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u< OU_1 62971 >m 



Sail No. 2 <^ M Jl Accession No. U \ a^ 6 

C. bl R % 

Author C^^OWj A C- S 


This book should be returned on or before the date 
last marked below. 







Author of The Parmiyan (Madras Government Museum Bulletin), 
Gangai's Pilgrimage, The Tamil Bible Dictionary, etc. 



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P. O. Box 3, MADRAS. 




Row, LONDON, W. C. 

ABOUT two years ago the writer was asked to prepare 
for the Christian Literature Society for India a revised 
edition of the late Dr. Murdoch's Account of the Vedas 
and consented to do so. But he soon found that no 
revision of that book, useful as it had been, could be 
made that would adequately represent modern know- 
ledge and modern methods of interpretation of the 
Vedas. Consequently the present volume, though con- 
taining all that was of permanent value in Dr. Murdoch's 
handbook, is a distinct and new treatment of the 
subject. But it makes no claim to be original. It is 
only a careful compilation of what is known of the life 
and religion and Hymns of Vedic times, and the 
'bibliography and the footnotes will show to how 
many teachers the writer is, most gratefully, a debtor* 
He has ventured on independent statements only when 
reference is made to the influence of the Dravidian on 
the Aryan religion, or to the religious practices ,of 
Dravidians in South India at the present time subjects 
on which he has had special opportunities of obser- 
vation since 1892. 

By the permission of Messrs. E. J. Lazarus & Co., 
Benares, the Readings from the Vedas are taken from 
the admirable series of translations of the Vedas prepared 
by the late R. T. H. Griffith and published by that firm, 



As this book is written for the average student-reader rather than 
for the specialist, technicalities have, as far as possible, been 
avoided, but the transliteration of Sanskrit words will generally 
be found to agree with the scheme accepted by the Geneva 
Congress of Orientalists and the Royal Asiatic Society. 

Some knowledge of the Sanskrit alphabet is needed to grasp 
the sounds of letters distinguished by diacritical marks such as 
n, r, t, 4. But the distinction between long and short vowels 
is more easy to observe. All vowels are pronounced in Italian 
fashion rather than in English, i.e. like the vowels in ' do, re, mi, 
fa ' of the musical scale. Long vowels have been given in the text 
with a long mark over them, e.g. Indrani, Surya. 

The short vowel a is never pronounced like the a in " that ' . 
It has always a sound corresponding to the a in ' era '. For 
instance, the first syllable in ' Varuna ' is pronounced something 
like the first syllable in the word * current '. 

Many Sanskrit names, like Krishna, Rama, Sita and words like 
upanishad, rishi, veda, Rig-veda have become so well-known that 
usually it has not seemed needful to insert diacritical marks in 



I. THE ARYANS ... ... ... 3 




GODS ... ... ... 62 







VEDA ... ... 266 


VEDA ... ... 271 


YAJUR-VEDA ... ... 272 



BIBLIOGRAPHY ... ... 276 

INDEX ... ... ... 279 


On page 121, in the tenth line from the foot of the 
page, the reference should read : Rig-veda i. 162. 20, 2U 





IN the dawning time of history, somewhere in the lands 
beyond Afghanistan and north of Persia roamed bold 

tribes of fair-complexioned men and 

women with their horses and cattle. ear K. 

From stories that have come down to 
us about them, from words that they used which have 
still place in our speech, and from rites of worship still 
observed by many of their descendants to-day some- 
thing can be known of their life and thoughts. They 
were a rough, brave, hardy, adventurous race, of honest 
and simple soul. 

Some of them gradually limited their wanderings to 
Iran, the land of Persia. There they settled and there 
they stayed, becoming the ancestors of the Parsis now 
in India; and their speech became the old Zend lan- 
guage and their religion, with its sacred literature, the 
Avesta of Zoroaster, developed into Zoroastrianism. 

Others of these tribes, more daring, by long marches, 
and through many generations approached and entered 
India from the north-west. These were the men who 
called themselves ' Axyas,!, Aryans, a word meaning 
* Jujosjnen ' as distinct from the aboriginal tribes already 
dwelling in the land. 1 And though much concerning 
them is oBscure, not a little is evident^ and to-day it is 

^ACDONNELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 152. 


possible to look back across the many centuries that 
separate us from those nomads and learn what manner 
of men they were. Having some conception of the 
men themselves, remembering that they were once alive, 
and vastly concerned with matters that fill men's lives, 
even to-day, it will be possible to go on to some survey 
of their hymns and their beliefs, their hopes and their 
fears, their gods and their demons, not as to a dry 
study of abstractions but in hope of finding the vital 
beginnings of faiths that still sway the hearts of millions 
in India. 

From the names of the rivers mentioned in their 
hymns it is clear that about the time that they were 

composed, the chief settlements of the 
The home of the . . T ,. . - . . , 

Aryans Aryans in India were in the neighbour- 

hood of the Sindhu, the modern Indus,, 
a river which after receiving the waters of its tributaries 
is so wide that people on one bank cannot see the 
opposite bank. The Himalayas would prevent them 
from turning towards the north, and it is thus clear 
that before they crossed the Yamuna, the modern 
Jumna, and made their way to the Ganges, the Aryans 
dwelt mainly in East Kabulistan and the Panjab. The 
Saraswati was their southern boundary during that 

As to other races that were in the land there is little 
information in the hymns of the Aryans and the science 
of ethnology has to help us. From it we learn that 
before the Aryans came India was sparsely peopled by 
some of the races that are now often called * jungle 
tribes 1 . Among them the majority would be Dravi- 
dians. The Gonds, Bhils and Santals are modem 


survivors of those races. Some were very humble ill 
the scale of humanity burying their dead in the cells 
made of stone-slabs, called Kistvaens by scientists and 
* Panda va vidu ' the houses of the Pandava brothers 
when in exile by the Tamil people of the south to 
this day. Those in the south were never so subject to 
the Aryans as the tribes of the north and grew into the 


powerful and civilized Tamil and Telugu nations, but 

there is no hint of this in the Rig-veda. There these ab- 

_. _ originesare named 'Dasyu' 'destroyers' 

TH6 UASyilS f ... , . , . 

or Dasa ,. or injurious. Their skins 
were much darker than those of the Aryans and so 
they were stigmatized as 'black' or 'black-skins'. 
From the shape of their broad noses they were called 
' goat-nosed '. They possessed herds, they had strong- 
holds called 'pur'. Those who were captured were 
made slaves, and the very word ' dffsa ' came to mean 
'slave' in later Sanskrit and cognate languages. The 
references to their religion describe them as offering no 
sacrifices, being unbelievers in the gods of the Aryans, 
and thus grievously impious. There are two passages 
in which they are called sisna-devah, 'whose god is the 
phallus' (Rig-veda vii. 21.5; x. 99. 3), and it will be 
remembered that the phallus, as the linga, came to be 
the chief symbol of the god Siva in later Hinduism. 1 

From the first these Dasyus were the enemies of the 
Aryans, but their demon worship greatly affected the 
Aryans, especially in the simpler domestic religion that 
has always been that of the ordinary folk. 

Probably the conditions of climate and soil were then 
much as they are now and the Aryans who had lived 
in tents while they were nomads became dwellers in 
houses. The roofs of these houses were of long bam- 
boos laid on rafters supported by pillars or corner posts. 
The spaces between the pillars were filled in with straw 
or reeds, tied in bundles. In places where stone was 

1 MACDONNELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 153 ; Vedic Index: 
ii. 382. Dr. Muir does not agree in this interpretation. Sanskrit 
Texts iv. 411. 


readily obtainable it was sometimes used, and Indra is 
said to have destroyed a hundred cities of stone. The 

roof would be of thatch, and the various M . 

Aryan nouses 

timbers were fastened together with 
bars, pegs, ropes and thongs. The house had a door 
fastened by a strap. A number of these houses made 
a village. Such villages were near to streams or rivers 
for the sake of crops and cattle. There were ramparts 
and ditches to protect the village from enemies or from 
flood. But there were no cities, if by city is meant a 
collection of houses near to each other surrounded by 
a wall. i 

Bread, milk and products from milk, such as butter, 
cakes of flour and butter, vegetables and fruits were 
the usual articles of food. But meat, -. 

roasted or boiled, was eaten, though 
probably only at great feasts and family gatherings. 
The late Dr. Rajendralala Mitra occupied the highest 
rank among Indian scholars, and in his Indo-Aryans, 
he has a chapter headed, * Beef in Ancient India.' It 
begins as follows : 

The title of this paper will, doubtless, prove highly 
offensive to most of my countrymen ; but the interest 
attached to the inquiry in connexion with the early 
social history of the Aryan race on this side of the 
Himalaya, will, I trust, plead my excuse. The idea 
of beef the flesh of the earthly representative of the 
divine Bhagavati as an article of food is so shocking 
to the Hindus, that thousands over thousands of the 
more orthodox among them never repeat the counter- 
part of the word in their vernaculars, and many and 
dire have been the sanguinary conflicts which the shed- 
ding of the blood of cows has caused in this country. 
And yet it would seem that there was a time when 


not only no compunctions, visitings of conscience, 
had a place in the mind of the people in slaughtering 
cattle when not only the meat of that animal was 
actually esteemed a valuable aliment when not only 
was it a mark of generous hospitality, as among the 
ancient Jews, to slaughter the ' fatted calf ' in honour 
of respected guests but .when a supply of beef was 
deemed an absolute necessity by pious Hindus in 
their journey from this to another world, and a cow 
was invariably killed to be burnt with the dead. 

Dr. Rajendralala Mitra quotes Colebrooke's opinion 
as follows: 

It seems to have been anciently the custom to slay 
a cow on that occasion (the reception of a guest) and 
a guest was therefore called a goghna, or 'cow killer '. 
In the Uttara Rffma Charitra the venerable old poet 
and hermit Valmiki, when preparing to receive his 
brother sage Vasista, the author of one of the 
original law books (Smritis) which regulates the 
religious life of the people, and a prominent character 
even in the Vedas, slaughtered a lot of calves expressly 
for the entertainment of his guests. Vasista, in his 
turn, likewise slaughtered the 'fatted calf when 
entertaining Vigvamitra, Janaka, Satananda, Jama- 
dagnya, and other sages and friends. 1 

Cows and oxen were sacrificed on certain occasions 
even in later Vedic times and on such occasions priest 
and sacrificer would eat part of the flesh of the victim. 8 

Salt is not mentioned in the hymns, though it abounds 
in the Northern Panjab. 

For drink the Aryans used surfi, a brandy made from 
corn or barley, and soma, the sap of a herb of the 

1 Indo- Aryans, vol. i, pp. 356-8. 

9 See Section v. The Sacrifices of the Aryans* also MACDON- 
NELL, Vedic Index ii. 145. 


Sarcostemma species, which on account of its stimula- 
ting and exciting character was deified. 

The Aryans kept herds of cattle and horses. Goats, 
buffaloes and camels are mentioned. There are many 
prayers for these in the hymns, especially for cows that 
yield the white milk from which mead and butter, 'the 
favourite food of gods and men ', were prepared. An 
Aryan called his daughter dithitri or milkmaid, and the 
word gopa, cowkeeper, came to mean any protector. 

Agriculture was the principal industry. Plough and 
harrow, mattock and hoe were used, and sometimes 
water was conducted in irrigation chan- . . 

nels. There were two harvests in the 
year, especially for barley. The grain was threshed ; 
the chaff was winnowed away ; the corn was ground in a 
mill ; and bread was made from the flour. Agriculture 
was more important than hunting with the bow, or cap- 
turing game with snares, or than fishing. 

Wood-workers, who had tools such as hatchets and 
planes, built wagons and war-chariots, or carved wooden 
cups. There were tanners who made ... 
leather from the hide of slaughtered 
cattle, and manufactured it into waterbottles, bow-strings, 
slings and the like. There were workers in metal, smiths 
who made weapons and rims for the wheels of carts, and 
potters. Women spun and wove wool and made gar- 
ments. There were even barbers. 

Trade existed as barter, and the value of goods was 
calculated at so many cows. Golden ornaments were 
beginning to be used. Goldsmiths are spoken of and 
usurers are mentioned. The Babylonian min& of gold 
seems to have been called mana in Sanskrit which may 


be an indication of very early intercourse between India 
and the western Semitic races. Ships are mentioned. 

The family was the unit and the father of the family 
was its high-priest and head, and controlled the worship 

The father ^ ^ e ancestors f ^ e family in all de- 
tails. He knew the peculiar ritual which 
was traditional in his family, and which had to be main- 
tained unchanged, if the favour of the dead was to be 
retained. He alone had the power to pass on the rites 
to his son. The reverence and the power which his 
priestly position brought him made him supreme in the 
household. He had full power over his wife and his 
young children, and his grown-up sons were under his 
authority. The property of the family was altogether in 
his hands. This was the source of the paternal authority 
(patria potestas) of the Roman father, and of the promi- 
nent place held by the father in Greece, Persia, India, 
and among Teutonic and Slavonic peoples as well. This 
type of family, which is known as the patriarchal, suc- 
ceeded an earlier and less developed type. l 

Youths and maidens saw each other at festivals. 

Should the youth be attracted he generally but not always 

M "atfe as ked for the maiden in marriage from 

her father through a friend. It was 

considered improper for the marriages of younger sons 

or daughters to be arranged before those of their elder 

brothers and sisters. If the suitor was approved he 

occasionally had to purchase his bride by giving gifts to 

her father. A dowry was sometimes given with the 

bride. The marriage was performed in the presence of 

, Printer of Hinduism, pp. 5-6. 


both families and their friends in the house of the bride's 
parents. The fire was kindled on the domestic altar and 
the bride was handed by her father to her husband. The 
bridegroom took hold of the right-hand of the bride with 
his right-hand repeating the formula : 

By thy right-hand for happiness I take thee, 

That thou may'st reach old age with me, thy husband. 

Aryaman, Bhaga, Savitar, Puramdhi, 

Gave thee to me to rule our home together. 

Rig-veda x. 85. 36 

After repeating other verses he led his bride round 
the altar, from left to right (pradakshina) , and she was- 
then his wife, and he her husband. Then followed a 
feast and the wife was taken to her husband's house on 
a wagon decked with flowers and drawn by white cattle. 
Here hymns or parts of hymns were chanted, full of 
goodwill to the wife, and her authority was solemnly 

Here now remain, nor ever part ; 

Enjoy the whole expanse of life, 

With son and grandson joyous sport 

Be glad in heart within your house. 

So rule and govern in thy home 

Over thy husband's parents both ; 

His brother and his sister, too, 

Are subject likewise there to thee. 

Rig-veda x. 85. 42, 46. 

Clearly the Aryan bride was of an age fitting her to- 
be wife and mother and mistress of a home when she 
was married. In the home the wife took part with her 
husband in the daily sacrifice. 

Some kings and nobles might have more than one- 
wife. The two Agvins had together one wife, Surya,. 


the daughter of the sun-god. But the ordinary condi- 
tion was ' a united pair, with one heart and one mind, 
free from discord '. The marriage of blood relations was 
thought wrong. The birth of a daughter is nowhere 
sought, but sons are earnestly desired. 

There is no evidence in the Rig-veda that when her 

husband died the Aryan widow had to burn herself on 

...... his funeral pyre. The eighteenth hymn 

of the tenth Book of Rig-veda refers to 
the death of a husband, to the vicissitude of life and 
to the funeral ceremonies. The seventh verse runs as 
follows in Kaegi's translation. 1 

The women here, still happy wives, not widowed, 

shall come and bring rich oil and precious ointment ; 

and tearless, blooming, rich adorned, rnq ) / fVl ^Y ^ rgf 

approach the resting-place of the departed. 

~ Rig-veda x. 18. 7. 

The words ' may they first approach the place ' are a 
translation of the Sanskrit words 

# rohantu yonim agre* 

By the most awful crime in the history of literature 
this phrase was altered in later times. It then read 

cl rohantu yonim agneh 

meaning * let them enter the place of fire ', and by this 
terrible falsification the verse was made to justify the 
burning of widows. 

The exact opposite was the fact. Among the early 
Aryans the widow might marry again. The very next 
verse of the same hymn calls on the widow to rise from 
.beside the bier or pyre and take the hand of her new 

, Rig-veda, p. 77. 


husband, * doubtless', says Prof. Macdonnell (Sanskrit 
Literature, p. 126) ' a brother of the deceased, in accord- 
ance with an ancient marriage custom ' of which a trace 
remained among the Hebrews. I quote his translation. 

Rise up ; come to the world of life, O woman ; 
Thou liest here by one whose soul has left him. 
Come : thou hast now entered upon the wifehood 
Of this thy lord who takes thy hand and woos thee. 

Rig-veda x. 18. 8. 

There may have been instances of widow burning in 
early Aryan times but it was during a much later period 
&l$fcj>50--1200) that the custom of burning a widow with 
her husband's body came gradually into force. Such a 
widow is highly praised in the Garuda Pur&ntz', she was 
called ^ sati (pronounced suttee) emphatically a ' good * 
woman.- Hence the modern name of the custom. At 
the same time it became customary for a widow who did 
not ascend her husband's pyre to live a life of asceticism 
and privation, and precepts sanctioning the practice were 
inserted in the later sacred books. Farquhar quotes one : 

If a woman's husband dies, let her lead a life of 
chastity, or else mount his pyre. 

Vishnusmriti xxv. 14. 

Since the head of the family was a man and every 
clan and family wanted men to protect it from its 
enemies, there was a tendency to set less p og j t j on O f womeii 
value on women. The general opinion 
of the female sex seems to have been that put into the 
mouth of Indra : ' Indra himself hath said, The mind of 
woman brooks not discipline. Her intellect hath little 
weight ' (Rig-veda viii. 33. 17), and ' the hearts of women 


are those of hyenas ' (x. 95. 15). From a very early 
date prostitution was an institution. 

That women were not debarred from hearing the 
Vedas is clear, for the authors of some of the hymns of 
the Aryan tribes were women. Apala composed a hymn 
that is now the eightieth in the eighth book of the Rig- 
veda, and Ghosha, a leper maiden, was author of two, 
the thirty-ninth and the fortieth in the tenth book. 

Beyond saying that the king, rffja, was a ruler it is 
not possible to define his exact rank and authority. 
ki * Probably it entirely depended on the 
individual. He was the chief of a group 
of families. Sometimes he was chosen. Sometimes his 
rank was hereditary. In time of peace he was ' judge 
and protector ' of his people, who brought to him volun- 
tary gifts. In time of war he was the leader of the 
warriors, and before a battle he would offer sacrifice for 
his tribe, or cause a priestly singer to offer it. This was 
the beginning of that difference of office which lay at the 
root of the later distinction of the warrior and priest 
castes among the Aryans. 

Morality was a family and tribal matter. Truth, 
right-conduct, kindliness, loyalty to one's neighbour and 

mm * ..^ ..- ^ comrade, bravery, and later careful 
moraiiiy ana crime . 

observance of religious rites and liber- 
ality to priests were counted high virtues. Fraud, malig- 
nant speech, lying and treachery were roundly condemned. 
Violence to defenceless maidens and the adultery of a 
wife were regarded as grave crimes. 

Such crimes as one would expect to findSkmong tribal 
peoples entering on a new civilization are mentioned in 
the hymns. Raiders carry off cattle. Robbers are found 


on highways. A thief steals an honest man's clothes. 
There are sorcerers who utter harmful spells, and sedu- 
cers of women. 

For protection from his enemies the Aryan trusted the 
gods and his own right arm. For crimes in the com- 
munity there were judgements, ordeals and punishments, 
and the vengeance of the gods. 

Gambling was a terrible curse to the Aryan. The 
hymns say that the father's punishment of the dissolute 
son is of no effect ; the player is un- 


moved by the destruction 01 his home ; 
he remains indifferent though his wife becomes the pro- 
perty of others ; he rises early and indulges in the passion 
of play till evening; defeat in play is equivalent to 
starvation and thirst. 

In one of the hymns l a gambler vividly describes his 
own experience : 

1. The tumbling, air-born (products) of the great 
Vibhidaka tree (i. e. the dice) delight me as they con- 
tinue to roll on the dice board. The exciting dice seem 
to me like a draught of the soma-plant growing on 
mount Pujavat. 

7. Hooking, piercing, deceitful, vexatious, delight- 
ing to torment, the dice dispense transient gifts, and 
again ruin the winner ; they appear to the gambler 
covered with honey. 

13. Never play with dice ; practice husbandry ; re- 
joice in thy property, esteeming it sufficient. 

At a sacrifice, the Kshatriya in particular used to play 
at dice with his wife, or wives, and sons. 

1 Rig-veda x. 34, quoted in the section Readings from the 


Dancers or actors afforded entertainment to the 
Aryans. Ushas is said to display herself like a dancer 
. . who decks herself with ornaments. Al- 
lusion is made to the living going forth 
to dance and laugh after a funeral. Drums are men- 
tioned, and a hymn in the Atharva-veda is addressed 
to that musical instrument. 

The Aryans delighted in chariot races. The sixty- 
ninth hymn in the eighth booik of the Rig-veda is a 

u -~* ^- prayer to Indra, called Satakratu the god 
Chariot races 

of a hundred rites, for success in a 
coming chariot race. It reads as follows in Griffith's 

1. O Satakratu, truly I have made none else my 


Indra, be gracious unto us. 

2. Though who hast ever aided us kindly of old to 

win the spoil, 
As such, O Indra, favour us. 

3. What now! As prompter of the poor thou 

helpest him who sheds the juice. 
Wilt thou not, Indra, strengthen us ? 

4. O Indra, help our chariot on, yea, thunderer, 

though it lag behind : 
Give this my car the foremost place. 

5. Ho there ! why sittest thou at ease ? Make 

thou my chariot to be first : 
And bring the fame of victory near. 

6. Assist our car that seeks the prize. What can 

be easier for thee ? 

So make thou us victorious. 


These chariot races were a training for war. And the 
tribes of the Aryans were constantly at war, sometimes 
among themselves and sometimes with w 

the Dasyus, the races in India before 
the Aryans entered it. These Aryan expeditions were 
often raids for cattle or reprisals on tribes that had at- 
tacked the Aryan villages. Indeed the term gosuyudh 
' fighting among or for cows ' is used in the Veda as a 
name for a warrior in general (i. 112, 122) and a com- 
mon word for battle is gavistl, literally ' striving for 
cows '. 

The bands of the Aryans marched under their leaders, 
who had banners. They would sing or shout the prowess 
of their ancestors, and boast of the aid which Indra or 
Brihaspati granted them. Conches were blown as horns. 
Sometimes the leader drove in a war-chariot covered 
with cowhides ; some warriors used bows and arrows ; 
others had darts. The bands often slew all in the vil- 
lages they conquered. Sometimes they were content to 
carry off the plunder. When an invader attacked an 
Aryan settlement, ramparts were thrown up, trees were 
made into barricades, and the gods were called to aid. 
The * Weapon-song * is a hymn that echoes with the 
clamour of the strife. 1 

From the Vedas it is clear that like their civilization, 
the science of the Aryans was of a rude and elementary 
character. The -earliest Aryans only 
knew a few stars or constellations, and ^ Aryanrace f 
there is no certain evidence that the 
planets were known to the singers of the Rig-vedic age. 
Aryan ideas of the origin of the universe are utterly 

1 Rig-veda 6. 75, quoted below in the Readings. 


inadequate and primitive; and though Aryan medical 
science distinguished several diseases, its remedies were 
charms and amulets and herbs used in conjunction with 
incantations. The world was very wonderful to the 
Aryans as they lived and fought in the Land of the 
Five Rivers. But theirs was a very limited life, unso- 
phisticated in its aims, direct and frank in its activities, 
lived in the open air, full of health from sun and wiqd 
and rains. As Max Muller says : 

In the hymns of the Veda we see man left to 
himself to solve the riddle of this world. We see him 
crawling on like a creature of the earth with all the 
desires and weakness of his animal nature. Food, 
wealth and power, a large family and a long life, are the 
theme of his daily prayers. But he begins to lift up his 
eyes. He stares at the tent of heaven, and asks who 
supports it ? He opens his eyes to the winds, and asks 
them whence and whither ? He is awakened from 
darkness and slumber by the light of the sun, and him 
whom his eyes cannot behold, and who seems to grant 
him the daily pittance of his existence, he calls ' his 
life, his breath, his brilliant Lord and Protector '.* 

And it is only as this is remembered that it is possible 
to appreciate the hopes and fears, the prayers and aspi- 
rations, the courage and the patience of the bards who 
sang, in those far away centuries, the very heart's 
thoughts of the men whose pilgrimage into India was to 
have such a mighty effect on the history and the thought 
of the world. 

They were the direct ancestors of many of the tribes 

Their hymns com P riseci in the & reat Brahman caste 
of modern India. Their speech was the 

*MAX MULLER, Chips, vol. i, 2nd ed. t p, 69. 


mother language of many of the languages spoken in 
India to-day, and from it all have borrowed the terms of 
philosophy, worship and faith. Their religion was the 
beginning of religions that have stirred the hearts of 
millions. To know how they prayed and built their 
earliest altar-fires and offered sacrifice with song is to 
know how the forefathers of Hindu and Greek and 
Briton sought divine grace and divine protection. One 
of the most precious heir-looms of the ages for all think- 
ing men are the hymns which were first sung by the 
poets among those primitive warriors and herdsmen. 
For those hymns have come down to us, and however 
much they may have been changed between the moment 
that the inspired bard chanted them to his tribesmen 
and the time when they were written down to abide for 
ever, they bring those far away days back to us. 
Through them the hopes and fears of the singer and his 
hearers ring in our ears. In them we come face to face 
with the joys and sorrows, the war and peace, the 
funerals and festivals of forty centuries ago. 


PRECISELY how and when the hymns of the Aryans 
were first composed we shall never know. Much in them 
is and always will be obscure. What scrupulous scribe 
first toilsomely wrote them out is not recorded. But 
thereafter, though the language of those hymns became 
less and less familiar the psalm-books into which they 
were gathered were practically never altered and the 
student to-day has little doubt that the text before him is 
almost syllable for syllable, as it was three thousand years 
ago ; often as it was when it was composed and sung at 
some sacrifice in the years before the Aryans had done 
more than make raids into the land of the Five Rivers. 

The existence of a sacred literature in Sanskrit was 
known to some of the first Roman Catholic missionaries 
in India, and men like Robert de Nobili 

How the West w h o arr i vec i i n Madura in 1606 -and 
the hymns Constantine Beschi a century later 
acquired sufficient knowledge of it to 
compose and argue in it. 

But the translation of the Bhagavad Gltct, by Charles 
Wilkins, 'published in 1785, and of Sakuntala, by Sir 
Williams Jones, published in 1789, were the real com* 
mencement of the scientific study of the Sanskrit language, 
and the publication and translation of the most impor- 
tant works in that language. Yetsfor a long time it was 


difficult to obtain accurate knowledge of the Vedas. 
Very few manuscript copies were in existence, and 
while the pandits were willing to communicate the manu- 
scripts of the later and less sacred Sanskrit works of law, 
philosophy and drama to Englishmen resident in India, 
they were not willing to show them the manuscripts 
of the more ancient and infinitely more holy Vedas. In 
some cases where the manuscripts of the Vedas had 
come into 'western hands, the pandits would not translate 
them. Colebrooke (1765 1837) alone seemed able to 
overcome these prejudices and his essays On the Vedas, 
or the Sacred Writings of the Hindus though published 
in 1805 are of permanent value. 

Nearly a quarter of a century later a young German 
scholar named Friedrich Rosen began to work at an 

edition of the Sanskrit text of the 

_. . ir i. . ii/r /r 1 1 Th8 publication 

Rig-veda for publication. Max Muller O f the Vedas 

relates an incident which shows the 
opinion of the intrinsic value of the hymns of the Vedas 
held by a highly -educated Hindu thinker, and probably 
by not a few others, at that time. The Raja Rammohun 
Roy was in London and saw Friedrich Rosen at the Bri- 
tish Museum busily engaged in copying manuscripts of 
the Rig-veda. The Raja was surprised, and told Rosen 
that he ought not to waste his time on the hymns, but 
that he should study the Upanishads. 1 Rosen pub- 
lished a specimen of the hymns of the Rig-veda in 1830, 
but he died before he had nearly completed his task. 
Only 'the first book of the Rig-veda, with a Latin 

1 MAX MULLER, Biographical Essays, p. 39. 


translation, was finished by him and published after his 
death in 1838. 

* In 1845 Max M tiller was at work in Paris, copying 
from manuscripts the text of the Rig-veda together with 
the commentary of Sayaija Acharya. Saya^a died in 
1387 at Vijayanagara, the capital of the famous Hindu 
kingdom founded about 1340 which is now a long 
stretch of ruins known as Hampi in the Bellary district 
of the Madras Presidency. He was teacher and minis- 
ter of one of the kings of that dynasty, and was younger 
brother of Madhava Acharya, the author of the compen- 
dium of philosophical systems called the Sarva-darsana- 
samgraha. 1 Saya^a's commentary no doubt embodied 
the opinion of the most learned pandits of the time, and 
though composed perhaps almost three thousand years 
later than the hymns contains exceedingly valuable tradi- 
tional interpretations. The East India Company author- 
ized Max Miiller to bring out an edition of the hymns 
with this commentary at its expense. The first volume 
appeared in 1849. The publication of the edition was 
completed within about twenty years. The price of 
the six volumes was 15. The second edition, in four 
volumes, was brought out at the expense of the then 
Maharajah, of Vizianagaram, and sold at /"8. This is 
regarded as the standard edition both of the text of the 
Rig-veda and of Sayana's commentary. 

The text of the Rig-veda was published in roman 
letters at Berlin in 1861. 

< The text of the Sama-veda, with a German translation, 
was published by Benfey in 1848. 

* MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature, pp. 59, 275, 406. 


Various texts of the different recensions of the Yajur- 
veda have been edited by A. Weber, and L. von Schro* 

The text of the Atharva-veda was published by Roth 
and Whitney in 1856; and another recension from a 
single ancient birch-bark manuscript discovered by Pro- 
fessor Buhler in Kashmir is being prepared by Dr. 
Maurice Bloomfield. 

An English translation of the Rig-veda, based on the 
interpretations contained in the commentary of Sayarja 
was commenced in 1850 by Professor 
H. H. Wilson, the first professor of 
Sanskrit at Oxford. Part of it was 
published after his death. Professor E. B. Cowell in 
his preface to the fifth volume says that * this work does 
not pretend to give a complete translation of the Rig- 
veda, but only a faithful image of that particular phase of 
its interpretation which the mediaeval Hindus, as repre- 
sented by Sayana have preserved '. 

A translation of many of the hymns of the Rig-veda 
entitled The Sacred Hymns of the Brahmans was 
prepared by Max Miiller, and published in Triibner's 
Oriental Series, in two volumes. 

A translation of many of the hymns entitled Vedic 
Hymns, by Max Miiller and Oldenberg appears in the 
series of translations known as The Sacred Books of the 
East, published by the University of Oxford. 

Perhaps the most helpful of all manuals of Vedic 
teaching are the five volumes of Original Sanskrit 
Texts, by Dr. John Muir (Trubner & Co.). They con- 
tain classified collections of Vedic and later texts with 
accurate translations and a vast collection of notes and 


comments. Dr. Muir's method enables the student to 
see for himself the evolution Sanskrit teaching from the 
earlier ideas, the origin of myths, the development of 
customs, and the influence of later environment. It is a 
notable treasure-house of exact scholarship. 

Mr. R. T. H. Griffith, formerly Principal of the San- 
skrit College, Benares, made complete translations of all 
four Vedas, Mr. Griffith had the great advantage of long 
residence in Benares, and some of the most learned 
pandits in India were his fellow- workers. The notes that 
accompany his translations are of high value. For the 
English student this is the most useful rendering, and its 
completeness makes it more serviceable than any other. 1 

By reprints of the Sanskrit text, by accurate tran- 
slations, and by many comments and discussions among 
scholars in Europe and America and India during the 
last sixty or seventy years it has rapidly become 
possible to appreciate the precise value and significance 
of these ancient hymns, to understand the general 
circumstances in which they were composed, and the 
motives that inspired their authors ; and thus to become 
acquainted with Aryan singers and priests at the be- 
ginning of Indian civilization. 

1 The following are the editions of Mr. Griffith's translations : 

The Hymns of the Rig-veda. Second edition. Two volumes. 
Price fourteen rupees. 

The Hymns of the Sama-veda. One volume. Price four 

The Hymns of the White Yajur-veda. One volume. Price 
three rupees twelve annas. 

The Hymns of the Atharva-veda. Two volumes. Price 
twelve rupees. All these translations are published by Messrs. 
. I. Lazarus & Co., Benares. 


The sacred books of the Hindus include a wide 
range of religious literature composed in the Sanskrit 

language. They are divided into two 

x Sruti &nd 

classes, called Sruti and Smriti. The Smriti 

term Smriti means ' memory', 'recollec- 
tion ', ' tradition ', and the books denoted by Smriti are 
the accounts of the gods and goddesses composed in 
comparatively modern times, known as the eighteen 
Pur&nas and the Upa-purftnas ; the collections of 
.aphorisms dealing with household matters and social 
and legal usage, such as the Smarta or Grihya Sutras ; 
the Dharma Sutras, and the Law Book of Manu ; 
the six Vedangas, dealing with phonetics, grammar, 
etymology, religious practice and astrology ; and the 
great epic poems, the Ramayana and the Mah&bhftrata. 
The term Sruti or 'hearing' is that used to indicate 
what was directly heard by or was revealed to the holy 
sages of old. 1 Sruti is thought of as existing from 
eternity, made known to the sages in time, and trans- 
mitted by them to their disciples, but not composed or 
arranged by them. 

The works indicated by the term Sruti are the four 
Vedas, or Samhit&s or collections of hymns or mantras ; 
and the Brahmanas of the Vedas, with their Aranyakas 
for hermits and their Upanishads. 2 

The term Veda is from the Sanskrit root vid, 'to 
know', a root which also appears in the Latin videre, 
4 to see ', and the English ' wit '. Veda 
primarily signifies ' knowledge ' ; it 

1 MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 34. 
a lbid., p. 205. 


designates ' sacred lore ' as a branch of literature ; and 
is also applied to the book containing the sacred lore. 1 
It is thus used in a general sense to denote the whole 
body of the most ancient Sanskrit literature, but it 
particularly refers to the four great collections of hymns 
that contain the divine wisdom named the Rig-veda, the 
Yajur-veda, the Sama-veda and the Atharva-veda. 

These names of the four Vedas are derived from terms 
which refer to the different styles of composition found 
in them. These four names, according to Dr. Maurice 
Bloomfield, belong to a somewhat later Vedic time ; they 
do not coincide exactly with the earlier names, nor da 
they fully correspond to the contents of the collections 
themselves as they now stand. The earlier terms refer* 
red to the different styles of composition, They were : 

r;\ ricah, stanzas of praise ; 

tlMVMfts ' y a J& ns h*9 liturgical stanzas and for- 
mulas ; 

sfimfini, melodies ; 

and atharvGngirasah, blessings and cur- 
ses. But the collection which now goes by the name of 
JRig-veda contains in its later parts 'blessings and 
jiurses ', as well as ' stanzas of praise ', together with 
most of the stanzas which form the text to the sfiman* 
melodies of the Sama-veda. Similarly the Atharva-veda 
contains ricah, 'stanzas of praise 1 , and yajtinshi, 
'liturgical stanzas' mostly worked over for its own 
purposes, as well as its characteristic 'blessings and 
curses '. The Yajur-veda also contains matter of the 
other Vedic types in addition to liturgical formulae. 

1 MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 29, 


The Sama-veda is merely a collection of certain ficah t 
or ' stanzas of praise ', taken with variations and addi- 
tions from the Rig-veda, and set to tunes indicated 
by musical notations. 1 

Careful examination shows that these four collections 
of hymns fall into two groups. In the former are the 
Rig-veda, the Sama-veda and the Yajur-veda. In the 
other the Atharva-veda stands alone. This distinction 
is based on differences in contents, character and date. 

The relation of the Rig, Sama and Yajur-vedas is not 
very complex. The Sama and Yajur-vedas were not 
independent of the 'Rig-veda, and both 
were of later date. The origin of the 
three may be outlined somewhat as fol- four Vedas 
lows : In the earliest times any one 
might perform sacrifice. Then a priestly class arose 
distinct from the ordinary people, and it may be sup- 
posed that it was during this period that the hymns of 
the Rig-veda were collected. Speedily, however, as- 
sacrifice and ceremonial was elaborated different orders 
came into existence among the priests. The highest 
order was that of the Hotris who recited hymns in 
praise of the god to whom the sacrifice was being 
offered while the ceremony was being performed. They 
recited hymns from the Rig-veda but no special collec- 
tion of hymns, no satnhita, was ever made for them.. 
For two other classes of priests such collections, or 
psalm books were made. It was the duty of the 
Udgatjri priests to chant according to certain tradi- 
tional rules during the sacrifice of Soma, and for this 

1 Religion of the Veda, p. 26. 


purpose a number of hymns were collected from the 
Rig-veda, especially from the Eighth and Ninth Books. 
These hymns form the Sama-veda, and of the 1549 
verses in it only seventy-eight are not found in the 

Another collection of hymns was incorporated in 
a sacrificial service book along with a number of prose 
directions for performing the sacrifice. It was the 
manual of the Adhvaryus and contained the verses 
to be muttered by them and their assistants who pre- 
pared the space of ground and the altar, offered the 
sacrificial victims and poured out the libations. This 
was the Yajur-veda. Two distinct forms of this Veda 
have come down to us. In the oldest, the instructions 
about ritual are mingled with the original verses from 
the Rig-veda. The chief recension of this is that 
taught by a school of teachers called the Taittirlyans. 
At a later date other scholars called the Vajasaneyins 
separated the dogmatic or explanatory matter from the 
verses to be recited and the name of 'clear* or 
4 White ' (Sukla) Yajur-veda, was applied to their 
recension, the other being called the Black (Krishna) 

The prose passages of the Yajur-veda are, of course, 
new matter. The verse portion is chiefly taken from 
the Rig-veda, but there are some new verses in cases 
where it was not possible to extract from the Rig-veda 
verses suitable to the complex ritual that had been 
elaborated by the later priesthood of the debased form 
of the Aryan faith current before the rise of the philo- 
sophic schools and Buddhism and Jainism. 

It is difficult to ascertain clearly the date of the 


Yajur-veda. It makes use of the Rig-veda, but the 

verses quoted are taken out of their _. M _ 

j i x j x j-rr The Y^Jur-veda 

connexion a$id adapted to different pur- 
poses. There are many new verses about the ritual of 
the sacrifices. Its characteristic element are the prose 
formulae, the yajus, which are in prose, and this is the 
oldest prose literature of the Indo-European peoples. 
These are sometimes brief prayers or sacrificial phrases 
and sometimes they are long sentences, full of repeti- 
tions, concerning the sacrificial victims or the ceremony. 
Dr. Bloomfield quotes one that is typical : 

May life prosper through the sacrifice. 

May life's breath prosper through the sacrifice. 

May the eye prosper through the sacrifice. 

May the ear prosper through the sacrifice. 

May the back prosper through the sacrifice. 

May the sacrifice prosper through the sacrifice. 
Many thousand formulae of this kind are collected in 
the great concordance of the Vedas prepared by Dr. 
Bloomfield. Apart from their lack of meaning,, 
they show says he, 'a formalism and mental decay 
upon the very brink of dissolution'. And both it 
and the Brahmanas belong to a period in the history 
of religion in India when ceremonial and sacrifice had 
almost destroyed the simpler religious ideas of the 
early Aryans. 

The Sama-veda is a problem to scholars for its origin 
and purpose are not clear. There are no connected 
hymns but verses, generally derived T||e Sama . ve< | a 
from the Rig-veda, meant to be chanted, 
and when accompanied by their music these were called 
s&m&ni, melodies. The chanting of these verses was 
also interrupted by crying aloud formal exclamatory 


syllables, such as ow, hai at certain points or at the fend 
of the stanzas, perhaps something like the shouts that 
accompany religious processions in India to-day. The 
Sama-veda was not held in the same repute as the Rig- 
veda and Yajur-veda and the recitation of either of them 
had to cease when the shout of s&mans was heard. 
Except that it represents the use of chanting in later 
Aryan worship the Sama-veda adds very little to the 
information that is to be obtained about the religious 
practices of the Aryans. And like the Yajur-veda it 
belongs to the time when priestly formalism dominated 
the worship of the Aryans. 

The last book, Book XX, of the Atharva-veda, is 
almost entirely made up of hymns taken bodily from 

TU Ak ~. A the Rig-veda and of hymns compiled 
Ths Atnarva-veda rii-ti-ji 

from verses of the Rig-veda. Evidently 

this section has been added to connect the Atharva-veda 
with the Rig-veda and so to give it more authority, for 
as a whole the Atharva-veda is plainly of quite a differ- 
ent origin to the rest of the Vedas. It is really a collec- 
tion of spells, and it may represent the popular beliefs 
of the common people among the Aryans in some 
passages, especially as those beliefs were modified by 
the influence of the demon-worship of the aborigines 
whom the Aryans conquered. It also contains ideas 
about the gods belonging to a later period than that of the 
Rig-veda. While the Rig-veda is the psalm-book of 
the worship of the Bright Gods, the most salient teach- 
ing of the Atharva-veda is sorcery of various sorts. 
Some spells are benevolent, such as those for health 
and prosperity, for safety from demons, for estab- 
lishing harmony in village and family life! and for the 


reconciliation of enemies, but there is much that is born 

of fear and horror. 

Madame Ragozin justly says : 

We have here, as though in opposition to the bright, 
cheerful pantheon of beneficent deities, so trustingly 
and gratefully addressed by the Rishis of the Rig, 
a weird repulsive world of darkly scowling demons, 
inspiring abject fear, such as never sprang from Aryan 
fancy. We find ourselves in the midst of a goblin- 
worship, the exact counterpart of that with which we 
became familiar in Turanian Chaldea. Every evil 
thing in nature, from a drought to a fever or bad 
qualities of the human heart, is personified and made 
the object of terror-stricken propitiation, or of attempts 
at circumvention through witchcraft, or the instru- 
ment of harm to others through the same compelling 
force. Here and there, worship takes the form of 
conjuring, not prayer ; its ministers are sorcerers, not 
priest. 1 
The traditional Hindu view is that the Atharva-veda 

is inferior to the other Vedas and modern scholarship is 

convinced that it is not of the same antiquity as the 


Griffith, who has translated it, gives his own opinion 

and those of other eminent scholars on this point as 

follows : 

I have called the Atharva-veda a comparatively 
late addition to the three ancient Vedas, of which, 
it may be observed, one only, the Rig-veda, is original 
and historical, the other two being merely liturgical 
compilations. The Atharva is like the Rik, in the 
main historical and original, but its contents cannot, as 
a whole, lay claim to equal antiquity. 

1 Vedie India, p. 117, 


He also quotes Professor Whitney, one of the most 
learned of Sanskrit scholars, who wrotes : 

The greater portion of the hymns are plainly shown, 
both by their language and internal character, to be 
of much later date than the general contents of the 
other historic Veda, and even than its tenth book with 
which they stand nearly connected in import and origin. 
. . . This, however, would not imply that the main 
body of the Atharva hymns were not already in exist- 
ence when the compilation of the Rik took place. Their 
character would be ground enough for their rejection 
and exclusion from the canon until other hands were 
found to undertake their separate gathering into an 
independent collection. l 

Professor Weber concludes that the origin of the 
Atharva Samhita dates from the period when Brahma- 
nism had become dominant. In it he finds the worshipper 
oppressed by anxious dread of the evil spirits of nature 
and of their magic powers, seeking refuge in ceremoni- 
alism. He suggests that, while the Rig-veda contains 
the songs of the higher Aryan families, the parts of the 
Atharva-veda that are peculiar to it may belong to the 
lower ranks, that is to the common people, most likely 
to be affected by the demon worship of the Dasyus. 

The oldest name of the Atharva-veda is atharv&ngi- 
rasah, a compound word made up of the names of two 
families of priests, the Atharvans and the Angirases. 9 
The former name was thought to indicate ' holy charms ', 
or ' blessings ' and the latter ' witchcraft charms * or 
* curses '. Thus it is the book of ' blessings and curses '. 
It is sometimes called the Bhrigvangirasah, a name in 

1 GRIFFITH, Atharva-veda Preface, iv. 
2 BLOOMFIELD, Religion of the Veda, p. 39. 


which the word Bhrigus takes the place of the terrr 
Atharua with the same meaning of * blessings 1 . 

It is also called the Brahma-veda, the Veda of the 
Brahman, that is the Veda of the supervising priest whc 
watched the performance of the Vedic (Srauta) sacri- 
fices. But this name may also be due to the fact that 
there are included in this Veda hymns which deal with 
' Brahman ', the monistic supreme principle of latei 
Hindu thought. 

The Taittirlya Samhita of the Black Yajur-veda 
mentions the Rig, Sama and Yajur-vedas alone in several 
passages (e. g. ii. 4, 12, 7 ; vii. 3, 1, 4). 

The Satapatha-brfthmana uses the 


term trayi-vidya for the Rig, Sama and Atharva-veda 

Yajur-vedas. The dharma literature 
also agrees that the Atharvan, while useful and even 
indispensable under certain circumstances, is on the 
whole inferior in character and position. 

There is, therefore, full justification for considering 
the Atharva-veda as distinct from the other three and 
recording a later phase of the Aryans' 
religion. It will thus lie outside the scope the Rig-veda 
of this volume to deal with it. At the 
same time it may be noted that in a brief, rapid and 
general survey of Vedic teaching, such as this, there will be 
little need to give detailed attention to the Sama and 
Yajur-vedas. It is the Rig-veda which gives the most 
valuable materials to the student of the Aryan religion. 
The Sama-veda and the Yajur-veda both reflect the 
cime when ceremonialism was corrupting earlier and 
simpler beliefs. Valuable as they and the Atharva- 
/eda are for a history of the deterioration of the 


primitive faith as it came in closer relation to the demon 
worship of the aboriginal peoples of India, they do 
not give much help to the understanding of the earlier 
religion. For that appeal must always be made to the 
Rig-veda, and consequently reference will here be made 
almost exclusively to the Rig-veda. 

Each of the four Vedas is divided into two parts, the 
Mantras and the Brahmanas. 

Mantra means ' instrument of thought ', speech, a 

sacred text or saying, a prayer or song of praise, a Vedic 

hymn in particular, or a sacrificial for- 

mula. In modern vernaculars the word 

is now used to denote a magic spell or incantation and, 

this meaning is derived from the older idea that the 

Vedic hymn sung or recited would secure the favour of 

the gods or avert ill-fortune from them or from human 


The hymns are also called Suktas : a term derived 
from su-ukta 'that which is well or properly recited. 1 
This term is used of a Vedic hymn as a whole as distin- 
guished from a rich or single verse. 1 

Each entire collection of Mantras forms a Samhita. 
The Samhita, in the case of the Rig-veda, and of the 

The Samh'tas Sama and Yajur-vedas so far as they 
are borrowed from it, consist of the 
songs of the early Aryan sages as they have been handed 
down by tradition. In the Rig-veda they are nearest in 
form to the spontaneous utterances of the bards who first 
sung them. In the Sama and the Yajur-vedas the 
poetry of the ancient psalmists is moulded by the usage 
of a later ritual, and does not vibrate with the ancient 
1 MONIER WILLIAMS Sanskrit-English Lexicon, 786, 1015, 1240. 


fervour. The Mantras in the Samhita of the Atharva- 
veda are of a different order. Incantations, spells, 
magical formulae form its Samhita, and, as applied to 
jts contents, the term mantra has precisely the meaning 
which it generally has when used in the South Indian 

The second part of each Veda, the Brahmana, was 
drawn up for ceremonial instruction fcf the Brahmans. 
They are really directories for the priests The B ra j, manas 
who used the Vedas in worship. They 
contain regulations regarding the employment of the 
mantras, and the celebration of the various rites of 
sacrifice, and also include treatises called Arattyakas, 
and others called Upanishads or Vedantas (so called 
from their being the concluding portions of each Veda), 
which expound the mystical sense of some of the cere- 
monies, and discuss the nature of the godhead, and final 
liberation. 1 

The Brahmanas as they now exist are of much 
later date than the hymns of the Vedas, and give a 
picture of the religion of the Aryans that belongs to the 
time when priest-craft had elaborated religious cere- 
monial to an almost impossible degree. On this account 
any clear picture of the religion of the early Aryans 
is not to be expected in the Brahmanas. But while the 
Brahmanas in their present form belong unmistakably 
to a later age than the collections of hymns to which 
they are appended, there is in them much of very great 
antiquity. Dr. K. S. Macdonald summarises their value 
well in his Brahmanas of the Vedas : 

*MuiR's Sanskrit Texts, vol. i, p. 2, (Second edition.) 


In the Brahmanas there is much that is older than 
any of the mantras, things, such as myths, legends, 
stories, to which the mantras clearly allude. In the 
.mantras the ancient Rishis do not tell the stories they 
refer to, because to them they are things well known 
requiring no telling as, for example, the story of 
SunahSepha, the various accounts of the creation, etc. 
The Rishis knew these and took for granted that their 
audiences knew them, so they merely allude to them 
in their songs or hymns. Thus, some of the contents 
of the Brahmanas, constituting folk-lore and mythical 
and legendary stories, some others of the sacrifices, as 
also their ideas of the gods, may be and most likely are 
older than any of the hymns which have come down 
to us. But this much is certain, that the Brahmanas 
are the oldest prose, compositions now extant, of the 
Aryan family. 1 

The Arapyakas and Upanishads are the supreme con- 
tribution of Brahmanism to the thought of the world. 
Professedly the Ara$yakas, or 'forest 
an/ Upanishads teachin & s> > were designed to prepare 
the pupil for the life of a devotee 
secluded from the distractions of worldly existence in 
some forest. The term upanishad seems to denote 
f secret instruction ', only given to a fully-qualified pupil 
by his teacher, to introduce him to the highest modes of 
philosophic thought, leading up to that supreme knowl- 
edge which insures liberation from human existence. 

Although by conventional opinion the Upanishads are 
part of the Veda, the end of the Veda, or Vedanta, they 
belong to a date much later than the hymns of the 
Rig-veda, and*represent philosophic and religious con- 
ceptions different from those of the Aryans. Even 

*K. S. MACDONALD, Brahmanas of the Vedas, p. 7. 


the earliest, the Brihadftranyaka, Chhftndogya, Tait- 
tirlya, Aitareya, Kaushltaki and Kena Upanishads, 
though always held to belong to Sruti or Revelation 
are outside the scope of an inquiry into the religion 
of the early Aryans. The composition of hymns must 
have ceased at an early date, and though some hymns 
not included in the Rig-veda gained acceptance among 
the priests and appeared in the later Samhitas, they are 
comparatively few. On the other hand apparently 
no hesitation was felt about the extension of the 
Brahmanas, and though some, perhaps many of them 
have been lost, they form a large literature by them- 
selves. They are sometimes spoken of as sixty or 
seventy in number and the Upanishads connected with 
them are said to be as many. 

