Science & Technology in the Rig Veda

Note: This article is based on the findings and analysis of Mandala VI only, and therefore does partially captures the tools and technologies mentioned on the Rig Veda.

The Pusan Hymns in Mandala VI, 53 to 58, contain interesting clues on tools and transportation.

Tools & Implements

The awl was an important implement as was the goad. So much so that, these were the associated with Pusan, their pastoral deity as his weapons, in the same manner that Indra is associated with the thunder-bolt. The goad is particularly made with a horny point and was used to guide the cows.

Transportation

Chariots (ratham) were in use as well. Again, just on the basis of the Pusan Hymns in Mandala VI, we cannot draw any inferences on the sophistication of these chariots. They were aware of the ocean and had a word for it – samudra. And they did navigate the waterways – using boats or ships (navo).

Horse riders rode their horses complete with reins, bit and bridle.

RV 6.002.04
Fierce is his gait and vast his wondrous body: he champeth like a horse with bit and bridle,
And, darting forth his tongue, as ’twere a hatchet, burning the woods, smelteth them like a smelter.

They must have undertaken journeys and probably constructed paths. Infact, Pusan is the Lord of the Paths (Pathas pate) and Hymn 53, Mandala VI, is a prayer that was recited before embarking on a journey,

Medicine

A fleeting reference to medicine is made in RV 6.074.03

RV 6.074.03
Provide, O Soma-Rudra, for our bodies all needful medicines (bhesajani) to heal and cure us.
Set free and draw away the sin committed which we have still inherent in our persons.

The deities, Soma and Rudra are asked to provide for needful medicines to heal and cure the bodies, probably of those injured in battle.

Artificial limb replacement during vedic times

Concept of Time

A year was measured in terms of time taken for a season to repeat, most often winter or autumn. The modern equivalent of “may we live a hundred years”, would have been “may we live a hundred winters (satahimah)”.

Interestingly, the word for winter is himah (also, snow or ice).  Even more interesting, the slavic term for winter is “zima”.

There is a specific term for month (mAsA) and is found in RV6.024.07. The same verse also has a term for autumn (sarad).

6.024.07
That Indra whom nor months (mAsA) nor autumn (sarad) seasons wither with age, nor fleeting days enfeeble,-
Still may his body Wax, e’en now so mighty, glorified by the lauds and hymns that praise him.

No further inferences can be drawn from Mandala VI to extend basis concepts of time to their calendar system or knowledge of astronomy. That will need to wait for analysis of other books, especially book I.

Numerical System

The numerical system was decimal. There were words to represent 1 to 10. There were unique words for hundred (sata) and thousand (sahasra).

RV 6.008.06
Do thou bestow, O Agni, on our wealthy chiefs, rule, with good heroes, undecaying, bending not.
So may we win for us strength. O Vaisvanara, hundredfold, thousandfold, O Agni, by thy help.

The numbers 3 and 7 were very significant.

There were three “places” or “dwellings” – Heaven, Earth and the intermediate space.

Their Gods were of three ranks, corresponding to the three places.

RV 6.051.02
The Sage who knows these Gods’ three ranks and orders, and all their generations near and distant,
Beholding good and evil acts of mortals, Sura marks well the doing of the pious.

Seven was significant as well. The ancient, most respected rishis/sages/seers are seven in number.

RV 6.022.02
Our sires of old,. Navagvas, sages seven, while urging him to show his might, extolled him,
Dwelling on heights, swift, smiting down opponents, guileless in word, and in his thoughts most mighty.

Indra’s chariot was harnessed by “sevenfold” reins.

The mighty Sarasvati is “seven-sistered”. Was this a figure of speech, or did at some point in time, the river did have seven tributaries that fed into her and make her mighty, is not clear.

RV 6.061.10
Yea, she most dear amid dear stream, Seven-sistered, graciously inclined,
Sarasvati hath earned our praise.

Did they have zero? Hmmm, not sure, needs further investigation.

Welcome

If you are new to this site…

I present my findings and interpretations of the lives and times of the Rig Vedic people, based on my ongoing analysis of the Rig Veda. The content is organized by five main themes – Composers of the Rig Veda, Tribes, Dynasties and Kings, Battles, Wars and Legends, Society and Lifestyle and finally the Gods and Myths of the people of that time.

I would recommend, you visit each of the pages listed on the menu at the top, starting with  – The Rig Veda – A historical perspective. Reading the content of each of these pages would provide you a context and better insight into the breadth and depth of articles that are and will appear within each of the themes that the pages represent.

It is exciting and fun analyzing the Rig Veda – I get a Sherlock Holmes kind of high, trying to piece the puzzle together. I try to be as objective as possible and not bring the bias of my religion by birth (Hinduism) into my analysis and interpretation. I report it as I find it – good, bad, ugly.

I am neither a historian, an expert on religion or Sanskrit, so that is the BIG disclaimer for all readers. I am just an enthusiastic explorer desperate to uncover my past…

I hope you would want to share this journey and enjoy what you find along with way.

