Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vedic Deities and Their Connection With Semitic Deities

One of the most interesting and impressive of Vedic deities is VaruGa, often invoked with a more shadowy double called Mitra. No myths or exploits are related of him but he is the omnipotent and omniscient upholder of moral and physical law. He established earth and sky: he set the sun in heaven and ordained the movements of the moon and stars: the wind is his breath and by his law the heavens and earth are kept apart. He perceives all that exists in heaven and earth or beyond, nor could a man escape him though he fled beyond the sky. The winkings of men's eyes are all numbered by him: he knows all that man does or thinks.

Sin is the infringement of his ordinances and he binds sinners in fetters. Hence they pray to him for release from sin and he is gracious to the penitent. Whereas the other deities are mainly asked to bestow material boons, the hymns addressed to VaruGa contain petitions for forgiveness. He dwells in heaven in a golden mansion. His throne is great and lofty with a thousand columns and his abode has a thousand doors. From it he looks down on the doings of men and the all-seeing sun comes to his courts to report.

There is much in these descriptions which is unlike the attributes ascribed to any other member of the Vedic pantheon. No proof of foreign influence is forthcoming, but the opinion of some scholars that the figure of VaruGa somehow reflects Semitic ideas is plausible. It has been suggested that he was originally a lunar deity, which explains his association with Mitra (the Persian Mithra) who was a sun god, and that the group of deities called dityas and including Mitra and VaruGa were the sun, moon and the five planets known to the ancients.

Yet VaruGa is not the centre of a monotheistic religion any more than Indra, and in later times he becomes a water god of no marked importance. The Aryans and Semites, while both dissatisfied with polytheism and seeking the one among the many, moved along different paths and did not reach exactly the same goal.

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