AHALYA

AHALYA

The first woman; one of the five perfect women The story of Ahalya has as many dimensions as it has versions. She appeared in the epic Ramayana but was also projected back to the beginning of the creation of this age (yuga). One account stated that Brahma created her as the first and most beautiful woman on earth. Then he gave her to the rishi (sage) Gautama. In most tellings, the rest of her story illustrated how a perfect woman should behave under the worst of circumstances. The villain was … Continue reading

AGNI -A deva (god), god of fire

AGNI -A deva (god), god of fire

At his earliest appearance in the Rigveda, Agni was a complex deity. He was the fire of the sacred sacrifices that were the heart of Vedic religion as well as the central rituals of a seminomadic warrior culture. Agni was addressed as the deva who ruled earth, a third of the entire cosmos. Two other gods with the charac­teristic of fire formed a triad with Agni. The solar fire (deified by many names, especially that of Surya) was ruler of heaven; and the fire of the middle air, light­ning, was … Continue reading

AGASTYA, – AGASTI

AGASTYA, – AGASTI

A rishi (sage) who conquered the Vindhya mountains Agasti was mentioned in a hymn in the Rigveda dedicated to Mitra, a solar deity. That hymn said that two of the adityas, Mitra (comradeship) and Varuna (binder, “all-seeing”), placed their semen in a pot and set it before Urvasi, an unusually beautiful apsara (celestial maiden). Because she had aroused their desires, Mitra and Varuna cursed Urvasi to live on earth as the wife of the rishi Pururavas. Agasti (or Agastya) and Vasishtha were the sons born to her. Later versions expanded … Continue reading

ADITYAS – Devas (gods)

ADITYAS – Devas (gods)

The sons born to Kasyapa-prajapati (a grandfather or procreator) and Aditi (mother of the gods) are called the adityas. In the hymns of the Rigveda, Aditi only had seven or eight children. But by the time of the Brahmanas there are twelve adityas: Dhata, Mitra, Aryaman, Rudra, Varuna, Surya, Bhaga, Vivasvan, Pusha, Savita, Tvashta, and Vishnu. They are among the most important of the earliest Vedic gods. This grouping could represent the twelve months, as they are celestial deities. In another context aditya (singular not plural) referred to the sun … Continue reading

ADITI -A devi (goddess), mother of the gods

ADITI -A devi (goddess), mother of the gods

There are few interesting myths to tell about Aditi, but her status and roles change so remarkably that she illustrates the fluidity of Hindu myths. Her name literally means eternity (free, boundless, infinity), so philosophically she is a per­sonification of time. Aditi slowly evolved as the prototype of the Great Mother, Devi, or Sakti. In the early Rigveda she was described as the mother of seven (and later twelve) adityas (children of Aditi), and was prayed to for protection. There are prayers to her in this period asking her to … Continue reading

ADI – An asura (demon)

The demon Adi was the son of Andhak, who had been killed by JSiva. To gain revenge, Adi did austerities (tapas) with the sole purpose of receiving a boon (vara) from Brahma, the creator. In due course Brahma granted him the vara, so Adi asked for invincibility in battle. But boons, especially to demons, are provi­sional, and may be invalidated by a flaw in the wording of the request. The literal wording of Adi’s request won for him invincibility only while in his asura form. Not knowing this limitation and … Continue reading