Contents

  1. The Rig Veda – A historical perspective
  2. Books & Composers of the Rig Veda
    1. Mandala IV – The Vamadeva family book
      1. The Vamadeva Danastutis
    2. Mandala V – The Atri family book
      1. The Atri Danastutis
      2. Indra – According to the Atris
      3. Hymn for safe and normal childbirth
    3. Mandala VI – The Bharadvaja family book
      1. Bharadvajas
      2. The Bharadvaja Danastutis
      3. Dundubhi Hymn – Origins of the War drum?
      4. Rjisvan shows us the power of homage
      5. Go Sukta (The Cow Hymn)
  3. Tribes, Dynasties and Kings
    1. Identity of the Dasa and Dasyu – Part I
    2. Identity of the Dasa and Dasyu – Part II
    3. Identity of the Pani
    4. Identity of the Raksasa – Part I
    5. Bharata – In search of an emperor
  4. Battles, Wars and Legends
    1. The Early Conflicts
    2. Foes and Enemies of the Puru tribe
    3. Conflicts between Arya tribes and amongst Puru tribes (based on Indra hymns, Mandala VI)
  5. Society and Lifestyle
    1. Science and Technology
      1. Account of a solar eclipse (How Rishi Atri rescued Surya from the demon Svarbhanu)
      2. Artificial limb replacement during vedic times
      3. Managing an epidemic
    2. Worship of tools and weapons
    3. The Dawn of Mankind – according to Rishi Vamadeva
    4. Indianization of the Vedic people during the time of Mandala VII
    5. Elephantiasis in Vedic times
  6. Gods and Myths
    1. The Vala and Vrtra Myths
    2. The birth of Indra – end of the last ice age?
    3. Echoes of the Stonehenge (in the Vala Myth)?
    4. The Vrtra Myth – A political interpretation – Creation of a Hero?
    5. Indra – A Samyu Bharadvaja profiling
    6. Agni – The Messenger God
    7. Pusan
    8. The Maruts

Indra – A Samyu Bharadvaja profiling

As I analysed Mandala VI, Hymn 44 & 46 composed by Samyu Bharadvaja, the first strokes of the profile of the mighty, King of Vedic Gods – Indra began to emerge.

There are epithets and praises galore…

He is the ancient one.

Indra is the lord of the brave, most manly and with a thousand powers and ever able to slay his foes. He is considered as most wonderful and praised as the Mighty and Caster of Stone. He is that which is wealthiest, the splendour-most and illustrious. He is also the “most effectual” because, he bestows wealth on those that sing hymns in his praise and offer soma during sacrifice. He is the Lord of Strength who wrongs none. All conquering, most Bounteous, he is the un-questionable God of all tribes.

He is mighty even amongst the Gods, their King, not just the Ruler of men. The Goddesses – Heaven and Earth – revere his power and might. Even the other deities turn their mind to him to seek glory.

Given the pastoral nature of the people of the time, the Bull was a benchmark for measure of strength. Thus Indra is the Bull of earth, of heaven, of the rivers and of standing waters. He is the one who wedded the Dawns to a glorious consort – the Sun. And that is not all, the Sun owes its glory to Indra, for he is also the one who lights the light within the Sun. It is Indra that holds the heaven and earth apart and sustains them. He is the one who causes the rains.

Also known as Maghavan, he is lover of song and soma. He truly appreciates the songs that the priests and bards sings. He is therefore the bards supporter and cherisher of singers. Soma is the “draught” that gladdens Indra and by which his strength is increased and enables him to strike down resistless Vrtras.

Indra, the Wondrous God is pictured as wearing a visor and the thunder is his weapon of choice that he wields in his hands. It is said he is “strong of jaw”.

Men pray to him during battle…

Indra is the mighty God that the Arya pray to before and during battle. Battles fought for sunlight, water and for life itself. Men pray to him in war – intent on spoil, boldly they attack and smite their foe, steadfast in their faith that Indra would be the closest guardian of their lives. They pray to Indra to strengthen them and come to their aid in the fight, even as feathered shafts are flying in the air as are the arrows with their sharpened points.

In battle, Indra is asked to slay the Aryas’ foemen, be they kin or strangers. To spurn those that aim their hostile darts at the Arya and make them flee, to crush them and kill them. They pray to Indra for easy paths and ample freedom during battle fought so they may gain waters, seed and offspring.

The Bharadvajas pray that their kings and princes may find favour with Indra and ride by his side during battle.

And pray to him during peace…

Indra is called to grant the Arya hosts power and wealth; Indra is asked to boldly pour cattle and chariot-steeds. He is asked to be the strength of the Arya conqueror’s for eternity. Indra is urged to bring them name and fame which will then enrich them, make them mighty and excellent amongst their people and peers. He answers prayers of the skillful priet. Partaking of the offerings made during the sacrifice, he grants the treasures of the Gods to one who prays.  The great God can be won over through appropriate hymns and rewards his devotees by making his beauteous form apparent.

As a God who has made abundant the earth and heaven, men pray to him for succour. Men pray to the Excellent God to remove all that is weak in them, to make them firm and their foes weak, so they may be subdued.The Arya pray to Indra so he may ward off manifold malignities, that he may grant them abundant vital force (to deal with all types of malign forces). The Arya pray to Indra to keep far from them hatred and affliction.

The Bharadvajas pray to Indra to grant their rich lords a dwelling place, a happy home, “triply” strong a refuge safe from their enemies and even from Indra’s own dart. They pray to Indra to give them and their sons refuge and keep away all hostility.

He is the only friend amongst mankind that they turn to. Indra is beseeched not to forsake the Arya (to the hungry wolf, could mean the Panis) and ensure they remain umharmed (again from the Panis). He is implored to demolish those that do not present gifts or pour oblations of soma as part of sacrifice. Again, here the reference is to the Panis.

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