Tilak - THE ARCTIC HOME IN THE VEDAS (II)
THE VEDIC DAWNS
Dawn-hymns the most beautiful in the Ṛig-Veda — The Deity fully described, unobscured by personification — First hints about the long duration of dawn — Recitation of a thousand verses, or even the whole Ṛig-Veda, while the dawn lasts — Three or five-fold division of the dawn — Both imply a long dawn — The same inferred from the two words Uṣhas and Vyuṣhṭî — Three Ṛig-Vedic passages about long dawns, hitherto misunderstood, discussed — Long interval of several days between the first appearance of light and sunrise — Expressly mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda, VII, 76, 3 — Sâyaṇa’s explanation artificial and unsatisfactory — Existence of many dawns before sunrise — Reason why dawn is addressed in the plural in the Ṛig-Veda — The plural address not honorific — Nor denotes dawns of consecutive days — Proves a team of continuous dawns — The last view confirmed by the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, IV, 3, 11 — Dawns as 30 sisters — Direct authority from the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa for holding that they were continuous or unseparated — Sâyaṇa’s explanation of 30 dawns examined — Thirty dawns described as thirty steps of a single dawn — Rotatory motion of the dawn, like a wheel, directly mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda — Their reaching the same appointed place day by day — All indicate a team of thirty closely-gathered dawns — Results summed up — Establish the Polar character of the Vedic dawns — Possible variation in the duration of the Vedic dawn— The legend of Indra shattering the Dawn’s car explained — Direct passages showing that the dawns so described were the events of a former age — The Vedic Dawns Polar in character.
The Ṛig-Veda, we have seen, does not contain distinct references to a day and a night of six months’ duration though the deficiency is more than made up by parallel passages from the Iranian scriptures. But in the case of the dawn, the long continuous dawn with its revolving splendors, which is the special characteristic of the North Pole, there is fortunately no such difficulty. Uṣhas, or the Goddess of Dawn, is an important and favorite Vedic deity and is celebrated in about twenty hymns of the Ṛig-Veda and mentioned more than three hundred times, sometimes in the singular and sometimes in the plural. These hymns, according to Muir, are amongst the most beautiful, — if not the most beautiful, — in the entire collection; and the deity, to which they are addressed, is considered by Macdonell to be the most graceful creation of Vedic poetry, there being no more charming figure in the descriptive religious lyrics of any other literature. (See Muir’s Original Sanskrit Texts, Vol. V. p. 181; and Macdonell’s Vedic Mythology, p. 46. )
In short, Uṣhas, or the Goddess of Dawn, is described in the Ṛig-Veda hymns with more than usual fullness and what is still more important for our purpose is that the physical character of the deity is not, in the least, obscured by the description or the personification in the hymns. Here, therefore, we have a fine opportunity of proving the validity of our theory, by showing, if possible, that the oldest description of the dawn is really Polar in character. A priori it does not look probable that the Vedic poets could have gone into such raptures over the short-lived dawn of the tropical or the temperate zone, or that so much anxiety about the coming dawn should have been evinced, simply because the Vedic bards had no electric light or candles to use during the short night of less than 24 hours. But the dawn-hymns have not, as yet, been examined from this stand-point. It seems to have been tacitly assumed by all interpreters of the Vedas, Eastern and Western, that the Uṣhas of the Ṛig-Veda can be no other than the dawn with which we are familiar in the tropical or the temperate zone. That Yâska and Sâyaṇa thought so is natural enough, but even the Western scholars have taken the same view, probably under the influence of the theory that the plateau of Central Asia was the original home of the Aryan race. Therefore several expressions in the dawn-hymns, which would have otherwise suggested the inquiry regarding the physical or the astronomical character of the Vedic dawn, have been either ignored, or somehow explained away, by scholars, who could certainly have thrown more light on the subject, had they not been under the influence of the assumption mentioned above. It is with passages like these that we are here chiefly concerned, and we shall presently see that if these are interpreted in a natural way, they fully establish the Polar nature of the Vedic dawn.
The first hint, regarding the long duration of the Vedic dawn, is obtained from the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa, IV, 7. Before commencing the Gavâm-ayana sacrifice, there is a long recitation of not less than a thousand verses, to be recited by the Hotṛi priest. This Ashvina-shastra, as it is called, is addressed to Agni, Uṣhas and Ashvins, which deities rule at the end of the night and the commencement of the day. It is the longest recitation to be recited by the Hotṛi and the time for reciting it is after midnight, when “the darkness of the night is about to be relieved by the light of the dawn” (Nir. XII, I; Ashv. Shr. Sutra, VI, 5, 8).(Nir. XII, 1.)
The same period of time is referred to also in the Ṛig-Veda, VII, 67, 2 and 3. The shastra is so long, that the Hotṛi, who has to recite it, is directed to refresh himself by drinking beforehand melted butter after sacrificing thrice a little of it (Ait. Br. IV, 7; Ashv. Shr. Sûtra; VI, 5, 3). “He ought to eat ghee,” observes the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa, “before he commences repeating. Just as in this world a cart or a carriage goes well if smeared (with oil),† thus his repeating proceeds well if he be smeared with ghee (by eating it).” (See Haug’s Translation off Ait. Br., p. 270. )
It is evident that if such a recitation has to be finished before the rising of the sun, either the Hotṛi must commence his task soon after midnight when it is dark, or the duration of the dawn must then have been sufficiently long to enable the priest to finish the recitation in time after commencing to recite it on the first appearance of light on the horizon as directed. The first supposition is out of the question, as it is expressly laid down that the shastra, is not to be recited until the darkness of the night is relieved by light. So between the first appearance of light and the rise of the sun, there must have been, in those days, time enough to recite the long laudatory song of not lees than a thousand verses. Nay, in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ (II, 1, 10, 3) we are told that sometimes the recitation of the shastra though commenced at the proper time, ended long before sunrise, and in that case, the Saṁhitâ requires that a certain animal sacrifice should be performed. Ashvalâyana directs that in such a case the recitation should be continued up to sunrise by reciting other hymns (Ashv. S.S. VI, 5, 8); while Âpastamba (S.S. XIV, 1 and 2), after mentioning the sacrifice referred to in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, adds that all the ten Maṇḍalas of the Ṛig-Veda may be recited, if necessary, in such a case. (Ashv. S. S. VI, 5, 8. Âpastamba XIV, I & 2. The first of these two Sûtras is the reproduction of T. S. II, 1, 10, 3. )
It is evident from this that the actual rising of the sun above the horizon was a phenomenon often delayed beyond expectation, in those days and in several places in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, (II, 1, 2, 4 Cf. also T. S. II, 1, 4, 1)† we are told that the Devas had to perform a prâyaschitta because the sun did not shine as expected.
Another indication of the long duration of the dawn is furnished by the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, VIII 2. 20.
Seven oblations are here mentioned, one to Uṣhas one to Vyuṣhṭi one to Udeṣhyat, one to Udyat, one to Uditâ one to Suvarga and one to Loka. Five of these are evidently intended for the dawn in its five forms. The Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa (III, 8, 16, 4) explains the first two, viz., to Uṣhas and Vyuṣhṭi, as referring to dawn and sunrise, or rather to night and day, for according to the Brâhmaṇa “Uṣhas is night, and Vyuṣhṭi is day.” Tait. Br. III, 8, 16, 4.
But even though we may accept this as correct and we take Uṣhas and Vyuṣhṭi to be the representatives of night and day because the former signalizes the end of the night and the latter the beginning of the day, still we have to account for three oblations, viz. one to the dawn about to rise (Udeṣhyat,) one to the rising dawn (Udyat), and one to the dawn that has risen (Uditâ) the first two of which are according to the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, to be offered before the rising of the sun. Now the dawn in the tropical zone is so short that the three-fold distinction between the dawn that is about to rise, the dawn that is rising, and one that has risen or that is full-blown (vi-uṣhṭi) is a distinction without a difference. We must, therefore, hold that the dawn which admitted such manifold division for the practical purpose of sacrifice, was a long dawn.
The three-fold division of the dawn does not seem to be unknown to the poets of the Ṛig-Veda. For, in VIII, 41, 3, Varuṇa’s “dear ones are said to have prospered the three dawns for him,”* and by the phrase tisraḥ dânuchitrâḥ in I, 174, 7, “three dew-lighted” dawns appear to be referred to. There are other passages in the Ṛig-Veda† where the dawn is asked not to delay, or tarry long, lest it might be scorched liked a thief by the sun (V, 79, 9); and in II, 15, 6, the steeds of the dawn are said to be (slow) (ajavasaḥ), showing that the people were sometimes tired to see the dawn lingering long on the horizon. But a still more remarkable statement is found in I, 113, 13, where the poet distinctly asserts,‡ “the Goddess Uṣhas dawned continually or perpetually (shasvat) in former days (purâ);” and the adjective shashvat-tamâ (the most lasting) is applied to the dawn in I, 118, 11.
Again the very existence and use of two such words as uṣhas and vi-uṣhṭi is, by itself, a proof of the long duration of the dawn; for, if the dawn was brief, there was no practical necessity of speaking of the full-blown state (vi+uṣhṭi) of the dawn as has been done several times in the Ṛig-Veda. The expression, uṣhasah vi-uṣhṭau, occurs very often in the Ṛig-Veda and it has been translated by the phrase, on the flashing forth of the dawn.” But no one seems to have raised the question why two separate words, one of which is derived from the other simply by prefixing the preposition vi, should be used in this connection. Words are made to denote ideas and if uṣhas and vi-uṣhṭi were not required to denote two distinct phenomena, no one, especially in those early days, would have cared to use a phrase, which, for all ordinary purposes, was superfluously cumbrous. But these facts, howsoever suggestive, may not be regarded as conclusive and we shall, therefore, now turn to the more explicit passages in the hymns regarding the duration of the Vedic dawn.
The first verse I would quote in this connection is Ṛig-Veda I, 113, 10: — *
Kiyâti â yât samayâ bhavâti
yâ vyûṣhuryâshcha nunam vyuchhân
Anu pûrvâḥ kṛipate vâvashâna
pradidhyânâ joṣham anyâbhir eti
The first quarter of the verse is rather difficult. The words are kiyâti ā yat samayâ bhavâti, and Sâyaṇa, whom Wilson follows, understands samayâ to mean “near.” Prof, Max Müller translates samayâ (Gr. Omos, Lat, Simul,) by “together,” “at once” while Roth, Grassmann and Aufrecht take samayâ bhavâti as one expression meaning “that which intervenes between the two.” (See Petersberg Lexicon, and Grassmann’s Worterbuch, s. v. Samayâ; and Muir’s O. S. Texts, Vol. V, p. 189.)
This has given rise to three different translations of the verse: —
WILSON, (following Sâyaṇa): For how long a period is it that the dawns have arisen? For how long a period will they rise? Still desirous to bring us light, Uṣhas pursues the function of those that have gone before and shining brightly, proceeds with the others (that are to follow).
GRIFFITH, (following Max Müller): — How long a time and they shall be together, — Dawns that have shone and Dawns to shine hereafter? She yearns for former Dawns with eager longing and goes forth gladly shining with the others.
MUIR, (following Aufrecht): — How great is the interval that lies between the Dawns which have arisen and those which are yet to rise? Uṣhas yearns longingly after the former Dawns, and gladly goes on shining with the others (that are to come).
But in spite of those different renderings, the meaning of the verse, so far as the question before us is concerned, can be easily gathered. There are two sets of dawns, one of, those that have past, and the other of those that are yet to shine. If we adopt Wilson’s and Griffith’s translations, the meaning is that these two classes of dawns, taken together, occupy such a long period of time as to raise the question, — How long they will be together? In other words, the two classes of dawns, taken together, were of such a long duration that men began to question as to when they would terminate, or pass away. If, on the other hand, we adopt Aufrecht’s translation, a, long period appears to have intervened between the past and the coming dawns; or, in other words, there was a long break or hiatus in the regular sequence of these dawns. In the first case, the description is only possible if we suppose that the duration of the dawns was very long, much longer than what we see in the temperate or the tropical zone; while in the second, a long interval between the past and the present dawns must be taken to refer to a long pause, or night, occurring immediately before the second set of dawns commenced their new course, — a phenomenon which is possible only in the Arctic regions. Thus whichever interpretation we adopt — a long dawn, or a long night between the two sets of dawns, — the description is intelligible, only if we take it to refer to the Polar conditions previously mentioned. The Vedic passages, discussed hereafter, seem, however, to support Sâyaṇa’s or Max Müller’s view. A number of dawns is spoken of, some past and some yet to come: and the two groups are said to occupy a very long interval. That seems to be the real meaning of the verse. But without laying much stress on any particular meaning for the present, it is enough for our purpose to show that, even adopting Aufrecht’s rendering, we cannot escape from the necessity of making the description refer to the Polar conditions. The verse in question is the tenth in the hymn, and it may be noticed that in the 13th verse of the same hymn we are told that “in former days, perpetually ‘shashvat’ did the Goddess Uṣhas shine,” clearly indicating that the Dawn, in early days, lasted for a long time.
