Bhaga

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sanskrit bhaga (IAST: bhaga) is a term for "lord, patron", but also for "wealth, prosperity". The cognate term in Avestan and Old Persian is baga, of uncertain meaning but used in a sense in which "lord, patron, sharer/distributor of good fortune" might also apply. The semantics is similar to English lord (from hlaford "bread-warden"), the idea being that it is part of the function of a chieftain or leader to distribute riches or spoils among his followers. The name of the city of Baghdad derives from Middle Persian baga-data, "lord-given".

In the Sanskrit Rigveda, bhaga is an epithet of both mortals and gods (e.g. of Savitr, Indra and Agni) who bestow wealth and prosperity, as well as the personification of a particular god, the Bhaga, who bestows the same. In the Rigveda, the personification is attested primarily in RV 7.41, which is devoted to the praise of the Bhaga and of the deities closest to him, and in which the Bhaga is invoked about 60 times, together with Agni, Indra, the dual Mitra-Varuna, the two Ashvins, Pusan, Brahmanaspati, Soma and Rudra.

The Bhaga is also invoked elsewhere in the company of Indra, Varuna and Mitra (e.g. RV 10.35, 42.396). The personification is occasionally intentionally ambiguous, as in RV 5.46 where men are portrayed as requesting the Bhaga to share in bhaga. In the Rigveda, the Bhaga is occasionally associated with the sun: in RV 1.123, the Dawn (Ushas) is said to be the Bhaga's sister, and in RV 1.136, the Bhaga's eye is adorned with rays.

The 5th/6th-century BCE Nirukta (Nir. 12.13) describes Bhaga as the god of the morning. In the Rigveda, the Bhaga is named as one of the Adityas, the seven (or eight) celestial sons of Aditi, the Rigvedic mother of the gods. In the medieval Bhagavata Purana, the Bhaga reappears with the Puranic Adityas, which are by then twelve solar gods.

Elsewhere, the Bhaga continues as a god of wealth and marriage, in a role that is also attested for the Sogdian (Buddhist) equivalent of the Bhaga. In myths related to the figure, Virabhadra, a powerful hero created by Shiva, who once blinded him.

The common noun bhaga survives in the 2nd century inscription of Rudradaman I, where it is a fiscal term; in bhagavan for "one who possesses (-van) the properties of a bhaga-", hence itself "lord, god"; and in bhagya, and "that which derives from bhaga", hence "destiny" as an abstract noun, and also Bhagya personified as the proper name of a son of Surya.