DEVAS (GODS) FURTHER EXPLAINED
The Nirukta proclaims:
By omnipotence of divinity, one Ātman (or Brahma) is worshipped in many names.
In the Nirukta tradition, there are mentioned 151 divinities (or gods) as found in the Rig Veda. They are classified under three chief gods: Agni (of Earth plane), Vayu or Indra (of Mid-region plane) and Surya (of Stellar or Solar or Heaven plane). Their etymologies help better understanding of the Vedas. Undoubtedly all gods in general represent the supreme one Brahma (Brahman) but in particular …
Agni (agranī) literally means foremost, champion, guide and leader. Specifically it is fire of hearth, sacrifice and other applications. Look at two illustrations:
I laud Agni, the purohita (leader), god of yajña, ritvik (venerable)
And hotā (summoner of gods or divine powers;
or courier/dispenser of yajña/karma fruits).
He brings along brilliant riches [spiritual and material]. (RV I.1.1)
God dispenses karma fruits for those who are non-believers or unsurrendered ones believing in separate, individual action (instead of Cosmic Action expedited by Vedic gods). Whereas the sages (Rishis) do not earn karma but simply enjoy the total Rta (the divine splendour).
Recall the mantra ‘That verily is Agni (fire).’ Therefore Agni here is not just fire. He is also called Jatavedas and Vaisvanara. He is Cosmic Will.
Agni is comprehensive here. He is the fire of yajña, its various priests also, its venerable god as well, and even the courier of fruits of yajña. Mantra assures rich benefits of prayer (or surrender to God) and of applications of fire viz. agnihotra.
Not only that, at times Agni means the other fires too, e.g. Indra (or electricity/lightning) and Sun (or solar/atomic energy). Agni is also seen as digestive power and heat within us. Need for food and shelter leads us to places and occupations.
We accept Agni as the hotā and
The messenger [carrier of havya and common weal],
Knowing and becoming (realising) whole universe (visvavedas).
He is the facilitator of this Yajña (vehicle of Cosmic Upkeep). (RV I.12.1)
Purohita literally means front-held, or even seated or hidden within from time without beginning. So it can be leader, counsellor and priest. … God is seated within us from time without beginning and leads us throughout along right, appropriate paths.
Agnihotra: Fire or sacrificial fire as front-placed is leader at physical plane, by bringing betterment of life through facilitation of the cycle of yajña (sacrifice), rain, food and life.
Ritvik means one who is venerable at all occasions or seasons viz. God or fire. It is also used for priest of yajña.
The word used for riches is ratna. Ratna means jewel, but it should mean anything that engages our attention or interests us.
Dūta is courier or messenger. Havya is normally called the offering/food for gods. It literally means anything called for or sought after. So it is both offering and desired objects.
Jatavedas or Jātavedas is one knowing or becoming (realising) all creations and births. It is often used for Agni.
Vaisvanara or Vāisvānara is Agni (or even as digestive power) being regarded as child (or representative) of Visvānara. Visvānara stands for Indra (lightning/electricity) and Surya (Sun). Term literally means force or power of Cosmic Will that guides and moves all men/creations.
Dravinodas is giver of wealth and power (and even weal = well being).
Idhma means fuel stick (fagot) for sacrificial fire (Agni), or any facility that kindles Yoga or Samadhi practice. [Like other names, it is capable of psychological interpretation.]
Tanūnapāt stands for Agni or ghee (ājya i.e. purified butter). Napāt means grandchild or not-failing; tanū means water and cow. Agni is grandchild of water; ghee, of cow. It can also be interpreted as not-failing or wanting in protecting water, cow, karma (in the sense of karma fruit and karma justice). It is even interpreted as one not failing in protecting even minute things.
Narāsamsa is Yajña or Agni. It is Yajña because because men laud in it. It is Agni because men laud it.
Ila is one lauded or kindled (or contemplated).
Barhis is grass for Yajña site, or space or heart space (or even home), fit for being graced by divinities. It also means water.
Devīr Dvārah are divine doors or, in psychological sense, sense openings. Use them to escape and shut off evil and to let in divinities.
Ushāsānaktā are the twin gods: dawn (or day) and night.
Dāivyā Hotārā are the twin divine hotās (i.e. priests or invokers or couriers/dispensers of Yajña and karma fruits). The two are Vayu and Agni.
Tisro Devīh are the three oceanic goddesses stirring waters, intuitions (Holy Speech i.e. the Vedas) and felicity: Idā, Sarasvati or Sarasvatī and Mahī/Bhāratī, of the Earth, Mid-region and Solar planes, respectively.
Tvashtri or Tvashtr is (1) the shaper, crafter or technologist, (2) luminous and (3) one who swiftly pervades all. He is god of workmanship and industry.
Vanaspati is the lord or nurturer of forests and vegetation, that are availed by all creatures. The term is generally used for Agni. It is even interpreted as Yajña pillar made of wood.
Svāhākrtayah are offerings made with splendid hymns or with utterances of hymns.