The Brahmanas being in prose, they were, therefore 
not so readily learned by rote as if they had been in verse. 

It will be obvious, then, that, as they T . - 

ine sutras 
increased in number, and as the number 

of subjects taught by the sages were multiplied, their 
disciples had to find a method that would insure the 
faithful memory of essential rules and doctrines. Hence 
series of aphorisms, strings of aphorisms, or Sutras were 
formulated, reduced to the utmost brevity, indeed so 
condensed that they are all but unintelligible. 

They are not considered parts of the direct divine 
revelation (sruti). Tradition (smriti) begins with them. 

These aids to memory are not literature in any true 
sense. They are simply outline manuals for keeping 
alive in the pupil's memory the details of the subjects 
that they deal with, the subjects of a Hindu Sanskrit 
student's education. They were usually summed up 


under six heads, called the Ved&ngas, or ' members of 
the body f of the Veda. Of the six, kalpa, ceremonial, is 
the most important, including three groups of Sutras: 
the Srauta Sutras, which deal with sacrifices, sum- 
marizing the teaching of the Brahmaiias; the Grihya 
or Smarta Sutras, which deal with the ceremonies con- 
nected with family life ; and the Dharma Sutras, which 
provide rules of conduct for the various classes of men 
and the various stages of their life. l 

It may be noted that as the Brahmanical schools grew 
in number each drew up its own series of Sutras, and that 
the Sutras of the Sanskrit grammarian* Panini, who 
lived about three hundred years before the Christian era 
are included in the traditional literature of Brahmanic 
Hinduism. From their date and character it is clear 
that these Sutras cannot help to the understanding of the 
early Aryan faith. 

Till a short time ago, perhaps even at the present day, 
the popular belief among Hindus as to the origin of the 
Vedas was that they were eternally 


of the Vedas existent in the mind of the Supreme, and 
made manifest by him in each kalpa. 
The kalpas here referred to are the periods into which, 
according to Hindu reckoning, the time is divided. 
Such a kalpa is a 'day of Brahma,' and a 'day of 
Brahma ' consists of a thousand yugas or ages, amount- 
ing altogether to four hundred and thirty-two million 
years of mortals. 8 

At the beginning of each kalpa all the existing universe 
is created and the Vedas are supposed then to be reveal- 

* FARQUHAR, Primer of Hinduism, p. 59. 

* MONIER WILLIAMS, Sanskrit-English Dictionary t p. 213 a 


ed by Brahma through the rishis. At the close of the 
kalpa all the existing universe is destroyed and then there 
is a new creation and a new revelation in the new kalpa. 
The sacred books of Hinduism contain many varia- 
tions of this popular belief, and some theories of the 

origin of the Vedas that are quite differ - 

o r . t r r *. Traditions in the 

ent. Some of these are matter of fact, sacred Books 

as when the poets speak of themselves 
as having made and framed their hymns as a village 
joiner makes a cart. Some of them belong to the vast 
collection of stories concerning the gods, which makes 
them the authors of the sacred books in the same way 
that they were the creators of the world. Some are 
plainly symbolic, such as that which calls Vach, the 
goddess of speech, the mother of the Vedas or says that 
they sprang from the 'leavings of sacrifice*. The sages 
themselves distinguish between new hymns and old ; but, 
as it is not possible to discern positively which of the 
Vedic hymns are the oldest, it is not possible to arrange 
the various assertions that they contain in any historical 
order, or even to trace with any confidence, the relation 
of the various legends, and the only conclusion to which 
impartial investigation leads is that among all these 
various, and often inconsistent statements there is no 
one account of the origin of the hymns that was generally 
received when or soon after the hymns were composed. 1 
And yet, though there is not sufficient evidence to 
show the exact -occasion of any single hymn in the whole 
collection, there are many hints and allusions in the 
hymns, and when noted they give at least some general 

1 A somewhat detailed account of these traditions will be found 
in Appendix I. 


idea of the way in which the various collections came 
into existence is reached. What happened seems to 
have been as follows. 

All nations in the earlier stage of their civilization 
regard the utterances of the man who has the gift of 
poetic song with awe, considering such songs to be the 
expression of the will of the beings of the mysterious 
spirit world, or a means to affect their will. 

When the bard's songs took the form of prayers 
and entreaties for the favour of the god on the tribe 

in hunting or war, or for rain in time of 
ThA com Dilution 
Of the Rig-veda drought, or for children to increase the 

strength of the tribe before its enemies, 
or for health in time of pestilence and there was what 
seemed to be an answer to the petition, the fame of 
the poet grew great and the wonderful words that had 
secured blessing were treasured as a spell, or mantra, 
and so it came about that victory in battle was often as- 
cribed to the virtue of some hymn. Thus it is said in the 
Rig-veda, vii. 33. 3, c So did Indra preserve Sudas in the 
battle of the ten kings through your prayers, O Vasisthas.' 
Sometimes such hymns were remembered and chanted 
on other occasions by the singer himself. Sometimes it 
was a follower or servant or pupil or disciple who 
learned them by rote. Many "of these spells were lost 
after a generation or two. But those that were identi- 
fied with some special occasion, especially those that 
had been first uttered at some recurring sacrifice were 
repeated when the. sacrifice was again performed. 
The Aryans from the most_ ancient times had offered 
such sacrifices, though they had no temples and no 
images, and hymns were always recited at them. 


And so hymns which had first been uttered on the occa- 
sion of some great need became part of the regular ritual, 
of sacrifice, as charms that had already proved power- 
ful and might again secure divine response. The more 
notable of them were thus handed down by the descend- 
ants of the original bard, and preserved in the families 
that grew to be the great priestly families of later ages 
when there were separate orders of priests. Reference 
to the hymns of the Rig-veda will show traces of this. 
While the first book of the Rig-veda is called the book 
of the Satarchins, that is the book of the 'hundred 
authors ', some of the other books are each largely as- 
cribed to a single seer (rishi). For example almost 
every hymn in the second book is ascribed to the rishi 
Gritsamada ; most of the hymns in the third book are 
said to have been composed by the rishi Vigvamitra; 
forty out of the fifty-eight hymns in the fourth book 
are ascribed to the rishi Vamadeva, son of Gotama ; most 
of the hymns in the sixth book are the work of Bhara- 
dvaja ; and all the hymns of the seventh book are 
ascribed to the rishi Vasistha. The names of these 
rishis may be taken as the names of ancestors of the 
priestly families that arose as the Aryans settled in the 
country known as Kurukshetra, in the plain between 
the rivers Sutlej and Jumna. 

These hymns were then gradually gathered into one 
great collection by some college of priests, to guard it 
from change and destruction as religious ceremonial 
became more elaborate and the priests became more 
and more scrupulous to use the exact words of the an- 
cients, which were even in those early days probably 
ceasing to be entirely intelligible to the ordinary folk 


and therefore liable to alteration. Thus the Rig-veda 
was compiled. 

There was more than one edition of this great collec- 
tion, but the one that has come down to us is that of the 

Probably at first none of these editions was written* 
Dr. Buhler argues that writing may have been intro- 
duced into India by Phoenician traders coming by way 
of Mesopotamia into India about 800 B. C., but refer- 
ences to writing in ancient India are late and rare, in no 
case earlier than the fourth century before Christ, and 
perhaps not very long before the date of the Asokan 
inscriptions (257 to 231 B. C.). Discussing this Max 
Miiller says that there is not one single 

of the Veda allusion in *the hymns of the Rig- 
veda to anything connected with writing. 
Pure Brahmans never speak of their granthas or 
books. They speak of their Veda, which means ' knowl- 
edge'. They speak of their Sruti, which means what 
they have heard with their ears. They speak of Smrtti* 
which means what their fathers have declared unto 
them. We meet with Brahmanas, i. e. the sayings of 
Brahmans ; with Sutras, i. e. the strings of rules ; with 
Ved&tigas, i. e. the members of the Veda ; with Prava- 
chanas, i. e. preachings ; with S&stras, i. e. teachings ; 
with Darsayas, i.e. demonstrations ; but we never meet 
with a book, or a volume, or a page. 1 

As Professor Macdonell points out sacred learning in 
India was for very many centuries, indeed until modern 
times, quite independent of writing. And Dr. Bloomfield 

1 MAX MULLER, Ancient Sanskrit Literature, pp. 497, 512. 


holds that Vedic tradition is in this respect the most 
remarkable in recorded history. There is not one in- 
scription, building, monument, coin, jewel, or utensil from 
Vedic times. The manuscripts of the Vedas that exist 
are of comparatively recent date for the early manuscripts 
perished centuries ago in the furious Indian climate, and 
of those now existing only a few date back to the four- 
teenth century of our era and only a very few go back to 
the twelfth. Yet here is ' one of the curiosities of Hindu 
religious life.' The adherents of each Veda or Vedic 
school, no matter -whether the text of that school was re- 
duced to writing or not, in theory ought to, and in fact 
many do, actually know their texts by heart. These are 
the so-called Srotriyas or ' Oral Traditionists '. They 
live to this day, being, as it were, living manuscripts of 
their respective Vedas. ' The eminent Hindu scholar, the 
late Shankar Pandurang Pandit, tells us in the preface to 
his great Bombay edition of the Atharva-veda how he 
used three of these oral reciters of the Atharva-veda out 
of a total of only four that were at that time still alive 
in the Dekkhan ; and how their oral authority proved to 
be quite as weighty as the written authority of his manu- 
scripts. These living manuscripts were respectively, 
Messrs. Bapuji Jivanram, Kesava Bhat bin Daji Bhat ; 
and Venkan Bhatji, the last the most celebrated Atharva 
Vaidika in the Dekkhan.' l 

It is in this way that sacred learning in India, through 
all the centuries till modern times, has been independent 
of writing. Hymns, rules, speculations have always been 
learned from the lips of a spiritual teacher (guru) not 
from a manuscript. 

1 BLOOMFIELD, Religion of the Veda, pp. 21-2. 


Tbe later sacred books, especially the Upanishads 
give glimpses of how this learning was imparted, and it is 
easy to picture what took place. Max 

Mailer's description is true of disciples 

in the sacred colleges to-day, as it was 
of their predecessors in the forest hermitages three 
thousand years ago. 

How then was the Veda learnt ? It was learnt 
by every Brahman during twelve years of his 
studentship or Brahmacharya. This, according to 
Gautama, was the shortest period, sanctioned only 
for men who wanted to marry and to become 
Grihasthas. Brahmans who did not wish to marry 
were allowed to spend forty-eight years as students. 
The Pratigakhya gives us a glimpse into the lecture- 
rooms of the Brahmanic Colleges. 'The Guru,' 
it is said, 'who has himself formerly been a stu- 
dent, should make his pupils read. He himself 
takes his seat either to the east, or the north, or the 
north-east. If he has no more than one or two pupils, 
they sit at his right-hand. If he has more, they place 
themselves according as there is room. They then 
embrace their master and say, "Sir read!" The 
master gravely says, "Om," i.e. "Yes". He then 
begins to say a prana (a question), which consist of 
three verses. In order that no word may escape the 
attention of his pupils, he pronounces all with the 
high accent, and repeats certain words twice, or he 
says " so " (itt) after these words. 1 

It does not seem as if several pupils were allowed 
to recite together, for it is stated distinctly that the 
Guru first tells the verses to his pupil on the right, and 
tfrat every pupil, after his task is finished, turns to the . 
right, and walks round the tutor. This must occupy a 
long time every day, considering that a lecture consists 
of sixty or more praSnas, or of about 180 verses. 
The pupils are. not dismissed till the lecture is finished. 


At the end of the lecture, the tutor, after the last half- 
verse is finished says, ' Sir,' the pupil replies ' Yes, sir.' 
He then repeats the proper verses and formulas, which 
have to be repeated at the end of every reading, em- 
braces his tutor, and is allowed to withdraw. 

A Brahman was not only commanded to pass his 
years of student life in the house of a Guru and to 
learn from his mouth all that a Brahman ought to 
know, he was also accused if he presumed to acquire 
sacred learning from written sources. In the Maha- 
bharata we read : ' Those who sell the Vedas, and even 
those who write them, those also who defile them, they 
shall go to hell/ Kumarila says : ' That knowledge of 
the truth is worthless which has been acquired from 
the Veda, if the Veda has not been rightly compre- 
hended, if it has been learned from writing, or has been 
received from a Sudra.' l 

It was in this way that the Rig-veda grew out of the 
isolated songs and spells of the bards or singers of the 
first small clans of Aryan invaders of the north-west 
Panjab till it included, as it is to-day, 1,017 hymns and 
11 supplementary hymns; 1,028 hymns in all, the 
supreme^ Scripture of the priests and thinkers of a 

From what has already been said it will be evident 
that no dates can be assigned to the origin of the hymns 
that make up the Vedas. Indeed it is n * AH 
necessary to go further and to say that 
there is not sufficient evidence to show with any preci- 
sion when the hymns of the four Vedas were collected 
together and the Vedas themselves, as we have them 
were formed. Max Mtiller estimates that the hymns of 
Rig-veda were already much, as we now have them 
1 MAX MULLER, Ancient Sanskrit Literature, pp. 502-6 


about 1500 B. c. 1 In his Hibbert Lectures he expresses 
the opinion that the collection was closed about 1000 
B. C. The Brahmanas may date from 800 to 600 B.^C. 
The Sutras may range from 600 to 200 B. C. 9 

Macdonell is content to say that the Vedic period 
perhaps begins as early as 1500 B. c. ; that the kernel of 
Vedic tradition, as represented by the Rig-veda, has 
come down to us, with a high degree of fixity and re- 
markable care for verbal integrity, from a period which 
can scarcely be less remote than 1000 B. c. ; and that the 
Samhita text must have been as we have it about 
600 B. c. 3 

Dr. Maurice Bloomfield, who compiled the huge Con- 
cordance of the Vedas which was published in 1906 after 
mentioning that the Buddha died about 487 B. C. says : 

Unquestionably a century or two must have passed 
between the conclusion of the Vedic period and the 
beginnings of Buddhism. Buddhist literature presup- 
poses Brahmanical literature and religion in a stage of 
considerable advancement beyond the Vedas. We 
are, therefore, reasonably safe in saying that the real 
Vedic period was concluded about 700 B. c. We are 
further on safe ground in demanding a number of cen- 
turies for the much stratified language, literature, and 
religion of the Veda. But how many ? It is as easy 
to imagine three as thirteen or twenty-three. Only one 
thing 'is certain. Vedic ideas are .very old. I have 
noted the fact that the concept rat, ' cosmic or univer- 
sal order ' is found in cut and dried Iranian names in 
Western Asia as early as 1600 B. C. I am, for my 
part, and, I think I voice many scholars, now much 

1 India, what can it teach us ? p. 53, 

1 Hibbert Lectures, p. 340. 

* Sanskrit Literature, pp. 8, 47, 50. 


more inclined to listen to an early date, say 2000 B. c., 
for the beginnings of Vedic literary production, and to 
a much earlier date for the beginnings of the insti- 
tutions and religious concepts which the Veda has 
derived from those prehistoric times which cast their 
shadows forward into the records that are in our hands. 
Anyhow, we must not be beguiled by that kind of 
conservatism which merely salves the conscience into 
thinking that there is better proof for any later date, 
such as 1500, 1200, or 1000 B.C. rather than the 
earlier date of 2000 B.C. Once more, frankly, we 
do not know. l 

The following table will probably give as clear a 
view of the growth of Vedic literature, with an approxi- 
mate idea of the time when it was created, as with our 
present knowledge it is possible to gain : 

1 BLOOMFIELD, Religion of the Veda, p. 19. 







J ? 




a I 1 

g t^-, >> OS 

O ffi 

rt ^ U 





>- v 

.S; 8 







I" 1 





^ O 

S3 "5 *> 

J3 JSS pG 










^ S 


'g s, ^4 

1 1 1 

^ "& 

S * -S 

s ^ ^ 













- 1 









6 *> 



3 A 




.S "*"* 











* bjQ r^J 






5 s ! - 

' J 



^ (5 

. 1 









O co 

^ DJO 




a ** 

rt .S 


** R 


8 1 

d 1 

"a d S? 

* . m 


1 45 


NATURE'S drama is on an imposing scale in India. 
Sand-storm and cyclone, intense lightning, terrific thun- 
der-claps, the heavy rush of rain in the monsoon, the swift 
flood in the stream that comes down from the hills, the 
scorching heat of the sun, the crackling red flames of 
the fire in the jungle, all witness to power beyond 
man's power. 

The singers of the Aryans felt their own littleness 
before these forces, and ' in the faith of little children * 

Nature worship they instinctivel y thought that action 
movement, creation, change and destruc- 
tion in nature were the result of superhuman forces. 
And because they saw that all action in human life was 
caused by men and women, by persons, they attributed 
the action that they saw in nature to divine persons. 
There are thus many gods in the Vedas to account for such 
varied natural phenomena as the glorious brightness of 
the sun, the blaze of the sacrificial fire, the sweep of the 
rain-storm across the skies, the recurrence of the dawn, 
the steady currents of the winds, the violence of the 
tropical storm. Special interest attaches to the mytho- 
logy of these gods as given or discerned in the Veda, 
4 because it represents an earlier stage of thought than is 
to be found in any other literature. 1 1 

1 MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 67. 


Speaking generally, the hymns appear to be the 
utterances of simple men, who, under thfe influence of 
the most impressive phenomena of nature, saw every- 
where the presence and agency of divine powers. They 
imagined that each of the great provinces of the universe 
was ruled and pervaded by its own separate deity, and 
.they had not yet risen to a clear idea of one supreme 
-creator and governor of all things. This is shown not 
'Only by the special functions assigned to particular 
: gods, but in many cases by the names which they bear, 
corresponding to those of some of the elements or of the 
celestial luminaries. 

Four things strike the student of Vedic religious 
thought at once : 

(i) There is complete absence of system in the 
theological ideas and the mythology of the hymns. 
There are over a thousand hymns in the Rig-veda. 
Of these about 250 are addressed to Indra, and 200 to 
Agni, while other gods have only a single hymn. But 
the most careful investigator cannot draw up a satisfac- 
tory reasoned statement of Vedic faith from any or all 
of them. 

(ii) In this immense amount of verse, there are an 
^enormous number of repetitions, inconsistencies and 
even contradictions. 

(iii) In spite of the many allusions to the gods there is 
a great lack of clear descriptions of the separate deities. 
The Vedic gods are not defined. Attributes of one are 
ascribed to another. Speaking generally, ' the personi- 
fications being but slightly developed, lack definiteness 
of outline and individuality of character. . . . The 
character of each god is made up of only a few essentia I 


qualities combined with many others which are common' 
to all the gods, such as brilliance, power, beneficence,, 
wisdom. These common attributes tend to obscure 
those which are distinctive.' l 

(iv) A careful examination of the Vedic hymns- 
shows also that the Aryans thought out for themselves, 
different conceptions of the gods in the course of the 
centuries. Gods like Dyaus and Prithiv! are passing 
away. Indra replaces Varuna. Vishnu is not as yet of im- 
portance. Siva, Mahadeva, Durga, Kali, Rama, Krishna,, 
Lakshmi, Ganapati are not as yet known. The triad 
(Trimurti) of later Hinduism : Brahma, Vishnu and Siva,, 
is as yet unheard of. There are traces, perhaps the be- 
ginnings of the idea developed in the Upanishads that' 
all the gods are one under different names, and there is 
the beginning of the belief in abstract deities, such as 
Shraddha, devotion, Kama, desire and especially in 
Prajapati, the Lord of Creatures, which are distinct from 
the personified forces of fire and wind and rain and sun 
and sky that were the chief gods of the earlier Aryans. 
The speculations of the Upanishads are, of course*, 
declared to be part of the Veda, but "though verses and 
phrases may be extracted from the Vedic hymns to 
justify even the most advanced monism there is a real 
gulf between the beliefs enshrined in the hymns and the 
teaching of the sages of later days. 

The ordinary word in the Vedas for god is Deva, and 
the original idea of the word deva is ' bright '. The uni- 
versal Indo-European word for 'god ' was 
6 vai deivos, which appears in very archaic 

J MAGEONEI.L, Sanskrit Literature, p 69. 


Latin as deivos, and later becomes deus. Devos in the 
Gallic proper name Devog-nata is its Celtic form. In 
Old Scandinavian tivar means ' gods'. In Lithuanian the 
form devas is found, which is in Sanskrit deva. This noun 
is connected with the verb div, dyu, * shine ', the shining of 
the sun and of the moon. Its use shows that the Indo- 
Europeans derived their first and most pervasive concep- 
tion of divine power from the brightness of the sun. 1 
Max Mliller explains picturesquely how this word 
came to be used to designate the gods. 

Deva meant originally bright, and nothing else. 
Meaning bright, it was constantly used of the sky, the 
stars, the sun, the dawn, the day, the spring, the rivers, 
the earth ; and when a poet wished to speak of all these 
by one and the same word by what we should call a 
general term he called them all Devas. When that 
had been done, Deva did no longer mean * the Bright 
ones, 1 but the name comprehended all the qualities 
which the sky and the sun and the dawn shared in com- 
mon excluding only those that were peculiar to each. 

Here you see how, by the simplest process, the 
Devas, the bright ones, might become and did be- 
come the Devas, the heavenly, the kind, the powerful, 
the invisible, the immortal and in the end something 
very like the theoi or dii of Greeks and Romans. 2 
It is useless to attempt to say how many gods were 
^worshipped by the early Aryans. They are generally 
spoken of as* ' thrice-eleven ' or 'thirty- The number of 
.three.' 3 the Devas 

Ye gods, who are eleven in the sky, who are eleven 
on earth, and who in your glory are eleven dwellers 

1 BLOOMFIELD, Religion of the Veda, p. 109. 
8 MAX MULLER, India: What can it teach us ? pp. 218-9. 
*Rig~veda t i. 34. 11; viii. 30. 2. 


in the (atmospheric) waters, do ye welcome this our 
offering. 1 
The ' thirty -three ' did not include all. 

With all the deities, three times eleven, here in close 
alliance with the Maruts, Bhrigus, Floods ; 

Accordant, of one mind with Surya and with dawn* 
O Agvins, drink the Soma- juice. 8 

A much larger number is mentioned by a seer who* 
is honouring Agni, who declares : 

Three times a hundred gods and thrice a thousand^ 
and three times ten and nine have worshipped Agni. 3 
Another says : 

The deities, three thousand and three hundred and 
thirty-nine have served and honoured Agni. 4 
Probably the general conception was merely that 
there were many gods and is better expressed in aifc 
earlier, hymn. 

Glory to gods the mighty and the lesser, glory to 
gods the younger and the elder; 

Let us, if we have power, pay the gods worship ; no 
better prayer than that, ye gods, acknowledge. 5 
One other peculiarity of Aryan mythology deserves. 
notice. The names of two gods, such as Mitra and 
Varu^a who had some characteristics- 


alike were often formed into one com- 

pound noun (with a dual termination) and this com- 
pound became the name of a new deity. Thus there 
are hymns to Mitra and Varuna, and also to Mitra* 

l Rig-veda i. 139. 11. 
*Rig-veda, viii, 35, 3. 
*Rig-veda iii. 9. 9. 
'Rig-vcda x. 52. 6. 
*Rig-vedai. 27, 13. 


varuiiau as one. The name of * Heaven and Earth * 
(Dy&vcl prithivl) is the most common of these com- 
pounds, of which there are about eighteen altogether. 

It will be remembered that, in the later Puranic 
mythology, the legend of a deity half Vishnu and half 
Siva known as Harihara has an important place. The 
earlier Vedic practice may have furnished a precedent 
for it. 

Sometimes all the gods are compre- 
hended by one common name, Visve 
Devas, the All-gods, and prayers are 
addressed to them in their collective capacity. 

The Vedic poets constantly speak of the gods as 
immortal, just as the Greek poets did. On the other 
hand, immortality is said to have been 
conferred on the devas by individual ^Ifartv^f'tlift 
gods like Agni and Savitri or obtained Devas 

by drinking Soma, or won by practis- 
ing austerity (tapas) or by sacrifice. 

Indra and other gods are spoken of as unaging, but 
whether their immortality was considered by the poets to 
be unending there is, says Macdonell, no clear evidence 
in the Vedas. In the later literature the existence of 
the devas, like that of the whole universe, is limited to a 
cosmic age or kalpa. 1 

There is similar vagueness about the origin of the gods. 
In many passages the gods are described as the offspring 
of the earth, sometimes as the offspring of other gods. 
Ushas, the dawn, is called the mother of the gods and 
Brahmanaspati their father. Soma is said to be the 

1 Sanskrit Literature^ p. 71. 


generator of Heaven, Earth, Agni, Surya, Indra and 
Vishnu. By an extreme paradox, Indra is said to have 
begotten his father and mother from his own body. 
There is no settled order. The same god is sometimes 
described as supreme over all other gods, and at other 
times as beneath them. There are as yet no regular 
genealogies, or marriages such as one finds in the 
Puranas. The father in one hymn may be the son in 
another ; the brother becomes husband ; the goddess 
described as the mother of a god in one, is his wife in 
another. No general statement can, therefore, be made. 
It was left to later times to trace all to a common origin 
in Brahma, the creator or to ISvara the creative per- 
sonal force of the impersonal Parabrahma. 

The Physical appearance of Vedic gods is supposed to 
be like that of men. Head, face, eyes, arms, hands, feet 

fih Atm> AT *h an( * ot ^ er P r ti ns f human frame are 
all ascribed to them. But their forms 

are shadowy and their features or limbs 
are often used figuratively for their activities. Thus 
the tongue and limbs of Agni, the fire-god, are flames ; 
the arms of Surya, the sun-god, are rays of light. There 
is no reason to think that the Aryans made images ; cer- 
tainly idols or images of the gods, or temples implying 
images are not named in the Rig-veda. 

Anthropomorphisms are very common. Some of the 
gods are described as mail-clad warriors, helmeted, armed 
with mace and spear and bow, riding in luminous cars. 
Some of them, especially Indra, delight in the intoxicat- 
ing Soma juice and in war. They are angry, seek to 
revenge insults or neglect, rejoice in sacrificial offerings. 
They go out on martial expeditions. They help the 


.Aryans against the Dasyus, and the Aryans, successful in 
their conquests, naturally thought of the gods, as benefi- 
cent. Among the gods the only deity in whom injurious 
features are at all prominent is Rudra. 1 

The gods of the early Aryans are far more like the 
warrior gods of the Norsemen than the deities that 
-succeeded them in the later ages of Hinduism. The 
more detailed accounts of individual gods given below 
will enable the student to form his own opinion, but 
in general terms it can scarcely be better stated than 
in the words of Professor Macdonell. 

The character of the Vedic gods is also moral. 
They are 'true' and 'not deceitful', being throughout 
the friends and guardians of honesty and virtue. But 
the divine morality only reflects the ethical standard 
of an early civilization. Thus even the alliance of 
Varuna, the most moral of the gods, with righteous- 
ness is not such as to prevent him from employing 
craft against the hostile and the deceitful man. Moral 
elevation is, on the whole, a less prominent character- 
istic of the gods than greatness and power. 9 

It is very difficult to arrange the gods of the Vedic 
seers in any distinct classes because the worshippers 

>of those gods themselves did not distin- 

. , 1 i u * ^ T * Classification of 

.guish very clearly between them. Later the ^g^ 

thinkers easily read their own ideas 
into the words of earlier and simpler days. For instance, 
Yaska, in his Nirukta, the oldest commentary on the 
Vedas now in existence, says : ' There are three deities, 
.namely, Agni, whose place is on earth ; Vayu, or Indra, 
whose place is in the air ; and Surya, the sun, whose 

i MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 72. 
* Sanskrit Literature, p. 73. 


place is in the sky. 9 'These gods might all be Oner 
as a priest receives various names at various sacrifices^ 
'Or,' says he, 'it may be, these gods are all distinct 
beings, for the praises addressed to them are distinct, 
and their appellations also.' These theosophic specu- 
lations certainly were not accepted by most of the Vedic 
rishis, still less by the people who heard their songs at 
fairs and festivals. They divided their chief gods into 
three groups, according as they had their principal 
activity in the upper region of light, in the atmosphere 
or on the earth. These three groups were called the 
Upper, Middle and Lower. There were however many 
other divinities whom they worshipped or feared, and a 
seven-fold classification is, perhaps, as useful as any,, 
provided that it is always remembered that such a 
classification is not rigid and does not mean that the 
Aryans believed in so many separate orders of divine 
beings. According to it the Vedic gods rank as 
follows : 

i. Gods of the Upper World : Dyaus, Varuna,. 
Surya, Savitri, Pushan, Vishnu, Ushas, Mitra, Aryaman 
and the Agvins. 

ii. Gods of the Air : Vata, Indra, Rudra, Parjanya* 
the Bhrigus and the Maruts. 

iii. Gods of the Earth: Agni, Soma, Yama, and 

iv. Abstract deities : Aditi, Prajapati, Sraddha, Vach,. 
Bpihaspati, Ka, Kama, Vigvedevas. 

v. Inferior deities such as Tvastar, the Ribhus, the. 

vi. Demon deities such as the Rakshasas. 

vii. Ancestral spirits or Pitris. 


But though such a classification is justifiable, each- 
Vedic poet seems to exalt the particular god whom he 
happens to be singing to a position of 
supremacy and to endow him with all Henotheism 
the attributes of supremacy. It would 
be easy to find, in the numerous hymns of the Veda r 
passages in which almost every single god is represented 
as supreme and absolute. In the first hymn of the 
second book of the Rig-veda, Agni is called the ruler 
of the universe, the lord of men, the wise king, the 
father, the brother, the son, and friend of men ; nay , , 
all the powers and names of the others are distinctly 
ascribed to Agni, Indra is celebrated as the strongest 
god in the hymns as well as in the Brahmanas, and the 
burden of one of the songs of the tenth book is ;- 
Visvasm&d Indra uttarah. ' Indra is greater than all.'' 
Of Soma it is said that he was born great, and that he- 
conquers every one. He is called the king of the world ; 
he has the power to prolong the life of men, and is ther- 
maker of heaven and earth, of Agni, of Surya, of Indra 
and Vishnu. In the very next hymn, addressed to> 
Varuna, it is Varuna who is, to the mind of the poet,, 
supreme and all-mighty. 1 

In his writings Max Miiller constantly referred to this, 
and coined the word, henotheism, or kathenotheism to 
express what he regarded as a * peculiar character 
of the ancient Vedic religion/ It denotes that each of 
several divinities is regarded as supreme, and worship- 
ped without reference to the rest ; or that the seers held at 
the belief in individual gods alternately or for the time 

1 MAX MULLER, Ancient Sanskrit Literature, pp. 533, 534. 


being regarded as highest the one that was being 
worshipped, and that they therefore treated him as if he 
were absolutely independent and supreme, alone present 
to the mind of his worshipper. More modern scholars do 
not, however, consider this practice so remarkable as Max 
Muller did. They regard it more as a species of poetic 
license, by which a singer magnified the god whom he 
was invoking, rather than an evidence that the poet 
actually claimed that the god whom he was then re- 
verencing was the superior of all others. 

It must also be remembered that the minds of those 
early singers were not unlikely to attribute to the god 
whom they were adoring the characteristics of other gods 
of the same group when all were much alike. 

For instance, Dyaus was the sky as the ever-present 
light ; Varuna was the sky as all-embracing or all contain- 
ing ; Mitra was the sky as lighted up by the morning* 
Surya was the sun as shining in the sky. Savitjri was 
the sun as bringing light and life. Agni was fire and 
light. Vishnu was the sun as striding with three steps 
across the sky. Indra appeared in the sky as the giver 
of rain ; Rudra and the Maruts passed along the sky in 
thunder-storms ; Vata and Vayu were the winds of 
the air. 

Hence it happens constantly that what is said of one 
deity can be and is appropriately said of another; the 
ame epithets are shared by many; the same stories 
are told of different gods. 

In reaction against such confusion a kind of 
monotheism, an anticipation of the later Vedanta* 
appears in a few verses. It amounts to a suggestion 
.that in reality all the gods are one. 


One poet says: 

They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and he is 
heavenly, nobly- winged GarutmAn (i.e. the sun). 

To what is one, sages give many a title : they call it 
Agni, Yama, Matarigvan. 1 
And a verse in the Atharva-veda is as emphatic : 

In the evening Agni becomes Varuna ; he becomes 
Mitra when rising in the morning; having become 
Savitjri he passes through the sky ; having become 
Indra he warms the heaven in the middle. 
It thus becomes quite natural that Surya, the sun, 
should be identified with Indra and Agni ; Savitri with 
Mitra and Pushan ; Indra with Varuna : and Dyaus the 
sky, with Parjanya, the rain-god. 2 

1 Rig-veda i, 164. 46. 

2 A tharva-veda xiii . 3 . 13. 




THE oldest among the gods that the Aryans worshipped 
was Dyaus, and he was probably revered by the 
ancestors of the Aryans long before any Aryans had 
journeyed to India. The word Dyaus is identical with 
the Greek Zetis, and Dyaush-pitar, the 'heavenly 
father ' is the same as the Greek Zens-pater and the 
Latin Jupiter. The same name in a different form> 
Tiu or Ziu, was used by the Aryans who made their 
way into the forests of Germany. The ancient Norse- 
men worshipped the same god as Tyr. 

In the Rig-veda Dyaus is the sky regarded as the 
father of all. Prithivi, the earth, is often named as 
his consort, the pair being celebrated in six hymns as 
universal parents of gods and men. In a few passages 
Dyaus is called a bull, ruddy and bellowing, referring 
to the lightning and the thunder. In allusion to the 
starry sky he is called a black steed decked with pearls. 
But the fame of Dyaus was on the wane even in very 
early Vedic times and the names of other less ancient 
,gods took the place of his in Vedic worship. 



Varuna, like Dyaus, is another god of the earliest 
Aryans. He is the sky, as encompassing all things, 
one ' who envelops like darkness.' The name is identi- 
cal with the Greek Ouranos, ' the heavens/ 

Varuna, is the great upholder of order, physical and 
moral (rita) ; he dwells in all worlds as ruler ; he 
ordains the change of day and night, opens paths for 
the sun, causes rivers to flow, provides that the rivers 
shall not overfill the ocean, knows the flight of birds, 
beholds all things open and secret, watches over the 
world, punishes the evil doer, and forgives the sins of 
those who implore his pardon. 

Varuna has a moral character higher than that of any 
other deity. 

While in hymns to the other divinities long life, 
wealth, power are the objects commonly prayed for 
purity, forgiveness of sin, freedom from further sinning 
is sought from Varuna with humble confessions of guilt 
and repentance. It is a sore grief to the singers to 
Tcnow that man daily transgresses Varuna's commands; 
they acknowledge that without his aid they are not 
masters of themselves for a single moment ; they fly to 
liim for refuge from evil, expressing at the same time all 
confidence that their prayers will be heard and granted. 

Thus one seer sings : 

O Varuna whatever the offence may be 
That we as men commit against the heavenly folk 
When through our want of thought we violate the 
Chastise us not, O God, for that iniquity. 1 [laws 

1 Rig-veda, vii. 89. 5. 


Other beautiful prayers from the Rig-veda are quoted 
in the Readings. In the Atharva-veda, also illimitable 
knowledge is ascribed to Varu^a: 

Varu^a, the great lord of these worlds, sees as if he 
were near. When any man thinks he is doing aught 
by stealth, the gods know it all; (and they perceive) 
every one who stands or walks or hides, if he goes 
to lie down or into any lurking place. What two 
people sitting together whisper to each other, King 
Varuna knows it; he is there as the third. This 
earth, too, belongs to Varuna, the King, and this 
wide sky with its ends far apart. The two seas 
(the sky and the ocean) are Varu^a's loins; he is 
also curtained in this small drop of water. He who 
should flee far beyond the sky, even he would not 
escape Varuna, the King. His spies proceed from 
heaven towards this world ; with thousand eyes they 
overlook this earth. King Varuna sees aft this, what 
is between heaven and earth, and what is beyond. 
He has counted the twinklings of the eyes of men* 
As a player throws down the dice, he settles all 
things. l 

In later Hinduism Varuna, like Dyaus, ceases to be 
the supreme beneficent and righteous ruler and appears 
merely as a god of the ocean. With his disappearance 
there would seem to have gone from Indian religious 
life what might have been a great impulse towards 
righteousness. The significance of this is more fully 
dealt with in the section on the Legacy of Vedic religion. 
Mitra, ' the friend ', the kindly sun, is often worship* 
ped with Varuna in the Vedic hymns. They then 
jointly rule day and night, uphold the heavens and the 
earth, guard the good and punish the guilty. 

1 Atharva-veda, iv. 16. 1-5. 



Mitra is one of the Adityas and in the Vedas is 
generally associated with Varu$a : he is seldom men- 
tioned alone. Sayana says, ' Mitra is the god who 
presides over the day, and Varuna is the god who 
rules over the night/ Mitra is the same as the Persian 
Mithra. The name means 'the friend' and seems to 
refer to the kindly power of the sun, and the early 
Aryans must have worshipped the sun in this character 
before the Persian and Indian branches of the Aryans 
separated. Mitra and Varuna have much the same 
attributes though Mitra has not the moral power ^ that 
Varuna has. 

Only one hymn is addressed to Mitra without Varuna. 
In it the worshipping sage proclaims his sure faith in 
Mitra's goodness : 

Mitra uttering his voice calls men to activity. 
Mitra sustains the earth and the sky. Mitra with 
unwinking eye beholds (all) creatures. Mitra, son of 
Aditi, may the mortal who worships thee with sacred 
rites have food. He who is protected by thee is 
neither slain nor conquered. Calamity does not reach 
him from near or far. 

Rig-veda, iii. 59. 


Surya, the sun god, worshipped by the Greeks as 
Helios, is in one hymn styled the son of Dyaus: in 
another he is called the son of Aditi. Ushas *,the dawn" 
is in one place said to be his wife, while in another she 
is described as his mother. He moves in a car which is 
sometimes said to be drawn by seven fleet and ruddy 


mares. He rolls up darkness like a hide. Pushan goes 
as his messenger with his golden ships, which sail in the 
aerial ocean. Surya is the preserver and soul of all 
things stationary and moving and is, therefore, called * all 
creating ' ; enlivened by him men perform their work ; 
he is far-seeing, all-seeing, beholds all creatures, and the 
good and bad deeds of mortals. By his greatness he is 
the divine leader of the gods. He is often described as 
a bird or eagle flying through space. The epithets 
* architect of the universe' Vivakarman 9 and * possessed 
of all divine attributes', ViSvadevyat, are applied to 

In many passages, however, the dependent position 
of Surya is asserted. He is said to have been caused to 
shine by Indra, who also once carried off one of the 
wheels of his chariot. Mitra and Varuna sometimes 
conceal him by clouds and rain. 

In the Ramayana, Sanjna, the daughter of Vigva- 
karma, is the wife of Surya. The ASvins and Yama 
and Yarn! are among his children. As his brightness 
was too great for his wife, Vigvakarma cut part of 
him away. The fragments fell blazing to the earth, 
and from them Vigvakarma formed the discus of 
Vishnu, the trident of 6iva, and the weapons of the 
other gods. 


Savitri is sometimes distinguished from Surya, some- 
times identified with him. The two names are some- 
times employed indiscriminately to denote the same 
deity. Sayaija says that the sun is called Savitri, be- 
fore his rising and Surya from his rising to his setting. 


The name is supposed to mean Generator, or Stimulator 
and refers to the life-giving power of the sun. 

Savitri is pre-eminently the golden deity, being 
golden-eyed, golden-handed, golden-tongued, the yellow- 
haired. He wears golden armour and bright in his 
aspect, he ascends a golden car, drawn by radiant, 
brown, white-footed horses, and beholding all crea- 
tures, he persues an ascending and descending path. 
He is lord of all desirable things and sends blessings 
from the sky, from the atmosphere, and the earth. 
He removes evil dreams and drives off demons and 
sorcerers. He bestows immortality on the gods and 
prosperity on his worshippers. 

The worship of Savitri has continued to the present 
time. It is to him that the Gayatri is addressed at his 
rising by every devout Brahman in his daily prayers 
(sandhya vandhanam). This short verse is as follows : 

Tat Savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimohi * 

dhiyo yo nah prachodayat 
May we attain that excellent glory of Savitri the god : 

So may he stimulate our prayers. 1 

This verse was in its original use, a simple invocation 
of the sun to shed a benignant influence upon the cus- 
tomary offices of worship. But it came to be looked 
on as an omnipotent religious formula, sure to secure 
salvation from the round of births to the man who 
understands its inner meaning. In later Hinduism it is 
constantly extolled. Thus the Skanda Purffna dec- 
lares : 

Nothing in the Vedas is superior to the Gayatri. 

No invocation is equal to the Gayatri, as no city is 

l Rig-veda, iii. 62. 10. 


equal to Kasi. The Gayatrl is the mother of the 
Vedas and of Brahmans. By repeating it a man is 
saved. What is there indeed that cannot be effected 
by the Gayatrl ? For the Gayatrl is Vishnu, Brahma, 
and &iva and the three Vedas. 

Eleven hymns are addressed to Savitjri in the 


The word Pushan comes from the root push, of which 
the primary idea is * to nourish '. Pushan is the protect- 
or and nourisher of cattle (pasupa). He was originally 
the sun as a god kind to shepherds. As a cowherd he 
carries an ox goad, and his car is drawn by goats. He 
is a guide and guardian of travellers on roads and jour- 
neys. He conducts the dead on the way to ' the fathers ' 
He is called the lover of his sister Surya a female form 
of the god Surya. 

In later books he is represented as toothless, feeding 
on a kind of gruel, and the offerings made to him are, 
therefore, of ground in a mill. The cause of his being 
toothless is variously explained. One account is that at 
the Daksha sacrifice Rudra knocked out his teeth while 
he was eating the purodaSa offering. 

Pushan is adored in eight hymns of the Rig-veda. 


In the Rig-veda Vishnu is a deity of the fourth rank, 
less frequently "adored than Pushan, and he is the only 
one of the great gods of the later Hindu triad (trimUrti) 
whose modern name appears in the Vedas. The name 
Vishnu seems to mean 'pervading '. He seems to have 


been the sun thought of as swiftly traversing the three 
worlds or as rising, culminating and setting. Vishnu's 
three steps, two near the world of men and one, the 
highest, in the heaven of 'the fathers 'and the devas, 
refer to these stations, or to him as passing over and 
protecting all. From this grew the story of the dwarf 
incarnation of Vishnu (vftmana avat&ra) at the court of 
the arrogant king Bali. In Manu the name of Vishnu 
appears, but it is only in the later Hinduism of the 
Mahabharata and the Puranas that Vishnu's supremacy 
is asserted. It need hardly be said that the Rig-veda 
contains no account of the incarnations of Vishnu. 


Ushas the goddess of dawn, the goddess Eos of the 
Greeks, is the only female deity invoked in the Veda 
with any frequency, and the only one to whom entire 
hymns, about twenty, are addressed. Ushas means 
'shining one'. Ushas is daughter of the Sky, sister 
of the Adityas, elder sister of Night, loved by Surya, 
but vanishing at the moment that he seeks to lay hold 
of her with his rays. Agni and the gods are said to 
wake at the sound of the hymns sung to her at day- 

The worship of the Aryan began at daybreak ; 
Ushas, the dawn, is the earliest object of his morning 
songs and worshippers sometimes claim credit for arous- 
ing her. The promise of the day is hailed with over- 
flowing and inspiring joy ; the feeling of relief as the 
burden of darkness is lifted off the world, as the demons 
are driven away, and as the freedom and cheerfulness of 
the day commence again, prompts wonderful poetry, and 


the songs to Ushas are among the finest in the Veda. 
She is addressed as a virgin in glittering robes, who 
chases away the darkness, or to whom her sister Night 
willingly yields her domain, who prepares a path for the 
sun ; her appearance is the signal for the sacrifice ; she 
rouses all beings from slumber, gives sight to the 
darkened, and power of motion to the prostrate and 
helpless. In the midst of such gladsome greetings, how- 
ever the poet is reminded, by the thought of the many 
dawns that have thus shone upon the earth, and the 
many that are to follow thfem, of those, who, having 
witnessed the former ones are now passed away, and of 
those who shall welcome them when he is no more. So 
he is led to mournful reflections on the wasting away 
of life, as one day after another is subtracted from the 
time allotted to each mortal. 1 

Two Hymns (Rig-veda i. 113 and vii. 77) are quoted 
in the Readings from the Vedas and will give some idea 
of the devotion of the early Aryans towards this 
goddess. It is to be noticed that she received no share 
of the soma-oflfering ; that there are few references to- 
sacrifice in the hymns addressed to her ; and that Indra 
is said to have crushed her chariot with his thunderbolt* 


The name Aryaman means 'a devoted friend'. He 
is one of the sons of Aditi and is commonly invoked 
along with Varuna and Mitra. Like them he is a god of 
light, golden, pure, sinless, sleepless, many-eyed, a hater 

1 WHITNEY, Oriental and Linguistic Studies, 1st series, 
pp.* 37-38. 


of falsehood. He is better known than the Adityas 
Bhaga, Ama and Daksha, but has not the same emi- 
nence as the great Adityas, Varuna, Mitra, Surya and 

The As'vins 

The A3vins are the twin gods of morning and evening 
twilight, or the morning and evening stars, sons of 
Agvim the wife of Surya who took the form of a 

The word means 'possessed of horses' 'a rider '. They 
are described as riding in a golden car, in which they are 
accompanied by the sun -maiden Surya, of whom they 
were the joint-husbands. They appear at dawn, yoke 
their car, and bring blessing to their worshippers. They 
are young and beautiful, swift as young falcons, and 
their car is drawn by birds or golden-winged fiorses. 
They are the guardians of the slow, and of the woman 
growing - old unmarried. They are physicians giving 
sight to the blind, and health to the infirm. They are 
called the physicians of the gods. They renewed the 
youth of the sage Chyavana, and when the leg of the 
royal lady-warrior Vi^pala had been cut off in battle they 
gave her an iron one instead. Many other similar 
miracles are related of them. In the 6atapatha Brah- 
maiia (iv. 1.5.1) the ASvins are rebuked by the other 
gods, because they ' have wandered about very familiarly 
among men,' and in the Mahabharata, Santi parva^ 
verse 7589, they are called the Sudras among the gods. 
But they are adored with fervent praises by the Vedic 
seers and they are even called the parents of 
the sun, because they precede his appearing. 



Vayu or Vata 

Both Vayu and Vata mean ' wind f and Vayu is 
god of the wind. He does not occupy a prominent 
place among the Vedic gods. In the Purusha-sukta 
Vayu is said to have sprung from the breath of Purusha. 
Vayu is also called the son-in-law of Tvasfri. He 
is said to travel in a shining car drawn by a pair of 
red or purple horses or by ninety-nine or even by a 
thousand horses, but to be invisible. Indra and Vayu 
often occupy the same car. In conjunction with Indra 
Vayu has the right to the first draught of the soma 
libation. He can protect or prolong life. 

The soul of gods, and of the world the offspring, 
Tpiis god according to his liking wanders, 
His sound is heard, but ne'er is seen his figure. 
This Vata let us now with offerings worship. 

Rig-veda, x. 168. 3. 

And, Vata, thou art our father, our brother, and 
our friend ; cause us to live. 

From the treasure of immortality, which is depos- 
ited yonder in thy house, O Vata, give us to live. 

Rig-veda, x. 186. 2. 


Max Miiller argued that because drops of rain were 
called indu 9 the god who sent them was called Indra, 
.the 'rainer', the 'irrigator'. But it is perhaps more 
likely that the name Indra means 'strong, powerful'. 
Indra does not seem to have been worshipped by the 
Aryans before they came to India, but in India as lord 
of the thunderstorm he was the principal god of the 


Vedic Aryans, Indra is said to be the son of Dyaus 
and Aditi in the later mythology. In one Vedic verse 
his mother is said to be Ekashtaka. In the Purusa 
Sukta, Indra is said to have sprung with Agni from the 
mouth of Purusa and he is said to be one of several 
gods who were created by Soma. 

He was at first only chief of the gods of the air and 
not originally ruler of such gods of the sky as Varuna 
and Dyaus. The Aryans had worshipped Dyaus and 
Varuna, the gods of the wide open sky before they 
came to India, but in India they found a land where 
the long hot season scorches the land and where drought 
and famine slay man and beast if the rain does not fall 
in due season. Perhaps they had worshipped a god 
of thunder in the Asiatic lands whence they had 
come, but whether that had been so or not, they 
now began to worship Indra, the god of the thunder- 
storm, with great earnestness; for to them it seemed 
that the thunder which so often precedes an Indian 
rain-storm was the sound of the conflict between the 
god of thunder and Vritra the demon of drought. In 
Indra's favour was life. Without it death by famine 
was certain. Speedily, therefore, after the Aryans had 
entered India, the god of thunder and rain became the 
chief deity in the Vedic pantheon, and one- fourth of the 
Rig-veda is in his honour. 

The story of Indra's conflict with Vritra recurs 
again and again in the hymns, and Indra himself is de- 
scribed repeated. He is agile, strong, of irresistible 
might, handsome in face, with golden beard, and long- 
armed. He rides a golden car and carries a golden 
whip. Two swift steeds draw the car, created by the 


Ribhus, and his weapon is the thunderbolt forged for 
him by Tvastri, It is of gold or iron, and sometimes 
is said to have a thousand points. Indra is also said to 
have bow and arrows, and a hook or goad (ankusa). 
He uses a net to enmesh his enemies. He drinks great 
draughts of soma- juice, even from the day of his birth, 
' like a thirsty stag '. The intoxication of the soma stirs 
him 'like violent blasts'. He hurries off, escorted by 
the Maruts and sometimes accompanied by Vishnu to 
do battle with his enemies, especially with Vrittra. 
Heaven and earth quake with affright at the sound of 
his thunder. His enemy is pierced and shattered. The 
rain descends and the land is blessed. Sometimes the 
clouds are described as cities or fortresses of his ene- 
mies and Indra is said to overthrow them. 

And so his praises are sung in countless passages : 

There is nothing unconquered by thee : no one like 
thee is known among the gods. No one yet to be 
born, or yet born, can rival thee. Do, great god, 
whatever thou wiliest to do. 

Rig-veda, 165. 9 

His wife is Indranl, but he has many other consorts. 
One hymn describes the exultation of Indram.over her 
rival wives. 

