May 14, 2008

Rishabha in the Atharva Veda

Dr. Satya Pal Narang

This paper is an attempt to investigate the word Rsabha and the allied words communicating the same or the allied sense. From the Rgveda (RV) the word and the deity Rsabha had become obscure to the extent that the later scholars like Sayana gave a number of interpretations viz. sacrificial mystic, Ayurvedic and grammatical. The Atharvaveda equally gives all those meanings besides various other allegories which make the concept clear and involves a number of mythological. stories in its background of. the RV. It has not only concern with Brahmana mythology but it appears that it is concerned with a number of other sociological aspects and tribes like Vratyas, Panis which had changed their status from the RV.

Meaning of the word Rsabha/Vrsabha and other allied words

Taking the words meaning to Ox or Bull, the investigation pertains to all those words.
Root Vrs : In the Atharvaveda (AV), the word is used in the sense of 'Pour down' e.g. pouring of the Soma in the sacrifice, which is accepted' by whitney with the prefix 'a'. But immediately it took its limited meaning 'to pour the seed for pregnancy' which is available for the words vrsn, vrsana, Vrsabha, Rsabha, Vrsa, vrsan. It is very interesting that its meaning 'Bull' is available in the chapters VII, IX, XVI, XVIII and XX, vis-a-vis its meaning 'Pourer' in the chapters VII. IX. XV, XVIII and XX. That is, both the meanings 'Bull' and 'Pourer' is available in chapters IX, XVIII and XX only.

Bull/Ox : The words for bull used in the AV are anadvan, Rsabha, Vrsa and Vrsna which are used for the expressions 'father of calves', 'husband of cows' 'with curly horns' (Tigmasrnga); weeping in the groups; having relation with cows the bull of the firmament, an aquatic, golden-harry directly or in the form of similes.

Mighty : Transference of these meanings occured when all these words and some new other words express the meaning power or might including heroism, manly power, animal power, which are also the adjectives of the deities like Indra, Brhaspati, osadhi, Sindhu and horses. These words are Vrsa, Vrsabha, Vrsana, Vrsatvan, Vrsan, Vrsanyu, Vrsna, Vrsni and Vrsanyavat.

Other MeaningBesides the popular meanings, some other specific, allegorical and proper names etc. are found which have concealed history in the Mantras which is the main issue of this paper. It appears that Vrtra had been identified with Rsabha who was a dominant enemy of Indra and it had been the project of all the deities in confide racy to kill him. It was nothing but a conflict of killing of cows Vs. non­killing; Agriculture Vs. non-agriculture; faith Vs. non-faith. Slowly the Panis and the winning of the cows remained only in memory and there reconciliation of Rsabha and Indra to the extent that Indra had been identified with Vrsabha and Indra compared with Vrsa. Rsabha attained the position of a great deity thousandfold (Sahasra) and allegorically identified with the great deities of Vedic mythology (infra).

Indra : Collector of wealth and conqueror of enemies
Indra had been recognized as the collector of wealth (dhananjaya) together with Aryaman, Pusan, Brhaspati, Prajapati, Savitr, Soma and Agni. Elsewhere many of these deities arev in confideracy with Indra (trisandhi) to win over the enemy of the project. Elsewhere, the acquiring of the cows with the help of Varuna, Atharvan and Brhaspati is also alluded to which changed to the story of killing of Vrtra by Brhaspati through his Vagvajra.

Vrtra-killing project: All the deities had a confideracy to kill 'asura' which is called 'trisandhi' (the alliance of the three deities) in the AV. Elsewhere this alliance is mentioned to kill Vrtra. This alliance is between Indra, Brahman and Brhaspati where the assistance was given by Angiras Rsi. Was Angiras an inhabitant of Sindh (?) who assisted an intruder Indra? This assistance to kill the enemy is found in repetition elsewhere. The author of the Mantra is Bhrgvangiras who records this assistance in memory and supports the fact that the confideracy was that of Jatavedas (Agni), Aditayas and Indra. Was it a confide racy of the followers of Agni, followers of the Sun and Indra against the followers of the cows (Pasupati or Vrsabha or Rsabha) who might have been Panis, the protectors of cows against the Angiras who killed and devoured cows?
Other deities equally contributed to this conflict. Not only their participation but their specific functional like throwing the arrows, physically killing, destroying the weapons and leading the army are attributed to Vayu, Indra, Aditya and Candramas respectively. Mitra and Varuna are equally assistants in the confideracy. Thus Indra emerged as victor and the asura was killed.But slowly Purohitas got the dominance.

