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Origin and Myths in Vedic Literature

S.K. Lal

The relationship between man and the universe has been a most fascinating idea that attracted the mind of thinkers in almost every religion, philosophy, mythology, and ritual from primitive age to modern time. The seers of the Vedas have often wondered at various phenomena in the universe. They contemplated over the marvels of nature and the mysteries in the vast and variegated world that they lived in, and attempted to unravel the enigma of creation. They accepted not as final what they saw around them with their physical eyes. In this respect, i Kavaa remarks:

  naitvaden paro anyadastyuk sa dyvpthiv bibharti |

                                                             (V, 10.31.8 ab)  

Not only here is this; more is beyond us. He is the bull, the Heaven's and Earth's supporter.        

- Tr. RTH Griffith (Gr.)

And therefore the is of the Vedas have not infrequently enquired into the mystery, the mechanism, the creation, and the establishment of the universe. i Drghatamas queries:

          vi yastastambha alim rajsyajasya rupe kimapi svidekam l

                                                   (V, 1.164.6 cd)  

What is 'That One' who established and fixed world's six regions. 

                                                      - Tr. Gr.  

i Atharvan enquires:  

kva prepsan dpyata rdhvo agni kva prepsan paveta mtariv l  

                                                                      (AV, 10.7, 4 ab)  

Whither desiring to attain does Agni flame aloft? Whither desiring to attain blows Mtarivan?    - Tr. W.D. Whitney

i  Vivakarman questions:

         kim svidvana ka u sa uka sa yato dyvpthiv niataku l

                                                             (RV, 10.81.4 ab)  

What was the tree, what wood in sooth produced it, from which they fashioned out the earth and heaven       

  - Tr. Gr.  

Such enquiries did stir the inner vision of the is which led them to deep thinking and contemplation. The is envisioned certain guesses, conjectures and conclusions, and put them forth for the sake of posterity. They presumed that the inferences resulting from their deep thinking, meditation, and contemplation  were not only true to them in their age, but  also to the generations to come in future:

devn nu vaya jn pra vocma vipanyay  l

uktheu asyamneu ya payduttare yuge l

                                                     (`RV, 10.72.1)

Let us with tuneful skill proclaim these generations of the gods, that one may see them when these hymns are chanted in a future age.  - Tr. Gr.  

Thus, the Vedic seers have left for us a number of guesses, conjectures, speculations, and postulations regarding man, universe and its maker. Their opinions vary. Some time, the Creator of the universe was thought of as Aja (the primeval, everlasting, uncreated being);;2  some time, it is Ekam (the one) (V, 10.81.3);3 at other time, it is Indra who forces the earth and sky asunder (V, 10.89.1), and brings out into existence that which was not yet existent (V, 6. 24.5); or the omniscient purua (V, 10. 90); or Varua who created air, and fire in the water (V, 5.85.2-4). It could be, in the tharvaic phraseology, Brahmana (AV, 4. 34, 35); or Ucchia (AV, 11. 7), or Ka (AV, 10. 2); or Pra (AV, 11. 4); or Skambha (AV , 10.7,8); or Virja (AV, 8. 9,10); or Vena (AV, 2.1); or Kla (AV, 19. 53, 54); or Brahmacrin (AV, 11.5); or Pthiv (AV, 12.1); or Rohita (AV, 13.3); or Madhu (AV , 9.1).4  It may be Prajpati of the Brhmaas (B,; or Purua or Brahman or tman of the Upaniads (PranaUp, 6.1; BrUp, 2.2.1; TaittUp, 2.1).

Once a primeval omnipotent Creator was assumed, speculations on the process of Creation must have begun. This may be regarded as the genesis of the concepts of the Bhtas, the material causes  or the gross (primary) elements of creation, and of a large number of myths woven around them. The creator must have needs to create material things.

It may be pointed out that the concept of the bhtas, as it is understood in the Upaniads and in later philosophical texts, does not occur in the earliest Veda, the gveda. In the gveda, the term bhta has been used mainly in the sense of  'past', often in the juxtaposition of 'future'.5  Further, in almost all its occurrences, the word means sentient or insentient beings (sthvarajagamtmaka bhtajtam).  