The two characteristics that stand out most clearly in 
the picture of Indra given in the Vedas are his delight 
in war and his love for the intoxicating soma-juice. 

As soon as he was born, the slayer of Vrittra grasp- 
ed his arrow and asked his mother : c Who are they 
that are renowned as fierce warriors ?* 

Rig-veda, viii. 45, 4, 


On the day. that tfcou wast born, thou didst, from 
love of it, drink the mountain juice of the Soma-plant 
Of old, the youthful mother who bore thee, satiated 
thee with it in the house of thy mighty father. 

Rig-veda, iii. 48. 2, 

The sensations of the god after drinking soma are 
described in one of the hymns : 

The draughts which I have drunk impel me like 
violent blasts. The five tribes of men appear to me 
not even as a mote : I have quaffed the soma. The 
two worlds do not equal one-half of me : I have quaff* 
ed the soma. One-half of me is in the sky, and I 
have drawn the other down. I have quaffed the soma. 

Rig-veda, x. 119, 

His victories are ascribed to the effects of the soma- 

These draughts inspired thee, O lord of the brave,- 
these were vigour, these libations, in battles, when for 
the sake of the* poet, the sacrificer, thou struckest 
down irresistibly ten thousands of enemies. 

From battle to battle thou advancest bravely, from 
town to town thou destroyest all this with might, when 
thou, Indra, with him who makes the foe bow down 
(i.e. the thunderbolt) as thy friend, struckest down 
from afar the deceiver Nanmchi (a demon of drought). 

Rig-veda, i. 53. 

In the later literature Indra becomes king in Svarga 
and many instances of adultery are told of him, notably, 
that, in which he corrupted Ahalya, the wife of Gautama, 
by which he became known as ' Ahalya's lover '. 

Then it came about that, as Indra had superseded 
Varuiia, he too was superseded. He had at first seemed 
to the Aryan warrior in a dry land the very embodiment 
of their own valour, possessed of their own love for 


ooma, and granting them the rain that they needed. 
When men of different character grew up in a later 
civilization the presentation of the supreme in Indra no 
longer satisfied them, and Indra became only a figure in 
the crowded verses of the Mahabharata or in the stories 
in the Puranas. 


The name Rudra means ' the howler ' or ' the roarer 
and in the Rig-veda it also often seems to mean ' ruddy 
or ' red '. Rudra is the god of storms and father of the 
Rudras ' or Maruts. He is celebrated in only three or 
four hymns in the Rig-veda and his name is not men- 
tioned quite so often as that of Vishnu. He is generally 
armed with bow and arrows and sometimes with a 
thunderbolt and his terrible arrows bring death or disease 
on men and cattle. He is called 'terrible as a wild 
beast * and * the ruddy boar of heaven 1 . 

But he is not an entirely malevolent demon. He can 
preserve from calamity and give prosperity to man and 
beast. He is termed ' possessor of healing remedies' 
and ' greatest of physicians'. 

But the main interest in the study of "the character of 
Rudra as drawn in the Rig-veda is that Rudra receives 
the epithet iva, and is the link between the gods of the 
Aryans and the demon worship of the races that were in 
India before the Aryans reached it. The origin of this 
word $iva is difficult to trace if it is sought among purely 
Sanskrit roots. But it is derived quite naturally from 
the Dravidian root se, sev, siva meaning ' red ', ' ruddy ' 
and so* 'beautiful ' and ' right '. Whatever its derivation 
the word Siva is not used in the Vedas as the name of any 


god, but it is used as an adjective meaning " propitious V 
* auspicious ', * favourable/ and in this sense it is applied 
to Rudra, to placate him, for he was the most terribler 
god that the Aryans knew. In the later Vedas this 
epithet is almost exclusively reserved for him though 
it is still used occasionally of other gods. It is interesting 
to notice, especially if Rudra means 'red 7 , that in Tamil 
verse, a thousand years old, the epithet seyyau, 'the 
red one ' (aral pol seyyfi, ' red one like fire ') is similarly 
regularly applied to the god of destruction. {Tirn- 
v&sagam 7.42 ; 29.27). As the Vedic period advanced 
Rudra began to be thought of not only as a god of 
storms in general, but as an universal destroyer. Then 
the epithet iva became a proper name and men spoke 
of 6iva instead of Rudra as the god who caused des- 
truction. As the Aryans and the Dravidians came into 
closer relation, the Aryans found that these people r 
whom they called Dasyus, worshipped destructive demons 
somewhat like Rudia with blood offerings, as they do at 
certain great festivals all through South India to this- 
day. And it may be guessed that as the Dravidians 
learned a little of the religion of their conquerors they 
also found that Rudra, who was beginning to be called 
Siva, resembled their own deities in some ways. And so- 
ft might come about that Rudra, now called iva, the 
'Mahadeva' or 'great god ' of the Aryans, and iva, * the 
red god ' of the Dasyus were identified by both Aryans 
and Dasyus and henceforth were one deity. If iva 
was originally a Dravidian word this would happen 
all the more naturally. As larger and larger numbers 
of non-Aryans were included in the fourfold simple 
caste-system of earlier Hinduism the name of Rudra> 


the Aryan storm-god, passed away, and 6iva, the god of 
-destruction, in contrast with Vishnu, the preserver, and 
Brahma the creator, took his place and became one of 
the supremely important triad of gods (trimUrti) of later 
Hinduism. This may not have happened everywhere, 
.and it is only possible to guess at the process, but it 
must have been in some such way that non-Aryan 
malevolent demon deities became identified with 6iva, 
most terrible of gods, and Durga, most awful of 
goddesses, in later Hinduism. 1 

An interesting example of this oneness of the iva of 
later Hinduism with the more ancient demon deities of 
the Dravidians is found in the name given to demon 
temples in the Tamil Districts of South India. In 
idiomatic Tamil a demon shrine is called pey-kovil 
4 demon palace.' Such a shrine is often dedicated to 
demon deities with such entirely Dravidian names as 
Veppa marattu karuppan, ' the black god dwelling in the 
neem-tree* or M&vadiyal ' she who dwells in the mango- 
tree'. In Tamil that has been affected by Sanskrit the 
term used is Isvaran kovil^ which means 'the palace 
of Isvaran. 1 ISvaran is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit 
word meaning ' Lord 1 and is applied in Tamil particularly 
to iva. So that in common speech l&varan ' the 
lord 6iva ' an Aryan term and the Dravidian word 
pey ' the demon* are treated as synonymous. And so it 
may be that the little demon deities of South India are 
linked through Sivan ' the Red One * with Rudra and 
the gods of the early Aryans. 

* See Mr. R. W. PHASER'S article on the Dravidians of South 
India in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. v. p. 22. 



Parjanya is a god who sheds rain, invoked in only 
three hymns and only mentioned about thirty times in 
the Rig-veda. In several passages the name simply 
means a 'rain cloud 1 . He is called the lord of all 
moving creatures, the soul of all things, the son of 
Dyaus, the father of the soma-plant. 

Parjanya is really one of the older deities whom the 
Aryans venerated before they entered India and Persia. 
In curious proof of this we find that this god was wor- 
shipped as a god of thunder under the name Perkunas in 
Lithuania, on the shores of the Baltic, far away from 
India, by quite another branch of the Aryans. Like 
Dyaus Parjanya was fading out of the memory of 
the Indian Aryans when the hymns of the Vedas were 
composed. Hence Parjanya does not stand out clearly 
afad in later times he gave place to Indra to whom 
his name was applied. 

The Bhrigus 

The Bhrigus were probably an ancient tribe of priests. 
They are said to have cherished the sacred fire and to 
have made chariots. Though mentioned as divine beings 
along with Agni, and classed with the gods of the air, 
they are of inferior importance, little higher than the 
Ribhus with whom they are sometimes associated. 


The name Marut was thought by Max Miiller to mean 

the smasher 1 and to be applied to the gods of the 

jyclone or tornado. Benfey considered that they were 


the personifications of the souls of the dead and that 
their name was connected with mar, mri, to die. The 
name may also be connected with an old Sanskrit root 
meaning to shine. 

The Maruts are thrice-sixty or only twenty-seven in 
number, and are the sons of Indra and speckled cow 
Prteni which represents the clouds. They are also said 
to be sons of Rudra, and sons of Heaven. They are 
frequently associated with Indra in his expeditions as 
his allies and friends. 

Spears rest upon your shoulders, ye Maruts; ye 
have anklets on your feet, golden ornaments on your 
breasts, lustre in your cars, fiery lightnings in your 
hands, and golden helmets placed upon your heads. 

Rig-veda, v. 54. 11. 

They cause the earth and the mountains to quake. 
They rend trees and devour forests like wild elephants. 
They have iron teeth. They ride with whips in their 
hands. They aid Indra in his conquest of Vjittra. 
They are the favourite deities of some of the Rishis 
and are often praised in the hymns. 



Agni is the god of fire, the Ignis of the Latins, and 
the Ogni of the Slavonians. Next to Indra he is the 
most important god in the Rig-veda, being celebrated in 
more than two hundred hymns. The first hymn in the 
Rig-veda is addressed to him, and the other Books, all 
but two, begin with hymns to him. 

Agni is the sacrificial fire of the Aryans, and all the 
ritual of the sacrifice centred round the sacred fire* 


Hence the constant reference to Agni in the hymns, 
which were chanted while the sacrifice was being 
prepared or performed. 

Fire, it must be remembered, is always wonderful to 
primitive peoples. Its production by the friction caused 
by rubbing two dry sticks together or by the striking of 
two flints is almost as strange as the flash of the lightning- 
The benefits of light and warmth that fire gives and its 
service in preparing food are regarded as direct gifts 
from the gods. Thinkers, who are the singers or poets 
of early peoples, come to see a connexion between the 
light and heat of the fire and the light and heat of the 
sun, and then trace the ripening of grain and fruit to the 
same beneficent power. It is only a step from this to 
the conviction that all light and all heat are the manifes- 
tation of the power of one great God. 

Various accounts are given in the Vedas of the origin 
of Agni. He is said to have been brought from afar, 
to have been generated by Indra between two clouds 
or stones, or by Indra and Vishnu, or by the gods, or 
to be the son of Dyaus and Prithivl. Yet he is the 
father of the gods. He is called dmjanman^ 'having 
two births/ either as born of Dyaus and Prithivl, or 
of two sacrificial sticks. His springing from the 
sacrificial sticks is elsewhere frequently mentioned. 
Wonderful is his growth. His mother cannot suckle, 
him, but clarified butter is his food. The ten maidens 
sometimes said to produce him are the ten fingers that 
twirl the upright piece of wood on the lower piece to 
duce a spark by friction. As he is born on earth among 
men, in the air, and in the heavens, he has a triple 
birth* He is also said to have been born from the 


waters. As there is a fire in every house, Agni is said 
to have many births and to dwell in every home. 

Agni is an immortal who takes up his abode gra- 
ciously among men. He is the household priest (purohita, 
ritvij, hotri or brahman) who wakes the Dawn. 
He is the most adorable of sacrificers, divinest among 
sages, wise director and accomplisher of all sacrifices, 
knows all the times of the ceremonies and can put 
right the mistakes of men, is 'father of sacrifices', 
a swift messenger between heaven and earth, convey- 
ing the hymns and offerings of the worshippers, calling 
the gods to the sacrifices, and he is sometimes described 
as the mouth or tongue through which gods and men 
participate in the sacrifice. He is the king of men, 
the lord of the household (grihapati) and the guest 
of every house, friendly to all, father, mother, brother, 
son, kinsman and friend. He drives away demons, 
rakshasas, watching over men with his thousand eyes, 
and consuming the enemies of those who are the enemies 
-of his worshippers. All blessings come from him, even 
rain, but his chief gifts are household prosperity and 

He is called goblin-slayer, butter-fed, destroyer of 
darkness, bright-flaming, tawny-haired. He has burn- 
ing teeth, is all devouring, roars like a lion, is borne 
on a chariot of lightning, or on a golden car. ' 

As he is endowed with all these characteristics his 
worshippers ascribe to him the production of the two 
worlds, say that he caused the sun to ascend the sky, 
praise him as creator of all living and moving creatures, 
declare that all obey his commands, that the .gods 
-worship him, that those who venerate him will prosper, 


that he will give renowned sons, that he protects in 
battle, confers immortality, carries men across calamity, 
and can give forgiveness from whatever sin the wor- 
shipper may have committed through folly. 

He is occasionally identified with other gods and even 
goddesses, Indra, Vishnu, Varuna, Pushan, Sarasvati 
.and others. 

Agni was worshipped by the Aryans in the fire kin- 
dled each morning while the family gathered round it 
in awe. As the clarified butter (ghi) was poured on, 
and the flame rose it was a sign that Agni was present 
and received the offering. At nightfall when the family 
gathered round the fire for warmth or light Agni seemed 
present in the flames, a kindly god, ready to guard 
and bless his worshipper through the long hours of 
darkness when the other gods had disappeared and 
all sorts of evil demons and goblins were abroad. 
Agni was near men and stayed with them. Thus he 
typified to the earliest thinkers in India the loving- 
kindness of God. 


In two points " the Hindus of to-day differ greatly 
from their Aryan ancestors. The ancient Aryans occa- 
sionally ate meat, even beef, and they delighted in 
drinking the intoxicating juice of the soma plant. 
Nearly a whole book of the Rig-veda, containing 
114 hymns, is devoted to the praise of this soma, 
either as the juice of the plant pr that juice deified, 
and constant references are made to soma in other 


Professor Whitney explains that the Aryans thought 
intoxication to be a sort of divine inspiration ; and so 
worshipped and deified its cause. 

The simple-minded Aryan people, whose whole 
religion was a worship of the wonderful powers and 
phenomena of nature, had no sooner perceived that 
this liquid had the power to elevate the spirits, and 
produce a temporary frenzy, under the influence of 
which the individual was prompted to, and capable 
of, deeds beyond his natural powers, than they found 
in it something divine; it was to their apprehension 
a god, endowing those into whom it entered with 
godlike powers; the plant which afforded it became 
to them the king of plants ; the process of preparing 
it was a holy sacrifice ; the instruments used therefore 
were sacred. l 

Nor were the Aryans who came to India the first 
to worship Soma. The Aryans who found their way 
into Persia also adored it as Haoma, and said many 
of the same things about it that the Indian Aryans said, 
so that it is clear that Soma was a divinity reverenced 
by the Aryans before they were divided into these two 
races, and belongs to a very early time in the history 
of the primitive Aryans. 

The soma plant from which the inspiring juice is 
pressed grew on mountains and has been supposed 
to be one of the ' milk- weeds ', or asclepiads, perhaps 
that called sarcostemma viminale or the asclepias acida r 
which all contain a milk-like juice. But the references 
in the Vedas do not enable us to identify it with any 
certainty. No modern plant has the attributes of the 
-.deified plant oftthe Vedas. 

JAOS, iii, 299. 


So long as Vedic worship lasted the ancient belief in 
the divine power of the soma- juice continued. The 
hymns addressed to Soma the god were intended to be 
sung to him to gain his favour while the soma plant was 
being crushed in the press and the juice extracted. 
Then the worshippers drank and rejoiced, praising the 
plant, its juice and the god without distinction, as may be 
seen in the following verses and in the readings from 
the Vedas. 

We have drunk the soma, we have become im- 
mortal, we have entered into light, we have known the 
gods. What can an enemy now do to us, or what 
can the malice of any mortal effect, O thou imm6rtal 

Rig-veda, viii. 48. 3. 
All the gods delight in the soma- juice. 

Indra hath drunk, Agni hath drunk ; all deities have 
drunk their fill. 

Rig-veda, vii. 58. 11. 

O Soma, gladden Varuna and Mitra ; cheer Indra 
Pavamana ! Indra Vishnu. 

Cheer thou the gods, the company of Maruts : Indu, 
heer mighty Indra to rejoicing. 

Rig-veda, ix. 90. 5. 

Make Vayu glad, for furtherance and bounty ; cheer 
Varuna and Mitra as they cleanse thee. 

Gladden the gods, gladden the host of Maruts; 
make Heaven and Earth rejoice, O God, O Soma. 

Rig-veda, ix. 97. 42. 

But Indra is the deity especially addicted to love of 
the soma. 

Even as a thirsty steer who roams the deserts, may 
he drink eagerly the milked-out soma. 

Rig-veda, v. 36. 1. 


Then Indra at a single draught drank the contents 
of thirty pails, pails that were filled with soma-juice, 

Rig-veda, viii. 66. 4. 

His belly, drinking deepest draughts of soma, like 
an ocean swells. 

Rig-veda, i. 8. 7. 

The soma plant is said to have been brought to the 
earth from the sky by a falcon, or to have been found on 
a mountain. It is sometimes said to have been con- 
ducted to the Gandharvas by the daughter of Surya, or 
to be the offspring of Parjanya, the rain-god. 

In the Satapatha Brahmana the Gayatri is said to* 
have become a bird and to have brought Soma from the 
sky. In the Taittiriya Brahmana Prajapati is said to 
have created the divine soma and the three Vedas after 

Soma as a god is said to have had the thirty-three 
daughters of Prajapati as his wives. 

Soma is said to clothe the naked, heal the sick, to 
bestow sight on the blind, to give heaven to his worship- 
pers, and to exhilirate even such gods as Varuna, Mitra 
and Indra. He has a car and weapons, and destroys 
foes. Soma inspires Indra to conquest : 

Impetuous as a bull, he chose the soma, and quaff* 

ed in three-fold sacrifice the juices. 

Indra with his own great and deadly thunder smote 

into pieces Vjritra, worst of Vjritras. 

Rig-veda, i. 32. 3 and 5. 

Soma is the generator of the hymns, creator of the 
gods, king of gods and men, elevated over all worlds, 
thousand-eyed. Soma is * priest of the gods, the leader 
of singers, a rishi among sages, a bull among wild 
animals, a falcon among kites, an axe in the woods '. 

Rig~veda, ix. 96. 6, 


The hymns to Soma describe the purification and pre- 
paration of the juice with much fanciful imagery* The 
god is said to fly like a bird to settle in the vats. The 
sound of the flowing juice is like that of a roaring bull. 

In later times Soma is identified with the moon. In 
the Atharva-veda Soma means the moon. 

In Aryan worship libations of soma-juice were poured 
out by the worshipper as drink for the gods. In later 
times when worship had become elaborate, the hymns 
originally sung during the extraction of the soma-juice 
from the plant were collected from the Rig-veda and 
made the basis of the Sama-veda and were chanted by 
the Udgatri priests, while the Soma sacrifice was being- 

Yama and Yami 

Yama and Yami (meaning ' the twins ') were the son 
and daughter of Vivasvat, the sun, and Saranyu, the 
dawn. They are said to have been the first human 
beings. In the tenth hymn of the tenth book of the 
Rig-veda, Yama is described as refusing to treat Yarn! as 
his wife. In the Atharva-veda Yama is the first of men 
who died, and he found the way to the celestial world- 
He gives abodes in that heaven to the pious. 

He is said to have two fierce dogs which guard the 
way to his abode and wander about among men as his 
messengers, and he sends a bird as the herald of doom* 
In the Atharva-veda Mrityu or Death is said to be his 
messenger. But nowhere in the Rig-veda is Yama 
regarded as having anything to do with the punishment 
of the wicked. That is an jidea that became current in 


later Hinduism, in which he is the judge and punisher of 
the dead like the Greek 4?luto and Minos. 


The earth-goddess, or the earth personified under the 
name Pjrithivi ' the broad one * has only one short' 
hymn addressed to herself. She is generally associated 
with Dyaus, and invoked along with him. She is the 
mother of all beings. 


Aditi and the Adityas 

Aditi means that which is unbound, free, and so 

freedom* is the name of a goddess, often mentioned, 

though there is no hymn expressly in her honour. She 

seems to be a personification of light as the cause of the 


Aditi is the heavens ; Aditi is mid-air ; Aditi is the 
mother and the sire and the son. Aditi is all gods ; 
Aditi is men in the five classes ; Aditi is all that hath 

been born and shall be born. 

Rig-veda, i. 89. 10. 

Aditi is asked for blessings of children and cattle and 
for protection, but her two most notable characteristics 
are that: (i) she is the mother of the Adityas and (ii) that 
like Varuna the chief of her sons, she can heal suffering 
pud forgive sin. 

The Adityas, the sons of Aditi, are more frequently 
mentioned than their mother. In Rig-veda, ii.. 27. 1 
six are mentioned: Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Varuna, 
Paksha, and Amga. In x. 72. 8. 9, it is said that 


had eight sons, of whom. she presented only* sevfen, to the 
gods, casting out Marttanda, the eighth, though she is* 
said to have afterwards brought him forward. Varu^a 
was considered the chief. 

In after times the Adityas were increased to twelve, 
representing the sun in the twelve months of the year* 

Varuiia and Mitra assumed special characters, but in 
the beginning the Adityas were the gods of the eternal 
celestial light, not specially the sun or the moon or the 
stars,, but generally the eternal sustainers of the luminous 
life, which exists behind all these. 1 


The name Prajapati means the 'lord of creatures'. 
In the Vedas it is originally an epithet applied to Savitri, 
Soma, Indra, Tvastri, Agni, Hiranya-garbha. Later* 
it was the personal name of the god who bestows progeny 
and cattle. Sometimes Prajapati is invoked as one god 
among the other 'thirty-three' but afterwards as a 
creator. In the impressive one hundred and twenty-first 
hymn of the tenth book of the Rig-veda in answer to the 
refrain, ' What god shall we with sacrifice worship ? ' 
the answer is finally given. 

Prajapati! thou only comprehendest all these created 
things, and none beside thee. 

Grant us our hearts' desire when we invoke thee: 
may we have store of riches in possession. 
In the Atharva-veda and White Yajur-veda (V&ja 
saneyi-samhita) and regularly in the Brahmarias Praja 
pati is spoken of as the supreme father of the gods, and 

Sanskrit Texts, vol. v, p. 56. 


Purusa is identified with him. In the Sutras he is 

identified with Brahma ; 

In the Satapatha Brahmana Prajapati is said to have 

been himself half mortal and half immortal. 

Prajapati created living'creatures. From his higher 
vital breath he created the gods ; from his lower vital 
breath he created men. Afterwards he created Death 
the devourer for all living creatures. Of that Praja- 
pati one-half was mortal, the other immortal, and with 
that half which was mortal he was afraid of Death. 

Satapatha Brahmana, x. 1. 4. 1. 

Misery, death, smote Prajapati when he was cre- 
ating living beings. He performed austerity for a 
thousand years to get free from misery. 

Satapatha Brahmana, x. 4. 4. 1. 

In reading the texts about Prajapati it is clear that 
while he is sometimes treated as a god of secondary, 
importance, later on he represents the attempt to express 
the abstract idea of the supreme first cause of all things. 

Sraddha Sarasvati and other Goddesses 

It was powerful, war-like, generous gods that appealed 
most to the imagination of Vedic singers and little is 
said about the goddesses. Nearly all the great gods 
have wives, Agni's wife is Agnayi, Indra's wife is 
Indram, Varuna's wife is VaruiianI, and so on. But 
goddesses as wives of the great gods are scarcely noticed 
in the Vedas, and such goddesses as are specially 
mentioned Prithivi, Aditi, Ushas, Vach are worship- 
ped for the special characteristics that have been men- 
tioned in the accounts already given of them. 


In the Rig-veda Sarasvati is a river, and a river- 
goddess, invoked to be present a sacrifice offered on her 
banks, and her influence helped the sages to compose 
hymns. She is called the best of mothers, of rivers and 
of goddesses (Rig-veda, ii. 41. 16). In the Rig-veda 
Sarasvati and Vach are distinct, and it was in later times 
that the two were identified, and that Sarasvati became 
under different names the wife of Brahma and the 
goddess of wisdom. 

Apas, the waters, Aranyani, the goddess of forest 
solitude and Sraddha, religious faith are mentioned with 
several other goddesses, but not in any noteworthy 
fashion. The word Lakshmi occurs in the Rig-veda 
once as meaning * auspicious ' but not as the name of 
the goddess of good fortune. In the Atharva-veda, 
vii. 115. 1, many Lakshmis, some good and some bad, 
are spoken of. It was left to later and debased Hindu- 
ism to accept the worship of such deities as Durga and 
Kali, and to sanction the excesses of Sakti-worship. 


Vach, meaning speech, is a goddess personifying 
speech as the means by which man may obtain knowl- 
edge. She is represented as created by Prajapati and, 
in a legend, that is repulsive, as his mate. Vach was 
sold by the gods to the Gandharvas in exchange for 
soma. She is the ' mother of the Vedas ' and is also the 
wife of Indra. 

In later literature Vach is identified with Sarasvati 
and was wife of Brahma under various names. As 
Sarasvati she was the goddess of wisdom and eloquence. 


Two hymns in the tenth book of the Rig-veda are 
addressed to her. 

Brihaspati and Brahmanaspati 

In the Rig-veda Brihaspati and Brahmanaspati are 
equivalent and mean 'lord of prayer*. Bjrihaspati is 
a deity, in whom the action of the worshipper upon the 
gods is personified. He is the suppliant, the sacrificer, 
the priest who intercedes with the gods on behalf of 
men, and protects them from the wicked. He represents 
the priests and the priestly order. He is also desig- 
nated as the purohita of the gods. He is the lord and. 
protector of prayer. He is described as destroying 
the demon Vala and driving forth the cows, i.e. causing 
the clouds to yield their rain. 

He is also described as the father of the gods ; and 
creator of the gods like a black-smith ; to have a hundred 
wings; to be armed with an iron axe. In some passages 
he is identified with Agni, but this opposed by others. 

In later times he is a rishi and regent of the planet 


The one hundred and twenty-first hymn of the tenth 

book of the Rig-veda has as the refrain of each of the 

first nine verses : 

What god shall we adore with our oblation ? , 
The word f ka ' is the Sanskrit interrogative pronoun 
lat ? ' In later times this interrogative was treated 

as a proper name, the question became an assertion, and 

the refrain of the hymn reads : 


Ka is the god whom we shall adore with our 

In later Vedic literature Ka is a synonym for Praja- 
pati, Brahma, Vishnu and other gods. In the Puranas, 
Ka appears as a recognized god, as a supreme god, with 
a genealogy of his own, perhaps even with a wife. The 
Mahabharata identifies Ka with Daksha, and the Bha- 
gavata Purana applies the term to Ka^yapa. 


In later Hinduism Kama is the god of sexual desire, 
[but in the Atharva-veda Kama is the desire for good in 
general, and is exalted as the creator of all. In the Rig- 
veda desire is said to have been the first impulse that 
arose in the One in the beginning : t Kama, the primal 
seed and germ of the spirit* (Rig-veda, x. 129. 4). 
According to some Kama was son of Dharma, the 
.god of justice and raddha, the goddess of faith. It is 
in the Puranas that the stories of the temptation of iva 
by Kama is told, and that he is described as armed with 
a bow of sugar-cane, with a line of bees as his bow- 
string and flo^ Mlr -tipped arrows, 

Visve Devas 

Sixty hymns are addressed to the Vive Devas. 
This is a term meaning * All-gods ' and was invented 
to include all the devas so that none should be omitted 
when an invocatioh was uttered at a sacrifice which was 
meant for all. Later this term became the name of a 
group of ten deities, sons of Vigva, daughter of Daksbfa, 
particularly worshipped at Shraddha ceremonies, 




Tvastri is the Vulcan of the Romans. He is the 
most skilful of workmen, who is versed in all wonderful 
contrivances. He sharpens and carries the great iron 
axe of Brahmanaspati and forges the thunderbolts of 
Indra. He forms husband and wife for each other. He 
has given to the heaven and earth and to all things their 
form. He is master of the universe, the first-born 
protector and leader. He bestows long life, puts speed 
into the legs of a horse, gives blessings, and is possessed 
of abundant wealth. 

In later times Tvastri is regarded as one of the 
Adityas. He is said to have had twin children. One 
was a daughter, Saranyu, who married Vivasvat and 
became mother of the Agvins. The other was a son, 
ViSvarupa, who had three heads, six eyes, and three 
mouths, and was slain by Indra. 

He is connected with the Ribhus who fashioned 
Indra's chariot and there was enmity between him and 
them because they made a single sacrificial cup of his 
manufacture into four cups. 

The Ribhus 

The name Ribhu means skilful and the Ribhus are 
said to be three sons of Sudhanvan, a descendant of 
Angiras, called Ribhu, Vibhvan and Vaja. They are 
celebrated in the Rig-veda as skilful workmen, who 
fashioned Indra's chariot and horses, the car of the ASvins 
and the cow of Brihaspati, and made their parents 


young again. By command of the gods, and with 
a promise of exaltation to divine honours, they made 
a single sacrificial cup fashioned by Tvasfri into four. 
They are also spoken of as supporters of the sky. Eleven 
hymns are addressed to them. 


The name Visvakarman simply means * all creator ', 
* all doer ' and was originally an epithet of any powerful 
god ; but in course of time it came to designate a special 
god, Vigvakarman, the great architect of the universe. 
As such, two hymns are addressed to him. 

In later books he is identified with Tvastri. In the 
Ramayana he is represented as having built the city of 
Lanka for the rakshasas. 

He presides over manual labour as well as over the 
sixty-four manual arts. He is represented in one hymn 
as the All- Father, the one all-seeing God, with eyes, 
faces, arms and feet on every side, who blows forth 
.heaven and earth with his arms and wings. 

Gandharvas and Apsarases 

Apsaras was a celestial water nymph and the Apsa- 
rases are heavenly nymphs loved by a class of male genius 
called Gandharvas. Some of the Apsarases mated with 
mortal men. Thus Urvagi was loved by Pururavas, 
and there is a hymn from him to her in the Rig-veda 
(x. 95). In the later literature the Apsarases are celestial 
courtesans and the Gandharvas are attendants on the 
greater gods. 


Divine Priests 

Manu the first sacrificer and the ancestor of the 
human race is among the priests and heroes mentioned 
in the Rig-veda. There are also groups of ancient 
priests called Angirases and Bhrigus, and the seldom 
mentioned Seven Rishis, afterwards regarded as the 
seven stars in the constellation of the Great Bear. 



There are many kinds of demons, and many individual 
demons specially named in the hymns. 

Roughly speaking all may be divided into two classes. 

There are the asuras, or ' living spirits ', the opponents 
of the devas in their efforts to help their worshippers. 
Naturally the early invaders considered that the gods of 
their enemies the Dasyus were asuras. Indeed, the words 
dftsa and dasyu are often used in the sense of demon. 
The demon Vjritra, who held off rain and caused drought, 
is the most notable of these asuras. 

The rakshasas are the second class. They are goblins 
that infest the earth and are as hostile to men as the 
asuras are to the gods. They have all sorts of horrible 
shapes, are deformed and of dreadful colours. The 
pigachas of the later Vedas the pey of the southern 
Tamil Dravidians are among the most dreaded of 
rakshasas in the later literature, but they are scarcely 
mentioned in the Rig-veda, which may be an indicatio; 
that as yet the invaders had not acquired the knowledge 


of the demons of the original inhabitants which they 
gained later and which has such important though 
indefinite influence in modern Hinduism. 

The Serpent 

Though the demon of drought, Vritra had a serpent 
form there is no trace of serpent-worship in the Rig- 
veda, and it is in the later literature that the semi-divine 
Nagas and other serpent-folk are found. The whole 
subject of serpent-worship is obscure. It is more 
than likely that the tribes in the land before the Aryans 
came there were serpent-worshippers. Such worship is 
common in South India. The cobra in particular called 
1 the good snake ', nalla p&mpu, in Tamil is a regular 
object of worship. And stones on which serpents are 
carved, called nffga-linga are exceedingly common. 

The Horse 

The gods possess heavenly horses, sometimes winged, 
to draw their cars. Two hymns (Rig-veda, i. 162 and 
163) show that the horse was a sacrificial victim in the 
earliest times, 

The Cow 

Though the Aryans ate beef, and termed a guest 
goghna, ' one for whom a cow is slain ', there is evidence 
that they already treated the cow as a sacred animal. It 
is called Aghnyff, ' not to be killed ', and from the ancient 
Persian literature it would seem that, beforS the Aryans 
separated into different races, the many benefits that are 
bestowed by the cow had led it to be looked on as 
a most auspicious creature. But it is in the Brahmanas 


and the Atharva-veda that the worship of the cow is 
fully recognized. 

Sacrificial and other implements 

Sacrificial implements, the sacrificial post to which 
the victim was tied, the plough and weapons of war are 
occasionally deified. This is practically the same as the 
modern fiyutha ptija, the worship of weapon or tool once 
a year a ceremony common to all ranks of Hindus 
a very ancient practice indeed as the Mahfibhffrata 


Apart from the worship of the devas the respect for 
the spirits of the departed ancestors was another form 
of piety ever present in the minds of the early Aryans, 
as it is in that of all primitive peoples in one form or 
another. It is often referred to in the Rig-veda, and in 
the graddha ceremonies of modern Hinduism has 
become a very important part of the popular religion, 
which it is obligatory qn even the most latitudinarian 
Hindu to observe annually at all costs. 

It has two distinct stages. 

There is first that stage in which early peoples believe 
that the soul of the departed, like the man alive, depends 
on food and drink for its continued existence. Those 
who hold this belief in this simple form of course 
consider the soul to be a material substance, or at most 
have but a dim idea of a non-material spiritual existence. 
And just as they felt it their duty to provide their father 
or mother with food while still alive, so they thought it 
their duty, to continue, to provide them with sustensnqe 


after they were dead. Food was therefore laid out in the 
open, and the souls of the dead were called to take it. 
The Dravidians, even the lowest of them, practised this 
piety as well as the Aryans, and to this day the Tamil 
Paraiyan believes with all his heart that if for any 
reason, such as death away from his relatives or quarrels 
about the property among the dead man's heirs, the 
departed spirit is not cared for, it must become a malig- 
nant demon. 

Here another idea is found which goes back to the 
very earliest times among the Aryans. They thought 
that the dead ancestor had to make a journey into some 
realms beyond this existence, either in the east whence 
the bright gods seemed to come or in the west, where 
lay the kingdom of Yama. And so in the days immedi- 
ately after a man had died offerings were made to 
provide him with strength, and, in later thought, to 
provide the spiritual essence of his soul with a botfily 
form, so that he might accomplish the journey t</ the 
realms of the fathers. 

Up to this point piety to the dead is an act of service 
rather than worship. 

Ancestor- worship proper begins when the natural awe 
of the dead, or the traditions of the prowess or wisdom 
of some ancestor leads to the conviction that the dead 
man possesses power still to influence the affairs of his 
descendants. The memory of their great deeds or of 
their judicious sayings was invoked to inspire courage 
or to settle disputes. It was a simple transition to the 
belief that the man who imitated their valour in battle 
was helped by them, or that the man who obeyed their 
precepts was blessed by them* while the man who 


disregarded them was accursed. And so the presenta- 
tion of offerings ceased to be merely dutiful service and 
became religious worship ; the spirits of the ancestors 
thus became gods in the families of their descendants ; 
s^nd the offerings made to them were intended to secure 
their care for the family or tribe to which the dead had 

< The ancient Aryan race, before it had left its original 
home and separated into different lands, had reached this 
stage of belief about ancestors and so alongside the 
worship of the gods there was the worship of the ances- 
tors, or ' the Fathers,' the Pttris. Many passages might 
be quoted in proof of this : 

May the rising Dawns protect me, may the flowing 
Rivers protect me, may the firm Mountains protect 
me, may the Fathers protect me at this invocation of 
the gods. 

Rig-veda, vi. 52. 4. 

Let not the gods injure us here, nor our early 
fathers, who know the realms. 

Rig-veda, iii. 55. 2. 

There is another distinction that is worth attention. 
The ancestors of the great Aryan families, though his- 
torically next to nothing was known about them, were 
exalted in tradition till they become almost as great as 
the gods, while the fathers but lately departed are 
scarcely more than remembered. In accordance with 
this distinction the term Pitri sometimes means ancestor 
of a tribe or race or even of mankind, as mankind seemed 
to the Aryan singer, but when used of an ordinary man's 
fathers, the term includes only his father, grandfathers 
and great-grandfathers. 


The offerings were pindas, balls of meal or rice or of 
meat and rice mixed with milk, curds, and flowers. 
The daily Pitriyajna, or ancestor worship, is one of the 
five sacrifices, sometimes called the great sacrifices* 
which every married man ought to perform day by day. 

In this worship the father was the high-priest of the 
family, and controlled the worship of the ancestors of the 
family. He alone knew the special ritual which was 
traditional in his family, and which had to be maintained 
unchanged, if the favour of the dead was to be retained, 
He taught the rites to his son and, as high-priest of the 
ancestral rites of the family, he was its acknowledged head. 

In the Vedas the Pit r is are very often invoked along 
with Agni or other devas, and sometimes the adjective 
deva is applied to the Pitris, the Pitris never become 
devas. They are thought of as living in a state of bless- 
edness in the world where Yama reigns. They dwell 
in festivity with Yama. Agni is supposed to convey the 
souls of the righteous dead to their abode, but according to 
the Atharva-veda (xviii-2.27) Death performs the office 
as the messenger of Yama. Agni, of course, here 
represents the fire of the funeral pyre. Led by Agni the 
spirit of the dead leaves behind on earth all that is evil 
and proceeding by the paths on which his ancestors have 
gone, he soars to the realms of eternal light in a car or 
on wings, wafted by the Maruts. There he regains his 
ancient body in a complete form. 

Each parted member, severed from thy body, thy 
vital breaths that in the wind have vanished, 

With all of these, piece after piece, shall Fathers 
_ who dwell together meet and reunite thee. 

Atharva-veda, xviii 2. 2<r. 


In that realm, by the favour of Yama, he enters on a 
new life of happiness in the presence of the gods and 
full of delights. 

This was the thought of Yama when he answered : 
This man is mine. Let him come here to riches. 

Atharva-veda, xviii 2. 37 

Yama himself is sometimes addressed as if he were 
bne of the Fathers, the first of mortals that died or that 
trod the path of the Fathers leading to the common 
Sunset in the West. But his real nature is never 
completely forgotten and, as the god of the setting sun, 
though he is the leader of the Fathers, he is not one 
of the Fathers himself. 

The following verses from one of the hymns of the 
Rig-veda shows how ancestors were invited to come to 
the sacrifice : 

1. May the soma-loving Fathers, the lowest, the 
k highest, and the middle, arise. May the gentle and 
righteous Fathers who have come to life (again) pro- 
tect us in these invocations ! 

4. Come hither to us with your help, you Fathers 
who sit^on the grass ! We have prepared these obla- 
tions for you, accept them ! Come hither with your 
most blessed protection, and give us health and wealth 
without fail ! 

5. The soma-loving Fathers have been called 
hither to their dear viands which are placed on the 
grass. Let them approach, let them listen, let them 
bless, let them protect us ! 

Rig-veda, x. 15 

The full development of the worship of the ancestor* 
and the appointment of the three kinds of Srftddha foi 
ancestors in general (nitya) ; for the spiritual embodi- 


ment of a recently deceased father (naimittika) ; or as 
a work of merit (kffmya) belong to later Hinduism. 
There are full descriptions of this worship in the 
Brahmanas and Sutras. The Epics, the Law-books and 
the Puranas constantly refer to it. It is at the root of 
the worship of many a modern deity who is in reality 
some hero or sage deified. 1 

Hindu customs of inheritance and marriage are closely 
related to ancestor worship. Speaking generally, he who 
has the right to perform the funeral ceremonies and the 
annual Sraddha for the dead has part in the dead man's 

1 The deification of a hero or heroine is similar to the deifi- 
cation of ancestors. Thus the god of a tribe of basket- weavers in 
Dharapuram in the Madras Presidency is the general of a raja 
perhaps of ' Appaji Nayak's time ' and their goddess is Viramatti 
his wife, who threw herself into a pit of fire that she might attain 
heaven with her husband's spirit when she heard that he was 


THE careful study of the religious literature of the 

Assyrian, Babylonian, Hebrew or other religions of the 

Semitic races, or of the ideas of the early 

Mnf SifAo 9 AM 

sacrifice Greeks or of the beliefs and practices of 
the early Aryans, shows that all these 
people offered sacrifices of many kinds. The offerings 
grain or oil or soma- juice or the flesh of animals or even 
the life of man were not the same in all lands and 
on all occasions and the rites according to which 
the offering was given to the god differed in different 
countries, and were different in the same country at vark 
ous times. But all sacrifice was performed because of 
one or other of two main ideas or because of a combi- 
nation of the two ideas in the mind of the sacrificer. 

The early worshipper wished to have a strong bond of 
union between himself and his god, and to secure that it 
seemed to him best that he and his god should feast 
together and especially that they should feast together on 
some animal sacred to the god and often considered to be 
of Jcin with the sacrificer. 

Or the worshipper was moved to offer sacrifices be- 
cause he felt that his god required from him some gift, 
great or sirfall, either to expiate divine wrath or to win 
divine favour. 

The Vedic hymns show that although the Aryans 
drank soma- juice with their gods, and though priest and 


sacrificer shared the flesh of the victim, in the times 
when the hymns were collected a sacrificial offering was 
essentially a bribe to secure the favour of a given god ; 
and the Aryans came later to believe that, if the proper 
victim were offered according to the appointed ceremonial f 
the gods could not refuse the petitions of the sacrificer. 

The sacrifices of Vedic times may be divided into two 
classes, There are the household sacrifices and the 
greater sacrifices. 

The household sacrifices were part of the earliest wor- 
ship of the Aryans. The father of the family celebrated 

them and his wife assisted at them. . .,. 

Aryan sacrifices 

They were simple and homely attempts 

to propitiate the heavenly powers. The sacred fire was 
kindled by the friction of two sticks in the central part 
of a new house when it was first inhabited and the fire 
was never allowed to go out. Each morning and 
evening the householder and his family assembled round 
the sacred flame. The master of the house as agnihotri 
priest of the fire, fed the fire with offerings of wood 
and clarified butter (ghrta, the modern ghl or ghee). 
While Agni the god, present in the fire, carried these 
simple offerings to the gods in the skies hymns were 
chanted and prayers ascended with the smoke. 

At the times of the new and of the full moons special 
worship was offered, and the householder decorated his 
house and tied bunches of grass over the doorway, per- 
haps much in the same way as bunches of leaves of the 
neem (or margosa) or asoka trees are tied over doorways 
or across streets in strings (torana) in these days. 

At the beginning of the spring, of the rainy season 
and of autumn there were special sacrifices. Twice a 


year when the fruit or grain ripened the ripe first-fruits 
were offered in a rustic festival to the gods. Once a 
year, when the rainy season set in, a he-goat was 
sacrificed in the house of the sacrificer. 
1 Soma-juice was part of every offering of any impor- 
tance, especially in invocations of Indra. Apparently it 
was simply poured out on to the bundles of the sacred 
kusa grass which were provided as seats for the invisi- 
ble gods. 

The greater sacrifices were offered in special emergen- 

cies or by kings or sages to gain extra- 

sacrifices ordinary ends. They became as will be 

seen later, costly and elaborate beyond 


The chief of the great sacrifices were : 

the soma sacrifice ; 

the sacrifices of cows and oxen and other anima 

the horse sacrifice ; 

the human sacrifice. 

The primitive family worship grew speedily more 
complex, and even before the hymns in the Rig-veda 
were collected the idea of sacrifice had so fully laid hold 
on the mind of the Aryans that all the thousand hymns 
in the Rig-veda refer directly or indirectly to sacrifice. 

The main reason for this was the belief mentioned 
above that if a hymn was rightly sung or chanted and 

Rita of priesthood if a sacrifice was duly performed, it 
was an infallible means of securing the 
object of the sacrificer, however audacious. It was 
thus of the utmost importance that the sacrifice if 
it were any but the most ordinary, should be per- 
formed by one who knew every detail of the ritual. 


Hence the man with skill in the performance of sacrifice 
or in the wording of petitions came to be a person of 
importance. He was the spell-monger, the sooth-sayer 
(the mantra-kffra), the master of charms, the Brahman 
or ' prayer maker ' of the Aryans, perhaps the same as 
the flftmen of the Latins. The social value of the priest, 
because he could pray or sacrifice more acceptably than 
others naturally led the priest himself to exaggerate and 
emphasize his own office and so a professional priest- 
hood and a regular priestcraft came into existence. 

With the rise of this priesthood the performance of 
the greater sacrifices became their special duty, and 
though a Kshatriya like King Janaka, the r&j-rishi, 
might insist on the right to offer his own sacrifice, the 
priesthood gradually acquired the monopoly of cele- 
brating all such sacrifices, and added ceremony to 
ceremony till it became impossible to observe the ritual 
and the whole system collapsed. 

A hymn in the Atharva-veda (iii. 19) sets forth the 
power of the priest to secure the prosperity of those 
who are his friends and the destruction of his enemies, 
and is- an indication of the growing pretensions of the 
priests as a class. 

1. May this prayer of mine be successful ; may 
the vigour and strength of mine be complete, may 
the power be perfect, undecaying, and victorious of 
those of which I am the purohita. 

2. I fortify their kingdom, and augment their 
energy, valour and force. I break the arms of their 
enemies with this oblation. 

3. May all those who fight against our wise and 
prosperous (prince) sink downwards and be prostrated. 


With my prayer I destroy his enemies and raise 
up his friends. 

4. May those of whom I am the purohita be 
sharper than an axe, sharper than fire, sharper than 
Indra's thunderbolt. 

5. I strengthen their weapons ; I prosper their 
kingdom rich in heroes. May their power be undecay- 
ing and victorious. May all the gods foster their 

Atharva-veda, iii. 19. 

Max Miiller gives a long account of 
duties tllieiP 

tllieiP P r i nc *P a l orders of priests and their 

duties which may be summarized as 

The Adhvaryus were the priests who were intrusted 
vith the material performance of the sacrifice. They 
lad to measure the ground, to build the altar, to prepare 
he sacrificial vessels, to fetch wood and water, to light 
he fire, to bring the victim and slay it. They formed, 
is it would seem, the lowest class of priests, and their 
icquirements were more of a practical than an intellec- 
ual character. Some of the duties of the Adhvaryus, 
vere considered so degrading, that other persons besides 
he priests were frequently employed in them. The 
samitri, for instance, who had to slay the animal, was 
lot a priest, he need not even be a Brahman, and the 
ame remark applies to the Vaikartas,the butchers, and the 
iO-called Chamasadhvaryus. The number of hymns and 
nvocations which the Adhvaryus had to use at the 
iacrifices were smaller than that of the other priests. 
These, however, they had to learn by heart. But as the 
:hief difficulty consisted in the exact recitation of hymns* 
tnd in the close observance of all the euphonic rules, as 


taught in the Prati^akhyas, the Adhvaryus were allowed 
to mutter their hymns, so that no one at a distance could 
either hear or understand them. Only in cases where 
the Adhvaryu had to speak to other officiating priests, 
commanding them to perform certain duties, he was, of 
course, obliged to speak with a loud and distinct voice. 
All their verses and all the invocations which the Adhvar- 
yus had to use, were collected in the ancient liturgy 
of the Adhvaryus together with the rules of the sacrifice. 
In this mixed form they exist in the Taittirlya Samhita 
or Black Yajur-veda. Afterwards the hymns were 
collected by themselves, separated from the ceremonial 
rules, and this collection is what we called the white 
Yajur-veda-samhit&, or the Prayer Book of the Adh- 
varyus priests. 

Some parts of the sacrifice, according to ancient 
custom, had to be accompanied by songs, hence another 
class of priests arose whose particular office it was to 
act as the chorus. They took part in the most solemn 
sacrifices only. Though as yet we have no key as to 
the character of the music which the Udgatris performed, 
we can see from the numerous and elaborate rules, how- 
ever unintelligible, that their music was more than mere 
chanting. The words of their songs were collected 
in the order of the sacrifice, and this is what we possess 
under the name of Sama-veda-samhita, or the Prayer- 
Book of the Udgatri priests. 

A third class of priests, the Hotris, recited certain 
hymns during the sacrifice in praise of the gods to whom 
any particular act of the sacrifice was addressed. Their 
recitation was loud and distinct, and required the most 
accurate knowledge of the rules of euphony or $iksh&. 


The Hotjris, as a class, were the most highly educated 
order of priests. They were supposed to know both the 
proper pronunciation and the meaning of their hymns, 
the order and employment of which was taught in the 
Brahmanas of the Bahvrichas. But, while both the 
Adhvaryus and Udgatris were confessedly unable to 
perform their duties without the help of their Prayer 
Books, the Hotris were supposed to be so well versed 
in the ancient sacred poetry, as contained in the ten 
Mandalas of the Rig-veda, that no separate Prayer 
Book or Samhita was ever arranged for their special 

The Hotri learnt, from the Brahmaiia, or in later times, 
from the Sutra, what special duties he had to perform. 
He knew from these sources the beginnings or the names 
of the hymns which he had to recite it every part of the 

The most ancient name for a priest by profession was 
Purohita, which only means one placed before. The ori- 
ginal occupation of the Purohita may simply have been 
to perform the usual sacrifices; but, ,with the ambitious 
policy of the Brahmans, it soon became a stepping-stone 
to political power. Thus we read in the Aitariya- 
Brahmana : 

Breath does not leave him before time ; he lives to 
an old age ; he goes to his full time, and does not die 
again, who has a Brahman as guardian of his land, as 
Purohita. He conquers power by power; obtains 
strength by strength ; the people obey him, peaceful 
and of one mind. l 

1 Abridged from MAX MULLER, Ancient Sanskrit Literature; 
pp. 471-487. 


Briefly put the three definite orders among the 
Brahmans, their Vedas and their names are : 

1. hotri means 'sacrificer ' from hu = pour on the fire. The 
hotri recites richas, ' praises': hence comes the Rig-veda. 

2. udgdtri means ' singer ' from udgai = sing. The udagatri 
raises sfimtfni 1 chants': hence comes the Sdma-veda. 

3. adhvaryu means 'working priest' from adhvara = a 
ritual act. The adhvaryu mutters yajunsi, ' sacrificial formulae ' : 
hence comes the Yajur-veda. 

It is not worth while to attempt to draw up a list of 
all the implements and utensils that were used in sacri- 
fices, after sacrifice had been developed 
. ,, .. r ^.u T> -u TV/T The sacrificial 

m the times of the Brahmanas. Many instruments 

pots, three kinds of ladles for pouring 
clarified butter on the fire, a smaller ladle or spoon for con- 
veying the butter from the pot to larger ladles, caldrons, 
beakers, the sacred kusa grass, on which the gods might 
sit and on which soma- juice was poured out are all 
mentioned in the Atharva-veda (xviii. 4). The yupa 
was the post to which the animal victim was tied. There 
were, of course, knives and choppers for cutting up the 
victim. The sphya was a wooden instrument shaped 
something like a sword for stirring the boiling rice, or 
perhaps for trimming the mound used as an altar. One 
of the priests had to hold it up high so long as the chief 
ceremonies lasted to keep off evil spirits l . 