Indra and Panis : A memory : The AV.Continues the fight of Indra and Panis only in memory and almost all the features of the RV are reflected in this memory. Let Indra fall on those traders (vid) like an eagle who are just like the wolves (salavrka) and various deities tried to train them in a number of ways. AV. III. 3.2. indicates to the Vratyas who are called Gayatripatita in the Smrtis. But in the context of AV. III. 3.3 where the word vid is used, they should convey , the same sense. Hence Vratyas are mixed up with Panis here. In AV. IV. 24 obstructing the power of Danavas, winning of the Sindhu (Indus Area?) acquiring the cow; inspiration by the Rsis (Angiras?); breaking the Maya of Asuras; winning of the Panis by Agni (or the followers of Agni (=Bhrgvangiras) who brought the Agni from the firmament on the earth); killing of the Susna by the thunderbolt (vadhatra) and hence getting the cows. Is Susna, a Vratya who went to South (infra) as Panis migrated elsewhere in the RV? Are the Vratyas and Panis belong to the same place (Sindhu) or identical with minor changes in habits which were mixed up in the AV.
Division of wealth of Panis is another activity of Indra which is preserved in memory in the AV. It appears that both Brhaspati who was an alliance in Trisandhi and Vrsana (Vrsabha who got the status equal to that of Indra later) were jointly given the regime Brhaspati's conflict with Vrsabha is also preserved in stories. These Panis did not give (tax or ransom) to Indra. It is heard only through learned tradition (preserved by Angiras?). It is expressed by Past perfect.
Violence vs. non-violence of cows : the sacrifice of the ox (Rsabha) has been alluded to in the AV. and a person who makes the sacrifice attains the fruit of one thousand sacrifices. In a prayer to Bhava and Sarva; Bhutapati and Pasupati, it is prayed that they should not kill the quadrupeds, which means violence is attributed to them. Moreover, the attribution of. Rsabha (an ox) for Indra through Agni (Jatavedas) is available in the AV.

But to Rsabha only purifies butter (ghrta), havis and ajya is injuncted. Rsabha is quite stronger, the killer of the enemies and can put the enemy to the feet of a person who pleases him.But there are a number of Mantras where cow is said not to be killed (aghanya). The reason is also given that in a country where cow is killed and cooked, no mighty ox can take birth. There is another prayer to the king not to eat the cow of a Brahmana. The preservation of the ox is the generator of the good activities (sukrta).

The eating of the cow is attributed to the non-performers of the sacrificers who were defeated by eating the cow of a Brahmana. Who are these Vaitahavyas? Can they be identified with Vratyas? is yet to be investigated? But there is no doubt that violence and non-violence both were prevalent amongst the performers and non-performers of the sacrifices. But Rsabha (or his followers) are definitely vegetarians. Can they be identified with the strict vegetarian Jains?
On Vratyas : In the XVth chapter of the AV there is a description of the Vratyas which can only be understood symbolically. The main features of Vratyas are their intelligence (Hamsa); an orator (stanayitny) having a relation to the trade of food­grains (anna); having a blend of faith (sraddha) and Yajna; their migration to the South direction in the form of Indra (perhaps where Indra could not reach) and their stability (svadha) in the south (Yama-loka). Can this type of migration be identified as the migration of Vegetarian, non-sacrificers Jains to the South from Sindhu {Indus?) which was eclipsed by Indra and all his confiderates who forced Vratyas and Panis to go out of Sindhu and which was ruled mainly by Brhaspati and his preceptor Angiras?
Elsewhere, mode sting of Vrsaku (a varient of Vrsabha) by Indra through the Sun (one of the alliance) is alluded to. It appears that the Great Rsabha (mahavrsa) was not only a forceful king but also had a territory in his name which is mentioned with Mujavat and Balhika (infra: Geography).

