The Frog Hymn: Indianization of the Vedic people
July 20, 2014 1 Comment
RV 7.103 – the Frog hymn as I would like to call it – was composed by Rishi Vasistha.
The frogs have been quite for a year, no doubt awaiting the onset of rains.
THEY who lay quiet for a year, the Brahmans who fulfil their vows,
The Frogs have lifted up their voice, the voice Parjanya hath inspired.
What time on these, as on a dry skin lying in the pool’s bed, the floods of heaven descended,
The music of the Frogs comes forth in concert like the cows lowing with their calves beside them.
When at the coming of the Rains the water has poured upon them as they yearned and thirsted,
One seeks another as he talks and greets him with cries of pleasure as a son his father.
And as the floods descend from heaven, the rains pour upon their dry skin, the frogs burst out in music, in the manner of a concert.
Vasistha breaks into poetry in this hymn. He paints a picture of two frogs – Green and Spotty, as they seek and great each other with cries of pleasure as a son his father. One repeats the language of the other, in the manner that students learn their lessons from their teacher.
Each of these twain receives the other kindly, while they are revelling in the flow of waters,
When the Frog moistened by the rain springs forward, and Green and Spotty both combine their voices.
When one of these repeats the other’s language, as he who learns the lesson of the teacher,
Your every limb seems to be growing larger as ye converse with eloquence on the waters.
Poetry aside, there are such significant nuggets in this hymn.
First is what has already been mentioned above – we have clear evidence that formal education was in place and we have a glimpse of how students learnt lessons from their teachers – by repetition.
Then in verse 7, we glean two fascinating facts – one is the mention of the famous soma rite of Atirata and the other that the first day of the “rain-time” was honoured.
As Brahmans, sitting round the brimful vessel, talk at the Soma-rite of Atiratra,
So, Frogs, ye gather round the pool to honour this day of all the year, the first of Rain-time.
But the most significant of them all is verse 9. The “rain-time” is a season that men do not neglect. The season is in keeping with the twelve month God appointed order. The mention of the “heated kettles that gain their freedom” is a clear reference to the heat that builds up prior to the rainy season.
They keep the twelve month’s God-appointed order, and never do the men neglect the season.
Soon as the Rain-time in the year returneth, these who were heated kettles gain their freedom.
The final verse, 10, captures a great deal of symbolism. The importance of the rain – especially to farming and in turn to the pastoralist families of the Vedic seers.
Cow-bellow and Goat-bleat have granted riches, and Green and Spotty have vouchsafed us treasure.
The Frogs who give us cows in hundreds lengthen our lives in this most fertilizing season.
What does all this add up to?
Here is a hymn composed by a seer firmly rooted in the plains of India. The annual onset of rain, the unbearable heat that builds up before the onset of monsoon and the relief expressed by both humans and animals when the first rains arrive are unmistakably Indian. Rishi Vasistha and the composition of Mandala VII can be placed in India – of that I now have no doubt.