Hymn for safe and normal childbirth

Despite all the advances of modern medicine, the safe birth of a normal human child is not something we can take for granted.

It is no surprise then that the vedic civilization, with reams upon reams of hymns asking for heroic progeny should have hymns asking for the safe birth of their children. What is surprising though is that there is just one hymn of this nature in the main family mandalas and perhaps no more than 3 in all of the Rig Veda.

Hymn 78 in the Atri family Mandala – Mandala V has 9 verses, 6 of which make very clear reading and easy interpretation. The deities invoked are the Asvin twins, clearly by the time of this Mandala, the deities dealing with health and well being.

The first three verses implore the twin deities to accept the offering and grant what is being asked for in the verses that follow:

RV 5.078.01-03
YE Asvins, hither come to us: Nasatyas, be not disinclined.
Fly hither like two swans unto the juice we shed.

O Asvins, like a pair of deer, like two wild cattle to the mead:
Fly hither like two swans unto the juice we shed.

O Asvins rich in gifts, accept our sacrifice to prosper it:
Fly hither like two swans unto the juice we shed.

We will leave verses 4, 5 and 6 for now and go directly to the last three:

RV 5.078.07-09
Like as the wind on every side ruffles a pool of lotuses,
So stir in thee the babe unborn, so may the ten-month babe descend.

Like as the wind, like as the wood, like as the sea is set astir,
So also, ten-month babe, descend together with the after-birth.

The child who hath for ten months’ time been lying in his mother’s side,-
May he come forth alive, unharmed, yea, living from the living dame.

These verses clearly indicate what is being asked for through this hymn. What the last verse also seems to suggest is not just the safe coming forth of the child, but also that the mother come to no harm as well – “living from the living dame”.

Verses 4 to 6 have been deliberately omitted from this analysis due to some very interesting stories embedded within them and deserving of separate articles.


Indra – According to the Atris

This article is a collection of accounts of Indra found in the Indra hymns from Mandala V – the Atri family book.

Indra – According to Babhru Atreya

RV 5.030.04-11

Indra, when born, thou madest firm thy spirit: alone thou seekest war to fight with many.
With might thou clavest e’en the rock asunder, and foundest out the stable of the Milch-kine.

When thou wast born supremest at a distance, bearing a name renowned in far-off regions,
Since then e’en Gods have been afraid of Indra: he conquered all the floods which served the Dasa.

These blissful Maruts sing their psalm to praise thee, and pour to thee libation of the Soma.
Indra with wondrous powers subdued the Dragon, the guileful lurker who beset the waters.

Thou, Maghavan, from the first didst scatter foemen, speeding, while joying in the milk, the Giver.
There, seeking man’s prosperity, thou torest away the head of Namuci the Dasa.

Pounding the head of Namuci the Dasa, me, too thou madest thine associate, Indra!
Yea, and the rolling stone that is in heaven both worlds, as on a car, brought to the Maruts.

Women for weapons hath the Dasa taken, What injury can his feeble armies To me?
Well he distinguished his two different voices, and Indra then advanced to fight the Dasyu.

Divided from their calves the Cows went lowing around, on every side, hither and thither.
These Indra re-united with his helpers, what time the well-pressed Soma made him joyful.

What time the Somas mixed by Babhru cheered him, loud the Steer bellowed in his habitations.
So Indra drank thereof, the Fort-destroyer, and gave him guerdon, in return, of milch-kine.

According to Babhru Atreya, Indra was supreme at birth itself. No sooner was he born, Indra thrust himself into battle with formidible foes and accomplishments that no God had undertaken until then. Verse 5 tells us how Indra’s name was renowned in far-off regions upon his birth. Now this may be due to the extraordinary events marking his birth (not described here) or the stupendous victories immediately thereafter. So great were his accomplishments, that all the other Gods began to fear him.

Verse 4 alludes to the Vala myth, i.e. setting the Sun and Dawn free from the caves of Vala.

Verse 6 alludes to the Vrtra myth, i.e. the slaying of Vrtra/Ahi – and liberating the waters obstructed/usurped by this serpent like dragon/demon.

Verse 7 and 8 refer to the grotesque tearing away or pounding the head of Namuci – a Dasa – and perhaps then liberating rain waters.

Verse 10 has a much softened and more human like accomplishment – that of helping the cowherds in uniting calves with their mother cows.

Verse 9 though contains an extremely interesting factoid of what might have been a tactic that the Dasas employed during their battles with the Arya. Babhru mentions that the Dasa used “women as weapons”, perhaps a reference to the fact that forced through desperation, the Dasa had to deploy women to engage in battle as well. But the Arya warriors, “distinguished his two different voices”, i.e. were able to discern between the women and the male Dasyu warriors and fought only against the latter?

Indra – According to Avasyu Atreya

RV 5.031.02-09

Haste to us, Lord of Bays; be not ungracious: visit us, lover of gold-hued oblation.
There is naught else better than thou art, Indra: e’en to the wifeless hast thou given spouses.

When out of strength arose the strength that conquers, Indra displayed all powers that he possesses.
Forth from the cave he drove the milky mothers, and with the light laid bare investing darkness.

Anus have wrought a chariot for thy Courser, and Tvastar, Much-invoked! thy bolt that glitters.
The Brahmans with their songs exalting Indra increased his strength that he might slaughter Ahi.