There was also the press-stone for crushing the soma- 
plant. All of these were multiplied or modified as the 
ritual of the great sacrifices was developed. 

The first of these great sacrifices, originally a very 
simple act, was the soma sacrifice. Though a book of 

1 MURDOCH, Account of Vedas, p, 54. 


the Rig-veda and the whole of the Sama-veda were 
eventually devoted to the chants to be raised during 
the performance of the soma sacrifices 

-__ . 

Th6 som& tucri- 

flee no clear idea of the ceremonies can be 

gained from those books. It is from 
the Brahmanas of the Sama-veda that the needful infor- 
mation has to be obtained, and when it has been 
obtained it is not of very clear significance. In fact 
there is little of interest in these soma sacrifices. They 
were celebrated in a variety of ways. It may be imagined 
that originally the juice of the plant was merely crushed 
from its stems and collected, and then part was poured 
out for the gods and part was drunk by the worshippers. 
But this simplicity soon departed. 

One soma sacrifice, the Agnishtoma, celebrated in 
spring-time was in praise of Agni ; it required the minis- 
trations of sixteen priests. It occupied only one day, 
during which the soma-juice was pressed from the plant, 
the essential part of the ceremony, three times ; but there 
were detailed preparatory rites, including the initiation 
(dlksha) of the man who made the sacrifice and his 

There is one classification of the soma sacrifices 
according to the length of time which they lasted which 
shows that they extended to as many as twelve days in 
one case. This last sacrifice could only be performed 
by Brahmans, which is an indication that it belongs to 
the later Vedic times ; a large number of Brahmans must 
join to perform it, and they might lengthen out the rites 
to a hundred days, or to some years. The objects for 
which the sacrifice was offered were offspring, cattle, 
wealth, fame, theological learning, skill to perform cere* 


monies, and heaven. For gaining heaven a soma-sacri- 
fice was indispensable, for the sacred soma-juice was 
thought to unite the sacrificer with the celestial king 
Soma and so to make the worshipper an associate of the 
gods and an inhabitant of the celestial world. 1 

Animal sacrifices were always of a more or less special 
character among the Aryans. According to the Atharva- 
veda (xii. 2. 48) a draft-ox was burned A|||ma| gac| , ifjce8 
with the corpse of a dead man presum- 
ably for the dead to ride in the next world. The goat 
and the horse were sacrificed together at the horse-sacri- 
fice. 8 At one sacrifice, probably a very unusual sacrifice, 
performed once in five years, called the Pancha sar&diya 
sava, seventeen young cows were offered. Bullocks, 
buffaloes and deer were also sacrificed, sometimes in large 
numbers. The White Yajur-veda mentions 327 domestic 
animals, including oxen, cows, milch-cows that were to be 
offered along with the horse at the great horse sacrifice, 
and the TaittirTya Brahmana mentions 180 domestic 
animals, such as cows, bulls, goats that are to be sacri- 
ficed. 3 But though it is quite clear that animals were 
offered it is not easy to see how, even great kings could 
command such holocausts. In Vedic times they were 
impossible in the form in which they are described in 
the White Yajur-veda and in the Brahmanas. Unfor- 
tunately it is from these later sacrificial manuals that 
accounts of these sacrifices have to be obtained. 
Reference has been made in the first section of this 

1 HAUG, Aitareya Brahmana, Introduction, quoted in Mac- 
lonald's Brahmanas, 17, 132. 
*Rig-veda, i. 162. 2, 9 and i. 163, 12, 
8 Taittinya Brahmana, ii. 651. 



book to Dr. Rajendralala Mitra's careful papers on the 
whole subject of meat-eating, animal sacrifices and 
human sacrifices collected and published in 1881 in two 
volumes under the title The Indo-Aryans. 1 His inves- 
tigations and those of other scholars on the subject seem 
to establish the following facts. 

The Agvalayana Sutra mentions several sacrifices of 
which the slaughter of cattle formed a part. One of 
them, in the Gfihya Sutra, is worthy of special notice. As 
it is called Sulagava, or ' spitted cow/ 

In the Brahmanas there are many rules laid down for 
many kinds of Cow-sacrifices. Going back to the 
ancient Taittirlya Brahmaija, of the Black Yajur-veda, 
* that grand store-house of Vedic rituals which affords 
the fullest insight into the religious life of ancient India/ 
as Dr< Rajendralala Mitra calls it, many ceremonies are 
named, which required the meat of cattle for their per- 
formance ; and considerable stress is laid on the kind and 
character of the cattle which should be slaughtered for 
the supply of meat for the gratification of particular 
divinities. 8 The following summary presents the main 
facts : 

Thus, among the Kdmya Istis, or minor sacrifices 
with special prayers, we have to sacrifice a dwarf ox 
to Vishnu; a drooping-horned bull with a blaze on 
the forehead to Indra as the author of sacrifices or as 
the destroyer of Vjritra ; a thick-legged cow (Prteni- 
saktha) to the same as, the regent of wind; a white- 
blazed drooping-horned bull to the same, as the 
destroyer of enemies, or as the wielder of the thunder- 
bolt; a barren cow to Vishnu and Varuna; a bull that has 

1 Published by Newman, Calcutta, in 1881. 
* Indo- Aryans, see vol. i, pp% 361-5, 374-6. 


been already sanctified at a marriage or other cere- 
mony to Indra and Agni ; a polled ox to Brahma- 
iiaspati ; a black cow to Pushan ; the cow that has 
brought forth only once to Vayu ; a brown ox to 
Indra, the invigorator of our faculties ; a speckled or 
piebald ox to Savita ; a cow having two colours to 
Mitra and Varu^a ; a red cow to Rudra ; a white 
barren cow to Surya ; a white ox to Mitra ; a cow 
fit to conceive to Bhaga, etc. In a rule in connexion 
with the Agvamedha, the same authority lays down 
that sacrificial animals should differ in caste, colour, 
age, etc., according to the gods for whom they are 
designed. 1 

In the larger ceremonies, such as the Rajasuya, 
the Vajapeya, and the ASvamedha, the slaughter of 
cattle was an invariable accompaniment. Of the first 
two the Go-sava . formed an integral part, and it en- 
sured to the performer independent dominion in this 
world, and perfect freedom in the next to saunter 
about as he liked, even as the cow roams untram- 
nelled in the forest. 8 

In its account of the Agvamedha, the Tarttirlya 
Brahmana recommends 180 domestic animals to be 
sacrificed, including horses, bulls, cows, goats, deer, 
nilgaos. 3 A number of wild animals were, likewise, 
on such occasions, brought to the sacrificial posts, but 
they were invariably let loose after consecration. The 
authority, however, does not distinctly say how many 
heads of cattle were required for the purpose; the 
number, perhaps, varied according to the exigencies of 
the guests, among whom crowned heads with their 
unwieldy retinues formed so prominent a part, and 
whose requirements were regulated by a royal stand- 
ard. But even the strictly ceremonial offering was not, 
evidently, completed with a solitary cow or two. Out 

1 Taittirlya Brahmana, iii. p. 658. * Taittirlya Aranyaka, 
3 Taittirlya Brahmarta % ii 651, 


of the f ten times eighteen ' heads required, a great 
many must have been bulls, cows and heifers of 
diverse colours and ages. 

The Brahmaria notices another ceremony in which 
a large number of cattle were immolated for the grati- 
fication of the Maruts and the enjoyment of their wor- 
shippers. This was called the Paiicha sar&dlya sava> 
or the ' quinquennium of autumnal sacrifices.' It evi- 
dently held the same position in ancient India which 
Durga Puja does in the calendar of modern Hindus. 
It used to be celebrated, as its name implies, for five 
years successively, the period of the ceremony being 
limited to five days on each occasion, beginning with 
the new moon which would be in conjunction with the 
ViSakha constellation. This happened in September 
or October. The most important elements of the 
ceremony were seventeen five-year old, humpless, 
dwarf bulls, and as many dwarf heifers under three 
years. The former were duly consecrated, and then 
liberated, and the latter, after proper invocations and 
ceremonial observances, immolated ; three on each day, 
the remaining two being added to the sacrifice on the 
last day, to celebrate the conclusion of the ceremony 
for the year. The Tan$ya Brahmana of the Sama- 
veda notices this ceremony, but it recommends cattle 
of a different colour for each successive year. Accord- 
ing to it the seventh or eighth of the waxing moon in 
ASvinl for the first year, and the 6th of Krittika for the 
following years were the more appropriate for it. The 
origin of the sacrifice, according to a Vedic legend, is 
due to Prajapati. Once on a time he wished to be 
rich in wealth and dependents; f he perceived the Pail- 
cha sar&dlya ; he seized it, and performed a sacrifice 
with it, and thereby became great in wealth and 
dependents. ' f Whoever wishes to be great,' adds the 
Veda, ' let him worship through the Pancha sar&dlya. 
Thereby, verily, he will be great.' 1 Elsewhere it is 

1 Taittirtya Brah mana, ii. 2. 


said that 'this ceremony ensures thoroughly independ- 
ent dominion, and that a sage of the name of Kan- 
dama attained it through this means. 

1 That the animal slaughtered was intended for food, 
says Dr. R. Mitra, ' is evident from the directions given 
in the Advalayana Sutra to eat of the remains of the 
offering ; but to remove all doubt on the subject I shall 
quote here a passage from the Taittiriya Brahmana in 
which the mode of cutting up the victim after immola* 
tion is described in detail ; it is scarcely to be supposed 
that the animal would be so divided if there was no 
necessity for distribution.' 

A few extracts from this passage will be sufficient 
here : 

Separate its hide so that it may remain entire. Cut 
open its breast so as to make it appear like an eagle 
(with spread wings). Separate the forearms; divide 
the arms into spokes ; separate successively in order 
the twenty-six ribs. Dig a trench for burying the 
excrements. Throw away the blood to the rakshasas. 
O slayer of cattle, O Adhrigu, accomplish your task ; 
accomplish it according to rules. 

The Gopatha Brahmana of the Atharva-veda gives in 
detail the names of the different individuals who are to 
receive shares of the meat for the parts they take in the 
ceremony. The following are a few of them : 

The Prastata is to receive the two jaws along with 
the tongue; the Pratiharta, the neck and the hump; 
the Udgata, the eagle-like wings; the Nesta, the 
right arm ; the Sadasya, the left arm ; the householder 
who ordains the sacrifice the two right feet ; his wife, 
the two left feet, etc. 

Diverse imprecations are hurled against those who 


venture to depart from this order of distribution. The 
shares differed but all were allowed plentiful libations 
of soma juice. 

J It is impossible to think that such an elaborate ritual 
was ever observed in more ancient Vedic times. But, 
on the other hand, it is obvious that sacrifices of cows 
must have been offered in those more ancient days for 
they would not have been carried on in a later age 
without the sanction of earlier usage and it may fairly 
be concluded that these animal sacrifices were simple 
sacrificial feasts in which the god and his worshipper 
shared together the flesh of the sacred animal were part 
of the original worship of the earliest Aryans. 

The Avamedha or horse-sacrifice was one of the 

most imposing of the great sacrifices (mah&kratu). Two 

hymns in the Rig-veda show that it was 


sacrifice performed from the very earliest times 

(Rig-veda, i. 162 and 163). It is fully 

described in the White Yajur-veda and in the Satapatha 

and Taittirlya Brahmaiias, and was regarded as the most 


important and efficacious of animal sacrifices. It was 
a sacrifice that in later times could only be offered by a 
king of undisputed authority, for the sacrificial hors^ 
was allowed to wander for a whole year at will, followed 
i>y the army of the king performing the rite. If any 
chief dared to interfere with the horse his territory 
was seized ; if he did not, he acknowledged himself to 
be a feudatory of the king who had sent out the 
horse. In either case the horse showed the way to 
conquest and if it survived the year it was clear 
proof of its owner's undisputed power. In earlier times 
it may have been a sacrifice offered before a chief set 


out on an invading expedition into the territory of rival 
chieftains, but in the Rig-veda the object of the Ava* 
medha is like other religious rites, the acquiring of wealth 
and posterity : 

May this good steed bring us all-sustaining riches, 
wealth in good kine, good horses, manly offspring. 

Freedom from sin may Aditi vouchsafe us : the steed 
with our oblations gain us lordship. 

Rig-veda, i. 162. 22. 

It was in the later ritual that it was generally intended 
to secure victory and prosperity to the king who per- 
formed it, and many kings are said to have celebrated 
it for this purpose. 

Yudhistira sacrificed a horse after the great war with 
the Kurus, to expiate all the sin of the war, and the 
Agvamedha Parva of the Mahabharata describes it. It 
was also performed to secure an heir to a king, and the 
Balakanda of the Ramayana tells how Dasaratha the 
father of Rama celebrated it before the birth of Rama. 
Practically our knowledge of the ritual is derived from 
these later accounts. 

According to them the sacrifice began in the spring or 
summer. Then the animal after selection roamed with 
its body-guard of a hundred princes, a hundred nobles 
and a hundred servitors, while thanksgiving and the 
recital of the Vedas occupied those who remained in the 
king's city. When" the year had expired the sacrifice 
was completed. It took three days, during which soma 
juice was pressed, the horse was bathed, and other 
animal sacrifices were performed. On the third day the 
horse was bound to the sacrificial post covered with 
a cloth and killed or suffocated. If the king wanted an 


heir the chief queen had to remain under the cover with 
the dead horse all night. 

Thus in the Ramayana the horse-sacrifice is employed 
by the childless Dasaratha as the means of obtaining 
sons. In the Balakanda it is said that his principal 
queen, Kausalya, 'with three strokes slew that horse, 
experiencing great glee. And with the view of reaping 
merit, Kausalya, with an undisturbed heart, passed one 
night with that horse. ' According to the Ramayana, 
she acquired so much merit in this way that she bore 
Rama. There is no trace of this obscenity in the Rig- 
veda, and it may be cited as a conspicuous instance 
of the degradation of worship that was possible in the 
time of the Brahma^as. 1 

When the queen had left the horse it was cut up and 
roasted. On the third day the king who had celebrated 
the sacrifice bathed, and gave gifts to the officiants. 

That the horse was killed and its flesh cooked is 
evident from the following extract from the Rig-veda : 

What from thy body which with fire is roasted, 
when thou art set upon the spit, distilleth, 

Let not that lie on earth or grass neglected, but to 
the longing gods let all be offered. 

They who, observing that the horse is ready, call 
out and say, ' The smell is good ' remove it, 

And, craving meat, await the distribution, may 
their approving help promote our labour. 

The trial-fork of the flesh-cooking caldron, the 
vessels out of which the broth is sprinkled, 

The warming-pots, the covers of the dishes, hooks, 
carving-boards, all these attend the charger. 

The four-and-thirty ribs of the swift charger, kin to 
the gods, the slayer's hatchet pierces. 

1 WILSON, Rig-veda, ii. 13. 


Cut ye with skill, so that the parts be flawless, and 
piece by piece declaring them dissect them. 

Rig-veda, i. 162. 11-13, 18. 

This hymn would be nonsense if the horse was not 
really killed and cooked. That the horse was to be 
actually immolated and that the body was cut up into 
fragments is clear ; that these fragments were dressed, 
partly boiled, and partly roasted, is also undisputable ; 
and although the expressions may be differently under- 
stood, yet there is little reason to doubt that part of the 
flesh was eaten by the assistants, part presented as a 
burnt offering to the gods. 1 

The horse, however, was comforted in the same 
hymn by the thought that it was going to the gods : 

Let not thy dear soul burn thee as thou comest, let 
not the hatchet linger in thy body. 

Let not a greedy clumsy immolator, missing the 
joints, mangle thy limbs unduly. 

No, here thou diest not, thou art not injured ; by 
easy paths unto the gods thou goest. 

The bays, the splendid deer are now thy fellows ; 
and to the ass's pole is yoked the charger. 

Rig-veda t i, 62. 20, 21. 

The belief in the efficacy of human sacrifice is very 
ancient and widespread. Arabs, Canaanites, Moabites, 
Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Teutons, Britons and 
scores of other races and tribes have all practised it in 
various forms. In all cases there was the idea that such 
a terrible offering must be peculiarly efficacious. Such 
sacrifices in India have always been associated with the 

1 WILSON, Introduction to Translation of Rig-veda, vol. ii., 
pp. xiii-xiv. 


indigenous deities worshipped by the Dravidian tribes. 
It was to such gods that human lives were offered when 
a newly excavated tank failed to produce sufficient 
water, or when a temple wall cracked, or the foundation 
of a bridge gave way. The fierce and cruel goddesses 
of later Hinduism, Chamunda, Chandl, Durga, Kali, 
Mari and their sisters were really exalted Dravidian god- 
desses, and are declared to be appeased by human lives. 

In modern times the offering to these goddesses is 
usually the blood of sheep, goats or fowls, but occasion- 
ally a devoted worshipper will offer a few drops of blood. 

c The offering of one's own blood ' says Dr. Rajendra- 
lala Mitra, 'to the goddess is a mediaeval and modern 

m . ^^..^ rite. It is made by women, and there 
wood ofraFings 

is scarcely a respectable house in all 
Bengal, the mistress of which has not, at one time 
or other, shed her blood under the notion of satisfying 
the goddess by the operation. Whenever her husband 
or a son is dangerously ill, a vow is made that, on 
the recovery of the patient, the goddess would be 
regaled with human blood, and in the first Durga 
Puja following, or at the temple at Kalighat, or at 
some other sacred fane, the lady performs certain 
ceremonies, and then bares her breast in the presence of 
the goddess, and with a nail-cutter (naruna) draws a few 
drops of blood from between her busts, and offers them 
to the divinity.' 

In the same way women pierce 'their cheeks with 
silver skewers in honour of the definitely Dravidian god- 
dess Kurumayi at Woriur near Triqhinopoly. 

Such offerings are vestiges of the times when human 
lives were once offered to these Dravidian goddesses. 


These were called narabali, the sacrifice of men. The 
Vedic human sacrifice has the more honourable title 
puru$amedha ' the sacrifice of humanity ', or ' of the 
hero ' ; but the two cannot easily be distinguished. 

Of human sacrifices (narabali) the Kalika Puraija 
composed in honour of Kali or Durga Devi says : ' By 
a human sacrifice attended by the forms laid down, 
Devi remains gratified for a thousand years, and by 
a sacrifice of three men one hundred thousand years.' 
The human sacrifice is described as atibali, the highest 
of all sacrifices. 

In India to this day the belief exists and strange 
stories of such sacrifices find ready acceptance. A case 

now and then comes into court which u ... 

. Human sacrifice 

shows that from time to time human 
beings actually are slain in sacrifice. 

In 1900 in the Bombay Presidency the High Court 
upheld the conviction of three men for the murder of a 
child named Dagdi as a sacrifice to persuade a deity to 
reveal to the murderers the place where treasure was hid- 
den. In Bellary in 1901 a Kuruba, a man belonging to 
one of the most ancient Dravidian tribes in South India 
was convicted of the murder of his own son in order to 
obtain treasure that the god Kona Irappa had promised 
to him on that condition. In the Bombay Presidency 
a charge of the murder of a girl-child to propiti- 
ate the malice of certain water-deities called ' mavlis ' 
was proved and upheld on appeal against a Hindu woman 
named Bhagu, wife of Laxman, in November, 1910 and 
against Umi, wife of Jayaji in March, 1911. In 1912 the 
quiet town of Bezwada in the Madras Presidency was 
thrown into commotion because the Governor of Madras 


was believed to have performed a human sacrifice at the 
foot of a hill in the neighbourhood in order to gain posses- 
sion of hidden treasure. The origin of the rumour was 
that on his visit to Bezwada the Governor attended a 
meeting of Freemasons, held of course with closed doors. 
The extreme merit of such a sacrifice is evident 
in many a vernacular legend. One such was given by 
Mr. H. R. Scott, M.A., in a paper on The Gujerati 
Poets l in which he relates a legend which appears in 
a poem by a Gujerati poet named Akho. 

Akho was no Brahman or Vaniyo, but a working gold* 
smith. He began by being an enthusiastic Vaishnava 
of the Vallabhacharya sect, but he was disillusioned, and 
in bitterness of soul he compared his Guru the head of 
the sect to an old bullock yoked in a cart he could not 
draw, a useless expense to his owner ; nay, he compares 
him to a stone in the embrace of a drowning man, which 
sinks where it is expected to save. He defies current 
views about defilement, and says it is not external 
bathing but internal purity that is needed. 

This story as recited by Akho is about Sagalsha Sheth, 
a very devout man who had an equally devout wife, 
Sandhyavati, and the pair had one loving and much 
beloved son Selaiya. It was their practice never to eat 
a meal unless they could share it with some poor Sadhu 
or saint. 

Once in the rainy season, there came a tremendous 
downpour, and it lasted for eight days and nights, 

Gujerati legend Curing which it was not possible for 
any Sadhu to be found, and the pair 

1 Part of this was printed in the Indian Social Reformer, 
Bombay, of January 28, 1912. 


fasted during this whole time. When the rain ceased, 
Sagalsha sent out a messenger to hunt up a Sadhu, 
and he found one in a temple on the out-skirts of 
the town ; but the Sadhu was a loathsome, evil-smelling 
leper, covered with open sores. This did not deter 
SagalshS, who ran to the place and implored the Sadhu 
to come and be his guest. The Sadhu, who was the 
god himself come in this guise to put his servant to the 
test, raised various objections, but Sagalsha saw through 
the disguise and recognized his lord, and met them 
all. The leper would not walk, nor would he 
sit in the carriage which Sagalsha Sheth offered to 
bring for him ; he insisted on being placed in the holy 
cage in which the idol of the temple was kept, and on 
being carried by the Sheth's wife. This was done with 
much gladness, the devout pair regarding themselves as 
highly honoured, though the leper's sores soiled the 
woman's clothing, and the townsfolk turned out to 
laugh at the devout pair. But when the Sadhu had 
been brought to the house their troubles were not ended. 
He demanded meat, and the pair were rigid vege- 
tarians! Yet in that too they submitted, and were 
about to send to the butcher's when the leper said 
he needed human flesh, and to provide that there 
was only one way. But as the poet says : * It is 
when faced by some real difficulty that the true man 
reveals his character,' So Sagalsha went off to fetch 
his boy from school. He explained the matter as 
they walked along, and Selaiya, * the bright-witted boy ' 
as he is called, agreed to be sacrificed. One must die 
sometime, he says, and a death under these circumstances, 
and at the hand of a saint, is something to covet. 


Besides, look at what others have done, and he goes over a 
list of those who had gladly died or suffered for the sake of 
piety, such as Kama, Harischandra. So the boy is sacri- 
ficed} willingly submitting himself to the knife. His 
mother is ordered by the inhuman Sadhu to put on her 
jewels, and dress in her brightest clothes, and show no 
sign of grief, or of reluctance to let her son be sacrificed. 

And so the story goes on, till the climax is reached, 
and the god reveals himself, and praises the devotion of 
his servants and restores their son to life. Then he asks 
Sagalsha to choose a boon ' Ask what you will and 
I shall give it unto thee.' And the answer of the pious 
man is quite the finest thing in the poem, He asks 
nothing for himself, but says ' I only ask, my Master, 
that you may never again put any one to such a test.' 

There can be no doubt, then, that in the Hinduism 
that has been influenced by Dravidian beliefs, and that 
as far back as Puranic times, the practice of human 
sacrifice was observed, though probably only on rare 

The practice can further be traced back through the 
Brahmaijas to Vedic times, when human sacrifices were 
offered to Vedic deities to secure religious merit. 

The whole subject of human sacrifice in Vedic times 
has been carefully investigated by Dr. Rajendralala 
Mitra in a paper originally published in the Journal of 
the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Some Indian scholars 
had maintained that human sacrifices were not authorized 
in the Vedas, but were introduced in later times, but Dr. 
Rajendralala Mitra says : * As a Hindu writing on the 
actions of my forefathers remote as they arQ it would 
have been a source of great satisfaction to me if I could 


adopt this conclusion as true ; but I regret I cannot do so 
consistently with my allegiance to the cause of history.' 

His paper on the subject occupies eighty-four pages in 
his Indo- Aryans, with many quotations both in Sanskrit 
and English. The following is a brief summary. First 
there is a description of the prevalence of human sacri- 
fices in all parts of the world, both in ancient and modern 
times, and Dr. Mitra finds that benign and humane as 
was the spirit of the ancient Hindu religion, it was not 
opposed to animal sacrifice ; on the contrary, most of 
the principal rites required the immolation of large 
numbers of various kinds of beasts and birds. One of 
the rites enjoined required the performer to walk delib- 
erately into the depth of the ocean to drown himself to 
death. This was called Mah&prasth&na, and is for- 
bidden in the present age. Another, an expiatory one, 
required the sinner to burn himself to death, on a blazing 
pyre. This has not yet been forbidden except by 
British law. The gentlest of beings, the simple-minded 
women of Bengal, for a long time used to throw 
their first-born babes to the sacred river Ganges at. 
Sagar Island, and this was preceded by a religious 
ceremony, though it was not authorized by any of the 
ancient rituals. If the spirit of the Hindu religion has 
tolerated, countenanced or promoted such acts, it is not 
unreasonable or inconsistent, to suppose that it should 
have, in primitive times, recognized the slaughter of 
human beings as calculated to appease, gratify, and 
secure the grace of the gods. 

The clear evidence recorded in the Vedas is next 
examined. The earliest reference to human sacrifice 
occurs in the first book of the Rig-veda. It contains 


seven hymns supposed to have been recited by one 
6unahepa when he was bound to a stake preparatory to 
being immolated. The story is given in the Aitareya 
Brahmana of the Rig-veda. 

King Harischandra had made a vow to. sacrifice his 

first-born to Varuija, if that deity would bless him 

with children. A child "was born, named 

T Sunfh8epa f Rohita ' and Varuria claimed it ; but the 
father evaded fulfilling his promise 
under various pretexts until Rohita, grown up to man's 
estate, ran away from home into the forest and wandered 
there for six years, while Varuiia afflicted the father with 
dropsy. At last Rohita met a starving Brahman named 
Ajigarta who consented to sell to him his son Sunahepa 
for a hundred cows, to be offered as a substitute for 
himself. Varuna accepted the substitute saying * a 
Brahman is worth more than a Kshatriya.' When 
Sunahgepa had been prepared, they found nobody to 
bind him to the sacrificial post. Then Ajigarta said, 
' Give me another hundred cows, and I will bind him.' 
They gave him another hundred cows, and he bound him. 
When unahgepa had been prepared and bound, when 
hymns had been sung, and he had been led round the 
fire, they found nobody to kill him. Next Ajigarta said, 
1 Give me another hundred cows and I will kill him.' 
They gave him another hundred cows, and he came 
whetting the knife to slay his son. Then 6unahgepa 
is said to have recited hymns praising Agni, Indra, 
Mitra, Varuna, and other gods. 

One may be quoted. 1 Its concluding verses deserve 
special attention* 

1 Rig-veda, i. 25. 


1. Whatever law of thine, O god, O Varuija, as 
we are men, 

Day after day we violate. 

2. Give us not as a prey to death, to be destroyed 
by thee in wrath, 

To thy fierce anger when displeased. 

3. To gain thy mercy, Varu$a, with hymns we 
bind thy heart, as binds 

The charioteer his tethered horse. 

4. They flee from me dispirited, bent only on 
obtaining wealth, 

As to their nests the birds of air. 

5. When shall we bring, to be appeased, the hero, 
lord of warrior might, 

Him, the far-seeing Varuna ? 

6. This, this with joy, they both accept in common : 
never do they fail 

The ever- faithful worshipper. 

7. He knows the path of birds that fly through 
heaven, and, sovran of the sea, 

He knows the ships that are thereon. 

8. True to his holy law, he knows the twelve 
moons with their progeny l : 

He knows the moon of later birth. 

9. He knows the pathway of the wind, the spread* 
ing, high, and mighty wind : 

He knows the gods who dwell above, 

10. Varuna, true to holy law, sits down among 
his people ; he, 

Most wise, sits there to govern all. 

11. From thence perceiving he beholds all wondrous 
things, both what hath been, 

And what hereafter will be done. 

12. May that Aditya, very wise, make fair paths 
For us all our days : 

May he prolong our lives for us. 

1 The days. 


13. Varupa, wearing golden mail, hath clad hi m 
a shining robe : 

His spies are seated round about. 

14. The god whom enemies threaten not, nor those 
who tyrannize o'er men, 

Nor those whose minds are bent on wrong. 

15. He who gives glory to mankind, not glory that 
is incomplete, 

To our own bodies giving it. 

16. Yearning for the wide-seeing one, my thoughts 
move onward unto him. 

As kine unto their pastures move. 

17. Once more together let us speak, because my 
meath l is brought : priest-like, 

Thou eatest what is dear to thee. 
18* Now saw I him whom all may see, I saw his 
car above the earth : 

He hath accepted these my songs. 
19. Varuna, hear this call of mine: be gracious 
unto us this day : 

Longing for help I cried to thee. 
20* Thou, O wise god, art lord of all, thou art 
the king of earth and heaven : 

Hear, as thou goest on thy way. 
21. Release us from the upper bond, untie the 
bond between and loose, 

The bonds below, that I may live. 

Varuija, pleased with the hymns of unahepa, set 
him free and the youth, disgusted with his father, for- 
sook him, and became the adopted son of Vigvamitra, 
his maternal uncle. 

Like Dr. Rajendralala Mitra, Prof. Max Mailer 
believed that the story in the Aitareya Brahmajpa showed 
that, ' at that early time, the Brahmans were familiar 

1 Usually mead, a sweet liquor. 


with the idea of human sacrifices, and that men were 
purchased for that purpose/ 

According to the Brahmanic ritual the Puruamedha 9 
as a regular part of Vedic worship, was celebrated for 
the atta&ment of supremacy over all created beings. 
Its performance was limited to Brahmans and Kshat- 
riyas. It could be commenced only on the tenth of the 
waxing moon in the month of Chaitra (March-April), 
and altogether required forty days for its performance, 
though only five out of the forty days were specially 
called the days of the Purusamedha. Eleven sacrificial 
posts were required for it, and to each of them was tied 
an animal fit for Agni and Soma, the human victims 
being placed between the posts. 

The full description of this rite occurs in the Vaja- 
saneyi Samhita of the White Yajurveda. The passage 
in it bearing on the subject is sup- p uruga w ec jha 
posed to describe the different kinds of 
human victims appropriate to particular gods and 
goddesses. The section in which it occurs opens with 
three verses which, the commentator says, were intended 
to serve as mantras for offerings of human victims. 
Then follows a series of 179 names of gods in the dative 
case, each followed by the name of one or more persons 
in the objective case ; thus : ' to Brahma, a Brahmaija, 
to the Maruts, a Vateya,' etc. The copula verb is 
omitted and the reader may supply whatever verb 
he chooses. These names occur also in the Tait- 
tirlya Brahmaiia of the Black Yajurveda, with only 
a few slight variations, but here in some cases the 
verb filabhate follows. This is derived from the root 
labh, ' to take, lay hold of ' and the commentators have 


generally accepted the term to mean ' should be 
slaughtered.' 1 

Dr. Rajendralala Mitra quotes the 179 names and 
gives explanatory extracts from the Brahma^as and the 
laws of Apastambha. Probably the number* of men 
actually sacrificed was few, in spite of the large num- 
bers mentioned in the Brahmanas, but whether they 
were few or not, these passages show that the ritual 
provided that men should be sacrificed. 

The Satapatha Brahmana says men are sacrificed 
and contains a verse which is remarkable for the man- 
ner in which it speaks of the human victim. It runs, 

Let a fire offering be made with the head of a man. 
The offering is the rite itself (Yajna) ; therefore does 
it make a man part of the sacrificial animals ; and 
hence it is that among animals man is included in 

Reviewing the whole of the evidence Dr. Rajendralala 
Mitra gives the following summary of the conclusions 
which may be fairly drawn from the facts cited 
above : 

1. That looking to the history of human civilization 
and the rituals of the Hindus, there is nothing to justify 
the belief that in ancient times the Hindus were inca- 
pable of sacrificing human beings to their gods. 

2. That the unahgepa hymns of the Rig-veda most 
probably refer o a human sacrifice. 

3. That the Aitareya Brahmaija refers to an actual 
and not a typical human sacrifice. 

I The long passages from the Taittiriya and atapatha Brahma- 
nas are given in full and discussed in Dr. K. S. Macdonald's The 
Brahmanas of the Vedas, pp. 49 ff. 


4. That the Purusamedha originally required the 
actual sacrifice of men. 

5. That the atapatha Brahmana sanctions human 
sacrifice in some cases, though it makes the Purua- 
medha emblematic. 

6. That the Taittiriya Brahmana enjoins the sacrifice 
of a man at the Horse sacrifice. 

7. That the Puranas recognize human sacrifices to 
Chandika or Durga, but prohibit the Purusamedha rite. 

8. That the Tantras enjoin human sacrifices to Chan- 
dika, and require that when human victims are not avail- 
able, the effigy of a human being should be sacrificed to 

To this must be added the evidence for the practice 
in purely Dravidian sacrifices which have been conti* 
nued to modern times. 

The presumption is thus strong that the real human 
sacrifice belonged to the time of the early Aryans and 
that as time went on it was replaced by an emblematic 
offering, even as the Vaishnavas have, within the last 
five or six hundred years, replaced the sacrifice of goats 
and buffaloes to Chandika by that of pumpkins and 
sugar-cane at Durga Puja. Human sacrifice has dis- 
appeared from modern Hindu ceremonial but traces 
of the practice still remain, and the sacrifice is even 
now occasionally accomplished among the Dravidian 

It is beyond the scope of this hand-book to trace the 
history, so far as it can be discerned, of the process by 
which the Aryans passed through the 
period in which, as the Brahma$as and 8 acrif?cia? worship 
these accounts of the later elaborate 


sacrificial ceremonial show, the scrupulous perform- 
ance of religious ritual was the chief feature of their 
religious life. Sacrifices of such magnitude, ritual so 
complex cannot have been usual at any time, and -a 
priesthood which insisted on such impossible ceremonial* 
ism compelled the minds of thoughtful men to revolt 
and to seek a* purer and higher method of coming into 
touch with the Unseen. 

The rise of this class of thinkers indicated immense 
changes in the habits of life of those who had wandered 
into India with their cattle, with arms in their hands, wor- 
shipping the sky and the fire and the rain. The Aryans 
had now become the settled inhabitants of India. There 
were many who possessed wealth, many who gave them- 
selves to a life of retirement and thought, and that 
ideal had laid hold on the imagination of the times. 
Every forest had its hermit. The result was that the 
teaching of the sages received the obedience that the 
priesthood had claimed. The way of salvation taught in 
the Upanishads, or by Mahavira the leader of the Jains, 
or by Gautama the Buddha, put an end to the sacrificial 
religion which we see in its exaggerated form in the 
Brahmanas. The Purusamcdha, the ASvamedha and 
all the multitude of animal sacrifices and the eating 
of flesh among the higher classes ceased. The oblations 
of soma were no longer offered, and the drinking of 
soma became unknown. The old gods, Dyaus and 
Varuna and Agni passed away, and were succeeded in the 
newer Hinduism that arose through and after the Bud- 
dhist revolt by Vishnu and Krishna and Rama and Siva* 

The Code of Manu which was drawn up perhaps 
about one hundred or two hundred years after the 


time of Christ, that is about seven or eight hundred 
years after the time of the Brahmanas, says that the 
prescribed beasts and birds are to be slain by Brahmans 
for the sacrifice ; and also* for the support of dependents ; 
for Agastya did so formerly, and adds that there were, 
indeed, offerings of eatable beasts and birds in the 
ancient sacrifices and in the oblations of Brahmans and 
Kshatriyas. 1 

This reads as if the ancient system was becoming a 
thing of the past. In the same section Manu says : 

He who gives no creature willingly the pain of con- 
finement or death, but seeks the good of all, enjoys 
bliss without end. Flesh cannot be obtained without 
injury to animals, and the slaughter of animals 
obstructs the way to heaven ; therefore one should 
avoid flesh. ... He who during a hundred years 
annually performs the horse sacrifice, and he who 
entirely abstains from flesh, enjoy for their virtue 
an equal reward. ... In eating flesh, in drinking 
intoxicating liquors, and in carnal intercourse there 
is no sin, for such enjoyments are natural ; but 
abstention from them produces great reward. 

Mfinava Dharma-sastra, v. 46, 48, 53, 56. 
This is different view to that of the early Aryans. 
It is illustrated in another passage : 

Om is the supreme Brahma ; suppressions of breath 
the highest austerity ; but there is nothing more 
exalted than the Gayatri ; truth is better than silence. 
All the Vedic rites, oblational (and) sacrificial, pass 
away ; but this imperishable syllable Om is to be 
known to be Brahma and also Prajapati. 

The sacrifice of muttering (this word, etc.), is better 
by tenfold than the regular sacrifice ; if inaudible, it 

*M#nava Dharma-gastra, v. 22, 23. 


is a hundredfold '(better); and a thousandfold, if 

Mdnava Dharma-$tistra t ii. 83-85. 

And quite a new and spiritualized view of sacrifice 
is set forth in Manu's definition of the five great sacri- 
fices that the householder shall perform daily. 

These are as follows : 

Teaching and studying the Vedas is the Veda 

Offering cakes and water is the sacrifice to the 
fathers (pitjris). 

An offering to fire is the sacrifice to the gods. 

An offering of food is the sacrifice to the goblins 

Hospitality to guests is the sacrifice to men. 

M&nava Dharma-sastra, iii. 70. 

Though the idea of sacrifices of animals and human 
beings has persisted in the beliefs of the castes whose 
religion was much influenced by or derived from the 
religion of the Dravidians and other primitive races in 
India, it may be safely asserted that the more truly Aryan 
tribes ceased to perform such sacrifices after the time 
of the Buddha. 


THE man who believes that there is a god or super- 
human being of any sort tries to speak to that deity in 
some fashion. And the prayers of men are always 
worth careful consideration. Sometimes they are the 
repetition of conventional formulae, or mantras, believed 
to be grateful to the Divine. 

Thus the mantra of the Bhagavata worshippers of 
Krishna is : 

Om namo Bhagavate Vfisudev&ya, ' Om ! reverence 

to the adorable Vasudeva (Krishna)'. 

Of the early Buddhist : 

Om namo Bhagavate, ' Om ! reverence to the 
Adorable '. 

Of the later Buddhist : 

Namo Amitfibh&yai ' Reverence to Amitabha '. 

Of the Saiva Siddhantin : 

Siv&ya nama, l Reverence to Siva '. 
Of the followers of Ramanuja : 

Om Rftmtlya namah, c Om ! reverence to Rama '. 
Of the Vallabhacharis : 

Sri Kfishnah iaranam mama^ c Holy Krishna is 
my refuge '. 

But prayer is much more than adoration of this 
mechanical kind. It is the utterance of the heart's desire 
to god. In it.may4>e seen what a man seeks for 


himself, what he wishes towards others, what he hopes 
and fears, whether he opens his eyes with gladness and 
what makes him despair. The prayers of Robert Louis 
Stevenson at Vailima show us his own brave, bright soul. 
In the book of Psalms we learn to know the life-history, 
the penitence, the sense of moral responsibility and the 
longing after righteousness that mark the pilgrimage of 
the Hebrew towards God. The prayers in the Vedas 
became merely formal repetitions in after times. Per- 
haps they had become so even in the days when they 
were collected into the Rig-veda. But they had once 
been the real utterances of the needs of living men in a 
strange world. They are memorials, to be examined 
reverently, of the religious emotions of men at the 
dawning time in Asia. Much more than the scanty 
records of their gods, and of the sacrifices that they 
offered to their gods, do these prayers show us what 
manner of men the Aryans were. 

These prayers also manifest what the worshipper 
conceived the character of his god to be. If he did not 
thinfc his god to be capable of fierce wrath he would not 
ask him to hurl his thunderbolts on his enemies. If he 
did not believe that his god cared to save his worshippers 
from drought, no prayers would go up to the heavens for 
rain. In these prayers then we can gather at least the 
outlines of the disposition and attributes of the Aryan's 
gods. These outlines cannot be clear. The confusion 
of the attributes of one god with those of another, or 
rather the promiscuous attributing of all qualities to 
almost every god named prevents us from being able to 
state definitely how any particular god appeared to hi& 
worshippers, and it seems scarcely likely that the early 


Aryan did discern very carefully between the characters 
of the various gods to whom he prayed. Speaking 
generally he seems to have had thoughts about the gods, 
the Devas, as a class, and to have addressed this or that 
particular god according to preference rather than for 
reasons that can be defined. 

The prayers in the Vedas naturally contain much 
adoration. The god addressed is praised for his great 
deeds, his valour, his beauty, his know- Adoration 

Agni is thus addressed : 

Agni I hold as herald, the munificent, the gracious, 

son of strength, who knoweth all that live, as holy 

singer, knowing all. 

i. 127. 1. 

To Agni I present a newer mightier hymn, I bring 
my words and song unto the son of strength, 

Who, offspring of the waters, bearing precious 
things, sits on the earth, in season, dear invoking 


i. 143. l. 

Indra is thus addressed : 

To Indra Dyaus the Asura hath bowed him down, 
to Indra mighty earth with wide extending tract, to 
win the light, with wide spread tracts. 

All gods of one accord have set Indra in front, 


i. 131. 1. 

Thou, god without a second. 

i. 32. 12. 

Indra is praised for his capacity to drink soma : 
Then Indra at a single draught drank the contents 

of thirty pails, 

Pails that were filled with soma juice. 

vii. 66. 4. 


The Maruts are thus addressed : 

Come hither Maruts, on your lightning-laden cars, 
sounding with sweet songs, armed with lances, winged 
with steeds. 

i. 88. 1. 

The gods are sometimes praised for their beauty, 
One of the epithets most commonly applied to Indra, 
says Muir, is sus'ipra, or siprin, in the interpretation of 
which Sayana wavers between 'the god with hand- 
some cheeks v or ' with handsome nose. 9 Agni is called 

lord of the lovely look. 

ii. 1. 8. 

The broad-tressed Simvali is thus described: 

With lovely fingers, lovely arms, prolific Mother 

of many sons 

Present the sacred gifts to her, to Simvali queen of 


ii. 32. 7. 

The student of the Vedic hymns will notice first of all 
that the majority of the petitions contained in them are 

Petitions not ^ or s P iritua * blessings, but for the 
wealth and the welfare that must have 
seemed most desirable to men settling in a new land, 
living in new conditions of climate, and face to face with 
troublesome and dangerous enemies. They ask frankly 
for cows, for horses, for sons, for long life in the land, 
for protection from the assaults of their enemies, for 
victory in their expeditions against those enemies, and 
for relief in times of drought. It is quite true to say 
that the things that they could see were what they 
desired. 'The things above', the invisible and the 
spiritual are not the great objects of those early singers. 
A brief classified selection of some of the supplica- 


tions actually uttered by them, by men four thousand 
years ago, will help to prove this. 

It is only natural that there should be many prayers 
to the gods for help in the long struggle with the races 

which were in possession of the land . r . . 
i f /-TM for n6i p 

before the Aryans entered it. The in- 
vasion did not occur all at once, nor was the conquest 
completed in any brief series of campaigns. For cent- 
uries band after band ofj Aryans made its way into new 
territory, and where they went they had to encounter 
their darker-skinned foes, and so, all the time that they 
were fighting their way into India from the Indus to the 
Jumna or the Ganges, petitions go up to the gods for the 
destruction of their enemies, and for the destruction of 
the demons who are the gods of their enemies. 

O Agni, radiant one, to whom the holy oil is poured, 
burn up our enemies whom fiends protect. 

i. 12. 5. 

Destroy this ass, O Indra, who in tones discordant 
brays to thee. Slay each reviler, and destroy him 
who in secret injures us. 

i. 29. 5 and 7. 

Consume for ever all demons and sorcerers, consume 
thou each devouring fiend. 

i. 36. 20. 

Cast thy dart, knowing thunderer, at the Dasyu. 

i. 103. 3. 

Crunch up on every side the dogs who bark at us : 
slay ye our foes, O ASvins. 

i. 182. 4. 

Drive from us with thy tongue, O god, the man 
who doeth evil deeds, the mortal who would strike 

us dead. 

vi, 16, 32. 


Annihilate the fools, slay them and burn them up ; 
Chase them away from us, pierce the voracious ones. 

Against the foe of prayer, devourer of raw flesh, the 
vile fiend, fierce of eye, keep ye perpetual hate. 

The fiend, O Agni, who designs to injure the essence 
of our food, kine, steeds, of bodies, 

May he, the adversary, thief, and robber, sink to 
destruction, both himself and offspring. 

May he be swept away, himself and children. May 
all the three earths press him down beneath them. 

May his fair glory, O ye gods, be blighted, who in 
the day or night would fain destroy us. 

vii. 104. 1. 2. 10. 11. 

Whatever mortal with the power of demons fain 
would injure us, may he, impetuous, suffer harm by 

his own deeds. 

viii. 18. 13. 

With fervent heat exterminate the demons ; destroy 
the fiends with burning flame, O Agni. 

Destroy with fire the foolish gods' adorers; blaze 

and destroy the insatiable monsters. 

x. 87. 14. 

Besides prayers for deliverance from enemies there 
are many petitions for preservation 
from dangers. Among them are sup- 
plications for safety from wolves and 

In luckless game I call on you for succour: strength- 
en us also on the field of battle. 
With undiminished blessings, O ye ASvins, for 

evermore both night and day protect us. 

i. 112. 24. 

Not to the fanged that bites, not to the toothless: 
jive not us up, thou conqueror to the spoiler. 

i. 189. 5. 


If any ^ wolf or robber fain would harm us, there- 
from O Varuija, give thou us protection. 

ii. 28. 10. 

Savitar, god, send far away all sorrows and calami- 

And send us only what is good. 

v. 82. 5. 

May wealthy Indra as our good protector, lord of 
all treasures, favour us with succour, 

Baffle our foes, and give us rest and safety. 

vi. 47. 12. 

Give us not up to any evil creature, as spoil to wolf 
or she wolf, O ye holy. 

For ye are they who guide aright our bodies, ye are 
the rulers of our speech and vigour. 

vi. 51. 6. 

May they Earth, Aditi, Indra, Bhaga, Pushan 
increase our lord, increase the fivefold people. 

Giving good help, good refuge, goodly guidance, be 
they our good deliverers, good protectors. 

vi. 51. 11. 

May the foe's threatening arrow pass us by. 

vii. 34. 13. 

In thy kind grace and favour may we still be 
strong : expose us not to foe's attack. 
With manifold assistance guard and succour us, 

and bring us to felicity. 

viii. 3. 2. 

Do ye, O bounteous gods, protect our dwelling 
place by day and night : 
With you for our defenders may we go unharmed. 

viii. 25. 11. 

Prayers for prosperity, for welfare in the affairs 
the homestead and the field, for wealth of cattle and 


in spoils won from the enemy occur in almost every 
hymn. The constant references to cattle, as wealth 

... . .. desired or as spoil to be won from the 

iii rOF woiiftra . 

enemy, show that in those early days 

the Aryans in India were largely a pastoral people, but 
horses and gold are also among the possessions that they 

Grant us high fame, O Indra; grant riches; be- 
stowing thousands, those fair fruits of earth borne 
home in carts. 

i. 9. 8. 

O soma drinker, ever true, utterly hopeless though 
we be, 

Do thou, O Indra, give us hope of beauteous 
horses and of kine, 

In thousands, O most wealthy one. 

i. 29. l. 

Will ye then, O Maruts, grant us riches, durable, 
rich in men, defying onslaught. 

A hundred, thousand- fold, ever increasing ? 

i. 64. 15. 

May thy rich worshippers win food, O Agni, and 
princes gain long life who bring oblation. 
May we get booty from our foe in battle. 

i. 73. 5. 

May I not live, O Varuija, to witness my wealthy 
liberal, dear friend's destitution. 

King, may I never lack well-ordered riches. 

ii. 29. 7. 

May Indra evermore be our protector, and unim- 
perilled may we win the booty. 

i. 102. ll. 

Auspicious Sita (the furrow personified) come thou 
near : we venerate and worship thee. 


That thou may bless and prosper us and bring us> 
fruits abundantly. 

May Indra press the furrow down. May Pushan> 
guide its course aright. 

May she (the sky) rich in milk, be drained for us 
through each succeeding year. 

Happily let the shares turn up the ploughland,, 
happily go the ploughers with the oxen. 

iv. 57. 6-8. 

O Agni, bring hither ample riches to our nobles- 
wherewith we may enjoy ourselves. 

vii. 1. 24. 

Shall the immortal sit aloof inactive ? O wondrous. 
Indra, bring us wondrous riches. 

vii. 20. 7. 

May the great lords of truth protect and aid us :. 
blest to us be our horses and our cattle. 

vii. 35. 12* 

O Indu, Soma, send us now great opulence from 
every side. 

ix. 40. 3. 

Pour out on us abundant food when thou art 
prqssed, O Indu, wealth 

In kine and gold and steeds and strength. 

ix. 41. 4. 

Rain, essential to all pastoral and agricultural pros- 
perity in India, is the subject of many a petition.. 

Indra who slays the demon Vrittra who . _ 

r .1 ' jj j IV - For ram 

prevents rain ts frequently addressed 

for his assistance. 

Unclose, our manly hero, thou for ever bounteous,, 
yonder cloud, 

For us, thou irresistible. 

i. 7. $. 



I crave thy powers, I crave thy mighty friend- 
ship; full many a team goes to the Vrittra-slayer. 
Great is the laud ; we seek the Prince's favour. Be 
thou, O Maghavan, our guard and keeper. 

iii. 31. 14. 

The rain-god, Parjanya, is thus addressed : 

Lift up the mighty vessel, pour down water and let 
the liberated streams rush forward. 

Saturate both the earth and the heaven with fatness, 
and for the cows let there be drink abundant. 

v. 83. 8. 

Health and long life are among of the gifts that 

v For health a ^ races * men have P rize( ^ There 
are many prayers for these favours in 

the Vedas : 

O Indra, son of Kugika, drink our libation with 

Prolong our life anew, and cause the seer to win a 
thousand gifts. 

i. 10. ll. 

The rich, the healer of disease (Brahma^aspati), 
who giveth wealth, increaseth store, 
The prompt may he be with us still. 

i. 18. 2. 

Surya, remove my heart's disease, take from me 
this my yellow hue. 

To parrots and to starlings let us give away my 

i. 50. 11. 