The following verse is, however, still more explicit, and decisive on the point. The seventh Maṇḍala of the Ṛig-Veda contains a number of dawn-hymns. In one of these (VII, 76), the poet, after stating in the first two verses that the Dawns have raised their banner on the horizon with their usual splendor, expressly tells us, (verse 3), that a period of several days elapsed between the first appearance of the dawn on the horizon and the actual rising of the sun that followed it. As the verse* is very important for our purpose, I give below the Pada text with an interlineal word for word translation: —
whichaforetimeon the uprisingof the sun
from whichaftertowards a loverlike, moving on
O Dawnwast seennotagain forsaking(woman), like
I have followed Sâyaṇa in splitting jâra-iva of Saṁhitâ text into jâre+iva, and not jâraḥ+iva as Shâkala has done in the Pada text; for jâre+iva makes the simile more appropriate than if we were to compare usḥas with jârah. Literally rendered the verse, therefore, means, “Verily, many were those days which were aforetime at the uprising of the sun, and about which, O Dawn! thou wast seen moving on, as towards a lover, and not like one (woman) who forsakes.” I take pari with yataḥ, meaning that the dawn goes after the days. Yataḥ pari, thus construed, means “after which,” or “about which.” Sâyaṇa takes pari with dadṛikṣhe and Griffith renders yataḥ by “since.” But these constructions do not materially alter the meaning of the second half of the verse, though taking pari with yataḥ enables us to take the second line as an adjectival clause, rendering the meaning more plain. In IV, 52, 1, the Dawn is said to shine after her sister (svasuḥ pari), and pari, with an ablative, does not necessarily denote “from” in every case but is used in various senses, as, for instance, in III, 5, 10, where the phrase Bhṛigubhyaḥ pari occurs, and is rendered by Grassmann as equivalent to “for the sake of Bhṛigus,” while Sâyaṇa paraphrases pari by paritaḥ “round about.” In the verse under consideration we can, therefore, take pari with yataḥ and understand the expression as meaning “after, about or around which (days).” It must also be borne in mind that there must be an expression to correspond with jâre in the simile and this we get only if we construe yataḥ pari in the way proposed above. If we now analyze the verse it will be found to be made up of three clauses, one principal and two adjectival. The principal statement asserts that those days were many. The demonstrative “those” (tâni) is them followed by two relative clauses, yâ prâchînam &c., and, yataḥ pari &c. The first of these states that the days referred to in the principal clause were those that “preceded the rising of the sun.”But if the days preceded the rising of the sun, one might think that they were pervaded with darkness. The poet, therefore, further adds, in the second relative clause, that though these days were anterior to the rising of the sun, yet they were such that “the Dawn was seen to move after or about them as after a loner, and not like a woman who forsakes.” In short, the verse states in unmistakable terms (1) that many days (bahulâni ahâni) passed between the appearance of the first morning beams and sunrise, and (2) that these days were faithfully attended by the Dawn, meaning that the whole period was one of continuous Dawn, which never vanished during the time. The words as they stand convey no other meaning but this, and we have now to see how far it is intelligible to us.
To the commentators the verse is a perfect puzzle. Thus Sâyaṇa does not understand how the word “days” (ahâni) can be applied to a period of time anterior to sunrise; for, says he, “The word day (ahaḥ) is used only to denote such a period of time as is invested with light of the Dawn.” Then, again he is obviously at a loss to understand how a number of days can be said to have elapsed between the first beams of the dawn and sunrise. These were serious difficulties for Sâyaṇa and the only way to get over them was to force an unnatural sense upon the words, and make them yield some intelligible meaning. This was no difficult task for Sâyaṇa. The word ahâni, which means “days,” was the only stumbling block in his way, and instead of taking it in the sense in which it is ordinarily used, without exception, everywhere in the Ṛig-Veda, he went back to its root-meaning, and interpreted it as equivalent to “light” or “splendor.”Ahan is derived from the root ah (or philologically dah), “to burn,” or “shine,” and Ahanâ meaning “dawn” is derived from the same root. Etymologically ahâni may, therefore, mean splendors; but the question is whether it is so used anywhere, and why we should here give up the ordinary meaning of the word. Sâyaṇa’s answer is given above. It is because the word “day” (ahan) can, according to him, be applied only to a period after sunrise and before sunset. But this reasoning is not sound, because in the Ṛig-Veda VI, 9, 1, ahaḥ is applied to the dark as well as to the bright period of time, for the verse says, “there is a dark day (ahaḥ) and a bright day (ahaḥ).” This shows that the Vedic poets were in the habit of using the word ahaḥ (day) to denote a period of time devoid of the light of the sun.*
Sâyaṇa knew this, and in his commentary on I, 185, 4, he expressly says that the word ahaḥ may include night. His real difficulty was different, viz., the impossibility of supposing that a period of several days could have elapsed between the first appearance of light and sunrise, and this difficulty seems to have been experienced even by Western scholars. Thus Prof. Ludwig materially adopts Sâyaṇa’s view and interprets the verse to mean that the splendors of the dawn were numerous, and that they appear either before sunrise, or, if prâchînam be differently interpreted “in the east” at the rising of the sun. Roth and Grassman seem to interpret prâchînam in the same way. Griffith translates ahâni by “mornings” and prâchînam by “aforetime.” His rendering of the verse runs thus: — “Great is, in truth, the number of the mornings, which were aforetime at the sun’s uprising; since thou, O Dawn, hast been beheld repairing as to thy love, as one no more to leave him.” But Griffith does not explain what he understands by the expression, “a number of mornings which were aforetime at the sun’s uprising.”
The case is, therefore, reduced to this. The word ahan, of which ahâni (days) is a plural form, can be ordinarily interpreted to mean (1) a period of time between sunrise and sunset; (2) a nycthemeron, as when we speak of 360 days of the year; or (3) a measure of time to mark a period of 24 hours, irrespective of the fact whether the sun is above or below the horizon, as when we speak of the long Arctic night of 30 days. Are we then to abandon all these meanings, and understand ahâni to mean “splendors” in the verse under consideration? The only difficulty is to account for the interval of many days between the appearance of the banner of the Dawn on the horizon and the emergence of the sun’s orb over it; and this difficulty vanishes if the description be taken to refer to the dawn in the Polar or Circum-Polar regions. That is the real key to the meaning of this and similar other passages which will be noted hereafter; and in its absence a number of artificial devices have been made use of to make these passages somehow intelligible to us. But now nothing of the kind is necessary. As regards the word “days” it has been observed that we often speak “a night of several days,” or a “night of several months” when describing the Polar phenomena. In expressions like these the word “day” or “month” simply denotes a measure of time equivalent to “twenty-four hours,” or “thirty days;” and there is nothing unusual in the exclamation of the Rig-Vedic poet that “many were the days between the first beams of the dawn and actual sunrise.” We have also seen that, at the Pole, it is quite possible to mark the periods of twenty-four hours by the rotations of the celestial sphere or the circum-polar stars, and these could be or rather must have been termed “days” by the inhabitants of the place. In the first chapter of the Old Testament we were told that God created the heaven and the earth and also light “on the first day,” while the sun was created on the fourth “to divide the day from the night and to rule ‘the day.” Here the word “day” is used to denote a period of time even before the sun was created; and a fortiori, there can be no impropriety in using it to denote a period of time before sunrise. We need not, therefore, affect a hypercritical spirit in examining the Vedic expression in question. If Sâyaṇa did it, it was because he did not know as much about the Polar regions as we now do. We have no such excuse and must, therefore, accept the meaning which follows from the natural construction and reading of the sentence.
It is therefore clear that the verse in question (VII, 76, 3) expressly describes a dawn continuously lasting for many days, which is possible only in the Arctic regions. I have discussed the passage at so much length because the history of its interpretation clearly shows how certain passages in the Ṛig-Veda, which are unintelligible to us in spite of their simple diction, have been treated by commentators, who know not what to make of them if read in a natural way. But to proceed with the subject in hand, we have seen that the Polar dawn could be divided into periods of 24 hours owing to the circuits it makes round the horizon. In such a case we can very well speak of these divisions as so many day-long dawns of 24 hours each and state that so many of them are past and so many are yet to come, as has been done in the verse (I, 113, 10) discussed above. We may also say that so many day-long dawns have passed and yet the sun has not risen, as in II, 28, 9, a verse addressed to Varuṇa wherein the poet asks for the following boon from the deity: —
Para ṛiṇâ sâvîr adha mat-kritâni
mâ aham râjan anya-kṛitena bhojam |
Avyuṣhṭâ in nu bhûyasîr uṣhâsa
â no jîvân Varuṇa tâsu shâdhi ||
Literally translated this means “Remove far the debts (sins) incurred by me. May I not, O King! be affected by others’ doings. Verily, many dawns (have) not fully (vi) flashed forth. O Varuṇa! direct that we may be alive during them.”*
The first part of this verse contains a prayer usually addressed to Gods, and we have nothing to say with respect to it, so far as the subject in hand is concerned. The only expression necessary to be discussed is bhûyasîḥ uṣhâsaḥavyuṣhṭâḥ in third quarter of the verse. The first two words present no difficulty. They mean “many dawns.” Now avyuṣhṭa is a negative participle from vyuṣhṭa, which again is derived from uṣhta with vi prefixed. I have referred to the distinction between uṣhas and vyuṣhṭi suggested by the threefold or the five-fold division of the dawn. Vyuṣhṭi, according to the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, means “day,” or rather “the flashing forth of the dawn into sunrise” and the worda+vi+uṣhṭa, therefore, means “not-fully-flashed-forth into sunrise.” But Sâyaṇa and others do not seem to have kept in view this distinction between the meanings of uṣhas and vyuṣhṭi; or if they did, they did not know or had not in their mind the phenomenon of the long continuous dawn in the Arctic regions, a dawn, that lasted for several day-long periods of time before the sun’s orb appeared on the horizon. The expression, bhûyasîḥ uṣhâsaḥ avyuṣhṭâḥ, which literally means “many dawns have not dawned, or fully flashed forth,” was therefore a riddle to these commentators. Every dawn, they saw, was followed by sunrise; and they could not, therefore, understand how “many dawns” could be described as “not-fully-flashed-forth.” An explanation was thus felt to be a necessity and this was obtained by converting, in sense, the past passive participle avyuṣhṭa into a future participle; and the expression in question was translated as meaning, “during the dawns (or days) that have not yet dawned “ or, in other words, “in days to come.” But the interpretation is on the face of it strained and artificial. If future days were intended, the idea could have been more easily and briefly expressed. The poet is evidently speaking of things present, and, taking vi-ushṭa to denote what it literally signifies, we can easily and naturally interpret the expression to mean that though many dawns, meaning many day-long portions of time during which the dawn lasted, have passed, yet it is not vyuṣhṭa, that is the sun’s orb has not yet emerged from below the horizon and that Varuṇa should protect the worshipper under the circumstances.
There are many other expressions in the Ṛig-Veda which further strengthen the same view. Thus corresponding to bhûyasîḥ in the above passage, we have the adjective pûrvîḥ (many) used in IV, 19, 8 and VI, 28, 1, to denote the number of dawns, evidently showing that numerically more than one dawn is intended. The dawns are again not un-frequently addressed in the plural number in the Ṛig-Veda, and the fact is well-known to all Vedic scholars. Thus in I, 92, which is a dawn-hymn, the bard opens his song with the characteristically emphatic exclamation “these (etâḥ) are those (tyâḥ) dawns (uṣhasaḥ), which have made their appearance on the horizon,” and the same expression again occurs in VII, 78, 3. Yâska explains the plural number uṣhasaḥ by considering it to be used only honorifically (Nirukta XII, 7); while Sâyaṇa interprets it as referring to the number of divinities that preside over the morn. The Western scholars have not made any improvement on these explanations and Prof. Max Müller is simply content with observing that the Vedic bards, when speaking of the dawn, did sometimes use the plural just as we would use the singular number! But a little reflection will show that neither of these explanations is satisfactory. If the plural is honorific why is it changed into singular only a few lines after in the same hymn? Surely the poet does not mean to address the Dawn respectfully only at the outset and then change his manner of address and assume a familiar tone. This is not however, the only objection to Yâska’s explanation. Various similes are used by the Vedic poets to describe the appearance of the dawns on the horizon and an examination of these similes will convince any one that the plural number, used in reference to the Dawn, cannot be merely honorific. Thus in the second line of I, 92, 1, the Dawns are compared to a number of “warriors” (dhṛiṣhṇavâḥ) and in the third verse of the same hymn they are likened to “women (nârîḥ) active in their occupations.” They are said to appear on the horizon like “waves of waters” (apâm na urmayaḥ) in VI, 64, 1, or like “pillars planted at a sacrifice” (adhvareṣhu svaravaḥ) in IV, 51, 2. We are again told that they work like “men arrayed” (visho na yuktaḥ), or advance like “troops of cattle” (gavam na sargâḥ) in VII, 79, 2, and IV, 51, 8, respectively. They are described as all “alike” (sadṛishiḥ) and are said to be of “one mind” (sañjânante), or “acting harmoniously” IV, 51, 6, and VII, 76, 5. In the last verse the poet again informs us that they “do not strive against each other” (mithaḥ na yatante), though they live jointly in the “same enclosure” (samâne urve). Finally in X, 88, 18, the poet distinctly asks the question, “How many fires, how many suns and how many dawns (uṣhâsaḥ) are there?” If the Dawn were addressed in plural simply out of respect for the deity, where was the necessity of informing us that they do not quarrel though collected in the same place? The expressions “waves of waters,” or “men arrayed” &c., are again too definite to be explained away as honorific. Sâyaṇa seems to have perceived this difficulty and has, probably for the same reason, proposed an explanation slightly different from that of Yâska. But, unfortunately, Sâyaṇa’s explanation does not solve the difficulty, as the question still remains why the deities presiding over the dawn should be more than one in number. The only other explanation put forward, so far as I know, is that the plural number refers to the dawns on successive days during the year, as we perceive them in the temperate or the tropical zone. On this theory there would be 360 dawns in a year, each followed by the rising of the sun every day. This explanation may appear plausible at the first sight. But on a closer examination t will be found that the expressions used in the hymns cannot be made to reconcile with this theory. For, if 360 dawns, all separated by intervals of 24 hours, were intended by the plural number used in the Vedic verses, no poet, with any propriety, would speak of them as he does in I, 92, 1, by using the double pronoun etâḥ and tyâḥ as if he was pointing out to a physical phenomenon before him; nor can we understand how 360 dawns, spread over the whole year, can be described as advancing like “men arrayed” for battle. It is again absurd to describe the 360 dawns of the year as being collected in the “same enclosure” and “not striving against or quarrelling with each other.” We are thus forced to the conclusion that the Ṛig-Veda speaks of a team or a group of dawns, unbroken or uninterrupted by sunlight, so that if we be so minded, we can regard them as constituting a single long continuous dawn. This is in perfect accord with the statement discussed above, viz., that many days passed between the first appearance of light on the horizon and the uprising of the sun (VII, 76, 3). We cannot, therefore, accept the explanation of consecutive dawns, nor that of Yâska, nor of Sâyaṇa regarding the use of the plural number in this case. The fact is that the Vedic dawn represents one long physical phenomenon which can be spoken of in plural by supposing it to be split up into smaller day-long portions. It is thus that we find Uṣhas addressed sometimes in the plural and sometimes in the singular number. There is no other explanation on which we can account for and explain the various descriptions of the dawn found in the different hymns.
