Speech in the Rig Veda

Vak-devi – Tantra Asana (Ajit Mookerjee) p.21

Language has been a central concern for religious and ethical traditions in diverse regions of the world and throughout history, from the Biblical idea that the Word is God to the Confucian idea of the rectification of names.

In the Indian tradition, too, there has been a similar focus on language, and this has motivated a tradition of linguistic analysis and linguistic precision in the Sanskrit language.  Indeed, for some Indian thinkers, sound itself, in the form of human speech, is the metaphysical basis for our entire reality.

However, if speech itself could talk, what would be its message?  In this fascinating and unique verse from the Rig Veda, we hear the voice of the Goddess Speech herself, as she describes herself and her role among gods and humans to us.

I move with the Rudras, with the Vasus, with the Ādityas, with all the gods.
I bring Mitra and Varuṇa, Indra and Agni, [and] both the Aśvins.
I bring the pressed soma, Tvaṣṭṛ and fortunate Pūṣan.
I give goods to the attentive patron of the sacrifice, who presses [soma and] offers the oblation.

I am the empress, assembler of gods, chief at knowing rightly who is worthy of the sacrifice,
So the gods have spread me in many directions, in many places, to make many things known.
He who sees, who breaths, who hears this spoken, eats food due to me.
They, unthinking, stay near to me.  Hear, you who are heard!  I speak to you to inspire confidence.

I myself say [what will] delight gods and humans.
He who I love, I make him powerful, a sacred [Brahmin], a Ṛṣi [and] of good understanding.
I stretch the bow for Rudra, for [his] arrow to strike against the hater of the sacred [Brahmin],
I make battle for people.  I permeate heaven and earth.

I produce the father at the head of this.  My source [is] in the waters, in the ocean.
Then I dwell in all beings and I reach up to the top of that sky.
I blow fast like the wind, entering all beings.
More than the sky, more than this earth, I am so great in size.

[Ṛg Veda Maṇḍala 10 Sūkta 125; my own translation]

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