Aided by these, O Agni, may we conquer steeds 
with steeds, men with men, heroes with heroes, 

Lords of the wealth transmitted by our fathers : and 
may our princes live a hundred winters. 

i. 73. 9. 


Thou over all, O Varuiia, art sovran, be they gods, 
immortal, or be they mortals. 

Grant unto us to see a hundred autumns : ours be 
the happy lives of our forefathers. 

ii. 27. 10. 

Long let our life, O Agni, be extended. 

iv. 12. 6. 

Accept, O Maruts, graciously this hymn of mine 
that we may live a hundred winters through its power. 

v. 54. 15. 

Be gracious, Indra, let my days be lengthened: 
sharpen my thought as 'twere a blade of iron. 

vi. 47. 10. 

Come willingly to our doors that gladly welcome 
thee, and heal all sickness, Rudra, in our families. 

May thy bright arrow which, shot down by thee 
from heaven, flieth upon the earth, pass us unin- 
jured by. 

Thou, very gracious god, hast thousand medicines : 
inflict no evil on our sons or progeny. 

vii. 46. 2-3. 

Guard to old age, thy friend, O friend, eternal : 
O Agni, as immortal guard us mortals. 

x. 87. 21. 

To invaders and colonists a goodly family of sons 
was the best of body-guards, and men who believed that 
it was by their pious offerings that the . . 
spirits of their forefathers, the pitris, 
prospered in the heavenly realms would most earnestly 
desire that they might themselves have sons to render to 
them the same services. There are, therefore, many 
petitions for children, especially for sons, in the hymns 
of the Rig-veda. 


May we foster well, during a hundred winters, son 
and progeny. 

i. 64. 14. 

May the wealth-giver (Agni) grant us conquering: 
riches ; may the wealth-giver grant us wealth with 

May the wealth-giver grant us food with offspring,, 
and length of days may the wealth-giver send us. 

i. 96. 8. 

Help us to wealth exceeding good and glorious, 
abundant, rich in children and their progeny. 

ii. 2. 12. 

To us be born a son and spreading offspring, Agni, 
be this thy gracious will to us-watd. 

iii. 6 11. 

Brihaspati, may we be lords of riches, with noble 
progeny and store of heroes. 

iv. 50. 6 

May he, deft-handed Tvastar, give us hero sons. 

vii. 34. 20* 

So far these prayers are distinctly materialistic. 
The outlook of the worshipper is limited to the things of 

this life, and to a welfare relating to this 
vii. For forgive- of 

vent devotion that rings through the 
verses of the poets of the later sects whose religion from 
beginning to end is characterized by devotion (bhaktf)* 
In this sense the hymns of the Rig-veda do not reach 
the heart as do the poems of Tukaram the Mahratta* 
or Paddanattu Piljaiyar or Markka Vasaka the Tamils* 
This is the impression generally left after the careful 
reading of Vedic hymns, and to this extent the Rig-veda 


is a disappointment. There is little in it that speaks of 
the quest for purity. It is seldom, very seldom that the 
singers express penitence that is not merely a fear of 
punishment or longing after other than cattle and 
horses and long life. The prayer of the Hebrew 
psalmist * Create in me a clean heart, O God ; and 
renew a right spirit within me ' appeals to every true 
seeker after God, but even in the tnost beautiful of 
the hymns to Varuna or the Adityas there is scarcely 
more than an echo of it. To the early Aryan sin is 
error in conduct or worship which makes his god angry 
with his worshipper and therefore unwilling to protect or 
prosper him. The idea of sin as that which ought not 
to be in life or character, |apart altogether from any 
question of prosperity, or as disobedience to the holy will 
of a holy god, has scarcely dawned on the Aryan's mind 
as seen in the hymns. If he wishes to be good, it is 
because he believes that he will then be prosperous* 
If he prays that his sins may be forgiven, it is because 
he fears the punishment of misdoing. He may call 
his gods holy, but the hymns about his gods show that 
he believed them to be capable of deeds contrary to the 
most elementary righteousness and purity. But though 
few there are some earnest prayers for spiritual health. 

With bending down, oblations, sacrifices, O Varuna, 
we deprecate thine anger : 

Wise immortal, thou king of wide dominion, loosen 
the bonds of sin by us committed. 

Loosen the bonds, O Varuna, that hold me, loosen 
the bonds above, between, and under. 

So in thy holy law may we made sinless belong to 
Aditi, O thou Aditya. 

i. 24. 14-15. 


Bring hither nourishment for us, ye Agvins twain ; 
sprinkle us with your whip that drops with honey-dew. 

Prolong our days, wipe out our trespasses ; destroy 
our foes, be our companions and our friends. 

i, 157, 4. 

Aditi, Mitra, Varuna, forgive us however we have 
erred and sinned against you. 

May I obtain the broad light free from peril : O 
Indra, let not during darkness seize us. 

ii. 27. 14. 

Most youthful god (Agni) whatever sin, through 
folly, here in the world of men we have committed, 

Before great Aditi make thou us sinless: remit 
entirely, Agni, our offences. 

Even in the presence of great sin, O Agni, free us 
from prison of the gods or mortals. 

Never may we who are thy friends be injured : 
grant health and wealth unto our seed and offspring. 

iv. 12. 4-5. 

If we have sinned against the man who loves us, 
have ever wronged a brother, friend, or comrade, 

The neighbour ever with us, or a stranger, O 
Varuna, remove from us this trespass. 

If we, as gamesters cheat at play, have cheated, 
done wrong unwittingly or sinned of purpose, 

Cast all these sins away like loosened fetters, and, 
Varuna, let us be thine own beloved. 

v. 85. 7-8. 

Let us not suffer for the sins of others, nor do the 
deed which ye, O Vasus, punish. 

Ye, universal gods, are all-controllers : may he do 
harm unto himself who hates me. 

vi. 51. 7, 

I call, as such, the sons of bounteous Rudra : will 
not the Maruts turn again to us- ward ? 


What secret sin or open stirs their anger, that we 
implore the swift ones to forgive us. 

vii. 58. 5. 

We crave the heavenly grace of gods to guard us 
so may Brihaspati, O friends, exalt us 

That he the bounteous god may find us sinless,, 
who giveth from a distance like a father. 

vii. 97. 2. 

Wise deities, who have dominion o'er the world, ye 
thinkers over all that moves not and that moves, 

Save us from uncommitted and committed sin,, 
preserve us from all sin to-day for happiness. 

x. 63. 8, 

Best worth notice of these prayers is a psalm to 
Varuna the eighty-sixth hymn in the seventh book of the 
Rig-veda. It ends with a petition for prosperity, but 
in spite of this it is one of the most beautiful, and perhaps 
the most spiritually minded utterance in the Rig-veda. 

1. The tribes of men have wisdom through his 
greatness who stayed even spacious heaven and earth 
asunder ; 

Who urged the high and mighty sky to motion, and 
stars of old, and spread the earth before him. 

2. With mine own heart I commune on the 
question how Varuna and I may be united. 

What gift of mine will he accept unangered ? 
When may I calmly look and find him gracious ? 

3. Fain to know this my sin I question others : I 
seek the wise, O Varuna, and ask them. 

This one same answer even the sages gave me,, 
Surely this Varuna is angry with thee. 

4. What, Varuna, hath been my chief transgres- 
sion, that thou shouldst slay the friend who sings thy 
praises ? 

Tell me, unconquerable lord, and quickly sinless 
will I approach thee with mine homage. 


5. Loose us from sins committed by our fathers, 
from those wherein we have ourselves offended* 

O king, loose, like a thief who feeds the cattle, as 
from the cord a calf, set free Vasisfa. 

6. Not our own will betrayed us, but seduction-, 
thoughtlessness, Varuna ! wine, dice, or anger. 

The old is near to lead astray the younger ; even 
slumber leadeth men to evil-doing. 

7. Slavelike may I do service to the bounteous, 
serve, free from sin, the god inclined to anger. 

This gentle lord gives wisdom to the simple ; the 
wiser god leads on the wise to riches. 

8. O lord, O Varuna, may this laudation come 
close to thee, and lie within thy spirit. 

May it be well with us in rest and labour. Preserve 
us evermore, ye gods, with blessings. 

vii. 86. 

Prayers for life in the world beyond are not un- 
usual. They show that the Aryan sought a heaven of 

viii For future life ha PP iness anc * immortality with the gods 
that corresponding with Svarga, the 
heaven of delights, of later Hinduism. 

The givers of rich meeds are made immortal ; the 
givers of rich fees prolong their life time. 

i. 125. 6. 

May I attain to that his well loved mansion where 
men devoted to the gods are happy. 

i. 154. 5. 

We pray for rain, your boon (Mitra- Varuna) and 

v. 63. 2. 

We have drunk soma and became immortal ; we 
have attained the light, the gods discovered. 

viii. 48. 3. 

High up in heaven abide the guerdon-givers ; they 
who give steeds dwell with the Sun for ever. 


They who give gold are blest with life eternal : they 
who give robes protect their lives, O Soma. 

x. 107. 2. 

In hymn 113 of Book IX of the Rig-veda, addressed 
to Soma Pavamana, the joys of heaven are more 
fervently implored than in other parts of the Rig-veda 
and Soma is the god from whom the gift of future happi- 
ness is expected. 

O Pavamana, place me in that deathless, un- 
decaying world. 

Wherein the light of heaven is set, and everlasting 
lustre shines. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake. 

Make me immortal in that realm where dwells the 
king, Vivasvan's son (i.e. Yama). 

Where is the secret shrine of heaven, where are 
those waters young and fresh. Flow, Indu, flow for 
Indra's sake. 

Make me immortal in that realm where they move 
even as they list. 

"In the third sphere of inmost heaven where lucid 
worlds are full of light. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's 

Make me immortal in that realm of eager wish and 
strong desire. 

The region of the golden Sun, where food and full 
delight are found. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake. 

Make me immortal in that land where happiness and 
transports, where 

Joys and felicities combine, and longing wishes are 
fulfilled. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake. 

ix. 113. 7-11. 


THE student of the Rig-veda cannot remind himself 
too often of the composite character of the collection of 

hymns that it contains. Colebrooke's 

Composite nature ^ ^ j uru^ 

of Rig.veda essay On the Vedas was published 

in 1805, more than a century ago, 
and Sanskrit scholars are still debating whether these 
hymns are the simple and direct utterances of the 
hopes and fears, the prayers and the fancies of the 
faith which the Aryan brought with him when he 
first entered India, or whether they give us his thought 
when he had reached a comparatively advanced stage 
of civilization after the sages of his race had long 
and carefully considered the world around them. The 
truth may lie between the two views. There are 
verses and hymns that most certainly belong to the 
religious childhood, the wonder-time, of the Aryan race. 
There are as certainly others that have been com- 
posed or revised so that they magnify the power of the 
priest, and emphasize the duty of the worshipper to 
support elaborate ceremonial and to heap liberal gifts 
on clamouring ministrants. These mark a late and often 
a corrupt period of the evolution of the Aryan's faith. 
A few hymns, such as the Purusa sukta, Hymn 90 
of Book X of the Rig-veda, are obviously the produc- 
tions of a singer who inherited many questionings and 


speculations. If only it were possible to arrange the 
hymns in the order in which they were composed they 
would thus give materials for an outline of the growth 
of the religion of the Aryans from the days when they 
were still one race with the ancestors of the Persians 
down to the time when the Epic Age of their history 
in India was beginning. Because this cannot be dono 
the reader is constantly harrassed by the impression 
that he is missing much of their significance. 

If a guess may be hazarded, the hymns of the Rig- 
veda cover a period of seven hundred years, years in 
which many Aryan tribes journeyed far, conquering and 
colonizing the great stretch of country from the passes 
of Afghanistan to the Ganges. Those were years in 
which clans or families grew into nations, in which the 
Aryan faith was in close but not always hostile relation 
to the religion of the Dasyus, and in which it could 
not but be that there would be many marriages 
which would bring the beliefs of the Dasyus into the 
homesteads where Dyaus and Varuna and Agni were 

It was a long period of expeditions, warfare, adventurer 
then of adaptation to new conditions of climate, soil r 
seasons, and crops ; while the civilization of the nomads 
beyond Afghanistan changed in different degrees in 
different districts to the settled national life described ia 
the Mahabharata. 

There are reflections of all these varying conditions in 
the hymns, but owing to the confusion of more and less 
ancient hymns in the Rig-veda it is mere audacity, to- 
attempt to separate and declare dogmatically precisely 
what acts of worship and what expressions of belief 


made up the religion of Vedic times. It must be 
sufficient to indicate the chief elements of the religion 
in general terms, always with the understanding that the 
Aryans were many, that the centuries were long, and 
that what is true of one tribe or place or generation may 
not be true of all. 

Another word of caution must be entered. The hymns 
that have been referred to, and the hymns that will 
be found in the section of this book 
containin S readings from the Vedas 
have, of course, been selected because 
they are full of meaning, such as the hymns to Varuiia ; 
-or of beauty, such as the hymns to Ushas ; or of quaint 
interest, such as that to the frogs. These hymns are 
typical of others equally valuable. But, as Max Miiller 
did not hesitate to say, it must not be forgotten that 
though the historical interest of the Veda can hardly be 
exaggerated, large numbers of the Vedic hymns are 
-childish in the extreme, tedious or common-place. 
Many of them convey no clear meaning, or are full 
of vain repetitions. It is not the rule but the excep- 
tion to find in this great collection of literature any cry 
*of the soul, any glimpse of a spiritual instinct, any grasp 
of high revelation. 

It is a curious fact, too, that in so great a collection of 
hymns there is so little attempt to weave the scattered 
religious instincts and aspirations of 

tlie time ^ to a consistent whole ; nor 
any evident effort after ordered religi- 
-ous conceptions of the universe, such as resulted, in the 
case of the Greeks kinsmen of the Aryans, let us 
remember in an idealized grouping of the gods on 


Olympus, and in a love for beauty in things moral which 
led them far in the search for that form of religion which 
was truer and more perfect than the polytheism of 
Olympus. In spite of the many statements in the hymns 
of the Aryans sages as to the relations- of the gods to 
each other, there is nothing but inconsistency in the 
genealogies of those gods, and a complete lack of agree- 
ment between the various assertions that are made about 
them. It is impossible to construct a theology out of 
the materials found in the Vedas. 

It is almost equally true to say that though the Aryan 
had high esteem for many of the virtues, these Vedic 
poets and thinkers do not present to their hearers any 
complete moral ideal. This is all the more remarkable 
for the conditions were as favourable to the formation 
of high ethical and mystical ideals in those days as 
they ever have been in India. 

(i) Socially the Aryans when they entered India were 
free from any caste system. Even the priests were not 
as yet a separate class. The barriers 
that forbade any but the priests to be 
learned had not been set up, and so far as can be seen- 
now there was nothing to hinder prophet or law-giver 
from delivering such message as he had. 

(ii) The simplicity and naturalness of the times is also- 
evident from the part that women had in worship and 

sacrifice. The hymns, especially the Wmtimt IIMil - -AMl , 

women respected* 

marriage hymns and the funeral hymns, 

show not only that priesthood had not yet usurped the 
right to preside at religious ceremonies, but that woman 
helped in the worship, had ceased to be a child before 
she was married, received due honour in the house of 


her husband, and might even compose hymns that would 
be included in the Vedas. The position of the women of 
any race may be regarded as an index of the social 
advancement of that race, and by this criterion it is 
-evident that the Aryans were not hampered by an un- 
healthy family system. 

(iii) The mental outlook was clearer than it became 

during the period when the Brahmanas were being com- 

posed. The Vedic worshipper does not 

believed in ^ eny ^ s own P ersona ^ t y or the personal- 
ity of whatever gods he is worshipping. 
He speaks like a man who believes in the existence of 
his own ego and in the reality of the personality of the 
divine being whom he worships. The monism of the 
Upanishads which reduces the Supreme to a ' mere abyss 
of being f without qualities, which looks on all existence 
as illusion (mfiytt) and explains it as a merely phenomenal 
round of births (sams&ra) determined by the inexorable 
necessity of consuming the fruits of deeds done in previous 
lives (karma) may find passages in the Rig-veda to 
which it can trace some of its doctrines. But, speaking 
generally, the Vedas show men who believe in the actual 
existence of living gods as much as they believe in the 
.actuality of their own personal experience. 

(iv) Nor was there anything in the forms of worship 
practised by the early Aryans to prevent, if the term may 

M ^ a .be allowed, the possibility of the attain- 
Naturalness of 

Aryans ment of high spiritual vision. Their 

praise of the gods in its simpler forms is 
the spontaneous utterance of any man 'witlTopened eyes' 
to the marvels of the world around him. Their prayers 
for safety and health and long life and family welfare 


are the expressions of what could not but be the wishes 
of men in the early stages of national life. The offerings 
of soma-juice and grain, and the occasional solemn sacri- 
ficial feast of the worshipper with his god on some sacred 
animal are indications that they shared with many other 
primitive races the belief that these were the right and 
proper ways in which they might approach the gods. 
There is nothing in these things that would debar 
progress to a moral and spiritual ideal as high as that 
attained from much the same beginnings by the Hebrews. 

If a summary of the position of those Vedic thinkers is 
attempted, the student will see that three very significant 
lines of thought find expression in the Vedas, all of them 
in hymns probably of the same periods. There is the 
belief in the righteousness of Varuna, the belief in 
the power of ceremonies, and the dawning acceptance of 

The study of the first of these gives ground for think- 
ing that for a long time the Aryans were on the way to 
reach a high moral ideal. 

Varuna was, as has already been pointed out, one of 
the very old gods of the Aryans, and it is Varuna who 

towers above all the rest in moral 

, TdL . ., , , . . I. Reverence for 

grandeur. It is possible to trace in Varuna 

the conception of this deity a movement 
of the minds of those ancient worshippers towards a 
theism of a wonderfully lofty character. . . . There 
is much in the prayers and hymns to Varuna that brings 
back to one who knows it the lofty language of Hebrew 
seers and Psalmists. . . . He is the great lord of the 
laws of nature, the upholder and controller of their order 
and their movement. . . . He is especially a moral 


sovereign, and in his presence more than in that of any 
other Vedic god a sense of guilt awakens in his servants' 
hearts. His eyes behold and see the righteous and the 
wicked. Varu^a's ordinances are fixed and sure, so that 
even the immortal gods cannot oppose them. He places 
his fetters upon the sinner ; his is the power to bind and 
the power also to release, and he forgives sins even unto 
the second generation. . . . Perhaps the most sig- 
nificant fact of all in regard to this Vedic deity is the 
connexion of the doctrine of rita or the moral order with 
his name and authority/ l 

This last point is worthy of special notice for rita is 
the highest conception of c the whole duty of man ' to be 
found in the Veda. It is the divine method and law, 
which should be paramount in the order of the universe, 
in the worship of the gods, and in the actions of men. 
It corresponds to the ' righteousness f of the Hebrews. 

Two elements are essential in all religion that is to 
raise men. There must first be a mystic relation be- 

M sticism and tween the worshi PP er and his god, which 
Ethics s ^ a ^ ena ble *h e worshipper to feel that 

he can communicate with and be in- 
spired by his god. That mysticism is present in the 
hymns to Varuija. ' With mine own heart I commune 
on the question how Varu^a and I may be united* 
confesses the singer. 8 Not less important for the moral 
growth of a man's soul is the positive conviction of the 
righteousness of his god and of the need for the 
worshipper to practise the same righteousness. Along 

J Dr. N. MACNICOL, on the Theism of the Rig-veda in the 
Indian Interpreter, April, 1909. 
*Rig-veda, vii. 86. 2. 


with mystical devotion there must go clear ethical per- 
ception. This is present in the hymns to Varupa as 
far as they refer to fita. If the hymns to Varuija were 
the only hymns that remained to us from Vedic times 
we should be justified in believing that the Aryans had 
almost reached the full belief in a supreme god, just and 
holy, whom they could and must serve with holiness 
and righteousness all their days. 

But just as this belief begins to find expression Varuija 
seems to fade away. No hymn is addressed to him in 
the last book of the Rig-veda. 

The effort after righteousness ceases to be apparent if 
it continued to exist. Indra, a god far inferior in moral 
qualities becomes for the time chief of 
the Vedic gods, but supremacy is claimed Varuna 
for so many other gods that the mind of 
the thoughtful was impelled towards the pantheism or 
monism that at last has its most uncompromising ex* 
pression in the non-ethical, non-moral speculations of the 

There is a very remarkable hymn in the Rig-veda 1 in 
which this religious change or crisis is reflected in the 
words of an observant seer. In its verses Indra calls 
on Agni to awake from darkness. Agni comes telling 
Indra that for his sake he has forsaken Varuija. ' I bid 

farewell to the great god, the Father, I leave 

the Father for my choice is Indra.' And the seer adds 
* Away pass Agni, Varuna and Soma. Kingship alter* 
nates : this (supremacy of Indra) . I come to favour.' 

That seer had at least grasped the fact, whether he 


1 Rig-veda t x. 124. Quoted in full in the Readings from the Veda. 


understood the full significance of the situation or not. 
Later generations were not attracted by the severe per- 
sonality and the moral uprightness of Varu$a and did 
not return to him ; and Varuija remains in later Hindu 
writings a dim god of seas and storms and tides. 

Yet it would be a mistake to say that the other trends 
of thought triumphed over what was represented by the 
few hymns to Varuna, just as it would be a mistake to 
say that the monism of the Upanishads and of the Vedanta 
triumphed over the more ancient beliefs of the Aryans. 
The supreme vision of holiness was simply not attained. 
* It is difficult to discern how far the worship of the 
holy Varuna was general among the Vedic Aryans, and 
why it declined; but there can be no doubt as to the 
religious attitude of the ordinary worshipper. He re- 
quires attention because of the gift that he offers. 
* Dehi me dadami te, Give thou to me, I give to thee ' 
is the formula. The gods receive strength from the 
offerings of the worshipper. 

As rivers swell the ocean, so, hero, our prayers in- 
crease thy might. 

viii. 87. 8. 

In return the gods ought to render to the worshipper 
what he wants. One sage argues the matter with Agni 
without any reserve : 

Son of strength, Agni, if thou were the mortal, 
bright as Mitra, worshipped with our gifts, 

And I were the immortal god, 

I would not give thee up, Vasu, to calumny or 
sinfulness, O bounteous one. 

My worshipper should feel no hunger or distress 
nor, O Agni, should he live in sin. 

Rig-veda, viii. 19. 25, 26. 


And not only ought the gods to answer prayer out 
of mercy and graciousness. The idea that a sacrifice 

rightly performed or a hymn duly sung 

. z. Efficiency of 

will compel the gods to do what the ceremonialism 
worshipper wishes becomes very pro- 
nounced. The magic power of the spell, especially the 
spell that will set the gods to work against the demons 
comes out again and again. In one of the later verses 
of the Rig-veda, the sage Vamadeva is represented as 
being able to hire out the services of Indra for ten 
cows to those who will return him : 

Who for ten milch-kine purchaseth from me this 
my Indra ? 

When he hath slain the Vritras let the buyer give 
him back to me. 

Rig-veda, iv, 24. 10. 

The commentator Sayana says that Vamadeva had by 
much praise got Indra into his possession or subjugation 
and so was able to propose this bargain. The notion does 
not seem to him anything extraordinary. It is the world- 
wide idea of the power of the spell. And so arises the 
belief, fatal to morality, that any worshipper who can 
secure the due performance of the offerings and incanta- 
tions elaborated into the ritual of the horse-sacrifice in 
the Yajur-veda, for example, is master of the universe 
of gods and men. 1 

' Thus ', says Macdonell, ' the statement occurs in the 
White Yajur-veda (circ 1000 B. c.) that the Brahman 
who possesses correct knowledge has the gods in his 
power. The Brahmanas go a step farther in saying that 
there are two kinds of gods, the Devas and the Brahmans, 

1 HAUG, Introduction to Aitareya Brahmana, pp. 73-4. 


the latter of whom are to be held as deities among men. 
In the Brahmaijas, too, the sacrifice is represented as 
all-powerful, controlling not only the gods, but the very 
processes of nature.' l 

Verily, there are two kinds of gods ; for, indeed, the 
gods are the gods ; and the Brahmans who have studied 
and teach sacred lore are the human gods. 

Satapatha Brahmana, II. ii. 2, 6. 

The charms and magic formulae in the Atharva-veda 
are expressions of the same paralysing belief, but it is 
found in the period before the Atharva-veda also. From 
the earliest days there had always been present in the 
mind of the Aryan a firm belief in demons ; and while 
the high aspirations of a few singers were fixed on 
Varuija, the many, especially as they came in contact 
with the Djravidians who seemed to worship the devils 
that the Aryans feared, were more and more inclined to 
forms of faith and worship which seemed to them to 
guarantee, protection and welfare that they longed for 
while conscious of the malice and power of the demon 
hosts. And this belief has persisted in the magic prac- 
tices of the Dravidians of Malabar and in the black 
magic of the Tantras. 

If modern processes of thought held good in the minds 
of the ancient Aryans there must always have been men 

9 Monistic ideas among them who did not ac <*pt the 

established conceptions of those around 

them. There are Protestants in the most conservative 

communities and from the Purusa sukta* it is certain 

that in later Vedic times there were those who had 

* Sanskrit* Literature, p, 73. * Rig-veda> x. 90. 


begun to give a monistic interpretation to the universe* 
The idea of the ancient human sacrifice supplies the almost 
repellent f ramework and the imagery of this hymn, and 
the attempts to link the older mythology to the more 
developed ideas is awkward, but the general conception 
of the One that is the All is definite in the poet's mind 
and is forcibly put. The full import can only be grasped 
if it is quoted in full. 

1. A thousand heads had Purusa, 1 a thousand eyes, 
a thousand feet. 

On every side pervading earth he fills a space 
ten fingers wide. 9 

2. This Purusa is all that yet hath been and all 
that is to be ; 

The lord of immortality which waxes greater 
still by food. 

3. So mighty is his greatness ; yea, greater than 
this is Purusa. 

All creatures are one-fourth of him, three-fourths 
eternal life in heaven. 

4. With three-fourths Purusa went up : one-fourth 
of him again was here. 

Thence he strode out to every side over what eats 
not and what eats. 

5. From him Viraj 3 was born ; again Purusa from 
Viraj was born. 

As soon as he was born he spread eastward and 
westward o'er the earth. 

1 Purusa represents Man personified and regarded as the soul and 
Original source of the universe, the personal and life-giving princi- 
ple in all animated things. Griffith. 

8 The region of the heart of man. 

8 Viraj is said to have come, in the form of the mundane egg 
from Adi-Purusa, the primeval Purusa. Or Viraj may be the 
female counterpart of Purusa. Griffith. 


6. When gods prepared the sacrifice with Purusa 
as their offering, 

Its oil was spring, the holy gift was autumn ; 
summer was the wood. 

7. They balmed (or, immolated) as victim on the 
grass Purusa born in earliest time. 

With him the deities and all Sadhyas 1 and 
Rishis sacrificed. 

8. From that great general sacrifice the dripping 
fat 2 was gathered up. 

He formed the creatures of the air, and animals 
both wild and tame. 

9. From that great general sacrifice Ricas and 
Sama-hymns were born : 

Therefrom the metres were produced, the Yajus 
had its birth from it. 

10. From it were horses born, from it all creatures 
with two rows of teeth : 

From it were generated kine, from it the goats 
and sheep were born. 

11. When they divided Purusa how many portions 
did they make ? 

What do they call his mouth, his arms ? What 
do they call his thighs and feet ? 

12. The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms 
was the Rajanya made. 

His thighs became the Vaisya, from his feet the 
Sudra was produced. 

13. The Moon was gendered from his mind, and 
from his eye the Sun had birth ; 

Indra and Agni from his mouth were born, and 
Vayu from his breath. 

14. Forth from his navel came mid-air ; the sky 
was fashioned from his head; 

Earth from his feet, and from his ear the re- 
gions. Thus they formed the worlds. 

1 A class of celestial beings, probably ancient divine sacrificers. 
9 The mixture of curds and butter. 


15. Seven fencing-logs 1 had he, thrice seven layers 
of fuel were prepared, 

When the gods, offering sacrifice, bound, as their 
victim Purusa. 

16. Gods, sacrificing, sacrificed the victim: these 
were the earliest holy ordinances, 

The mighty ones attained the height of heaven, 
there were the Sadhyas, gods of old, are dwelling. 

The same idea appears in the remarkable hymn in 
which Prajapati is declared the lord and creator of all. 
This hymn also must be read as a whole. 

1. In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha,* born 
only lord of all created beings. 

He fixed and holdeth up this earth and heaven. 
What god shall we adore with our oblation ? 3 

2. Giver of vital breath, of power and vigour, he 
whose commandments all the gods acknowledge : 

Whose shade is death, whose lustre makes im- 
mortal. What god shall we adore with our oblation ? 

3. Who by his grandeur hath become sole ruler of 
all the moving world that breathes and slumbers ; 

He who is lord of men and lord of cattle* 
What god shall we adore with our oblation ? 

4. His, through his might, are these snow-covered 
mountains, and men call sea and Rasa 4 his possession : 

His arms are these, his thighs these heavenly 
regions. What god shall we adore with our oblations ? 

1 Pieces of wood laid round a sacrificial fire to keep it together 

* The gold germ, the Sun-god, as the great power of the uni* 

8 Also translated 'worship we Ka the god with our oblation. 1 
[Ka, meaning Who ? that is, the unknown god, has been applied as 
a name to Prajapati, and to other gods, from a forced interpreta- 
tion of the interrogative pronoun which occurs in the refrain of 
each verse of the hymn. See p. 92.] 

4 The mythical river of the sky. 


5. By him the heavens are strong and earth is 
steadfast, by him light's realm and sky-vault are 
supported : 

By him the regions in mid-air were measured. 
What god shall we adore with our oblations ? 

6. To him, supported by his help, two armies 
enbattled look while trembling in their spirit. 

When over them the risen sun is shining. 
What god shall we adore with our oblation ? 

7. What time the mighty waters came, containing 
the universal germ, producing Agni, 

Thence sprang the gods' one spirit into being. 
What god shall we adore with our oblation ? 

8. He in his might surveyed the floods containing 
productive force and generating Worship (or, giving 
birth to sacrifice). 

He is the god of gods, and none beside him. 
What god shall we adore with our oblation ? 

9. Ne'er may he harm us who is earth's begetter, 
nor he whose laws are sure, the heaven's creator, 

He who brought forth the great and lucid 
waters. What god shall we adore with our oblation ? 

10. Praj&pati ! thou only comprehendest all these 
created things, and none beside thee. 

Grant us our hearts' desire when we invoke 
thee : may we have store of riches in possession. 

Hymn to Ka. Rig-veda t x. 121. 

If this hymn is an uncertain rather than a reasoned 
presentation of monism, it at any rate contains founda- 
tion enough to justify later Vedantism in attempting to 
read its own teaching into the Vedas. 

From all that has been said it will be clear that the 
religion of the Vedas, like every other living religion, con- 
Th la* of th ta * ne< * various and even contrary modes 
Aryan religion ojf thou & ht an d expression, and repre- 
sented the worship of more than one type 


of believer* And just as it is not easy to define the 
precise contents of these various types of faith, so it is 
not less difficult to state exactly what legacy the religion 
of the Aryans bequeathed to the later ceremonial religion 
that flourished in India before Buddhism arose. But 
the present study indicates the following as the main 
results which the religion of Vedic times transmitted to 
the succeeding ages. 

(i) Hinduism received from Vedic times a pantheon 
of gods and goddesses, of very various and sometimes 
of very doubtful moral character, generally benevolent, 
but not always so; and generally apparently regardless of 
the moral conduct of those who worshipped them, pro- 
vided the worship was duly rendered. In this is the 
beginning of the vast, confused, anthropomorphic and 
sometimes utterly vile mythology of some of the Puranas. 

(ii) Hinduism also inherited a profoundly rooted 
belief in demons which opened the way to the appro- 
priation of much of the demon worship of the aboriginal 
races in India by the Aryans, and later on to the 
Incorporation of some of it in recognized Hinduism, 
especially in Saivism. 

(iii) The doctrine of the power of the rightly per- 
formed sacrifice and the rightly sung hymn to produce 
and direct and control the might of the gods, as found in 
the Vedas, contains the beginnings of a sacerdotalism that 
grew in proportion as the Brahmans became a distinct 
priestly class among their fellow Aryans. In its extreme 
forms it is a doctrine which sanctions all manner of 
magic, and as it makes the rite supreme it is fatal to 
morality. Tantric Hinduism is directly derives its power 
from this doctrine. 


(iv) The inclusion in the Veda of the Purusa sukta 
which expressly states that the Priest, the Warrior, the 
Merchant and the Serf were the four orders of men 
created by divine power is a sign that along with the 
rise of the Brahman priesthood, there was also arising a 
distinction of classes in the population which later on 
became the caste system of Hinduism. 

(v) There was also in that Purusa sukta and in cer- 
tain other hymns evidence of the beginning of the later 
monistic Vedantism. 

(vi) Beyond all else in real religious value the Aryans 
handed on to their descendants the thought that the 
worshipper and his god might be friends, and that the 
worshipper might love and trust his god. The numbing 
fatalism of the doctrine of rebirths (sams&ra) is absent 
from the Vedas. The Aryan worshipped without images 
and his house was his temple. In his ignorance he often 
worshipped wrongly, and men cannot begin again to 
worship his gods or offer his prayers and sacrifices. 
But though the gods and the worship of the ancient 
Aryan are faded names and forgotten rites, he had the 
spirit of devotion. Later Hinduism, especially philoso- 
phic Hinduism has again and again made light of this 
truth. The 'Way of Wisdom* (jn&na mtirga) has been 
exalted above the 4 Way of Devotion ' or ' Way of Love * 
(bhaktimtlrga). But it is along the ' Way of Love* that 
those who have come nearest to God have walked in 
India as in all the world, and that ' Way of Love ' had 
its beginnings in the devotion of the Vedic sage to 
Varuqia or Agni. 

Tulsi Das and Tuka Rama, Paddanattu Pillai and 
Manikka Vasakar all walked in that 'Way of Love' 


and it has brought millions to the feet of Rama and 
Krishna and Siva and the Buddha. 

India is more conscious of the open ' Way of Love f 
to-day than her Aryan ancestors were and more 
anxious to enter it. Dyaus and Varuiia have been loved 
and have passed away. Krishna and Rama and Siva 
Nadaraja won the strong devotion of succeeding genera- 
tions. Like their ancestors the simpler villagers and 
the unlearned still delight in the stories of the heroic 
deeds or ' koly sport ' of the gods of the epics and the 
Puranas. But the more deeply devout of their worship- 
pers to-day are striving to love a Krishna or a Siva 
allegorized and transformed by an awakened moral 
sense. The attempt is being repeatedly made to find 
Christ in Krishna. Such efforts must fail. But they 
show a true instinct. And it cannot but be that as the 
years roll on India will find that she best comes to 
knowledge of the All- Father in the divine and holy 
graciousness of the eternal personality of Jesus of 
Galilee, and that without hesitation or misgiving or 
thought of other hostile powers, whether Devas or 
demons, she can set the loving devotion of her longing 
heart on Him and find content. 




These readings are arranged according to the deities 
to which they are addressed, or the special subjects to 
which they refer. A few explanations of proper names 
and allusions are given in footnotes. 

The translations used are those by the late R. T. H. 
Griffith, published by Messrs. Lazarus & Co., Benares, 
but the transliteration of the proper names is that 
followed in the earlier parts of this book. 


Book ii. Hymn 27. THE ADITYAS 

1. These hymns that drop down fatness, with the 
ladle I ever offer to the kings Adityas. 

May Mitra, Aryaman and Bhaga hear us, the 
mighty Varuna, Daksha and Anga. 

2. With one accord may Aryaman and Mitra and 
Varuiia this day accept this praise-song 

Adityas bright and pure as streams of water, 
free from all guile and falsehood, blameless, perfect. 

3. These gods, Adityas, vast profound and faith- 
ful, with many eye$, fain to deceive the wicked, 

Looking within behold the good and the evil : 
near to the kings is even the thing most distant. 

4. Upholding that which moves and that which 
moves not, Adityas, gods, protectors of all being, 

Provident, guarding well the world of spirits, 
true to eternal law, the debt-exactors. 

5. May I, Adityas, share in this your favour which 
Aryaman, brings profit e'en in danger. 

Under your guidance, Varuna and Mitra, round 
troubles may I pass, like rugged places, 

6. Smooth is your path, O Aryaman and Mitra; 
excellent is it Varuna, and thornless. 

Thereon, Adityas, send us down your blessing: 
grant us a shelter hard to be demolished. 

7. Mother of kings, may Aditi transport us, by fair 
paths, Aryaman, beyond all hatred. 

May we uninjured, girt by many heroes, win 
Varuija's and Mitra's high protection. 


8. With their support they stay three earths, three 
heavens; three are their functions in the gods' 

Mighty through Law, Adityas, is your greatness; 
fair is it, Aryaman, Varuija and Mitra. 

9. Golden and splendid, pure like streams of water, 
they hold aloft* the three bright heavenly regions. 

Ne'er do they slumber, never close their eyelids, 
faithful, far-ruling for the righteous mortal. 

10. Thou over all, O Varuna, art sovran, be they 
gods, Asura, or be they mortals. 

Grant unto us to see an hundred autumns : ours 
be the happy lives of our forefathers. 

11. Neither the right nor left^ do I distinguish, 
neither the east nor yet the west, Adityas. 

Simple and guided by your wisdom, Vasus, may 
I attain the light that brings no danger. 

12. He who bears gifts unto the kings, true leaders, 
he whom their everlasting blessings prosper, 

Moves with his chariot first in rank and wealthy, 
munificent and lauded in assemblies. 

13. Pure, faithful, very strong, with heroes round 
him, he dwells beside the waters rich with pasture. 

None slays frorr^near at hand or from a distance 
him who is under the Adityas guidance. 

14. Aditi, Mitra, Varuna, forgive us however we 
have erred and sinned against you. 

May I obtain the broad light free from peril : 
O Indra, let not during darkness seize us. 

15. For him the twain (i.e. heaven and earth) 
united pour their fulness, the rain from heaven : he 
thrives most highly favoured. 

He goes to war mastering both the mansions : 
to him both portions of the world are gracious. 

1 6. Your guiles, ye holy ones^ to quell oppressors^ 
your spread out against the foe, Adityas, 

May I car-borne pass like a skilful horseman : 
uninjured may I dwell in spacious shelter. 


17. May I not live, O Varuna, to witness my 
wealthy, liberal, dear friend's destitution. 

King, may I never lack well-ordered riches* 
Loud may we speak, with heroes, in assembly* 

Book i. Hymn 1. AGNI 

1. I laud Agni, the great high priest, god, minister 
of sacrifice, 

The herald, lavishest of wealth. 

2. Worthy is Agni to be praised by living as by 
ancient seers : 

He shall bring hitherward the gods. 

3. Through Agni man obtaineth wealth, yea, plenty 
waxing day by day, 

Most rich in heroes, glorious. 

4. Agni, the flawless sacrifice, which thou encom> 
passest about 

Verily goeth to the gods. 

5. May Agni, sapient-minded priest, truthful, most 
gloriously great, 

The god, come hither with the gods. 

6. Whatever blessing, Agni, thou wilt grant unto 
thy worshipper, 

That, Angiras, l is thy true gift. 
7 To thee, dispeller of the night, O Agni, day by 
day with prayer, 

Bringing thee reverence, we come ; 

8. Ruler of sacrifices, guard of Law (rita) eternal, 
radiant one, 

Increasing in thine own abode. 

9. Be to us. easy of approach, even as a father to 
his son : 

Agni, be with us for our weal. 

1 A nam< 



Book i. Hymn 26. AGNI, THE PRIEST 


n?ire is one of the early Aryan gods. When it become custo- 
mary to offer sacrifice to the gods by fire, the fire-god was 
recognized by the Indo-Aryans as the messenger of the sacrifice, 
* u e great Priest.] 

1. O worthy of oblation, Lord of prospering 
powers, assume thy robes, 

And offer this our sacrifice. 

. Sit, ever to be chosen, as our Priest, most 
youthful, , through our hymns, 

O Agni, through our heavenly word. 

3. For here a father for his son, kinsman for 
kinsman worshippeth, 

And friend, choice-worthy, for his friend. 

4. Here let the foe-destroyers sit, Varurjia, Mitra, 

Like men, upon our sacred grass. 

5. O ancient Herald, be thou glad in this our rite 
and fellowship ; 

Hearken thou well to these our songs. 

6. Whatever in this perpetual course we sacrifice 
to god and god, 

That gift is offered up in thee. 

7. May he be our dear household Lord, Priest, 
pleasant and choice-worthy ; may 

We, with bright fires, be dear to him. 

8. The gods, adored with brilliant fires, have 
granted precious wealth to us; 

So, with bright fires, we pray to thee. 

9. And, O Immortal One, so may the eulogies of 
mortal men 

Belong to us and thee alike. 

10. With all thy fires, O Agni, find pleasure in this 
our sacrifice, 

And this our speech, O son of strength. 


Book iv. Hymn 12. AGNI 

[This is one of the few hymns addressed to Agnl in which sin 
is prorfiinently mentioned. But the invariable reference to wealth 
is also introduced.] 

1. Whoso enkindles thee, with lifted ladle, and 
thrice this day offers thee food, O Agni, 

May he excel, triumphant, through thy splen- 
dours, wise through thy mental power, O Jatavedas. 1 

2. Whoso, with toil and trouble, brings thee fuel, 
serving the majesty of mighfy Agni, 

He kindling thee at evening and at morning, 
prospers, and comes to wealth, and slays his foemen. 

3. Agni is master of sublime dominion, Agni is 
lord of strength and lofty riches. 

Straightway the self-reliant, god, most youthful, 
gives treasures to the mortal who adores him, 

4. Most youthful god, whatever sin, through folly, 
here in the world of men we have committed, 

Before great Aditi make thou us sinless: remit 
entirely, Agni, our offences. 

5. Even in the presence of great sin, O Agni, free 
us from prison of the gods or mortals. 

Never may we who are thy friends be injured : 
grant health and wealth unto our seed and offspring. 

6. Even as ye here, gods excellent and holy, have 
loosed the cow that by the foot was tethered, 8 

So also set us free from this^ affliction : long let 
our life, O Agni, be extended. 

Book v. Hymn 26. AGNI 

Agni is specially addressed as the inviter of the gods to sacrifices.] 
1. O Agni, holy and divine, with splendour and 
liy pleasant tongue 

Bring hither and adore the gods. 

l Agni as knowing and possessing all creation. 
.9 The cow-buffalo tied to a post during the sacrifice, symbolic 
of man bound by sin* 


2. We pray thee, thou who droppest oil, bright* 
rayed ! who lookest on the Sun, 

Bring the gods hither to the feast. 

3. We have enkindled thee, O sage, bright caller 
of the gods to feast, 

O Agni, great in sacrifice. 

4. O Agni, come with all the gods, come to our 
sacrificial gift : 

We choose thee as invoking priest. 

5. Bring, Agni, to the worshipper who pours the 
juice heroic strength : 

Sit with the gods upon the grass. 

6. Victor of thousands, Agni, thou, enkindled, 
cherishest the laws, 

Laud-worthy, envoy of the gods. 

7. Sit Agni Jatavedas down, the bearer of our 
sacred gifts, 

Most youthful, god and minister. -' 

8. Duly proceed our sacrifice, comprising all the 
gods, to-day : 

Strew holy grass to be their seat. 

9. So .may the Maruts sit theron, the Agvins* 
Mitra, Varuna : 

The gods with all their company. 

Book x. Hymn 39. ASviNS 

[The author of this hymn is Ghoshs, daughter of KakshivSn. 
Being a leper, she was incapable of marriage. When she. was. 
[town old in her father's house, the ASvins gave her health, 
'outh, and beauty, so that she obtained a husband. Only the 
>peniner verses are quoted.] 

1. As 'twere the name of father, easy to invoke* 
we all assembled here invoke this car of yours, 

ASvins, your swiftly-rolling circumambient car 
which he who worships must invoke at eve and dawn. 

2. Awake all present strains, and let the hymns 
flow , forth: raise up abundant fulness: this is our 


Agvins, bestow on us a glorious heritage and 
give our princes treasure fair as Soma is. 

3. Ye are the bliss of her who groweth old at home, 
and helpers of the slow although he linger last. 

Man call you too, Nasatyas, 1 healers of the 
blind, the thin and feeble, and the man with broken 

4. Ye made Chyavana, weak and worn with length 
of days, young again, like a car, that he had power to 

Ye lifted up the son of Tugra from the floods. 
At our libations must all these your acts be praised. 

5. We will declare among the folk your ancient 
deeds heroic ; yea ye were physicians bringing health. 

You, you who must be lauded, will we bring for 
aid, so that this foe of ours, O Agvins, may believe. 

6. Listen to me, O ASvins ; I have cried to you. 
Give me your aid as sire and mother help their son. 

Poor, without kin or friend or ties of blood 
am I. Save me, before it be too late, from this my 
surse (i.e. my leprosy). 

Book vii. Hymn 53. DYAUS AND PRITHIVI 

1. As priest with solemn rites and adorations I 
worship Heaven and Earth, the high and holy. 

To them, great parents of the gods, have sages 
Df ancient time, singing, assigned precedence. 

2. With newest hymns set in the seat of Order 
those the two parents, born before all others, 

Come, Heaven and Earth, with the celestial 
people, hither to us, for strong is your protection, 

3. Yea, Heaven and Earth, ye hold in your pos- 
session full many a treasure for the liberal giver. 

Grant us the wealth which comes in free 
abundance. Preserve us evermore, ye gods, with 

i The Truthful. 


Book i. Hymn 103. ItfDRA 

1. That highest Indra-power of thine is distant; 
that which is here sages possessed aforetime. 

This one is on the earth, in haven the other, 
and both unite as flag and flag in battle. 

2. He spread the wide earth out and firmly fixed 
it, smote with his thunderbolt and loosed the waters. 

Maghavan with his puissance .struck down Ahi 1 , 
rent Rauhina * to death, and slaughteredVyansa. 

3. Armed with his bolt and trusting in this prowess 
he wandered shattering the Dasas* cities. 3 

Cast thy dart, knowing, thunderer, at the Dasyu ; 
increase the Arya's might and glory, Indra. 

4. For him who thus hath taught these human 
races, Maghavan, bearing a fame-worthy title, 

Thunderer, drawing nigh to slay the Dasyus, 
hath given himself the name of son for glory. 

5. See this abundant wealth that he possesses, 
and put your trust in Indra's hero vigour. 

He found the cattle, and he found the horses, 
he found the plants, the forests, and the waters. 

6. To him the truly strong, whose deeds are many, 
to him the strong bull let us pour the soma. 

The hero watching like a thief in ambush goes 
parting the possessions of the godless. 

7. Well didst thou do that hero deed, O Indra, in 
waking with thy bolt the slumbering Ahi. 

In thee, delighted dames divine rejoiced them, 
the flying Maruts and all gods were joyful. 

3. As thou hast smitten usna, Pipru, Vritra and 
Kuyava, and Sambara's 4 forts,' 6 Indra. 

This prayer of ours may Varu^a grant, and 
Mitra, and Aditi and Sindhu, Earth' and Heaven. 

1 Ahi is a serpent demon, or another name for Vritra. 
* Said to be a demon of drought : a dark cloud that withholds 
the rain. 

8 The forts of the Dasyus, the aborigines. 
4 Demons of drought. 


Book i. Hymn 175. INDRA 

[The following hymn to Indra, asking him to destroy the 
Dasyus, the aborigines, and give food and a camp with running 
water, bears internal evidence that it was composed at a time when 
the Aryans were invading India.] 

1. Glad thee-: thy glory hath been quaffed, Idrd of 
bay steeds, as 'twere the bowl's enlivening mead. 

For thee the strong there is strong drink, 
mighty, with countless powers to win. 

2. Let our strong drink, most excellent, exhilarat- 
ing, come to thee, 

Victorious, Indra ! bringing gain, immortal, 
conquering in fight. 

3. Thou, hero, winner of the spoil, urgest to speed 
the car of man. 

Burn, like a vessel with the flame, the lawless 
Dasyu, conqueror ! 

4. Empowered by thine own might, O sage, thou 
stolest Surya's chariot wheel. 

Thou bearest Kutsa with the steeds of Wind to 
Susna as his death. 1 

5. Most mighty is thy rapturous joy, most splendid 
is thine active power, 

Wherewith, foe-slaying, sending bliss, thou art 
supreme in gaining steeds. 

6. As thou, O Indra, to the ancient singers wast 
iver joy, as water to the thirsty, 

So unto thee I sing this invocation. May we 
find food, a camp with running water. 

Indra is said to have taken the wheel of Surya's chariot to 
hrow against the demon of drought., Kutsa was a sage defended 
>y Indra against 3usna, a demon of drought. 


Book ii. Hymn 42, INDRA IN THE FORM 

1. Telling his race aloud with cries repeated, he 
(Kapinjala) sends his voice out as his boat a steerman. 

O bird, be ominous of happy fortune : from no 
side may calamity befall thee. 

2. Let not the falcon kill thee, nor the eagle ; let 
not the arrow-bearing archer reach thee. 

Still crying in the region of the Fathers, 9 speak 
here auspicious, bearing joyful tidings. 

3. Bringing good tidings, bird of happy omen, call 
thou out loudly southward of our dwellings, 3 

So that no thief, no sinner may oppress us. 
Loud may we speak, with heroes, in assembly. 

Book iii. Hymn 48. INDRA 

1. Soon as the young Bull (Indra) sprang into 
existence he longed to taste the pressed-out soma's 

Drink thou thy fill, according to thy longing, 
first, of the noble mixture blent with soma. 

2. That day when thou wast born thou, fain to 
taste it, drankest the plant's milk which the mountains 

That milk thy mother 4 first, the dame who bare 
thee poured for thee in thy mighty father's dwelling. 

3. Desiring food he came unto his mother, and on 
her breast beheld the pungent soma. 

Wise, he moved on, keeping aloof the others, 
and wrought great exploits in his varied aspects. 

1 The bird called the francoline partridge. 
9 The region where the spirits of departed ancestors dwell. 
3 The Fathers dwell towards the south. The cry of birds from 
hat quarter was a good omen. 
< Aditi. 


4, Fierce, quickly conquering, ot surpassing vig- 
our, he framed his body even as he listed. 

E'en from his birth-time Indra conquered 
Tvastri, bore off the soma and in beakers drank it. 

5. Call we on Maghavan (i.e. the liberal one), 
auspicious Indra, best hero in the fight where spoil 
is gathered ; 

The strong, who listens, who gives aid in bat- 
tles,, who slays the Vritras, wins and gathers riches. 