The sacrifice and Vrata of Anadvan (Whitney : draft-ox) appars to be a vrata for twelve nights performed by the followers of Rsabha which was given the nomenclature accordingly. Mahadeva is enumerated as a forceful deity together with Soma, Varuna, Mrtyu and Indra. Is it a proper name (later Mahavira) which had made its place amongst the warriors of Indra? Elsewhere, Agni has been given the adjective 'Vrsabha of the earth' due to its forceful character. At another place Vrsabha has been recognized as a sovereign king (svarajam Vrsabham).

Does it not show that Vrsabha and his followers had a forceful sovereignty and territory and although once upon defeated, they compelled the Aryan deities to enumerate him as one of them. Slowly the identity of Indra and Vrsabha was established which extended to all other deities (infra).

Identity of Indra and Rsabha : Slowly R.sabha got an importance in Aryan mythology and attained an identity with Indra or Agni through his powerful activities. Rsabha became a necessary hand for the victory who participated with him in the battlefield. With Indra, who became thousandfold in later mythology, Rsabha also became thousandfold with universal form. In later mythology, there is a wish that Indra in order to kill Vrtra should become Vrsabha. Infact for agriculture also he bacame an irrestible taskmaster which was later associated to Indra as well.

Establishement : Slowly there was a peaceful reconcilation of Rsabha and Indra to the extent that for protection with Indra and Vayu, Rsabha was also invoked. Indra invoked Rsabha to kill Vrtra. He was eulogized with Indra for his powerful activities and victory.

Indra's deterioration : Slowly Indra's position was deteriorating. The confidence with victory of Indra was decreasing and there is a sorrow in the prayers of his appreciators.

Indra mixed up with the farmers and emerged from Hero to a farmer which may be due to the impact of 'Rsabha Cult'. The lost business of the Panis had an impact on his person and-he is depicted as a 'Vanik' (=Pani's identity). There is a prayer for bestowing the wealth. The fierce power of Indra and acquisition of the cows at one place may be due to the impact of Rsabhism over Indraism. The strong body of a Tirthankara in Jain tradition might have been inherited through this unity. The instructions to Pasus by the Bull-Indra is the output of their complete unity.

Sovereign Rsabha : Rsabha allegorically spoken of the father of calves and husband of cows became the father of protector of the great Gargara (ocean banks) which may be identified with the strongest seat of Jainism i.e. the mount Abu which is frequently alluded to in the AV. This seat of Rsabha had become so dominant that the name of the oldest mountain Abu (ArbudiiArbuda) was given the name Rsabha mountain. Infact, it might have been the mountain Arbudi or a nearby place (nyarbudi) where the Indra-Rsabha conflict might have happened which is recorded by the AV. The killing of a number of friend and foe heroes and their dead-bodies being devoured by hounds are recorded here. It is this place which is mentioned by name where the confideracy between the three forces (Trisandhi) happened. There is an invocation to Arbudi to get up for the battlefield with his force against the Trisandhi. But in the vicinity of Arbudi (nyarbude), there are foolisn foes who are not coming for the help. Is it the Angiras Rsi who helped the opponants? The geographical situations have been identified bya french scholar Halevy who identified Daha with Tribus dehiemes; Sudra with Sudraka Syndrakoi; Balhika with Bactriaj Mahavrsa with Orasaci and Majavt with Mozontes. Due to the non­availability of the paper, I cannot say his identity about Arbudi. But in the RV it is Ahirbudhna, the seat of Panis which changed phonetically to Arbuda and MIL. Abu.