However, a few rudimentary ideas of the bhtas, in the sense of gross elements, may be traced in the gveda. The hymn V, 10.58 is an address to a dead man. It is said, the spirit that went away (after death) to the earth (vs. 3), to the billowing sea (vs. 5), to the beam of light (vs. 6), and to the waters and plants (vs. 7), may that spirit return.6 In V, 10.18.10, the spirit of a dead man is addressed to go and mingle with the earth. V, 10.56.1 (where i Baduktha addresses his dead son Vjin) states, "Here is one light (terrestrial) for thee, another yonder (mid-air), enter the third (heaven) and be there with united (Tr. Gr.).7 In ]V, 10.16.3, (again a funeral hymn where a dead man has been addressed), it is mentioned, "May thy eye go to the sun, the mind to the spirit (tman), go you to the earth, or to the waters" (Tr. Gr.).

On the basis of the above references, it may be observed that the Vedic is  did believe in some kind of union with different elements (bhtas) after death, and that the different components of the gross (earthly) body united with the corresponding subtle elements, the tanmtras of the Upaniads. Further, it may be pointed out that the fine constituent members of the bhtas occur in the gveda in the form of five deified natural objects. The words pthiv, ap, agni, vyu and ka (or dyaus) have been deified in the `Rgveda. These divinities may be regarded as prototypal gross elements (bhtas). A number of myths and legends have been woven around them to bring out their essential nature and characteristic features, that might have led the post-Vedic thinkers to conceive and transform them into the five bhtas constituting the physical universe.

There is no fixed order in the enumeration of the five bhtas. Sometimes, the order is kham, vyu, jyoti, pa and pthiv (MuUp, 2.1.3); sometimes, it is pthiv, ap, tejas, anila, kham (vetUp, 2.12; 6.2), and sometimes, it is pthiv, vyu, ka, pa and jyoti (AitUp, 3.3). Many a time synonyms are also used. In this paper we have put the order as : pa, agni (because they are found to be inter-linked), dyaus, (ka), [pthiv (because they form a pair dyvpthiv), and vyu.  


pa have been regarded as the first and the foremost element in the Vedas. Water (ap, singular) is the first creation. V, 10.82.1 states that Vivakarman first engendered the waters and then heaven and earth floating on the waters. Further, in the same skta (vs. 5), it is said that the waters were earlier than this earth and heaven, much before the asuras and the gods came into being. The waters received the primeval germ whence all the gods came into being. AV, 12. 1.8 says that in the  beginning, there was flood of waters. In the Nsadyaskta (RV, 10.129), the water has been regarded as the first principle:

          tama sttamas gahmagre'praketa salila sarvam idam l

          tucchyenbhvapihita yadst tapasastanmahinjyataikam ll

                                                        (`V, 10.129.3)

Darkness there was : at first concealed in darkness this all was indiscriminated chaos.  All that existed then was void and formless; by the great power of warmth was born that unit.             - Tr. Gr.

TS, mentions that at first the universe was waters, the moving ocean. Prajpati, becoming wind, rocked about on a lotus leaf8 on the waters. On it he piled the fire; that became this earth, then  he indeed formed support.9 Regarding the waters as the first element, B, states through a myth:

In the beginning this universe was water, nothing but a sea of water. The waters thought, "How can we be reproduced"? They toiled and performed austere penance.10 When they were thus becoming heated, a golden egg was produced. In a year's time, a man, Prajpati, was produced from that golden egg.  He broke open the golden  egg. There was no resting place (pratih) for him except the golden egg bearing him. It floated around for as long as a year. At the end of the year, he tried to speak. He uttered, bh this become this earth; bhuva, this become air (antarika); and, sva, this become the yonder sky (dyaus).

