Pusan

For the Bharadvajas’, amongst the Vedic pantheon, Pusan would have ranked third in importance, after Indra and Agni. Mandala VI, the Bharadvaja family book, has five hymns dedicated to this deity (RV 6.053-055, 058) and one jointly with Indra (RV 6.057).  Besides, he is mentioned in several verses in other hymns as well.

Given the pastoral nature of the Bharadvajas, their need for a pastoral god and a high ranking one at that, is not surprising. Pusan therefore has all the aspects that one might expect from a god associated with cattle rearing. And since cattle rearing was their primary source for their very nourishment, one of the early divine attributes attached to Pusan was that of a “Nourisher”. Infact, his very name is is derived from the “pusti”, meaning nourishment. Over time, this god evolved into a solar deity and was included as one of the 12 Adityas (not detailed in the current version of this article).

Pusan the Nourisher

His human and pastoral aspects are borne out by the following verses:

RV 6.055.02
We pray for wealth to thee most skilled of charioteers, with braided hair,
Lord of great riches, and our Friend.

RV 6.055.04
Pusan, who driveth goats for steeds, the strong and Mighty, who is called
His Sister’s lover, will we laud.

RV 6.056.01
WHOSO remembers Pusan as cater of mingled curd and meal (karambha)
Need think no more upon the God.

RV 6.056.02
One (Indra) by the Soma sits to drink juice which the mortar hath expressed:
The other (Pusan) longs for curd and meal (karambha).

Verse 2 of Hymn 55, describes him as having braided hair. He is known to love curd and ground food (karambha) – not surprising as curd and ground food would have been part of the everyday diet of cow societies based on cattle rearing.

On more than one occasion, he is referred to as the one who “loves his sister” or “sister’s lover”. Mandala VI gives no information on why this is so.

Charioteer – Par Excellence

Pusan is also a charioteer par excellence. Verse 2 of Hymn 55 refers to him as the “most skilled of charioteers”. In Verse 3 of Hymn 56 he is the best of charioteers, and even guides Surya. So good is he, the wheels of his chariot are never damaged nor does the main box of the chariot ever fall to the ground or the felly (rim of the chariot wheel) ever loosen and shake. (Verse 3, Hymn 54).

RV 6.054.03
Unharmed is Pusan’s chariot wheel; the box ne’er falleth to the ground,
Nor doth the loosened felIy shake.

RV 6.056.03
And there the best of charioteers hath guided through the speckled cloud
The golden wheel of Sura’s car.

Lord of the Paths

His divine aspects, there are many. The Bharadvajas’ turned to him in their conflicts with the Panis as much as they did to Indra and Agni. Their hatred for the Panis is expressed in the extreme in Hymn 53, verses 3 through 7.

RV 6.053
1. LORD of the path (pathas pate), O Pusan, we have yoked and bound thee to our hymn,
Even as a car, to win the prize (vajasataye) .

2 Bring us the wealth that men require, a manly master of a house,
Free-handed with the liberal meed.

3 Even him who would not give, do thou, O glowing (aghrne) Pusan, urge to give,
And make the niggard’s soul grow soft.

4 Clear (cinuhi) paths (patho) that we may win the prize (vajasataye); scatter our enemies afar.
Strong God, be all our thoughts fulfilled.

5 Penetrate with an awl, O Sage, the hearts of avaricious churls,
And make them subject to our will.

6 Thrust with thine awl, O Pusan: seek that which the niggard’s heart holds dear,
And make him subject to our will.

7 Tear up and read in pieces, Sage, the hearts of avaricious churls,
And make them subject to our will.

8 Thou, glowing Pusan, carriest an awl that urges men to prayer;
Therewith do thou tear up and rend to shreds the heart of every one.

9 Thou bearest, glowing Lord! a goad with horny point that guides the cows
Thence do we seek thy gift of bliss.

10 And make this hymn of ours produce kine, horses, and a store of wealth
For our delight and use as men.

In verse 3, Pusan is urged to soften the niggardly Panis soul. But in verses 4 through 7, he is urged to penetrate the hearts of the Panis with an awl so they can be subjects of the will of the Bharadvajas. Pretty macabre stuff this.

In addition to the awl, his other weapon is the goad (verse 9). Not surprisingly, both the weapons associated with this god are agricultural implements.

