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.

Mandala V – The Atri family book

Of the 87 hymns in Mandala V, 79 are composed by members of the Atri family and therefore, this Mandala is referred to as the Atri family book.

Family-wise Authorship

Family Hymns
Angirasas 15, 35-36
Agastyas 24
Visvamitras 33-34
Atris 1-14, 16-23, 25-28,
30-32, 37-43, 45-87
Vasisthas 29
Joint (Several) 44

Source: Chapter 02, The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis – by Shrikant G. Talageri

Synopsis of analysis of Mandala V

Hymn Summary
30
  • Composed by Babhru Atreya
  • Recounts the deeds of Indra
  • Second half is a Danastuti – mention of 4000 cattle received from King Rnancaya of the Rusama tribe
  • Mention of the Pravargya yagya
31
  • Composed by Avasyu Atreya
  • Recounts the deeds of Indra
    • Brief mention of Vrta/Ahi and Vala myths
    • Brief mention of the exploits with the Dasas/Dasyu
    • Brief mention of Susna
  • Anu tribe as the makers of Indra’s chariot
  • Yadu and Turvasa tribe saved by Indra from floods
78
83
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