April 28, 2012 5 Comments
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:
We pray for wealth to thee most skilled of charioteers, with braided hair,
Lord of great riches, and our Friend.
Pusan, who driveth goats for steeds, the strong and Mighty, who is called
His Sister’s lover, will we laud.
WHOSO remembers Pusan as cater of mingled curd and meal (karambha)
Need think no more upon the God.
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).
Unharmed is Pusan’s chariot wheel; the box ne’er falleth to the ground,
Nor doth the loosened felIy shake.
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.
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.
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.
Bright God whose steeds are goats, thou art a stream of wealth, a treasure-heap,
The Friend of every pious man.
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.