In the Hirayagarbha-skta (RV, 10.121, vs.  7 and 8), it is stated that the mighty waters contained the universal germ producing Agni, thence sprang God's one spirit (Eka) into being. He surveyed the waters around him containing productive force (dakam); he is the one God among all gods (cf. also TS,

Four whole hymns have been addressed to the waters (V, 7.47; 49;10.9; 30). The waters are regarded as the mistresses of the world (`RV, 10.30.10). They are prayed to grant men procreative power (V, 10. 9.3). The waters received that primeval germ wherein all the gods were gathered (V, 10. 82.6). All creatures are born from the waters (V, 1.23.16, 10.17.10; 32.2; 39.2). They are mostly motherless, and the producers of all that is fixed and all that moves (V, 6. 501). They are the mothers of all beings (V, 1.23.10; 6.50.7; 10.17.10). They are (as one unified divinity) the mother of the sun (JB, 3.114). They produce Agni (V, 10.91.6; AV, 1.31.1). Agni entered into them (V, 7.49.4).  All objects, movable or immovable owe their existence to the waters (GB,  1.129). They are the wives of the gods (JB, 1.140). They are the maidens of Soma (V, 10.30.5).

The pa, indeed, are all this world (T, 10.22). ChUp, 7.10.1 says that it is the waters who pervade everything, big or small: the earth, the atmosphere, the heaven, the mountains, gods, men, animals, birds, grass, plants, dogs, worms, insects, ants.  All these (worldly manifestations) are waters indeed.

Waters are the foundations (pratih) of all in the universe (B, They are a place of abode (yatana)11 for all the gods (B, B,; 6 regards the waters as food.

B, mentions that Prajpati created the waters from vk.12 Waters pervaded everything here;  because they pervaded (p) everything here, therefore they are  called waters (pa) (AV, 3.13.2). A hymn is compared with the flowing water (V, 10.89.4). About the pervasiveness of the waters, B, gives the following legend:

Paramehin,13 son of Prajpati, desired, "Would I were everything here". He became the waters, for, the waters are everything here. Prajpati, the highest lord, is the waters (B,  

Agni (Tejas)

Agni has permeated the entire universe by his effulgence. He is in the earth, in the herbs, in the waters, in the stones, in men, kine, and horses. It is he who sends down heat (AV, 12.1.19) from the sky; the firmament belongs to him, and mortals on earth kindle him as an oblation-bearer (AV, 12.1.20).  Agni is indeed the existence, for, it is because of Agni that everything exists (bh) here (B, Agni is our spring of life (V, 1.31.10). He is described as thousand-eyed and hundred-headed monster (B,; he was created as hundred-headed Rudra (B,

Agni has been described as a begetter par-excellence. He places the germ in all beings (V, 3.2.10), and engenders life on the earth and offspring in women (V, 10.183.3). He has created all that flies, walks, stands, or moves (V, 10.88.4). He is the bull (V, 1.58.5) abounding in procreative seed (V, 4.5.3).  He is the generator of the two worlds (heaven and earth : V, 1.94.4; 7.5.7). He stretched them out (V, 3.6.5;  5.4) like one does two skins (V, 6.8.3); he kept asunder the two worlds (V, 6.8.3).15  But he is also the son of the heaven and earth (V, 3.2.2; 25.1; 10.1.2; 2.7; 46.9). V, 10.88.9 says that Agni heats the heaven and earth when an offering of fuel is made to him.

Agni is afterwards identified with the sun (V, 3.2.14). He is born as the sun rising in the morning (V, 10.88.6). AB, 8.28 remarks that the sun when setting enters into Agni and is produced from him; he unites with the light and rays of the sun (V, 5.37.1; 7.2.2). He is the head and the summit of the sky (V, 1.59.2; 6.7.1). He causes the sun to ascend the sky (V, 10.156.4) who was lying hidden in the sea (V, 10.72.7). Agni, kindled on the earth causes the sun to rise (RV, 5.6.4; B,; TS, The sun becomes visible when Agni is born (V, 4.31.11). When men light Agni on the earth, the celestials light him in the heaven (V, 6.2.3) where he shines (V, 3.37.12).

