Tilak - THE ARCTIC HOME IN THE VEDAS (III)
MONTHS AND SEASONS
Evidence of rejected calendar generally preserved in sacrificial rites by conservative priests — Varying number of the months of sunshine in the Arctic region — Its effect on sacrificial sessions considered — Sevenfold character of the sun in the Vedas — The legend of Aditi — She presents her seven sons to the gods and casts away the eighth — Various explanations of the legend in Brâhmaṇas and the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka — Twelve suns understood to be the twelve month-gods in later literature — By analogy seven suns must have once indicated seven months of sunshine — Different suns were believed to be necessary to produce different seasons — Aditi’s legend belongs to the former age, orpûrvyam-yugam — Evidence from sacrificial literature — The families of sacrificers in primeval times — Called “our ancient fathers” in the Ṛig-Veda — Atharvan and Aṅgiras traced to Indo-European period — Navagvas and Dashagvas, the principal species of the Aṅgirases — Helped Indra in his fight with Vala — They finished their sacrificial session in ten months — The sun dwelling in darkness — Ten months’ sacrifices indicate the only ten months of sunshine, followed by the long night — Etymology of Navagvas and Dashagvas — According to Sâyaṇa the words denote persons sacrificing for nine or ten months — Prof. Lignana’s explanation improbable — The adjectives Virûpas applied to the Aṅgirases — Indicates other varieties of these sacrificers — Saptagu, or seven Hotṛis or Vipras — Legend of Dîrghatamas — As narrated in the Mahâbhârata — A protégé of Ashvins in the Ṛig-Veda — Growing old in the tenth yuga — Meaning of yuga discussed — Mânuṣhâ yugâ means “human ages,” and not always “human tribes” in the Ṛig-Veda — Two passages in proof thereof — Interpretations of Western scholars examined and rejected — Mânuṣhâ yugadenoted months after the long dawn and before the long night — Dîrghatamas represents the sun setting in the tenth month — Mânuṣhâ yuga and continuous nights — The five seasons in ancient times — A Ṛig-Veda passage bearing on it discussed — The year of five seasons described as residing in waters — Indicates darkness of the long night — Not made up by combining any two consecutive seasons out of six — The explanation in the Brâhmaṇas improbable — Summary.
Starting with the tradition about the half yearly night of the Gods found everywhere in Sanskrit literature, and also in the Avesta, we have found direct references in Ṛig-Veda to a long continuous dawn of thirty days, the long day and the long night, when the sun remained above the horizon or went below it for a number of 24 hours; and we have also seen that the Ṛig-Vedic texts describe these things as events of a bye-gone age. The next question, therefore, is — Do we meet in the Vedas with similar traces of the Arctic condition of seasons months or years? It is stated previously that the calendar current at the time of the Vedic Saṁhitâs was different from the Arctic calendar. But if the ancestors of the Vedic people ever lived near the North Pole, “we may,” as observed by Sir Norman Lockyer with reference to the older Egyptian calendar, “always reckon upon the conservatism of the priests of the temples retaining the tradition of the old rejected year in every case.” Sir Norman Lockyer first points out how the ancient Egyptian year of 360 days was afterwards replaced by a year of 365 days; and then gives two instances of the traditional practice by which the memory of the old year was preserved. “Thus even at Philæ in later times,” says he “in the temple of Osiris, there were 360 bowls for sacrifice, which were filled daily with milk by a specified rotation of priests. At Acanthus there was a perforated cask into which one of the 360 priests poured water from the Nile daily.”* (* See Lockyer’s Dawn of Astronomy, p. 243. ) And what took place in Egypt, we may expect to have taken place in Vedic times. The characteristics of an Arctic year are so unlike those of a year in the temperate zone, that if the ancestors of the Vedic people ever lived within the Arctic regions, and immigrated southwards owing to glaciation, an adaptation of the calendar to the altered geographical and astronomical conditions of the new home was a necessity, and must have been effected at the time. But in making this change, we may, as remarked by Sir Norman Lockyer, certainly expect the conservative priests to retain as much of the old calendar as possible, or at least preserve the traditions of the older year in one form or another especially in their sacrificial rites. Indo-European etymological equations have established the fact that sacrifices, or rather the system of making offerings to the gods for various purposes, existed from the primeval period,( See Schrader’s Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples’ Part IV, Chap. XIII, translated by Jevons, p. 421. Cf. Sans. yaj; Zend yaz; Greekazomai, agios. See Orion Chap. II.) and if so, the system must have undergone great modifications as the Aryan races moved from the Arctic to the temperate zone. I have shown elsewhere that calendar and sacrifice, especially the annual sattras, are closely connected, and that in the case of the annual sattras, or the sacrificial sessions which lasted for one year, the priests had in view, as observed by Dr. Haug,† (See Dr. Haug’s Aitareya Brâh. Vol. I, Introduction, p. 46.) the yearly course of the sun. It was the duty of these priests to keep up sacrificial fire, as the Parsi priests now do and to see that the yearly rounds of sacrifices were performed at proper times (ṛitus). The sacrificial calendar in the Arctic home must, however, have been different from what it came to be afterwards; and happily many traces of this calendar are still discoverable in the sacrificial literature of Vedic times, proving that the ancient worshippers or sacrificers of our race must have lived in circum-polar regions. But before discussing this evidence, it is necessary to briefly describe the points wherein we might expect the ancient or the oldest sacrificial system to differ from the one current in Vedic times.
In the Saṁhitâs and Brâhmaṇas, the annual sattras, or yearly sacrificial sessions, are said to extend over twelve months. But this was impossible within the Arctic region where the sun goes below the horizon for a number of days or months during the year, thereby producing the long night. The oldest duration of the annual sattras, if such sattras were ever performed within the Polar regions, would, therefore, be shorter than twelve months. In other words, an annualsattra of less than twelve months would be the chief distinguishing mark of the older sacrificial system, as contrasted with the later annual sattra of twelve months. It must also be borne in mind that the number of the months of sunshine and darkness cannot be the same everywhere in the Circum-Polar regions. At the Pole the sun is alternately above and below the horizon for six months each. But as all people cannot be expected to be stationed precisely at the Pole, practically the months of sunshine will vary from seven to eleven for the inhabitants of the Arctic region, those nearest to the North Pole having seven month’s sunshine, while those living father south from the Pole having the sun above their horizon for eight, nine or ten months according to latitude. These periods of sunshine would be made up of the long Arctic day at the place and a succession of ordinary days and nights closely following each other; and sacrificial sessions would be held, or principal business transacted, and important, religious and social ceremonies performed only during this period. It would, so to say, be a period of action, as contrasted with the long night, by which it was followed. The long dawn following the long night, would mark the beginning of this period of activity; and the Arctic sacrificial year would, practically, be made up, only of these months of sunshine. Therefore, the varying number of the months of sunshine would be the chief peculiarity of the Arctic sacrificial calendar, and we must bear it in mind in examining the traces of the oldest calendar in the Ṛig-Veda, or other Saṁhitâs.
A dawn of thirty days, as we measure days, implies a position so near the North Pole, that the period of sunshine at the place could not have been longer than about seven months, comprising, of course, a long day of four or five months, and a succession of regular days and nights during the remaining period; and we find that the Ṛig-Veda does preserve for us the memory of such months of sunshine. We refer first to the legend of Aditi, or the seven Âdityas (suns), which is obviously based on some natural phenomenon. This legend expressly tells us that the oldest number of Âdityas or suns was seven, and the same idea is independently found in many other places in the Ṛig-Veda. Thus in IX, 114, 3, seven Âdityas and seven priests are mentioned together, though the
names of the different suns are not given therein. In II, 27 1, Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Varuṇa, Dakṣha and Aṁsha are mentioned by name as so many different Âdityas but the seventh is not named. This omission does not, however, mean much, as the septenary character of the sun is quite patent from the fact that he is called saptâshva (seven-horsed, in V, 45, 9, and his “seven-wheeled” chariot is said to be drawn by “seven bay steeds” (I, 50, 8 ), or by a single horse “with seven names” in I, 164, 2. The Atharva Veda also speaks of “the seven bright rays of the sun” (VII, 107, 1); and the epithet Âditya, as applied to the sun in the Ṛig-Veda, is rendered more clearly by Aditeḥ putrah (Aditi’s son) in A.V. XIII, 2, 9. Sâyaṇa, following Yâska, derives this sevenfold character of the sun from his seven rays, but why solar rays were taken to be seven still remain unexplained, unless we hold that the Vedic bards had anticipated the discovery of seven prismatic rays or colors, which were unknown even to Yâska or Sâyaṇa. Again though the existence of seven suns may be explained on this hypothesis, yet it fails to account for the death of the eighth sun, for the legend of Aditi (Ṛig. X, 72, 8-9) tells us, “Of the eight sons of Aditi, who were born from her body, she approached the gods with seven and cast out Mârtâṇḍa. With seven sons Aditi approached (the gods) in the former age (pûrvyam yugam); she brought thither Mârtâṇḍa again for birth and death.”*
The story is discussed in various places in the Vedic literature and many other attempts, unfortunately all unsatisfactory, have been made to explain it in a rational and intelligent way. Thus in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, VI, 5, 61 ƒ. the story of Aditi cooking a Brahmaudana oblation for the gods, the Sâdhyas, is narrated. The remnant of the oblation was given to her by the gods, and four Âdityas were born to her from it. She then cooked a second oblation and ate it herself first; but the Âditya born from it was an imperfect egg. She cooked a third time and the Âditya Vivasvat, the progenitor of man, was born. But the Saṁhitâ does not give the number and names of the eight Âdityas and this omission is supplied, by the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa (I, 1, 9, 1ƒ). The Brâhmaṇa tells us that Aditi cooked the oblation four times and each time the gods gave her the remnant of the oblation. Four pairs of sons were thus born to her; the first pair was Dhâtṛi and Aryaman, the second Mitra and Varuṇa, the third Aṁsha and Bhag and the fourth Indra and Vivasvat. But the Brâhmaṇa does not explain why the eighth son was called Mârtâṇḍa and cast away. The Taittirîya Araṇyaka, I, 13, 2-3, (cited by Sâyaṇa in his gloss on Ṛig. II, 27, 1, and X, 72, 8) first quotes the two verses from the Ṛig-Veda (X, 72, 8 and 9 which give the legend of Aditi but with a slightly different reading for the second line of the second verse. Thus instead, of tvat punaḥ Mârtâṇḍam â abharat (she brought again Mârtâṇḍa thither for birth and death), the Araṇyaka reads tat parâ Mârtâṇḍam â abharat (she set aside Mârtâṇḍa for birth and death). The Araṇyaka then proceeds to give the names of the eight sons, as Mitra, Varuṇa, Dhâtṛi, Aryaman, Aṁsha, Bhaga, Indra and Vivasvat. But no further explanation is added, nor are we told which of these eight sons represented Mârtâṇḍa. There is, however, another passage in the Âraṇaka (I, 7, 1-6) which throws some light on the nature of these Âdityas.* (See Taittirîya Araṇyaka, I, 7. ) The names of the suns here given are different. They are: — Aroga, Bhrâja, Patara, Patanga, Svarṇara, Jyotiṣhîmat, Vibhâsa and Kashyapa; the last of which is said to remain, constantly at the great mount Meru, permanently illumining that region. The other seven suns are said to derive their light from Kashyapa and to be alone visible to man. We are then told that these seven suns are considered by some Achâryas to be the seven manifestations of the Prâṇas, or the vital powers in man; while others are said to hold the opinion that they are the types of seven officiating priests (ritvijaḥ). A third explanation is then put forward, viz., that the distinction of seven suns is probably based on the different effects of sun’s rays in different months or seasons, and in support of it a Mantra, or Vedic verse, Dig-bhrâja ṛitrûn karoti; (resorting to, or shining in, different regions) they (make the seasons), is quoted. I have not been able to find the Mantra in the existing Saṁhitâs, nor does Sâyaṇa give us any clue to it, butt simply observes “the different features of different seasons cannot be accounted for, except by supposing them to have been caused by different suns; therefore, different suns must exist in different regions.”( Sâyaṇa’s explanation quoted on the last page. ) But this explanation is open to the objection (actually raised by Vaishampâyana), that we shall have, on this theory, to assume the existence of thousands of suns as the characteristics of the seasons are so numerous. The Âraṇyaka admits, to a certain extent the force of this objection, but says — aṣhṭau to vyavasitâḥ, meaning that the number eight is settled by the text of the scripture, and there is no further arguing about it. The Shatapatha Brâhmaṇa, III, 1, 3, 3, explains the legend of Aditi somewhat on the same lines. It says that seven alone of Aditi’s sons are styled Devâḥ Âdityâḥ (the gods Âdityas) by men, and that the eighth Mârtâṇḍa was born undeveloped, whereupon the Âditya gods created man and other animals out of him. In two other passages of the Shatapath Brâhmaṇa, VI, 1, 2, 8, and XI, 6, 3, 8, the number of dityas Âis, however, given as twelve. In the first (VI, 1, 2, 8) they are said to have sprung from twelve drops generated by Prâjapati and then placed in different regions (dikṣhu); while in second (XI, 6, 3, 8)* (Shatapatha Brâhmaṇa, VI, 1, 2, 8.)these twelve Âdityas are identified with the twelve months of the year. The number of Âdityas is also given as twelve in the Upanishads: while in the post-Vedic literature they are everywhere said to be twelve, answering to the twelve months of the year. Muir, in his Original Sanskrit Texts Volumes IV and V, gives most of these passages, but offers no explanation as to the legend of Aditi, except such as is to be found in the passages quoted. There are many different speculations or theories of Western Scholars regarding the nature and character of Aditi, but as far as the number of Âdityas is concerned, I know of no satisfactory explanation as yet suggested by them. On the contrary the tendency is, as observed by Prof. Max Müller, to regard the number, seven or eight, as unconnected with any solar movements. A suggestion is made that eight Âdityas may be taken to, represent the eight cardinal points of the compass, but the death or casting away of the eighth Âditya seals the fate of this explanation, which thus seems to have been put forward only to be rejected like Mârtâṇḍa, the eighth Âditya..
We have here referred to, or quoted, the texts and passages bearing on Aditi’s legend. or the number of Âdityas at some length, in order to show how we are apt to run into wild speculations about the meaning of a simple legend when the key to it is lost: That the twelve Âdityas are understood to represent the twelve month-gods in later Vedic literature is evident from the passage in the Shatapatha Brâhmaṇa (XI, 6, 3, 8 = Bṛih. Ârṇ. Up. III, 9, 5) which says, “There are twelve months of the year; these are the Âdityas.” With this explanation before us, and the belief that different seasonal changes could be explained only by assuming the existence of different suns, it required no very great stretch of imagination to infer that if twelve Âdityas now represent the twelve months of the year, the seven Âdityas must have once (pûrvyam yugam) represented the seven months of the year. But this explanation, reasonable though it was, did not commend itself, or we might even say, occur to Vedic scholars, who believed that the home of the Aryans lay somewhere in Central Asia. It is, therefore, satisfactory to find that the idea of different suns producing different months is recognized so expressly in the Taittirîya Araṇyaka, which quotes a Vedic text, not now available, in support thereof and finally pronounces in favor of the theory, which regards the seven suns as presiding over seven different heavenly regions and thereby producing different seasons, in spite of the objection that it would lead to the assumption of thousands of suns — an objection, which the Araṇyaka disposes of summarily by observing that eight is a settled number and that we have no right to change it. That this explanation is the most probable of all is further evident from Ṛig. IX, 114, 3, which says “There are seven sky-regions (sapta dishaḥ), with their different suns (nânâ sûryâḥ), there are seven Hotṛis as priests, those who are the seven gods, the Âdityas, — with them. O Soma! protect us.” Here nânâ sûryâḥ is an adjective which qualifies dishaḥ (sapta), and the correlation between seven regions and seven suns is thus expressly recognized. Therefore, the simplest explanation of Aditi’s legend is that she presented to the gods, that is, brought forth into heavens, her seven sons, the Âdityas, to form the seven months of sunshine in the place. She had an eighth son, but he was born in an undeveloped state, or, was, what we may call, stillborn; evidently meaning that the eighth month was not a month of sunshine, or that the period of darkness at the place commenced with the eighth month. All this occurred not in this age, but in the previous age and the words pûrvyam yugam in X, 72, 9, are very important from this point of view. The word yuga is evidently used to denote a period of time in the first and second verses of the hymn, which refer to the former age of the gods (devânâm pûrvye yuge) and also of later age (uttare yuge). Western scholars are accustomed to interpret yuga to mean “a generation of men” almost in every place where the phrase is met with; and we shall have to consider the correctness of this interpretation later on. For the purpose of this legend it is enough to state that the phrase pûrvyam yugam occurs twice in the hymn and that where it first occurs (in verse 2), it clearly denotes “an early age” or “some division of time.” Naturally enough we must, therefore, interpret it in the same way where it occurs again in the same hymn, viz. in the verse describing the legend of Aditi’s seven sons. The sun having seven rays, or seven horses, also implies the same idea differently expressed. The seven months of sunshine, with their different temperatures, are represented by seven suns producing these different results by being differently located, or as having different kinds of rays, or as having different chariots, or horses, or different wheels to the same chariot. It is one and the same idea in different forms, or as the Ṛig-Veda puts it, “one horse with seven names” (I, 164, 2). A long dawn of thirty days indicates a period of sunshine for seven months, and we now see that the legend of Aditi is intelligible only if we interpret it as a relic of a time when there were seven flourishing month-gods, and the eighth was either still-born, or cast away. Mârtâṇḍa is etymologically derived from mârta meaning “dead or undeveloped,” (being connected with mṛita, the past participle of mṛi to die) and âṇḍa, an egg or a bird; and it denotes a dead sun, or a sun that has sunk below the horizon, for in Ṛig. X, 55, 5, we find the word mamâra (died) used to denote the setting of the daily sun. The sun is also represented as a bird in many places in the Ṛig-Veda (V, 47, 3; X, 55, 6; X, 177, 1; X, 189, 3). A cast away bird (Mârtâṇḍa) is, therefore, the sun that has set or sunk below the horizon, and whole legend is obviously a reminiscence of the place where the sun shone above the horizon for seven months and went below it in the beginning of the eighth. If this nature of the sun-god is once impressed on the memory, it cannot be easily forgotten by any people simply by their being obliged to change their residence; and thus the sevenfold character of the sun-god must have been handed down as an old tradition, though the Vedic people lived later on in places presided over by the twelve Âdityas. That is how ancient traditions are preserved everywhere, as, for instance, those relating to the older year in the Egyptian literature, previously referred to.
We have seen above that the peculiar characteristic of the Arctic region is the varying number of the months of sunshine in that place. It is not, therefore, enough to say that traces of a period of seven months’ sunshine are alone found in the Ṛig-Veda. If our theory is correct, we ought to find references to periods of eight, nine or ten months’ sunshine along with that of seven months either in the shape of traditions, or in some other form; and fortunately there are such references in the Ṛig-Veda, only if we know where to look for them. We have seen that the sun’s chariot is said to be drawn by seven horses, and that this seven-fold character of the sun has reference to the seven suns conceived as seven different month-gods. There are many other legends based on this seven-fold division, but as they do not refer to the subject under discussion, we must reserve their consideration for another occasion. The only fact necessary to be mentioned in this place is that the number of the sun’s horses is said to be not only seven (I, 50, 8), but also ten in IX, 63, 9; and if the first be taken to represent seven months, the other must be understood to stand for ten months as well. We need not, however, depend upon such extension of the legend of seven Âdityas to prove that the existence of nine or ten months of sunshine was known to the poets of the Ṛig-Veda. The evidence, which I am now going to cite, comes from another source, I mean, the sacrificial literature, which is quite independent of the legend of the seven Âdityas. The Ṛig-Veda mentions a number of ancient sacrificers styled “our fathers” (II, 33, 13; VI, 22, 2), who instituted the sacrifice in ancient times and laid down, for the guidance of man, the path which he should, in future, follow. Thus the sacrifice offered by Manu, is taken as the type and other sacrifices are compared with it in I, 76, 5. But Manu was not alone to offer this ancient sacrifice to the gods. In X, 63, 7, he is said to have made the first offerings to the gods along with the seven Hotṛis; while Aṅgiras and Yayâti are mentioned with him as ancient sacrificers in I, 31, 17, Bhṛigu and Aṅgiras in VIII, 43, 13, Atharvan and Dadhyañch in I, 80, 16 and Dadhyañch, Aṅgiras, Atri and Kaṇva in I, 139, 9. Atharvan by his sacrifices is elsewhere described, as having first extended the paths, whereupon the sun was born (I, 83, 5), and the Atharvans, in the plural, are styled “our fathers” (naḥ pitaraḥ) along with Aṅgirases, Navagvas and Bhṛgus in X, 14, 6. In II, 34, 12, Dashagvas are said to have been the first to offer a sacrifice; while in X, 92, 10 Atharvan is spoken of, as having established order by sacrifices, when the Bhṛigus showed themselves as gods by their skill. Philologically the name of Atharvan appears as Athravan, meaning a fire-priest, in the Avesta, and the word Aṅgiras is said to be etymologically connected with the Greek Aggilos, a “messenger” and the Persian Angara “a mounted courier.” In the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (III, 34) Aṅgirases are said to be the same as Angârâḥ, “burning coals or fire,” (Cf. Ṛig. X. 62, 5). Whether we accept these etymologies as absolutely correct or not, the resemblance between the different words sufficiently warrants the assumption that Atharvan and Aṅgiras must have been the ancient sacrificers of the whole Aryan race and not merely of the Vedic people. Therefore, even though Manu, Atharvan, Aṅgiras be not the names of particular individuals, still there can be little doubt that they represented families of priests who conducted, if not originated the sacrifices in primeval times, that is, before the Aryan separation, and who, for this reason, seem to have attained almost divine character in the eyes of the poets of the Ṛig-Veda. They have all been described as more or less connected with Yama in X, 14, 3-6; but it does not follow therefrom that they were all Yama’s agents or beings without any human origin. For, as stated above, there are a number of passages in which they are described as being the firstand the most ancient sacrificers of the race; and if after their death they are said to have gone to Yama and become his friends and companions, that does not, in any way, detract from their human character. It is, therefore, very important in the history of the sacrificial literature to determine if any traditions are preserved in the Ṛig-Veda regarding the duration of the sacrifices performed by these ancient ancestors of the Vedic people (naḥ pûrve pitaraḥ, VI, 22, 2), in times before the separation of the Aryan people, and see if they lend any support to the theory of an early Circum-Polar home.
Now so far as my researches go, I have not been able to find any Vedic evidence regarding the duration of the sacrifices performed by Manu, Atharvan, Bhṛigu, or any other ancient sacrificers, except he Aṅgirases. There is an annual sattra described in the Shrauta Sûtras, which is called the Aṅgirasâm-ayanam, and is said to be a modification of the Gavâm ayanam, the type of all yearly sattras. But we do not find therein any mention of the duration of the sattraof the Aṅgirases. The duration of the Gavâm ayanam is, however, given in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, and will be discussed in the next chapter. For the present, we confine ourselves to sattra of the Aṅgirases, and have to see if we can find out other means for determining its duration. Such a means is, fortunately, furnished by the Ṛig-Veda itself. There are two chief species of the Aṅgirases (Aṅgiras-tama), called the Navagvas and the Dashagvas, mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda (X, 62, 5 and 6). These two classes of ancient sacrificers are generally mentioned together, and the facts attributed to the Aṅgirases are also attributed to them. Thus, the Navagvas are spoken of as “our ancient fathers,” in VI. 22, 2, and as “our fathers” along with Aṅgirases and Bhṛigu in X, 14, 6. Like the Aṅgirases, the Navagvas are also connected with the myth of Indra overthrowing Vala, and of Sarmâ and Paṇis (I, 62, 3 and 4; V, 29, 12; V, 45, 7; X, 108, 8). In one of these Indra if described as having taken their assistance when he rent the rock and Vala (I, 62, 4); and in V, 29, 12, the Navagvas are said to have praised Indra with songs and broken open the firmly closed stall of the cows. But there are only two verses in which the duration of their sacrificial session is mentioned. Thus V, 45, 7 says, “Here, urged by hands, hath loudly rung the press-stone, with which the Navagvas sang (sacrificed) for ten months”; and in the eleventh verse of the same hymn the poet says, “I place upon (offer to) the waters your light-winning prayers wherewith the Navagvas completed their ten months.”* In II, 34, 12, we again read, “They, the Dashagvas brought out (offered) sacrifice first of all. May they favor us at the flashing forth of the dawn”: while in IV, 51, 4,† the Dawns are said “to have dawned richly on the Navagva Aṅgira, and on the seven-mouthed Dashagva,” evidently showing that their sacrifice was connected with the break of the Dawn and lasted only for ten months.