In any event, Hymn 53 begins by deifying Pusan as the Lord of the Paths – “pathaspate”. He is the god that paves paths without obstructions.

Guide & Protector

He is both Guide and Protector for humans and cattle/animals.

RV 6.054
1. O PUSAN, bring us to the man who knows, who shall direct us straight,
And say unto us, It is here.

2 May we go forth with Pusan who shall point the houses (grham) out to us,
And say to us, These same are they.

5 May Pusan follow near our kine; may Pusan keep our horses safe:
May Pusan gather gear for us.

7 Let none be lost, none injured, none sink in a pit and break a limb.
Return with these all safe and sound.

10 From out the distance, far and wide, may Pusan stretch his right hand forth,
And drive our lost again to us.

He may have been invoked before journeys were undertaken. When lost, people turn to Pusan to help them find a person who knows the way, someone who can lead them to their destination (verses 1 and 2, Hymn 54.)

Pusan is worshipped so he may forever follow cattle and horses so they may be kept safe. That none be lost, none injured, none sink in a pit and break a limb and that at the end of the day, after grazing, they may all return safe and sound. With his divine powers and his goad, he guides lost cattle to their owners.

It is interesting to note that Pusan’s chariot is driven not by horses but by goats – this is apparent from verses 3, 4(see above) and 5 of Hymn 55. Once again, this association is deliberate and not accidental and has to do with his divine aspect of being the “Lord of the Paths”. Goats are sure-footed and more reliable than horses, especially in mountainous terrain and therefore appropriate to one who is the Lord of the Paths.

RV 6.055.03
Bright God whose steeds are goats, thou art a stream of wealth, a treasure-heap,
The Friend of every pious man.

RV 6.055.06
May the sure-footed goats come nigh, conveying Pusan on his car,
The God who visiteth mankind.

Indra’s friend and brother

Pusan seems to have been a close and strong relationship with Indra. They are known to be best friends and on occasion, Pusan is even referred to as Indra’s brother.

6.057 Indra and Pusan.
1. INDRA and Pusan will we call for friend ship and prosperity
And for the winning of the spoil.

2 One by the Soma sits to drink juice which the mortar hath expressed:
The other longs for curd and meal.

3 Goats are the team that draws the one: the other hath Bay Steeds at hand;
With both of these he slays the fiends.

4 When Indra, wondrous strong, brought down the streams, the mighty waterfloods,
Pusan was standing by his side.

5 To this, to Pusan’s favouring love, and Indra’s, may we closely cling,
As to a tree’s extended bough.

6 As one who drives a car draws in his reins, may we draw Pusan near,
And Indra, for our great success.

An entire hymn is dedicated to this friendship. They are together in battles and spoils. Verse 4 is significant in that it recounts that Pusan was by the side of Indra during his destruction of Vrta and release of water. The composer of this Hymn encourages the joint invocation of the two gods in verse 5, diplomatically wanting to be close to both and not one or the other.

Verses 2 and 3 also point out the stark differences between the two friends – Indra favours Soma while Pusan a more down to earth curd and gruel.

For all the importance accorded to Pusan by the Bharadvajas’ the rest of the Arya tribes and seer families did not share this tradition. Perhaps, with changing needs and lifestyles, the importance of this god decreased. Later Hindu religious texts do not mention this Vedic deity at all.

Sad – A god that people turned to for guidance and protection does not merit such a fate.

The Maruts

If you have witnessed a heavy monsoon lashing in the Indian subcontinent, then you will agree it can be intimidating. As the clouds gather, they can darken the skies even in the middle of an afternoon. Then without a warning the rain bursts through the clouds, the huge drops pound the earth. Every now and then, the sky lights up to a crackle of lightening, accompanied by thunder. Children, reach out for their parents, seeking safety. In that moment, as you gaze outside, from the comfort of your modern home, you see neither sky nor earth. You know that the rain is good for you, your community, yet as the ferocity builds up, you can’t help but feel a slight sense of trepidation.

Now, take away the protection offered by modern technology and education and transport yourself to 3000 BC. How would you react to this onslaught? It is this kind of shock and awe that inspired ancients to metamorphose elements of nature into their Gods and Goddesses.

The God that caused the rain – he had to be extremely powerful, if he were to be the cause of an event so ferocious and fearful – was Rudra. The storm or rain became Maruts, his offsprings and the cloud that bears the storm or rain became the mother, and was called Prsni.

