The divine master of horses
Revanta or Raivata (Sanskrit: रेवन्त, lit. "brilliant") is a minor Hindu deity. According to the Rig-Veda, Revanta is the youngest son of the sun-god Surya, and his wife Sanjna (Saranya). Revanta is chief of the Guhyakas (गुह्यक), semi-divine and demonic class entities – like the Yakshas – who are believed to live as forest dwellers in Himalayas. Images and sculptures of Revanta often show him as a huntsman on a horse, with a bow and arrow.
Mary Boyce, Frantz Grenet and Roger Beck identify Revanta have merged from the Zoroastrian god Mithra, as Iranian invaders, who invaded north-western India, brought their religion with them, that infused into Hinduism by first century AD. They stress on the descriptions of both the deities as riding gods and "Revanta" originating from the Avestan "raevant", which is an epithet of Mithra.
The tale of Revanta's birth is narrated in scriptures like Vishnu Purana and Markandeya Purana. Once, Sanjna, the daughter of celestial architect Vishvakarma and wife of Surya, unable to take the fervour of the Sun-god, repaired to the forests to engage in devout austerities in the form of a mare. She placed her shadow Chhaya, who looked just like Sajna in her position as Surya's wife. When Surya realised that Chhaya was not the real Sanjna, he searched for Sanjna and finally found her in the forests of Uttar Kuru. There, Surya approached Sanjna disguised as a horse. Their union produced the twin-Ashvins and Revanta. In Kurma Purana and Matsya Purana, the mother of Revanta is named Rajni, another wife of Surya. While in another chapter of Markandeya Purana, he is son of Chhaya and his brothers are the Saturn-god Shani and Savarni Manu.
Markandeya Purna further adds he was assigned the duty as chief of Guhyakas by Surya and to protect mortals "amid the terrors of forests and other lonely places, of great conflagration, of enemies and robbers." Sometimes, Revanta is depicted as combating robbers in reliefs.
Another tale from the Devi Bhagavata Purana has a passing reference to Revanta. Once when Revanta – riding on the seven headed horse Uchaishravas – went to Vishnu's abode, Vishnu's wife goddess Lakshmi was mesmerized with the horse and ignored a question asked by the Lord. Thus, she was cursed by her husband to become a mare.
Markandeya Purana describes Revanta as "holding a sword and bow, clad in an armour, riding on horseback, and carrying arrows and a quiver". Kalika Purana describes him carrying a sword in right hand and a whip in his left, seated on a white horse. Thus he is called Haya-Vahana, one who rides a horse. Varahamihira describes him as accompanied by attendants for hunting.
In sculpture, Revanta is often depicted with the Guhyakas, whose chief he is, in scenes of hunting. Apart from the attributes described in texts like the sword, bow; he sometimes also carries a cup of wine in his hand. Revanta is often depicted wearing long boots reaching up to the calves, unlike other Hindu divinities – except Surya – who are depicted barefoot. Revanta is depicted seated on a horse and accompanied by a hunting dog. Revanta's attendants are depicted with various hunting weapons like lances and swords. Some of them are shown blowing a conch or beaming drums or holding an umbrella over the head of their lord, the umbrella being the symbol of royalty. Also, some of them are depicted as flying or holding wine or water jars. Sometimes, an attendant carries a dead boar in his shoulder or the dog chasing a boar.
Revanta was worshipped as guardian deity of warriors and horses, protector from the dangers of forests and the patron god of hunting. The worship of Revanta is closely associated with Saura, cult of Surya. Often, scriptures like Vishnudharmottara Purana and Kalika Purana recommend worship of Revanta alongside Surya or according to the rituals of Sun worship. Shabha-kalpa-druma records Revanta's worship after Surya's, in the Hindu month of Ashvin by warriors. Nakula, the fourth Pandava, is believed to have written Ashavashastram on horses. He suggests worship of Raivata to protect horses from ghosts.
The worship of Revanta was popular in the early-mediaeval period, particularly in Rajasthan. Revanta is mostly depicted in Vaishnava and Surya temples. There is a stone inscription that talks about a temple to Revanta, as the principal deity, in Vikranapur (modern Kotgaph, Madhya Pradesh) built by the Kalachuri king Ratnadeva II.
- Monier-Williams Dictionary: Revanta
- Monier-Williams Dictionary:Guhyaka
- A History of Zoroastrianism by Mary Boyce, Frantz Grenet, Roger Beck pp.485-6
- Singh 1997, pp. 2605–6
- Danielou, Alain (1991), The Myths and Gods of India: The Classic Work on Hindu Polytheism, Inner Traditions / Bear & Company, p. 96, ISBN 0-89281-354-7.
- A Talaqdar of Oudh (2008), "XI", The Matsya Puranam: Part I, The Sacred books of the Hindus 18, Cosmo Publications, p. 32, ISBN 81-307-0532-X
- Vibhuti Bhushan Mishra (1973), Religious Beliefs and Practices of North India During the Early Mediaeval Period, BRILL, p. 37, ISBN 90-04-03610-5.
- Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy (1980), Women, androgynes, and other mythical beasts, University of Chicago Press, p. 218, ISBN 0-226-61850-1.
- Singh 1997, p. 2606
- Singh 1997, pp. 2611, 2613
- Kalia, Asha (1982), Art of Osian Temples: Socio-Economic and Religious Life in India, 8th-12th Centuries A.D., Abhinav Publications, pp. 119–120, ISBN 0-391-02558-9.
- Singh 1997, pp. 2606–14
- Singh 1997, pp. 2607
- Singh 1997, p. 2609
- Singh 1997, pp. 2615–16
- Iconography of Revanta by Brijendra Nath Sharma, Published 1975, Abhinav Publications,86 pages, ISBN 0-7128-0116-2.
- M. L. Carter (1988), Revanta, an Indian Cavalier God, Annali dell'Istituto Orientale di Napoli, vol. 48, fasc. 2 (1988)