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Monday, October 5, 2020

Sky and Earth: The Parents of the Sun

Three thousand years ago, the composers of the Rigveda imagined the morning sun as a child born from the union of sky, the father, and earth, the mother. The hundred-sixtieth hymn in the Rigveda’s first mandala depicts the sky and earth as the two divinities who are the sun’s parents. The sky is the abode of eternality where the sun resides, while the earth is the abode of mortality where the humans and other creatures reside. This hymn is credited to Rishi Dīrghatamas, who belongs to the Angirasa clan, one of the oldest Rishi families in the Vedic tradition, and known for his enigmatic and paradoxical apothegms in the Rigveda. Here’s Ralph T.H. Griffith’s 1896 translation of the mandala 1.160:

1. These, Heaven and Earth, bestow prosperity on all, sustainers of the region, Holy Ones and wise,

Two Bowls of noble kind: between these Goddesses the God, the fulgent Sun, travels by fixed decree [laws of nature].

2. Widely-capacious Pair, mighty, that never fail, the Father and the Mother keep all creatures safe:

The two world-halves, the spirited, the beautiful, because the Father hath clothed them in goodly forms.

3. Son of these Parents, he the Priest with power to cleanse, Sage, sanctifies the worlds with his surpassing power.

Thereto for his bright milk he milked through all the days the party-colored Cow and the prolific Bull.

4. Among the skillful Gods most skilled is he, who made the two world-halves which bring prosperity to all;

Who with great wisdom measured both the regions out, and stablished them with pillars that shall ne'er decay.

5. Extolled in song, O Heaven and Earth, bestow on us, ye mighty Pair, great glory and high lordly sway,

Whereby we may extend ourselves ever over the folk; and send us strength that shall deserve the praise of men.

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