Book iii. Hymn 62. INDRA AND OTHERS 

[The tenth verse of this hymn is the Gayatri or SavitrL] 

1. Your well-known prompt activities aforetime 
needed no impulse from your faithful servant. 

Where, Indra, Varuna, is now that glory where- 
with ye brought support to those who loved you ? 

2. This man, most diligent, seeking after riches, 
incessantly invokes you for your favour. 

Accordant, Indra. Varuria, with the Maruts, 
with Heaven and Earth, hear ye mine invocation. 

3. O Indra, Varuna, ours be this treasure, ours 
be wealth, Maruts, with full store of heroes. 

May the Varutris 1 with their shelter aid us, and 
Bharati 2 and Hotra with the mornings. 

4. Be pleased with our oblations thou loved of all 
gods, Brihaspati : 3 

Give wealth to him who brings thee gifts. 

5. At sacrifices, with your hymns worship the 
pure Brihaspati 

I pray for power which none may bend 

6. The Bull of men, whom none deceive, the 
wearer of each shape at will, 

Brihaspati most excellent. 

1 Varutris, guardian goddesses or wives of the gods. 

1 Bharati and Hotra were goddesses presiding over worship. 

* Lord of Prayer. 


7. Divine, resplendent Pushan, this our newest 
hymn of eulogy 

By us is chanted forth to thee. 

8. Accept with favour this my song, be gracious 
to the earnest thought, 

Even as a bridegroom to his bride. 

9. May he who sees all living thing, sees them to- 
gether at a glance, 

May he, may Pushan be our help. 

10. May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar 
the god : 

So may he stimulate our prayers. 1 

11. With understanding, earnestly, of Savitar the 
god we crave, 

Our portion of prosperity- 

12. Men, singers worship Savitar the god with 
hymn and holy rites, 

Urged by the impulse of their thoughts. 

13. Soma who gives success goes forth, goes to the 
gathering-place of gods. 

To seat him at the seat of Law. 

14. To us and to our cattle may Soma give salutary 

To biped and to quadruped. 

15. May Soma, strengthening our power of life, 
and conquering 'our foes, 

In our assembly take his seat. 

16. May Mitra, Varuna, sapient pair, bedew our 
pasturage with oil, 

With meath the regions of the air. 

17. Far-ruling joyful when adored, ye reign through 
majesty of might, 

With pure laws everlastingly. 

18. Lauded by Jamadagni's 8 song sit in the place 
of holy Law: 3 

Drink Soma, ye who strengthen Law. 

1 Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi. 

Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat. 
9 The kindler of the Fire.' 3 The place ordained for sacrifice. 


Book v. Hymn 57. THE MARUTS 

1. Of one accord, with Indra, O ye Rudras, 
come borne on your golden car for our prosperity. 

An offering from us, this hymn is brought to- 
you, as, unto one who thirsts for water, heavenly 

2. Armed with your daggers, full of wisdom, 
armed with spears, armed with your quivers, armed 
with arrows, with good bows, 

Good horses and good cars have ye, O Pri&ii's 
sons : ye, Maruts, with good weapons go to victory. 

3. From hills and heaven ye shake wealth for the 
worshipper : in terror at your coming low the woods 
bow down. 

Ye make the earth to tremble, sons of Prini, 
when for victory ye have yoked, fierce ones! your 
spotted deer, 

4. Impetuous as the wind, wrapped in their robes 
of rain, like twins of noble aspect and of lovely form. 

The Maruts, spotless, with steeds tawny-hued 
and red, strong in their mightiness and spreading wide 
like heaven. 

5. Rich in adornment, rich in drops, munificent, 
bright in their aspect, yielding bounties that endure. 

Noble by birth, adorned with gold upon their 
breasts, the singers of the sky have won immortal 

6. Borne on both shoulders, O ye Maruts, are your 
spears : within your arms is laid your energy and 

Your manliness pn your heads, your weapons in 
your cars, all glorious majesty is moulded on your 

7. Vouchsafe to us, O Maruts, splendid bounty in 
cattle and in steeds, in cars and heroes. 

Children of Rudra, give us high distinction i 
may I enjoy your godlike help and favour, 


8. Ho ! Maruts, heroes, skilled in Law, immortal, 
be gracious unto us, ye rich in treasures, 

Ye hearers of the truth, ye sage and youthful, 
mightily waxing with loud-resonant voices. 

Book v. Hymn 83. PARJANYA 

1. Sing with these songs thy welcome to the 
mighty, with adoration praise and call Parjanya. 

The Bull, loud roaring, swift to send his bounty, 
lays in the plants the seed for germination. 

2. He smites the trees apart, he slays the demons : 
all life fears him who wields the mighty weapon. 

From him exceeding strong flees e'en the guilt- 
less when thundering Parjanya smites the wicked. 

3. Like a car-driver whipping on his horses, he 
makes the mfessengers of rain spring forward. 

Far off resounds the roaring of the lion what 
time Parjanya fills the sky with rain-cloud. 

4. Forth burst the winds, down come the lightning- 
flashes; the plants shoot up, the realm of light is 

Food springs abundant for all living creatures 
what time Parjanya quickens earth with moisture. 

5. Thou at whose bidding earth bows low before 
thee, at whose command hoofed cattle fly in terror, 

At whose behest the plants assume all colours, 
even thou Parjanya, yield us great protection. 

6. Send down for us the rain of heaven, ye 
Maruts, and let the stallion's streams descend in 

Come hither with this thunder while thou 
sst the waters down, our heavenly lord and father, 

7. Thunder and roar: the germ of life deposit. 
Fly round us on thy chariot water-laden. 

Thine opened water-skin draw with thee down- 
ward, and let the hollows and the heights be level. 


8, Lift up the mighty vessel, pour down water,, 
and let the liberated streams rush forward. 

Saturate both the earth and heaven with fatness,, 
and for the cows let there be drink abundant. 

9. When thou, with thunder and with roar, Par- 
janya, smitest sinners down, 

This universe exults thereat, yea, all that i& 
upon the earth. 

10. Thou hast poured down the rain-flood: now 
withhold it. Thou hast made desert places fit for 

Thou hast made herbs to grow for our enjoy- 
ment : yea, thou hast won thee praise from living 

Book i. Hymn 42. PUSHAN 


1. Shorten our ways, O Pushan, move aside 
obstruction in the path : 

Go close before us, cloudborn god. 

2. Drive, Pushan, from our road the wolf, the 
wicked inauspicious wolf, 1 

Who lies in wait to injure us. 

3. Who lurks about the path we take, the robber 
with a guileful heart : 

Far from the road chase him away. 

4. Tread with thy foot and trample out the fire- 
brand of the wicked one, 

The double-tongued, whoe'er he be. 

5. Wise Pushan, wonder-worker, we claim of thee 
now the aid wherewith 

Thou furtheredst our sires of old. 

6. So, lord of all prosperity, best wielder of the 
golden sword, 

Make riches easy to be won. 

1 The word, signifies also a wicfceq, gomes man. 


7. Past all pursuers lead us, make pleasant our 
path and fair to tread : 

O Pushan, find thou power for this. 

8. Lead us to meadows rich in grass : send on our 
way no early heat : 

O Pushan, find thou power for this, 

9. Be gracious to us, fill us full, give, feed us, and 
invigorate : 

O Pushan, find thou power for this. 
10. No blame have we for Pushan ; him we magnify 
with songs of praise : 

We seek the mighty one for wealth. 

Book i. Hymn 20. RlBHUS 

1. For the celestial race this song of praise which 
gives wealth lavishly 

Was made by singers with their lips. 

2. They who for Indra, with their mind, formed 
horses harnessed by a word, 

Attained by works to sacrifice. 

3. They for the two Nasatyas l wrought a light car 
moving every way : 

They formed a nectar-yielding cow. 

4. The Ribhus with effectual prayers, honest, with 
constant labour made 

Their sire and mother young again. 

5. Together came your gladdening drops with 
Indra by the Maruts girt, 

With the Adityas, with the kings. 

6. The sacrificial ladle, wrought newly by the god 
Tvashtar's hand 

Four ladles have ye made thereof. 

7. Vouchsafe us wealth, to him who pours thrice 
seven libations, yea, to each 

Give wealth, pleased with our eulogies. 

1 The A$vins, the truthful ones. 


8. As ministering priests they held, by nious 
they won themselves, 

A share in sacrifice with gods. 

Book vii. Hymn 46. RUDRA 

7W 1O 11J.1JU 

1. To Rudra bring these songs, whose bo% 

and "strong, the god of heavenly nature, with swift- 
flying shafts. 

Disposer, conqueror whom none may overcome, 
armed with sharp-pointed weapons : may he hear our 

2. He through his lordship thinks on beings of the 
earth on heavenly beings through his high imperial 

Come willingly to our doors that gladly welcome 
thee and heal all sickness, Rudra, in our families. 

3. May thy bright arrow which, shot down by 
thee from heaven, flieth upon the earth, pass us 
uninjured by. 

Thou, very gracious god, hast thousand medi- 
cines : inflict no evil on our sons or progeny. 

4. Slay us not, nor abandon us, O Rudra : let not 
thy noose, when thou art angry, seize us. 

Give us trimmed grass l and rule over the living, 
Preserve us evermore, ye gods, with blessings. 

Book vii. Hymn 45. SAVITAR 

1. May the god Savitar, rich in goodly treasures, 
filling the region, borne by steeds come hither, 

In his hand holding much that makes people 
happy, lulling to slumber and arousing creatures. 

* Sacred grass placed at the sacrifice for the gods to rest on 
'he petition means ' Permit us to continue to sacrifice/ i. e. Lei 
s remain alive. 


2. Golden, sublime, and easy in their motion, his 
arms extend unto the bounds of heaven. 

Now shall that mightiness, of his be lauded: even 
Sura l yields to him in active vigour. 

3. May this god Savitar, the strong and mighty, 
the lord of precious wealth, vouchsafe us treasures. 

May he, advancing his far-spreading lustre, 
bestow on us the food that feedeth mortals. 

4. These songs praise Savitar whose tongue is 
pleasant, praise him whose arms are full, whose hands 
are lovely. 

High vital strength, and manifold, ma^ ye grant 
us. Preserve us evermore, ye gods, with blessings. 

Book ix. Hymn 1. SOMA PAVAMANA 9 

1. In sweetest and most gladdening stream flow 
pure, O Soma, on thy way, 

Pressed out for Indra, for his drink. 

2. Fiend-queller, friend of all men, he hath with 
the plank 3 attained unto 

His place, his iron-fashioned home. 

3. Be thou best Vritra-slayer, best granter of 
bliss, most liberal : 

Promote our wealthy princes' gifts. 

4. Flow onward with thy juice unto the banquet 
of the mighty gods : 

Flow hither for our strength and fame. 

1 A different form of the Sun-god. Sayana says that Savitar is 
the sun before it rises. 

9 The attributes of Agni are transferred to Soma. He is address* 
ed as Pavamana, representing the juice as it flows through the 
wool which is used as a strainer, and thus undergoing purification. 
.The hymns were intended to be sung while this process .was 
going on. 

3 Used in pressing soma-juice from the soma-plant. 


5. O Indu, l we draw nigh to thee, with this one 
object day by day : 

To thee alone our prayers are said. 

6. The daughter of the Sun 2 by means of this eter- 
nal fleece makes pure 

Thy Soma that is gushing forth, 

7. Ten sister maids 3 of slender form seize him 
imid the press and hold 

Him firmly on the final day. 

8. The virgins 4 send him forth : they blow the 
skin 5 musician-like, and fuse. 

The triple foe-repelling meath. 

/ 9. The inviolable milch-kine round about him 
blend, for Indra's drink, 

The fresh young Soma with their milk. 
10. In the wild raptures of this draught, Indra 
slays all the Vritras : he, 

The hero pours his wealth on us. 

Book ix. Hymn 112. SOMA PAVAMANA 

[This hymn appears to be an old popular song transformed into 
an address to Soma. The reference to the Brahman in the first 
verse proves that the priesthood already formed a profession when 
this hymn was finally composed.] 

1. We all have various thoughts and plans, and 
diverse are the ways of men. 

The priest (Brahman) seeks one who pours the 
juice, 6 wright 7 seeks the cracked, and leech the maim- 
ed. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's sake. 

2. The smith with ripe and seasoned plants, 8 with 
feathers of the birds of air, 

1 Soma falling from the strainer in drops. 
8 raddha or Faith personified. 3 The priest's fingers. 

4 The fingers* 6 Some sort of bag-pipe. 

Who offers libations. 7 Carpenter. 

8 Reeds .to be made into arrows. 


With stones and with enkindled flames, seeks 
him who hath a store of gold. Flow, Indu, flow for 
Indra's sake. 

3. A bard am I, my dad's l a leech ; mammy * 
lays corn upon the stones. 

Striving for wealth, with varied plans, we follow 
our desires like kine. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's 

4. The horse would draw an easy car ; gay hosts 
attract the laugh and jest. 

The male desires his mate's approach ; the frog 
is eager for the flood. Flow, Indu, flow for Indra's 

Book i. Hymn 115. SURYA 

1. The brilliant presence of the gods hath risen, 
the eye of Mitra, Varuna, and Agni. 

The soul of all that moveth not or moveth, the 
Sun hath filled the air and earth and heaven. 

2. Like as a young man followeth a maiden, so 
doth the Sun the Dawn, refulgent goddess : 

When pious men extend their generations, be- 
fore the auspicious one for happy fortune. 

3. Auspicious are the Sun's bay-coloured horses, 
bright, changing hues, meet for our shouts of triumph. 

Bearing our prayers, the sky's ridge have they 
mounted, and in a moment speed round earth and 

4. This is the godhead, this the might of Surya ; 
he hath withdrawn what spread o'er work unfinished. 

When he hath loosed his horses from their 
station, straight over all Night spreadeth out her 

5. In the sky's lap the Sun this form assumeth for 
Mitra and for Varuna to look on. 

1 Dad, tat ah : originally a child's word. * Mammy : nancl* 


His bay steeds well maintain his power eternal, 
at one time bright and darksome at another. 

6. This day, O gods, while Surya is ascending, 
deliver us from trouble and dishonour. 

This prayer of ours may Varuna grant, and 
Mitra, and Aditi and Sindhu, Earth and Heaven. 

Book ii. Hymn 28. VARUNA 

1. This laud of the self -radiant wise Aditya shall 
be supreme o'er all that is in greatness. 

I beg renown of Varuna the mighty, the god 
exceeding kind to him who worships. 

2. Having extolled thee, Varuna, with thoughtful 
care may we have high fortune in thy service, 

Singing thy praises like the fires at coming, day 
after day, of mornings rich in cattle. 

3. May we be in thy keeping, O thou leader, wide- 
ruling Varuna, lord of many heroes. 

O sons of Aditi, for ever faithful, pardon us, 
gods, admit us to your friendship^ 

4. He made them flow, the Aditya, the sustainer : 
the rivers run by Varuna's commandment. 

These feel no weariness, nor cease from flowing : 
swift have they flown like birds in air around us. 

5. Loose me from sin as from a bond that binds 
me : may we swell, Varuna, thy spring of Order. 

Let not my thread, while I weave song, be 
severed, nor my work's sum, before the time, be 

6. Far from me, Varuna, remove all danger : accept 
me graciously, thou holy sovran. 

Cast off, like cords that hold a calf, my troubles : 
I am not even mine eyelid's lord without thee. 

7. Strike us not, Varuna with those dread weapons 
which, Asura, at thy bidding wound the sinner. 

Let us not pass away from light to exile, 
Scatter, that we may live, the men who hate us. 


8. O mighty Varuija, now and hereafter, even as 
of old, will we speak forth our worship. 

For in thyself, infallible god, thy statutes ne'er 
to be moved are fixed as on a mountain. 

9. Wipe out what debts I have myself contracted ; 
let me not profit, king, by gain of others. 

Full many a morn remains to dawn upon us : in 
these, O Varu^a, while we live direct us. 

10. O king, whoever, be he friend or kinsman, hath 
threatened me affrighted in my slumber 

If any wolf or robber fain would harm us, there- 
from, O Varuna, give thou us protection. 

11. May I not live O Varuna, to witness my wealthy 
liberal, dear friend's destitution. 

King, may I never lack well-ordered riches. 
Loud may we speak, with heroes, in assembly. 

Book v. Hymn 85. VARUNA 

1. Sing forth a hymn sublime and solemn, grateful 
to glorious Varuna, imperial ruler, 

Who hath struck out, like one who slays the. 
victim, earth as a skin to spread in front of Surya. 

2. In the tree-tops the air he hath extended, put 
milk in kine and vigorous speed in horses, 

Set intellect in hearts, fire in the waters, Surya 
in heaven, and Soma on the mountain. 

3. Varuna lets the big cask, opening downward, flow 
through the heaven and earth and air's mid-region. 

Therewith the universe's sovran waters earth as 
the shower of rain bedews the barley. 

4. When Varuna is fain for milk he moistens the 
sky, the land, and earth to her foundation. 

Then straight the mountains clothe them in the 
rain-cloud : the heroes (i.e. the Maruts), putting forth 
their vigour, loose them. 

5. I will declare this mighty deed of magic, of 
glorious Varuna the Ior4 immortal ; 


Who standing in the firmament natn meted the 
earth out with the sun as with a measure. 

6. None, verily, hath ever let or hindered this the 
most wise god's mighty deed of magic, l 

Whereby, with all their flood, the lucid rivers 
fill not one sea wherein they pour their water. 

7. If we have sinned against the man who loves us, 
have ever wronged a brother, friend, or comrade, 

The neighbour ever with us, or a stranger, 
O Varuna, remove from us the trespass. 

8. If we, as gamesters cheat at play, have cheated, 
done wrong unwittingly or sinned of purpose, 

Cast all these sins away like loosened fetters, 
and Varuna, let us be thine own beloved. 

Book x. Hymn 124. THE PASSING OF VARUNA 

[This hymn is remarkable as indicating the passing of Varuna 
out of the popular religion and the exaltation of Indra.] 

Indra speaks : 

1. Come to this sacrifice of ours, O Agni, three- 
fold 2 with seven threads 3 and five divisions. 4 

Be our oblation-bearer and preceder : thou hast 
lain long enough in during darkness. 

Agni speaks : 5 

2. I come a god foreseeing from the godless * to 
immortality by secret pathways, 

1 May dm, magic or device or design. 

9 The three daily oblations : pakayajna, haviryajna, soma-yajna. 
. 3 Conducted by the seven priests. 

4 Perhaps with five oblations, Meaning uncertain. 

* Agni has left Varuna, who was being forgotten, and seeks 

6 Varuna is called ' godless ' because as he ceased to be 
worshipped the sacrificial fire, agni, was not kindled in his honour. 


While I, ungracious one, desert the gracious, 
leave mine own friends and seek the kin of strangers. 1 

3. I, looking to the guest of other lineage, * have 
founded many a rule of Law and Order. 

I bid farewell to the great god, the Father, 3 
and, for neglect, obtain my share of worship. 

4. I tarried many a year within this altar. 4 I 
leave the Father, for my choice is Indra. 

Away pass Agni, Varuria, and Soma. King- 
ship alternates : this 5 I come to favour. 

Indra speaks : 

5. These Asuras 6 have lost their powers of magict 
But thou, O Varuna, if thou dost love me, 

O king, discerning truth and right from false- 
hood, come and be lord and ruler of my kingdom. 7 

6. Here is the light of heaven, here all is lovely : 
here there is radiance, here is air's wide region. 

Let us two slaughter Vritra. Forth, O Soma, 
Thou art oblation : we therewith will serve thee. 

7. The sage 8 hath fixed his form by wisdom in 
the heavens : Varuna with no violence let the waters 

Like woman-folk, the floods that bring pros- 
perity, have caught his hue and colour as they 
gleamed and shone. 

8. These wait upon his 9 loftiest power and 
vigour : he dwells in these who triumph in their 
godhead ; 

And they, like people who elect their ruler, have 
in abhorrence turned away from Vritra. 

1 Go forth in sacrificial fire to Indra instead of to Varuna. 

* Ordinary fire. 8 The Father is Varuna. 4 Varuna's altar. 

5 The supremacy of Indra is denoted by ' this ' . 

6 The Asuras, immortals, like Agni, Varuna and Soma. 

7 Indra offers Varuna supremacy in his own heaven now that 
he has lost his general supremacy. 

8 Soma or Mitra. 9 Indra's. 


9. They call him swan, 1 the abhorrent flood's 
companion, moving in friendship with celestial waters. 
The poets in their thought have looked on Indra 
swiftly approaching when the Anustup 2 calls him. 

Book i. Hymn 86. VARUNA * 

Book i. Hymn 25, one of the hymns to Varuna 
attributed to unahepha has already been quoted 
in the section on Human Sacrifice. See page 129. 

Book vii. Hymn 86. VARUNA 

. Book vii. Hymn 86, a hymn to Varuna has already 
been quoted in the section on the Prayers of the 
Aryans. See page 150. 

Book i. Hymn 2. VAYU 

1. Beautiful Vayu come, for thee these soma-drops 
have been prepared : 

Drink of them, hearken to our call. 

2. Knowing the days, with soma-juice poured 
forth, the singers call to thee, 

O Vayu with their hymns of praise. 

3. Vayu, thy penetrating voice goes forth unto the 

Far- spreading for the soma draught. 

4. Here, Indra- Vayu, is the juice; come for our 
offered dainties' sake : 

The drops are yearning for you both. 

1 Surya the Sun-god is sometimes so called. 

9 Either the hymn in the Anustup metre or dancing to the time 
of the Anustup metre. Metre and musical time are intimately 
connected with dancing. 


5. Vayu and Indra, well ye know libations, rich in 
sacred rites ! 

So come ye hither rapidly. 

6. Vayu and Indra, come to what the soma-presser 
hath prepared : 

Soon, heroes, even with resolve. 

7. Mitra, of holy strength, I call, and foe-destroy- 
ing Varuna, 

Who make the oil-fed rite complete. 

8. Mitra and Varuria, through Law, (rita) lovers 
-and cherishers of Law, 

Have ye obtained your mighty power. 

9. Our sages, Mitra- Varuna, of wide dominion, 
strong by birth, 

Vouchsafe us strength that worketh welL 

Book i. Hymn 156. VISHNU 

1. For shining, widely famed, going thy wonted 
way, fed with the oil, be helpful, Mitra-like, to us. 

So, Vishnu, e'en the wise must swell thy song 
of praise, and he who hath oblations pay thee solemn 

2. He who brings gifts to him the ancient and the 
last, to Vishnu who ordains, together with his spouse, 

Who tells the lofty birth of him the lofty one, 
shall verily surpass in glory e'en his peer. 

3. Him have ye satisfied, singers, as well ye know, 
primeval germ of Order even from his birth. 

Ye, knowing e'en his name have told it forth ; 
may we, Vishnu, enjoy the grace of thee the mighty one. 

4. The sovran Varuna and both the Agvins wait 
on this the will of him who guides the Marut host. 

Vishnu hath power supreme and might that 
finds the day, and with his friend unbars the stable of 
the kine. l 

1 Vishnu assists Indra to release the light or the rain imprisoned 
in the clouds. 


5. Even he the heavenly one who came for fellow- 
ship, Vishnu to Indra, godly to the godlier, 

Who, maker, throned in three worlds, helps 
the Aryan man, and gives the worshipper his share of 
holy law. 

Book i. Hymn 90. VlSVEDEVAS 

1. May Varuna with guidance straight, and Mitra 
lead us, he who knows, 

And Aryaman in accord with gods, 

2. For they are dealers forth of wealth, and, not 
deluded, with their might 

Guard evermore the holy laws. 

3. Shelter may they vouchsafe to us, immortal 
gods to mortal men, 

Chasing our enemies away. 

4. May they mark out our paths to bliss, Indra, the 
Maruts, Pushan, and Bhaga, the gods to be adored. 

5. Yea, Pushan, Vishnu, ye who run your course, 
enrich our hymns with kine ; 

Bless us with all prosperity. 

6. The winds waft sweets, the rivers pour sweets 
for the man who keeps the Law : 

So may the plants be sweet for us. 

7. Sweet be the night and sweet the dawns, sweet 
the terrestrial atmosphere ; 

Sweet be our father Heaven to us, 

8. Vanaspati, 1 be full of sweets for us, and full of 
sweets the Sun : 

May our milch-kine be sweet for us. 

9. Be Mitra gracious unto us, and Varuna, and 
Aryaman : 

Indra, Brihaspati, be kind, and Vishnu of the 
mighty stride. 

* ' The lord of the forest,' perhaps the deified sacrificial post. 


Book viii. Hymn 30. VISVEDEVAS 

1. Not one of you, ye gods, is small, none of you 
is a feeble child : 

All of you, verily, are great. 

2. Thus be ye lauded, ye destroyers of the foe, ye 
three and thirty deities, 

The gods of man, the holy ones. 

3. As such defend and succour us, with benedic- 
tions speak to us : 

Lead us not from our fathers' and from Manu's 1 
path into the distance far away. 

4. Ye deities who stay with us, and all ye gods of 
all mankind, 

Give us your wide protection, give shelter for 
cattle and for steed. 

Book i. Hymn 113. USHAS 

1. This light has come, amid all lights the fairest ; 
born is the brilliant, far-extending brightness. 

Night, sent away for Savitar's 2 uprising, hath 
yielded up a birthplace for the morning. 

2. The fair, the bright is come with her white off- . 
spring ; 3 to her the dark one hath resigned her 

Akin, immortal, following each other, changing 
their colours both the heavens move onward. 

3. Common, unending, is the sisters' pathway ; 
taught by the gods, alternately they travel. 

Fair formed, of different hues and yet one- 
minded, Night and Dawn clash not, neither do they 
tarry. . 

4. Bright leader of glad sounds, our eyes behold 
her ; splendid in hue she hath unclosed the portals. 

1 A sage named Manu, not the same as the famous law-giver, 
was an ancestor of the singer of this hymn. 
f Savitar is the Sun. 3 The clouds. 

4 The voices of birds and animals. 


She, stirring up the world hath shown us riches : 
Dawn hath awakened every living creature. 

5. Rich Dawn, she sets afoot the coiled up sleeper, 
one for enjoyment, one for wealth or worship, 

Those who saw little for extended vision : AH 
living creatures hath the Dawn awakened. 

6. One to high sway, one to exalted glory, one to 
pursue his gain, and one his labour : 

All to regard their different vocations, all 
moving creature hath the Dawn awakened. 

7. We see her there, the child of Heaven, 
apparent, the young maid flushing in her shining 

Thou sovran lady of all earthly treasure, flush 
on us here, auspicious Dawn, this morning. 

8. She, first of endless morns to come hereafter, 
follows the path of morns that have departed. 

Dawn at her rising urges forth the living : him 
who is dead she wakes not from his slumber. 

9. As thou, Dawn, hast caused Agni to be kindled, 1 
and with the Sun's eye hast revealed creation, 

And hast awakened men to offer worship, thou 
hast performed for gods a noble service. 

10. How long a time and they shall be together 
dawns that have shone and dawns to shine hereafter ? 

She yearns for former dawns with eager longing, 
and goes forth gladly shining with the others. 

1 1 . Gone are the men who in the days before us 
looked on the rising of the earlier morning. 

We, we the living, now behold her brightness 
and they come nigh who shall hereafter see her. 

I. 113. 

12. Foe-chaser, 2 born of Law (rita), the Law's 
protector, joy-giver, waker of all pleasant voices, 

Auspicious, bringing food for gods' enjoyment, 
shine on us here, as best, O Dawn, this morning. 

1 In the morning sacrifice. * Of evil spirits. 


13. From days eternal hath Dawn shone, the god- 
dess, and shows this light to-day, endowed with 

So will she shine on days to come ; immortal, 
she moves on in her own strength, undecaying. 

14. In the sky's borders hath she shone in splend- 
our : the goddess hath thrown off the veil of darkness. 

Awakening the world with purple horses, on her 
well-harnessed chariot Dawn approaches. 

15. Bringing all life-sustaining blessings with her 
showing herself she sends forth brilliant lustre. 

Last of the countless mornings that have 
vanished, first of bright morns to come hath Dav^n 

16. Arise, the breath, the life, again hath reached 
us : darkness hath passed away and light approacheth. 

She for the Sun hath left a path to travel : we 
have arrived where men prolong existence. 1 

17. Singing the praises of refulgent mornings with 
his hymn's web the priest, the poet, rises. 

Shine then to-day, rich maid, on him who lauds 
thee, shine down on us the gift of life and offspring. 

18. Dawns giving sons all heroes, kine and horses, 
shining upon the man who brings oblations 

These let the Soma-presser. gain when ending 
his glad songs louder than the voice of Vayu.* 

19. Mother of gods, Aditi's form of glory, ensign 
of sacrifice, shine forth exalted. 

Rise up bestowing praise on our devotion : all- 
bounteous, make us chief among the people. 

20. Whatever splendid wealth the Dawns bring 
with them to bless the man who offers praise and 

Even that may Mitra, Varuiia vouchsafe us f 
and Aditi and Sindhu, Earth and Heaven. 

1 i. e. at the beginning of the life of a new day. 
8 The god of the wind- 


Book vii. Hymn 77. UsHAS 

! She hath shone brightly like a youthful woman 
stirring to motion every living creature. 

Agni hath come to feed on mortals' fuel. She 
hath made light and chased away the darkness. 

2. Turned to this All, far-spreading", she hath risen 
and shone in brightness with white robes about her. 

She hath beamed forth lovely with golden 
colours, mother of kine, guide of the days she bringeth. 

3. Bearing the gods' own eye (the sun), auspicious 
lady, leading her courser white and fair to look on, 

Distinguished by her beams Dawn shines ap- 
parent, come forth to all the world with wondrous 

4. Draw nigh with wealth and dawn away the 
foeman : prepare for us wide pasture free from danger. 

Drive away those who hate us, bring us riches: 
pour bounty, opulent lady, on the singer. 

5. Send thy most excellent beams to shine and 
light us, giving us lengthened days, O Dawn, O 

Granting us food, thou who hast all things 
precious, and bounty rich in chariots, kine, and horses. 

6. O Ushas, nobly-born, daughter of Heaven, 
whom the Vasistas with their hymns make mighty, 

Bestow thou on us vast and glorious riches. 
Preserve us evermore, ye gods, with blessings. 

Book x. Hymn 72. CREATION 

[The poet describes the origin of the gods and the universe.] 

1. Let us with tuneful skill proclaim these gener- 
ations of the gpds, 

That one may . see them when these hymns are 
chanted in a future age. 


2. These 1 Brahmanaspati produced with blast 
and smelting, like a smith. 

Existence, in an earlier age of gods, from non- 
existence sprang. 

3. Existence in the earliest age of gods, from non- 
existence sprang. 

Thereafter were regions 8 born. This sprang 
from the Productive Power. 

4. Earth sprang from the Productive Power ; the 
regions from the earth were born. 

Daksha was born of Aditi, and Aditi was 
Daksha's child. 

5. For Aditi, O Daksha, she who is thy daughter, 
was brought forth. 

After her were the blessed gods, born of immor- 
tal parentage. 

6. When ye, O gods, in yonder deep, close-clasping 
one another stood. 

Thence, as of dancers, from your feet a thick- 
ening cloud of dust arose. 3 

7. When, O ye gods, like Yatis, 4 ye caused all 
existing things to grow, 

Then he brought Surya forward who was 
lying hidden in the sea. 

8. Eight are the sons 5 of Aditi who from her body 
sprang to life. 

With seven she went to meet the gods: she 
cast Martanda 6 far away. 

1 All beings. 

9 The quarters of the horizon. 

8 Verses 6 and 7 seem to contain an independent account of the 
origin of the Universe from the dust caused by the dance of 
the gods. 

4 Yatis : devotees. 

5 Mitra, Varuna, Dhatar, Aryaman, Ans*a, Bhaga, Vivasvan, 
and Aditya the Sun. 

6 Martanda, a Vedic name of Surya. 


9. So with her seven sons Aditi ent forth to 
meet the earlier age. 

She brought Martanda thitherward to spring to 
life and die again. 

Book x. Hymn 81. CREATION 

[ViSvakarman is represented as the Father, Generator and 
Creator of all things and the Architect of the world.] 

1. He who sate down as Hotar-priest the Rishi, 
our father, offering up all things existing, 

He, seeking through his wish a great possession, 
came among men on earth as archetypal. 

2. What was the place whereon he took his station? 
What was it that supported him ? How was it ? 

Whence Visvakarman, seeing all, producing 
the earth, with mighty power disclosed the heavens. 

3. He who hath eyes on all sides round about him, 
a mouth on all sides, arms rfhd feet on all sides. 

He, the sole god, producing earth and heaven, 
weldeth them with his arms as wings, 1 together. 

4. What was the tree, what wood in sooth pro- 
duced it, from which they 2 fashioned out the earth 
and heaven ? 

Ye thoughtful men inquire within your spirit 
whereon he stood when he established all things. 

5. Thine highest, lowest, sacrificial natures, and 
these thy midmost here, O Visvakarman ; 

Teach thou thy friends at sacrifice, O blessed, 
and come thyself, exalted, to our worship. 3 

6. Bring thou thyself, exalted with oblation, O 
Vigvakarman, Earth and Heaven to worship, 4 

1 Fanning the flame in which the matter is smelted. 
8 They, ' the makers of the world directed by Paramegvara ' ; 
says Sayana. 

3 ' Exhilarated, thyself offer up thyself. MUIR. 

4 ' Thyself offer up heaven and earth,' MUIR. 


Let other men around us live in folly : here let 
us have a rich and liberal patron. 

7. Let us invoke to-day, to aid our labour, the lord 
of speech, the thought-swift Vigvakarman. 

May he hear kindly all our invocations who 
gives all bliss for aid whose works are righteous. 

Book x. Hymn 129. CREATION ^ 

[This hymn is said to have been written by PrajSpati, the 

Here says Max Muller we find the conception of a beginning of 
all things and of a state previous even to all existence. It is 
a hymn full of ideas which to many would seem to necessitate the 
admission of a long antecedent period of philosophical thought. 
Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 559.] 

1. Then l was not non-existent (asat) nor existent : 
there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. 

What covered in, and where ? and what gave 
shelter ? Was water there, unfathomed depth of 
water ? 

2. Death was not then, nor was there aught im- 
mortal : no sign was there, the day's and night's 

That One Thing, 8 breathless, breathed by its 
own nature : apart from it was nothing whatsoever. 

3. Darkness there was : at first concealed in dark- 
ness this All was indiscriminated chaos, 

All that existed then was void and formless : by 
the great power of Warmth was born that Unit. 

4. Thereafter rose Desire 3 in the beginning, 
Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit. 

1 Then : in the beginning. 

8 The primal substance, the unit from which the Universe was 
3 Kama. 


Sages who searched with their heart's thought 
discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent, 

5, Transversely was their severing line extended : l 
what was above it then, and what below it ? 

There were begetters, there were mighty forces, 
free action here and energy up yonder. 

6, Who verily knows and who can here declare it, 
whence it was born and whence comes this creation ? 

The gods are later than this world's production. 
Who knows then whence it first came into being? 

7, He, the first origin of this creation, whether he 
formed it all or did not form it, 

Whose eye controls this world in highest 
heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows 

Book x. Hymn 14. YAMA AND THE SOULS 


NOTE. The verses of this hymn are used in the Hindu funeral 
sremony as it is prescribed in the Siitras. See Asvalayana, 
rihyasutra iv. 1-6. The hymn is a funeral address, partly to 
ama, the god of the dead, and partly to the soul of the departed 
hose body is being consumed on the pile. Yama, it will be 
imembered, was originally the first man who died and so showed 
ie souls of his successors the way to the home of the departed, 

1. Honour the king with thine oblations, Yama, 
Vivas van's son, who gathers men together, 

Who travelled to the lofty heights, above us, 
who searches out and shows the path to many. 

2. Yama first found for us the road to travel : this 
pasture never can be taken from us. 

Men born on earth tread their own paths that 
lead them whither our ancient Fathers have departed. 

1 To separate the upper and lower worlds, 


3. Matali 1 prospers there with Kavyas,* Yama 
with Angiras' 3 sons, Brihaspati with Rikvans. 4 

Exalters of the gods, by gods exalted, some joy 
in praise and some in our oblation. 

4. Come, seat thee on this bed of grass, O Yama, 
in company with Angirasas and Fathers. 

Let texts recited by the sages bring thee: O 
king, let this oblation make thee joyful. 

5. Come, Yama, with the Angirasas the holy, 
rejoice thee here with the children of Virupa. 5 

Seated on sacred grass at this our worship: 
I call Vivasvan, too, thy father hither. 

6. Our fathers are Angirasas, Navagvas, Athar- 
vans, Bhrigus * who deserve the soma. 

May these, the holy, look on us with favour 
may we enjoy their gracious loving-kindness. 

[The following verses are addressed to the spirit of 
the dead man whose funeral rites are being celebrated.} 

7. Go forth, go forth upon the ancient pathways 
whereon our sires of old have gone before us. 

There shalt thou look on both the kings enjoy- 
ing their sacred food, god Varu$a and Yama. 

8. Meet Yama, meet the Fathers (Pitris), meet 
the merit of free or ordered acts, in highest heaven. 

Leave sin and evil, seek anew thy dwelling, 
and bright with glory wear another body. 

9. Go hence* depart ye, 7 fly in all directions : this 
place for him the Fathers have provided. 

1 MatalX a divine being, perhaps Indra. 

* A class of the spirits of the dead. 

3 The typical first sacrificers, Angirasas. 

4 A class of spirits who sing the praise of Bjrihaspati, 

* A sub-division of the Angirasas. 

* Ancient priestly families. 

* According to Sayana the ninth stanza is addressed to the 
Fi&chas and other evil spirits that haunt the place of cremation. 


Yama bestows on him a place to rest in adorned 
with days and beams of light and waters. 

10. Run l and outspeed the two dogs, Sarama's 
offspring, brindled, four-eyed, upon thy happy path- 

Draw nigh, then to the gracious-minded Fathers 
where they rejoice in company with Yama, 

11. And those two dogs of thine, Yama, the 
watchers, four-eyed, who look on men and guard the 

Entrust this man, O king, to their protection, 
and with prosperity and health endow him. 

12. Dark-hued, insatiate, with distended nostrils, 
Yama's two envoys roam among the people ; 

May they restore to us a fair existence here and, 
to-day, that we may see the sunlight. 

[The three following stanzas are addressed to the 
priests :] 

13. To Yama pour the soma, bring to Yama conse- 
crated gifts : 

To Yama sacrifice prepared and heralded by 
Agni goes. 

1 4. Offer to Yama holy gifts enriched with butter, 
and draw near, 

So may he grant that we may live long days of 
life among the gods. 

15. Offer to Yama, to the king, oblation very rich in 
meath : 

Bow down before the rishis of the ancient times, 
who made this path in days of old. 

16. Into 9 the three great jars it falls: six realms, 
the only lofty place, 

The Gayatri, the Tristup, all metres in Yama 
are contained. 

1 The spirit of the dead is addressed. 
9 This stanza is unintelligible. 


Book x. Hymn 15. THE FATHERS 

[This hymn is said to have been composed by ankha, son of 
Yama. It is the only one specially addressed to the Pitris. 
Offerings are made to them, of which they are invited to partake, 
and blessings are solicited.] 

1. May they ascend, the lowest, highest, midmost* 
the Fathers who deserve a share of soma. 

May they who have attained the life of spirits,, 
skilled in Law (ritci), harmless, aid us when we call 

2. Now let us pay this homage to the Fathers, to 
those who passed of old, and those who followed. 

Those who have rested in the earthly region,, 
and those who dwell among the mighty races. 

3. I have attained the gracious-minded Fathers, I 
have gained son and progeny from Vishnu. 

They who enjoy pressed juices with oblation,, 
seated on sacred grass, come oftenest hither. 

4. Fathers who sit on sacred grass, come, help us : 
these offerings have we made for you ; accept them. 

So come to us with most auspicious favour, and 
give us health and wealth without a trouble. 

5. May they, the Fathers worthy of the soma,. 
invited to their favourite oblations 

Laid on the sacred grass, come nigh and listen : 
may they be gracious unto us and bless us. 

6. Bowing your bended knees and seated south- 
ward, accept this sacrifice of ours with favour, 

Punish us not for any sin, O Fathers, which we 
through human frality have committed. 

7. Lapped in the bosom of the purple Mornings* 
give riches to the man who brings oblations. 

Grant to your sons a portion of that treasure* 
and, present, give them energy, ye Fathers. 

8. Our ancient Fathfers, who deserve the soma 
who came, most noble, to our soma-banquet 


With these let Yama, yearning with the yearn- 
ing, rejoicing eat our offerings at his pleasure. 

9. Come to us, Agni, with the gracious Fathers 
who dwell in glowing light, the very Kavyas 1 , 

Who thirsted 'mid the gods, who hasten hither, 
oblation winners, theme of singers' praises. 

10. Come, Agni, come with countless ancient 
Fathers, dwellers in light, primeval, god-adorers, 

Eaters and drinkers of oblations, truthful, who 
travel with the deities and Indra. 

11. Fathers whom Agni's flames have tasted, 2 come 
ye nigh : in perfect order take ye each your proper 

Eat sacrificial food presented on the grass : 
grant riches with a multitude of hero sons. 

12. Thou, Agni Jatavedas, 3 when entreated, didst 
bear the offerings which thou madest fragrant, , 

And give them to the Fathers who did eat them 
with Svadha. 4 Eat, thou god, the gift we bring thee. 

13. Thou, Jatavedas, knowest well the number of 
Fathers who are here and who are absent, 

Of Fathers whom we know and whom we know 
not, accept the sacrifice well-prepared with portions. 

14. They who, consumed by fire or not cremated, 
joy in their offering in the midst of heaven - 

Grant them, O sovran lord, the life they merit, 
and their own body as thy pleasure wills it. 

Book x. Hymn 18. THE FUNERAL HYMN 

[This hymn, claimed to be written by a son of Yama, is impor- 
tant, as sanctioning widow marriage. Verse 8. The barbarous 
practice of widow burning was based upon a mistranslation of 

1 Kavyas : the spirits of an ancient pious race. 

2 Whose bodies have been cremated. 

3 See page 179 note. 

4 Svadha is a sacrificial- exclamation. Or it may mean the 
sacrificial offering due to each. 


verse 7. The word Agre was altered into Agne. .Max M tiller 
describes this as perhaps the most flagrant instance of what can be 
done by an unscrupulous priesthood. Thousands of lives been 
sacrificed on the authority of a passage which was mangled, mis- 
translated and misapplied.] 

1. Go hence, O Death, 1 pursue thy special path- 
way apart from that which gods are wont to travel. 

To thee I say it who hast eyes and hearest : 
touch not our offspring, injure not our heroes. 

[Verse 2 is addressed to the kinsman of the deceased.] 

2. As ye have come effacing Mrityu's footstep, 1 to 
farther times prolonging your existence, 

May ye be rich in children and possessions, 
cleansed, purified, and meet for sacrificing. 

3. Divided from the dead are these, the living : now 
is our calling on the gods successful. 

We have come forth for dancing and for 
laughter, to farther times, prolonging our existence. 

4. Here I s erect this ramparts for the living ; let 
none of these, none other, reach this limit. 

May they survive a hundred lengthened autumns* 
and may they bury death beneath this mountain. 

5. As the days follow days in close succession, as 
with the seasons duly come the seasons, 

As each successor fails not his fore-goer, so 
form lives of these, O great Ordainer. 3 

6. Live your full lives and find old age delightful, 
all of you striving one behind the other. 

May Tvastar, maker of fair things, be gracious 
and lengthen out the days of your existence. 

i Death : Mrityu, distinct from Yama who was ruler of the 
departed. Effacing Mrityu's footstep, means avoiding the path 
of death. 

* The Adhvaryu raised a mound as limiting Death's domain. 

3 DhStar, a divine being who is manager of all things. 


7. % Let these unwidowed dames with noble hus- 
bands adorn themselves with fragrant balm and 

Decked with fair jewels, tearless, free from 
sorrow, first let the matrons pass unto their houses. 

[Verse 8 is spoken by the husband's brother, and 
others, to the wife of the dead man, while she is made 
to leave her husband's body.} 

8. Rise, come unto the world of life, O woman : l 
come he is lifeless by whose side thou liest. 

Wifehood with this thy husband was thy por- 
tion,who took thy hand and wooed thee as a lover. 

9. From his dead hand I take the bow he carried, 
that it may be our power and might and glory. 5 

There art thou, there; and here with noble 
heroes may we o'ercome all hosts that fight against us. 

[Verse 10 is addressed to the body. The urn con- 
taining the ashes was buried. The earth is asked not 
to press heavily upon it.} 

10. Betake thee to the lap of earth the mother, 
of earth far-spreading, very kind and gracious. 

Young dame, wool-soft, unto the guerdon-giver, 
may she preserve thee from Destruction's 3 bosom. 

11. Heave thyself, Earth, nor press thee down- 
ward heavily : afford him easy access, gently tending 

Earth, as a mother wraps her skirt about her 
child, so cover him. 

12. Now let the heaving earth be free from motion: 
yea, let a thousand clods remain above him. 

Be they to him a home distilling fatness, here 
let them ever be his place of refuge. 

x This is interpreted as showing that the widow remarried. 
9 Addressed to a dead Kshatriya. 
8 Destruction : Nirriti. 


[Verse 13 is addressed to the urn containing the 

13. I stay the earth from thee, while over thee I 
place this piece of earth. May I be free from injury, 

Here let the Fathers keep this pillar firm for 
thee, and there let Yama make thee an abiding place. 

14. Even as an arrow's feathers, they have laid me 
down at day's decline. 

My parting speech have I drawn back as 'twere 
a courser with the rein. 

Book x. Hymn 191. THE PUBLIC ASSEMBLY 

[This is the last hymn of the Rig- Veda. The subject is agree- 
ment in a general assembly (Samiti) of the people on some impor- 
tant occasion, such as the election of a King.] 

1. Thou, mighty Agni, gatherest all that is 
precious for thy friend. 

Bring us all treasures as thou art enkindled in 
libation's place. 

2. Assemble, speak together : let your minds be 
all of one accord, 

As ancient gods unanimous sit down to their 
appointed share. 

3. The place is common, common the assembly, 
common the mind, so be their thought united. 

A common purpose do I lay before you, and 
worship with your general oblation. 

4. One and the same be your resolve, and be your 
minds of one accord. 

United be the thoughts of all that all may 
happily agree. 

Book viii. Hymn 69. THE CHARIOT RACE 

The Hymn for success in a coming chariot race, a 
hymn to Indra, has been quoted in the chapter on the 
Social Life of the Early Aryans (p. 16). 


Book x. 117. LIBERALITY 

[This hymn in praise of liberality is said to have been composed 
3y the rishi Bhikshu (the ' beggar ') son of Angiras.] 

1. The gods have not ordained hunger to be our 
death : even to the well-fed man comes death in 
varied shape. 

The riches of the liberal never waste away, 
while he who will not give finds none to comfort 

2. The man with food in store who, when the 
needy comes in miserable case begging for bread 
to eat, 

Hardens his heart against him even when of 
old he did him service finds not one to comfort 

3. Bounteous is he who gives unto the beggar who 
comes to him in want of food and feeble. 

Success attends him in the shout of battle. He 
makes a friend of him in future troubles. 

4. No friend is he who to his friend and comrade 
who comes imploring food, will offer nothing. 

Let him depart no home is that to rest in 
and rather seek a stranger to support him. 

5. Let the rich satisfy the poor implorer, and bend 
his eye upon a longer pathway. 1 

Riches come now to one, and now to another, 
and like the wheels of cars are ever rolling. 

6. The foolish man wins food with fruitless labour : 
that food I speak the truth shall be his ruin. 

He feeds no trusty friend, no man to love him. 
All guilt is he who eats with no partaker. 

7. The ploughshare ploughing makes the food that 
feeds us, and with its feet cuts through the path it 

1 Carefully consider the future, remembering that he may be in 
iced some day. 


Better the speaking l than the silent Brahman : 
the liberal friend outvalues him who gives not. 

8. He with one foot hath far outrun the biped, and 
the two-footed catches the three-footed. 

Four-footed creatures come when bipeds call 
them, and stand and look where five are met together.* 

9. The hands are both alike : their labour differs. 
The yield of sister milch-kine is unequal. 

Twins even differ in their strength and vigour : 
two, even kinsmen, differ in their bounty. 

Book i. Hymn 126. A SAGE'S THANKSGIVING 

[The hymn writer, Kakshivan feel asleep on a journey. He was 
roused in the morning by Raja Svanaya who took him home and 
gave him at once his ten daughters in marriage, presenting him at 
the same time with the gifts mentioned in the hymn. The poet 
praises the liberality of Svanaya, here called Bhgvya, from his 
father Bhava.] 

1. With wisdom I present these lively praises of 
Bhavya dweller on the bank of Sindhu (the Indus) ; 

For he, unconquered king, desiring glory, hath 
furnished me a thousand sacrifices. 

2. A hundred necklets from the king, beseeching, 
a hundred gift-steeds I at once accepted ; 

Of the lord's cows a thousand, I Kakshivan. 
His deathless glory hath he spread to heaven. 

1 The priest who duly recites the Vedas, for which duty he has 
been engaged. 

9 The victory is not always won by those who seem most likely 
to win. The 'one-footed' (ekap8d) is the Sun, which surpasses 
the ' biped ' man. The ' biped ' catches the ' three-footed ' old 
man with his staff. The 'four-footed ' are dogs. The ' five ' are a 
group of men at which the dogs look uncertain whether their own 
masters are among them or not. 


3. Horses of dusky colour stood beside me, ten 
chariots, Svanaya's gift, with mares to draw them. 

Kine numbering sixty thousand followed after ^ 
Kakshivan gained them when the days were closing. 

4. Forty bay horses of the ten cars' master before 
a thousand lead the long procession. 

Reeling in joy Kakshlvan's sons and Pajra's 
have groomed the coursers decked with pearly trap- 

5. An earlier gift for you have I accepted, eight 
cows, good milkers, and three harnessed horses, 

Pajras, who with your wains with your great 
kinsman like troops of subjects have been fain for 
glory. 1 

Book x. Hymn 71. THE WISE JNANAM 

[The commentator Sayana says that this difficult hymn refers to 
ParamabrahmajnSnam, knowledge of the highest truth so that 
man may be united with the Supreme.] 

1. When men, Brihaspati, giving names to objects,, 
sent out Vak's 8 first and earliest utterances, 

All that was excellent and spotless, treasured 
within them, was disclosed through their affection. 