Hymn 66 of Mandala VI contains fascinating details of this metamorphosis. The entire hymn is dedicated to the Maruts.

RV 6.066.03
They who are Sons of the rain-pouring Rudra, whom the long-lasting One had power to foster:
The Mighty Ones whose germ great Mother Prsni is known to have received for man’s advantage.

Verse 3 makes it clear that Rudra, the “rain-pouring” God is the father of the Maruts and that Prsni is the mother. That rain is beneficial to man is obvious and hence Prsni bore the germ for the advantage of mankind, even though it is no mean feat to bear the impetuous Maruts. The composer of the hymn recognizes this and hence glorifies Prsni as “great Mother”.

RV 6.066.04
They shrink not from the birth; in this same manner still resting there they purge away reproaches.
When they have streamed forth, brilliant, at their pleasure, with their own splendour they bedew their bodies.

RV 6.066.07
No team of goats shall draw your car, O Maruts, no horse no charioteer be he who drives it.
Halting not, reinless, through the air it travels, speeding alone its paths through earth and heaven.

The impetuous nature of the Maruts is apparent in Verse 4 and Verse 7 – they stream forth, brilliant at their own pleasure. They travel through the air at their own will, “halting not”, speeding through earth and heaven. Neither goats nor horses can draw their chariot, not can a charioteer drive it.

The imagery in Verse 6 is unmistakable.

RV 6.066.06
When, strong in strength and armed with potent weapons, they had united well formed earth and heaven,
Rodasi stood among these furious Heroes like splendour shining with her native brightness.

The earth and heaven appear united, the effect of a thunderstorm, when the clouds cover both in impenetrable darkness. And the recurring crackle of lightening is metamorphosed into Goddess Rodasi, by her very nature “splendour shinning with her native brightness”.

Now let us examine how various natural phenomenon that accompany a rain-storm have been transformed or metamorphosed into characteristics or aspects of the Maruts.

RV 6.066.11
That swelling band I call with invocation, the brood of Rudra, armed with glittering lances.
Pure hymns are meet for that celestial army: like floods and mountains have the Strong Ones battled.

The Maruts are considered a celestial rather than a terrestrial army, given that rain originates from the skies. Glittering rain drops transmute into lances. The “swelling” band is an obvious reference to a protracted downpour.

Rv 6.048.20
May the kind excellence of him the Kind, loud Roarers! be our guide,
Be it the God’s, O Maruts, or a mortal man’s who worships, ye impetuous Ones!

RV 6.048.15
Bright as the host of Maruts mighty in their roar. May they bring Pusan free from foes;
May they bring hither hundreds, thousands for our men: may they bring hidden stores to light, and make wealth easy to be found.

They signal their arrival or presence by loud roaring of loud signing, an attribute transmuted from thunder.

RV 6.049.11
Ye who are youthful, wise, and meet for worship, come, Maruts, to the longing of the singer.
Coming, as erst to Angiras, O Heroes, ye animate and quicken e’en the desert.

As one would expect, they are able to animate even the desert, i.e. rain could bring a desert to life.

Relation with Pusan

RV 6.048.15
Bright as the host of Maruts mighty in their roar. May they bring Pusan free from foes;
May they bring hither hundreds, thousands for our men: may they bring hidden stores to light, and make wealth easy to be found.

RV 6.050.05
To whom the Goddess Rodasi clings closely, whom Pusan follows bringing ample bounty.
What time ye hear our call and come, O Maruts, upon your separate path all creatures tremble.

The two verse above suggest that the Maruts either bring Pusan to the worshipper or that Pusan follows the Maruts and brings ample bounty in his wake. Why? Because, Pusan is a pastoral deity, and a provider of pastures for grazing to the cattle, amongst other things. Can there be abundant pasture unless there is rain?

Maruts as accordant with Indra

RV 6.017.11
He dressed a hundred buffaloes, O Indra, for thee whom all accordant Maruts strengthen.
He, Pusan Visnu, poured forth three great vessels to him, the juice that cheers, that slaughters Vrtra.

RV 6.019.11
The Bull, whose strength hath waxed, whom Maruts follow, free-giving Indra, the Celestial Ruler,
Mighty, all-conquering, the victory-giver, him let us call to grant us new protection.

