Identity of the Pani

The generally accepted view is that the Pani is a non-Arya tribe of tradesman who by nature were extremely miserly. Let us examine the evidence available in Mandala VI and see if it leads us to the same conclusion or something else.

In Hymn 53, the composer spews his hatred towards the Pani. Why?

Pusan – the third most important deity of the Bharadvajas – brings wealth to the Arya. Wealth in Vedic times was measured in terms of the number of cattle and steed one possessed.

RV 6.053.02
Bring us the wealth that men require, a manly master of a house,
Free-handed with the liberal meed.

In the very next verse, Pusan is praised for he gives to even those who do not give, i.e. Pusan rewards even those that do not offer gifts to the Bharadvaja priests during sacrifices. And who are these people that do not offer the gifts? The Pani.

RV 6.053.03
Even him who would not give, do thou, O glowing Pusan, urge to give,
And make the niggard’s (Pani) soul grow soft.

From this verse alone, it is sufficiently clear that the Pani held the same religious beliefs as the rest of the Arya. However, the fact that the Pani did not consider it important to offer gifts to the Bharadvaja priests must have been appalling in those times. No wonder the Bharadvaja vent their hatred for the Pani as evident in verses RV 6.053.05 – 07.

RV 6.053.05
Penetrate with an awl, O Sage, the hearts of (the Pani) avaricious churls,
And make them subject to our will.

RV 6.053.06
Thrust with thine awl, O Pusan: seek that which the niggard’s (Pani) heart holds dear,
And make him subject to our will.

RV 6.053.07
Tear up and read in pieces, Sage, the hearts of avaricious churls (Pani),
And make them subject to our will.

From these verses alone, it is clear that the Pani were not a non-Arya tribe, on the contrary they were an integral part of the Arya social system.

Further evidence that they were not a non-Arya tribe stems from the fact that, despite the hatred espoused by the Bharadvajas, there is not a single instance of a conflict between the Arya and the Pani, in the same manner that the Arya have with the Dasa tribes.

About their trading antecedents, there is nothing in Mandala VI to suggest either way. The only other information we can glean about the Pani is that they are greedy. Not surprising coming from the Bharadvajas, and since we don’t have the story from the other side, we have to accept it at face value.

RV 6.051.14
Soma, these pressing-stones have called aloud to win thee for our Friend.
Destroy the greedy Pani, for a wolf is he.

But this characterization is very significant. At some point in time, the Pani are entwined in the Vala myth which evolved from its original release of sunlight. In a much later version of the myth, the greedy Panis have captured the cows within an enclosure, which Indra must release.

This article would be incomplete without the mention of the most famous Pani in the Rig Veda – Brbu. Three verses are devoted to him by the Bharadvajas in Hymn 45 – it what constitutes a mini Danastuti.

RV 6.045.31
Brbu hath set himself above the Panis, o’er their highest head,
Like the wide bush on Ganga’s bank.

RV 6.045.32
He whose good bounty, thousandfold, swift as the rushing of the wind,
Suddenly offers as a gift.

RV 6.045.33
So all our singers ever praise the pious Brbu’s noble deed,
Chief, best to give his thousands, best to give a thousand liberal gifts.

Samyu Bharadvaja expresses his wonder at the sudden offer of gifts from Brbu and describes the latter as standing taller than the rest of the Panis and as generous as the fertile and wide banked river Ganga. It is understandable why this high praise, after all, Samyu Bharadvaja would have received a large number of cattle in gifts – thousand if one is to take the last verse literally.

In summary, we have established the Pani to be part of the Arya tribes, probably a wealthy section of the Arya society, which is perhaps why they did not need the Bharadvaja priests. Whether trading was their occupation, we could not establish either way solely on the basis of evidence in Mandala VI. That will need to wait for later…


6 Responses to Identity of the Pani

  1. The Panis might be held as misers and greedy people, but they were surely did not belong to the Arya tribes.. The reason is given in RV(10.108). The hymn is a conversation between the Panis and Sarama, a messenger sent by Indra. The Panis ask her in praise, that how did she CROSS THE RASA RIVER AND COME TO THE PANIS without fearing for her life. This shows the Panis loved further west of Rasa in Afghanistan. Even the Bhagvat Purana mentions Sarama and her going to the Panis. Looking at their geographical location, it looks improbable that the Panis were Aryas. They have to be Anaryas. Surely they were not in war with the Aryas, but enmity did exist. Because even the Purans place the Panis with Danavas and Daityas, who were the enemies of Aryas.

    • yatin2710 says:

      Dear Ashutosh,

      For some time, look at the evidence available in Mandala VI alone (as presented in the article) WITHOUT bringing into play content from any other chapter or source. What conclusions does it lead you to?



      • Ummmm, I guess a complete look over all of the Rigveda would lead us to a proper picture.. Considering just one Mandala would lead us nowhere.. Thats what history is- you need to look into all the sources… 🙂

      • yatin2710 says:

        Dear Ashutosh,

        The source closest to the original event must be held the most reliable. This is true for all ancient books/scriptures. With time, the original event evolves, is re-interpreted and in most cases corrupted beyond recognition. The Sarama-Pani incident is a highly evolved and significantly changed version of the Vala myth. You can see how it evolves as you move from Mandala VI to Mandala X. By the time we get into the Puranas, several centuries have passed. In the absence of any evidence, later texts are the only source, however when available, I always go by the version closest to the original event in case of conflicting versions.



  2. krishna jetti says:

    Your description of PANI is very good. You should here the view of PAN’S ie PHOENICIANS at their web site .
    Krishna jetti

  3. anit pakistani says:

    I agree that they were Aryans. My opinion is that they were considered non-ayra by the aryans, as they were greedy and rude unlike how the aryans saw themselves. Considering, Arya means ” non-noble” this might be the reason they were classed as non-aryan. Also the fact that they lived west of the dasyas proves they were of Aryan origin.

    The Pashtun Pani tribe may have some connection to the Panis mentioned here, but the Afghan Panis are Iranian so i don’t think there is a connection.

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