2. Where like men cleansing corn-flour in a crib- 
ble, the wise in spirit have created language, 

Friends see and recognize the marks of friend- 
ship : their speech retains tl\e blessed sign imprinted^ 

3. With sacrifice the trace of Vak they followed, 
and found her harbouring within the rishis. J 

They brought her, dealt her fourth in many 

* The hymn ends with two more verses, supposed to be part of a. 
love song which have no apparent relation to the rest of the hymn. 

a Vak : voice or speech deified. 

3 Men are to learn that the rishis alone understand speech for 
religious purposes. 


places : seven singers make her tones resound in 

4. One man hath ne'er seen Vak, and yet he seeth : 
one man hath hearing but hath never heard her. 

But to another hath she shown her beauty as a 
fond well-dressed woman to her husband. 

5. One man they call a laggard, dull in friendship : 
they never urge him on to deeds of valour. 

He wanders on in profitless illusion : the Voice 
he heard yields neither fruit nor blossom. 

6. No part in Vak hath he who hath abandoned 
his own dear friend who knows the truth of friendship. 

Even if he hears her still in vain he listens : 
naught knows he of the path of righteous action. 

7. Unequal in the quickness of spirit are friends 
endowed alike with eyes and hearing. 

Some looked like tanks that reach the mouth or 
shoulder, others like pools of water fit to bathe in. 

8. When friendly Brahmans sacrifice together with 
mental impulse which the heart hath fashioned 

They leave one far behind through their attain- 
ments, and some who count as Brahmans wander 

9. Those men who step not back and move not 
forward, 1 nor Brahmans, nor preparers of libations, 

Having attained to Vak in sinful fashion spin 
out their thread in ignorance like spinsters. 

10. All friends are joyful in the friend who cometh 
in triumph, having conquered in assembly. 

He is their blaifte-averter, food-provider : pre- 
pared is he and fit for deed and vigour. 

11. One plies his constant task reciting verses 8 : 
one sings the holy psalms 3 in akvarl measures. 

1 Take no active part in the ceremonies. 

* Reciting verses, ricas, verses of the Rig.-veda. This is the v 

8 The holy psalm, the Gayatra or Sam an. This is the UdgStri, 
3r chanter. 


One more, the Brahman, tells the lore jf being, 
and one lays down the rules of sacrificing. 1 

Book vi. Hymn 28. Cows 3 

1. me kine have come and brought good fortune ; 
let them rest in the cow-pen and be happy near us. 

Here let them stay prolific, many-coloured, and 
yield through many morns their milk for Indra. 

2. Indra aids him who offers sacrifice and gifts : he 
takes not what is his, and gives him more thereto. 

Increasing ever more and more his wealth, he 
makes the pious dwell within unbroken bounds. 

3. These are ne'er lost, no robber ever injures 
them : no evil-minded foe attempts to harass them. 

The master of the kine lives many a year with 
these, the cows whereby he pours his gifts and serves 
the gods. 

4. The charger with his dusty brow overtakes them 
not, 3 and never to the shambles do they take their way* 

These cows, the cattle of the pious worshipper,, 
roam over wide- spread pasture where no danger is. 

5. To me the cows seem Bhaga, they seem Indra, 4 
they seem a portion of the first-poured Soma. 

These present cows, they, O ye men, are Indra* 
I long for Indra with my heart and spirit. 

6. O cows, ye fatten e'en the worn and wasted,, 
and make the unlovely beautiful to look on. 

Prosper my house, ye with auspicious voices* 
Your power is glorified in our asssmblies. 

7. Crop good pasturage and be prolific ; drink pure 
sweet water at goodly drinking-places. 

* The Adhvaryu. 

2 The cows are the deified object of the hymn, except in stanza 
2 and part of 8, where the deity is Indra. 

3 They are not to be captured by raiders. 

4 The cows seem to be like gods because of their goodness. 


Never be thief or sinful man your master, and 
may the dart of Rudra still avoid you. 

8. Now let this close admixture be close inter- 
mingled with these cows. 

Mixt with the steer's prolific flow, 1 and, Indra, 
with thy hero might. 

Book vii. Hymn 103. FROGS 

[The hymn, says Max Muller, ' which is called a panegyric of 
the frogs, is clearly a satire on the priests.' It evidently belongs to 
<a late period of Vedic poetry,] 

1. They who lay quiet for a year, the Brahmans 
who fulfil their vows, 

The frogs have lifted up their voice, the voice 
Parjanya hath inspired. 

2. What time on these, as on a dry skin lying in 
the pool's bed, the floods of heaven descended, 

The music of the frogs comes forth in concert 
like the cows ' lowing with their calves beside them. 

3. When at the coming of the Rains the water has 
pojired upon them as they yearned and thirsted, 

One seeks another as he talks and greets him 
with cries of pleasure as son his father. 

4. Each of these twain receives the other kindly, 
while they are revelling in the flow of waters, 

When the frog moistened by the rain springs 
forward, and Green and Spotty both combine their 

5. When one of these repeats the other's language, 
as he who learns the lesson of the teacher, 

Your every limb seems to be growing larger as 
ye converse with eloquence on the waters, 

6. One is Cow-bellow and Goat-bleat the other, 
one frog is Green and one of them is Spotty. 

1 The reference is to the mixture of milk and soma- juice. Soma 
is the * steer '. The libation was offered to Indra. 


They bear one common name, and yet they 
vary, and, talking, modulate the voice diversely. 

7. As Brahmans, sitting round the brimful vessel, 
talk at the soma-rite of Atiratra. 1 

So, frogs, ye gather round the pool to honour 
this 'day of all the year, the first of Rain-time. 

8. These Brahmans with the soma- juice, -perform- 
ing their year-long rite,* have lifted up their voices ; 

And these Adhvaryus, sweating with their 
kettles (or oblations), come forth and show themselves, 
and none are hidden. 

9. They keep the twelve month's god-appointed 
order, and never do the men neglect the season. 

Soon as the Rain-time in the year returneth, 
these who were heated kettles 3 gain their freedom. 

10. Cow-bellow and Goat-bleat have granted riches, 
and Green and Spotty have vouchsafed us treasure. 

The frogs who give us cows in hundreds length- 
en our lives in this most fertilizing season. 

Book iii. Hymn 33. Two RIVERS AND A SAGE 

[This is a dialogue between the sage Vigvamitra and the 
livers VipaS (the modern Bias) and utudrl (the modern Sutlej). 
The story is that the sage sung this hymn at the confluence of the 
VipS and 6utudri in order to make them fordable when he wished 
to cross. It may refer to the early journeys of the Aryans.] 

Vi&vamitra addresses the rivers : 

1. Forth from the bosom of the mountains, eager 
as two swift mares with loosened rein contending, 

Like two bright mother cows who lick their 
youngling, VipaS and Sutudrl speed down their waters. 

1 Probably a ceremony accompanied by the recitation of hymns 
at night. 

9 SSyana explains this as a reference to a series of sacrifices, the 
Gavtfm ayanam, ' the going of the cows, ' lasting a year. 

3 Scorched in the hot weather. 


2. Impelled by Indra whom ye pray to urge you, 
ye move as 'twere on chariots to the ocean. 

Flowing together, swelling with your billows. 
O lucid streams, each of you seeks the other. 

3. I have attained the most maternal river, we 
have approached Vipag, the broad, the blessed. 

Licking as 'twere their calf the pair of mothers 
flow onward to their common home together. 

The rivers speak : 

4. We two who rise and swell with billowy waters 
move forward to the home which gods have made us. 

Our flood may not be stayed when urged to 
motion. What would the singer, calling to the rivers ? 

The sage speaks : 

5. Linger a little at my friendly bidding ; rest, 
holy ones, a moment in your journey. 

With hymn sublime soliciting your favour, 
KuSka's son hath called unto the river. 

The rivers speak : 

6. Indra who wields the thunder dug our channels : 
he smote down Vritra, him who stayed our currents. 

Savitar, god, the lovely-handed, led us, and at 
his sending forth we flow expanded. 

The sage speaks : 

7. That hero deed of Indra must be lauded fot 
ever that he rent Ahi l in pieces. 

He smote away the obstructors with his thunder, 
and eager for their course forth flowed the waters 

The rivers speak : 

8. Never forget this word of thine, O singer, which 
tuture generations shall re-echo. 

In hymns, O bard, show us thy loving-kindness. 
Humble us not mid men. To thee be honour. 

1 The serpent demon of drought. 


The sage speaks : 

9. Listen, ye sisters, to the bard who cometh to 
you from far away with car and wagon. 

Bow lowly down ; be easy to be traversed : 
stay rivers, with your floods below our axles. 

The rivers speak : 

10. Yea, we will listen to thy words, O singer. 
With wain and cart from far away thou comest. 

Low will I bend me, like a nursing mother, 
and yield me as a maiden to her lover. 

The sage speaks : 

11. Soon as the Bharatas 1 have fared across thee, 
the warrior band, urged on and sped by Indra, 

Then let your streams flow on in rapid motion. 
I crave your favour who deserve our worship. 

12. The warrior host, the Bharatas, fared over: the 
singer won the favour of the rivers. 

Swell with your billows, hasting, pouring riches. 
Fill full your channels, and roll swiftly onward. 

13. So let your wave bear up the pins, and ye, O 
waters, spare the thongs ; 

And never may the pair of bulls, harmless and 
sinless, waste away. 2 

Book v. Hymn 40. THE ECLIPSE 

,, [The Hindu explanation of eclipses is that they are caused by the 
Asura Rahu seeking to seize the sun and moon. In the Vedas he/ 
is called Svarbhanu. The sun is supposed to be delivered by this 
hymn, chanted by the rishi Atri, and expresses his gratitude. The 
verses referring to the eclipse alone are quoted.] 

1 The Bharatas were an important Aryan tribe, of the same race 
as ViSvamitra. 

2 The thirteenth verse seems to be a later addition. It is in 
different metre. 



The sage speaks : 

5. O Surya, when the Asura's descendant, Svar- 
bhanu, pierced thee through and through with darkness. 

All creatures looked like one who is bewildered, 
who knoweth not the place where he is standing. 

6. What time thou smotest down Svarbhanu's 
magic that spread itself beneath the sky, O Indra, 

By his fourth l sacred-prayer Atri * discovered 
Surya concealed in gloom that stayed his function. 

The sun speaks : 

7. Let not the oppressor with this dread, through 
anger swallow me up, for I am thine, O Atri. 

Mitra art thou, the sender of true blessings : 
thou and king Varuna be both my helpers. 

The sage speaks : 

8. The Brahman Atri, as he set the press-stones, 3 
serving the gods with praise and adoration, 

Established in the heaven the eye of Surya, and 
caused Svarbhanu's magic arts to vanish. 

9. The Atris found the Sun again, him whom 
Svarbhanu of the brood 

Of Asuras had pierced with gloom. This none 
beside had power to do. 

Book x. Hymn 34. THE GAMBLER 

[In this hymn a gambler apparently describes his own experi- 

1. Sprung from tall trees 4 on windy heights, these 
rollers transport me as they turn upon the table. 

1 Stanzas 5-8 of this hymn. 

2 Atri is the rishi singing this hymn. 

8 For pressing out the juice of the soma-plant. 
4 Nuts were used for dice in early times. 


Dearer to me the die that never slumbers than 
the deep draught of Mujavan's own soma. 1 

2. She never vexed me nor was angry with me, 
but to my friends and me was ever gracious. 

For the die's sake whose single point is final 
mine own devoted wife I alienated. 

3. My wife holds me aloof, her mother hates me : 
the wretched man finds none to give him comfort. 

As of a costly horse grown old and feeble, I 
find not any profit of the gamester. 

4. Others caress the wife of him whose riches the 
die hath coveted, that rapid courser : 

Of him speak father, mother, brothers, saying, 
We know him not : bind him and take him with you. 

5. When I resolve to play with these no longer, 
my friends depart from me and leave me lonely, 

When the brown dice, thrown on the board, 
have rattled, like a fond girl I seek the place of 

6. The gamester seeks the gambling-house, and 
wonders, his body all afire, Shall I be lucky? 

Still do the dice extend his eager longing, stak- 
ing his gains against his adversary. 

7. Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving- 
hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous 

They give frail gifts and then destroy the man 
who wins, thickly anointed with the player's fairest 

8. Merrily sports their troop, the three-and-fifty, 2 
like Savitar the god, whose ways are faithful. 

They bend not even to the mighty's anger : the 
king himself pays homage and reveres them. 

9. Downward they roll, and then spring quickly 
upward, and, handless, force the man with hands to 
serve them. 

1 Mujavan was a mountain on which the soma-plant grew. 
3 The meaning is uncertain. 


Cast on the board, like lumps of magic charcoal 
though cold themselves they burn the heart to ashes. 

10. The gambler's wife is left forlorn and wretched : 
the mother mourns the son who wanders homeless. 

In constant fear, in debt, and seeking riches, he 
goes by night unto the home of others. 

11. Sad is the gambler when he sees a matron, 
another's wife, and his well-ordered dwelling. 

He yokes the brown steeds l in the early morn- 
ing, and when the fire is cold sinks down an outcast. 

12. To the great captain a of your mighty army, 
who hath become the host's imperial leader, 

To him I show my ten extended fingers : 3 I 
speak the truth. No wealth am I withholding. 

13. Play not with dice : no, cultivate thy corn-land. 
Enjoy the gain, and deem that wealth sufficient, 

There are thy cattle, there thy wife, O gambler. 
So this good Savitar himself hath told me. 

14. Make me your friend: show us some little 
mercy. Assail us not with your terrific fierceness, 

Appeased be your malignity and anger, and let 
the brown dice snare some other captive. 

Book vi. Hymn 75. WEAPONS OF WAR 

[Griffith says that the deified objects are the armour and 
warlike weapons, charioteer, chariot, horses, etc., and the tutelary 
deities, addressed, mentioned or invoked in the hymn. The hymn 
is too long for quotation. The following are some of the principal 

The bow and arrows : 

2. With bow let us win kine, with bow the battle, 
with bow be victors in our hot encounters. 

1 Begins throwing the brown dice. 

* The dice marked with highest numbers. 

8 To show that I have nothing left. 


The bow brings grief and sorrow to the foeman : 
armed with the bow may we subdue all regions. 

3. Close to his ear, as fain to speak, she * presses, 
holding her well-loved friend in her embraces. 

Strained on the bow, she whispers like a 
woman 9 this bowstring that preserves us in the 

4. These, meeting like a woman and her lover, 
bear, mother-like, their child 3 upon their bosom. 

May the two bow-ends, starting swift asunder, 
scatter, in unison, the foes who hate us. 

5. With many a son, father of many daughters, 4 
he clangs and clashes as he goes to battle, 

Slung on the back, pouring his brood, the quiver 
vanquishes all opposing bands and armies. 

11. Her tooth a deer, dressed in an eagle's feathers, 
bound with cow-hide, launched forth, she flieth onward. 
There where the heroes speed hither and thither, 
there may the arrows shelter and protect us. 

1 6. Loosed from the bowstring fly away, thou arrow, 
sharpened by our prayer. 

Go to the foemen, strike them home, and let 
not one be left alive. 

The charioteer, chariot and his whip : 

6. Upstanding in the car the skilful charioteer 
guides his strong horses on withersoe'er he will. 

See and admire the strength of those controlling 
reins which from behind declare the will of him who 

7. Horses whose hoofs rain dust are neighing 
loudly, yoked to the chariots, showing forth their 

1 The bowstring. 

8 Homer likens the sound to the call of a swallow. 

3 The arrow. 

4 The quiver is said to be father of sons and daughters because 
the words signifying * arrow ' are both masculine and feminine. 


With their forefeet descending on the foemen, 
they, never flinching, trample and destroy them. 

13. He lays his blows upon their backs, he deals 
his blows upon their thighs. 

Thou, whip, who urgest horses, drive sagacious 
horses in the fray. 

The hymn concludes thus : 

19. Whoso would kill us, whether he be a strange 
foe or one of us, 

May all the gods discomfit him. My nearest, 
closest mail is prayer. 


[' According to Saunaka, this hymn should be recited by a 
person about to eat, when his food will never disagree with him ; 
its repetition also, accompanied with oblations and worship, will 
secure him against want of food, and if he should have taken 
poison, its silent repetition will act as an antidote. 1 WILSON.] 

1. Now will I glorify Food that upholds great 

By whose invigorating power Trita * rent Vritra 
limb from limb. 

2. O pleasant Food, 2 O Food of meath, thee have 
we chosen for our own, 

So be our kind protector thou. 

3. Come hitherward to us, O Food, auspicious 
with auspicious help, 

Health-bringing, not unkind, a dear and guile- 
less friend. 

4. These juices which, O Food, are thine through- 
out the regions are diffused. 

Like winds they have their place in heaven. 

5. These gifts of thine, O Food, O Food most 
sweet to taste, 

1 Trita is Indra pervading the three worlds. 
3 The god addressed is Soma. 


These savours of thy juices work like creatures 
that have mighty necks. 1 

6. In thee, O Food, is set the spirit of great gods. 
Under thy flag brave deeds were done : he slew 

the dragon with thy help. 

7. If thou be gone unto the splendour of the clouds, 
Even from thence, O Food of meath, prepared 

for our enjoyment, come. 

8. Whatever morsel we consume from waters or 
from plants of earth, O Soma, wax thou fat thereby, 

9. What, Soma, we enjoy from thee in milky food 
or barley-brew, Vatapi * grow thou fat thereby. 

10. O Vegetable, cake of meal, be wholesome, firm, 
and strengthening : 

Vatapi, 4 grow thou fat thereby. 

11. O Food, from thee as such have we drawn forth 
with lauds, like cows, our sacrificial gifts, 

From thee who banquetest with gods, from thee 
who banquetest with us. 

Book vii. Hymn 55. VASTOSPATI AND INDRA 

[The hymn appears to be made up of three unconnected 
pieces. The first verse is addressed to Vastospati, the guardian 
god of the house. Verses 2-4 are addressed by the spirits of Indra's 
worshippers to one of Yama's dogs who would prevent there 
entering the home of the pious dead. Sararna, the hound of Indra, 
was the mother of the two spotted watch-dogs of Yama. Verses 
5-8 form a sleep song. It was recited by thieves and house-breakers 
to put people to sleep.] 

1. Vastospati, who killest all disease, and wearest 
every form, 

Be an auspicious friend to us. 

1 Bullocks. 

8 The fermenting soma- juice ; or, according to Sayana, the body. 


. 2. When, O bright son of Sarama, thou showest, 
tawny-hued ! thy teeth, 

They gleam like lances' points within thy mouth 
when thott wouldest bite : go thou to sleep. 

3. Sarama's son, retrace thy way : bark at the 
robber and the thief. 

At Indra's singers barkest thou ? Why dost 
thou seek to terrify us ? Go to sleep. 

4. Be on thy guard against the boar, and let the 
boar beware of thee. 

At Indra's singers barkest thou ? Why dost 
thou seek to terrify us ? Go to sleep. 

5. Sleep mother, let the father sleep, sleep dog 
and master of the house. 

Let all the kinsmen sleep, sleep all the people 
who are round about. 

6. The man who sits, the man who walks, and 
whosoever looks on us, 

Of these we closely shut the eyes, even as we 
closely shut this house. 

7.. The Bull who hath a thousand horns, who rises 
up from out the sea 

By him the strong and mighty one we lull and 
make the people sleep. 

8. The women sleeping in the court, lying with- 
out, or stretched on beds, 

The matrons with their odorous sweets 1 these, 
one and all, we lull to sleep. 

Book vii. Hymn 104. A SPELL AGAINST 

[The hymn consists chiefly of imprecations directed against 
Rakshasas, demons, and Yatudhanas, a kind of goblin. These 
foes are supposed to go about at night, disturbing sacrifices and 
pious men, ensnaring and even devouring human beings, and 

1 The garlands of flowers worn on festive occasions. 


generally hostile to the human race. The hymn is too long to be 
quoted in full.] 

1. Indra and Soma, burn, destroy the demon foe, 
send downward, O ye Bulls, those who add gloom 
to gloom. 

Annihilate the fools, slay them and burn them 
up : chase them away from us, pierce the voracious 

2. Indra and Soma, let sin round the wicked boil 
like as a caldron set amid the flames of fire. 

Against the foe of prayer, devourer of raw flesh, 
the vile fiend fierce of eye, keep ye perpetual hate. 

3. Indra and Soma, plunge the wicked in the 
depth, yea, cast them into darkness that hath no 

So that not one of them may ever thence return : 
so may your wrathful might prevail and conquer them. 

4. Indra and Soma, hurl your deadly crushing bolt 
down on the wicked fiend from heaven and from the 

Yea, forge out of the mountains your celestial 
dart wherewith ye burn to death the waxing demon 

5. Indra and Soma, cast ye downward out of 
heaven your deadly darts of stone burning with fiery 

Eternal, scorching darts ; plunge the voracious 
ones within the depth, and let them sink without a 

18. Spread out, ye Maruts search among the people: 
seize ye and grind the Rakshasas to pieces, 

Who fly abroad transformed to birds, at night 
time ; or sully and pollute our holy worship. 

24. Indra destroy the demon, male and female, 
joying and triumphing in arts of magic. 

Let the fools' gods 1 with bent necks fall and 
perish, and see no more the sun when he arises. 

1 Fools' gods, miiradevah, perhaps a species of demon. 


25. Look each one hither, look around : Indra and 
Soma, watch ye well. 

Cast forth your weapon at the fiends ; against 
the sorcerers hurl your bolt. 


[The hymn is a spell to rid a jealous wife of a more favoured 
rival. The singer is Indrani, the consort of Indra.] 

1. From out the earth I dig this plant, an herb of 
most effectual power, 

Wherewith one quells the rival wife and gains 
the husband for oneself. 

2. Auspicious, with expanded leaves, sent by the 
gods, victorious plant, 

Blow thou the rival wife away, and make my 
husband only mine. 

3. Stronger am I ; O stronger one, yea, mightier 
than the mightier ; 

And she who is my rival wife is lower than the 
lowest dames. 

4. Her very name I utter not : she takes no 
pleasure in this man. 

Far into distance most remote drive we the 
rival wife away. 

5. I am the conqueror, and thou, thou also art 
victorious : 

As victory attends us both we will subdue my 

6. I have gained thee for vanquisher, have grasped 
thee with a stronger spell. 

As a cow hastens to her calf, so let thy spirit l 
speed to me, hasten like water on its way. 

1 The spirit of the husband overpowered by the spell. 


Book x. Hymn 164. A SPELL AGAINST EVIL 
DREAMS (DuhsvapnagJinam) 

1. Avaunt, thou master of the mind. 1 Depart, and 
vanish far away 

Look on Destruction 2 far from hence. The live 
man's mind is manifold. 

2. A happy boon do men elect, a mighty blessing 
they obtain. 

Bliss with Vaivasvata 3 they see. The live man's 
mind seeks many a place. 

3. When by address, by blame, by imprecation we 
have committed sin, awake or sleeping, 

All hateful acts of ours, all evil doings may 
Agni bear away to distant places. 

4. When, Indra, Brahmanaspati, our deeds are 
wrongful and unjust,^ 

Prachetas the Angirasa 1 present our foes from 
troubling us. 

5. We have prevailed this day and won : we are 
made free from sin and guilt. 

Ill thoughts, that visit us awake or sleeping, 
seize the man we hate, yea, seize the man who hateth 

1 The spirit of evil dreams. 

2 The goddess Nirriti. 

* Siiyana says that Vaivasvata is Yama, son of Vivasvan, who 
presides over evil dreams. 

4 Prachetas the rishi who is said to have composed this hymn 
was a descendant of the early priestly family of the Angirasas, 
special worshippers of Varuna. 


As already mentioned, the Sama-veda consists largely of 
extracts from the Rig-veda. Hymns, portions of hymns, 
and detached verses are transposed and rearranged 
without reference to their original order, and there are 
frequent variations from the text of the Rig-veda. The 
first hymn is considered a later addition. The second 
hymn, as translated by Griffith, is given to afford some 
idea of the composition of the book. The references 
appended to each verse show where the verse appears in 
the Rig-veda. 

1. O Agni, God, the people sing reverent praise to 
thee for strength ; 

With terrors trouble thou the foe ! 

viii. 64, 10. 

2. I seek with song your messenger, oblation- 
bearer, lord of wealth, 

Immortal, best at sacrifice. 

iv, 8. 1. 

3. Still turning to their aim in thee the sacrificer's 
sister hymns 

Have come to thee before the wind. 

viii. 91. 13. 

4. To thee illuminer of night, O Agni, day by day, 
with prayer, 

Bringing thee reverence, we come. 

i. l. 7. 


5. Help, thou who knowest lauds, this work, a 
lovely hymn in Rudra's praise, 

Adorable in every house. 

i. 27. 10. 

6. To this fair sacrifice to drink the milky draught 
art thou called forth ; 

Agni, with the Maruts come ! 

i. 19. 1. 

7. With homage will I reverence thee, Agni, like 
a long-tailed steed, 

Imperial lord of holy rites. 

i. 27. 1. 

8. As Aurva and as Bhrigu called, as Apnavana 1 
called, I call. 

The radiant Agni robed with sea. 

viii. 91. 4. 

9. When he enkindles Agni, man should with his 
heart attend the song : 

1 kindle Agni till he glows. 

viii. 91. 22. 

10. Then, verily, they see the light refulgent of 
primeval seed, 

Kindled on yonder side of heaven. 

viii, 6. 30. 

1 Names of sages. 


IT is practically impossible to give a reading from the 
Yajur-veda as it would not be intelligible without an 
extensive commentary on almost every clause. The 
Fortieth Book of the White Yajur-veda might have 
been quoted, but it is not typical, being really a short 

A verse from the ordinary matter of the book will 
justify the above statement. 

White Yajur-veda. Book v. Verse 12 

Thou 1 art a lioness. All hail. Thou art a lioness 
winning Adityas. All-hail. 

Thou art a lioness winning Brahmans and Nobles. 
All hail. 

Thou art a lioness that wins fair off-spring, win abund- 
ant wealth. All hail. 

A lioness art thou. Bring the gods hither for him 
who offers sacrifice. All hail. 

To living creatures, thee. 2 

1 From the commentators we gather that during the Soma sacri- 
fice with these four invocations the Adhvaryu poured butter on the 
four corners of the altar place, and with the fifth on the centre. 
Thou in the first lines is the altar. 

a Thee : the offering ladle. ' / raise ' is understood. 


[MUCH of the Atharva-veda is directly derived from the Rig-veda. 
For instance the sixth hymn in Book xix is the Purusa Sukta, the 
ninetieth hymn of Book x of the Rig-veda. Such hymns are of 
course not characteristic of the beliefs in magic of many kinds 
probably largely developed by intercourse with the demon-wor- 
shipping aborigines which is one of the chief features of the 
deterioration of the earlier Aryan faith. A few of these spells and 
prayers are quoted here.] 

A spell against Fever 

[The tribes mentioned in these verses seem to be hostile or 
alien tribes who lived on the borders of the lands in which the 
Aryans dwelt.] 

1. Hence, filled with holy strength let Agni. 
Soma, and Varuna, the Press-stone and the Altar, 

And Grass, and glowing Fuel banish Fever, 
Let hateful things stay at a distance yonder. 

2. And thou thyself who makest all men yellow, 
consuming them with burning heat like Agni, 

Thou, Fever ! then be weak and ineffective. 
Pass hence into realms below or vanish. 

7. Go, Fever, to the Mujavans, or farther, to the 

Seek a lascivious Sudra girl and seem to shake 
her through and through. 

8. Go hence and eat thy kinsmen the Mahavrishas 
and Mujavans. 

These or those foreign regions we proclaim to 
Fever for his home. 


12. Go Fever, with Consumption, thy brother, aud 
with thy sister, Cough, 

And with thy nephew Herpes, go away unto 
that alien folk. 

13. Chase Fever whether cold or hot, brought by 
the summer or the rains, 

Tertian, intermittent, or autumnal, or continual. 

14. We to Gandharis, Mujavans, to Angas and to 

Hand over Fever as it were a servant and 
a thing of price. 

Atharva-veda, v. 22. 1, 2, 7, 8, 12, 13-14. 


[An amulet is some object supposed to have magic powers, 
worn as a remedy or preservative against evils or mischief, such as 
diseases or witchcraft. Plants were often used as amulets such 
as Arundhati, a medicinal climbing plant ; the Asvattha, the 
pipal, or sacred fig-tree. The horn of the roebuck was employed 
to drive away hereditary disease. Lead was used as a charm 
against diseases and sorcery. The following non-metrical formula 
describes the power of an amulet.] 

1. Power art thou, give me power. All hail ! 

2. Might art thou, give me might. All hail ! 

3. Strength art thou, give me strength. All hail ! 

4. Life art thou, give me life. All hail ! 

5. Ear art thou, give me hearing. Hail ! 

6. Eye art thou, give me eyes. All hail ! 

7. Shield art thou, shield me well. All hail ! 

Atharva-veda , ii. 17. 

A prayer against him who robs a Brahman 
of his cow 

5. Of the Kshatriya who taketh to himself this 
Brahman's cow and oppresseth the Brahman, 


6. The glory, the heroism, and the favouring for- 
tune depart. 

7. The energy and vigour, the power and might, 
the speech and mental strength, the glory and duty ; 8 
devotion and princely sway, kingship and people, 
brilliance and honour, and splendour and wealth . . . 

11. All these blessings of a Kshatriya depart from 
him when he oppresseth the Brahman and taketh to 
himself the Brahman's cow. 

17. Therefore the Brahmans' cow is held inviolable 
by the wise ... 

65. So, Goddess's cow, do thou from him, the 
Brahman's tyrant, criminal, niggard, blasphemer of 
the gods. 

66. With hundred-knotted thunderbolt, sharpened 
and edged with razor blades, 

67. Strike off the shoulders and the head. 

68. Snatch thou the hair from off his head, and from 
his body strip the skin : 

69. Tear out his sinews, cause his flesh to fall in 
pieces from his frame. 

70. Crush thou his bones together, strike and beat 
the marrow out of him. 

71. Dislocate all his limbs and joints. 

72. From earth let the carnivorous Agni drive him, 
let Vayu burn him from mid-air's broad region, 

73. From heaven let Surya drive him and consume 

Atharva-veda xii. 5j 

A merchant's prayer for success in business 

[l*he prayer is primarily addressed to the ' Merchant Indra,' 
who sells blessings to those who make offerings to him. VaisVa- 
nara and Jatavedas are epithets applied to Agni.] 

1. I stir and animate the merchant Indra : rriay he 
approach and be our guide and leader. 



Chasing ill-will, wild beast, and highway rob- 
ber, may he who hath the power give me riches. 

2. The many paths which gods are wont to, travel, 
the paths which go between the earth and heaven, 

May they rejoice with me in milk and fatness 
that I may make rich profit by my purchase. 

3. With fuel, Agni ! and with butter, longing, mine 
offering I present for strength and conquest ; 

With prayer, so far as I have strength, ador- 
ing this holy hymn to gain a hundred treasures. 

4. Pardon this stubbornness of ours, O Agni, the 
distant pathway which our feet have trodden. 

Propitious unto us be sale and barter, may 
interchange of merchandise enrich me. 

Accept, ye twain, accordant, this libation ! Pros- 
perous be our ventures and incomings. 

5. The wealth wherewith I carry on my traffic, 
seeking, ye gods ! wealth with the wealth I offer, 

May this grow more for me, not less : O Agni, 
through sacrifice chase those- away who hinder profit ! 

6. The wealth wherewith I carry on my traffic, 
seeking, ye gods ! wealth with the wealth I offer. 

Herein may Indra, Savitar, and Soma, Praja- 
pati and Agni give me splendour. 

7. With reverence we sing thy praise, O Hotar- 
priest VaiSvanara (' dear to all men ') 

Over our children keep thou watch, over our 
bodies, kine, and lives. 

8. Still to thee ever will we bring oblation, as to 
a stabled horse, O Jatavedas. 

Joying in food and in the growth of riches may 
we thy servants, Agni, never suffer. 

Atharva-veda iii. 15< 

A Woman's Love Charm 

1. This is the Apsarases' love-spell, the conquer- 
ing resistless ones 9 . 


Send the spell forth, ye Deities ! Let him con- 
sume with love of me. 

2. I pray, may he remember me, think of me, 
loving and beloved. 

Send forth the spell, ye Deities ! let him con- 
sume with love of me. 

3. That he may think of me, that I may never, 
never think of him. 

Send forth the spell, ye Deities ! Let him con- 
sume with love of me. 

4. Madden him, Maruts, madden him. Madden 
him, madden him, O Air. 

Madden him, Agni, madden him. Let him 
consume with love of me. 

Atharva-veda vi. 130. 



THE painstaking research of Dr. John Muir has made 
the theories of the origin of the Vedas contained in the 
Sacred Books of the Hinduism accessible to every 
Student. They are set forth with the Sanskrit passages 
on which they are founded or in which they are express- 
ed in the third volume of his Original Sanskrit Texts. 

It is impossible to discuss all these theories here, or 
to quote all the passage bearing on them. A careful 
selection of the most important is all that can be attempt- 
ed here. 

Traditions in the Hymns 

There are comparatively few statements in the Vedas 
that give any hint of the history of the writers of the 
Vedic Hymns or of the conditions in which their 
ancestors had entered into and settled in north-west 
India. But the name of the author of each Hymn is 
preserved in the Anukramanl or indexto the contents 
of each Veda which has been handed down from very 
ancient times. The defenders of the eternity of the 
Vedic Hymns argue that these rishis were not and do not 
really claim to be the authors of the Hymns which are 
said to be their words (Muir, Sanskrit Texts, III. 85) 


but that they merely repeated the Hymns and otlier 
parts of the Vedas that they had ' seen '. 

Consideration of the words of the rishis will, however, 
show that they distinctly speak of themselves as the 
authors of the Hymns, without any reference to any 
supernatural inspiration ; and that they uttered the 
Hymns before an artificial dogma had as yet begun to 
assign a mysterious divinity to the Hymns to secure 
sanctions for the elaborate system of priestcraft described 
in the Brahmanas. 

Dr. Muir has arranged the sayings of the rishis in 
which they claim to be actual authors of the Hymns in 
three classes, according to the Sanskrit verb which used 
to express the idea. These verbs are three : 
Kri> to make 
Taksh, to fabricate 
Jan, to beget, generate or produce. 

The verb Kri is very frequently used. Its meaning is 
to do, to make, to manufacture, prepare, work at, build, 
construct or compose, and the rishis used it in this sense 
of the Hymns that they had composed. There is no 
suggestion that they considered that they were merely 
repeating what had existed from eternity in the minds of 
the Gods. 

Four examples may be given. 

Kanvaso vam brahma krinvanti adhvare tesham 
su srinutam havam \ 

1 The Kanvas make a prayer to you : hear well their 

Rig-veda i. 47, 2. 

Eva te hariyojancf suvrikti Indra brahmffni Gota- 
masah akran \ 


'Thus O Indra, yoker of steeds, have the Gotamas 

made hymns for thee efficaciously.' 

Rig-veda i. 61. 16. 

Et&ni v&m A$vin& vardhanftni brahma stomam 
Gritsamadasah akran \ 

' These magnifying prayers, [this] hymn, O Agvins, 

the Gritsamadas have made for you.' 

Rig-veda ii. 39. 8. 

Adha priyam susham Indr&ya manma brahmakrito 
Vrihadukth&d av&chi \ 

1 An acceptable and powerful hymn has been uttered 
to Indra by Vrihaduktha, maker of hymns.' 

Rig-veda x. 54. 6. 

The verb Taksh is less common. It means to form 
by cutting, or by the plane or chisel; to chop, slice, 
fashion out of wood as a carpenter does, and so to form 
in the mind or invent. Takshaka and Takshan (Tassan 
in Tamil) are two Sanskrit names for a carpenter. From 
this it will be seen that by using this verb the rishi 
thinks of himself as the inventor or maker of the Hymns 
that he utters just as the carpenter is the maker of a 
cart or a plough. There is here again no suggestion of 
the later tradition. 

Two passages will be sufficient as examples. 
' Sanfiyate Gotamah Indra navyam atakshad brahma 
hariyojan&ya ityftdi \ \ 

' Nodhas, descendant of Gotama, fashioned this new 

hymn for [thee] Indra.' 

Rig-veda i. 62. 13. 

fitam te stomam tuvi-jffta viprb ratham na dhlrah 
svafifih ataksham \ 


1 1, a sage, have fabricated this hymn for thee, O 
powerful [deity] , as a skilful workman fashions a car. 1 

Rig-veda v. 2. 11. 

The verb Jan means to generate or beget and there are 
many passages in which the rishis used this simile.. 
However later tradition may interpret the phrase it 
indicates that the vedic poets fully believed that they 
themselves were the authors of the Hymns that they 

There is no need to quote many passages. 

Navam nu stomam Agnaye divah syenaya jljanam 
vasvah \ kuvid vanati nah \ 

' I have generated a new hymn to Agni, the falcon of 
the sky ; will he not bestow on us wealth in abundance ? * 

Rig-veda vii. 15. 4; 

Suvriktim Indraya brahma janayanta viprah \ 

* The sages generated an efficacious production and a 

prayer for Indra.' 

Rig-veda vii. 31. 11. 

Asmai te pratiharyate Jfftavedo vicharshane Agne 
janami sushtutim \ 

' Wise Agni Jatavedas, I generate a hymn for thee who 

receivest it with favour.' 

Rig-veda viii. 43. 2. 

Other verbs are used with similar import to convey 
the idea that the rishi is the maker of the Hymn. 

Asmai id u stomam samhinomi ratham na tashtft iva 
ity&di | 

* To him (Indra) I send forth a hymn, as a carpenter 

a car/ 

Rig-veda i. 61. 4. 


The following passage shows most clearly that the 
authors of the Hymns recognized the part that their own 
minds played in the composition of Hymns. 

Imam stomam arhate J&tavedase ratham iva sam 
mahema mariishayft \ bhadrft hi naty pramatir asya 
samsadi Agne sakhye m& rishffma vayam tava \ 

'Let us with our intellect construct (or, send forth) 
like a car, this hymn for the adorable Jatavedas, for his 
wisdom is favourable to us in the assembly. Agni in 

thy friendship may we never suffer.' 

Rig-veda i. 94. 1. 

The idea that the hymns were altogether their own 
work seems however always foreign to the rishis. 
Some hymns ask for or acknowledge divine assistance 
just as poets of all nations often do. One poet says : 

Indra mrila mahyam jtv&tum ichcha chodaya 
dhiyam ayaso na dh&r&m \ Vat kincha aham tv&yur 
idam vad&mi taj jushasva kridhi ma devavantam \ 

* O God (Indra), have mercy, give me my daily bread ; 
sharpen my mind, like the edge of an iron instrument. 
Whatever I now may utter, longing for thee, do thou 
accept it ; give me divine protection.' 

Rig-veda vi. 47. 10. 

Direct divine inspiration is asserted. 

Sa pratnatha Kavi-vridhah Indro vakasya vak- 
shanih \ 

1 Indra was of old the promoter of the poet, and the 
augmenter of the song.' 

Rig-veda viii. 52. 4. 

From these, and from many other passages it may 
fairly be reasoned that at the time when the Hymns were 


composed their authors while considering themselves as 
rendering service specially pleasing to the Gods by 
composing Hymns, certainly considered those Hymns 
to be their own work. 

One notable text in the Rig-veda which refers to 
the creation of the Vedas occurs in the Tenth Book 
in the well known Ninetieth Hymn called the Purusa 
Sukta. The Tenth Book is generally believed to con- 
tain Hymns of much later date than the preceding Books 
so that there is reason to doubt whether a tradition 
in the Purusa Sukta is to be taken as of very ancient 
authority. Professor Macdonell says it is one of the 
very latest poems of the Rigvedic age ; for it presup- 
poses a knowledge of the three Vedas, to which it refers 
by their names, and it also mentions the four castes. 
It describes the creation of the universe by the gods 
out of the body of a primeval giant with a thousand 
heads. ' The act of creation is treated as a sacrificial 
rite, the original man being conceived as a victim, the 
parts of which when cut up become portions of the 
universe. His head, we are told, became the sky, his 
navel the air, his feet the earth, while from his mind 
sprang the Moon, from his eye the Sun, from his breath 
the wind '. l 

The Hymn has been quoted in full on pages 165-6. 
The verse that relates to the origin of the Vedas states 
that the Rig, Sama and Yajur Vedas were born from the 
sacrifice. It does not mention the Atharva-veda. 

Tasmad yajn&t sarvft-hatah richah s&mani jajnire \ 
chandamsi jajnire tasmad yajus tasmftd ajayata \ 

1 MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 133. 


1 From that universal sacrifice were born the Rich 
and Saman verses : the metres were born from it : the 

Yajush was created.' 

Rig-veda x. 90. 9. 

New and Old Hymns 

Dr. Muir quotes more than fifty passages to show that 
the authors of the Vedic hymns themselves recognized 
that some hymns were new and some were old. This 
alone proves that the tradition of the eternity of these 
hymns had no place in the thought of the Vedic poets 
themselves. It will be sufficient to quote one or two 
of these verses. 

The rishis believed that the Gods would be better 
pleased if their praises were celebrated in new, and 
perhaps more elaborate compositions, than if older and 
possibly ruder, prayers had been repeated. 

Sa nafy stavanah Sfohara gayatrena navlyasfi \ 
rayim vlravatlm isham \ 

' Glorified by our newest hymn, do thou bring to us 

wealth and food with progeny.' 

Rig-veda i. 12. 11, 

Tan p&rvaya nivida humahe vayam Bhagam Mitran 
Aditim Dakshan Asridham ityadi \ 

1 We invoke with an ancient hymn Bhaga Mitra 

Aditi, Daksha, Asridh. ' 

Rig-veda i. 89. 3, 

Yah pUrvyfibhir uta nutanSbhir glrbhir v&vridhe 
grinat&m rishlnctm \ 

' He (Indra) who grew though the ancient and moderr 

hymns of lauding rishis.' 

Rig-veda vi. 44. 13 


A sakhayah subardugh&m dhenum ajadhvam upa 
navyasfi vachah \ 

' Friends, drive hither the milch cow with a new hymn/ 

Rig-veda vi. 48. 11. 

Nu navyase naviyase sukt&ya s&dhaya pathah \ 
ratna-vad rochaya ruchah \ 

* Prepare (O Soma) the paths for our newest, most 
recent hymn ; and, as of old, cause the lights to shine.' 

Rig-veda ix. 9. 8. 

Traditions in the Atharva-veda 

Several traditions find expression in the hymns of the 

i. The seventh hymn of the tenth mandala of the 
Atharva-veda in a somewhat similar way to the Purusa 
Sukta of the Rig-veda identifies Skambha with the 
universe and describes all things as derived from him* 
All four vedas are mentioned in it. 

Yasmad richo apatakshan yajur yasm&d apaka- 
shan | sam&ni yasya lomani atharvangiraso muk- 
ham | Skambham tarn bruhi katamah svid eva sah \ 

' Declare who is that Skambha from whom they cut 
off the Rich verses, from whom they scraped off the 
Yajush, of whom the Saman verses are the hairs, and the 
verses of the Atharvan and the Angiras the mouth.' 

Atharva-veda\. 7. 20. 

ii. The seventh hymn of the eleventh mandala of the 
Atharva-veda is a glorification of Uchchhishta, the 'residue 
of sacrifice. ' It states that the Vedas sprung from the 
* Leavings of Sacrifice. ' 


Richah s&mffni chhandftmsi purffnam yajushfi saha \ 
Uchchhisht&j jajnire sarva dim devclh dim&ritah \ 

' From the leavings of the sacrifice sprung the Rich and 
Saman verses, the metres, the Purana with the Yajush, 
and all the gods who dwell in the sky. ' 

Atharva-veda xi. 7. 24. 

iii. Another tradition in the same Veda says that the 
Vedas sprung from Indra, and he sprung from them. 
Sa vai rigbhyo aj&yata tasmad richo ajctyanta \ 
' Indra sprung from the Rich verses ; the Rich verses 

sprung from him.' 

Atharva-veda xiii. 4. 38. 

iv. A verse in a later book states that the Vedas 
sprung from Time. 

Kalad richah sambhavan yajuh kalad ajayata \ 

' From Time the Rich verses sprung ; the Yajush 

sprung from Time.' 

Atharva-veda xix. 54. 3. 

Traditions in the Brahmanas 

It is impossible to say definitely at what dates the 
various Brahmanas were composed. Both they and the 
Atharva-veda belong to the same period and both are 
much later than the Rig-veda. The period when the 
Brahmanas were composed may however with some 
reason be said to end about 600 B. c., but, of course, 
they contain traditions earlier than that date. 

i. The Taittirlya Brahmana closely connected with 
the text of the Black (Krishna) Yajur-veda, is one of the 
earliest Brahmanas, while the atapatha Brahmana is of 
later date, perhaps one of the latest of them. 1 One or 

MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 203. 


two quotations from them will show the character of the 
beliefs concerning the origin of the Vedas that had 
become current during the Brahmanic period and that 
were embodied in and endorsed by them. 

ii. Two passages may be cited from the Taittirlya 
Brahmana. The first is a eulogy of Vach, the goddess 
of speech. She is declared to be the mother of the 

Vffg aksharam prathamaja ritasya vedanctm m&tff 
amritasya nabhlh \ scl no jushana upa yajnam agad 
avantl dem suhava me astu \ y&m rishayo mantra-krito 
manishmah anvaichhan devas tapasft srantena \ 

* Vach is an imperishable thing and the first-born of the 
ceremonial, the mother of the Vedas, and the centre - 
point of immortality. Delighting in us, she came to the 
sacrifice. May the protecting goddess be ready to listen 
to my invocation she whom the wise rishis, the com- 
posers of hymns, the gods, sought by austere fervour 
and by laborious devotion. 

Taittirlya Brahmana ii. 8- 8. 5. 

iii. The other passage is an example of the grotesque 
symbolism that surprises the reader of the Sacred Books. 
It states that the Vedas are the hair of Prajapati's 

Pr&japater vai etani maruni yad vedah \ 

Taittiriya Brahmana iii. 3. 9. 1. 

iv. Of the two passages quoted here from the later 
Satapatha Brahmana, the first is interesting for the 
figure of speech and for its assertion that the Vedas were 
dug from the mind-ocean by the labour of the gods, the 


devas, who are not of supreme rank. In the other passage 
the Vedas are called the breathings of the Great Being 
and classed with works like the sUtras which are generally 
considered to be merely human compositions (pauru- 
sheya) without independent authority. 

Mano vai samudrah \ manaso vai samudr&d vftchfi 
'bhrya devGs traylm vidhyam nirakhanan. \ 

1 Mind is the Ocean. From the mind-ocean, with 
speech for a shovel, the gods dug out the triple Vedic 

Satapatha Brahmana vii. 5. 2. 52. 

Sa yatha ffrdredh&gner abhy&hit&t prithag dhUmclh 
vinicharanti evam vai are 'sya mahato bhutasya 
nivasitam etad yad rtgvedo yajurvedah sfimavedo 
'tharv&ngirasah itih&sah purftnam vidyfi upanishadah 
lok3h stitr&ny auuvyakhy&n&ni vy&khyanani asyatva 
etctni sarv&ni ni&vasitani \ 

1 As from a fire made of moist wood various modifica- 
tions of smoke proceed, so is the breathing of this Great 
Being the Rig-veda, the Yajur-veda, the Sama-veda, 
the Atharvangirasas, the Itihasas, Puranas, Science, the 
Upanishads, Slokas, aphorisms, comments of different 
kinds all these are his breathings.' 

Satapatha Brahmana xiv. 5. 4. 10. 

Traditions in the Upanishads 

The earlier Upanishads were composed approximately 
between 600 and 480 B. c. The teaching in them is 
.generally philosophic. The traditions of the past are 
used to illustrate metaphysical ideas, and are repeated as 


symbolic of esoteric truth. Thus in the Chhandogya 
s Upanishad Prajapati is said to have produced the three 
Vedas through the fire, the wind and the light of the sun. 

Prajapatir lokan abhyatapat \ teshftm tapyam&nft- 
n&m ras&n prabrihad agnim prithivyah vayum anta 
riksh&d (idityam divah \ sa et&s tisro devatcth abhya- 
tapat | tfis&m tapyamcinan&m rasan pr&brihad agner 
richo v&yor yajumshi sama adity&t \ sa etam trayim 
vidyfim abhyatapat \ tasycts tapyamanayah rasffn pr&- 
brihad bhur iti rigbhyo bhuvar iti yajurbhyah svar iti 
sfimabhyah \ 

^Prajapati infused warmth into the worlds, and from 
them so heated he drew forth their essences, viz. Agni 
(fire) from the earth, Vayu (wind) from the air, and 
Surya (the sun) from the sky. He infused warmth into 
these three deities, and from them so heated he drew 
forth their essences, from Agni the Rich verses, from 
Vayu the Yajush verses, and from Surya the Saman 
verses. He then infused heat into this triple science 
and from it so heated he drew forth its essences, from 
Rich verses the syllable bhuh, from Yajush verses, 
bhuvah, and from Saman verses svar.' 

Chhandogya Upanishad iv. 17. 1, 3. 

Manu's account 

Manu assigns the same origin to the Vedas in his 
account of creation. * 

SarveshGm tu sa n&mani karmftni cha prithak 
prithak \ Veda-Sabdebhya ev&dau prithak samsth& 
cha nirmame \ karm&tmanam cha dev&nam so 'sfijat 
pr&nity&m prabhufy \ sadhy&nfim cha ganam sukshmam 


yajnam chaiva san&tanam \ Agni-vftyu-ravibhyas tu 
trayam brahma sanatanam \ dudoha yajna-siddhyar- 
tham rig-yajuh-s&ma-lakshanam \ 

4 He (Brahma) in the beginning fashioned from the 
words of the Veda the several names, functions and 
separate conditions of all [creatures] . That Lord also 
created the subtile host of active and living deities, and 
of Sadhyas, and eternal sacrifice. And, in order to the 
performance of sacrifice, he drew forth from Agni, from 
Vayu, and from Surya, the triple eternal Veda, distin- 
guished as Rich, Yajush and Saman.' 

Manava dharma-sastra i. 26. 23. 

The Mahabharata 

Sarasvati may be said to have taken the place of 
Vach in later Hindu mythology, and the Mahabharata 
calls Sarasvati the mother of the Vedas. 

Vedan&m mataram pa&ya mat-sthfim devim Saras* 
vatim | 

Behold Sarasvati, mother of the Vedas, abiding in me. 
Mahabharata, anti-parva 12. 920, 

The Harivamsa 

The Harivamsa, the nineteenth or supplementary 
book of the Mahabharata, gives a different tradition : 

The Gayatri, quoted on page 186, is the most famous 
of Hindu prayers. It is repeated to this day by every 
Brahman in India in his morning prayers. All kinds of 
mystic properties are ascribed to the Gayatri, and the 
Harivamsa contains a verse which states that the Vedas 
were produced from the Gayatri. 