What the Navagvas or the Dashagvas accomplished by means of their sacrifices is further described in V, 29, 12, which says, “The Navagvas and the Dashagvas, who, had offered libations of Soma, praised Indra with songs; laboring (at it) the men laid open the stall of kine though firmly closed;” while in III, 39, 5, we read “Where the friend (Indra), with the friendly energetic Navagvas, followed up the cows on his knees, there verily with ten Dashagvas did Indra find the sun dwelling in darkness (tamasi kṣhiyantam).”*
In X, 62, 2 and 3, the Aṅgirases, of whom the Dashagvas and Navagvas were the principle species (Aṅgiras-tama, X, 62, 6), are however, said to have themselves performed the feat of vanquishing Vala, rescuing the cows and bringing out the sun, at the end of the year (pari vatsare Valam abhindan); but it obviously means that they helped Indra in achieving it at the end of the year. Combining all these statements we can easily deduce (1) that the Navagvas and the Dashavgas completed their sacrifices in ten months, (2) that these sacrifices were connected with the early flush of the Dawn; (3) that the sacrificers helped Indra in the rescue of the cows from Vala at the end of the year; and (4) that at the place where Indra wept in search for the cows, he discovered the sun “dwelling in darkness.”
Now we must examine a little more closely the meaning of these four important statements regarding the Navagvas and the Dashagvas. The first question that arises in this connection is — What is meant by their sacrifices being completed in ten months, and why did they not continue sacrificing for the whole year of twelve months? The expression for ‘ten months’ in the original is dasha mâsâḥ, and the wards are so plain that there can be no doubt about their import. We have seen that the Navagvas used to help Indra in releasing the cows from the grasp of Vala, and in X, 62, 2 and 3, the Aṅgirases are said to have defeated Vala at the end of the year, and raised the sun to heaven. This exploit of Indra, the Aṅgirases, the Navagvas and the Dashagvas, therefore, clearly refers to the yearly rescue of the sun, or the cows of the morning, from the dark prison into which they are thrown by Vala; and the expression “Indra found the sun, dwelling in darkness,” mentioned above further supports this view. In I, 117, 5, the Ashvins are said to have rescued Vandana, like some bright buried gold, “like one asleep in the lap of Nir-ṛiti (death), like the sun dwelling in darkness (tamasi kṣhiyantam).” This shows that the expression “dwelling in darkness,” as applied to the sun, means that the sun was hidden or concealed below the horizon so as not to be seen by man. We must, therefore, hold that Indra killed or defeated Vala at the end of the year, in a place of darkness, and that the Dashagvas helped Indra by their songs at the time. This might lead any one to suppose that the Soma libations offered by the Navagvas and the Dashagvas for ten months, were offered during the time when war with Vala was waging. But the Vedic idea is entirely different. For instance the morning prayers are recited before the rise of the sun, and so the sacrifices to help Indra against Vala had to be performed before the war. Darkness or a dark period, of ten months is again astronomically impossible anywhere on the globe, and as there cannot be ten months of darkness the only other alternative admissible is that the Dashagvas and the Navagvas carried on their ten months’ sacrifice during the period of sunshine. Now if this period of sunshine had extended to twelve months, there was no reason for the Dashagvas to curtail their sacrifices and complete them in ten months. Consequently the only inference we can draw from the story of the Navagvas and the Dashagvas is that they carried on their sacrifices during ten months of sunshine and after that period the sun went to dwell in darkness or sank below the horizon, and Indra, invigorated by the Soma libations of the Dashagvas, then entered into the cave of Vala, rent it open, released the cows of the morning and brought out the sun at the end of the old and the beginning of the new year, when the Dashagvas again commenced their sacrifices after the long dawn or dawns. In short, the Dashagvas and the Navagvas, and with them all the ancient sacrificers of the race, live in a region where the sun was above the horizon for ten months, and then went down producing a long yearly night of two months’ duration. These ten months, therefore, formed the annual sacrificial session, or the calendar year, of the oldest sacrificers of the Aryan race and we shall see in the next chapter that independently of the legend of the Dashagvas this view is fully supported by direct references to such a session in the Vedic sacrificial literature.
The etymology of the words Navagva and Dashagva leads us to the same conclusion. The words are formed by prefixing nava and dasha to gva. So far there is no difference of opinion. But Yâska (XI, 19) takes nava in navagva to mean either “new” or “charming,” interpreting the word to mean “those who have charming or new career (gva, from gam to go).” This explanation of Yâska is, however, unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the Navagvas and the Dashagvas are usually mentioned together in the Ṛig-Veda, and this close and frequent association of their names makes it necessary for us to find out such an etymological explanation of the words as would make Navagva bear the same relation tonava as Dashagva may have to dasha. But dasha or rather dashan, is a numeral signifying “ten” and cannot be taken in any other sense therefore, as observed by Prof. Lignana,* nava or rather navan must be taken to mean “nine.” (* See his Essay on “The Navagvas and the Dashagvas of the Ṛig-Veda” in the Proceedings of the 7th International Congress of Orientalists, 1886, pp. 59-68. The essay is in Italian and I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Shrinivâs Iyengar B.A., B.L., High Court Pleader, Madras, for a translation of the same. )
The meaning of gva (gu+a) is, however, yet to be ascertained. Some derive it from go, a cow, and others from gam, to go. In the first case the meaning would be “of nine cows” or “of ten cows”; while in the second case the words would signify “going in nine” or “going in ten,” and the fact that the Dashagvas, are said to be ten in III, 39, 5, lends support to the latter view. But the use of the words Navagva and Dashagva, sometimes even in the singular number as an adjective qualifying a singular noun, shows that a group or a company of nine or ten men, is not, at any rate, always intended. Thus in VI, 6, 3, the rays of Agni are said to be navagvas, while Adhrigu is said to be dashagva in VIII, 12, 2, and Dadhyañch navagva in IX, 108, 4. We must, therefore, assign to these epithets some other meaning, and the only other possible explanation of the numerals “nine” and “ten” is that given by Sâyaṇa, who says (Comm. on Ṛig. I, 62, 4), “The Aṅgirases are of two kinds, the Navagvas or those who rose after completing sattra in nine months, and the Dashagvas or those who rose after finishing the sattra in ten months.”We have seen that in the Ṛig-Veda V, 45, 7 and 11, the Navagvas are said to have completed their sacrifices in ten months. Sâyaṇa’s explanation is therefore, fully warranted by these texts, and very probably it is based on some traditional information about the Dashagvas. Prof. Lignana of Rome,*( * See his Essay in the Proceedings of the 7th international Congress of the Orientalists, pp. 59-68.) suggests that the numerals navan and dashan in these names should be taken as referring to the period of gestation, as the words nava-mâhya and dasha-mâhya occur in the Vendidad, V, 45, (136), in the same sense. Thus interpreted Navagva would mean “born of nine months,” and Dashagva “born of ten months.” But this explanation is highly improbable, inasmuch as we cannot first suppose that a number of persons were born prematurely in early times, and secondly that it was specially such persons that attained almost divine honors. The usual period of gestation is 280 days or ten lunar months (V, 78, 9), and those that were born a month earlier cannot be ordinarily expected to live long or to perform feats which would secure them divine honors. The reference to the Vendidad proves nothing, for there the case of a still-born child after a gestation of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 months is under consideration, and Ahura Mazda enjoins that the house where such as a still-born child is brought forth should be cleaned and sanctified in a special way. Prof. Lignana’s explanation again conflicts with the Vedic texts which say that the Dashagvas were ten in number (III, 39, 5), or that the Navagvas sacrificed only for ten months (V, 47, 5) Sâyaṇa’s explanation is, therefore, the only one entitled to our acceptance. I may here mention that the Ṛig-Veda (V, 47, 7 and 11) speaks of ten months’ sacrifice only in connection with the Navagvas, and does not mention any sacrifice of nine months. But the etymology of the names now helps us in assigning the ten months’ sacrifice to the Dashagvas and the nine month’s to the Navagvas. For navan in Navagva is only a numerical variation for dashan in Dashagva, and it follows, therefore, that what the Dashagvas did by tens, the Navagvas did by nines.