Agni, in the form of the sun, is regarded as the soul, and, as such, he is compared with the Purua (V, 1.15.1; B, In the MaitUp, 6.35, he is regarded as the ruler and the preserver of the world. He is regarded as the Brahman, who has entered into all beings (MaitUp, 6.38). Agni is likened with a bird, he is a divine bird (V, 1.164.52); he is the eagle of the sky (V, 7.15.4); he has wings (V, 1.58.5; 2.2.4). His abode is the highest in the heaven (V, 8.11.7) whence he comes to the lower world (V, 8.64.15). The third form of Agni is the highest (V, 10.1.3). To the bright ocean, the sun has ascended (V, 7.60.4). Srya has mounted up in the shining ocean (V, 5.45.10).

The celestial form of Agni is manifest in V, 7.39.5 where Agni is asked to bring Agni. In AV, 4. 39.9, it is stated that Agni moves having entered into the fire.

Agni is said to possess these forms, and much emphasis has been put  on the tripartite form of Agni.  Three forms of Agni - Agni, Vyu (or Indra), and Srya - have afterwards been mentioned in the gveda (V, 1.164.44).  He is regarded as the forehead of the sky, and as the earth's centre (V, 1.59.2). V, 10.56.1 says that there is one light here(for the dead man), another yonder, (and the dead man is asked to enter the third, the three fertilize the worlds with their genial moisture (V, 7. 33.7), - the three are Agni, Vyu, and Srya.

Heaven, air and earth are the triads regarded as the prototypes of the sun, wind, and fire (][RV, 8.18.19). Agni, Vyu, and ditya are the hearts of the gods (B, They are the lights diffused all around (B, The sun, the lightning (in the mid-region), and the fire (Agni on the earth) have been regarded as three brothers (V, 1.164.1). V, 10.45.1 states that first Agni sprang to life from out of heaven (dyaus) as the sun, the second time from (us) mortals (in the form of sacrificial and domestic fire), and thirdly in the waters (in the mid-region) in the form of lightning. The tripartite nature of Agni has been explained through myths. In this connection, B,; 3 gives the following myth:

In the beginning, this universe was Brahman (neut.). Brahman created gods, and having created the gods, it made them ascend these worlds: Agni  this (terrestrial) world, Vyu, the atmosphere, and Srya, the sky. Then Brahman itself went up to the sphere beyond.16 B, compares three sacrificial fires with three worlds: the Grhapatya  with earth, the Dakigni with atmosphere, and the havanya with heaven.

B, relates that: In the beginning Prajpati alone was here. He desired, "May I exist, may I be generated". He practised austerity, he wearied himself.  From him thus wearied and heated, three worlds were created, the earth, the air, and the sky. He heated these three worlds; from them thus heated, three lights issued forth: Agni, Vyu (who blows here), and Srya.  He heated these three lights; from them thus heated were produced three Vedas - the gveda from Agni, the Yajurveda from Vyu, and the Smaveda from Srya. He heated these three Vedas, from them thus heated, three luminous essences were produced, namely, bh from the gveda, bhuva from the Yajurveda, and sva from the Smaveda.17

The tripartite character of Agni has been carried on to the Upaniads also. TaitUp, 1.5.1-3 says that bhr is this world, bhuva, the mid-air, and svar, the   yonder world. Mahas is the sun, because through the sun all the worlds prosper (mahyante).18 Mahas  is the fire, bhuva, the wind, svar the sun, mahas the Brahman, because through the Brahman all the Vedas prosper (Tait Up, 1.5.1-3).19  

The Almighty primordial nature of Agni is found in the V, 10.5.7, where Agni is regarded as both non-existent (asat), and existent (sat); that is, the first cause and the first effect.20 Agni is the sap, Agni is the substance in this world (SB, It is Agni who generated food (V, 6.52.16). B, describes Agni as a universal sovereign.  He is compared with the All-Creator Vivakarman (B,,21 "who combines in his person the characters of a primeval divine sacrificer and of a creator".22

Agni is often compared with the ved. The ved is regarded as the navel of the earth (V, 1.52.2), and thus, he is counted with the earth (B, Further, Agni has been identified with Prajpti. B, deals with the birth of Prajpati who is described as a combination of seven persons (puruas) into one person (Purua : Prjpati). And that Purua is regarded as Agni (fire-altar) who is to be built. That Prajpati desired, "May it  multiply, may it be reproduced." By means of Agni, he (Prajpati) entered into union with the earth. Thence an egg arose. He touched it and said, 'May it grow'. And the embryo which was inside was created as Vyu. Likewise, by means of Vyu, he entered into union with the mid-air (antarika); thence an egg arose; from it, the yonder sun was created. By means of the sun, he entered into union with the sky (dyu); thence an egg arose; from it the moon was created, for the moon is the seed (B,

Almighty nature Agni has been brought forth in detail in the Upaniads. Agni permeates the entire universe. The universe has been compared with five great fires, Viz. (1) fire in the heaven, (2) fire in the clouds, (3) fire on the earth, (4) fire in man, and (5) fire in women. In this connection, ChUp, 5.4-9 says:

The yonder world (heaven) is the fire; the sun is its fuel, the rays its smoke, the day its flame, the moon its coal, the stars its sparks; into this fire the gods offer an offering of faith, out of this sacrificial offering arises Soma. Parjanya (rain-cloud) is the sacrificial fire; the wind is its fuel, the clouds its smoke, the lightning its flame, the thunderbolt its coals, the hailstorms its sparks, into this fire the gods sacrifice king Soma. Out of this sacrificial offering arises the rain. The earth is a sacrificial fire; the year is its fuel, the ether is its smoke, the might its flame, the points of heaven its coals, the intermediate points (of direction) the sparks; into this fire the gods sacrifice the rain; out of this sacrificial offering arises the food. Indeed the man is the sacrificial fire; the speech its fuel, the breath is smoke, the tongue its flame, the eyes its coals, the ears, its sparks; into this fire, the gods sacrifice food; out of this offering arises the semen or sperm. Indeed the woman is the  sacrificial fire; the lap or  her sexual organ its fuel, when one appeals to her, it is the smoke, the vulva the flame, the insertion the coal, the sexual pleasure the sparks; into this fire the gods sacrifice the semen; out of this sacrificial offering, arises the foetus.  Thus  it occurs that during the fifth sacrificial offering the waters come to be called as Purua. After the embryo, covered by the membrane, has lain in the interior for ten months or as long as it may be, he is born. After one is born, he lives so long as his life duration is. After he is dead, they carry him to his destination, the fire, from which he had come, out of which he had arisen.23 B, 12.5.2. It gives detailed rites for burning a dead body of a sacrificer. His dead body becomes the ved and all implements of sacrifice are kept on him and then burnt. B, says that a man is born Three times; the three births are: biological, ritual and funerary.24

On the basis of the above, a few salient features of pa and Agni may be put forth:

          1.  Both pa and Agni are said to possess procreative powers. The waters are the mothers par-excellence, and the fire is the prolific generator and begetter.

          2.  Both of them are said to have pervaded the entire universe.

          3.  There is a close nexus between the fire and the water. Agni is said to have been born from the waters.

4.      The tripartite nature of Agni has been connected with the three forms of   waters, celestial, atmospheric and terrestrial.


Fire and water are regarded as the most important elements (V, 1.161.9). V, 10.51; 52; 53; and 124 relate a legend about Agni hiding in the waters (V, 10.51.1) and in the plants (am, avattha, V, 10.51.3) and being formed by the gods. In this respect, B, gives the following legend:

Agni went away from the gods, and hid himself in the waters. The gods said to Prajpati, "Go thou in search of him; to thee, his father, he will reveal himself". Prajpati became a white horse, and went in search of Agni. He found him on a lotus leaf heaving  forth from the waters (B, Lotus means the waters and this earth is a leaf thereof, this earth is Agni's womb, for Agni (fire-altar) is this earth.