But to clinch the matter, the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, IV, 3, 11, expressly states that the dawns are thirty sisters, or, in other words, they are thirty in number and that they go round and round in five groups, reaching the same appointed place and having the same banner for all. The whole of this Anuvâka may be said to be practically a dawn-hymn of 15 verses, which are used as Mantras for the laying down of certain emblematical bricks called the “dawn-bricks” on the sacrificial altar. There are sixteen such bricks to be placed on the altar, and the Anuvâka in question gives 15 Mantras, or verses, to be used on the occasion, the 16th being recorded elsewhere. These 15 verses, together with their Brâhmaṇa (T.S.V, 3, 4, 7), are so important for our purpose, that I have appended to this chapter the original passages, with their translation, comparing the version in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ with that of the Atharva-Veda, in the case of those verses which are found in the latter. The first verse of the section or the Anuvâka, is used for laying down the first dawn-brick and it speaks only of a single dawn first appearing on the horizon. In the second verse we have, however, a couple of dawns mentioned as “dwelling in the same abode.” A third dawn is, spoken in the third verse, followed by the fourth and the fifth dawn. The five dawns are then said to have five sisters each, exclusive of themselves, thus raising the total number of dawns to thirty. These “thirty sisters” (triṁhshat svasâraḥ) are then described as “going round” (pari yanti) in groups of six each, keeping up to the same goal (niṣhkṛitam). Two verses later on, the worshipper asks that he and his follower should be blessed with the same concord as is observed amongst these dawns. We are then told that one of these five principal dawns is the child of Rita, the second upholds the greatness of Waters the third moves in the region of Sûrya, the fourth in that of Fire or Gharma, and the fifth is ruled by Savitṛi, evidently showing that the dawns are not the dawns of consecutive days. The last verse of the Anuvâka sums up the description by stating that the dawn, though it shines forth in various forms, is but one in reality. Throughout the whole Anuvâka there is no mention of the rising of the sun or the appearance of sunlight, and the Brâhmaṇa makes the point clear by stating, “There was a time, when all this was neither day nor night, being in an undistinguishable state. It was then that the Gods perceived these dawns and laid them down, then there was light; therefore, it brightens to him and destroys his darkness for whom these (dawn-bricks) are placed.” The object of this passage is to explain how and why the dawn-bricks came to be laid down with these Mantras, and it gives the ancient story of thirty dawns being perceived by the Gods, not on consecutive days, but during the period of time when it was neither night nor day. This, joined with the express statement at the end of the Anuvâka that in reality it is but one dawn, is sufficient to prove that the thirty dawns mentioned in theAnuvâka were continuous and not consecutive. But, if a still more explicit authority be needed it will be found in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, II, 5, 6, 5. This is an old Mantra, and not a portion of the explanatory Brâhmaṇa, and is, therefore, as good an authority as, any of the verses quoted above. It is addressed to the dawns and means, “These very Dawns are those that first shone forth, the Goddesses make five forms; eternal (shashvatîḥ), (they) are not separated (na avapṛijyanti), nor do (they) terminate (na gamanti antam).”* The “five forms” here referred to correspond with the division of 30 dawns into 5 groups of 6 each, made in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, after the manner of sacrificial ṣhaḷ-ahas, or groups of six days; and we are expressly told that the dawns, which make these 5 forms, are continuous, unseparated, or uninterrupted. In the Ṛig-Veda I, 152, 4, the garment of the lover of the dawns (lit. the maidens, kanînâm jâram) is described as “inseparable” and “wide” (an-avapṛigṇa and vitata), and reading this in the light of the aforesaid Mantra from the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa we are led to conclude that in the Ṛig-Veda itself the dawny garment of the sun, or the garment, which the dawns, as mothers, weave for him (cf. V, 47, 6 ), is considered as “wide” and “continuous.” Translated into common language this means that the dawn described in the Ṛig-Veda was a long and continuous phenomenon. In the Atharva-Veda (VII, 22, 2) the dawns are described as sachetasaḥ and samîchîḥ, which means that they are “harmonious” and “walk together” and not separately. The first expression is found in the Ṛig-Veda, but not the second, though it could be easily inferred, from the fact that the dawns are there described as “collected in the same enclosure.” Griffith renders samîchîḥ by “a closely gathered band” and translates the verse thus: — “The Bright one hath sent forth the Dawns, a closely gathered band, immaculate, unanimous, brightly refulgent in their homes.”† (* Taitt. Br. II, 5, 6, 5.† Ath. Veda, VII, 22, 2. )
Here all the adjectives of the dawns clearly indicate a group of undivided dawns acting harmoniously; and yet strange to say Griffith, who translates correctly misses the spirit altogether. We have thus sufficient direct authority for holding that it is a “team,” or in Griffith’s words, “a closely gathered band” of thirty continuous dawns that is described in the Vedic hymns, and not the evanescent dawn of the temperate or the tropical zone, either single or as a series of consecutive dawns.
It is interesting to examine how Sâyaṇa explains the existence of as many as thirty dawns, before we proceed to other authorities. In his commentary on the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ IV, 3, 11, he tells us that the first dawn spoken of in the first verse in the Anuvâka, is the dawn at the beginning of the creation, when everything was undistinguishable according to the Brâhmaṇa. The second dawn in the second verse is said to be the ordinary dawn that we see every day. So far it was all right; but the number of dawns soon outgrew the number of the kinds of dawn known to Sâyaṇa. The third, fourth and fifth verses of the Anuvâka describe three more dawns, and Sâyaṇa was at last forced to explain that though the dawn was one yet by its Yogic or occult powers it assumed these various shapes! But the five dawns multiplied into thirty sisters in the next verse, and Sâyaṇa finally adopted the explanation that thirty separate dawns represented the thirty consecutive dawns of one month. But why only thirty dawns of one month out of 360 dawns of a year should thus be selected in these Mantras is nowhere explained. The explanations, besides being mutually inconsistent, again conflict with the last verse in the Anuvâka with the Brâhmaṇa or the explanation given in the Saṁhitâ itself, and with the passage from the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa quoted above. But Sâyaṇa was writing under a firm belief that the Vedic dawn was the same as he and other Vedic scholars like Yâska perceived it in the tropical zone; and the wonder is, not that he has given us so many contradictory explanations, but that he has been able to suggest so many apparently plausible explanations as the exigencies of the different Mantras required. In the light of advancing knowledge about the nature of the dawn at the North Pole, and the existence of man on earth before the last Glacial epoch We should, therefore, have no hesitation in accepting more intelligible and rationalistic view of the different passages descriptive of the dawns in the Vedic literature. We are sure Sâyaṇa himself would have welcomed a theory more comprehensive and reasonable than any advanced by him, if the same could have been suggested to him in his own day. Jyotish or astronomy has always been considered to be the “eye of the Veda,” (Cf. Shikṣhâ, 41-42.)
and as with the aid of the telescope this eye now commands a wider range than previously, it will be our own fault if we fail to utilize the knowledge so gained to elucidate those portions of our sacred books which are still unintelligible.
But to proceed with the subject, it may be urged that it is only the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ that gives us the number of the dawns, and that it would not be proper to mix up these statements with the statements contained in the hymns of the Ṛig-Veda, and draw a conclusion from both taken together. The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ treats of sacrificial rites and the Mantras relating to the dawn-bricks may not be regarded as being originally connected. The fact that only some-of these are found in the Atharva-Veda Saṁhitâ, might lend some support to this view. But a critical study of the Anuvâka, will remove all these doubts. The “thirty sisters” are not mentioned one by one, leaving it to the hearer, or the reader, to make up the total, and ascertain the final number for himself. The sixth verse in the Anuvâka expressly mentions “the thirty sisters” and is, by itself, sufficient to prove that in ancient days the number of dawns was considered to be thirty. But if an authority from the Ṛig-Veda be still needed, we have it in VI, 59, 6, where Dawn is described as having traversed “thirty steps” (triṁshat padâni akramît).†
This statement has, as yet, remained unexplained. “A single dawn traversing thirty steps” is but a paraphrase of the statement that “dawns are thirty sisters, keeping to the same goal in their circuits.” Another verse which has not yet been satisfactorily explained is the Ṛig-Veda I, 123, 8. It says “The dawns, alike today and alike tomorrow, dwell long in the abode of Varuṇa. Blameless, they forthwith go round (pari yanti) thirty yojanas; each its destined course (kratum).”*
The first half of the verse presents no difficulty. In the second we are told that the dawns go round thirty yojanas, each following its own “plan,” which is the meaning of kratu, according to the Petersberg Lexicon. But the phrase “thirty yojanas” has not been as yet satisfactorily explained. Griffith following M. Bergaigne understands it to mean thirty regions or spaces, indicating the whole universe; but there is no authority for this meaning. Sâyaṇa, whom Wilsonfollows, gives an elaborate astronomical explanation. He says that the sun’s rays precede his rising and are visible when the sun is below the horizon by thirty yojanas, or; in other words, the dawn is in advance of the sun by that distance. When dawns are, therefore, said to traverse thirty yojanas, Sâyaṇa understands by it the astronomical phenomenon of the dawn illumining a space of thirty yojanas in advance of the sun, and, that when the dawn, at one place, is over, it is to be found in another place, occupying a space of thirty yojanas in that place. The explanation is very ingenious; and Sâyaṇa also adds that the dawns are spoken of in the plural number in the verse under consideration, because the dawns at different places on the surface of the earth, brought on by the daily motion of the sun, are intended. But unfortunately the explanation cannot stand scientific scrutiny. Sâyaṇa says that the sun travels 5,059 yojanas round the Meru in 24 hours; and as Meru means the earth and the circumference of the earth is now known to be about 24,377 miles, a yojana would be about 4.9, or in round number, about 5 miles. Thirty such yojanas will, therefore, be 150 miles; while the first beams of the dawn greet us on the horizon when the sun is not less than 16º below the horizon. Taking one degree equal to 60 miles, 16º would mean 960 miles, a distance far in excess of the thirty yojanas of Sâyaṇa. Another objection to Sâyaṇa’s explanation is that the Vedic bard is evidently speaking of a phenomenon present before him, and not mentally following the astronomical dawns at different places produced by the daily rotation of the earth on its axis. The explanation is again inapplicable to “thirty steps (padâni)” of the dawn expressly mentioned in VI, 59, 6. Therefore, the only alternative left is, to take the phrases “thirty yojanas,” “thirty sisters,” and “thirty steps” as different versions of one and the same fact, viz., the circuits of the dawn along the Polar horizon. The phrase “each its destined course” also becomes intelligible in this case, for though thirty dawns complete thirty rounds, each may well be described as following its own definite course. The words pari yanti in the text literally apply to a circular (pari) motion, (cf. the words pari-ukṣhaṇam, paristaraṇam, &c.); and the same term is used in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ with reference to “thirty sisters.” The word yojana primarily means “a chariot” (VIII, 72, 6) and then it came to denote “distance to be accomplished with unharnessing the horses,” or what we, in the vernacular, call a “ṭappâ.” Now this ṭappâ, or “the journey to be accomplished without unharnessing the horse,” may be a day’s journey and Prof. Max Müller has in one place interpreted the yojana in this way. (See T. B. E. Series, Vol. XXXII, pp. 177 and 325. )
In V, 54, 5, the Maruts are said “to have extended their greatness as far as the sun extends his daily course,” and the word in the original for “daily course” is yojanum. Accepting this meaning, we can interpret the expression “the dawns forth with go round (pari yanti) thirty yojanas” to mean that the dawns complete thirty daily rounds as at the North Pole. That circular motion is here intended is further evident from 111, 61, 3, which says, in distinct terms, “Wending towards the same goal (samânam artham), O Newly-born (Dawn)! turn on like a wheel (ckakramiva â vavṛitsva).”*
Although the word navyasi (newly-born) is here in the vocative case, yet the meaning is that the dawn, ever anew or becoming new every day, revolves like a wheel. Now a wheel may either move in a perpendicular plane, like the wheel of a chariot, or in a horizontal plane like the potter’s wheel. But the first of these two motions cannot be predicated of the dawn anywhere on the surface of the earth. The light of the morning is, everywhere, confined to the horizon, as described in the Ṛig-Veda, VII, 80, 1, which speaks of the dawns as “unrolling the two rajasî, which border on each other (samante), and revealing all things.”†
No dawn, whether in the rigid, the temperate, or the tropical zone can, therefore, be seen traveling, like the sun, from east to west, over the head of the observer in a perpendicular plane. The only possible wheel-like motion is, therefore, along the horizon and this can be witnessed only in regions near the Pole. A dawn in the temperate or the tropical zone is visible only for a short time on the eastern horizon and is swallowed up, in the same place by the rays of the rising sun. It is only in the Polar regions that we see the morning lights revolving along the horizon for some day-long periods of time, and if the wheel-like motion of the dawn, mentioned in III, 61, 3, has any meaning at all, we must take it to refer to the revolving splendors of the dawn in the Arctic regions previously described. The expressions “reaching the appointed place (niṣh-kṛitam) day by day” (I, 123, 9), and “wending ever and ever to the same goal” (111, 61, 3) are also ill-suited to describe the dawn in latitudes below the Arctic circle, but if we take these expressions to refer to the Polar dawn they become not only intelligible, but peculiarly appropriate, as such a dawn in its daily circuits must come to the point from which it started every twenty-four hours. All these passages taken together, therefore, point only to one conclusion and that is that both the Ṛig-Veda and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ describe a long and continuous dawn divided into thirty dawn-days, or periods of twenty four hours each, a characteristic found only in the Polar dawn.
