Vedic Lore Age of the Vedas Upanishads Brahma Devas I Devas II Rta and Satya Yajña RIGVEDA Mandala I Mandala III Mandala V Mandala X Author e-mail me

Devas II

Devas II



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 …

Earth Plane

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 Josht 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.

Mid-Region Plane

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)

Parjanya is cloud or one who quenches thirst of all; or is keeper of the world by producing food and generating nectar in plants.

Brihaspati or Brhaspati is lord or protector/upholder of the holy speech (the Vedas) and the vast, boundless universe.

Brahmanaspati or Brahmanaspati is Brihaspati. Both stir intuitions and rains.

Kshetrasyapati is keeper or lord of house/field/universe.

Vāstoshpati is keeper or lord of house/dwelling.

Vāchaspati is lord or protector/upholder of the holy speech (the Vedas), like Brahmanaspati and Brihaspati.

Apānnapāt is used for Aditya (see Tanūnapāt of Earth Plane), or not failing or wanting in rains and works, or in making karma work and in dispensing karma justice.

Yama is controller or god of death, or even used for Agni.

Mitra is friend or one who saves from death or birth-death cycle. He is god of friendship, fire, day and prāna (life breath or inbreath). Duo Mitra-Varuna are enhancers of Rta (Cosmic Order and water).

Ka is one that possesses and gives delight and bliss, being inmost self of all. He is also called Hiranyagarbha (golden embryo of this universe) and Prajapati.

Sarasvati is goddess that is oceanic in every sense: water, intuition (Holy Speech) and felicity. See also Tisro Devīh of Earth Plane.

Visvakarman or Visvakarmā is agent of cosmic action (or simply Cosmic Agent or All-Makers), used for Indra or Vayu.

Tārkshya is one who swiftly pervades or covers the vast expanse, or one that gives rain. It is also called lightning. Or see Tvashtri of Earth Plane. 

Manyu is temper or anger, that drives one to action.

Dadhikrāh is used in the same sense as Asva that is under control of his master or rider.

Savitri or Savitr is creator or begetter (even used for Aditya).

Tvashtri or Tvashtr: see Earth Plane dininities. He stimulates life and thinking and bestows word power.

Vāta is Vayu.

Agni as in ‘O Agni, come with Maruts.’ (RV I.19)

Vena is god of lovely or splendid actions.

Asunīti: that carries (takes away) life along with him.

Rta is water or truth/law (especially the inevitable destiny or ‘given’ of karma justice). It is cosmic principle/order of karma justice and rain cycle. It is also seen as Yajña and splendour (riches).

Indu is moist and gleaming/bright (in delight and optimistic sense). It is Soma, Yajña and water also.

NOTE: Starting from Vayu, first 23 share hymn and offerings (havis); rest 4 share hymns but not offerings.

Prajapati or Prajāpati is lord or protector or nurturer of creatures or creations.

Ahi: that goes (in the sense of cloud).

Ahirbudhnya is cloud of the sky, or what moves in the sky.

Suparna: that flows/flies magnificently or that rules nobly.

Purūravas: that excessively cries or rains.

Syena is falcon, hawk, eagle, or that goes illustriously.

Soma means: (1) vitalising/rejuvenating juice or libation (from verb ‘to press’), (2) Moon (with sober and delightful qualities) and (3) intrinsic/uncreated felicity or bliss (synonymous with Brahma-consciousness). He is god of intoxicating bliss and felicity and of elixirs. He is known as Creator or who enjoys creation, for bliss is the supreme motivation. Expression 'drink Soma' is also in the sense of 'enjoy/grace/protect libation or creation or surrender/meditation.'

Chandramas is Moon (or anyone with sober and delightful demeanour).

Mrtyu is god of death.

Visvānara is Cosmic Will that guides or moves all men/creations. It is used for Vayu/Indra (lightning/electricity) and Surya (Sun).

Dhātā is upholder or water. Vidhātā is ordainer.

Mid-Region divinities used in plural or as class: Maruts or Marutah are splendid storm gods. They are Vedic verses and therefore stand for priests and learned men (versed in the Vedas) and fearsome warriors. They are also life breath &c. called Prānas. Rudras or Rudrāh: see Rudra of Mid Region Plane. They are 11 in number, viz. 10 vital winds (prāna, apāna &c.) and individual self. Ribhus or Rbhavah: who exist/shine in Rta (i.e. making karma work and dispensing karma justice). Angirasas or Angirasah are splinters or even in the sense of intimate organs or ones who have turned into Agni. Pitarah are ancestors or guardians (protectors). Atharvānah are the ones who are staunch, enduring and unrelenting in their manner. Bhrgus or Bhrgavah are ones divine in birth or origin and not mortal. Āptyāh are escorts or votaries of Indra.