RV 6.040.05
Mayst thou, O Indra, on the day of trial, present or absent, wheresoe’er thou dwellest,
Thence, with thy team, accordant with the Maruts, Song-lover! guard our sacrifice, to help us.

Mandala VI has several verses that mention the Maruts being accordant with Indra or following Indra. No further details are available on the specific relation between them.

Go Sukta (The Cow Hymn)

The importance of the cow to the Bharadvaja’s in particular and the Angirasas in general is exemplified by the fact that the only 3 verses dedicated to cows are authored by Bharadvaja Barhaspatya (RV 6.028), Vamadeva Gautama (RV 4.058) and Sabara (RV 10.169), all of whom are Angirasas. These hymns are known as the Go or Gauh Suktas (cow = gauh).

RV 6.028 as translated by Griffith is reproduced below:

THE Kine have come and brought good fortune: let them rest in the cow-pen and be happy near us.
Here let them stay prolific, many-coloured, and yield through many morns their milk for Indra.

Indra aids him who offers sacrifice and gifts: he takes not what is his, and gives him more thereto.
Increasing ever more and ever more his wealth, he makes the pious dwell within unbroken bounds.

These are ne’er lost, no robber ever injures them: no evil-minded foe attempts to harass them.
The master of the Kine lives many a year with these, the Cows whereby he pours his gifts and serves the Gods.

The charger with his dusty brow o’ertakes them not, and never to the shambles do they take their way.
These Cows, the cattle of the pious worshipper, roam over widespread pasture where no danger is.

To me the Cows seem Bhaga, they seem Indra, they seem a portion of the first-poured Soma.
These present Cows, they, O ye Indra. I long for Indra with my heart and spirit.

O Cows, ye fatten e’en the worn and wasted, and make the unlovely beautiful to look on.
Prosper my house, ye with auspicious voices. Your power is glorified in our assemblies.

Crop goodly pasturage and be prolific drink pure sweet water at good drinking places.
Never be thief or sinful man your matter, and may the dart of Rudra still avoid you.

Now let this close admixture be close intermingled with these Cows,
Mixt with the Steer’s prolific flow, and, Indra, with thy hero might.

Several verses shed light on the lifestyle of the Bharadvajas during the early Vedic period, the time period when this hymn was most likely composed.

As verse 1 indicates, the cattle were sheltered in separate cow-pens after their return from grazing at the end of the day. It was important that they were cared for – “happy near us”. Their breeding in prolific numbers would have mattered as well, given that the cattle were the “wealth” of these people. The cows would have been milked in the morning and the first yield was offered to Indra during the prayers at dawn.

Verse 6 further enforces the materialistic value that cows had, “Prosper my house, ye (the cows) with auspicious voices. Your power is glorified in our assemblies”.

Tending well to their cattle is paramount, as suggested by verse 7. The caretakers, made an effort to provide proper water, and guarded them from thieves and other that could cause them harm.

In Verse 3, it is clear that cattle rearing is an important activity even amongst the priestly class, indeed, for the general populace, this would have been a major occupation. “The master of the kine (cattle) lives many a year with these (the cows), whereby he pours his gifts (milk and ghee) and serves the Gods (during a sacrifice)”. In the same verse,  their concern over protecting their wealth is conveyed. The Gods are propitiated that “These (the cows) are ne’er lost, no robber ever injures them: no evil-minded foe attempts to harass them”. And then again, in verse 4, “These Cows, the cattle of the pious worshipper, roam over widespread pasture where no danger is”.

The impact of dairy based diet is evident from verse 6, “O Cows, ye fatten e’en the worn and wasted, and make the unlovely beautiful to look on”.

However, it is verse 5 that raises the relation of the Bharadvajas with cows to an entirely new high – to the very divine. The cows are equated to the very highest of Vedic Gods – Bhaga, Soma and even Indra. The cows are seen as a manifestation of Indra and a this form of Indra is what the composer of the hymn longs for with his heart and spirit.

Verse 8, almost an adjunct is an Artharvanic charm – uttered when a mixture is administered to unwell cows or cows with issues with fertility.

In conjunction with RV 6.048.26 to 28, this is one more verse, where we see the Rig Vedic practice of raising important items, both animate and in-animate to a reverent, even divine status.

%d bloggers like this: