exaltation of Agni continues throughout the Vaidik Aagamik Hindu tradition of worship, if only that fire is ever present in every act of worship. The gods are now worshipped after due consecration inside temples.

Two of the oldest and most commented upon of the Upanishad are the Chhaandogya and the Brihadaaranyak Upanishad. The central themes here are more or less repeated in the other Upanishad too and these two can be used as templates for an examination of the theme of continuity with the four Ved. The four Ved have their prose commentaries, the Braahman, which are followed by the forest treatises or Aaranyak, and finally the Upanishad. Hence, each of the older Upanishad can be seen as linked to them. There are some 108 Upanishad, some of them are of much later date. Many are said to have been lost over a period of time. The date of the Ved has generally been tentatively assigned to 1500 BCE and the earliest Upanishad to 800-600 BCE. These dates are to this day, tentative, and devout Hindu assign a much earlier date to the Ved, which are considered A-Purusheya (not of human origin) or Divine.

There is something to this belief, since the rituals and the hymns, though solemn, are also of a joyous celebratory nature and they invoke not only the presence of the deities at the time of the rituals, but also are a testimony to their continued presence in the universe.

The deities (Devee and Devataa) are invoked in their presence in the elements, as transition to the reflections of the Upanishad. The Chhaandogya, for instance, reflects a movement from the various elements that culminate in the Udgeeth, the OM (the Pranav). The entire universe (multi-universes) are sacralised, starting with the elements of Earth and Water, and the Upanishad sees no contradiction in gathering these up as correspondences and as well the presence of deities in the OM. It is only at this stage that one can identify the Chhaandogya's final mention of Brahm as the all encompassing reality that expresses itself in the Devee and Devataa referred to above. A single example will suffice (though the Upanishad repeats this thought several times) :--- "Let a man meditate on the syllable OM, called the Udgeeth; for the Udgeeth is sung, beginning with OM. The essence of all beings is the Earth, the essence of the earth is water, the essence of water are the plants, the essence of plants is man, the essence of man is his speech, the essence of speech the Rig Ved, the essence of the Rig Ved is the Saam Ved, the essence of the Saam Ved is the Udgeeth (OM)."
(From the translation by Max Mueller in Sacred Books of the East)

The culmination in what is referred to as the Mahaa Vaakya is a natural progression in the thinking of the Upanishadik seer : That Thou Art (Tat twam asi). By the conclusion of the Upanishad there are references to Braahman. Here, the identification of the individual Self, now raised to the level of Self (Aatmaa), with the infinite reality of Brahm, is first mentioned. It is left to the Brahm Sootra and the commentaries by Shankar and Raamaanuj (and theistic commentators like Madhwaa, Vallabh) to further elaborate this theme. The idea too is that each individual human who progresses through the stages of meditation, yoga, devotion, knowledge etc. will enact the identification. The overall word for the process is "Upaasanaa".

The Brihadaaranyak has a parallel movement to that of the Chhaandogya. The famous Mahaa Vaakya "Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahm)" can be translated thus : "Verily in the beginning this was Brahm, that Brahm knew its Self only, saying "I am Brahm". From it all this sprang. Thus, whoever Dev was awakened (so as to know Brahm), he indeed became that (Brahm); and the same is true with Rishi and men. The Rishi Vaam Dev saw and understood it, singing "I was Manu (moon), I was the Sun" Therefore now also he who thus knows that he is Brahm, becomes all this. . . "
(From the Max Muller translation)

This remarkable passage is succeeded by a spectacular celebration of the elemental world in its inner connection with the Self-Brahm : -
"This Earth is the honey of all beings, and all beings are the honey of this Earth. Likewise this bright, immortal person is this earth, and that bright immortal person incorporated in the body, both are Madhu. He indeed is the same as that Self, that Immortal, that Brahm, that All." These sentiments are expressed repeatedly invoking in succession water, fire, air, Sun, Moon, lightning, thunder, ether, dharma, mankind, as being the honey of all beings, as that Brahman, that All.
(From the Max Muller translation)

The Brahm Sootra by Baadarayana (identified as Vyaas Jee) and the commentaries by Shankar and Raamaanuj can legitimately be described as Vedaant, the culmination of the Ved. The process is not simply a chronological one, but a religious and spiritual process. The reader is advised to read these philosophers in the original, either in Sanskrit or in a good translation (George Thibaut in the Sacred Books of the East series). The Brahma Sootra are so called because they enquire into the nature of Brahm. The work begins with the famous aphorism: "Adhato Brahm jigyaasaa" (now one must inquire into Brahm).

These aphorisms have been endlessly commented upon, the most famous commentaries being by Shankar (820 CE) and Raamaanuj (1077-1157). Both, whatever the minutiae of their different interpretations, are agreed on one thing : that is Brahm is that which is Infinite, is Intelligence, is Blissful (Sat, Chit, Aanand). While Shankar sees the universe as the Maayaa of Brahm, Raamaanuj sees it as the embodiment of Brahm. While it may be relatively easy to read this into Raamaanuj's commentary, the astonishing philosophical arguments of Shankar need to be carefully studied before one understands what he means by the Maayaa of Brahm, and hence of Brahm's relation to the world.

The writer does not see the difference between the two philosophers as significant. What is common to both is Satchidaanand (Sat, Chit, Aanand) and here the Vaidik gods are ever present, whether as Maayaa or as embodiment. The rituals offered to them by the Vaidik Rishi are an ongoing reality in the Punya Bhoomi, whether one construes this phrase as limited only to the Indian subcontinent or to Mother Earth.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 04/02/13