There is another circumstance connected with the Aṅgirases which further strengthens our conclusion, and which must, therefore, be stated in this place. The Aṅgirases are sometimes styled the Virûpas. Thus in III, 53, 7, the Aṅgirases are described as “Virûpas, and sons of heaven”; and the name Virûpa once occurs by itself as that of a single being who sings the praises of Agni, in a stanza (VIII, 75, 6) immediately following one in which Aṅgiras is invoked, showing that Virûpa is here used as a synonym for Aṅgiras. But the most explicit of these references is X, 62, 5 and 6. The first of these verses states that the Aṅgirases are Virûpas, and they are the sons of Agni; while the second describes them along with the Navagva and the Dashagva in the following terms, “And which Virûpas were born from Agni and from the sky; the Navagva or the Dashagva, as the best of the Aṅgirases (Aṅgiras-tama), prospers in the assemblage of the gods.”*
Now Virûpas literally means “of various forms” and in the above verses it seems to have been used as an adjective qualifying Aṅgirases to denote that there are many species of them. We are further told that the Navagvas and the Dashagvas were the most important (Aṅgiras-tamaḥ) of these species. In the last chapter I have discussed the meaning of the adjective Virûpa as applied to a couple of Day and Night and have shown, on the authority of Mâdhava, that the word, as applied to days and Nights, denotes their duration, or the period of time over which they extend. Virûpas in the present instance appears to be used precisely in the same sense. The Navagvas and the Dashagvas were no doubt the most important of the early sacrificers, but these too were not their only species. In other words they were not merely “nine-going,” and “ten-going,” but “various-going” (virûpas), meaning that the duration of their sacrifices was sometimes shorter than nine and sometimes longer than ten months. In fact a Sapta-gu (seven-going) is mentioned in X, 47, 6, along with Bṛihaspati, the son of Aṅgiras, and it seems to be used there as an adjective qualifying Bṛihaspati; for Bṛihaspati is described in another place (IV, 50, 4) as saptâsya (seven-mouthed), while the Atharva-Veda IV, 6, 1, describes the first Brâhmaṇa, Bṛihaspati, as dashâsya or ten-mouthed. We have also seen that in IV, 51, 4, the Dashagva is also called “seven-mouthed.” All these expressions can be satisfactorily explained only by supposing that the Aṅgirases were not merely “nine-going” or “ten-going,” but virûpas or “various going,” and that they completed their sacrifices within the number of months for which the sun was above the horizon at the place where these sacrifices were performed. It follows, therefore, that in, ancient times the sacrificial session lasted from seven to ten months; and the number of sacrificers (Hotṛis) corresponded with the number of the months, each doing his duty by rotation somewhat after the manner of the Egyptian priests previously referred to. These sacrifices were over when the long night commenced, during which Indra fought with Vala and vanquished him by the end of the year (parivatsare, X, 62, 2). The word parivatsare (at the end of the year) is very suggestive and shows that the year closed with the long night.
Another reference to a period of ten months’ sunshine is found in the legend of Dîrghatamas whom the Ashvins are said to have saved or rescued from a pit, into which he was thrown, after being made blind and infirm. I have devoted a separate chapter later on to the discussion of Vedic legends. But I take up here the legend of Dîrghatamas because we have therein an express statement as to the life of Dîrghatamas, which remarkably corroborates the conclusion we have arrived at from the consideration of the story of the Dashagvas. The story of Dîrghatamas is narrated in the Mahâbhârata, Âdiparvan, Chap. 104. He is said to be the son of Mamatâ by Utathya, and born blind through the curse of Bṛihaspati his uncle. He was, however, married and had several sons by Pradveṣhî. The wife and the sons eventually became tired of feeding the blind Dîrghatamas (so called because he was born blind), and the sons abandoned him afloat on a worn-out raft in the Ganges. He drifted on the waters for a long time and distance, when at last the king Bali picked him up. Dîrghatamas then had several sons born to him from a dâsi or a female slave, and also from the wife of Bali, the sons of Bali’s wife becoming kings of different provinces. In the Ṛig-Veda Dîrghatamas is one of the protégés of the Ashvins, and about 25 hymns in the first Maṇḍala are ascribed to him. He is called Mâmateya, or the son of Mamatâ in I, 152, 6, and Uchathya’s offspring in I, 158, 4. In the latter hymn he invokes the Ashvins for the purpose of rescuing him from the ordeals of fire and water to which he was subjected by the Dâsa Traitana. In I, 147, 3 and IV, 4, 13, Agni is, however, said to have restored to Dîrghatamas his eyesight. But the statement need not surprise us as the achievements of one deity are very often ascribed to another in the Ṛig-Veda. Dîrghatamas does not stand alone in being thus rescued by the Ashvins. Chyavâna is spoken of as another protégé of the Ashvins, and they are said to have restored him to youth. Vandana and a host of others are similarly mentioned as being saved, rescued, cured, protected or rejuvenated by the Ashvins. All these achievements are new understood as referring to the exploit of restoring to the sun his decayed power in the winter. But with the expression “like the sun dwelling in darkness” before us, in the legend of Vandana (I, 117, 5), we must make these legends refer not merely to the decayed power of the sun in winter, but to his actual sinking below the horizon for some time. Bearing this in mind, let us try to see what inference we can deduce, so far as the subject in hand is concerned, from the legend of Dîrghatamas.
The statement in the myth or legend, which is most important for our purpose, is contained in I, 158, 6. The verse may be literally translated as follows: — “Dîrghatamas, the son of Mamatâ, having grown decrepit in the tenth yuga, becomes a Brahman charioteer of the waters wending to their goal.”*
The only expressions which require elucidation in this verse are “in the tenth yuga,” and “waters wending to their goal.” Otherwise the story is plain enough. Dîrghatamas grows old in the tenth yuga, and riding on waters, as the Mahâbhârat story has it, goes along with them to the place which is the goal of these waters. But scholars are not agreed as to what yuga means. Some take it to mean a cycle of years, presumably five as in the Vedânga-Jyotiṣha, and invest Dîrghatamas with infirmity at the age of fifty. The Petersburg Lexicon would interpret yuga, wherever it occurs in the Ṛig-Veda, to mean not, “a period of time,” but “a generation,” or “the relation of descent from a common stock”; and it is followed by Grassmann in this respect. According to these scholars the phrase “in the tenth yuga” in the above verse would, therefore, signify “in the tenth generation” whatever that may mean. Indeed, there seems to be a kind of prejudice against interpreting yuga as meaning “a period of time” in the Ṛig-Veda, and it is therefore, necessary to examine the point at some length in this place. That the word yuga by itself means “a period of time” or that, at any rate, it is one of its meanings goes without saying. Even the Petersburg Lexicon assigns this meaning to yuga in the Atharva Veda VIII, 2, 21; but so far as the Ṛig-Veda is concerned yuga according to it, must mean “descent,” or “generation,” or something like it, but never “a period of time.” This is especially the case, with the phrase Mânuṣhâ yugâ, or Mânuṣhyâ yugâni, which occurs several times in the Ṛig-Veda. Western scholars would everywhere translate it to mean “generations of men,” while native scholars, like Sâyaṇa and Mahîdhara; take it to refer to “mortal ages” in a majority of places. In some cases (I, 124, 2; I, 144, 4) Sâyaṇa, however, suggests as an alternative, that the phrase may be understood to mean “conjunction” or “couples (yuga) of men”; and this has probably given rise to the interpretation put upon the phrase by Western scholars. Etymologically the word yuga may mean “conjunction” or “a couple” denoting either (1) “a couple of day and night,” or (2) “a couple of months” i.e. “a season,” or (3) “a couple of fortnights” or “the time of the conjunction of the moon and the sun,” i.e. “a month.” Thus at the beginning of the Kali-Yuga the planets and the sun were, it is supposed, in conjunction and hence it is said to be called a yuga. It is also possible that the word may mean “a conjunction, or a couple, or even a generation of men.” Etymology, therefore, does not help us in determining which of these meanings should be assigned to the word yuga or the phrase, Mânuṣhâ yugâ in the Ṛig-Veda, and we must find out some other means for determining it. The prejudice we have referred to above, appears to be mainly due to the disinclination of the Western scholars to import the later Yuga theory into the Ṛig-Veda. But it seems to me that the caution has been carried too far, so far as almost to amount to a sort of prejudice.