MYSTICISM OF THE COWAV. X. 10 (2-6) propounds the mystic character of the cow whose attainment depends upon the knowledge par-excellence in all the fields including the sacrifice; who is the protector of all the existence including the Dyava and Prthivi and who due to the power has a direct access to the deities. Its universal identity and relation with time is also propounded. In relation to other divinities, cow is identified with various deities (infra: allegory) and has a distinct identity as well.

ALLEGORYRsabha has not only been allegorically identified with various deities but also has developed its universal character (Visvarupa) due to which he entered all the existent entities. The following identifications of Rsabha are clear in the AV.

Rsabha=Rain-god : Maha Rsabha thunders, pours the rains and satisfies the earth with the waters. Elsewhere, the waters are said to be the wiv'"es of the Vrsa.

Rsabha=Visvarupa : Rising from the waters (Payasvan), Rsabha got the status of Visvarupa having the force of Indra, Varuna A'svin, Marut and Brhaspati. It is very important that in the later classical mythology our trinity only Visnu could get the status of Visvarupa.

Rsabha got the status of individual deityes as well.
Rsabha=The Sun : Repeating the Mantra of the R., AV also propounds the characteristics of seven-rayed, forceful Sun who killed Rauhina.

Rsabha=Agni : Thousand-horned Vrsabha or Vrsa has been equated with Agni. In the form of Vaisvanara, its burning faculty is also propounded.

THE VRATA OF ANADVANIn another Mantra, Vrsabha Vajin (i.e. the powerful Rsabha) is identified with the Moon and there is a prayer for the wealth.

Vrsabha=Rohita : As stated earlier, Vrsabha has been identified with the Sun, here Vrsabha has been identified with Rohita i.e. the Reddhish Sun. But the adjective (Tigmasrnga) used applies to Rohita as well as Vrsabha having vertical and curly horns.

Vrsabha=Rudra : Continuing the relation with Rohita, Vrsabha has been identified with Rudra also in the context of Brhaspati and Angiras where a few adjectives like adribhit, dvibarhajanma and rodasi apply to Rudra as well. At another place in the context of Vratya, he is mentioned as Nilalohita and identified with Isana which appears an epithet of Lord Siva in later mythology. An explanation of killing the enemy in the opinion of the Brahmavadins has been attributed to him. Due to his increasing power, he became Mahavira.

Vrsa=Bestower of speech : A few hints in the AV indicate that Vrsa has been identified with Vak which in later grammatical literature was definitely enjoined with Vak. This relation was the subsistence of all the Pasus. This faculty of Vak at another place is responsible to generate faith amongst those who do not believe in her power.

Vratya=Mahat-Mahadeva : Slowly in allegory, Vratya is identified with Mahat element due to its greatness. The explanation of Mahat is given by the AV. itself as senior (Jyestha). It was the stage when he was philosophically attaining universal identity with all the beings.

Vratya=Indradhanuh : Due to its multifarous colours and a number of forms, Vratya has been described as the bow of Indra. Philosophically, it is also the form when he incorporates in him a number of universal forms.

Another allegory may be interpreted in the context of the explanation of Vratyas (or a class of Jains migrating to various parts of India together with a number of features which are preserved even today amongst the Jains. They are faith (Sraddha); intelligence (Vijnana); beautiful dress and ornaments. The migration of one of its branch to South appears in the form of Pasupata. Non-violence and the protection, of animals are two more characteristics available in the AV.
CONCLUSION : Together with the meaning Bull/ox, Rsabha in the AV not only preserves -various stories or the versions along with the details which are found in the nucleus form in the RV bu.t also enhances the theme. It gives a full history of the Rsabhaism together with its relation with other deities, like those included in the confideracy: Brhaspati, Angiras; his identity with Indra; and mystical and allegorical position which made it identical with Mahadeva. The story of the Rsabhaism has a number of common features available in modern Jain life.

No comments:

Popular Posts

Mahavir Sanglikar's Articles

शोध आणि बोध: Marathi Articles on General Subjects