When heroes sang their laud to thee the Hero, Indra! and stones and Aditi accordant,
Without or steed or chariot were the fellies which, sped by Indra, rolled upon the Dasyus.

I will declare thine exploits wrought aforetime, and, Maghavan, thy deeds of late achievement,
When, Lord of Might, thou sunderedst earth and heaven, winning for man the moistly-gleaming waters.

This is thy deed, e’en this, Wonderful! Singer! that, slaying Ahi, here thy strength thou showedst,
Didst check and stay e’en Susna’s wiles and magic, and, drawing nigh, didst chase away the Dasyus.

Thou, Indra, on the farther bank for Yadu and Turvasa didst stay the gushing waters.
Ye both assailed the fierce: thou barest Kutsa: when Gods and Usana came to you together.

Let the steeds bring you both, Indra and Kutsa, borne on the chariot within hearing-distance.
Ye blew him from the waters, from his dwelling, and chased the darkness from the noble’s spirit.

Avasyu Atre echoes some of the deeds attributed to Indra by Babhru Atreya in RV 5.030.

The first line of verse 3 alludes to Indra’s growing from strength to strength at birth. The same verse also refers to the Vala myth.

The Vrtra/Ahi myth finds mention in verse 4 and 7. It is interesting to note the mention of the Anu tribe as being the makers of Indra’s chariot. This is in keeping with the association of this Arya race as premier chariot makers of their time. Tvastar is identified as elsewhere with having fashioned Indra’s choice of weapon – the feared thunderbolt. Verse 7 also refers to the slaying of Susna and Indra’s role in conflicts with the Dasyus.

Verse 6 perhaps provides an archaic explanation of how Indra created rain – by an intial act of sundering earth from heaven at the time of creation?

Verse 8 has a reference to Indra saving the Yadu and Turvasa tribes from a flooding river (either as they were attempting to cross the river or while they were settled at the bank of that river).

Exploits with Kutsa and Usana find mention in verses 8 and 9.

The Atri Danastutis

This article is a compilation of the Atri family danastutis.

A Danastuti, or “hymns in praise of donors”, recounts the gifts or donations received from a king or prince. Such gifts and donations were made in appreciation of services rendered, especially at the end of a successful battle or war. Kings and princes were counseled on strategy, in addition, the seers were known to consecrate arms and weapons to be used in the war as well as use battle charms (often magical) for their patrons and against the enemies.

Babhru Atri

The danastuti reproduced below – RV 5.030.12-15, mentions cattle numbering 4000 received by Rishi Babhru Atri from King Rnancaya of the Rusama tribe perhaps at the end of a grand Pravargya yagna.  Aside from the cattle, the cauldron used to perform the yagna was also offered to the Rishi. These were cauldrons mould in the shape of an hour glass, made specifically for use in just one yagna and later texts suggest that they were lined with gold and silver.

RV 5.030.12-15

This good deed have the Rusamas done, Agni! that they have granted me four thousand cattle.
We have received Rnancaya’s wealth, of heroes the most heroic, which was freely offered.

The Rusamas, O Agni, sent me homeward with fair adornment and with kine in thousands.
The strong libations have made Indra joyful, when night, whose course was ending, changed to

Night, well-nigh ended, at Rnancaya’s coming, King of the Rusamas, was changed to morning.
Like a strong courser, fleet of foot, urged onward, Babhru hath gained four thousand as his guerdon.

We have received four thousand head of cattle presented by the Rusamas, O Agni.
And we, the singers, have received the caldron of metal which was heated for Pravargya.

Samvarana Prajapatya

The danastuti reproduced below – RV 5.033.08-10, recounts Rishi Samvarana Prajapatya receiving gifts from several kings, including the renowned Trasadasyu.

Note: The rishi’s lineage belongs to the Visvamitras and in that sense, this should perhaps appear as a danastuti to that family, however, since it appears in the Atri family book, I present it here.

And these ten steeds which Trasadasyu gives me, the goldrich chief, the son of Purukutsa,
Resplendent in their brightness shall convey me. Gairiksita willed it and so came I hither.

And these, bestowed as sacrificial guerdon, the powerful tawny steeds of Marutasva;
And thousands which kind Cyavatana gave me, abundantly bestowed for my adornment.

And these commended horses, bright and active, by Dhvanya son of Laksmana presented,
Came unto me, as cows into the Rsi Samvarana’s stall, with magnitude of riches.

The great King Trasadasyu offered the Rishi 10 steeds.

Yet another king, Cyavatana appears to have offered a thousand steeds, orange-brown in colour. The term “Marutasva” seems to suggest a breed of horses, that were particularly swift (in keeping with the connotation of Maruts).

A third king, Dhvanya, presented the Rishi with an unknown number of horses as well.

What is interesting to note is the association of this Rishi with several kings, each perhaps from different tribes/clans and regions. Unlike the Bharadvajas, this rishi certainly did not have a loyalties bound to a single patron.

Prabhuvasu Angiras

RV 5.036.06
Maruts, let all the people in obeisance bow down before this youthful Srutaratha,
Who, rich in steeds, gave me two dark red horses together with three hundred head of cattle.

A young king or prince by name Srutarahta offers Rishi Prabhuvasu Angiras two dark red horses and three hundred head of cattle.

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