As dwelling  in the waters, Agni resembled the acquatic bird hasa (V, 1.56.9; 4.40.5; 10.124.9). He is regarded as the son of the waters (as lightning), as such he is known as Ap Napt (V, 2.35; 10.30. 3; 4 etc.).26 Another divinity, Trita ptya, has been identified with Agni, as a god of lightning.  He is regarded as the third or aerial form of fire (lightning), originally the middle member of the triad, Agni, Vyu/Indra and Srya.27 He is kindled in the waters (V, 10.45.1; AV, 13.2.50). He is the bull who has grown in the lap of the waters (V, 10.8.1).

Dyaus (ka)

The word ka does not occur in the gveda. Its synonyms, dyaus, nabhas, kham, antarika, etc. have been frequently used. Although all these words are generally understood as sky, space, mid-air, etc., one important point, regarding antarika is that it is said to lie between the two worlds (dyvpthiv) (heaven and earth). However, the  concepts of dyaus in the gveda is very similar to that of ka in the Upaniads. In fact, AV, 10.7.3 mentions four worlds : bhmi (earth), antarika (mid-air), dyaus (heaven or sky, and the fourth world is beyond the heaven (uttaram diva).

In the gveda, the term dyaus designated the uppermost vault of the concrete sky.28 The essential feature of Dyaus as a male divinity,29 is his creative potentiality. He is regarded as a father (V, 1.90.7; 164.33, 4.1.10). He  is a great father (V, 1.71.5; 159.2; 160.2 ; 185.1)rich in procreative seed (suret, V, 4.17.4). Like a mighty bull (V, 1.160.3; 5.36.5). He generated Agni (V, 4. 72.1).

It may be pointed out that other than  this feature of a begetter, Dyaus has nothing special in the gveda, until and unless he is combined with Pthiv. There is not a single whole hymn for dyaus in the gveda. In B,, ka is said to have been created first.  


Besides other stray occurrences, Pthiv has been described in one short hymn in the gveda (5.84) and in a long and beautiful hymn in the Atharvaveda (12.1) In V, 5.84.1, twofold nature of earth, as a divinity and as a gross element, is noticed. The mighty one makes mighty the earth with her might (mahn jinoi mahini), and bears the hills and forests etc. She is a mother (V, 10.18.10), an upholder of all (V,  1.155.2). She protects all that is, and all that will be (AV, 12.1.1).

These are certain myths in the gveda and in the Brhmaas  regarding the birth of the earth. V, 10.72.6 states that the gods stood in the deep abyss of waters closely clasping (susanirabdh) each other. Then from their feet, as if dancing, a cloud of dust arose which became earth. V, 1.22.17 mentions that the earth has been formed from the dust raised by Viu when he measured the earth in three strides. B, 6.1.1. 8-15 gives the following myth about the creation of the earth :

Prajpati desired, "May I be more than one, may I be  reproduced". He toiled and practised tapas. Being worn out and exhausted with toil and austerity, he created first of all the Brahman (neut.) in the form of trayvidy. It became to him a foundation, and the foundation of everything else in the world. He then created the waters out of Vk. Prajpati further desired, "May I be reproduced from these waters". He entered the waters with the trayvidy.30 Hence an egg arose. The embryo which was inside was created as Agni. Prajpati further desired, "May I generate this (earth) from these waters".  He compressed it (that is, the earth) when as yet in the form of the egg-shell (kapla) and threw it into the waters; the whole (earth) dissolved itself all over the waters.  All this universe appeared as one form only, namely, waters. He desired, "May  it become more than one, may it reproduce itself". He tried and practised austerities; worn out with toil and austerity, he created foam. He thought that this indeed looked different, it was becoming more than one, I must toil indeed. Worn out with toil  and austerity, he created (1) clay (mda), (2) mud (sukpa), (3) saline soil (a), (4) sand (sikat), (5)pebble (arkar), (6) rock (amna), (7) ore (aya), (8) gold (hiraya), and (9)plants and trees.  Therewith he clothed this earth.31 This earth, then, was created as (consisting of) these same nine creations, "This earth has indeed become (bh) a foundation", he thought; hence he became the earth (bhmi). He spread it out (prath) and it became the broad one (pthiv).                   (Translation based on Eggeling's).