Turning to the hymns of the Ṛig-Veda, we find as remarked by Muir, the phrase yuge yuge used at least in half a dozen places (III, 26, 3; VI, 15, 8; X, 94, 12, &c.), and it is interpreted by Sâyaṇa to mean a period of time. In III, 33, 8, and X, 10, we have uttara yugâni “later age,” and in X, 72, 1, we read uttare yuge “in a later age”; whilst in the next two verses we have the phrases Devânâm pûrve yuge and Devânâm prathame yuge clearly referring to the later and earlier ages of the gods. The word Devânâm is in the plural and yuga is in the singular, and it is not therefore possible to take the phrase to mean “generations of gods.” The context again clearly shows that a reference to time is intended, for the hymn speaks of the creation and the birth of the gods in early primeval times. Now if we interpret Devânâm yugam to mean “an age of gods,” why should mânuṣhyâ yugâni or mânuṣhâ yugâ be not interpreted to mean “human ages,” is more than I can understand. There are again express passages in the Ṛig-Veda where mânuṣhâ yugâ cannot be taken to mean “generations of men.” Thus in V, 52, 4, which is a hymn to Maruts, we read Vishve ye mânuṣhâ yugâ pânti martyam riṣhaḥ. Here the verb pânti (protect), the nominative vishve ye (all those), and the object is martyam (the mortal man), while riṣhaḥ (from injury), in the ablative, denotes the object against which the protection is sought. So far the sentence, therefore, means “All those who protect man from injury”; and now the question is, what does mânuṣhâ yugâ mean? If we take it to mean “generations of men” in the objective case it becomes superfluous, for martyam (man) is already the object of pânti (protect). It is, therefore, necessary to assign to mânuṣhâ yugâ the only other meaning we know of, viz., “human ages” and take the phrase as an accusative of time. Thus the interpreted the whole sentence means “All those, who protect man from injury during human ages.” No other construction is more natural or reasonable than this; but still Prof. Max Müller translates the verse to mean “All those who protect the generations of men, who protect the mortal from injury,”* (See S. B. E. Series, Vol. XXXII, p. 312.)in spite of the fact that this is tautological and that there is no conjunctive particle in the texts (like cha) to join what according to him are the two objects of the verb “protect.” Mr. Griffith seems to have perceived this difficulty, and has translated, “Who all, through ages of mankind, guard mortal man from injury.” Another passage which is equally decisive on this point, is X, 140, 6. The verse* is addressed to Agni, and people are said to have put him in front to secure his blessings. It is as follows: —
Ṛitâvânam mahiṣhaṁ vishva-darshatam
agniṁ sumnâya dadhire puro janâḥ |
tvâ girâ daivyam mânuṣhâ yugâ ||
Here ṛitâvânam (righteous), mahiṣhaṁ (strong), vishva-darshatam (visible to all), agniṁ (Agni, fire), shrut-karṇaṁ (attentive eared), saprathas-taman (most widely-reaching), tvâ (thee) and daivyam (divine) are all in the accusative case governed by dadhire (placed), and describe the qualities of Agni. Janâḥ (people) is the nominative and dadhire (placed) is the only verb in the text. Sumnâya (for the welfare) denotes the purpose for which the people placed Agni in front (puro) and girâ (by praises) is the means by which the favor of Agni, is to be secured. If we, therefore, leave out the various adjectives of Agni, the verse means, “The people have placed Agni (as described) in front for their welfare, with praises.” The only expression that remains is mânuṣhâ yugâ, and it can go in with the other words in a natural way only as an accusative of time. The verse would then mean “The people have placed Agni (as described), in front for their welfare, with praises, during human ages.” But Griffith takes yuga to mean “generations,” and supplying a verb of his own; translates the last part of the verse thus: “Men’s generations magnify (Agni) with praise-songs (girâ).” This shows what straits, we are reduced to if we once make up our mind not to interpret mânuṣhâ yugâ to mean “a period of time,” for the word “magnify” does not exist in the original. This verse also occurs in the Vâjasaneyî Saṁhitâ (XII, 111), and Mahîdhara there explains mânuṣhâ yugâ to mean “human ages,” or “periods of time” such as fortnights. We have, therefore, at least two passages, where mânuṣhâ yugâ, must, according to the recognized rules of interpretation, be taken to mean “periods of time,” and not “generations of men,” unless we are prepared to give up the natural construction of the sentence. There are no more passages in the Ṛig-Veda where mânuṣhâ yugâ, occurs in juxtaposition with words like janâḥ or martyam, so as to leave no option as regards the meaning to be assigned to yuga. But if the meaning of a phrase is once definitely determined even from a single passage, we can safely understand the phrase in the same sense in other passages, provided the meaning does not conflict there with the context. That is how the meaning of many a Vedic word has been determined by scholars like Yâska, and we are not venturing on a new path in adopting the same process of reasoning in the present case.
But if mânuṣhâ yugâ means “human ages” and not “human generations,” we have still to determine the exact duration of these ages. In the Atharva-Veda, VIII, 2, 21, which says, “We allot to thee, a hundred, ten thousand years, two, three or four yugas,” the word yuga obviously stands for a period of time, not shorter than ten thousand years. But there are grounds to hold that in the early days of the Ṛig-Veda yuga must have denoted a shorter period of time, or, at least, that was one of its meanings in early days. The Ṛig-Veda often speaks of “the first” (prathamâ) dawn, or “the first of the coming” (âyatînâm prathamâ) dawns (Ṛig. I, 113, 8; 123, 2; VII, 76, 6; X, 35, 4); while “the last” (avamâ) dawn is mentioned in VII, 71, 3, and the dawn is said to have the knowledge of the first day in I, 123, 9. Now, independently of what I have said before about the Vedic dawns, the ordinal numeral “first” as applied to the dawn is intelligible only if we suppose it to refer to the first dawn of the year, or the dawn on the first day of the year, somewhat like the phrase “first night” (prathamâ râtriḥ) used in the Brâhmaṇas (see Orion p. 69). The “first” (prathamâ) and the “last” (avamâ) dawn must, therefore, be taken to signify the beginning and the end of the year in those days; and in the light of what has been said about the nature of the Vedic dawns in the fifth chapter, we may safely conclude that the “first” of the dawns was no other than the first of a set or group of dawns that appeared at the close of the long night and commenced the year. Now this “first dawn” is described as “wearing out human ages” (praminatî manuṣhyâ yugâni) in I, 124, 2, and I, 92, 11; while in I, 115, 2, we are told that “the pious or godly men extend the yugas,” on the appearance of the dawn (yatrâ naro devayanto yugâni vitanvate). European scholars interpret yuga in the above passages to mean “generations of men.” But apart from the fact that the phrase mânuṣha yugâ must be understood to mean “human ages” in at least two passages discussed above, the context in I, 124, 2 and I, 92, 11 is obviously in favor of interpreting the word yuga, occurring therein, as equivalent to a period of time. The dawn is here described as commencing a new course of heavenly ordinances, or holy sacrifices (daivyani vratâni), and setting in motion the manuṣhyâ yugâni, obviously implying that with the first dawn came the sacrifices, as well as the cycle of time known as “human ages” or that “the human ages” were reckoned from the first dawn. This association, of mânuṣha yugâ, or “human ages,” with the “first dawn” at once enables us to definitely determine the length or duration of “human ages”; for if these ages (yugas) commenced with the first dawn of the year, they must have ended on the last (avamâ) dawn of the year. In other words mânuṣha yugâ collectively denoted the whole period of time between the first and the last dawn of the year, while a single yuga denoted a shorter division of this period.