Tato 'srijad vai tripadftm gftyatrlm veda-mfttaram \ 
Akaroch chaiva chaturo vedftn gfiyatri-sambhavftn \ 

After framing the world, Brahma ' next created the 
Gayatri of three lines, mother of the Vedas, and also the 
four Vedas which sprung from the Gayatri.' 

Harivamsa 11, 516. 

Statements in the Puranas 

The Puranas give different accounts of the origin of 
the Vedas, in harmony with later developments of 
Hinduism. For instance, in one passage the Vishnu 
Purana identifies the three Vedas, omitting the Atharva- 
veda, with Vishnu. 

Sa rin-mayah sa samamayah sa chcttmfl sa 
yajurmayah \ rig-yajuh-sama-saratma sa evatma sarl- 
rinam \ 

* He is composed of the Rich, of the Saman, of the 
Yajush ; he is the soul, consisting of the essence of the 
Rich, Yajush and Saman, he is the soul of embodied 


Vishnu Purana iii. 3. 19. 

On the other hand, the Bhagavata Purana says in one 
place that the Vedas issued from the mouth of Brahma 
the Creator. 

Kadachid dhyfiyatah srashfur vedah asams chatur- 
mukh&t \ katham srakshyamy aham lokan samavetan 
yathapura | . . . Rig-yaju}i-sama-tharv3khyan vedan 
pUrvadibhir mukhaih \ gastram ijyam stuti-sto^tam 
prayaSchittam vyadh&t kramat. 

' Once the Vedas sprung from the four-faced Creator, 
as he was meditating " how shall I create the aggregate 


worlds as before ? ". . . He formed from his eastern 
and other mouths the Vedas called Rich, Yajush, Saman 
and Atharvan, together with praise, sacrifice, hymns, 

and expiation.' 

Bhagavata Purana \\\. 12, 34 and 37. 

The Vishnu Pur&na (i. 5, 48ff) gives the same expla- 
nation, with details as to the particular mouth of Brahma 
by which each Veda was uttered. 


WHILE Greek Prosody makes the ' foot * the unit in its 
metrical systems, and while in later Sanskrit the quantity 
of every syllable in each line was fixed in all metres 
Vedic prosody is less formal. The Vedic ' foot ' or 
4 pada ' like the foot of a quadruped, means a quarter- 
verse because the ordinary Vedic verse contains four 
lines. 1 A pada may have eight, eleven or twelve 
syllables. The Rich is a stanza generally formed of 
three or four lines. There are altogether fifteen differ- 
ent metres, but only seven are at all common. As a 
rule the whole of one hymn is in the same metre 
throughout, but sometimes different parts of a hymn are 
in verses of different metres. One hymn in Book I 
contains verses in nine different metres. 

As regards quantity the first syllables of the line are 
not defined strictly, but generally, though not always, the 
last four syllables are of fixed length. In the eight and 
twelve syllable verses these syllables are iambic (short 
and long) and trochaic (long and short) in lines of eleven 

Max Miiller gives a list, according to Saunaka, of the 
metres employed in the Rig-veda. The number of 
verses in which the principal occur are as follows : 

1 MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature, p. 55. Vedic Index, i. 516. 


Trishtubh, 4,253 ; Gayatri, 2,451 ; JagatI, 1,348 ; Anush- 
tubh, 855; Ushnih, 341; Pankti, 312; various, 849; 
total, 10,409. 

Ancient Sanskrit Literature p. 22. 

Examples of one or two of the most common forms 
will be of interest to the student. 

The Gayatri. This is a common metre, one-fourth of 
the Rig-veda being in this metre. It is so called be- 
cause the Gayatri, the most sacred text in the Vedas, is 
composed in it. It contains three lines of eight syllables. 
The first hymn is in this metre. The following is the 
first verse : 

Agnimile purohitam \ 

Yajuasya devam rtvijam \ 

Hot&ram ratnadh&tamam || 

Macdonell renders this verse in lines closely resem- 
bling the original, 

1 I praise Agni, domestic priest, 

God, minister of sacrifice, 

Herald, most prodigal of wealth.' 

Anushtubh. This contains four lines of eight syllables 
each, like the three lines of the Gayatri. It is now 
generally called the Sloka, and in post Vedic times took 
the place of the Gayatri. The following is an example : 

Srushtivano hi dasushe 

Dev&h Ague vichetasah \ 

T&n rohida&va girvanas 

Trayastrimatam & vaha \ 

' Agni, the wise gods lend an ear to their worshipper. 
God with the ruddy steeds, who lovest praise, bring 
hither those three and thirty/ 

Rig-veda i. 45. 2 


Trishtubh. About two-fifths of the Rig-veda are com- 
posed in the Trishtubh metre. It consists of four lines of 
eleven syllables. The name means three steps, one short 
and two long. The following is an example : 

An&rambhanetad avlrayethfim 

An&sthftne agrabhane samudre \ 

Yad aSvinft uhuthur Bhujyum astam 

Satftritrftm nftvam fitasthivamsam \ 

i Ye put forth your vigour in the ocean, which offers no 
stay, or standing-place, or support, when he bore Bhujyu to 
his home, standing on a ship propelled by a hundred oars.* 

Rig-veda i, 116. 5. 

Jagati. This metre of four twelve -syllable lines is said 
to ' express the idea of cattle. Any one who wishes for 
wealth in cattle must use it. ' Example : 

Na tarn r&j&nttv adite kuta& chana na 

Amho asnoti duritam nakir bhayam \ 

Yam Asvtna suhavfi rudravarttanl 

Puroratham krinuthah patnyd saha \ 

' Neither distress, nor calamity, nor fear, O ye two 
kings, whom none may check or stay, from any quarter 
assails the man whom ye Asvins, swift to hear, along 
with (your) wife, cause to lead the van in his car.' 

Rig-veda x. 39. 11. 

The Aryan had a firm belief in the power of the 
rightly pronounced prayer to secure its aim. This 
appears in the way in which the gods are addressed in 
some of the hymns. It also underlies the worship of 
the goddess Vach. As the more elaborate system of 
Brahmanical Hinduism arose a complete science of the 
mysterious values of the various metres used in the 
hymns was formulated. 


In his introduction to that Brahma^as Dr. Haug sum- 
marizes the teaching of the Brahmanas on the subject. 
He points out that the power of the Hotri priest at a 
sacrifice lay in his being able to use the sacred words 
frequently personified by Vach. The sacred words, 
pronounced rightly by the Hotri priest, effect, by the 
innate power of Vach, the spiritual birth of the sacrificer, 
shape his body, secure heaven for him, cause him to 
live a hundred years, and procure him wealth and off- 
spring, will slay his enemies and destroy the conse- 
quences of his sins. But pronounced against a man by 
the priest or his enemies words will curse him unless he 
finds other words more powerful to counteract the hostile 
spell. This influence lies mainly in the form or metre in 
which the given words are uttered; hence the importance 
of metre, terms and words. Each metre is specially 
influential in the securing of some particular boon. 

The Gayatri metre is the most sacred, and is the pro- 
per metre for Agni, the God of fire, and chaplain of the 
gods. It expresses the idea of Brahma : therefore the 
sacrificer must use it when he wishes anything closely 
connected with Brahma, such as acquirement of sacred 
knowledge, and the thorough understanding of all pro- 
blems of theology. The Trishtubh expresses the idea of 
strength and royal power ; thence it is the proper metre 
by which Indra, the king of the gods, is to be invoked. 
Any one wishing to obtain strength and royal power, 
especially a Kshattriya, must use it. A variety of it, 
the Ushnih metre of twenty-eight syllables, is to be 
employed by a sacrificer who aspires for longevity, for 
1 twenty-eight ' is the symbol of life. The Jagati ex- 
presses the idea of cattle. He who wishes for wealth in 


:attle, must use it. The same idea (or that of the 
sacrifice) is expressed by the Pankti metre (five times 
eight syllables). The Brihat, which consists of thirty-six 
syllables, is to be used when a sacrificer is aspiring 
to fame and renown ; for this metre is the exponent 
of those ideas. The Anushtubh is the symbol of the 
celestial world ; thence he who seeks a place in heaven 
should make his prayer in it. The Viraj, of thirty sylla- 
bles, is food and satisfaction ; thence one who wishes for 
abundance of food, must employ it. 
Thus the Aitareya Brahmana says : 

* He who wishes for long life, should use two verses 
in the Ushnih metre ; for Ushnih is life. He who 
having such a knowledge uses two Ushnihs arrives at 
his full age (i. e. one hundred years). 

' He who desires heaven should use two Anushtubhs. 
There are sixty-four syllables in two Anushtubhs. Each 
of these three worlds (earth, air, and sky) contains 
twenty-one places, one rising above the other (just as 
the steps of a ladder). By twenty -one steps he ascends 
to each of these worlds severally ; by taking the sixty- 
fourth step he stands firm in the celestial world. He 
who having such a knowledge uses two Anushtubhs 
gains a footing (in the celestial world). 

1 He who desires strength should use two Trishtubhs. 
Trishtubh is strength, vigour, and sharpness of senses. 
He ^who knowing this, uses two Trishtubhs, becomes 
vigorous, endowed with sharp senses and strong. 

* He who desires cattle should use two Jagatis. Cattle 
are JagatMike. He who knowing this uses two Jagatis, 
becomes rich in cattle.' 


WHETHER the Vedic hymns present to us the language 
of the early Aryans as they actually used it in their daily 
speech, or whether it was a refined poetical dialect even 
in early days, as was classical Sanskrit assuredly in 
later times, there is not sufficient evidence to decide. 
Probably neither assertion is altogether true. Some of 
the hymns are nearer to the actual life of the people than 
others, more speculative, can be. In some there are 
what seem to be thoroughly colloquial expressions. 
Others are the carefully expressed utterances of thinkers 
who have followed generations of thinkers. 

On one point however, there can be no doubt. 
Generally speaking the language of the Vedas represents 
a stage in which Sanskrit is still very like the language 
of the old Persian Avesta, a stage in which the Aryans 
of Iran and the Aryans of the Panjab have still much in 
common in their speech. And the language of the Indian 
Aryans is simpler, more direct, less trammelled by 
grammatical conventions than the Sanskrit of later days. 

The subject has been carefully investigated by San- 
skrit grammarians, both European and Indians. The 
greatest of Indian Sanskrit grammarians Paiiini con- 
stantly recognizes differences between the ancient and the 
more modern dialects. 


Miiir 1 gives the following among other examples of 
the differences of Vedic from later Sanskrit : 

Vedic Text 

Vfiyav fiyahi darSata ime som&h arankritah \ teshffm 
p&hi &rudhi havam\\ 

Modern Sanskrit 

Vayav ayahi dar&anlya ime som&h arankritah 
tesh&m piba 3rmu havam\\ 

* Come, O Vayu, these somas are prepared. Drink 

of them ; hear our invocation.' 

Rig-veda i. 2. 1. 

Here it will be observed that four Vedic words dar^ata, 
arankritah, pahi, srudhi, differ from the modern Sanskrit 

The student will also find it useful to consult P. 
Peterson's Hymns from the Rig-veda, Bombay, 1900. 

1 MuiR, Sanskrit Texts, vol. ii, p. 205. 


ANCIENT scholars most carefully enumerated in syste- 
matic indexes, called Anukramanis, the number of verses, 
the poets, the deities and the metres of every" hymn in 
the Vedas. 

As early as about 600 B.C. every verse, every word, 
every syllable had been carefully counted. The number 
of verses in the Rig-veda varies from 10,402 to 10,622 ; 
that of thepadas or words, is 153,826 ; that of the sylla- 
bles, 432,000. 

In the ordinary recension of the Rig-veda, that of the 
Sakalas there are 1,017 hymns, with eleven supplementary 
hymns called Valakhilyas added to the Eighth Book. 

The recension of the Vashkalas seems to have been 
the same as that of the Sakalas, but contained eight 
additional hymns, bringing up the total to 1,025. 

Max Miiller gives the following statistics for the Rig- 
veda from Saunaka's Anukramani : 

Books Sub-sections Hymns 

(Mandalas) (Anuvakas) (Suktas) 

The 1st contains 24 and 191 

,, 2nd 4 43 

,, 3rd ,, 5 62 

,, 4th 5 58 

5th ,, 6 ,, 87 

6th ,. 6 ,, 75 


Books Sub-sections Hymns 

(Mandalas) (Anuvakas) (Suktas) 

The 7th contains 6 and 104 

8th 10 92 (+ 11 Valakh- 


9th 7 114 

,, 10th 12 191 

The 10 have 85 and 1017 -f 11 1028. 


This is called the book of the Satarchins, that is of a 
hundred or a large indefinite number of authors of 

Of the hymns forty -four are specially addressed to 
Indra, forty-three to Agni, fifteen to the ASvins, eleven 
to the Maruts, nine to the Vigvedevas, four each to 
Ushas *and the Ribhus, three to Heaven and Earth, 
etc. Other hymns are addressed to gods conjointly, 
as Indra and Agni, Mitra and Varuna. Two hymns are 
addressed to the Horse, one is in praise of Food. 


This book contains only forty-three hymns. It is com- 
monly called the Book of Gritsamada, as nearly all the 
hymns are ascribed to that Rishi. 

Fourteen of the hymns are addressed to Indra, two of 
them in the form of the Kapinjala, a kind of partridge, 
and nine to Agni. 


This book contains sixty-two hymns, ascribed to 
the rishi Vigvamitra, or to members of his family. It is 


said that he was born a Kshatriya, but by virtue of his 
intense austerities he raised himself to the Brahman 

The rishis who wrote the hymns were not always 
friendly with one another. ' Especially prominent,' 
says Weber, ' is the enmity between the families of 
Vasistha and Vigvamitra, which runs through all Vedic 
antiquity, continues to play an important part in the epic, 
and is kept up to the latest times ; so that, for example, 
a commentator of the Veda who claims to be descended 
from Vasistha, leaves passages unexpounded in which 
the latter is stated to have had a curse imprecated upon 


This book contains fifty -eight hymns. The first forty- 
one are ascribed to the rishi Vamadeva, son of Gotama ; 
so also are the last fourteen. Twelve are addressed 
specially to Indra, and eleven to Agni. 


This book contains eighty -seven hymns. Of these 
twenty-one are addressed to Agni, eleven to Mitra and 
Varuija, nine each to Indra, the Maruts and Vigvedevas, 
and six to the ASvins. 


The rishi of this book is Bharadvaja, to whom, with 
few exceptions, all the hymns are attributed. It contains 
seventy-five hymns. To Indra twenty-one hymns are 


addressed; to Agni, thirteen ; to Pushan, five ; to the Vis- 
vedevas, four. 


All the hymns of this book are ascribed to the rishi 
Vasistha, with whom his sons are associated as the 
seers of parts of two hymns. There are 104 hymns ; of 
which fourteen are addressed to Indra, thirteen to Agni, 
eight to the Agvins, seven each to Ushas and the 
ViSvedevas, four to Varuna, and one to frogs. The 
prevailing metre is Trishtub. 


This book is by a variety of authors. It contains 
ninety-two hymns, with eleven called Valakhilya or 
supplementary hymns. Of the hymns thirty -six are 
addressed to Indra, eleven to Agni, five to the Vigvedevas, 
and three to the Maruts. 


This book contains 114 hymns. Except one to the 
Apris and two in which Soma is invoked conjointly, all 
the hymns are addressed to Soma. Even in the hymn 
to the Apris the attributes of Agni are transferred to 
Soma. He is addressed as Pavamana, representing the 
juice as it flows through the wool which was used to 
strain it and thus purify it. The hymns were intended 
to be sung while this process is going on. There are 
very many repetitions in the book. 



This book contains 191 hymns. To Indra thirty-four 
are addressed, to Agni twenty-five, to the Vigvedevas 
twenty-two. There are hymns on creation and several 
to be used as charms to cure sickness, to remove rivals, 
to prevent miscarriage, etc. The book includes some of 
the latest hymns in the Rig-veda. Several of the hymns 
are ascribed to gods, as if the real authors wished by this* 
device to conceal their late origin. 



IT is not possible to present any summarised statement 
of the contents of the Sama-veda as the hymns are 
arranged entirely for ritual purposes as they were. to be 
chanted by the Udgatar priests at the Soma sacrifices 
and no order of subjects is observed. The text is 
divided into two parts, the first containing six books, the 
latter eight. 



THE White Yajur-veda, or collection of hymns for the use 
of the Adhvaryu priests, as given in the recension known 
as the White Yajur-veda, or Vajasaneya consists of forty 
books. Almost half are taken from the Rig-veda or 
Atharva-veda and are metrical. Nearly equal in quantity 
are the Yajus texts, or sacrificial formulae, composed 
in prose and long passages, such as the lists of victims 
to be dedicated at the Agvamedha and the Purusamedha 
which are in the simplest prose. 

Books I and II contain the texts and formulae required 
at the New and Full Moon Sacrifices. Book III those 
for the morning and evening oblation of milk ; Books 
IV- VI 1 1 those for Soma sacrifices in general; Books 
IX-X for Vajapeya or Cup of Victory and the Rajasuya 
or Inauguration of a king, two variations of the Soma 

Books XI -XVI 1 1 give formulae for the constructions 
of altars or hearths for the various sacrificial fires ; 
Books XIX-XX those for the sacrifice instituted to 
expiate the evil effect of excessive soma drinking, the 
Sauterimani ; Books XXI I -XXV contain the formulae 
for the Asvamedha. Books XXVI -XXIX contain sup- 
plementary formulae for the sacrifices already dealt 


Books XXX and XXXI treat of the Human sacrifice, 
the Purusamedha. Books XXXII-XXXIV deal with 
the Sarvamedha sacrifice for universal prosperity. Book 
XXXV contains chiefly formulae to be used at funeral 
ceremonies. Books XXXVI-XXXIX contain prayers 
and formulae to be used at the Pravargya ceremony, 
preliminary to the Soma sacrifice. 

Book XL is a sort of Upanishad not connected directly 
with any sacrifice. 



THE following extract from Griffith's preface to his 
translation of the Atharva-veda will show the general 
contents of that Veda. 

'The Atharva-veda Sanhita or Collection' is divided 
into twenty K&ndas, Books or Sections, containing some 
760 hymns and about 6,000 verses. In Books I-VII 
the hymns or pieces are arranged according to the num- 
ber of their verses, without any reference to their subjects 
or the nature of their contents. The hymns of Book I 
contain on an average four verses each ; those of Book 
II, five; those of III, six; those of IV, seven; those 
of V, from eight to eighteen ; those of VI, three ; those 
of VII, many single verses and upwards to eleven. 
Books VIII-XX contain longer pieces, some of which 
extend to fifty, sixty, seventy, and even eighty verses. 
In Books I-XIII the contents are of the most hetero- 
geneous description with no attempt at any kind of system- 
atic arrangement of subjects. They consist principally 
of prayers, formulas and charms for protection against 
evil spirits of all sorts and kinds, against sorcerers and 
sorceresses, diseases, snakes, and other noxious creatures, 
of benedictions and imprecations, invocations of magical 
herbs, prayers for children and long life, for general and 
special protection and prosperity, success in love, trade 


and gambling, together with formulas to be employed in 
all kinds of domestic occurrences. In books XIV- 
XVIII the subjects are systematically arranged; XIV 
treating of marriage ceremonies ; XV of the glorification 
of the Vratya or religious wandering mendicant; XVI 
and XVII of certain conjurations; XVIII of funeral 
rites and the offering of obsequial cakes to the Manes or 
spirits of departed ancestors. Book XIX contains a 
somewhat miscellaneous collection of supplementary 
hymns. Book XX consists with the exception of what 
is called the Kuntapa Section, comprising hymns 127- 
136 of pieces addressed to Indra and taken entirely 
from the Rig-veda. These two books, which are not 
noticed in the Atharva-veda Pratisakhya a grammatical 
treatise on the phonetic changes of words in the text 
are manifestly a later addition to the collection. Many 
of the Atharva hymns reappear in the Rig-veda, about 
one-seventh of the collection, sometimes unchanged and 
sometimes with important variations, being found in the 
older compilation. Interspersed in several of the books 
are pieces of varying length, consisting of curious cosmo- 
logical and mystico-theological speculations which are 
not without interest as containing the germs of religious 
and philosophical doctrines afterwards fully developed in 
the Brahmanas and Upani shads. 


EARTH. Religions of India. Trubner's Oriental 

BLOOMFIELD, MAURICE. The Religion of the Veda* 
G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1908. 

The Hymns of the Atharva-veda (Sacred Books of 
the East), Oxford. 1897. 

DEUSSEN. Philosophy of the Upanishads. T. & T* 

DOWSON. Dictionary of Hindu Mythology. Trub- 
ner's Oriental Series. 

DUTT, R. C. History of Civilization in Ancient 
India. Trubner's Oriental Series. 

Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by Dr. 
Hastings, published by Messrs. T. & T. Clark. 

EGGELING, PROFESSOR. Translation of the Sata- 
patha Br&hmana. (Sacred Books of the East.) 

FARQUHAR, J. N. Primer of Hinduism. Christian 
Literature Society for India, Madras. 

GRIFFITH, R. T. H. The Hymns of the Rig-veda. 
Translated with a Popular Commentary. Lazarus & 
Co., Benares. Second edition with some corrections and 
other improvements in Text and Commentary of the 
original four volumes, in two volumes, crown octavo, cloth,. 
Rs. 14 the 2 vols. 

GRIFFITH, R. T. H. The Hymns of the Sftma-veda. 
Lazarus & Co., Benares. In one volume, second edition* 
Demy octavo, cloth, Rs. 4. 


GRIFFITH, R. T. H. The Hymns of the Atharva- 
veda. Lazarus & Co., Benares. In two royal octavo 
volumes, cloth, Rs. 12. Stiff paper covers, Rs. 10-8-0. 

GRIFFITH, R. T. H. The Yajur-veda (White.) 
Lazarus & Co., Benares. In one volume, crown octavo, 
cloth, Rs. 3-12-0. 

HAUG, DR. Translation of the Aitareya Brahmana, 

KAEGI. Rig-veda. Ginn & Co. 

KUNTE, M. M. Vicissitudes of Aryan Civilization 
in India. Bombay, 

MACDONALD, K. S. Vedic Religion. 

MACDONELL, A. A. A History of Sanskrit Litera- 
ture. Heinemann. First edition, 1900. 

MACDONELL, A. A. and KEITH, A. B. A Vedic 
Index of Names and Subjects. Two volumes, John 
Murray, 1912. 

MULLER, MAX. Ancient Sanskrit Literature. 

MULLER, 'MAX. India: What can it Teach us 

MULLER, MAX. Six Systems of Indian Philosophy. 

PETERSON, P. Hymns from the Rig-veda. Bombay, 

RAJENDRALALA MITRA. Indo-Aryans. 2 Vols. 
Newman, Calcutta, 

WEBER, PROFESSOR. History of Indian Literature. 

WHITNEY, PROFESSOR. Oriental and Linguistic 
Studies. Scribner. 

WILLIAMS, MONIER. Brahmanism and Hinduism. 


WILSON, PROFESSOR H. H. Translation of the 
Rigveda Sanhita (Allen). 

WILSON, DR. J. India Three Thousand Years Ago, 



Adhvaryus, 28, 108. 

Adi-purusa, 165. 

Aditi, 88.' 

Adityas, 71, 88, 94, hymn to 

quoted, 175. 
Afghanistan, 3, 155. 
Agastya, 135. 
Aghnya, 97. 
Agnayi, 90. 

200 hymns to, 51 

account of, 80 

and other gods, 83 

and goddesses, 83 

and demons, 83 

passes away, 135, 161 

forsakes Varuna, 161 

hymns to quoted, 177, 178,179. 
Agriculture, 9. 
Ahalya, 75. 
Ahi, 182 n. 

Aitareya-Brahmana, 49, 263. 
Aitaraya Opanishad, 37. 
Akho, Gujerati poet, 124. 
Altar, domestic, 11 . 
Amulets, 240. 

Ancestor worship, 10, 88-103. 
Angiras, 177 n.-235 n. 
Annastuti hymn, 230. 
Angirases, 96, 235. 
Animal sacrifices, 113. 
Ariukramani, 244. 
Apala, 14. ' 

Apas (waters), 91. 
Apastamba, 131. 
Apsarases, 95, 242. 
Arabs, 121. 

Aranyakas, 25, 35, 36- 
Aranyani, 91. 
Arrow, 229. 
Arundhati, 240. 
Aryaman, 11 

account of, 70. 

agriculture, 9 

artisans, 7 

astronomy, 17 

cosmology, 17 

crime, 14 

and Dasyus, 6 

father's authority, 10 

food, 7 

home of, 4 

houses, 7 

king, 14 

marriage, 10 

medicine, 18 

morality, 14 

nomadic, 3, 6 

polyandry, 11, 66 

polygamy, 11, 234 

prayers, 137ff. 

religious beginnings, 18, 72,. 

sacrifices, 104ff 

trades, 9 

war, 17 

widows, 12 

women, 13. 



Aryas, 3. 

A sat, 208. 

Asclepiad plants and soma, 84, 

Asoka, 42. 

Asoka-tree, 103. 

Asuras, 96, 139, 198, 225. 

Astronomy, 17. 

ASvalayana Sutra, 114. 


polyandry of eleven sons of 
Surya, 66 ; 

Vivasvat, 94 ; 

description of, 71 

hymn to quoted, 180. 
Agvamedha sacrifice, 118-121. 
Atharvfingirasah, 26. 

analysis of, 274 

hymn to drum, 6 

editions and translations, 23ff 

composition, character and 
date, 30ff 

vaidikas, 43 

on power of priest, 107 

on power of mantra, 164 

passages quoted 

ii. 17 1-7 240. 

15 1-8 242. 
19 1-5 108. 

16 1-5 64. 
22 1 etc. 239. 

130 1-4 242. 
7 20 251. 
7 24 252. 
5 5-73 241. 

3 3 61. 

4 38 252. 














Atri, 225. 
Avesta, 3, 264. 

2 101. 

2 102. 

3 252. 


Barbers, 9. 

Benares, 24. 

Benfey, 22, 79. 

Bengal, 127. 

Beschi, Constantino, 20. 

Bezwada, 124. 

Bhaga, 11. 

Bhagavad-gitS, 20. 

Bhagavata, 137. 

Bhagavata purana, 257. 

Bhagavati, 7. 

Bhakti, 170. 

Bharadvaja, 41. 

Bharatas, 225. 

BharatI, 185. 

Bhils, 4. 

Bhrigus, 33 ; described, 79,95. 

Bhrigyangarasah, 32. 

Bhiita, 136. 

Bibliography, 276. 

Bloomfield, Maurice, edits 

Atharva-veda, 23 

Vedic concordance, 29 

on writing in India, 42 

date of Vedas, 46. 
Bows and arrows, 17, 228. 
Brahma, 52, 56, 78. 
Brahmachariya, 44. 
Brahman (neut.), 33, 136. 
Brahman (Masc.), 18, 33, 82. 

108-10, and cows 240 

and human sacrifice, 128, 135 

divine power, 163 

origin of, 166, 169. 
Brahmanas, 25, 34ff., 42 

later date, 29, 46, 49 

numbers of, 37 

in prose, 36, 37 

on animal sacrifice, 113, 114 ; 

on Brahman's divinity and 
power, 163 

seeAitareya, 6atapatha t etc. 
Brahma- veda, 33. 
Brahmanaspati, 56, 92, 94. 
Bread, 7. 

Brihadaranyaka upanishad, 37. 
Brihaspati, 17, 92, 94, 185. 
Briton, 18, 121. 
Buddha, 46, 171. 



Buddhism, 46, 134, 137, 169. 
Buffaloes, 9, 113. 
Buhler, Dr., on writing, 42. 
Butter, 7. 


Canaanites, 121. 

Carpenters, 9. 

Carthaginians, 121. 

Caste, four, 48 

not in Aryan times, 157 
origin of, 166, 170. 

Cattle, 9 ; raids for, 17. 
See Cows, Meat 

Ceremonialism, 163, see Sacri- 

Chaitra month, 131. 

Chaldea, 31. 

Chamasadhvaryu priest, 108. 

Chamunda (Durga), 122. 

Chandi (Durga), 122. 

Chandika (Durga), 133. 

Chariot, 17, 229. 

Chariot race, 16. 

Charms for disease, etc., 18. 

ChhSndogya upanishad, 37, 255. 

Children, Position of, 10. 

Christ, 171. 

ChyavSna, 71. 

Colebrooke on Aryan meat-eat- 
ing, 8 ; on Vedas, 21, 154. 

Conch, 17. 

Cosmogony, hymns, 205ff. 

Cosmology, 17. 

Cow eaten and sacrificed, 8, 113 
hymn to, 240. 

Cowell, E. B., 23. 

Creation, hymns of, quoted, 205 ff. 

Crime, 14. 


DAKSHA, 93. 

Dancing, 16. 

Daranas, 42. 

Dasa (or Dasyu), 6, 17, 182ff. 

Dasaratha, 119. 

Dasyu, see Dasa. 

Daughters not desired, 12. 

David, 48. 

Death (Mrityu), 87. 

Deification: instance of, 103. 

Dekkhan, 43. 

Demons, 96. 

of Dasyus, 6, 96 
in Atharva-veda, 30ff 
and worship of Rudra, 77-8 
and sacrifice, 163ff 
of Malabar, 164 
in Hinduism, 169. 

Deva, 52. 

Devas, see Gods, 52ff. 

Devi, 122. 

Devotion, way of, 170. 

Dharapuram, 103. 

Dharma-sutras, 25, 38. 

Dice, 15, 227. 

Dogs of Yama, 231. 

Dravidians, 4, 136 

demon worship of, 77, 164 
worship ancestors, 99 
human sacrifice, 122. 

Drums, 16. 

Duhitri, milkmaid, 9. 

Duhsvapnaghnam, 235. 

Durga, 52, 78, 116, 122, 333. 
puja, 116. 

Dvijanman, 81. 

Dyaus, 52 

Dyaus and Prithivi, 55, 62 
account of, 62 
parent of Agni, 81 
passes away, 135 
hymn to quoted, 181. 

ECLIPSE, 225. 

Egypt, 48. 

Ekashtaka, mother of Indra, 73. 

Elijah,' 49. 

Ethical ideas in Vedas, 160. 



FATHER, authority of, 10. 

Fathers (ancestors), see Pitri. 

Fever, 240. 

Fire by friction, 81.. 

Flamen and brahman , 107. 

Floods, 50, 54. 

Flour, 7. 

Food, hymn to, 230. 

Forgiveness, prayers for, 148. 

Frazer, R.W., 78. 

Frogs, hymn to, 222. 

Funeral hymn quoted, 213. 

Future life, 152. 


gambling, 15 

hymn on, 226. 
Ganapati, 52. 
Gandharvas, Vach and Soma, 

86, 91 ; account of, 95. 
Ganges, 4, 127, 141, 155. 
Garuda Purana, 13. 
Garutman, 61. 
Gautama, 44, 75. 
Gautama the Buddha, 134. 
Gavisti, 17. 
Gayatn, 67, 136, 185 ; and Soma, 


Gayatri metre, 260. 
Ghi, 83, 105. 
Ghosha the leper maiden, 14, 


Ghrita, ghi, 105. 
Goats, 9, 113. 
Goddesses Vedic, 69, 90-1. 
Gods, Vedic 

nature of, 50ff 

devas, 52 ; ' the bright ones' , 53 

number of, 53 

dual gods, 54 

collective, 55 

origin of, 55 

immortality of, 55 

appearance, 56 

character, 56 

classification, 57 

heno theism or kathenotheism, 

similarity of attributes of 
many, 60 

Agni, 80, 135 

Aryaman, 70 

As"vins> 71 

Bhrigus, 79 

Brahmanaspati, Brihaspati, 

Dyaus, 62, 135 

Indra, 72 

Ka, 92 

Kama, 93 

Mitra, 65 

Parjanya, 79 

Prithivi, 88 

Pushan, 68 

Ribhus, 94 

Rudra, 76 

Soma, 83 

Surya, 65 

Savitri, 66 

Tvastri, 94 

Ushas, 69 

Varuna, 63, 135 

Vata, Vayu, 72 

Vishnu, 68 

VisVakarman, 95 

ViSve devas, 93 

Yama and Yami, 87. 
Goghna, cow-killer, 8, 97. 
Gold, 9. 
Gonds, 4. 

Gopa, cow-keeper, 9. 
Gopatha-brahmana, 49, 117. 
Go-sava, 115. 
Gosuyudh, 17. 
Gotama, 41. 
Grantha, 42. 
Grass, sacred, 190n. 
'Greece and Greeks, 10, 19, 48, 

53, 121. 



Griffith,' R.T.H. Translations of 
Vedas, 24 ; on Atharva-veda, 
31, 274. 

Grihapati, 82. 

Grihya Sutras, 25, 38, 114. 

Gritsamada, 41. 

Gujerati, 124. 

Gujerati legend, 124. 

Guru, teaches Veda, 42. 


HAOMA or Soma, 84. 

Harihara, 55. 

Harischandra, 128. 

Harivamsa, 256. 

Harrow, 9. 

Haug on Vedic metre, 262. 

Health, prayer for, 146. 

Hebrews, 13 
prayers of, 138 
idea of holiness, 159. 

Helios, 65. 

Henotheism, 59. 

Himalayas, 4,7. 

Hiranya-garbha, 89, 167. 


Homer, 220. 

Horse, 9, 97-229. 

Horse-sacrifice, 118. 

Hotra, 185. 

Hotri, 27, 82 

and Rig-veda, 109 
and brahmanas, 110 
and sutras, 110. 

House breakers spell, 231. 

Human sacrifice, 121ff. 

Hunting, 9. 


ILIAD, 49. 

Implements of sacrifice, 97. 

India, Map of in Vedic age, 5. 

Indra,.17, 40 

250 hymns to, 51 

replaces Varuna, 52, 161 

begets his parents, 56 

account of, 72-76 

a merchant, 241 

and Vritra, 73 

and Soma- juice, 85 

hired out by Vamadeva, 163 

hymns to quoted, 182ff 

Indra^Satakratu, 16. 

Indra's words about women, 
Indram, 74, 91, 234. [13. 

Indu, 72, 193. 
Indus, 4,. 141. 

Infants drowned in Ganges, 127. 
Iran, 3. 

Irrigation channels, 9. 
Isaiah, 49. 
Israel, 48. 
IsVara, 56, 78. 


Jamadagnya, 8. 
Jamna river, 4, 41-141. 
Jan, 245. 
Janaka, 8, 107. 
Jatavedas, 180, 241. 
Jesus, 170. 
Jfiana-marga, 170. 
Jones, Sir William, 20. 
Jumna river, 4, 41, 141. 
Jupiter (planet), 92. 

KA, 92 

hymn to quoted, 168. 
Kabulistan, 4. 
Kaegi, 12. 
Kakshlvan, 180. 
Kali, 52, 122 see Durga. 
Kallghat, 122. 
Kalika purana, 123. 
Kalpa ceremonial, 38. 



Kalpa- ' day of Brahma ', 38. 

Kama, 52, 93. 

Kamya isti t 114. 

Kandama, 117. 

Kapinjala, 184. 

Karma, 158. 

Kagyapa, 93. 

Kathenotheism, 59. 

Kausalya, 121. 

Kaushitaki brahmana, 49. 

Kaushitaki upanishad, 37. 

Kena upanishad, 37. 

Kingship, 14. 

Kistvaens, 5. 

Kona Irappa (a demon), 123. 

Kri, 245. 

Krishna, 52, 135, 137, 171. 

Kshatriya gambling, 15 

raj rishi, 107 

and human sacrifice, 131, 


origin of, 166. 

Kumarila, 45. 
Kuru, 48, 119. 
Kuruba tribe, 123. 
Kurukshetra, 41. 
Kurumayi, 122. 
Kutsa, 183. 

LAKSHMI, 52, 91. 
Lanka, 95. 

Levirate marriage, 13. 
Linga, 6. 
Lithuania, 79. 
Love-charm, 242. 
Love, way of, 170. 


MACDONALD, Dr. K. S. f on 

Brahmanas, 35, 36. 
Macdonell, Prof., on writing in 

India, 42 ; on date of vedas, 

46 ; on influence of Brahmans, 


Madhava Acharya, 22. 
Madura, 20. 

Maghavan, ' liberal one ', 185. 
Magic in Atharva-veda, 32, 35 

magical mantras, 35 

power of sacrifice, 163ff. 
Mahabharata, 25; says Veda 

not to be written, 45 

and horse-sacrifice, 119 

origin of Veda, 256. 
Mahadeva, 52, 77. 
Mahakratu, 118. 
Maha prasthana, self-sacrifice, 


Mahavira, 134. 
Mahratta, 148. 
Malabar, 164. 
Mand, 9. 

Manikka Vasaka, 148, 170. 
Mantra, 25 ; defined, 34, 40, 137. 
Mantra-kara, 107. 
Manu, Law-book of, 25, 255 

on human sacrifice. 135. 
Manu the primeval, 202. 
Mari, 122. 
Margosa tree, 105. 
Marriage, 10, see Aryans. 
Martanda, 206. 
Maruts and Indra, 74 

and Rudra, 76 

described. 79 

hymn to quoted, 187. 
Mattock, 9. 
Mavadiyal, 78. 
Mavli (water sprites), 123. 
Maya, 158. 
May am, magic, 197. 
Meat-eating, 7, 83, 97 

ceases, 135. 

' Merchant Indra ',241. 
Merchant's prayer, 241. 
Mesopotamia, 42. 
Metre, 259. 
Milk, 7. 

Mina of Babylon, 9. 
Minos and Yama, 88. 
Mitra, account of, 65 

and Varuna, 65. 



Mitravarunan, 55. 

Mitra, Dr. Rajendralala on 
Aryan meat-eating, 7, 8 
on animal sacrifice, 113ff ~* 
on human sacrifice, 126ff 

Mpabites, 121. 

Monism see Upanishads. 

Morality, 14. 

Mrityu (Death), 87. 

Muir, Dr. John 
edits Sanskrit texts, 23, see 
references in footnotes. 

Miijavan, 227, 240. 

Muller, Prof. Max, edits and 
translates Vedas, 22, 23 
on writing in India, 42 
describes instruction in Vedas, 


date of Vedas, 45 
on devas, 53 
kathenotheism, 59 
on Maruts, 79 
orders and duties of priests, 


on Vedic metre, 259 
on analysis of Veda, 266ff 
on human sacrifice, 131. 

Miiradevah, 233. 

Mysticism in Vedas, 160. 


Naga-linga, 97. 
Nagas, 97. 
Nallapfimpu, 97. 
Nami, 75. 
Namuchi, 75. 
Narabali, 122. 
Nasatyas, 18.1 n. 190 n. 
Nature- worship, 50. 
Neem-tree, 105. 
Nesta, 117. 
Nirriti, 235. 
Nirukta, 57. , 
Nobili, Robert de, 20, 
Norsemen, 57, 62. 

OGNI, 80. 

Oldenberg, 23. 

Om, 136. 

Oral transmission of Veda, 42. 

Ox sacrificed, 113. 



Panchalas, 48. 
Panchavimsa-brahmana, 49. 
Pancha saradiya sava, 113 

Pandava, 5 

PSndava-vidu, 5. 
Parang 265. 
Panjab, 4, 8, 48. 
Pantheism see Upanishads. 
Parabrahma, 56. 
Paraiyan, 99. 
Par j any a, 145 ; account of, 79 ; 

and Soma, 86 ; hymn to* 

quoted, 188. 
Par sis, 3. 

Patria potestas, 10. 
Patriarchal family, 10. 
Pavamana, 85, 192. 
Perkunas, 79. 
Persia, 3, 10, 79, 84, 97. 
Personality believed in, 158. 
Pey, 96. 
Pey-kovil, 78. 

Phallic worship of Dasyus, 6. 
Phoenicians, 42. 
Pindas, 101. 
Pipru, 182. 
Pis*achas, 96. 
Pitri, 58, 136, 147, 184 ; service 

and worship of, 98-103 . 

hymn to -quo ted, 212. 
Pitriypjna, 101. 
Plough, 9, 98. , 
Pluto and Yama, 88. 
Polyandry, 11. 

288 INDEX 

BOOK vi 





















147, 248 











6, 11 

















11, 13, 16, 19 



BOOK vn 


































































151, 160, 

























15, 18, 24 


i t 






3 . 









25, 26 162 

11 143 

14 202 

3 54 

2 247 

4 74 

3 85,152 

4 248 
4 86 

16 16 

8 162 

BOOK ix 

8 251 

3 145 

4 145 

5 85 

6 86 
42 85 


7-11 153 


116 209 

114 212 

1, 4, 5 102 

114 213 

7 12 

8 13 
114 228 

1,7,13 15 

16 180 

6 54 

6 246 

8 151 
111 219 

19 205ff 

17 207f 

36, 42, 46 11 

14 142 

21 147 

116 16* 

9 249 











89, 168 

































Rita, 160ff, 177, 200, 203. 

-Ritvij, 82. 

Rivers, 223. See Jamna, Gan- 
ges, Sutlej. 

Rohita, 128. 

Rosen, Friedrich, 21. 

Rome, 49, 53, 121. 

Roth, 23. 

Rudra and Pushan, 68. 


and Pushan, 68 
account of, 76-78 
hymn to, quoted, 190. 

Rudras, see Maruts, Vritra. 

SACERDOTALISM, see Sacrifice. 

recurring, 40 

sacrifices of the Aryans, 104ff 

of human beings in modern 
times, 123ff 

efficiency of, 163ff 

decline of sacrificial worship, 

Sacrificial instruments, 98, 111, 


Sadasya, 117. 
Sadhyas, 166. 

Sagalsha Seth, legend of, 124ff. 
Sagaj: Isle, ,127, 
Saiva-siddhantin, 137. 


6aivism, 16?. v See 6iva. 

Sakalas, 42. 

akti- worship, 91. 

akuntala, 20. 

Salt not mentioned in R.V., 8. 

Samfini t 26. 


editions and translations, 

composition of, 28, 87, 271 

reading from, 236. 
Sambara, 182. 

amhita t 25, 34. 
amitri priest, 108. 
Samsara, 158. 
Sanjna, 66. 
Sanskrit, 20, 264. 
Santals, 4. 

Sapatnlbdhpjiam, 234. 
Sarama, 231f. 
Saranyu the dawn, 87, 94. 
Sarasvatl (river), 4. 
Saras vati (goddess), 90-1. 
Sarcostemma viminale (soma), 


Sarva-darsana-samgraha, 22. 
Sastra, 42. 

fatananda, 8. 
atapatha-brahmana, 33, 49, 

119, 254 

on human sacrifice, 132 

on divinity of the Brahman, 


Satakratu=Indra, 16. 
6atarchuis, 41, 267. 
Sail, 13, 127. 
Saunaka, 259. 
Savitar Savitri, 11 ; described, 

66, 67 

hymn to, quoted, 191. 
Savitri, see Gayatri. 
Sayana Acharya, 22, 65, 66, 140, 


Scott, H. R. f 124. 
Schroeder, L. von, 23. 
Se t stev Dravidian root, 76. 
Selaiya, legend of sacrifice of, 




Serpent-worship, 97. 
Ships, 10. 
Siksha, 109. 
Sin in the veda, 149. 
Sindhu, 4. 
Sinlvall, 140. 
$iprln t 140. 

SiJnah-devah, phallus-worship- 
pers, 6. 
SIta, 144. 

$iva t etymology and meaning, 
. 76, 78. 
&va, 6, 52, 135, 137, 171 

trident of, 66 

and Rudra, 77; and Kama, 93 ; 

Nadaraja, 171. 
Skandha purSna, 67. 
Slavs, 10, 80. " 
Smartta Sutras, 25, 38. 
Smiths, 9. 

Smriti. 8, 25, 37, 42. * 
Soma (deity), 56, 72 

and other gods, 85 

account of, 83-87 

origin of, 86 

passes away, 161 

hymn to, quoted, 192f . 
Soma- juice, 9, 55 

Indra's fondness for it, 74, 85 

described, 84 

drinking ceases, 134 

soma libations, 87 

soma-plant, 9, 15 

described, 84 

soma sacrifice, 87, 112. 
Sons desired, 12 

prayers for, 147. 
Sorcery in Atharva-veda, 30 

v. Magic. 

Speech, see Vach. 
Spells, house-breakers, 321. 

,, against evil spirits, 232. 

,, ,, rival wife, 234 

against evil dreams, 235. 
sphya, 111. 
Sraddha (Devotion), 52, 90 

mother of Kama, 93. 
Sraddha (funeral ceremonies), 


different kinds of, 102. 
Srauta sacrifices, 33. 
brauta sutras, 38. 
Srotriyas, oral traditionists, 43. 
Sruti, 25, 42. Includes upani- 

shads, 37. 

excludes sutras, 37. 
Stevenson, R. L., 139. 
Sudas, 40. 
Sudra not to teach veda, 45 

origin of, 166. 
Suktas, 34. 

Sulagava, 'spitted cow', 114. 
Sun personified variously, 60. 
SunahSepa, 36; legend of, 128-9. 
Sura, 8. 
Sura, 192. 
Sutipra, 140. 
Susna, 182. 
Surya, the sun 

described, 65 

hymn to, quoted, 194. 
Surya, 11, 68. 
Sutlej, 41. 
Sutras, 37ff. 42 

date, 46 

on animal sacrifice, 114. 

futtee, sail, 13, 127. 
utudri river, 223, 
Svarbhanu, 225f. 

Taksh, 245. 
Taittiriyans, 28. 
Taittiriya-brahmana, 49, 113, 

114-7, 119, 252. 
Taittirlya-samhita, 33. 
Taittiriya upanisl^ad, 37. 
Talavakara-brahmana, 49. 
Tamils, 5, 6, 78, 148. 
TSndya brahmana, 116. 
Tanners, 9. 
Tantta, 133, 164, 169, 
Tapas (penance), 55. 
Telugu, 6, 



Teutons, 10, 121. 
Three Vedas, 33. 
Tiruvasagam quoted, 77. 
Tools, 9, 
Trayi-vidyfi, 33,- 
Trichinopoly, 122. 
Trimurti, 52, 68, 78. 
Trita, 230, 
Tukarama, 148, 170. 
Tulsidas, 170. 
Tvastri, 72 
account of, 94. 


UDGATA, 117. 
Udgatri, 27 

chanted SSmSni, 87, 109. 
Universe, origin of t hymn, 205ff. 
Upanishads, 21, 25, 35 

defined, 36 

earliest, 37 

in 6ruti, 37, 165, 170 

monism of, 52, 61, 134, 158, 


Upa-purSnas, 25. 
Urvas-i, 95. 
Ushas, 16 

mother of the gods, 55 

and Surya, 65 

account of, 69, 90 

hymns to, quoted, 202ff. 
Uttara R5ma Charitra, 8. 

V5ch 'mother of Vedas ', 39, 

99, 91. 

Vaikarta butcher priest, 108. 
Vaivasvata, 235. 
Vaishnava, 124. 
Vats' vfinara, 241. 
Vaisya, 166. 
Vajapeya, 115. 
Vajasaneyins, 28* 
Vala, fc demon, 92* 
Vallabhacharya, 124. 

Vamadeva, 41 

lord of Indra, 163. 
Valmiki, 8. 
Vamana avatara, 69. 

and Indra, 52 

moral excellence of, 57, 63, 

account of, 63 

and Mitra, 65 

and legend of Sunahs*epa, 

passes away, 135, 161 

hymns to, quoted, 129, 150, 


Varunani, 90. 
Varutri, 185 n. 
Vasista, 8, 40, 41, 152. 
Vastospati, 231, 
Vasudeva, 137. 
Vata, 72. 
Vatapi, 231. 
Vayu described, 72 

hymn to, quoted, 199. 
Veda denned, 25, 42. 
Vedas, 21ff 

names of, 26 

relation of, 27 

traditional origin of , 38ff, 166, 

compilation of, 40 

composition of, 41 

editions, 42 

oral transmission, 43, 44 

not to be written or learned of 
a sudra, 45 

number of hymns, 45 

date of Vedas, 45 

chronological table of Vedic 
literature, 48 

metres of, 259f 

analysis of, 266ff 

language of, 265. 
Vedangas, 25; Described, 37, 

38, 42. 
Vedanta, 35, 61, 161, see ua- 

ni shads. 
Vedic gods v. Gods. 



Vedic metres, 259t . 

Vcppa marattu karuppan, 78. 

Vibhidaka tree, 15. 

Vijayanagara, 22. 

VipSs river, 223. 

Viraj, 165. 

Viramatti, 103. 

Vteakha, 116. 

Vishnu, 52 

in Harihara, 55 

discus of, 66 

described, 68-69 

and Indra, 74 

rise of, 135 

hymn to, quoted, 200. 
Vishnu purana, 257. 
Vishnusmriti, 13. 
Vispala, 71. 
Vteva, 93. 
Vigvadevyat, 66. 
VisVakarman, 66, 95, 207. 
ViSvamitra, 8, 41, 131, 225. 
Vis*varupa, 94. 
ViSvedevas, 55, 93 

hymn to, quoted, 201f. 
Vivasvat (sun), 87. 
Vizianagaram, Maharaja of, 22. 
Vritra, demon of drought, 73, 

80, 86, 96, 145, 230. 
Vulcan, 94. 



Weapons, 17, 98, 228. 

Weapon-song, 17. 

Weaving, 9. 

Weber, A., 23 
on Atharva-veda, 32. 

Whitney, 23 

on Atharva-veda, 32 
on Soma, 84. 

Widow, 12 

might remarry, 12 
widow-burning, 13 
how justified, 12. 

Wife, position of, 10, 11, 157 

not a child, 11, 157 

rival wives, 234. 
Whip, 229. 
Wilkins, Charles, 20. 
Wilson, H. H., 23. 
Wolf, 189 n. 
Woman (see Marriage, Wife) 

position of, 13, 157 

and Vedas, 14. 
Woriur, 122. 
Writing in India, 42. 

Yajunshi, 26. 

analysis of, 272 
editions and translations, 


' White ' and ' Black ', 28, 33 
used by adhvaryu priests, 109 
on animal sacrifices, 113-8 
on horse sacrifice, 119ff 
on human sacrifice,' 131ff 
exalts power of Brahman's 

knowledge, 163 
reading from, 238. 

Yama, 66 
described, 87 
and ancestors, 99-103 
hymn to, quoted, 231, 235 
dogs of, 231. 

Yami, 66 
described, 87. 

Yamuna River, 4. 

Yaska's Nirukta, 57. 

Yatudhanas, 232. 

Yudhistira, 119. 


Yupa, 98, 110. 

ZEND, 3. 
Zoroaster, 3.