Speech in the Rig Veda

age has been connected with 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, language has been of central importance, 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.

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Bear-king Jāmbavān and animal symbolism

We can perhaps identify some similar themes of cultural centrality of the bear in Indian culture, especially in its earliest phases.  Similarly to Western mythic taxonomy, the seven stars of Ursa Major are called ‘the bears’ (ṛkṣa) in the Rig Veda (1.24.10), and in fact the Pleiades are their seven wives according to Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (2.1.2).  These bears (ṛkṣa) later came to be known as sages (ṛṣi).

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Talking with the rivers

Rivers have been revered since time immemorial in cultures across the world.  For ancient peoples, the pure waters provided by rivers to drink and to water crops must have seemed to be a blessing from nature or from the gods.  In the Rig Veda, the sapta-sindhu or seven rivers stand pre-eminent.  Two among these, the Vipāśā (Beas) and Śutudrī (Satluj) rivers are the interlocutors of the sage Viśvamitra in a fascinating and unique conversation translated here.

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India Report: Religion and Social Reform

Readers will by now be familiar with the dramatic developments at one of our most elite institutions, which culminated in an unprecedented act of violence involving two of India’s most distinguished scholars. The altercation between Kumārila and Dharmapāla at Nalanda University has attracted much attention, and has somehow led to the unfolding media spectacle of Kumārila’s current self-immolation.

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Christmas trees and Indian literature

Many Christmas traditions have taken on a rather secular character in the modern world and can be fully enjoyed by us all, whatever the case is about our religious beliefs or lack of them. Among such traditions, the practice of decorating a tree for Christmas appears to be a rather modern one, but with many ancient precursors, both within Christian history and in comparative Indo-European and world-historical perspective.

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Marriage in the Rig Veda

Ṛg Veda Book 10 Verse 85 is commonly known as Sūryā’s Bridal Hymn or the Wedding Hymn. In some Hindu families, this is one of the Vedic verses recited as part of the liturgy at Hindu marriage ceremonies. It tells a metaphorical story of the wedding of Sūryā, seemingly the daughter of the sun-god, as bride, to soma, seemingly the moon, as bridegroom. Some of the features of the wedding described continue to be features of Hindu weddings today

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Devī and the Buffalo Demon – Part Two

In the first part of the story, we saw how the buffalo-demon Mahiśāsura behaved in an extremely arrogant and conceited way due to the boon granted by Brahma that he could not be killed by any male god, demon or human, thinking himself invincible because of this. He made fun of the idea that any woman could be strong enough to challenge him and even taunted Indra about his supposed lack of manly courage.

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The Buffalo Demon – Part One

Another interesting story concerns the buffalo demon Mahiśāsura who was granted a boon that he would not be killed by man or by gods. This story is told in the Devī Māhātmya, from which I will draw below, as well as in the Devī Bhāgavatam, and in many other literary texts and folk stories too.

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