Apart from the legend of Dîrghatamas, we have, therefore, sufficient evidence in the Ṛig-Veda to hold that the world, yuga was used to denote a period of time, shorter than one year, and that the phrase mânuṣha yugâ meant “human ages” or “the period of time between the first and the last dawn of year” and not “human generations.” The statement that “Dîrghatamas grew old in the tenth yuga” is now not only easy to understand, but it enables us to determine, still more definitely, the meaning of yuga in the days of the Ṛig-Veda. For, if yuga was a part of mânuṣha yugâ, that is, of the period between the first and the last dawn of the year, and the legend of Dîrghatamas a solar legend, the statement that “Dîrghatamas grew old in the tenth yuga” can only mean that “the sun grew old in the tenth month.” In other words, ten yugas were supposed to intervene between the first and the last dawn, or the two termini, of the year; and as ten days or ten fortnights would be too short, and ten seasons too long a period of time to lie between these limits, the word yuga in the phrase dashame yuge, must be interpreted to mean “a month” and nothing else. In short, Dîrghatamas was the sun that grew old in the tenth month, and riding on the aerial waters was borne by them to their goal, that is, to the ocean (VII, 49, 2) below the horizon. The waters here referred to are, in fact, the same over which the king Varuṇa is said to rule, or which flow by his commands, or for which he is said to have dug out a channel (VII, 49, 1-4; II, 28 4; VII, 87, 1) and so cut out a path for Sûrya, and which being released by Indra from the grass of Vṛitra, bring on the sun (I, 51, 4). Prof. Max Müller, in his Contributions to the Science of Mythology (Vol. II, pp. 583-598), has .shown that most of the achievements of the Ashvins can be rationally explained by taking them as referring to the decaying sun. The legend of Dîrghatamas is thus only a mythical representation of the Arctic sun, who ascends above the “bright ocean” (VII, 60, 4,), becomes visible for mânuṣha yugâ or ten months, and then drops again into the nether waters. What these waters are and how their nature has been long misunderstood will be further explained in a subsequent chapter, when we come to the discussion of Vedic myths. Suffice it to say for the present that the legend of Dîrghatamas, interpreted as above, is in full accord with the legend of the Dashagvas who are described as holding their sacrificial session only for ten months.
I have discussed here the meaning of yugâ and mânuṣha yugâ at some length, because the phrases have been much misunderstood, in spite of clear passages showing that “a period of time” was intended to be denoted by them. These passages (V, 52, 4; X, 140, 6) establish the fact that mânuṣha yugâ denoted “human ages,” and the association of these ages with the “first dawn” (I, 124, 2; I, 115, 2) further shows that the length of a yuga was regarded to be shorter than a year. The mention of the tenth yuga finally settles the meaning of yuga as “one month.” That is how I have arrived at the meaning of these phrases, and I am glad to find that I have been anticipated in my conclusions by Prof. Raṅgâchârya of Madras, on different grounds. In his essay on the yugas,*( The Yugas, or a Question of Hindu Chronology and History, p. 19) he discusses the root meaning of yuga, and, taking it to denote “a conjunction,” observes as follows, “The phases of the moon being so readily observable, it is probable that, as suggested by Professor Weber, the idea of a period of time known as a yuga and depending upon a conjunction of certain heavenly bodies, was originally derived from a. knowledge of these phases. The Professor (Weber) further strengthens his supposition by referring to a passage cited in the Shaḍviṁsha Brâhmaṇa (IV, 6) wherein the four yugas are still designated by their more ancient names and are con necked with the four lunar phases to which they evidently owe their origin.” Mr. Raṅgâchârya then refers to darsha, the ancient name for the conjunction of the sun and moon, and concludes, “There is also old mythological or other evidence which leads us to conclude that our forefathers observed many other kinds of interesting celestial conjunctions; and in all probability the earliest conception of a yuga meat the period from, new moon to new moon,” that is, one lunar month. The passage stating that it was the first dawn that set the cycle of mânuṣha yugâ in motion is already quoted above; and if ‘we compare this statement with Ṛig. X, 138, 6, where Indra after killing Vṛitra and producing the dawn and the sun, is said “to have set the ordering of the months in the sky,” it will be further evident that the cycle of the time which began with the first dawn was a cycle of months. We may, therefore, safely conclude thatmânuṣha yugâ represented, in early days, a cycle of months during which the sun was above the horizon, or rather that period of sunshine and action when the ancestors of the Aryan race held their sacrificial sessions or performed other religious and social ceremonies.
There are many other passages in the Ṛig-Veda which support the same view. But mânuṣha yugâ being everywhere interpreted by Western scholars to mean “human generations or tribes,” the real meaning of these passages has become obscure and unintelligible. Thus in VIII, 46, 12, we have. “All (sacrificers), with ladles lifted, invoke that mighty Indra for mânuṣha yugâ; and the meaning evidently is that Soma libations were offered to Indra during the period of human ages. But taking mânuṣha yugâ; to denote “human tribes,” Griffith translates “All races of mankind invoke &c.” a rendering, which, though intelligible, does not convey the spirit of the original. Similarly, Agni is said to shine during “human ages” in VII, 9, 4. But there too the meaning “human tribes” is unnecessarily foisted upon the phrase. The most striking illustration of the impropriety of interpreting yuga to mean “a generation” is, however, furnished by Ṛig. II, 2, 2. Here Agni is said to shine for mânuṣha yugâ and kṣhapaḥ. Now kṣhapaḥ means “nights” and the most natural interpretation would be to take mânuṣha yugâ and kṣhapaḥ as allied expressions denoting a period of time. The verse will then mean: — “O Agni! thou shinest during human ages and nights.” It is necessary to mention “nights” because though mânuṣha yugâ is a period of sunshine, including a long day and a succession of ordinary days and nights, yet the long or the continuous night which followed mânuṣha yugâ could not have been included in the latter phrase. Therefore, when the whole period of the solar year was intended, a compound expression like “mânuṣha yugâ and the continuous nights” was necessary and that is the meaning of the phrase in II, 2, 2. But Prof. Oldenberg,* (S. B. E. Series Vol. XLVI, pp. 193, 195. )following Max Müller, translates as follows “O Agni! thou shinest on human tribes, on continuous nights.” Here, in the first place, it is difficult to understand what “shining on human tribes” means and secondly if kṣhapaḥ means “continuous nights,” it could mean nothing except “the long continuous night,” and if so, why not take mânuṣha yugâ to represent the period of the solar year, which remains after the long night is excluded from it? As observed by me before, Prof. Max Müller has correctly translated kṣhapaḥ by “continuous nights,” but has missed the true meaning of the expression mânuṣha yugâ in this place. A similar mistake has been committed with respect to IV, 16, 19, where the expression is kṣhapaḥ madema sharadas cha pûrvîh. Here, in spite of the accent, Max Müller takes kṣhapaḥ as accusative and so does Sâyaṇa. But Sâyaṇa correctly interprets the expression as “May we rejoice for many autumns (seasons) and nights.” “Seasons and nights” is a compound phrase, and the particle cha becomes unmeaning if we split it up and take nights (kṣhapaḥ) with one verb, and seasons (sharadaḥ) with another. Of course so long as the Arctic theory was unknown the phrase “seasons and nights” or “mânuṣha yugâ and nights” was unintelligible inasmuch as nights were included in the seasons or the yugas. But Prof. Max Müller has himself suggested the solution of the difficulty by interpreting kṣhapaḥ as “continuous nights” in II, 2, 2; and adopting this rendering, we can, with greater propriety, take seasons and nights together, as indicated by the particle cha and understand the expression to mean a complete solar year including the long night. The addition of kṣhapaḥ to mânuṣha yugâ, therefore, further supports the conclusion that the phrase indicated a period of sunshine as stated above. There are many other passages in translating which unnecessary confusion or obscurity has been caused by taking mânuṣha yugâ to mean human tribes; but a discussion of these is not relevant to the subject in hand.