NOTE: These 12 gods starting from Idhma are called Āprī gods (in the sense of pervading and pleasing). They are worshipped together.
Asva: that covers distances or pervades or eats up. It is commonly interpreted as horse (symbolically, power).
Sakuni: that can go or fly. It means bird.
Mandūkāh: those content or immersed in water or felicity. Term is commonly used for frogs.
Aksha: the gambler’s dice.
Grāvānah: that speak, break or knock out. Term is commonly used for stones, but even for vocal organs. Both these create (express) Soma.
Nārāsamsa is the mantra that lauds men.
King’s tools are worshipped as they serve to aid Yajña. Ratha means chariot, vehicle or heavenly (or delightful) body or object. Dundubhi is large kettle drum. Ishudhi is quiver. Hastaghna is hand guard. Abhīsavah are fingers. Dhanus is bow. Jyā is bow-string, in victory sense (shooting arrows). Ishu is arrow. Asvājanī is whip, that creates or exhibits fear. Ulūkhala is mortar.
Vrishabha or Vrshabha is bull, or anyone that rains, sprinkles, impregnates or grants wishes. It is also used for manly, mighty, vigorous and strong.
Drughana is wooden mace.
Pitu is food or drink, or anything that protects or nourishes or is enjoyed as drink.
Nadyah are rivers because they make sound while flowing.
Apas or Āpah are waters, or even particles, in the sense of flowing or pervading (or reaching). They also mean sky or mid-region (antariksha).
Oshadhayah are herbs serving as tonics or healers.
Rātri is night, in the sense that gives the gift of relief.
Aranyānī is female goddess of forests.
Sraddhā means truth-holding. It is synonym of faith and theism.
Prithivi or Prthivī is Earth.
Apvā is fear and disease.
Agnāyī is wife of Agni.
Divinites in pairs: Ulūkhala-Mūsala are mortar-pestle. Havirdhāne are vehicles to carry havis (oblations). Dyava-Prithivi or Dyāvā-Prthivī are Earth-Heaven. Ārtnī are bow ends (where bow string is fastened), lauded for shooting arrows and overpowering enemies. Vipāt-Sutudri are hill rivers that flow rapidly and later merge and flow together. [It should not be taken as historical or geographical reference.] Sunā-Sīrāu are Vayu-Aditya (i.e. Wind-Sun): first for moving swiftly in skies; second for creeping through skies. Devī Joshtrī are two goddesses that vouchsafe delight and enjoyment, used for Earth-Heaven or day-night. Devī Ūrjāhutī are two goddesses that vouchsafe food and nourishment, used for Earth-Heaven or day-night. Earth Plane divinities finis.
Vayu or Vāyu is wind, that blows or moves. It supports life, motion and speech.
Come. O spectacular Vayu, one worth meditating and worshipping!
Your Somas (or creations) are splendid [capable of evoking beatitude];
Savour (or protect) them. Listen to our call (prayer). (RV I.2.1)
Vayu too is just wind. It is vital for life; we breathe air constantly. Vayu supports our life through ten vital airs. Vayu is Cosmic Life.
In addition, Vayu signifies Brahma, or bliss/felicity. Thus every creation is just blissful to the perceptive sage.
But why Vayu only? The secret of this mantra perhaps lies in the oft repeated evolutionary sequence viz. from space, wind; from wind, fire; from fire, waters; from waters, earth. Vayu is thus superior material cause of creation.
Not only that, Vayu is Vak (holy speech, or the Vedas) too. Vak has connexion with water/rain or Rta (Cosmic Order). This is reflected in the following mantra.
O Vayu, your far-reaching and prolific tongue (speech) [versed in the Vedas]
Benefits the one keen on Soma, who offers oblation or meditates. (RV I.2.3)
Word dhenā used in the mantra has reference to cow, speech and water.
Varuna or Varuna: one that covers with clouds or holds or withholds waters (or fortunes/destiny) within and showers favours. He is the god of water, night and apāna (waste-ejective wind or outbreath). Duo Mitra-Varuna are enhancers of Rta (Cosmic Order and water).
Rudra: one that cries or wails or makes wicked cry or wail, with malignant wind, rain and food. He is described sometimes as individual self, sometimes as surgeon or physician.
Indra is supreme lord or power or one that makes rain, sprouts seeds and creates and celebrates Soma (= creations) and their offerings. He is described as heroic and majestic. Commonly he is regarded as god or rain, thunder and lightning. His two powers refer to good-bad karma, or Prāna-Apāna. Or those could be Mitra-Varuna, two Ashvins, Day-Night or Heaven-Earth.
Indra verily is the enjoyer and keeper of creations (called Somas or sutas).
He is the soul of gods (or illustrious) and mortals. (RV VIII.2.4)
We come across frequent allegories on Indra’s exploits against Vritra (foe, or cloud). But there is a mantra that cautions us.
O Indra, what you behaved among men as growing in body and power,
That is your power (or illusion) only; those wars too;
I know of your foe none now nor yesterday. (RV 10.54.2)