Rigvedic deities

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In the Rigveda it is stated that there are 33 deities associated with sky (dyu), earth (prithvi) and the middle realm (antariksha), though a larger number of deities are mentioned in the text.[1] There are 1028 hymns in the Rigveda, most of them dedicated to specific deities.

Indra, a heroic god, slayer of Vrtra and destroyer of the Vala, liberator of the cows and the rivers; Agni the sacrificial fire and messenger of the gods; and Soma the ritual drink dedicated to Indra are the most prominent deities.

Invoked in groups are the Vishvedevas (the "all-gods"), the Maruts, violent storm gods in Indra's train and the Ashvins, the twin horsemen.

There are two major groups of gods, the Devas and the Asuras. Unlike in later Vedic texts and in Hinduism, the Asuras are not yet demonized, Mitra and Varuna being their most prominent members. Aditi is the mother both of Agni and of the Adityas or Asuras, led by Mitra and Varuna, with Aryaman, Bhaga, Ansa and Daksha.

Surya is the personification of the Sun, but Savitr, Vivasvant, the Ashvins and the Rbhus, semi-divine craftsmen, also have aspects of solar deities. Other natural phenomena deified include Vayu, (the wind), Dyaus and Prithivi (Heaven and Earth), Dyaus continuing Dyeus, the chief god of the Proto-Indo-European religion, and Ushas (the dawn), the most prominent goddess of the Rigveda, and Apas (the waters).

Rivers play an important role, deified as goddesses, most prominently the Sapta Sindhu and the Sarasvati River.

Yama is the first ancestor, also worshipped as a deity, and the god of the underworld and death.

Vishnu and Rudra, the prominent deities of later Hinduism (Rudra being an early form of Shiva) are present as marginal gods.

The names of Indra, Mitra, Varuna and the Nasatyas are also attested in a Mitanni treaty, suggesting that the some of the religion of the Mitannis was very close to that of the Rigveda.

Deities by prominence[edit]

List of Rigvedic deities by number of dedicated hymns, after Griffith (1888). Some dedications are to paired deities, such as Indra-Agni, Mitra-Varuna, Soma-Rudra, here counted doubly.

Minor deities (one single or no dedicated hymn)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Upinder Singh (2008), A history of ancient and early medieval India, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, p. 195 
  2. ^ a b Noel Seth,"Man's Relation to God in the Varuna Hymns," in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, Vol.III, 2010, pp.4 ff.