An independent corroboration of the conclusion we have drawn from the legends of the Dashagvas and Dîrghatamas is furnished by the number of seasons mentioned in certain Vedic texts. A period of sunshine of ten months followed by along night of two months can well be described as five seasons of two months each, followed by the sinking of the sun into the waters below the horizon; and as a matter of fact we find the year so described in I, 164, 12, a verse which occurs also in the Atharva Veda (IX, 9, 12) with a slight variation and in the Prashnopaniṣhad I, 11. It may be literally translated as follows: — “The five-footed (pañcha-pâdam) Father of twelve forms, they say, is full of watery vapors (purṣîhiṇam) in the farther half (pare ardhe) of the heaven. These others again say (that) He the far-seeing (vichakṣhaṇam) is placed on the six-spoked (ṣhaḍ-are) and seven-wheeled (car), in the nearer (upare scil. ardhe) half of the heaven.”*
The adjective “far-seeing” is made to qualify “seven-wheeled” instead of “He” in the Atharva Veda, (vichakṣhaṇe) being in the locative case while Shaṇkarâchârya in his commentary on the Prashnopaniṣhad splits upare into two words uand pare taking u as an expletive. But these readings do not materially alter the meaning of the verse. The context everywhere clearly indicates that the year-god of twelve months (âkṛiti X, 85, 5) is here described. The previous verse in the hymn (Ṛig. I, 164) mentions
“The twelve-spoked wheel, in which 720 sons of Agni are established,” a clear reference to a year of twelve months with Tao days and nights. There is, therefore, no doubt that the passage contains the description of the year and the two halves of the verse, which are introduced by the phrases “they say’” and “others say,” give us two opinions about the nature of the year-god of twelve forms. Let us now see what these opinions are. Some say that the year-god is five-footed (pañcha-pâdam), that is divided into five seasons; and the others say that he has a six-spoked car, or six seasons. It is clear from this that the number of seasons was held to be five by some and six by others in early days. Why should there be this difference of opinion? The Aitareya Brâhmaṇa I, 1, (and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ I, 6, 2, 3) explains that the two seasons of Hemanta and Shishir together made a joint season, thereby reducing the number of seasons from six to five. But this explanation seems to be an afterthought, for in the Shatapatha Brâhmaṇa, XIII, 6, 1, 10, Varṣhâ and Sharad are compounded for this purpose instead of Hemanta and Shishir. This shows that in the days of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and the Brâhmaṇas it was not definitely known or settled which two seasons out of six should be compounded to reduce the number to five; but as five seasons were sometimes mentioned in the Vedas, some explanation was felt to be necessary to account for the smaller number and such explanation was devised by taking together any two consecutive seasons out of six and regarding them as one joint season of four months. But the explanation is too vague to be true; and we cannot believe that the system of compounding airy two seasons according to one’s choice was ever followed in practice. We must, therefore, give up the explanation as unsatisfactory and see if the verse from the Ṛig-Veda, quoted above, enables us to find out a better explanation of the fact that the seasons were once held to be five. Now the first half of this verse describes the five-footed father as full of watery vapors in the farther part of heaven, while the year of six-spoked car is said to be far-seeing. In short, purîṣhiṇam (full of, or dwelling in waters) in the first line appears to be a counterpart of vichakṣhaṇam (far-seeing) in the second line. This is made clear by the verses which follow. Thus the 13th verse in the hymn speaks of “the five-spoked wheel” as remaining entire and unbroken though ancient; and the next or the 14th verse says that “the unwasting wheel with its felly revolves; the ten draw (it) yoked over the expanse. The sun’s eye goes covered with rajas (aerial vapor); all worlds are dependent on him.”*
Comparing this with the 11th verse first quoted, it may be easily seen that purîṣhiṇam (full of watery vapors) and rajasâ âvṛitam (covered with rajas) are almost synonymous phrases and the only inference we can draw from them is that the five-footed year-god or the sun event to dwell in watery vapors i.e., became invisible, or covered with darkness and (rajas), for some time in the farther part of the heaven. The expression that “The ten, yoked, draw his carriage,” (also cf. Ṛig. IX, 63, 9) further shows that the five seasons were not made by combining any two consecutive seasons out of six as explained in the Brâhmaṇas (for in that case the number of horses could not be called ten), but that a real year of five seasons or ten months was here intended. When the number of seasons became increased to six, the year-god ceased to be purîṣhin (full of waters) and became vichakṣhaṇam or far-seeing. We have seen that the sun, as represented by Dîrghatamas, grew old in the tenth month and riding on aerial waters went into the ocean. The same .idea is expressed in the present verse which describes two different views about the nature of the year, one of five and the other of six seasons and contrasts their leading features with each other. Thus pare ardhe is contrasted with upare ardhe in the second line, pañcha-pâdam (compare pacñhâre in the next verse, i.e. Ṛig-Veda I. 164, 13) with ṣhaḍ-are, and purîṣhinam with vichakṣhaṇam. In short, the verse under consideration describes the year either (1) as five-footed, and lying in waters in the farther part of heaven, or (2) as mounted on a six-spoked car and far-seeing in the nearer part of the heaven. These two descriptions cannot evidently apply to seasons in one and the same place, and the artifice of combining two consecutive seasons cannot be accepted as a solution of the question. Five seasons and ten months followed by the watery residence of the sun or dark nights, is what is precisely described in the first half of this passage (I, 164, 12), and, from what has been said hitherto, it will be easily seen that it is the Arctic year of ten months that is here described. The verse, and especially the contrast between purîṣhinam and vichakṣhaṇam, does not appear to have attracted the attention it deserves. Bu in the light of the Arctic theory the description is now as intelligible as any. The Vedic bards have here preserved for us the memory of a year of five seasons or ten months, although their year had long been changed into one of twelve months. The explanation given in the Brâhmaṇas are all so many post-facto devices to account for the mention of five seasons in the Ṛig-Veda, and I do not think we are bound to accept them when the fact of five seasons can be better accounted for. I have remarked before that in searching for evidence of ancient traditions we must expect to find later traditions associated with them, and Ṛig. I, 164, 12, discussed above, is a good illustration of this remark. The first line of the verse, though it speaks of five seasons, describes the year as twelve-formed; while the second line, which deals with a year of six seasons or twelve months, speaks of it as “seven-wheeled,” that is made up of seven months or seven suns, or seven rays of the sun. This may appear rather inconsistent at the first sight; but the history of words in any language will show that old expressions are preserved in the language long after they have ceased to denote the ideas primarily expressed by them. Thus we now use coins for exchange, yet the word “pecuniary” which is derived from pecus = cattle, is still retained in the language; and similarly, we still speak of the rising of the sun, though we now know that it is not the luminary that rises, but the earth, by rotating round its axis, makes the sun visible to us. Very much in the same way and by the same process, expressions like saptâshva (seven horsed) or sapta-chakra (seven-wheeled), as applied to the year or the sun, must have become recognized and established as current phrases in the language before the hymns assumed their present form, and the Vedic bards could not have discarded them even when they knew that they were not applicable to the state of things before them. On the contrary, as we find in the Brâhmaṇas every artifice, that ingenuity could suggest, was tried to make these old phrases harmonize with the state of things then in, vogue, and from the religious or the sacrificial point of view it was quite necessary to do so. But when we have to examine the question from a historical stand-point, it is our duty to separate the relics of the older period from facts or incidents of the later period with which the former are sometimes inevitably mixed up; and if we analyze the verse in question (I, 164, 12) in this way we shall clearly see in it the traces of a year of ten months and five seasons. The same principle is also applicable in other cases, as, for instance, when we find the Navagvas mentioned together with the seven vîpras in VI, 22, 2. The bards, who gave us the present version of the hymns, knew of the older or primeval state of things only by traditions, and it is no wonder if these traditions are occasionally mixed up with later events. On the contrary the preservation of so many traditions of the primeval home is itself a wonder, and it is this fact, which invests the oldest Veda with such peculiar importance from the religious as well as the historical point of view.
To sum up there are clear traditions preserved in the Ṛig-Veda, which show that the year once consisted of seven months or seven suns, as in the legend of Aditi’s sons, or that there were ten months of the year as in the legend of the Dashagvas or Dîrghatamas; and these cannot be accounted for except on the Arctic theory. These ten months formed the sacrificial session of the primeval sacrificers of the Aryan race and the period was denominated as mânuṣha yugâ or human ages, an expression much misunderstood by Western scholars. The sun went below the horizon in the tenth of these yugas and Indra fought with Vala in the period of darkness which followed and at the end of the year, again brought back the sun “dwelling in darkness” during the period. The whole year of twelve months was thus made up of mânuṣha yugâ and continuous nights, and, in spite of the fact that the Vedic bards lived later on in places where the sun was above the horizon for twelve months, the expression “mânuṣha yugâ and kṣhapaḥ (nights)” is still found in the Ṛig-Veda. It is true that the evidence discussed in this chapter is mostly legendary; but that does not lessen its importance in any way, for it will be seen later on that some of these traditions are Indo-European in character. The tradition that the year was regarded by some to have been made up only of five seasons, or that only ten horses were yoked to the chariot of the sun, is again in full accord with the meaning of these legends; and it will be shown in the next chapter that in the Vedic literature there are express statements about a sacrificial session of ten months, which are quite independent of these traditions, and which, therefore, independently prove and strengthen the conclusions deduced from the legends discussed in this chapter.