Female deities: Aditi is the providence, mother of gods, even used for Agni, Holy Speech and Nature (Prakriti). Saramā is Holy Speech as gods’ scout (or hound). Sarasvati or Sarasvatī: already discussed. Vāk is speech. Anumati means time reckoned as full moon by gods. Rākā is full moon in the sense of bounteous. Sinīvālī is no-moon time in which gods accept food offerings. Kuhū is no-moon in the sense ‘where hidden.’ Yamī is feminine word for Yama. Urvashi or Urvasī  is nymph or highly enchanting (i.e. crush). Prithivi Prthivī  means vast mid-region sky that supports life. Indrānī is wife of Indra. Gauri or Gāurī is the goddess who is pure, fair and appealing. She along with next four mean Holy Speech (the Vedas) that stirs intuitions and rains. Go or Gāuh means Holy Speech. She also means cow, earth, sun and rays (when in plural). See Gauri. Dhenu is Holy Speech or one that nurtures and grants wishes. Commonly it is interpreted as cow. See Gauri. Aghnyā is venerable, not worth harming or disregarding, or one dispelling evil. It is used for Holy Speech and cow. See Gauri. Pathyā is the auspicious goddess dwelling in space (mid-region). Svasti  is also like Pathyā. Ushas  is auspicious dawn or even used for promising bride. Idā: see Tisro Devīh of Earth Plane. Rodasī is wife of Rudra, or even used for Heaven-Earth. Mid-Region Plane divinities finis.

Stellar or Heaven Plane

Divinities mentioned up to Vishnu indicate progression of Sun before and during day: Ashvins or Asvināu are the pair speeding as if on swift horses: one of which looks over day, the other over night. Some regard them as Earth-Heaven; some as Sun-Moon (right and left halves of our body). They are also called heavenly physicians. In our body, they represent right (Sun/fire) and left (Moon/water) breaths flowing through nostrils. They are invoked in the morning only. Even teacher-pupil and husband-wife are at times are addressed as Ashvins. Ushas is dawn, regarded as end part of night and beginning of day. When used in plural, Ushas suggests sunrays. See also Mid-Region Plane dinities. Sūryā is wife of Sun. Vrshākapāyī is when in the morning dew drops are formed. Saran: morning creeping toward day break. Savitri or Savitr: see Mid-Region divinities. Savitri is when sky is lit but not the earth. Tvashtri or Tvashtr: see Earth Plane divinities. Bhaga is god of pure bliss and felicity, or their source (also used for Sun). It is the share or desert of past karma and belief. Surya or Sūrya is when creeping toward sky and stimulating life in the world. Pushan or Pūshan means fosterer or nurturer. He fosters/boosts weal, agriculture and inner security. Sun stimulates rain cycle and food-making by green plants (photosynthesis). Term is sometimes used for Earth also. Vishnu or Vishnu pervades and encompasses all creations and realms. He is synonym of Yajña (Cosmic Upkeep). Visvānara: see Vaisvanara of Earth Plane. Varuna or Varuna: see Mid-Region Plane divinities. Kesī is Sun because sunrays act like hair or illuminate objects. Kesīnah mean all the three viz. Agni (fire), Vayu/Indra (lightning/electricity) and Surya (solar light and energy).

Vrshākapi creates dew in the morning and sends fright across people when Sun does not appear and thus threatens life. Yama: see Mid-Region divinities. Aja Ekapāt is used for Sun because it goes and is quarter only (the other quarters being Agni, Vayu and Directions). It is also explained as unborn Brahma (consciousness) and whose world is a quarter only. Prithivi or Prthivī is Earth, being flat and wide. Samudra is ocean. Or it is where waters accumulate or wherefrom flow or whereto rise up or wherein or with which creatures thrive. Dadhyan means the object of attention and devotion. Atharvā: see Mid-Region divinities. Manu is thinker and even used for first man or progenitor.

Deities in plural: Adityas or Ādityāh are gods by the name of Sun. They are sons of Aditi (Holy Speech, or Law) and therefore uphold the Cosmic Order or Law (called Rta). They draw and bring water or nectar, or take away life of all beings over time [as in the form of 12 months] or who outshine all. They are 12 in number, namely: Mitra, Varuna, Aryaman (god of honour, justice and dignity, administering adherence to principles or Divine Law), Bhaga, Daksha (god of ritual efficacy), Amsa (the apportioning god), Tvashtri, Pushan, Vivasvat (god of morality or man-made laws), Savitri (vitaliser/inspirer), Sakra (potent, heroic and god of outer security) and Vishnu. Sapta Rishis or Sapta Rshayah are seven rays of Sun or seven openings in face (ears, eyes, nostrils and mouth). Devas or Devāh are gods or even used for god-like (saintly, pious and learned) people; and within body as senses, mind and intellect. Vishve Devas or Visve Devāh are all gods. Sādhyas or Sādhyāh are the accomplished, perfect and ideal ones. Vasus or Vasavah are eight in number, viz. Agni, Earth, Vayu, Mid-region space (including waters and particles), Sun, Dyu (day, light or day sky), Moon and constellations (night or night sky). They provide basic (elemental) support and structure for all. Vājinah are the ones having swiftness and power of horses. Devapatnyah are wives or attributes of gods or Devas. Stellar or Heaven Plane divinities finis.