There are a number of other passages where the dawn is spoken of in the plural, especially in the case of matutinal deities, who are said to follow or come after not a single dawn but dawns in the plural (I, 6, 3; I, 180, 1; V, 76, 1; VII, 9, 1; VII, 63, 3). These passages have been hitherto understood as describing the appearance of the deities after the consecutive dawns of the year. But now a new light is thrown upon them by the conclusion established above from the examination of the different passages about the dawn in the Ṛig-Veda, the Taittirîya and the Atharva Veda Saṁhitâ. It may, however, be mentioned that I do not mean to say that in the whole of the Ṛig-Veda not a single reference can be found to the dawn of the tropical or the temperate zone. The Veda which mentions a year of 360 days is sure to mention the evanescent dawn which accompanies these days in regions to the south of the Arctic circle. A greater part of the description of the dawn is again of such a character that we can apply it either to the long Polar dawn, or to the short-lived dawn of the tropics. Thus both may be said to awaken every living being (I, 92, 9,) or disclose the treasures concealed by darkness (I, 123, 4). Similarly when dawns of different days are said to depart and come, a new sister succeeding each day to the sister previously vanished (I, 124, 9), we my either suppose that the consecutive dawns of different days are intended, or that a number of day-long dawns, which succeed one another after every 24 hours at the Pole, were in the mind of the poet. These passages do not, therefore, in any way affect the conclusion we have arrived at above by the consideration of the special characteristics of the dawns mentioned in the hymns. What we mean to prove is that Uṣhas, or the Goddess of the first appearance of which formed the subject of so many beautiful hymns in the Vedic literature, is not the evanescent dawn of the tropics but the long continuous and revolving dawn of the pole; and if we have succeeded in proving this from the passages discussed above, it matters little if a pass age or more are found elsewhere in the Ṛig-Veda, describing the ordinary tropical dawn. The Vedic Ṛiṣhis who sang the present hymns, must have been familiar with the tropical dawn if they now and then added a 13th month to secure the correspondence of the lunar and the solar year. But the deity of the Dawn was an ancient deity, the attributes of which had become known to the Ṛiṣhis by orally preserved traditions, about the primeval home; and the dawn-hymns, as we now possess them, faithfully describe these characteristics. How these old characteristics of the Goddess of Dawn were preserved for centuries is a question to which I shall revert after examining the whole of the Vedic evidence bearing on the Polar theory. For the present we may assume that these reminiscences of the old home were preserved much in the same way as we have preserved the hymns, accent for accent and letter for letter, for the last three or four thousand years.
It will be seen from foregoing discussion that if the dawn-hymns in the Ṛig-Veda be read and studied in the light of modern scientific discoveries and with the aid of passages in the Atharva Veda and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and Brâhmaṇa they clearly establish the following results:
(1) The Rig-Vedic dawn was so long that several days elapsed between the first appearance of light on the horizon and the sunrise which followed it, (VII, 76, 3); or, as described in 11, 28, 9, many dawns appeared one after another before they ripened into sunrise.
(2) The Dawn was addressed in the plural number not honorifically, nor as representing the consecutive dawns of the Year, but because it was made up of thirty parts (I; 123, 8; VI, 59, 6; T.S., IV, 3, 11, 6).
(3) Many dawns lived in the same place, acted harmoniously and never quarreled with each other, IV, 51, 7-9; VII, 76, 5; A.V. VII, 22, 2).
(4) The thirty parts of the dawn were continuous and inseparable, forming “a closely gathered band,” or “a group of dawns,” (I, 152, 4; T. Br. II, 5, 6, 5; A.V. VII, 22, 2).
(5) These thirty dawns, or thirty parts of one dawn revolved round and round like a wheel, reaching the same goal every day, each dawn or part following its own destined course, (I, 123, 8, 9; III, 61, 3; T.S. IV, 3, 11, 6).
These characteristics it is needless to say are possessed only by the dawn at or near the Pole. The last or the fifth especially is to be found only in lands very near the North Pole and not everywhere in the Arctic regions. We may, therefore, safely conclude that the Vedic Goddess of Dawn is Polar in origin. But it may be urged that while the Polar-dawn lasts from 45 to 60 days, the Vedic dawn is described only as made up of thirty day-long parts, and that the discrepancy must be accounted for before we accept the conclusion that the Vedic dawn is Polar in character. The discrepancy is not, however, a serious one. We have seen that the duration of the dawn depends upon the powers of refraction and reflection of the atmosphere; and that these again vary according to the temperature of the place, or other meteorological conditions. It is, therefore, not unlikely that the duration of the dawn at the Pole, when the climate there was mild and genial, might be somewhat shorter than what we may expect it to be at present when the climate is severely cold. It is more probable, however, that the dawn described in the Ṛig-Veda is not exactly such a dawn as may be seen by an observer stationed precisely at the North Pole. As observed previously, the North Pole is a point, and if men lived near the Pole in early days, they must have lived somewhat to the south of this point. Within this tract it is quite possible to have 30 day-long dawns revolving, like a wheel, after the long Arctic night of four or five months; and, so far as astronomy is concerned, there is, therefore, nothing improbable in the description of the Dawn found in the Vedic literature. We must also bear in mind that the Vedic Dawn often tarried longer on the horizon, and the worshippers asked her not to delay lest the sun might search her like an enemy (V, 79, 9). This shows that though 30 days was the usual duration of the Dawn it was sometimes exceeded, and people grew impatient to see the light of the sun. It was in cases likes these, that Indra, the God who created the dawns and was their friend, was obliged to break the car of the dawn and bring the sun above the horizon (II, 15, 6; X, 73, 6).*
There are other places in which the same legend is referred to (IV, 30, 8), and the obscuration of the Dawn by a thunderstorm is, at present, supposed to be the basis of this myth. But the explanation, like others of its kind, is on the face of it unsatisfactory. That a thunderstorm should occur just at the time of the dawn would be a mere accident, and it is improbable that it could have been made the basis of a legend. Again, it is not the obscuration, but the delaying of the Dawn, or its tarrying longer on the horizon than usual, that is referred to in the legend, and we can better account for it on the Polar theory, because the duration of dawn, though usually of 30 days, might have varied at different places according to latitude and climatic conditions, and Indra’s bolt was thus needed to check these freaks of the Dawn and make way for the rising sun. There are other legends connected with the Dawn and the matutinal deities on which the Polar theory throws quite a new light; but these will be taken up in the chapter on Vedic myths, after the whole direct evidence in support of the theory is examined.
But if the Vedic dawn is Polar in origin, the ancestors of the Vedic bards must have witnessed it, not in. the Post-Glacial, but in the Pre-Glacial era; and it may be finally asked why a reference to this early age is not found in the hymns before us? Fortunately the hymns do preserve a few indications of the time when these long dawns appeared. Thus, in I, 113, 13, we are told that the Goddess Dawn shone perpetually in former days (purâ) and here the word purâdoes not mean the foregone days of this kalpa, but rather refers to a by-gone age, or purâ kalpa as in the passage from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ (I, 5, 7, 5 ), quoted and discussed in the next chapter. The word prathamâ, in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, IV, 3, 11, 1 and the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, II, 5, 6, 5, does not again mean simply “first in order,” but refers to “ancient times,” as when Indra’s “first” or “oldest” exploits are mentioned in 1, 32, 1, or when certain practices are said to be “first” or “old” in X, 90, 16. It is probable that it was this import of the word prathamâ that led Sâyaṇa to propose that the first dawn, mentioned in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ IV, 3, 11, represented the dawn at the beginning of the creation. The Vedic poets could not but have been conscious that the Mantras they used to lay down the dawn-bricks were inapplicable to the dawn as they saw it, and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ (V, 3, 4, 7), which explains the Mantras, clearly states that this story or the description of the dawns is a tradition of old times when the Gods perceived the thirty dawns. It is not, therefore, correct to say that there are no references in the Vedic hymns to the time when these long dawns were visible. We shall revert to the point later on, when further evidence on the subject will be noticed and discussed. The object of the present chapter was to examine the duration of the Vedic dawn, the Goddess of the morning, the subject of so many beautiful hymns in the Ṛig-Veda, and to show that the deity is invested with Polar characteristics. The evidence in support of this view has been fully discussed; and we shall, therefore, now take up the other Polar and Circum-Polar tests previously mentioned, anti see whether we can find out further evidence from the Ṛig-Veda to strengthen our conclusions.
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER V
THE THIRTY DAWNS
The following are the passages from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ referred to on page 90: —
TRANSLATION AND NOTES
Taitt. Saṁhitâ IV. 3, 11
1. This verily, is She that dawned first; (she) moves entered into her (i.e. above the horizon). The bride, the new-come mother, is born. The three great ones follow her.
She that dawned first: evidently meaning the first of a series of thirty dawns, mentioned in the following verses. In verse 13 we are told that it is the dawn which commences the year. The thirty dawns are, therefore, the dawns at the beginning of the year, and the first of them is mentioned in the first verse. Sâyaṇa, however, says that the dawn at the beginning of the creation is here intended. But the explanation does not suit the context, and Sâyaṇa has himself given different explanations afterwards.
Entered into her: according to Sâyaṇa asyâm (into her) means “into the earth;” compare Ṛig. III, 61, 7, where the sun, the speeder of the dawns, is said to have “entered into the mighty earth and heaven.” According to A.V. reading the meaning, would be “entered into the other (dawns),” showing that the first dawn is a member of a larger group.
The three great ones: Sûrya, Vâyu and Agni according to Sâyaṇa. The three typical deities or Devatâs mentioned by Yâska (VII, 5) are Agni, Vâyu or Indra, and Sûrya. In Rig VII, 33, 7, the three Gharmas (fires) are said to attend the dawn, (trayo Gharmâsa ushasam sachante); and in VII, 7, 8, 3, the dawns are said to have created Sûrya, Yajña (Sacrifice) and Agni. Also compare A. V. IX, 1, 8, and Bloomfield’s note thereon in S. B. E. Series, Vol. XLII, p. 590. Though the three may be variously named, the reference is evidently to the rise of the sun and the commencement of sacrifices or the kindling of sacrificial fires after the first dawn (Cf. Ṛig. I, 113, 9).
2. Possessed of song, decorating (themselves), and moving together in a common abode, the Two Dawns, the (two wives of the sun, unwasting, rich in seed, move about displaying their banner and knowing well (their way).
Possessed of songs: Sâyaṇa thus interprets chchandas-vatî; but the Pet. Lex. translates the word by “lovely.” I have followed Sâyaṇa because the A.V. reading chchandas-pakṣhe, “having chchandas for the two wings,” supports Sâyaṇa’s meaning. That the morning atmosphere resounded with the recitation of hymns and songs may be seen, amongst others, from Ṛig. III, 61, 1 and 6. The phrase madye-chchandasaḥ in verse 6 below, denotes the same idea. But the word chchandas may perhaps be understood to mean “shine” in all these places; Cf. Ṛig. VIII, 7, 36, where the phrase, chchando na sûro archiṣhâ is translated by Max Müller to mean “like the shine by the splendor of the sun,” (See S. B. E. Series, Vol. XXXII, pp. 393, 399)
Decorating, moving together-in the same place, gives of the sun, un-wasting etc.: These and others are the usual epithets of the Dawn found in the Ṛig-Veda, Cf. Ṛig. I, 92, 4; VII, 76, 5; IV, 5, 13; I, 113, 13.
The Two Dawns: Uṣhasâ does not here mean Uṣhâsâ-naktâ or “Day and Night,” as supposed by Mr. Griffith, but denotes two dawns as such, the third, the fourth &c. being mentioned in the following verses. Sâyaṇa says that the first dawn is the dawn which appeared at the beginning of the creation and the second the diurnal one, as we see it. But Sâyaṇa had to abandon this explanation later on. The couple of Dawns obviously includes the first Dawn mentioned in the first verse, which, with its successor, now forms a couple. Since groups of two, three, five or thirty dawns are mentioned as moving together, they cannot be the dawns of consecutive days, that is, separated by sunlight, as with us in the tropical or the temperate zone.
3. The Three Maidens have come along the path of Rita; the three fires (Gharmas) with light, have followed. One (of these maidens) protects the progeny, one the vigor, and one the ordinance of the pious.
The Three Maidens: the number of Dawns is now increased to three; but Sâyaṇa gives no explanation of the number.
4. The Fourth: Sâyaṇa now says that the single Deity of Dawn appears as many different dawns through yogic powers!
4. That, which (was) the Fourth, acting as Ṛiṣhis, the two wings of the sacrifice, has become the four-fold Stoma (Chatu-ṣhṭoma). Using Gâyatri, Triṣhṭup, Jagatî, Anuṣhṭup the great song, they brought this light
Acting as Ṛiṣhis ... four fold stoma: The group of four Dawns appears to be here compared to the Chatu-ṣhṭoma or the four-fold song. (For a description of the four-fold Stoma see Ait. Br. III, 42, Haug’s Trans. p. 237). Gâyatrî &c are the metres used. The light brought on by the Dawns is the reward of this stoma. Sâyaṇa interprets suvas to mean “heaven” but compare Ṛig. III, 61, 4, where the adjective, svear jananâ, “creating light,” is applied to the Dawn.
Did it with the Five: after the number of Dawns was increased to five, the creation proceeded by fives; compare verse 11 below.
Their five courses: I construe tâsâm pañcha kratavaḥ prayaveṅa yanti. Sâyaṇa understands kratavaḥ to mean sacrificial rites performed on the appearance of the dawn; but compare Ṛig. I, 123, 8 which says “The blameless Dawns (plu.) go round thirty yojanas each her own kratu (destined course),” (supra p. 103) kratavaḥ in the present verse must be similarly interpreted.
In combination: We have thirty Dawns divided into five groups of six each; compare Taitt. Br. II, 5, 6, 5 quoted above (p. 100), which says tâ devyaḥ kurvate paṇcha rûpâ “the Goddesses (Dawns) make five forms.” Five groups of thirty Dawns, each group having its own destined course are here described; but as each group is made of six Dawns, the five courses are again said to assume different forms, meaning that the members of each group have again their own courses Within the larger course chalked out for the groups.
5. The creator did it with the Five, that he created five-and-five sisters to them (each). Their five courses (kratavaḥ), assuming various forms, move on in combination (prayavena)
6. The Thirty Sisters, bearing the same banner, move on to the appointed place (niṣh-kṛitam). They, the wise, create the seasons. Refulgent, knowing (their way), they go round (pari yanti) amidst-songs (madhye-chchandasaḥ).
Thirty Sisters: Sâyaṇa in his commentary on the preceding verse says that the thirty Dawns mentioned are the thirty dawns of a month. But Sâyaṇa does not explain why one month out of twelve, or only 30 out of 360 dawns should be thus selected. The explanation is again unsuited to the context, (See supra p. 101 and T.S.V. 3, 4, 7, quoted below.) The Dawns are called sisters also in the Ṛig-Veda, (Cf. I, 124, 8 and 9).
Appointed place: niṣh kṛitam (Nir. XII, 7), used in reference to the course of the Dawns also in Ṛig. I, 123, 9. It is appropriate only if the Dawns returned to the same point in their daily rounds, (See supra p. 106).
Go round amidst-songs: pari yanti, “go round” is also the phrase used in Ṛig. I, 123, 8 Madhye chchandasaḥ is interpreted by Sâyaṇa to mean “about the sun, which is always surrounded by songs.” But we need not go so far, forMadhye chchandasaḥ may be more simply taken to mean “amidst-songs” that are usually sung at the dawn (Ṛig. VII, 80, 1).
7. Through the sky, the illumined Goddess of Night accepts the ordinances of the sun. The cattle, of various forms, (begin to) look up as they rise on the lap of the mother.
Through the sky: I take nabhas as an accusative of space. Sâyaṇa appears to take it as an adjective equivalent to nabhasthasya and qualifying sûryasya. In either case the meaning is the same, viz. that the night was gradually changing into day-light.
The cattle: morning rays or splendors usually spoken of as cows. In Ṛig. I, 92, 12, the Dawn is described as spreading cattle (pashûn) before her; and in I, 124, 5, we are told that she fills the lap of both parents heaven and earth. I construe, with Sâyaṇa, nânâ-rûpa pashavaḥ vi pashyanti, taking vi pashyanti intransitively, and nânâ-rûpa as an adjective. The same phrase is found used in reference to a woman’s children in the Atharva Veda, XIV, 2, 25. For the intransitative use of vi pushyanti, See Ṛig. X, 725, 4.
8. The Ekâṣhṭakâ, glowing with holy fervor (tapas), gave birth to a child, the great Indra. Through him the Gods have subdued their enemies; by his powers (he) has become the slayer of the Asuras.
The Ekâṣhṭaka: The birth of Indra is evidently the birth of the sun after the expiry of thirty dawns. Sâyaṇa, quoting Âpasthamba Gṛihya Sutra (VIII, 21, 10), interprets Ekâṣhṭakâ to mean the 8th day of the dark half of the month of Mâgha (January-February); and in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, VII, 4, 8, quoted and explained by me in Chapter III of Orion, it seems to have same meaning, (See Orion p. 45), Ekâṣhṭakâ was the first day, or the consort, of the Year, when the sun turned towards the north from the winter solstice; and the commencement of all annual sattras is therefore, directed to be made on the Ekâṣhṭakâ day. This meaning was, however, settled when the vernal equinox had receded from the asterism of Mṛiga (Orion) to that of the Kṛittikâs (Pleiades). But in earlier days Ekâṣhṭakâ seems to have meant the last of the dawns which preceded the rise of the sun after the long darkness, andthus commenced the year, which began with the period of sunshine; the word eka in Ekâṣhṭakâ perhaps denotes the first month, the last dawn probably falling on the 8th day of the first lunar month of the year.
9. You have made a companion (lit. the after-born) for me, who was (before) without a companion. Truth-teller (as thou art), I desire this, that I may have his good will, just as you do not transgress each the other.
A companion for me: that is, Indra or the sun, whose birth is mentioned in the previous verse; and the poet now prays that his new friend, the after-born follower or companion, should be favorable to him. It should be noted that the birth of the sun is described after the lapse of thirty dawns, during which the poet had no companion.
Truth-teller: Sâyaṇa seems to take satyam vadantî as a vocative plural; but it is not in strict accordance with grammar. In the pada text, it is evidently a feminine form of nom. sing., and I have translated accordingly, though not without some difficulty. In Ṛig. III, 61, 2, the dawn is called sûnṛitâ îrayantî which expresses the same idea.
Just as you do not transgress each the other: compare the Ṛig-Veda VII, 76, 5, where we are told that the Dawns, though collected in the same place, do not strive against or quarrel with each other.
10. The All-knowing has my good will, has got a hold (on it), has secured a place (therein). May I have his good will just as you do not transgress each the other.
The All-knowing: Sâyaṇa takes Vishva-Vedâḥ to mean the Dawn; but it obviously refers to the companion (anujâm) mentioned in the preceding verse. The worshipper asks for a reciprocity of good will. The All-knowing (Indra) has his good will; let him, he prays, have now the All-knowing’s good will. The adjective vishva vedâḥ is applied in the Ṛig-Veda to Indra or Agni several times, Cf. Ṛig. VI, 47, 12; I, 147, 3.
11. Five milkings answer to the five dawns; the five seasons to the five-named cow. The five sky-regions, made by the fifteen, have a common head, directed to one world.
Five milkings: Sâyaṇa refers to Taitt. Brâh. II, 2, 9, 6-9, where darkness, light, the two twilights, and day are said to be the five milkings (dohâḥ) of Prajâpati. The idea seems to be that all the five-fold groups in the creation proceeded from the five-fold dawn-groups.
Five-caned Cow: the earth, according to Sâyaṇa, who says that the earth has five different names in the five seasons, e. g. pushpa-vati (blossomy) in Vasanta (spring), tâpa-vatî (heated) in Grîṣhma (Summer), vṛiṣhṭi-vatî(showery) in Varṣhâ (Rains), jala-prasâda-vatî (clear-watered) in Sharad (Autumn), and shaitya-vatî (cold) in Hemanta-Shishira (Winter). The seasons are taken as five by combining Hemanta and Shishira into one.
The fifteen: The fifteen-fold Stoma, called pañcha-dasha, (See Haug’s Trans. Ait. Br. p. 238
12. The first dawn (is) the child Rita, one upholds the greatness of Waters, one moves in the regions of Sûrya, one (in those) of Gharma (fire), and Savitṛi rules one.
13. That, which dawned first, has become a cow in Yama’s realm. Rich in milk, may she milk for us each succeeding year.
Each succeeding year: This shows that the dawn here described is the first dawn of the year. In Ṛig. I, 33, 10, light (cows) is said to be milked from darkness
14. The chief of the bright, the omniform, the brindled, the fire-bannered has come, with light, in the sky. Working well towards a common goal, bearing (signs of) old age, (yet) O unwasting! O Dawn! thou hast come.
Working-well towards a common goal: compare Ṛig. III, 61, 3, where, the Dawn “wending to one and the same goal” is asked to “turn on like a wheel.”
Bearing (signs of) old age: I construe jarâm bibhratî and yet ajare. Sâyaṇa takes svapasya-rnânâ (working well) as an independent adjective; and connects bibhratî with artham, and jarâm with âgâḥ. The meaning would then be “Working well, having a common end, O unwasting Dawn! thou least reached old age.” But it does not make any appreciable change in the general sense of the verse.
15. The wife of the seasons, this first has come, the leader of days, the mother of children. Though one, O Dawn! thou shinest manifoldly; though unwasting, thou causest all the rest to grow old (decay).
Though one ... shinest manyfoldly: shows that only one continuous dawn, though made up of many parts, is described in this hymn.
Leader of days, mother of children — the epithets ahnâm netrî and gavâm mâtâ are also found used in the Ṛig-Veda, VII, 77, 2.
Taitt. Saṁhitâ V, 3, 4, 7.
It was un-distinguished,* neither day nor night. The Gods perceived these dawn-bricks (for the laying of which the 15 verses given above are to be used). They laid them. Then it shone forth.† Therefore for whom these are laid, it shines forth to him, destroys (his) darkness.
* It was undistinguished: This paragraph, which is found later on in the Saṁhitâ, explains how the dawn-bricks came to be laid with the fifteen verses given above. The portions of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, which contain such explanations are called Brâhmaṇa
† Then it shone forth: This shows that aid the thirty Dawns were understood to have preceded the rise of the sun, I have already quoted (supra p. 100) a passage from Taitt. Brâh. (II, 5, 6, 5) which says that these dawns were continuous and unseparated.
It has been previously mentioned that the fifteen verses, quoted above, are used or recited as Mantras at the time of laying down certain emblematical bricks, called Vyuṣhtî-iṣhṭakâs or dawn-bricks, on the sacrificial altar. But as the Mantras, or verses, used for sacrificial purposes are often taken from different Vedic hymns, these verses are likely to be regarded as unconnected with each other. The account of the thirty dawns, contained therein, however, shows that these verses must have originally formed an entire or one homogeneous hymn. Again if the Mantras had been selected from different hymns, one for each dawn-brick, there would naturally be 16 verses in all, as 16 dawn-bricks are to be laid on the altar. The very fact, that the Anuvâka contains only 15 verses (leaving the sacrificer to select the 16th from elsewhere), therefore, further supports the same view. It is true that some of these verses are found in the Atharva-Veda, either detached or in connection with other subjects. But that does not prevent us from treating the passage in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, as containing a connected account of thirty dawns divided into five groups of six each. The question is not, however, very material, inasmuch as verses 5 and 6, whether they formed part of an entire hymn or not, are by themselves sufficient to prove the point at issue, viz., that the Vedic Goddess of Dawn constituted a group of thirty sisters. The Ṛig-Veda speaks of “thirty steps” traversed by the Dawn, (VI, 59, 6), or of Dawns going round “thirty yojanas” (I, 123, 8); but both these statements have, as yet, remained totally unexplained, or have been but imperfectly explained by Indian and Western scholars alike. But now that we know that the Vedic Dawns were thirty in number, both the aforesaid statements become at once easily comprehensible. The only other point necessary to be decided, so far as the subject in hand is concerned, is whether these thirty dawns were the dawns of thirty consecutive days, or whether they formed a “closely-gathered band” of thirty continuous dawns; and on reading the two aforesaid passages from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, the one from the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, II, 5, 6, 5, and other authorities cited in the foregoing chapter, I do not think, there can be any doubt that the Goddess of Dawn, worshipped by the Vedic bards, was originally a group of thirty continuous dawns. It is not contended that the ancestors of the Vedic bards were unacquainted with ordinary dawns, for, even in the circumpolar regions there are, during certain parts of the year, successions of ordinary days and nights and with them of ordinary dawns. But so far as the Vedic Goddess of morning is concerned, there is enough evidence to show that it was no other than the continuous and revolving Dawn at the end of the long night in those regions, the Dawn that lasted for thirty periods of 24 hours each, which is possible only within a few degrees round about the North Pole
LONG DAY AND LONG NIGHT
Independent evidence about the long night — Vṛitra living in long darkness — Expressions denoting long darkness or long night — Anxiety to reach the end of darkness — Prayers to reach safely the other end of night — A night, the other boundary of which was not known according to the Atharva Veda — The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ explains that these prayers were due to fears entertained by the ancient priests that the night would not dawn — Not caused by long winter nights as supposed by Sâyaṇa — Description of days and nights in the Ṛig-Veda — Divided into two typical pairs — One described as bright, dark and virûpe — Virûpe means “of varying lengths” and not “of various colors” — Second pair,Ahanî, different from the first — Durations of days and nights on the globe examined — Ahanî can only be a couple of the long Arctic day and night — Described as forming the right and left, or opposite, sides of the Year in the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka — The sun is described in the Ṛig-Veda as unyoking his car in the midst of the sky — And thereby retaliating Dâsa’s mischief — Represents the long day and the long night — Summary of evidence regarding long day and long night — Uṣhas and Sûrya as Dakshinâ and Dakṣhinâ’s son — Probably imply the southerly course of both.
When a long continuous dawn of thirty days, or a closely-gathered band of thirty dawns, is shown to have been expressly referred to in the Vedic literature, the long night preceding such a dawn follows as a matter of course; and where a long night prevails, it must have a long day to match it during the year. The remaining portion of the year, after deducting the period of the long night, the long day and the long morning and evening twilights, would also be characterized by a succession of ordinary days and nights, a day and night together never exceeding twenty-four hours, though, within the limit, the day may gradually gain over the night at one time and the night over the day at another, producing a variety of ordinary days and nights of different lengths. All these phenomena are so connected astronomically that if one of them is established, the others follow as a matter of scientific inference. Therefore, if the long duration of the Vedic dawn is once demonstrated, it is, astronomically speaking, unnecessary to search for further evidence regarding the existence of long days and nights in the Ṛig-Veda. But as we are dealing with a state of things which existed several thousand years ago, and with evidence, which, though traditionally handed down, has not yet been interpreted in the way we have done, it is safer to treat, in practice, the aforesaid astronomical phenomena as disconnected facts, and separately collect evidence bearing on each, keeping the astronomical connection in reserve till we come to consider the cumulative effect of the whole evidence in support of the several facts mentioned above. I do not mean to imply that there is any uncertainty in the relation of sequence between the above astronomical facts. On the contrary, nothing can be more certain than such a sequence. But in collecting and examining the evidence bearing on facts like those under consideration, it is always advisable in practice to collect as much evidence and from as many different points of view as possible. In this and the following two chapters, we, therefore, propose to examine separately the evidence that can be found in the Vedic literature about the long day, the long night, the number of months of sunshine and of darkness, and the character of the year, and see if it discloses characteristics found only at, or around, the North Pole.
And first regarding the long night, — a night of several days’ duration, such as makes the northern latitudes too cold or uncomfortable for human habitation at present, but which, in inter-glacial times, appeared to have caused no further inconvenience than what might result from darkness, long and continuous darkness for a number of days, though, by itself, it was not a desirable state of things, and the end of which must have been eagerly looked for by men who had to undergo such experience. There are many passages in the Ṛig-Veda that speak of long and ghastly darkness, in one form or another, which sheltered the enemies of Indra, and to destroy which Indra had to fight with the demons or the Dâsas, whose strongholds are all said to be concealed in this darkness. Thus in I, 32, 10, Vṛitra, the traditional enemy of Indra, is said to be engulfed in long darkness (dîrgham tamaḥ âshayad Indrashatruḥ), and in V, 32, 5, Indra is described as having placed Shuṣhṇa who was anxious to fight, in “the darkness, of the pit” (tamasi harmye), while the next verse speaks of asûrye tamasi (lit. sunless darkness), which Max Müller renders by “ghastly darkness.” ( See S. B. E. series, Vol. XXXII, p. 218) In spite of these passages the fight between Vṛitra and Indra is considered to be a daily and not a yearly struggle, a theory the validity of which will be examined when we come to the discussion of Vedic myths. For the present it is sufficient to note that the above expressions lose all their propriety, if the darkness, in which the various enemies of Indra are said to have flourished, be taken to be the ordinary darkness of twelve, or, at best, of twenty-four hours’ duration. It was, in reality, a long and a ghastly or sunless, darkness, which taxed all the powers of Indra and his associate Gods to overcome.
But apart from this legendary struggle, there are other verses in the Ṛig-Veda which plainly indicate the existence of a night longer than the longest cis-Arctic night. In the first place the Vedic bards are seen frequently invoking their deities to release them from darkness. Thus in II, 27, 14, the poet says, “Aditi, Mitra and also Varuṇa forgive if we have committed any sin against you! May I obtain the wide fearless light, O Indra! May not the long darkness comeover us.” The expression in the original for “long darkness” is dîrghâḥ tamisrâḥ, and means rather an “uninterrupted succession of dark nights (tamisrâḥ)” than simply “long darkness.” But even adopting Max Müller’s rendering given above (Hibbert Lectures, p. 231) the anxiety here manifested for the disappearance of the long darkness is unmeaning, if the darkness never lasted for more than twenty-four hours. In I, 46, 6, the Ashvins are asked “to vouchsafe such strength to the worshipper as may carry him through darkness”; and in VII, 67 a the poet exclaims: “The fire has commenced to burn, the ends of darkness have been seen, and the banner of the Dawn has appeared in the cast!”*
The expression “ends of darkness” (tamasaḥ antâḥ) is very peculiar, and it would be a violation of idiom to take this and other expressions indicating “long darkness” to mean nothing more than long winter nights, as we have them in the temperate or the tropical zone. As stated previously the longest winter night in these zones must be, at best, a little short of twenty-four hours, and even then these long nights prevail only for a fortnight or so. It is, therefore, very unlikely that Vedic bards perpetuated the memory of these long nights by making it a grievance of such importance as to require the aid of their deities to relieve them from it. There are other passages where the same longing for the end of darkness or for the appearance of light is expressed, and these cannot be accounted for on the theory that to the, old Vedic bards night was as death, since they had no means which a civilized person in the twentieth century possesses, of dispelling the darkness of night by artificial illumination. Even the modern savages are not reported to be in the habit of exhibiting such impatience for the morning light as we find in the utterances of the Vedic bards; and yet the latter were so much advanced in civilization as to know the use of metals and carriages. Again not only men, but Gods, are said to have lived in long darkness. Thus, in X, 124, I, Agni is told that he has stayed “too long in the long darkness,” the phrase used being jyog eva dîrgham tama âshayiṣhṭâh. This double phrase jyog (long) dîrgham is still more inappropriate, if the duration of darkness never exceeded that of the longest winter-night. In II, 2, 2, the same deity, Agni, is said to shine during “continuous nights,” which, according to Max Müller, is the meaning of the word kṣhapaḥ in the original.*( * See S. B. E. Series, Vol. XLVI, p. 195.) The translation is no doubt correct, but Prof. Max Müller does not explain to us what he means by the phrase “continuous nights.” Does it signify a succession of nights uninterrupted by sun-light? or, is it only an elegant rendering, meaning nothing more than a number of nights? The learned translator seems to have narrowly missed the true import of the phrase employed by him.
But we need not depend on stray passages like the above to prove that the long night was known in early days. In the tenth Maṇḍala of the Ṛig-Veda we have a hymn (127) addressed to the Goddess of night and in the 6th verse of this hymn Night is invoked to “become easily fordable” to the worshipper (nah sutarâ bhava). In the Parishiṣhṭa, which follows this hymn in the Ṛig-Veda and which is known as Râtri-sûkta or Durgâ-stava, the worshipper asks the Night to be favorable to him, exclaiming “May we reach the other side in safety! May we reach the: other side in safety!”( The 4th verse in the Râtri-Sûkta. The Atharva-Veda, XIX, 47, 2. Ibid, XIX, 50, 3.) In the Atharva-Veda, XIX, 47, which is a reproduction, with some variations, of the above Parishiṣhṭa, the second verse runs thus. “Each moving thing finds rest in her (Night), whose yonder boundary is not seen, nor that which keeps her separate. O spacious, darksome night! May we, uninjured, reach the end of thee, reach, O thou blessed one, thine end!” And in the third verse of the 50th hymn of the same book the worshippers ask that they may pass uninjured in their body, “through each succeeding night, (râtrim râtrim).” Now a question is naturally raised why should every one be so anxious about safely reaching the other end of the night? And why should the poet exclaim that “its yonder boundary is nor seen, nor what keeps it separate?” Was it because it was an ordinary winter night, or, was it because it was the long Arctic night? Fortunately, the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ preserves for us the oldest traditional reply to these questions and we need not, therefore, depend upon the speculations of modern commentators. In the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ I, 5, 5, 4,* (Taitt Sam. I, 5, 5, 4; Taitt, Sam. I, 5, 7, 5)we have a similar Mantra or prayer addressed to Night in these words: — “O Chitrâvasu! let me safely reach thy end.. A little further (I, 5, 7, 5), the Saṁhitâ itself explains this Mantra, or prayer thus: — “Chitrâvasu is (means) the night; in old times (purâ), the Brâhmaṇs (priests) were afraid that it (night) would not dawn.” Here we have an express Vedic statement, that in old times, the priests or the people, felt apprehensions regarding the time when the night would end. What does it signify? If the night was not unusually long, where was the necessity for entertaining any misgivings about the coming dawn? Sâyaṇa, in commenting on the above passage, has again put forward his usual explanation, that nights in the winter were long and they made the priest apprehensive in regard to the coming dawn. But here we can quote Sâyaṇa against himself, and show that he has dealt with this important passage in an off hand manner. It is well-known that the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ often explains the Mantras, and this portion of the Saṁhitâ is called Brâmaṇa, the whole of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ being made up in this way of Mantras and the Brâhmaṇa, or prayers and their explanations or commentary mixed up together. The statement regarding the apprehensions of the priests about the coming dawn, therefore, falls under the Brâhmaṇa portion of the Saṁhitâ. Now the contents of the Brâhmaṇas are usually classified by Indian divines under the ten following heads — (1) Hetu or reason; (2) Nirvachana, or etymological explanation; (3)Nindâ, or censure; (4) Prashaṁsâ, or praise; (5) Saṁshaya, or doubt; (6) Vidhi, or the rule; (7) Parakriyâ, or others’ doings; (8) Purâ-kalpa, or ancient rite or tradition; (9) Vyavadhârana-kalpanâ or determining the limitations; (10) Upamâna, an apt comparison or simile. Sâyaṇa in his introduction to the commentary on the Ṛig-Veda mentions the first nine of these, and as an illustration of the eighth, Purâ-kalpa, quotes the explanatory passage from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, I, 5, 7, 5, referred to above. According to Sâyaṇa the statement, “In former times the priests were afraid that it would not dawn,” therefore, comes under Purâ-kalpa, or ancient traditional history found in the Brâmaṇas. It is no Arthavâda, that is, speculation or explanation put forth by the Brâhmaṇa itself. This is evident from the word purâ which occurs in the Saṁhitâ text, and which shows that some piece of ancient traditional information is here recorded. Now if this view is correct; a question naturally arises why should ordinary long winter nights have caused such apprehensions in the minds of the priests only “in former times,” and why should the long darkness cease to inspire the same fears in the minds of the present generation. The long winter nights in the tropical and the temperate zone are as long to-day as they were thousands of years ago, and yet none of us, not even the most ignorant, feels any misgiving about the dawn which puts an end to the darkness of these long nights. It may, perhaps, be urged that in ancient times the bards had not acquired the knowledge necessary to predict the certain appearance of the dawn after a lapse of some hours in such cases. But the lameness of this excuse becomes at once evident when we see that the Vedic calendar was, at this time, so much advanced that even the question of the equation of the solar and the lunar year was solved with sufficient accuracy Sâyaṇa’s explanation of winter nights causing misgivings about the coming dawn must, therefore, be rejected as unsatisfactory. It was not the long winter-night that the Vedic bards were afraid of in former ages. It was something else, something very long, so long that, though you knew it would not last permanently, yet, by its very length, it tired your patience and made you long for, eagerly long for, the coming dawn. In short, it was the long night of the Arctic region, and the word purâ shows that it was a story of former ages, which the Vedic bards knew by tradition, I have shown elsewhere that the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ must be assigned to the Kṛittikâ period. We may, therefore, safely conclude that at about 2500 B.C., there was a tradition current amongst the Vedic people to the effect that in former times, or rather in the former age, the priests grew so impatient of the length of the night, the yonder boundary of which was not known, that they fervently prayed to their deities to guide them safely to the other end of that tiresome darkness. This description of the night is inappropriate unless we take it to refer to the long and continuous Arctic night.
Let us now see if the Ṛig-Veda contains any direct reference to the long day, the long night, or to the Circumpolar calendar, besides the expressions about long darkness or the difficulty of reaching the other boundary of the endless night noticed above. We have seen before that the Rig-Vedic calendar is a calendar of 360 days, with an intercalary month, which can neither be Polar nor Circumpolar. But side by side with it the Ṛig-Veda preserves the descriptions of days and nights, which are not applicable to the cis-Arctic days, unless we put an artificial construction upon the passages containing these descriptions. Day and night is spoken of as a couple in the Vedic literature, and is denoted by a compound word in the dual number. Thus we have Uṣhâsa-naktâ (I, 122, 2), Dawn and Night; Naktoṣhâsâ (I, 142, 7), Night and Dawn; or simply Uṣhâsau (I, 188, 6) the two Dawns; all meaning a couple of Day and Night. The word Aho-ratre also means Day and Night; but it does not occur in the Ṛig-Veda, though Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (II, 4) treats it as synonymous with Uṣhâsâ-naktâ. Sometimes this pair of Day and Night is spoken of as two sisters or twins; but whatever the form in which they are addressed, the reference is usually unambiguous. Now one of the verses which describes this couple of Day and Night is III, 55, 11.*
The deity of the verse is Aho-ratre, and it is admitted on all hands that it contains a description of Day and Night. It runs thus: —
Nânâ chakrâte yamyâ vapûṁṣhi
tayor anyad rochate kṛiṣhṇam anyat |
Shyâvî cha yad aruṣhî cha swasârau
mahad devânâm asuratvam ekam ||
The first three quarters or feet of this verse contain the principal statements, while the fourth is the refrain of the song or the hymn. Literally translated it means: — “The twin pair (females) make many forms; of the two one shines, the other (is) dark; two sisters (are) they, the dark (shyâvî), and the bright (aruṣhi). The great divinity of the Gods is one (unique).” The verse looks simple enough at the first sight, and simple it is, so far as the words are concerned. But it has been misunderstood in two important points. We shall take the first half of the verse first. It says “the twin pair make many forms; of the two one shines and the other is dark.” The twin pair are Day and Night, and one of them is bright and the other dark. So far, therefore, there is no difficulty. But the phrase “make many forms” does not seem to have been properly examined or interpreted. The words used in the original verse are nânâ chakrâte vapûṁṣhi, and they literally mean “make many bodies or forms.” We have thus a two-fold description of the couple; it is called the shining and the dark and also described as possessed of many forms. In I, 123, 7, the couple of Day and Night is said to beviṣhurûpe; while in other places the adjective: virûpe is used in the same sense. It is evident, therefore, that the “bodies” or “forms” intended to be denoted by these words must be different from the two-fold character of the couple as shining and dark and if so, the phrases viṣhurûpe virûpe or nânâ vapûṁṣhi used in connection with the couple of Day and Night must be taken to mean something different from “bright and dark,” if these expressions are not to be considered as superfluous or tautological. Sâyaṇa interprets these phrases as referring to different colors (rûpa), like black, white, &c., and some of the Western scholars seem to have adopted this interpretation. But I cannot see the propriety of assigning different colors to Day and Night. Are we to suppose that we may have sometimes green- violet, yellow or blue days and nights? Again though the word rûpa lends itself to this construction, yet vapûṁṣhi cannot ordinarily be so understood. The question does not, however, seem to have attracted the serious attention of the commentators; so that even Griffith translates viṣhurûpe by “unlike in hue” in I, 123, 7. The Naktoṣhâsâ are described asvirûpe also in I, 113, 3, but there too Sâyaṇa gives the same explanation. It does not appear to have occurred to any one that the point requires any further thought. Happily, in the case of Ṛig. I, 113, 3, we have, however, the advantage of consulting a commentator older than Sâyaṇa. The verse occurs in the Uttarârchika of Sâma-Veda (19, 4, 2, 3), Mâdhava in his Vivaraṇa, a commentary on the Sâma-Veda explains virûpe thus: — “In the Dakṣhiṇâyana during the year there is the increase of night, and in the Uttarâyaṇa of day.”* (See Sâma-Veda, Cal. Ed. Utta. 19, 4, 2, 3) Mâdhava’s Vivaraṇa is a scarce book, and I take the above quotation from an extract from his commentary given in a footnote to the Calcutta edition of the Sâma-Veda Saṁhitâ, with Sâyaṇa’s commentary, published by Satyavrata Sâmashramî, a learned Vedic scholar of Calcutta. It is not known who this Mâdhava is, but Pandit Satyavrata states that he is referred to by Durga, the commentator of Yâska. We may, therefore, take Mâdhava to be an old commentator, and it is satisfactory to find that he indicates to us the way out of the difficulty of interpreting the phrases viṣhurûpe and virûpe occurring so many times in Ṛig-Veda, in connection with the couple of Day and Night. The word “form” (rûpa) or body (vapus) can be used to denote the extent, duration, or length of days and nights, and virûpe would naturally denote the varyinglengths of days and nights, in addition to their color which can be only two-fold, dark or bright. Taking our clue from Mâdhava, we may, therefore, interpret the first half of the verse as meaning “The twin pair assume various (nânâ) lengths (vapûṁṣhi); of the two one shines and the other is dark.”
But though the first half may be thus interpreted, another difficulty arises, as soon as we take up the third quarter of the verse. It says, “Two sisters are they, the dark (shyâvî) and the bright (arûṣhî).” Now the question is whether the two sisters (svasârau) here mentioned are the same as,, or different from, the twin pair (yamyâ) mentioned in the first half of the verse. If we take them as identical, the third pâda or quarter of the verse becomes at once superfluous. If we take them as different, we must explain how and where the two pairs differ. The commentators have not been able to solve the difficulty, and they have, therefore, adopted the course of regarding the twins (yamyâ) and the sisters (svasârau) as identical, even at the risk of tautology. It will surely be admitted that this is not a satisfactory course, and that we ought to find a better explanation, if we can. This is not again the only place where two distinct couples of Day and Night are mentioned. There is another word in the Ṛig-Veda which denotes a pair of Day and Night. It is Ahanî, which does not mean “two days” but Day and Night, for, in VI, 9, 1, we are expressly told that “there is a dark ahaḥ (day) and a bright ahaḥ (day).” Ahanî, therefore, means a couple of Day and Night, and we have seen that Usḥâsâ-naktâ also means a couple of Day and Night. Are the two couples same or different? If Ahanî be regarded as synonymous withUṣhâsâ-naktâ or Aho-râtre, then the two couples would be identical; otherwise different. Fortunately, Ṛig. IV, 55, 3, furnishes us with the means of solving this difficulty. There Usḥâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî are separately invoked to grant protection to the worshipper and the separate invocation clearly proves that the two couples are two separate dual deities, though each of them represents a couple of Day and Night.*
Prof. Max Müller has noticed this difference between Usḥâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî or the two Ahans but he does not seem to have pushed it to its logical conclusion. If all the 360 days and nights of the year were of the same class as with us, there was no necessity of dividing them into two representative couples as Usḥâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî. The general description “dark, bright and of various lengths,” would have been quite sufficient to denote all the days and nights of the year. Therefore, if the distinction between Usḥâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî, made in IV, 55, 3, is not to be ignored, we must find out an explanation of this distinction; and looking to the character of days and nights at different places on the surface of the earth from the Pole to the Equator the only possible explanation that can be suggested is that the year spoken of in these passages was a circum-Polar year, made up of one long day and one long night, forming one pair, and a number of ordinary days and nights of various lengths, which, taking a single day and night as the type can be described as the second couple, “bright, dark and. of varying lengths.” There is no other place on the surface of the earth where the description holds good. At the Equator, we have only equal days and nights throughout the year and they can be represented by a single couple “dark and bright, but always of the same length.” In fact, instead of virûpe the pair would be sarûpe. Between the Equator and the Arctic Circle, a day and night together never exceed twenty-four hours, though there may be a day of 23 hours and a night of one hour and vice versa, as we approach the Arctic Circle. In this case, the days of the year will have to be represented by a typical couple, “dark and night, but of various lengths, virûpe.” But as soon as we cross the Arctic Circle and go into “The Land of the Long Night,” the above description requires to be amended by adding to the first couple, another couple of the long day and the long night, the lengths of which would vary according to latitude. This second couple of the long day and the long night, which match each other, will have also to be designated as virûpe, with this difference, however, that while the length of days and nights in the temperate zone would vary at the same place, the length of the long night and the long day would not vary at one and the same place but only at different latitudes. Taking a couple of Day and Night, as representing the days and nights of the year, we shall have, therefore, to divide the different kinds of diurnal changes over the globe into three classes: —
(i) At the Equator, — A single couple; dark and bright but always of the same form, or length (sarûpe).
(ii) Between the Equator and the Arctic Circle, — A single couple; dark and bright, but of various forms, or lengths, (virûpe).
(iii) Between the Arctic Circle and the Pole, — Two couples; each dark and bright, but of various forms or lengths (virûpe).
At the Pole, there is only one day and one night of six months each. Now if we have an express passage in the Ṛig-Veda (IV, 55, 3) indicating two different couples of Day and. Night Ushâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî, it is evident that theahorâtre represented by them are the days and nights of the Circum-Polar regions, and of those alone. In the light of IV, 55, 3, we must, therefore, interpret III, 55, 11, quoted above, as describing two couples, one of the twin pair and the other of two sisters. The verse must, therefore, be translated: —
“The twin pair (the first couple) make many forms (lengths); of the two one shines and the other is dark. Two sisters are they the shyâvî or the, dark and aruṣhî or the bright (the second couple).” No part of the verse is thus rendered superfluous, and the whole becomes far more comprehensible than otherwise.
We have seen that days and nights are represented by two distinct typical couples in the Ṛig-Veda Uṣhasâ-naktâ and Ahanî; and that if the distinction is not unmeaning we must take this to be the description of the days and nights within the Arctic Circle. Whether Ahanî means a couple of Day and Night distinct from Uṣhasâ-naktâ in every place where the word occurs, it is difficult to say. But that in some places, at least, it denotes a peculiar couple of the Day and Night, not included in, and different from, Uṣhâsa-naktâ is evident from IV, 55, 3. Now if Ahanî really means the couple of the long day and the long night, as distinguished from the ordinary days and nights, there is another way in which these two couples can be differentiated from each other. The ordinary days and nights follow each other closely the day is succeeded by the night and the night by the day; and the two members of the couple, representing these days and nights, cannot be described as separated from each other. But the long night and the long day, though of equal duration do not follow each other in close succession. The long night occurs about the time when the sun is at the winter solstice, and the long day when he is at the summer solstice; and these two solstitial points are separated by 180°, being opposite to each other in the ecliptic. This character of Ahanî seems to have been traditionally known in the time of the Âraṇyakas. Thus the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka, I, 2, 3, in discussing the personified year, Taitt. Âran. I, 2, 3. first says that the Year has one head, and two different mouths, and then remarks that all this is “season-characteristic,” which the commentator explains by stating that the Year-God is said to have two mouths because it has two Ayanas, the northern and the southern, which include the seasons. But the statement important for our purpose is the one which follows next. The Âraṇyaka continues “To the right and the left side of the Year-God (are) the bright and the dark (days)” and the following verse refers to it: — “Thy one (form) is bright, thy another sacrificial (dark), two Ahans of different forms, though art like Dyau. Thou, O Self-dependent! protectest all magic powers, O Pûṣhan! let thy bounty be here auspicious.” * Taitt. Âraṇyaka, I, 2, 4. The verse, or the Mantra, here referred to is Ṛig. VI, 58, 1. Pûṣhan is there compared to Dyau and is said to have two forms, dark and bright, like the Ahanî. These dark and bright forms of Ahanî are said to constitute the right and left side of the Year-God, that is, the two opposite parts of the body of the personified year. In other words the passage clearly states that the dark and the bright part of Ahanî, do not, follow each other closely, but are situated on the diametrically opposite sides of the year. This can only be the case if the couple of Day and Night, represented by Ashanî, be taken to denote the long night and the long day in the Arctic regions. There the long night is matched by the long day and while the one occurs when the sun is at the winter-solstice, the other occurs when he is at the summer-solstice. The two parts of Ahanî are, therefore, very correctly represented as forming the right and the left side of the Year-God, in the Âraṇyaka, and the passage thus materially supports the view about the nature of Ahanîmentioned above.