The creation of the earth out of the waters has given rise to  a myth in the post-Vedic Puric literature, which is known as the Varhvatra. B, enjoins that in the preparation of the Mahvraptra, the earth dug up by a boar should  be used (VS, 37.5). Giving the arthavda (explanation) for this act, the Brhmaa says that a boar called Emua lifted the earth up from the water, and became her (earth's) lord Prajpati.32 Further TS, (= PB, 20.14-16) states that this world was in the beginning the water, the ocean. Prajpati, becoming the  wind, moved on it. He saw her (earth) and becoming a boar, he seized her, and becoming Vivakarman, he wiped her. She extended, she  became the earth, and hence the earth is called the earth (pthiv). Further, in TS, 1.10.8, it is said that the earth was uplifted by a black boar with a thousand arms.33


It is the combination of the two, dyaus and pthiv (as dyvpthiv),34 which is most important in the mythology and in the cosmological speculations of the Vedas. Dyaus and pthiv form the universal parents. The one, dyaus, is a prolific bull; the other, earth, is a variegated cow (V, 1.160.1). They are both rich in [procretative seed (V, 1.159.2; 6.70.1; 2). As a father and as a mother, they guard all beings (V, 1.160.2).

As a father, dyaus is associated with  pthiv (earth), who is regarded as a mother. In this respect Macdonell says : "Dyvpthiv appeared so indissolubly connected in nature that the myth of their conjugal union is found widely diffused among many primitive peoples.35

AB, 4.27.5; 6 describes the marriage of Dyaus and Pthiv :

These two worlds (heaven and earth) were (once) joined. (Subsequently) they separated. (After their separation) there was neither rain, nor sun-shine. The five classes of beings (gods, men, etc.) then did not keep peace with one another. (Thereupon), the gods brought about a reconciliation of both these worlds. Both contracted a  marriage with one another. In the form of the Rathantara-Sman, this earth is wedded to the heaven, and in the form of the Bhat-Sman, the heaven is wedded to the earth . . .

                                                   - (Tr. M. Haug).

Words, such as, pitar (dual),36 mtar (dual),37 and janitr (dual),38 all meaning parents, have been used to designate their parenthood. V, 1.191.6 says that Dyaus is men's father, and Pthiv, mother. They are regarded as prolific parents (V, 1.59.2). They are addressed as father and mother (V, 1.159.1-3; 160.2). They are primeval parents (V, 7. 53.2; 10.58.2). They, have created and they sustain all creatures (V, 1.159.2; 160.2; 185.1). No one knows who produced them, or which of the two first came into being (V, 1.185.1).

The most striking delineation of these two divinities is their procreative potentiality and generative power. The mythology behind the universal parenthood of Dyvpthiv centres round each one's prolific procreative potency, and fecundity. Dyaus showers the procreative fluid in the form of rains which the earth absorbs in her womb, and fructifies herbs and plants to sustain all creatures. The fertility power of these two has been widely emphasized in the Vedas, and they have become a symbol of parenthood.39 A very significant epithet, retasic, has been used for them (B,


Two words vyu and vta, have been used in the gveda for wind. However, a distinction has been maintained between the two. Vyu is chiefly the divinity, and vta, the element.41 Both the words have been deified in the Veda. Vyu has been celebrated in two, whole hymns (V, 1.134; 4.48), and vta too has two entire hymns to his credit (V, 10.168;186).

The wind is the germ of the world and tman of all gods (V,  10.168.4). B, says that vyu is the  transformer of seeds, for vyu is the vital air, and vital air is the transformer of seeds. He is the breath of the gods (V, 7.87.2; 10.92.13, B, He is immortal (V, 10.186.3). He is the support of all beings (B, He exists in all three worlds (B, He is an abode of all beings (B, He is the breath of all (B, All beings pass over into the wind, and from out of the wind, they are again produced (B,

Vyu is the 'combining force' in the  universe. The yonder sun strings these worlds to himself on a thread; that thread is the same as the wind (B, Vyu is said to have originated from the breath of the Purua (V, 10.90.11). Prajpati is Vyu (B, 6.12.19; 2.2.11). B, mentions that Prajpati by means of Agni entered into the union with the earth; hence an egg arose. The embryo which was inside was created as Vyu. B, related a myth: Prajpati having produced creatures relaxed. From him, when relaxed, the vital air went out. Now, the vital air which went out from within him is the wind that blows yonder. The gods heated him in the fire; and when the fire rose over him thus heated, that same vital air, which had gone out from within him, came back to him, and they put it into him. They raised him up; and, inasmuch as, they thus raised him upright, he is these worlds.

Vyu is Agni (B, Vyu is pra. Like the spokes in the navel of a wheel everything is fixed fast in Pra.42  In AV, 11.4.15, breath is called the wind, he is Prajpati (vs.12); breath is the lord of all, both what breathes and what does not (vs. 10).43

Significantly, B, compares vyu with Vivakarman,44 for it is he who makes  everything here.

Vyu has been associated with the waters. B, compares the wind with the gandharva; waters as his apsarasas.  It says that as a gandharva, the wind went forth with the waters as the apsarasas, his mates. The waters are called rja, for the food is produced from the waters (ibid).

On the basis of the foregoing delineation of the five divinities, and the myths connected with them, one may draw a few conclusions which might have turned them into the five bhtas in the post-Vedic Upaniadic and later philosophical speculations.

The foremost common feature of all the five is that they have been regarded as the all-pervasive and omnipresent elements. All this world has been pervaded by the waters. Waters are the foundations of the world. Agni is the very existence, and it is through Agni that  everything exists. He permeates in every object that is seen in the universe. In this respect his tripartite character is very significant. As a terrestrial fire,  he pervades the  entire earth; as vyu, he pervades the mid-region and causes rains, and as the sun, he pervades heaven. Agni is the five-fold sacrifice, from which the entire world emanates. Dyaus and pthiv are the universal parents. They are the retasic (seed-shedders). Vyu is a binding force in the universe.

The second most important characteristic of these divinities is that all of them are endowed with great creative potency. Waters received the primordial germ whence all the gods came into being. They are the mothers of all beings; they are the mothers of srya and Agni. They are the wives of gods and maidens of Soma. Likewise, Pthiv is the mother who upholds all beings. Agni has been described as a begetter par-excellence. He places the procreative germ in all beings. He is a bull abounding in seed. He generated the heaven and the earth. He is produced in the waters where he lives like a swan (hasa). Dyaus has been portrayed as a great progenitor and a universal father. He is a bull rich in seed (suret). Vyu is the germ of the  world and a transformer of seed. He is the breath of all.

These two common features of these five divinities, namely, all-pervasiveness and potent creative  power may be regarded as conducive to regard them as  individual members of the Pacabhtas. These five divinities may be regarded as having developed in two  directions in the Upaniads : (1) as five gross elements (pacabhtas), and (2) as five subtle elements (pacatanmtras), all the ten having their common source in the Brahman, or Prajpati, or tman. It is this Brahman, or tman who endures inside (the human heart, hdka)45 and outside (the manifested universe that is). It is the Brahman who is microcosm, and it is the Brahman who (through the pacabhtas) becomes macrocosm.46 KahUp, 6.1 regards the Brahman as a three-footed entity, and compares it with a fig tree, the five elements, ether, water, etc., being its branches.47 In this respect the 'Iopaniad declares:

                    yo'svasau purua so'hamasmi l

                                                (̿aUp, 16)

It is the Brahman from whom everything has emanated and it is the Brahman into which everything merges (vetUp, 6.2; 3), and thus the Brahmacakra goes on revolving forever.

In mythological parlance, all the five elements are interlinked. Water and fire form one group, heaven (sky) and earth form a couple, and the wind is regarded as an all-pervasive binding force. And all of them are connected with Prajpati who creates  them by the power of tapas.


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