Lastly, we have express passage in the Ṛig-Veda where a long day is described. In V, 54, 5, an extended daily course (dirgham yojanam) of the sun is mentioned and the Maruts are said to have extended their strength and greatness in a similar way.†
But the most explicit statement about the long day is found in X, 138, 3. This hymn celebrates the exploits of Indra, all of which are performed in aerial or heavenly regions. In the first verse the killing of Vṛitra and the releasing of the dawns and the waters are mentioned; and in the second the sun is said to have been made to shine by the same process. The third verse* is as follows: —
Vi sûryo madhye amuchad ratham divo
vidad dâsâya pratimânam âryaḥ |
Dṛiḍhâni Pipror asurasya mâyinaḥ
Indro vyâsyach chakṛivâṁ Ṛijishvanâ ||
The fourth, fifth and the sixth verses all refer to the destruction of Vṛitra’s forts, the chastisement of Uṣhas and placing of the moons in the heaven. But the third verse quoted above is alone important for our purpose. The words are simple and easy and the verse may be thus translated “The sun unyoked his car in the midst of heaven; the Ârya found a counter-measure (pratimânam) for the Dâsa. Indra, acting with Ṛijishvan, overthrew the solid forts of Pipru, the conjuring Asura. “It is the first half of the verse that is relevant to our purpose. The sun is said to have unyoked his car, not at sunset, or on the horizon, but in the midst of heaven, there to rest for some time. There is no uncertainty about it, for the words are so clear; and the commentators have found it difficult to explain this extraordinary conduct of the sun in the midway of the heavens. Mr. Griffith says that it is, perhaps an allusion to an eclipse, or to the detention of the sun to enable the Aryans to complete the overthrow of their enemies. Both of these suggestions are, however, not satisfactory. During a solar eclipse the sun being temporarily hidden by the moon is invisible wholly or partially and is not besides stationary. The description that the sun unyoked his car in the mid-heaven cannot, therefore, apply to the eclipsed sun. As regards the other suggestion, viz., that the sun remained stationary for a while to allow his favorite race, the Aryans, to overthrow their enemies, it seems to have had its origin in the Biblical passage (Joshua, X, 12, 13), where the sun is said to have stood still, at the word of Joshua, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. But there is no authority for importing this Biblical idea into the Ṛig-Veda. Indra’s exploits are described in a number of hymns in the Ṛig-Veda, but in no other hymn he is said to have made the sun stand still for the Aryans. We must, therefore, reject both the explanations suggested by Griffith. Sâyaṇa gets over the difficulty by interpreting the phrase, ratham vi amuchat madhye divaḥ, as meaning that “the sun loosened (viamuchat) his carriage, that is, set it free to travel, towards the middle (madhye) of heaven, (ratham prasthânâya vimuktavân).” Sâyaṇa’s meaning, therefore, is that when Indra obtained compensation from Vṛitra, he let loose the chariot of the sun to travel towards the midst of the sky. But the construction is evidently a strained one. The verb vi much is used in about a dozen places in the Ṛig-Veda in relation to horses, and everywhere it means to “unharness,” “unyoke,” or “separate the horses from the carriage for rest,” and even Sâyaṇa has interpreted it in the same way. Thus vi-muchya is explained by him as rathât vishliṣhya in I, 104, 1, and rathât vi-muchya in III, 32, 1, and rathât visṛijya in X, 160, 1, (also compare I, 171, 1; I, 177, 4; VI, 40, 1). The most natural meaning of the present verse would, therefore, be that the “sun unyoked his carriage.” But even supposing that vi much can be interpreted to mean “to loosen for travel,” the expression would be appropriate only when there is an antecedent stoppage or slow motion of the sun. The question why the sun stopped or slackened his motion in the midst of the sky would, therefore, still remain unsolved. The phrase divaḥ madhye naturally means “in the midst of the sky,” and cannot be interpreted to mean “towards the mid-heaven.” Of course if the sun was below the horizon, we may describe him as having loosened his horses for travel as in V, 62, 1; but even there the meaning seems to be that the horses rested at the place. In the present case the sun is already in the midst of heaven, and we cannot take him below the horizon without a palpable distortion of meaning. Nor can we properly explain the action of retaliation (pratimânam), if we accept Sâyaṇa’s interpretation. We must, therefore, interpret the first half of the verse to mean that “the sun unyoked his carriage in the midst of heaven.” There is another passage in the Ṛig-Veda which speaks of the sun halting in the midst of heaven. In VII, 87, 5, the king Varuṇa is said to have made “the golden (sun) rock like a swing in the heaven” (chakre divi preṅkhâm hiraṇmayam), clearly meaning that the sun swayed backwards and forwards in the heaven being visible all the time, (cf. also VII, 88, 3). The idea expressed in the present verse is exactly the same, for even within the Arctic regions the sun will appear as swinging only during the long continuous day, when he does not go below the horizon once every twenty-four hours. There is, therefore, nothing strange or uncommon in the present verse which says that, “the sun unyoked his carriage for some time in the midst of the sky;” and we need not be impatient to escape from the natural meaning of the verse. A long halt of the sun in the midst of the heaven is here clearly described, and we must take it to refer to the long day in the Arctic region. The statement in the second line further supports the same view. European scholars appear to have been misled, in this instance, by the words Ârya and Dâsa, which they are accustomed to interpret as meaning the Aryan and the non-Aryan race. But though the words may be interpreted in this way in some passages, such is not the case everywhere. The word Dâsa is applied to Indra’s enemies in a number of places. Thus Shambara is called a Dâsa (IV, 30, 14,) and the same adjective is applied to Pipru in VIII, 32, 2, and to Namuchi in V, 30, 7. Indra is said to inspire fear into the Dâsa in X, 120, 2 and in II, 11, 2 he is described as having rent the Dâsa who considered himself immortal. In the verse under consideration Indra’s victory over Pipru is celebrated, and we know that Pipru is elsewhere called a Dâsa. It is, therefore, quite natural to suppose that the words Ârya and Dâsa in the above verse, refer to Indra and Pipru, and not to the Aryan and the non-Aryan race. The exploits described are all heavenly, and it jars with the context to take a single sentence in the whole hymn as referring to the victory of the Aryan over the non-Aryan race. There is again the word Pratimâna (lit. counter-measure), which denotes that what has been done is by way of retaliation, a sort of counter-poise or counterblast, with a view to avenge the mischief done by Dâsa. A battle between the Aryans and the non-Aryans cannot be so described unless a previous defeat of the Aryans is first alluded to. The plain meaning of the verse, therefore, is that the sun was made to halt in the midst of the sky, producing a long day, and Indra thus found a counter-poise for Dâsa his enemy. For we know that darkness is brought on by the Dâsa, and it is he who brings on the long night; but if the Dâsa made the night long, Indra retaliated or counter-acted by making the day as long as the night of the Dâsa. The long night of the Arctic regions is, we have seen, matched by the long day in those regions, and the present verse expresses the same idea of matching the one by the other. There is no reference to the victory of the Aryan race over the non-Aryans, or anything of that kind as supposed by Western scholars. Sâyaṇa, who had no historic theories to mislead him, has rightly interpreted Ârya and Dâsa in this verse as referring to Indra and his enemy; but he, in his turn, has misinterpreted as shown above, the first half of the verse in regard to the sun’s long halt in the midst of the sky. The misinterpretation of the: second hemistich conies from Western scholars, like Muir who interprets Ârya as meaning the Aryans and Dâsa, the non-Aryans. This shows how in the absence of the true key to the meaning of a passage, we may be led away by current theories, even where the words are plain and simple in themselves.
We thus-see that the Ṛig-Veda speaks of two different couples of Day and Night, one alone of which represents the ordinary days and nights in the year and the second, the Ahanî, is a distinct couple by itself, forming, according to the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka, the right and the left hand side of the Year, indicating the long Arctic day and night. The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ again gives us in clear terms a tradition that in the former age the night was so long that men were afraid it would not dawn. We have also a number of expressions in the Ṛig-Veda denoting “long nights” or “long and ghastly darkness” and also the “long journey” of the sun. Prayers are also offered to Vedic deities to enable the worshipper to reach safely the end of the night, the “other boundary of which is not known.” Finally we have an express text declaring that the sun halted in the midst of the sky and thereby retaliated the mischief brought on by Dâsa’s causing the long night. Thus we have not only the long day and the long night mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda, but the idea that the two match, each other is also found therein, while the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka tells us that they form the opposite sides of Year-God. Besides the passages proving the long duration of the dawn, we have, therefore, sufficient independent evidence to hold that the long night in the Arctic regions and its counterpart the long day were both known to the poets of the Ṛig-Veda and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ distinctly informs us that it was a phenomenon of the former (purâ) age.
I shall close this chapter with a short discussion of another Circum-Polar characteristic, I mean the southern course of the sun. It is previously stated, that the sun can never appear overhead at any station in the temperate or the frigid zone and that an observer stationed within these zones in the northern hemisphere will see the sun to his right hand or towards the south, while at the North Pole the sun will seem to rise from the south. Now the word dakṣhiṇâ in Vedic Sanskrit denotes both the “right hand” and the “south” as it does in other Aryan languages; for, as observed by Prof. Sayce, these people had to face the rising sun with their right hands to the south, in addressing their gods and hence Sanskrit dakṣhiṇâ, Welsh dehau and Old Irish des all mean at once “right hand” and “south.”* (See Sayce’s Introduction to the Science of Language, Vol. II, p. 130.)With this explanation before us, we can now understand how in a number of passages in the Ṛig-Veda Western scholars translate dakṣhiṇâ by “right side,” where Indian scholars take the word to mean “the southern direction.” There is a third meaning of dakṣhiṇa, viz., “largess” or “guerdon,” and in some places the claims of rich largesses seem to have been pushed too far. Thus when the suns are said to be only for dakṣhiṇâvats in I, 125, 6, it looks very probable that originally the expression had some reference to the southern direction rather than to the gifts given at sacrifices. In III, 58, I, Sûrya is called the son of Dakṣhiṇâ and even if Dakṣhiṇâ be here taken to mean the Dawn, yet the question why the Dawn was called Dakṣhiṇâ remains, and the only explanation at present suggested is that Dakṣhiṇâ means “skilful” or “expert.” A better way to explain these phrases is to make them refer to the southerly direction; and after what has been said above such an explanation will seem to be highly probable. It is, of course, necessary to be critical in the interpretation of the Vedic hymns, but I think that we shall be carrying our critical spirit too far, if we say that in no passage in the Ṛig-Veda dakṣhiṇâ or its derivatives are used to denote the southerly direction (I, 95, 6; II, 42, 3). Herodotus informs us (IV, 42) that certain Phoenician mariners were commanded by Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, to sail round Libya (Africa) and return by the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Gibraltar). The mariners accomplished the voyage and returned in the third year. But Herodotus disbelieves them, because, on their return they told such (to him incredible) stories, that in rounding Libya they saw the sun to their right. Herodotus could not believe that the sun would ever appear in the north; but the little thought that what was incredible to him would itself be regarded as indisputable evidence of the authenticity of the account in later days. Let us take a lesson from this story, and not interpret dakṣhiṇâ, either by “right-hand side” or by “largess,” in every passage in the Ṛig-Veda. There may not be distinct passages to show that the sun, or the dawn, came from the south. But the very fact that Uṣhas is called Dakṣhiṇâ (I, 123, 1; X, 107, 1), and the sun, the son of Dakṣhiṇâ (III, 58, 1), is itself very suggestive, and possibly we have here phrases which the Vedic bards employed because in their days these were old and recognized expressions in the language. Words, like fossils, very often preserve the oldest ideas or facts in a language; and though Vedic poets may have forgotten the original meaning of these phrases, that is no reason why we should refuse to draw from the history of these words such conclusions as may legitimately follow from it. The fact that the north is designated by the word ut-tara, meaning “upper” and the south by adha-ra, meaning “lower,” also points to the same conclusion; for the north cannot be over-head or “upper” except to an observer at or near the North Pole. In later literature, we find a tradition that the path of the sun lies through regions which are lower (adha) than the abode of the SevenṚiṣhis, or the constellation of Ursa Major.*( See Kâlidâsa’s Kumârasambhava, VI, 7. Also I, 16. See also Mallinâtha’s commentary on these verses. ) That ecliptic lies to the south of the constellation is plain enough, but it cannot be said to be below the constellation, unless the zenith of the observer is in the constellation, or between it and the North Pole, a position, possible only i n the case of an observer in the Arctic region. I have already quoted a passage from the Ṛig-Veda, which speaks of the Seven Bears (Ṛikṣhâḥ), as being placed on high in the heavens (uchchâḥ). But I have been not able to find out any Vedic authority for the tradition that the sun’s path lies below the constellation of the Seven Bears. It has also been stated previously that mere southerly direction of the sun, even if completely established, is not a sure indication of the observer being within the circum-polar region as the sun will appear to move always to the south of the observer even in the temperate zone. It is, therefore, not necessary to pursue this point further. It has been shown that the Ṛig-Veda mentions the long night and the long day and we shall see in the next chapter that the months and the seasons mentioned in this Old Book fully accord with the theory we have formed from the evidence hitherto discussed.